Well, here's hoping you have made your list and checked it twice. Christmas is almost here.
From the "Talks too much" studios, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.
With the flick of his wrist — well with 51 flicks of his wrist — Peyton Manning grabbed another piece of NFL history. He has thrown more TD passes in a single season than anyone ever, passing Tom Brady's previous mark of 50 with four scoring throws Sunday, and Manning still has week 17 to add to his 51 TD passes.
We can debate where he falls on the Rushmore of all-time NFL quarterbacks — we think he's on there — and we can debate the significance or importance of Manning's record.
Here's what we know: Two years ago he missed the season because neck injuries and there were severe questions whether he would ever return and if he did how effective he would be. He has the Denver Broncos poised as one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl. He is within an average game (for him this year) of adding the most passing yards in a single season record to the list of accomplishments year.
Here's what we think: Manning at the line of scrimmage has no peer, at least currently. It's easy to forget that before helmet-radios and a thousand levels of intel-meeting-scouting-meeting- meetings-meeting-everything-else, quarterbacks used to call their own plays. Manning is the maestro of the modern-day machinations at the mosh pit that is the line of scrimmage. Manning will almost assuredly add his fifth NFL MVP award in the coming days, a record haul that is every bit as impressive as the 51-plus TDs or the three-plus-miles (and counting) he'll throw for this season.
Here's what we don't get: Why do so many fans bag on Manning? Is it Manning fatigue? (Dude is in a slew of commercials and gets his name in the paper a few times every football season.) Is it postseason ups and downs, and could those be silenced if the Broncos win it all and Manning captures a second ring?
Crazy times in the NFL for sure. We go into the final weekend with two heads-up division title games, which is awesome. We go into the final weekend with several teams scoreboard watching for potential playoff fall out. We go into the final weekend with Seattle and Denver controlling their destinies for home-field advantage, but with a slew of possibilities in play.
Some where Roger Goodell just sipped some Egg Nog, smiled and said, "It's all working according to my plan..." then laughs that Snidely Whiplash evil chortle. If he had a sinister mustache that would work too. (Side note: Egg Nog is gross. Period. It's the Christmas drink in the seventh circle of Hades where they only serve cole slaw and the only activity is moving furniture. Yuck.)
Here's a breakdown of all the playoff possibilities which are too numerous to mention.
That said, the drama that lives in the football helmets in the great state of Texas is off the charts right now. The Texans are looking for a coach. The University of Texas is looking for a coach. If Jason Garrett and the Cowboys do not beat Philly and get in the playoffs, Dallas will be looking for a coach.
Somebody needs to hire Coach Eric Taylor from the TV version of Friday Night Lights. Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose.
Want to know why they call it gambling and why we advise to risk entertainment only?
Notice the following: MIke Leach and Washington State had a 15-point lead with less than three minutes to go in the Blankety-Blank Blah Bowl over Colorado State, comfortably beyond the five-point spread. A TD, a fumble, a TD and a two-point conversion, a fumbled kickoff return and a last-second field goal later and Leach and Co. lost in regulation.
We head into the bowl season looking for some good fortune after a rocky conclusion to the regular season. Yes, we finished the year 51-40-1 against the spread, but that's below our standards and was plodding down the stretch.
So we were flummoxed by Pirate Leach walking the game-management plank — Washington State was up 8 with less than two minutes to go and just got a first down only to lose a fumbled handoff on the next play when three kneels and a punt all but seal it — was not how we had hoped to start spinning around the bowl slate. So it goes.
It also goes as such when Louisiana Lafayette surprisingly starts quarterback Terrance Broadway, who broke his arm last month. And it's how it goes when USC shows up motivated. Alas.
We are 1-3 against the spread and have work to do. Take that for what it is and know that if you want to ride the other way, it's your entertainment on the line.
So we enter the week of Christmas, which is gold for tots but is more like the Chili's triple-play appetizer in bowl parlance. It's not the main meal — sure it can be viewed as a meal because there is a lot on the plate — but the bigger morsels are still come.
But we pledged to pick them all, and picking them all we shall.
Oregon State minus-3 over BYU: Tuesday night's only game features an interesting match-up. We'll swing with the Beavers because: a) OSU quarterback Sean Mannion is a senior and this is his final go; b) OSU coach Mike Riley is 5-2 in his last seven bowl games, so he knows a little about preparation; c) Boise State veteran coach Chris Petersen R-U-N-N-O-F-T to Wsashington; d) Boise State sent quarterback Joe Southwick home from Hawaii for violation of team rules; e) Boise State was 8-4 this year, a perfect 6-0 in Boise and 2-4 away from the Blue turf.
Utah State plus-2 over Northern Illinois: The Huskies have been an interesting story all year, even getting Jordan Lynch an invite to the Heisman. The Utah State defense is not as interesting but every bit as tough. Hey, Merlin Olsen went to U-State, and he was awesome in "Little House on the Prarie." That's enough.
Pittsburgh plus-4.5 over Bowling Green: Bowling Green was sneaky good in the sneaky entertaining MAC. (Admit it you miss those Tuesday night MAC games. MAC Action... it's fantastic.) Pittsburgh was blah-rific in the ordinary ACC. Still, Pittsburgh has a legit NFL player in Aaron Donald; Bowling Green lost its head coach. Edge: Panthers. Side question: Speaking of nicknames, if Stetson is going to be the Hatters and we all know that Tulane is the Green Wave, why can't they change Falcons to the Bowling Green Green Bowlers. That would be cool.)
Marshall minus-2 over Maryland: Comparing common opponents tells us that each team won at Virginia Tech in overtime. Let's ride with Marshall because a) Conference USA was far from great but the ACC was not exactly filet mignon; b) Matt McConaughey will have his boys ready to play. (Better football movie: We Are Marshall or Remember the Titans? Discuss.)
BYU plus-3 over Washington: Nineteen times out of 20 we favor the favorite. It's the wise play. We have picked more underdogs in this wave of bowl picks than we did all season. That's a scary fact. Still, the Huskies are another bunch that are playing after their coach broke up with them. Sigh. BYU is tough. Tough does not slump. One of the main hurdles about bowl handicapping is whether teams mess around during the bowl festivities. BYU is not into messing around, not when certain extracurricular activities get you dismissed from school.
Minnesota minus-4 over Syracuse: Hey look, another ACC team in a Christmas-week bowl game. Go figure. The Gophers are one of the better, undertold stories in college football. Plus, the most famous Gophers are Dave Winfield and the little critter in Caddyshack; the most famous Oranges are Carmelo Anthony and navel. Edge Gophers.
This and that
— Shin Soo Choo (bless you) signed a seven-year, $130 million deal with the Texas Rangers. Texas has now added Choo and Prince Fielder in the offseason. Looks like someone was a little irked about not making the playoffs last season, huh?
— Lost in the NFL craziness that was Sunday — and capsulated very well by our own ace columnist Mark Wiedmer here — was the Titans win over Jacksonville. The Titans showed effort and pride and gumption for embattled coach Mike Munchak. That may be enough. The play of the game, though, was the Jaguars throwing a screen pass to center Brad Meester in his final home game of a 14-year career. Here's the video.
— Oregon is debuting its bowl uniforms. Here's a peak. The duds are called Mach Speed.
— Did you see the Washington politician who took to the Twitter after the Cardinals beat the Seahawks on Sunday? Here's a story. Dude, step away from the iPhone and take deep breaths.
There's a ton to dissect above, so help yourself.
But if you still need more, well...
Sometime this holiday week, we are going to do a 16-team Christmas movie bracket. Now is your chance to weigh in. Discuss.
We can all agree that Peyton Manning is far-and-away the NFL MVP frontrunner, right? OK, who's No. 2? Brady? Cam Newton? Nick Foles? Discuss.
And Merry Christmas.
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...