If Dave Rice is to relinquish his lead in the Marco Eagle National Football League swami race for 2006, it’s going to take a lot more than a frozen tundra in Chicago and a trick play from Brett Favre.
Heading into the final weekend of the regular season, Rice is six games up in the win column to second-place Dottie Weiner, with third-place Dave Kocourek and fourth-place Don Healy rounding out The Pack.
So why all the Green Bay references, you ask? Well, it’s as simple as N-B-C.
The NFL has announced its “flex” schedule for the weekend and Sunday’s Green Bay at Chicago ballet has been shifted to an 8:15 p.m. start on NBC.
Two factors likely went into the scheduling of what will now be the final regular season game of 2006. For one, should the Packers upend the Bears at Soldier Field, Favre and Friends would make the playoffs — providing they’ve gotten help from elsewhere around the league.
That this will be the final game of the regular season also takes on an added significance because, if the Packers don’t advance into the postseason, this could well be Favre’s final dance in a Green Bay tutu.
No doubt you’ll find the guys in the broadcast booth waxing eloquently about that all night long on Sunday.
Anyway, Rice is the leading swami in the clubhouse. And the fact that he and the other three all pick the Bears to win at home doesn’t bode well for diehard Cheeseheads.
The swamis all agree on 12 of the 16 games. They all like the N.Y. Giants, Philadelphia, Baltimore, New Orleans, Houston, Dallas, Kansas City, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, San Diego and Denver.
Incidentally, the “flex” schedule also has changed the time of the Dolphins’ kickoff in Indy. It will be now at 4:15 (on Fox).
Never mind that Indianapolis has been leaking oil on defense the past few weeks. Dolphins coach Nick Saban, still fending off rumors that he will be the next head coach at Alabama, has named Cleo Lemon to be starting quarterback Sunday. Looks like six straight quarters of touchdownless football finally did in Joey Harrington.
No doubt there are some Florida Gator fans out there who think third-stringer Shane Matthews should take some snaps for Miami, too.
In other kickoff time changes, the Buffalo Bills at Baltimore Ravens game will move to 4:15 p.m. on CBS and the Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles game will also move to 4:15 p.m. on Fox.
As teams close out the regular season, more than a third of the league (11 teams) is still in contention for the final three playoff spots available.
The four games the swamis don’t agree on this week? Well, Healy and Kocourek both are taking Tennessee over New England in Nashville. Kocourek is the lone ranger in choosing Oakland over the host N.Y. Jets. Rice and Weiner like Tampa Bay at home over Seattle. Those two also pick St. Louis to beat Minnesota on the road.
Despite the travails of Coach Tom Coughlin and company, Weiner hasn’t given up on the Giants.
“It’s the last game of the season and they still have outside chance to go to the playoffs,” she said. “I’m rooting for them.”
As for Green Bay, Rice seems most convinced that The Pack won’t be back — not this year, anyway.
“Too much everything for Green Bay,” he concluded.