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New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones, left, hands off to cornerback J.C. Jackson during the first half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park, N.Y., Monday, Dec. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

NFL Power Poll

So, the folks at NBC have had a pretty good year, right?

The Chicago shows are a hit. Peacock+ seems like it's starting to spread its feathers. The nucleus that its "Yellowstone" is giving some of NBC's subsidiaries some viable programming too.

Good times.

Well, 2022 could be a monster. NBC gets the Super Bowl next February. And if you had to pick two right now, man it sure feels like a Brady-Belichick collision course for what would be the most-watched — and most over-hyped — matchup in sports since, well how about this.

The most-watched college football game was the Vince Young national championship in 2006 with 35.6 million viewers. The most-watched NCAA basketball game ever was Magic and Bird with about the same number. Jordan's Bulls averaged more than 28 million viewers for the 1998 NBA Finals series.

And Belichick vs. Brady would do more than those three combined. By a lot.

So, like the steel rod that used to run up the side of our house that lifted the TV antenna to the sky so we could enjoy those three (or four, depending on the signal strength and the wind) channels at a time back in the day, let's find the poll.

1 New England. Yes, they are the most impressive team in the league right now, and it's not just on the field. Sure, on the field too since they are 9-4 after starting 2-4. (Psssstttt, Spy, that means they have won seven in a row. I think.) Off the field, for those of us who chase the random financial side interest on the game with the oblong ball that bounces irregularly, the Pats minus-7 over the depleted Titans and the under in last night's weather-ravaged 14-10 win over the Bills were as easy as easy money gets. In terms of flexibility and form, this group simply seems, I'm not going to say smarter, because there are a slew of smart folks in high-profile gigs across the league, but the Pats seem better prepared. Always. Side question: If Bill Belichick is going to alter his approach — whether it's throwing three total passes last night or the game-changing call for the two-point conversion after the first score, which affected almost every strategical down-and-distance call the rest of the way — then Coach X anywhere else needs to start evaluating his approach.

2 Tampa Bay. The Bucs are 9-3, tied with the Packers and one game behind the Cardinals in the race for home field in the NFC. But the Bucs, who are starting to get their pieces back — Gronk returned and caught a TD, his 90th from Brady, which is second all-time in NFL history — have a cakewalk to the finish line. This week, an injury-ravaged Bills bunch off a short week then the anything-but-Murderer's Row of Saints-at Panthers-at Jets-Panthers. That feels no worse than 13-4. Side question: Saying an NFL team will finish 13-4 still sounds a little off, right?

3 Green Bay. OK, we all agree that Jordan Love in round 1 in the 2020 draft — especially with difference-makers such as Patrick Queen, Tee Higgins and Jonathan Taylor on the board. (Egad, Rodgers to Taylor right now would be off the charts hard to handle, right?) Still, what also seemed like a luxury pick — AJ Dillon late in round 2 — has paid off. Since Aaron Jones went down, Dillon has averaged more than 15 carries a game. In those five games he has 483 yards from scrimmage (312 rushing and 171 receiving) and three scores. Side note: Dillon has massive legs — like Earl Campbell-esque — and his nickname is pretty excellent. He's known as the QuadFather.

4 Arizona. I'm not sure Kyler Murray is the MVP, since the Cards win without him. I'm not sure Kliff Kingsbury is the Coach of the Year, since the Cards won with on the COVID shelf too. I feel strongly about GM Steve Kim being the executive of the year, though. This roster is a piece-by-piece manifesto that is a blend of quality and aggressive draft picks, several bargain shopping free agent signings and some eye-poppingly great trades. And, for as much as everyone — me included — makes about an offense built for the modern NFL with a mobile QB on a rookie contract and waves of depth on the perimeter, defensively, there Cardinals have three of the five best back-seven hybrids in the game. Former first-round picks Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins are linebackers who easily transition to rushing the passer or covering tight ends or bigger WRs. Safety Budda Baker is as good a two-way secondary player as there is in this game. Take a bow Steve, this is a great roster.

5 Kansas City. This one was between the Chiefs and the Colts. (Sorry Titans fans, but the M*A*S*H unto in Nashville is not a top-10 team right now, never mind a top 5 team.) The difference? K.C. has Mahomes. And that's a big difference.

Powerless

28 Chicago. Wow, the powerful got long. Feels like wasting breath on these dregs, no? True or false on a Tuesday, Matt Nagy is the next NFL coach to get fired.

29 New York Jets. So, this deep into the season, the Pats are 9-4 with a scoring difference of plus-150. The Jets are 3-9 with a scoring difference of minus-150. And both are starting a rookie QB. And the Jets got to pick their QB before the Pats. Yikes.

30-31 Jacksonville and Houston. Or Houston and Jacksonville. You pick. And I'll also ask this: If you meshed those teams together, are they better than the Patriots, Bucs or Packers?  

32 Detroit. The Lions won, the Lions won. And in the coolest NFL move no one will really remember, after his first win — and possibly his only win — as an NFL head coach, Dan Campbell spent the majority of the postgame news conference talking about the tragedy in nearby Oxford. Perspective, people.  

 

Making waves

So there is a Penn swimmer that could have been mentioned with the weekend winners.

But then the sport of female college swimming would have to be in a different category.

Lia Thomas won the 200-yard free with a new-school record time that is the best in the nation this season on Saturday. On Sunday, Lia won the 1,650 freestyle, dominating by more than 38 seconds over the runner-up in another school-record showing.

If you think it's kind of strange for one swimmer to be that good over events with that wide span of distances, well, that makes sense. In track comparison, this would be like a sprinter setting national marks in the 200 and then setting school records in the mile a day later. Thomas also set the nation's best time in the 500 free at an earlier meet.

But that's not the only strange part of this story.

Lia Thomas is transgender and spent three years competing as a college swimmer as Will Thomas.

According to this story, Thomas told Penn Today earlier this year: "The process of coming out as being trans and continuing to swim was a lot of uncertainty and unknown around an area that's usually really solid. Realizing I was trans threw that into question. Was I going to keep swimming? What did that look like?"

I can only imagine how uncertain a time this is for Thomas.

But now Thomas looks to be on track to be the first transgender All-American and certainly on path to be a sotting candidate for the Olympic team.

How is that fair to the other female swimmers who have worked for the same goal — be it to win the Penn Relays, be an All-American or represent their country — to have to do it against a competitor who was born bigger, faster and stronger?

 

Splash, brother

So Steph Curry is 16 3s away from the all-time record.

Man, by the time Curry is done — he's all of 33 for Pete Maravich's sake — he may have a Cy Young wins total mark on his hands.

Curry even said he may try to get the full 16 — which would be a single-game record to boot — the next time out.

If you look at the names on the all-time 3-point list, Ray Allen's 2,973 is first, Curry is next, and Reggie Miller is third with 2,560.

Think where Curry could take this friends. Truly.

And, looking at that list makes me realize the changing place of the game and the fundamentals. Goodness, Trevor Ariza has more career 3s than Glen Rice or Manu Ginóbili.

Egad.

 

This and that

— Hey, here's today's A2 column, which I had fun writing. Kudos, Darrell Slack, the UPS driver from Cleveland who went above and beyond and found a lost dog for the folks on his route.

— You know the rules, when TFP college football ace David Paschall writes about college football (and he does a whole lot) we link it here. As with this one, as Paschall puts prose to Doug's condemnation of the Georgia defense in Saturday's meltdown against Alabama.

— Speaking of Doug, odds that he is chomping at the big to post that Florida — of the big, bad SEC — lost to Texas Southern in hoops last night are off the charts, right? To be fair, any SEC team losing to a winless Texas Southern team this deep into the season is completely on the coaching staff, unless there are a slew of injuries or illnesses. But make no mistake, Texas Southern whipped Florida, even out-rebounding the Gators 46-23.

— The Heisman field is rather uninspiring, no?

— Mario Cristobal is heading to Miami. Man this is a crazy college football coaching season. Which now puts Oregon on the clock. Could Chip Kelly go home again?

— So the executive producers of "Yellowstone" are trying the same formula on the mafia. With — wait for it — Sly Stallone playing the Costner role.

 

Today's question

True or false, it's Tuesday.

True or false, Steph Curry is the best shooter the NBA has ever seen..

True or false, Pats win the AFC.

True or false, the Heisman field is blah-tastic. True or false that matters.

True or false, you'll give Stallone's mob show a shot.

As for today, I said a silent prayer this morning for all of those from the greatest time of patriotism since our country was founded who answered the bell after we were bombed on this day 80 years ago.

Rushmore of Pearl.

Go.

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