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News » The Slate: WEEK 17

The Slate: WEEK 17

The Slate: WEEK 17
Jets at the ROOT of Belichick's rant BY PAUL NEEDELL

He doesn't intend for them to be played for entertainment purposes, but the news conferences of New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick are well worth checking out on the team's website (www.Patriots.com) if it's a slow day at the office.

Stand-up comedy is never going to be his thing, although Belichick's answers to the questions he's tossed are tinged with read-between-the-lines humor. Where Bill Parcells could always be counted on for caustic acerbic responses as well as professoinal instruction about NFL life and Football in general, Belichick's goal is to never let anyone know how you truly feel.

Even if everyone in the room knows the truth. That is one of many respects that Jets coach Eric Mangini is like his estranged mentor.

Which leads us to this week's entry into the Patriots-Jets Border War. And they aren't even playing each other.

Of course, they are nonetheless connected. See, on this final day of this season, the Patriots (10-5) play at the Bills (7-8) at 1 p.m. To win their sixth straight AFC East title, New England has to win in Orchard Park, N.Y., and then race to its television sets to ROOT like heck for the Jets (9-6) to beat the Miami Dolphins (10-5) in their 4:15 clash at the Meadowlands.

We understand if your head is spinning, but you've had all week to get this straight. If you don't know it now, you never will.

Okay, so our old friend Belichick knows these facts by heart. It's the business, after all.

Far be it from Belichick to ever give the New England media credit for its ability to connect the dots. Check out this series of exchanges between the folks with the notebooks, microphones and cameras and Belichick on Christmas Eve. Ho-ho-ho!:

Reporter: "You can only control your game but you will need help from the Jets, what is your reaction to that?"

Belichick: "It's out of our control. Just worry about Buffalo."

Reporter: "But how does that make you feel knowing that you will need their help?"

Belichick: "It makes me feel the same way I feel every week. What we can control we can control and that's our performance against Buffalo and that's what we are working on. Let everybody else worry about what they have to worry about."

Reporter: "How are you going to keep track of the (Jets-Dolphins) game once your game is over?"

Belichick: "I don't know."

Reporter: "Are you going to keep track of it at all?"

Belichick: "I don't know. We are just concentrating on Buffalo. We are going out there and we are going to try to play the best we can against the Bills. That is our goal and that's really all we are thinking about. Whatever else happens, happens.

"I'm not saying it isn't important and I am not saying that we don't care, but that is not anything that we have any influence over. We will be rooting for whatever teams can help us, but if we don't do our job none of that stuff will matter. We have to do our job first."

Reporter: "You said you will be rooting for any teams that can help you, so the Jets?"

Belichick: "Whoever can help us, that is right."

Reporter: "So you will be rooting for them?"

Belichick: "I am rooting for the Patriots. Whatever helps the Patriots, I'm for."

And there you have it. In the Belichick household, J-E-T-S is obviously a four-letter word not to be uttered in mixed company.


Dolphins QB Chad Pennington vs. Jets QB Brett Favre

Yeah, yeah, we know. The QBs don't really play against each other in the game. Take a chill pill, leatherheads. Sometimes the NFL is a morality play, and this is one of those times. The Jets got all hot and bothered to acquire Favre from Packersland at the end of the summer. Everyone was excited about it except for Pennington (the odd QB out) and WR Laveranues Coles, his best buddy. Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum was so giddy about acquiring Favre he just released Pennington and let him go anywhere, never fearing for a second that dumping Chad for Brett might come back to haunt him. After all, Brett was Brett. And the Dolphins were, well, the Dolphins. Well, turns out Favre may not be Favre anymore. And the Dolphins sure ain't the 1-15 Dolphins any more.


Titans (13-2) at Colts (11-4), 1 p.m.

Only in this category in theory. Nothing at all is at stake in this one, since Tennessee has secured the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs and Indy is locked in as the No. 5 team. But, hey, fans of QBs Vince Young and Jim Sorgi should be pumped. Time for a correction, courtesy of loyal reader Matt LoPresti: Colts QB Peyton Manning, like Brett Favre, shared one of his league MVP awards (Steve McNair, 2003).

Patriots (10-5) at Bills (7-8), 1 p.m.

Playoff aspiration make for the strangest of bedfellows, as we've made you all aware. Buffalo could still be trying to persuade owner Ralph Wilson to bring back coach Dick Jauron in '09. The Bills are sure to play hard - they always do - but the Patriots would seem to have too much at stake to choke away their sixth straight AFC East crown.

Panthers (11-4) at Saints (8-7), 1 p.m.

Carolina still needs a win or a Falcon loss to the Rams to get the NFC's No. 2 seed and the bye that comes with it. If neither happens, the Panthers will have dropped from No. 2 to No. 5 and play in the wild-card round. They don't want that, but New Orleans can be ornery in the Superdome. Especially with QB Drew Brees chasing Dan Marino's single-season passing yards mark (5,084) - he need 402, a mark he's hit twice this season.


Raiders (4-11) at Buccaneers (9-6), 1 p.m.

Tampa Bay has been reeling defensively since word leaked out that beloved defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin is leaving to join his son Lane's staff at the University of Tennessee. Coach Jon Gruden need not worry. The Bucs cannot possibly lose at home to his former team, can they? No way Chucky lets Oakland grinch Al Davis ruin his holiday season.

Lions (0-15) at Packers (5-10), 1 p.m.

Detroit is pounding at the door of 0-16 history. The Lions haven't won at Lambeau Field since 1991, even though they play there once a season. Coming up: Their 17th straight loss in Green Bay and the last game of the Rod Marinelli Era (10-37 in three seasons). Anyone else find it curious that Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and the legend he replaced, Jets QB Brett Favre, both might need shoulder surgery after the season? Discuss.

Bears (9-6) at Texans (7-8), 1 p.m.

Da Bears need a win and a loss by the Vikings to the uninspired Giants to be NFC North champs. If Minnesota wins, Chicago can be a wild-card team if they win and the Cowboys and Bucs lose. Follow? Maybe Houston will just put Da Bears out of their misery. Seems like the humane way to go. The Texans can match their bet-ever home record of 6-2. Yea!

Rams (2-12) at Falcons (10-5), 1 p.m.

If the Saints cooperate by upsetting the Panthers, Atlanta can capture the NFC South with a win only one year removed from the Michael Vick dogfighting fiasco and the Bobby Petrino coaching fiasco. We can't decide whether the Matt Ryans are the best story of '08 or the Dolphins are for going from 1-15 to a possible 11-5 and AFC East title. Feel free to chime in.

Chiefs (2-13) at Bengals (3-11-1), 1 p.m.

New Year's resolution: If we don't have anything nice to say about a game, don't say anything. Worth a try.

Browns (4-11) at Steelers (11-4), 1 p.m.

Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin will seize the opportunity to give his ailing players a chance to rest their bones for the AFC divisional playoffs in two weeks. Cleveland can begin its coaching job search by the end of the night. Shouldn't take long to find out if CBS talking head Bill Cowher is ready to unretire.

Jaguars (5-10) at Ravens (10-5), 4:15 p.m.

Baltimore could already be in the playoffs by kickoff, although don't count on it - the Raven need the Patriots to lose at the Bills. Let's assume the Joe Flaccos have to beat Jacksonville to grab an AFC wild-card spot. Who among us can doubt the kid from Audubon now? It's way too late for that. Flacco and Ryan aren't rookie QBs no more. They're simply good QBs.

Seahawks (4-11) at Cardinals (8-7), 4:15 p.m.

The line: Cardinals by 6

The last game of Seattle coach Mike Holmgren's career, at least until his inevitable unretirement in a year or so. That's about how long it takes for NFL lifers to learn the other side isn't all that green. Arizona's stumbling and bumbling it way to the finish line atop the NFC Worst. The Cards should at least be motivated to finish above .500. Seems like the least a division winner should do, even if the Chargers are about to disagree.

Redskins (8-7) at 49ers (6-9), 4:15 p.m.

The line: 49ers by 3

This comes close to the "... don't say anything" New Year's resolution. Only our appreciation for San Francisco interim coach Mike Singletary keeps us from going there. The Niners are 4-4 since he took charge for Mike Nolan and everyone is reporting he'll soon be given the gig for three years. Good for him. Vinny Cerrato, Washington's VP of Football operations, says there will be a Year 2 of the coach "Jim Zorn Era." Okay, if he says so.

Cowboys (9-6) at Eagles (8-6-1), 4:15 p.m.

The line: Eagles by 1?

This is the 12th straight year Dallas will have a losing record in December, yet an NFC wild-card berth is there for the taking with a win in Philly. We're all eager to see how Tony Romo and everyone's favorite ex-Eagle, Terrell Owens, are treated by those wallflowers at The Linc. The Eagles are virtually without playoff hope, lest you think beating the Cowboys AND a loss by the Bucs and either the Vikings or Bears is worth banking on. We'll pass.

Broncos (8-7) at Chargers (7-8), 8:15 p.m.

Simple as can be. The winner is your AFC Worst champs. Not even anything Al Michaels, John Madden or anyone else at NBC tries to tell you, keep your eyes on the prize, such as it is. Denver has led the division since Week 1. The Broncos led by three games with three to play and are on the verge of blowing it all to once 4-8 San Diego. Nobody will want to face Bolts QB Philip Rivers in the playoffs but we're pretty darn sure the Colts are headed to San Diego.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 30, 2008

Chris Draft Name: Chris Draft
Position: LB
Age: 32
Experience: 10 years
College: Stanford
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