Wednesday Apple Pie

Let me be the first to tell you that my choices for "Game of the Week" in last season's "Wednesday Apple Pie", to me, stunk up the joint. Not only did I have a Vick-less Atlanta Falcon squad in the third week, but I also had Oakland at Chicago in Week 5 and Miami at San Diego in Week 8. So, I admit I whiffed harder than Randall Simon.

In my defense, who could have foreseen the nuclear meltdown in Tampa, Oakland, Pittsburgh and Buffalo? Or that crippling injuries to Vick and Chad Pennington would doom the Falcons and NY Jets before opening day?

You'd think I'd learned my lesson, but behold, here I am putting out the list and it isn't even August. Last season I waited until the middle of the month-of-no-holidays to release the "GOTW." Go ahead, tell me I'm as small-brained as a Browns fan or as ignorant as a Ravens fan. But, if you think these are "fearless" predictions, you're dead wrong, for I'm as scared as a shrimp at Red Lobster.

I now announce the "Fearful Games of the...." wait a minute...I should probably give you the rules rundown again.

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 Steelers Rule of 1998". In that season, the Steelers and the Jacksonville Jaguars were set to meet Week 17 on Monday night. However, after 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 Falcons 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.

    Now, without further ado, I present the "Fearful Games of the Week" and surprise, no Jets games.

    Week 1: Indianapolis at New England - Remember how the Patriots cornerbacks mugged Marvin Harrison all day long last January? Well, the refs said no-no to that and we're about to find out just how much of a defensive genius Bill Belichick really is.

    Week 2: Carolina at Kansas City - Is Carolina a Cinderella that is primed to crash and burn not unlike the Jamal Anderson-less Falcons of 1999? Will Kansas City finally find a defense? Will Priest Holmes scored 50 touchdowns this year? Oh the questions...

    Week 3: Green Bay at Indianapolis - What a nice, fun match-up for Week 3. The Colts and the Packers. Two teams who, if they'd found a way to make a few plays in the 4th quarter of their respective playoff losses, could have met in the Super Bowl.

    Week 4: St. Louis at San Francisco - This game is always fun to watch, but does anyone think that when Steve Smith burned the Rams in overtime last January, that the wheels were set in motion for the ultimate demise of the team?

    Week 5: NY Giants at Dallas - Big game for both teams. The Giants may be horrible this year and if Dallas doesn't shore up their running back and quarterback positions, they could miss the post-season as well.

    Week 6: Seattle at New England - I still think Mike Holmgren is a horrible GM. At this point, we will see why the Seahawks will once again underperform. The Patriots on the other hand may also be finding life tough without being able to go "Fight Club" on the opposing wide receivers.

    Week 7: Denver at Cincinnati - Wesley would be happy that his beloved Bengals get a GOTW. Actually, I might get sued for that latest comment. No seriously, the deceased rock star's people don't like me.

    Week 8: New England at Pittsburgh - The Patriots have had the Steelers' number ever since Kevin Henry picked off a short Bledsoe dump-off in an improbable Steelers comeback in old Foxboro during the fall of 1997. Sure, the Steelers beat the Patriots that playoff season, but the Steelers sold their souls to the devil that day and are still paying the price.

    Week 9: Philadelphia at Pittsburgh - 4 years ago, the Steelers held a 10-point lead on the Eagles with less than 5 minutes to play and lost the game. That loss ultimately kept the Steelers out of the post-season. Think it might happen again?

    Week 10: Minnesota at Green Bay - The Vikings just barely missed the playoffs last season. But what really pleased the Vikings was the revived play of Dante Culpepper. The Packers continue to hold on by the fingers of Bret Favre, but will this finally be the year the Cheeseheads and Favre grow stale?

    Week 11: Dallas at Baltimore - This is a really interesting match-up. Both teams lack a Super Bowl-quality quarterback, both teams lack a feared passing attack, both teams possess a powerful opportunistic defense. The difference here is that Baltimore has Jamal Lewis (pending) and Dallas has Eddie George. You do the math.

    Week 12: Tampa Bay at Carolina - For Carolina to win the NFC South, they must put the Buccaneers away again. They can do it this week.

    Week 13: Green Bay at Philadelphia - Let's all be honest, the Packers should have beaten the Eagles last January. Converting that "miracle" 4th down propelled the Eagles to stave off another disappointing playoff season albeit for one week. The Pack should have won and taken their momentum to the Super Bowl. But, they didn't and now it might be too late.

    Week 14: Kansas City at Tennessee - At this point, these games can change according to the rules, but I'm more comfortable with the season's stretch of games than I was last year. Tennessee late in the season is a sure bet for a well-played, heated match.

    Week 15: Dallas at Philadelphia - The game that should decide the NFC North. Eagleman Bri-an will be in the stands that day. Who is this "Eagleman" Brian? A new character in the ever growing cast of Wednesday Apple Pie? Maybe. Cowboy Matt may also be in the city of brotherly love. Yup. He's coming back.

    Week 16: Baltimore at Pittsburgh - This is the AFC North rivalry, not Cleveland or Cincinnati. And it at this point it deserves GOTW status.

    Week 17: Indianapolis at Denver - The Colts have won the past 3 of these match-ups. This looks like a good way for both teams to end the season. This could have playoff implications. Regardless, the Broncos will still remember the humbling experience in the RCA Dome last January.

    • Apparently it was while following Lenny Kravitz and marijuana that Ricky Williams saw the perils of stardom. Regardless, South Florida Republicans will find some way to blame this all on Bill Clinton.
    • Is Ricky Williams the biggest traitor since Benedict Arnold? Ricky doesn't want to play. Ricky doesn't love it anymore. Ricky should have said something 4 months ago, not right after Eddie George signs with Dallas.
    • The Dolphins weren't making the playoffs this year. They may not even make 6 wins now.
    • If there is any team that could come out of the shadows and put out a Cinderella season, it would be the Buffalo Bills. They have a good defense, a good running game, and if their line can give Drew Bledsoe time, he'll find open receivers.
    • Early prediction on the Steelers: 8 - 8. I can't get too excited about a team that still lacks a solid LT and RT, has non-existent depth at the linebacker position (especially now that Clark Haggans is out for camp) and will again start Chad Scott at cornerback.
    • As for Haggans, I'm actually excited for Alonzo Jackson. He'll have a chance to prove himself. And you've got to feel for Haggans, it takes him 2 years too long to drive Jason Gildon out of town; he doesn't get any looks as an RFA; and now he won't even get a chance to prepare for the season.

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