Here Comes The Falling Sky

looked up after that Washington loss. But did anyone realize only one team which already had qualified for the playoffs with nothing to tangibly gain by winning Game 16 actually won? That was Green Bay. But then the Packers, knowing they had to beat the Bears the previous week to force relevant Game 16's for themselves and the Cowboys, wound up losing to Chicago - a second time - a 7-9 team. Wonder if they lost any momentum? 

You want a list of losers, though? Try Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, Seattle and Dallas. Oh, the Giants lost, too, but I'll give them a pass on that since they were at least fighting hard to uphold tradition in the NFL. So that's five of the NFL's eight division champions losing the final game of the season they did not have to win. 

The three that did win, well, San Diego had to win to keep the AFC's third seed and avoid Jacksonville in the first round; Green Bay played a Lions team that lost seven of its last eight; and then there was New England, playing for historical sake, becoming the first team in NFL history to go 16-0. 

Now how come you figure all that happened? 

And then there were the last two wild-card entries, Washington and Tennessee. Each needed a victory to assure themselves that sixth seed in the NFC and AFC. Each won. 

Anyone see any symmetry in all that? 

If not, the sky is falling all over the country then. 

Not only is "that game over with," so is the regular season. Wipe the slate clean. That is the beauty of the playoffs. The regular season only allows you to qualify for the playoffs. The regular season only sets you up in the playoffs. But the regular season assures nothing. The meek can inherit. 

Everyone starts from scratch. You know what, 16-0 doesn't matter one bit. That doesn't spot you seven points in your first playoff game. The next two best records in the NFL, the 13-3 records of the Cowboys and Packers, don't win you a darn thing. Neither does 9-7. 

Now it's simple: Win or go home. 

Ask yourself this: If the Cowboys had beaten the Redskins and other than finishing 14-2, what would that have mattered heading into the playoffs? What would have changed? 

Confidence? From beating no more than an 8-8 team? 

Momentum? Meaning winning your last two games means more than the seven straight you already had won or the five straight before losing to New England, your only other loss this season? 

Aw, phooey. 

If that's the case, then New England, Indy, San Diego and Washington should be the Super Bowl favorites. Let's see. Pittsburgh has lost three of its last four; Tampa Bay three of its last four; the Giants two of their last three; the Seahawks two of their last three; the Titans but .500 over the final eight; and the Packers and Jaguars have gone 3-2 over the last five, as have the Cowboys. 

Few are "streaking" into the playoffs. 

As Troy Aikman used to say, and he learned this from Norv Turner: "Is anyone having any fun in this league?" 

You better have a strong constitution to survive. You better have the stomach, especially now, with everything on the line. They don't let you play Miami or the Jets or St. Louis this time of year. You have to play quality teams. 

And as Jason Witten said after the loss, "They're all going to be tight, and this (game) shows us that. We didn't play well . . . today. 

"I wouldn't say we're struggling." 

Neither would Wade Phillips. 

Neither would I. 

Oh, by the way, have I mentioned Terrell Owens and Terence Newman and Jay Ratliff and Andre Gurode and Pat Watkins didn't play in the game against the Redskins? Sorry, just checking.         

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