For those that don't know, the "GOTW" (as we shall refer it to for the rest of the column) highlights the "Apple Pix Six" - the six most important match-ups of the week. As the rule states, the GOTW follows the selections made before the pre-season up until the final quarter of season.
Starting Week 14 all games are subject to the selection process once again, based on what I call the "Pittsburgh Steeler Rule of 1998". In that season, the Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars were set to meet Week 17 on Monday night. However, when the Steelers limped to a 6 – 10 finish and the Jaguars ran away with the division, the good folks at ABC were unable to change the schedule so that this bomb of a game would be relegated to a 1:00 PM start the day before.
I've also had to re-evaluate my rules based on what some teams did last season. One of the rules was "No Atlanta Falcon Match-ups". Well, obviously that won't do this year. The subway ride into work offers a peaceful coexistence between sleep and myself, and there in my dreams I created the "New-And-Improved Rules to Select the GOTW".
- Due to the ever-changing landscape of rivalries, only the most legendary will be given preference over other games. However, playoff rematches of the year before will always be given preference over any rivalry.
- No team that failed to make the playoffs will be given extra consideration regardless of a change in roster and/or coaching staff that presents a direct relationship between that roster/coaching change and the opposing team. (i.e. Bill Parcells is in Dallas. That doesn't make Dallas/NY Giants automatically a game of the week).
- Due to parity, no team may have more than 4 GOTW's.
- If a playoff team has severely weakened itself over the course of an off-season, consideration may be given to a non-playoff rematch game over a playoff rematch including said playoff team.
- Super Bowl rematches of the past 10 years are always fun.
- Divisional contests may be considered only once for the GOTW.
- Intra-conference games are more important than inter-conference games because of the value of playoff tiebreakers. This should be taken into consideration at all times.
- The NY Jets, for fear of heavy national coverage, shall have no more than 3 GOTW's.
Upon applying these rules to the schedule, the following games will not appear as a GOTW.
These are just a handful of the incredible contests not gaining GOTW status.
Now, without further ado, I present the Games of the Week.
Week 1: Tampa Bay at Philadelphia – A return to the scene of the biggest crime since Enron. The Bucs stole the hearts and Super Bowl chances right out of the City of Brotherly Love. But, what's with playing the game in Philly? I thought Tampa won the Super Bowl?
Week 4: Tennessee at Pittsburgh – Do you think Dewayne Washington will be allowed on the field during any field goal attempt? Do you think Plaxico Burress will make up for his dropped touchdown pass in the 4th quarter? Do you think Chris Hope will smack Eddie George silly again?
Week 5: Oakland at Chicago – In a pretty lame week of contests, this one gets top billing. We should have a good idea if Kordell Stewart will watch the end of the season from the sidelines after this contest. We'll also see if the Raiders still have the goods as they face off against a pretty solid Chicago defense.
Week 6: Pittsburgh at Denver – This game is huge for both parties. The Steelers meet Jake Plummer for the first time since he torched them in 1997. They also return to Denver for the first time since 1993. The Broncos should have a good idea if their pass defense will be able to hold up against a strong receiving corps. And Clinton Portis gets a test against the Casey Hampton-led Steelers rushing defense.
Week 7: Tampa Bay at San Francisco – During the divisional playoffs, the Bucs put the sleeper hold on a Niners offense that scored 40+ against the Giants in the Wild Card Round. Do you think Terrell Owens remembers?
Week 8: Miami at San Diego – Tough choice, but rule # 6 seals the deal. Yes, there are some other games this week that could be considered GOTW, but they aren't intra-conference like this one. Yes, Pittsburgh vs. St. Louis is important, but the Dolphins and Chargers will be playing for a tiebreaker here. Think about it. Both the Dolphins and Chargers will contend for the playoffs, but the winner will have the tiebreaker. That's pretty damn important.
Week 9: Philadelphia at Atlanta – If the Falcons want to be considered the big boys on the block they'll need to dispatch the Eagles. Besides, who doesn't want to see Vick vs. McNabb?
Week 10: NY Jets at Oakland – In what seems to be an annual event, the Jets and Raiders meet again. Every game has been fun to watch, but don't be surprised if the Jets finally get some revenge.
Week 11: NY Jets at Indianapolis – I know. Two Jets games in a row? What am I thinking? Well, the Colts have an opportunity to enact a little revenge for that humiliating defeat in NY last January. It's the rules, stupid. I have to follow the rules. Okay. I promise. No more Jets games.
Week 12: Pittsburgh at Cleveland – Browns fans have been dreaming about this day since Chris Fuamatu-Mafala capped the unthinkable comeback proving that the Brown Curse can survive an ownership change, new stadium, and backup quarterback heroics.
Week 13: Denver at Oakland – Al Davis almost moved the team to Baltimore. Hmmm….Denver vs. Baltimore…nah, doesn't have a nice ring to it.
Week 14: Miami at New England – I know that I'm favoring AFC contests, but really, parity is so much stronger in the AFC. And although neither team made it to the playoffs, the Dolphins sat at home due to a complete collapse against the Patriots in Week 17.
Week 15: Pittsburgh at NY Jets – I promised. I know. But, the rules are the law around here, and this visit to the Meadowlands has it all - playoff teams, intra-conference drama, tiebreaker ramifications.
Week 16: San Francisco at Philadelphia – This game smells of tiebreakers like Emeril of garlic.
Week 17: Denver at Green Bay – I know you're screaming. I know it looks like I didn't follow the rules. But, in fact I have. I already have 3 Jets games. So that takes out NY Jets vs. Miami. I could go with Oakland at San Diego, but since this game will be re-evaluated anyway, why not put in a Super Bowl rematch?
- I firmly believe that when the Steelers meet the Ravens in the final week of the season, they will be sacking Kyle Boller instead of Chris Redman.
- My coaching grades: Lewis B, Mularkey A, Cowher B-. Cowher doesn't receive anything higher until he wins a Super Bowl. He also doesn't receive anything lower, because you can't tell me the franchise has been to the playoffs 8 of 11 years in spite of his coaching.
- I talked to a close friend's boyfriend up here in NYC. He's a big Jets fan and he's been watching Chad Pennington for years, dating back to Pennington's Marshall days. He wouldn't trade Chad "I'm the next Joe Montana or at least that's what Dan Dierdorf says" for anyone. But, he still thinks about what might have been had the Steelers traded Plaxico Burress for Pennington.