I love pro football. It is written in scripture that we should all love pro football. I think the Sermon on the Mount dictated that we worship both safety blitzes and the prevent defense.
Well, maybe I shouldn't go that far. But in recent years parity has made every game an adventure in Wonderland. Alice, what have you let happen here?
The Broncos are squabbling -- and losing as if every game was another Super Bowl. Eric Dickerson doesn't care. The Patriots have set back sexual politics into the neo-Paleolithic Age. The Sun King Tagliabue has replaced Pete Rozelle. Pro football has lost not only its parity but its heart and its sense of humor.
But I don't care. I still can't stay away from this game. The first half of this season was merely a prelude. Last week the real concert began. Everywhere I looked, the score seemed to be 24-21. The clock was winding down. Someone was lining up for a crucial field goal.
Two games told us beyond a doubt that the NFL is still alive and well. On Sunday, a pair of the most physical -- and slightly crazed -- teams met in Atlanta. People love to knock controversial coaches like Buddy Ryan and Jerry Glanville. They use gimmicks, they encourage cheap shots. But if you were fortunate enough to see Sunday's game, you now know something else about these guys.
The Eagles didn't need the inspiration of the Sun King's $10,000 fine on Andre Waters. The Falcons didn't need Evander Holyfield in their special teams' huddle.
What they needed was just a target to hit. Turn these guys loose and they're not Holyfield. They're Rambo.
The Falcons can't come close to the Eagles in personnel. But they play every game as if their home field was Dunkirk. This was no exception.
Atlanta kept taking the lead. Philadelphia kept bombing them back. The final was Eagles, 24-23. The body count will be released at a later date.
Monday in Miami may have provided the game of the year. The 8-1 Dolphins were wounded. Their receiving corps was decimated. But their biggest lost was blocking fullback Tony Paige. Without Paige to clear a path, halfback Sammie Smith looked like a sheriff without a gun.
Six carries, minus three yards.
Of course, those guys in silver and black had something to do with that. The Raiders' defense is at full strength for the stretch drive. Howie Long is calling back the great memories. Greg Townsend is a major force. And Terry McDaniel is playing in the great Raiders cornerback tradition.
The Raiders prevailed in this one, 13-10. Next time a healthy Dolphins team might get revenge. Either way I suspect that one of these clubs can upset the 49ers, Giants or Bears in the Super Bowl.
I also hope that this week's predictions will at least be adequate, if not super.
The Saints are favored by six over the Falcons. This is a notorious road series. The road team has covered nine straight. New Orleans also happens to be 0-10 as a home favorite in its division. The Falcons could have a letdown after last week's war, but I hope not. Falcons plus six.
The Bears are favored by 2 1/2 at Minnesota. The Vikings played Seattle last week, and teams are 7-0 after playing Seattle the week before. Wade Wilson may be back at quarterback, but I don't think it matters. I think the Vikings are on a roll. Vikings plus 2 1/2.
The Giants are favored by three at Philadelphia. The Giants have great statistics going into this game. They are a terrific team and all logic says they should keep winning. But when did logic ever stop me? The Eagles are 7-2 as underdogs at home. The Giants could be looking ahead to their great clash with the 49ers next week. Eagles plus three.
The Steelers are favored by three visiting the Jets in the New Jersey swamps. The underdog has won six straight in Steelers-Jets games at the Jets. The Jets were disgraced last week in losing to the Colts. I'm taking the Steelers minus three.
The Chargers are favored by four over Seattle, but as they showed two weeks ago against Kansas City, the Seahawks can still compete. Seattle is 4-0 after losses this year. Take the Seahawks plus four.
Last week's results: The Falcons were a selection getting one from the Eagles. That was the line when I wrote the column. By the time you read it, it was probably pick'em. So I will accept the 24-23 defeat as a loss. When you're going bad, all you can do is try and be noble about it.
The Chargers, getting four from the Chiefs, were completely overmatched 27-10. The Browns, getting three from the Oilers, set their watches incorrectly and thought the game was only three periods. After the fourth period, they had been blown out, 35-23. The Jets gave two to the Colts. This turned out to be the kind of game that I usually avoid -- a dreaded MOTO, Master of the Obvious. The Jets appeared to be improving, the Colts looked like they'd quit. Colts, 17-14.
Finally, a breath of air for a drowning man. The Vikings got 3 1/2 from the Seahawks. The game was tight and I thought I was looking at another shutout disaster. But the Vikings pulled it out, 24-21. Total for week: 1-4. Total for season: 27-29.
Did I actually say that I love this game?