MEMO TO SANTA: I have decided what I want for Christmas. I want an end to the instant replay rule.
Send the little camera shroud to Canton, Ohio, to be displayed as a bizarre artifact from a cautious, unenlightened time. Take away that little clock from the top of my television screen that tells me how many minutes I'm wasting on an already wasted Sunday afternoon. Take the word "indisputable" out of the game's vocabulary. Please.
I don't want to see one more play shown again and again as if it were the Zapruder film. I don't want to hear one more announcer saying, "Right there, his knee touches the ground -- and then the ball pops loose." I don't care if the goal line stretches from here to Aunt Martha's house. I really don't.
Bring back the natural eyes of those highly trained gym teachers who moonlight on Sundays as NFL referees.
Bring back the controversy. Bring back the occasional injustice. The occasional injustice was fun.
You watch a game now and it's like you're watching "Hamlet" and all of a sudden, in the middle of a soliloquy, all the actors leave the stage to go to the men's room for two minutes. Everybody comes back and where were we? It's like picking up the book you were reading last summer on the beach. It's like trying to fine-tune life.
The end of the instant replay, Mr. Claus. That's my first pick. If that's not available, okay, I'd really like world peace.
Anyway, the picks:
Miami at Minnesota (+31/2): There always is a weirdness to these Saturday games in the last two weeks of the NFL season, don't you think? Even the announcers feel it. They keep calling the two teams the Hurricanes and Golden Gophers. Pick: Dolphins.
San Francisco at Arizona (+4): Terrell Owens celebrates touchdown by donning red suit and white whiskers, stepping into flying sleigh pulled by eight tiny reindeer and circling the globe to distribute toys to children. Replay shows he said the words "ho-ho-ho." Pick: Cardinals.
Philadelphia at Dallas (+6): The Eagles held their last regular season game at Veterans Stadium last week. It was an emotional time for fans. Sort of like the day the last scab falls off and the chickenpox truly is gone. Pick: Cowboys.
Buffalo (+7) at Green Bay: Drew vs. Brett. Lambeau Field. Throw in some snow. Mute the commercials. There's some good fun here. Pick: Bills.
Detroit (+11) at Atlanta: True or false -- Joey Harrington reported his irregular heartbeat and the Lions' physician said, "Of course you have an irregular heartbeat, look at the offensive line you've been playing behind." I say true. Pick: Falcons.
Chicago (+3) at Carolina: I've worked through the playoff scenarios and have figured out (I think) that neither of these teams have a shot. Then, again, I learned the old math as opposed to the new math. Pick: Carolina.
New Orleans at Cincinnati (+7): The Bengals lost last week because they had 12 men on the field for a punt return against Jacksonville. This was a variation on the other 12 games they have lost this year because they couldn't block, tackle, run, catch, kick or throw the ball. Pick: Saints.
New York Giants (+5) at Indianapolis: Marvin Harrison, with an NFL-record 127 receptions this season, seems a cinch to win the Marvin, awarded annually to "the most successful Marvin." Will accept the award at nationally televised ceremonies from Hollywood, where Marvin Hamlisch will present the award. Pick: Colts.
Tennessee at Jacksonville (+3): Noting Steve McNair's success without practice during week, Titans Coach Jeff Fisher cancels practices for entire team. Takes players on day trips instead. In final prep for Jaguars, they visit a dairy farm to see how butter is made. Pick: Titans.
San Diego at Kansas City (No Line): Time out for a college bowl report. My favorite bowl is the Humanitarian Bowl. I like the part where they give out the Gandhi trophy for the most bone-rattling, teeth-jarring hit of the afternoon. Pick: Chargers.
Houston (+61/2) at Washington: Trent Lott goes to game. Says he regrets many long-ago statements. Says he also has found new affinity for rap music. Pick: Redskins.
St. Louis (+1) at Seattle: Memo to Heisman winner Carson Palmer: Pray that you're not drafted by the Rams. They will try to make you into a wide receiver and you'll quit and go live in Nebraska. Pick: Seahawks.
Denver (+41/2) at Oakland: So Ozzy Osbourne is going to do Pepsi commercials for the Super Bowl. Does that mean Madison Avenue thinks the Raiders are going to be in it? Or does it just mean Pepsi tastes good after you bite the head off a rodent? Pick: Broncos.
Cleveland (+3) at Baltimore: You know that road outside Baltimore called the Beltway? Why not name it the Tony Siragusa Beltway after the former Ravens lineman? Or is it not long enough? Pick: Browns.
New York Jets (+41/2) at New England: Trouble erupts in Gillette Stadium. Man told wife: Merry Christmas, I've spent big money with a scalper for two tickets to see Santana! Wife realizes at kickoff that he meant Jets wide receiver Santana Moss. Wife not happy. Pick: Patriots.
Pittsburgh (+4) at Tampa Bay: I am man enough to admit I was wrong. Predicted last week that Al and John would line dance in booth in Nashville. Wrong. They would stand with Hank Williams Jr. in the booth and he would give John a black cowboy hat and Al a pair of suspenders. Sorry. Pick: Buccaneers.
Last Week: Finished a disgusting 4-12 against the quantum physics professors of Las Vegas Boulevard. Now 109-109-6 for the season, a true tribute to the parity of the NFL after 15 weeks.