By: Bob George/
December 30, 2008

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If things had broken the way of the Patriots, they would be playing the Baltimore Ravens this weekend. So we'll let a Raven kicker do the honors here, and who else than the last remaining member of the old Cleveland Browns, Matt Stover. He began his NFL career with the Browns in 1991, arriving the same year this former defensive coordinator from Wesleyan College did. He has kicked for the Browns and Ravens every year since, and just turned 40 this year. Stover has not missed an extra point since 1996 and has missed only three out of 558 in his career. He has hit on almost 84 percent of his field goals over these eighteen seasons, and is number three all-time in made field goals in NFL history, trailing only Morten Andersen and Gary Anderson. He booms one out of the end zone for a touchback, and away we go.

Eagles 44, Cowboys 6. Eagles in the postseason, Cowboys out.

After cutting that stinker in their Texas Stadium finale last Saturday night, a game the Patriots desperately needed the Cowboys to win, Patriot Nation thanks the Eagles for some lovely poetic justice.

No matter how unfair you think it that Arizona and San Diego go to the playoffs while the Patriots don't, that's too bad. They won't change that aspect of the playoffs. Some divisions stink, some don't.

Oakland just paid Tampa Bay and Jon Gruden back for Super Bowl XXXVII.

Speaking of the Bucs, their 1976 expansion grandpas are now off the hook thanks to the 2008 Detroit Lions.

And the Lions can thank their lucky stars that there is no draft lottery in the NFL.

Scary moment in Pittsburgh. Ben Roethlisberger ought to be happy that it was "only" a concussion. You can walk away from concussions, but you can't walk away from paralysis.

Geek of the week: Besides helping to send New England home for the offseason earlier than perhaps they deserved, Brett Favre has ruined his legacy by not staying retired. Now he is not only a villain in Green Bay, he is a villain in the largest city in the USA. And he was shown up by the man he replaced on his home turf. If that is the lasting final vision of Favre, let that be a lesson to those who don't pay heed to bodies that can't deliver what their souls desire.

Matt Ryan will go on to a great career, but unless he wins a few Super Bowls, he'll have a hard time making Eagle fans (the ones from here, not Philly) forget the little man from Natick who won the Heisman Trophy 24 years ago. BC is still more about Doug Flutie than anyone or anything else.

Fire Eric Mangini? Who jettisoned Chad Pennington for Favre?

Let's hear more about Tom Brady's knee and less about Gisele Bundchen's left ring finger.

When he was a Buffalo Bill, Willis McGahee bragged that he was the best running back in the NFL. With Baltimore, he still isn't, but he has a better chance of being just that one day.

Because he has teammates named Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, who really are just that at their positions, and they may teach him a thing or two as to how to become what he once claimed to be. Talk about former 'Canes sticking together.

Howcum we saw David Carr Sunday against the Vikings, but didn't see Jared Lorenzen last year when the Patriots were vying for 16-0?

The NFL's newest hissy fit is Jay Cutler and Philip Rivers. Neither guy is likeable, so who really cares?

Back to school: Wonder if Dean Smith and Roy Williams stood up and took notice at that terrific Meineke Car Care Bowl a few miles down I-85 in Charlotte? North Carolina suffered a one-point loss to West Virginia, 31-30, but that was one riveting game. Hakeem Nicks made some catches that had to be seen to be believed, but in the end the Football Tar Heels were outdone by Pat ("If I had a son, I'd want him to be just like him!" -- Bill Stewart, WVU head coach) White. One of these days, maybe basketball won't be the only game in town at Chapel Hill.

By the way, here are two former Football Tar Heels. Julius Peppers. Lawrence Taylor. Not too shabby.

Patriot fans should, if they don't do so already, boycott all NFL studio shows except Fox until they get rid of Patriot-haters which make the shows unwatchable.

At CBS you have Shannon Sharpe. At NFL Network you have Marshall Faulk and Warren Sapp. At NBC you have Jerome Bettis, though it's Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick who make that show unbearable. At ESPN you have Tom Jackson. Only Fox has guys with no real grudges against the Patriots (Howie Long's is against Patrick Sullivan, not the team in general).

The way things go, you'll someday see CBS replace Boomer Esiason with Joey Porter and Bill Cowher with Mangini. Now that would be a laugh and a half.

Mangini on a studio show? Why not? You might recall Bill Belichick doing halftime commentary at Super Bowl XL, and he's not exactly Harry Kalas's twin brother.

Two guys who deserve a longer head coaching shot are both located in the Bay Area. Mike Singletary and Tom Cable did well in their short internships. Both teams were a mess, the Raiders devoid of talent and the 49ers devoid of class and discipline. And everyone needs to shut up as to how Singletary handled Vernon Davis.

Remember him: Other than Weeb Eubank, the only Baltimore Colt head coach to see sustained success was Ted Marchibroda. It was fitting that he be the man to usher in the second era of Baltimore football when he replaced Belichick as head coach of the Browns as they began the transformation to the Ravens. It was eerie having the Patriots return to Memorial Stadium in 1996, the first season for the Ravens, and to see Marchibroda on the opposing sideline like he was when he was coaching Bert Jones and his gang in the mid-1970s. Marchibroda took the Ravens through their first three seasons in Baltimore before yielding to Brian Billick, two years before the Ravens struck Super gold. Though this team still belongs in Cleveland like the Colts belong in Baltimore, Marchibroda's ties to both the Colts and the Ravens is most unique, and he remains a solid piece of the Baltimore football legacy.

The Patriots may be done for the year, but not our rhyming playoff predictions. Like it or not, they're back.

A war of teams that are totally for the birds;

It takes an Eagle to make Falcons fly, while the Cardinals fall on turds.

Another bunch of Eagles visit men from the Norse;

"Fly, Eagles, Fly" sing their fans, and they dump the Vikings, of course.

Birds can also rule in the AFC;

Sea creatures don't cut it, it's the Ravens, you'll see.

From his Mission Beach hotel where he spent all day tanning;

The Chargers go down at the hands of an MVP named Manning.

Hmmm. Maybe the playoffs do need some tweaking. Four games, and we predict the road team in all of them. Let's get Roger on the phone right now.