When last we left Flutie fluffer, Peter King, he was telling us that there was no best team in football before informing us that the best team is the Patriots, because only the finest teams lose at home to Arizona. He continued to use the word rookie, even after instructing his readers that they should use that term anymore. PK also got out of a parking ticket because the ticketing officer recognized him. Also because the world is an unfair, awful place that can’t wait to kill us.

But what about this week? Did Andy Dalton and Carson Palmer have the most interesting chat in the history of stilted five word exchanges? How fearless was Jim Harbaugh to go with a clearly superior quarterback? Semi-Braveheart-esque? And when will T.Y. Hilton stop turning the NBC viewing room into a house of lies? READ ON.

Prelude to a diss:

Finally, a football column that starts with a playful reference to the title of a Meg Ryan movie from 20 years ago. It’s no secret why Peter King remains the favorite NFL writer among 45-year-old women.

In the last 52 weeks, the Packers have met the Giants three times. Green Bay has allowed 35, 37 and 38 points, and an average of 419 yards a game, and nine Eli Manning touchdown passes.

WOWZERS. It’s almost as though the Packers have a dogshit defense! Especially when its best player is hurt!

Time for defensive coordinator Dom Capers to figure out a way to cover the Giants deep. Time for Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews to heal. Time for a shaky line to protect Aaron Rodgers. Time for GM Ted Thompson to find reinforcements for the line.

Time for PK to stop acting like anaphora is a cutting edge rhetorical device.

In the AFC, we’re going to sleep through the playoff race, because it looks like it’ll be 7-4 Indianapolis, 6-5 Pittsburgh and 6-5 Cincinnati fighting for two spots, and the way things look now, none is a threat to the AFC elite.

Because, if recent history has taught us anything, how a team looks in the last week of November is totally how they’re going to play once the postseason begins.

But there is an interesting subplot in the AFC, which Ray Rice raised to me last night, before getting on a giddy Ravens charter to return home from the impossible 16-13 overtime win at San Diego.

“I don’t know what kind of medicine the Steelers will put Ben Roethlisberger on this week,” Rice said, “but they’re going to give him something.”

“THE BEN GET FLINTSTONES CHEWABLE MORPHINE! NOM NOM NOM!”

Pittsburgh-Baltimore, the rematch, Sunday at The Big Crabcake. (I think that’s Chris Berman’s invention, so I’ll give him naming rights.) And does anyone think the Steelers stand a chance of winning in Baltimore without Roethlisberger, who missed his second game with a dislocated first rib (last week’s column explains how dangerous that injury can be, and typically the injury would take more than a month to heal) Sunday?

That’s a (wait, here’s a needlessly long parenthetical that breaks up the sentence and makes the reader want to kill himself) no.

Now for the NFC. It’s bizarro world. Here’s how I handicap the six-team race:

1. How would they fare in Wichita?
2. Are they the Patriots?
c. If not, are they sufficiently quasi-Belichickian?
3. I DON’T KNOW

1. Washington (5-6). The ‘Skins and Bucs are playing the best among the contenders, and if Washington can win one of the next two (Giants Monday, Ravens to follow), the last three weeks (at Cleveland, at Philly, Dallas) are manageable. How great would it be to see Robert Griffin III in a Wild Card game at Soldier Field, getting chased through the snow by Urlacher and Briggs?

Because there would have to be a foot of snow on the ground for slow-ass Urlacher to have any chance of catching RGIII?

2. Tampa Bay (6-5). Watching the Bucs the last month, I keep thinking no one wants to play them. Greg Schiano’s instilled a toughness in them, and offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan has obviously worked wonders with a rejuvenated Josh Freeman. The problem’s the schedule. Bucs are at Denver, at New Orleans and at Atlanta in December. The only hope with that tough slate is maybe the Falcons have nothing to play for in Week 17, and Julio Jones and Matt Ryan sit.

The Buccaneers are NOT a team you want to see when you’ve already clinched their division. Atlanta knows this well.

5. Minnesota (6-5). Can Adrian Peterson play quarterback?

Can’t be any worse than Peyton Hillis.

So here’s how I see the Wild Card round on the first weekend of January:

NFC (Byes: Atlanta and San Francisco): Green Bay at the Giants (Saturday night, NBC), Washington at Chicago (early Sunday, FOX).

AFC (Byes: Houston and New England): Cincinnati at Baltimore (Saturday afternoon, NBC), Indianapolis at Denver (late Sunday, CBS).

I repeat: Andrew Luck at Peyton Manning. The Irsay Bowl.

The Hollywood Xerox of Fate Bowl! The Horsey Bowl! The NeckAIDS Revenge Bowl! The Oh God Fucking Kill Me The Hype Would Be Suffocating Bowl!

I am reminded of a quote Bill Parcells uttered every other week in the four seasons I covered the Giants for Newsday in the ’80s: “Sometimes God is playing in these games.”

“And that’s why we can’t allow faggots and Japs in the locker room!”

Fourth-and-29 will go down in Ravens history.

I don’t know about that. The all-time annals of Ray Rice bailing out Joe Flacco are quite extensive.

I’ve watched the play that saved the game for the Ravens 15 times now, and what I marvel at is what I asked Rice about last night: “Did you know exactly how far you had to go for the first down?”

Just when I think Peter King has asked his most inane, patronizing question, I read his next column and discover new depths of obtuseness. “Only Peyton Manning is aware enough to know things like down and distance. I have no question.”

The situation: Chargers up 13-10, 1:59 to play, fourth quarter. Baltimore ball, 4th-and-29 at the Ravens’ 37. Rice slipped out after staying in for a second to help protect Joe Flacco. “I was the check-down guy,” Rice said. “I didn’t expect Joe to come to me.”

“Usually, he only asks me to pull gains of 20 yards or fewer out of my ass. This was unexpected.”

“I saw the yard marker,” Rice told me, “so I knew how far it was. I just knew somehow I had to get there. And when I took off, I saw them overpursuing me, so I cut to the left. I think I must have found another gear. And then I got that great block from Anquan [Boldin].” Which looked like a classic crackback block that should have been penalized; Boldin blindsided Eric Weddle, who had to be removed from the game, just as Rice dove for the Chargers 34. He made it … Or did he?

“There was a lot being said out there, but I didn’t pay attention,” said Rice, while the spot of the play was examined and re-examined and replayed. The more I looked, the more I thought Rice’s knee didn’t come down until the ball was at approximately the 34-yard line. If Gene Steratore and his officiating crew erred in the spot, it wasn’t by more than a foot. No outrage to me.

So they got away with an illegal block and got a generous spot? No problem here. I just wish the refs would quit hating on Baltimore.

A play that had no business getting made got made by Rice, and it could be the play that makes the difference between a first-round bye and a veteran team having to play a wild-card game. How incredible would it be for that extra week of rest allowing another week of healing for Lewis — and enabling him to come back from his arm injury to take the field in mid-January, maybe for the final time?

At this point in his career, Ray-Ray is probably more useful as a cheerleader on the sideline than on the field. Other than that, it would be UBER INCREDIBLE!

Dot dot dot things.

Morse Code-ish!

If Hines Ward were still a Steeler, he’d make running backs Rashard Mendenhall, Chris Rainey, Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman (six fumbles at Cleveland Sunday, four recovered by the Browns) walk around the facility lugging a football tight to their chests. An eight-TO day? Inexcusable …

That’s good, because Rashard Mendenhall surely wasn’t an inveterate fumbler before Hines retired.

Mike Holmgren told Kevin Harlan of FOX this weekend that Sunday was his last day with the Browns, an odd way to end one’s club presidency.

A shitty team executive has to leave abruptly!? WEIRD! That never happens!

Sounds very much like Holmgren will return to his big digs in Seattle and hope he gets an offer to coach again.

/laughs
//watches Buffalo hire him
///laughs harder

Fine Fifteen

Pats have averaged 47.5 points per game the last four weeks. Tom Brady’s on pace for 35 touchdowns and four interceptions. Occasionally they show signs of being defensively competent.

Like when the Jets trip over their own dicks and hand them the ball.

And Thursday, they won by 30 without their two best offensive linemen, best tight end and best defensive end. How they have three losses, I have no idea.

They played three games where the other team scored more points than them. I know. Scoreboards are hard.

2. San Francisco (8-2-1). We will never question you again, Jim Harbaugh. Well, at least maybe not until next week.

“Unless I don’t, which I might not. But I promise when I do maybe not ever question you again, I will make it the most glaringly oblivious question I can, unless I can’t. MAYBE.”

4. Denver (8-3). Romeo Crennel always has a good game plan for Peyton Manning. One problem. Denver’s defense is for real.

Fuckin’ right, they are. No one stops Brady Quinn and Peyton Hillis one-hop passes unless they’re uber legitish.

9. Tampa Bay (6-5). The more I see the Bucs, the more I think they might do what the Giants of 2007 or 2011 did — get hot late and get on a January run that could take them very far. Not saying I think this will happen. Just saying it wouldn’t surprise me if the Bucs were the NFC’s sixth seed and made some big noise.

Not saying PK is willing to nut up and actually put his word behind his latest coach crush, but he will be sure to brag and take credit if things turn out well for Tampa.

12. Washington (5-6). I don’t have to take a poll to tell you that no team in its right mind wants to play Washington right now, not after Robert Griffin III put up 69 points in the last two weeks with his arm (mostly) and legs. And teams might feel that way about the Redskins for a long time, which wasn’t the case before he arrived.

Yup, the ‘Skins are a force to be reckoned with, unlike all those other years when they had the same record at this point in the season.


Offensive Players of the Week

T.Y. Hilton, WR/PR, Indianapolis. Hilton’s 75-yard punt return started the scoring for the Colts in their 20-14 win over Buffalo at home Sunday, and his 8-yard touchdown pass from Andrew Luck finished it. In between, he got knocked into next week by a hit on his second punt return that certainly should have finished him for the day, but Hilton returned to return three more punts and make the catch that allowed the Colts to escape with their seventh win. After the game, I asked him how he felt. “Fine. Perfect,” he said. I said to him: “What hurts right now?” And he said, “Nothing. I am fine.” Well, if that were true Sunday night, I doubt it’ll be true this morning, unless Hilton’s made of Silly Putty.

“If you were a white player, I’d take your answers at face value. I have no question.”

Defensive Players of the Week

Janoris Jenkins, CB, St. Louis. His 39- and 36-yard interception returns for touchdown made him the first rookie to return two picks for scores in 52 years, and made coach Jeff Fisher a genius for benching him two weeks ago at San Francisco for violating team rules and having to run the stadium stairs before the game at Candlestick Park. Watch how he baited quarterback Ryan Lindley of the Cardinals, especially on the first pick-6, and you’ll see why the Rams took a chance on the troubled college star in the second round of the draft.

“This generic coaching discipline gives me just the awareness I need to fool a terrible quarterback!”

/reminder that Jeff Fisher and Peter King have the same agent

Special Teams Player of the Week

Rafael Bush, SS, New Orleans. How about this? An “R. Bush” for New Orleans who wears number 25?

XEROX OF WEIRD

Reggie, however, wouldn’t be playing on the punt team

Except when he did.

which Rafael was midway through the second quarter of a 7-7 game with the 49ers. Bush sprinted downfield to cover a Thomas Morestead punt, and as Ted Ginn Jr. muffed it (sound familiar, Niner fans?) Bush reached in and grabbed it, setting up a short, 11-yard touchdown drive. Bush and Courtney Roby have been terrific on punts this year, and are big reasons Morestead is having such a great net-punting season.

Wait, you gave someone a special teams player of the week award just for falling on a muff? That’s the kind of flimsy excuse for fluffing PK would usually reserve for a Manning.

Coaches of the Week

Jim Harbaugh, head coach, San Francisco. Harbaugh proved last week he’s got some Bill Belichick in him.

Only because he once bit Belichick’s leg in an attempt to gain his power.

As a coach, you have to be able to tune out the majority of the public and the media and even some in your own organization who think you’re making a mistake if you firmly believe you’re doing the right thing and you trust in your players to know you’re doing the right thing. Such was the case when he chose Colin Kaepernick as his starting quarterback over Alex Smith, who was playing at a Pro Bowl level.

So true. It takes brass ones to have the courage to bench long-time middling shithead Alex Smith in favor of a guy who humiliated the Bears defense in prime time.

Goat of the Week

Ron Winter, referee, Pittsburgh-Cleveland game. As horrible as the Steelers were Sunday — and turning the ball over eight times is sufficient to lose 100 percent of the time — Winter made an incredible non-call with two minutes left in the fourth quarter and Cleveland trying to run out a 20-14 lead. Cleveland running back Trent Richardson ran into a clogged line, got stoned and stripped at the same time, and the Steelers jumped on the fumble. Though no whistle was audible, and Winter was staring at the play as it happened, no fumble was ruled, and the Steelers lost a last legitimate chance to catch up. You just can’t miss those calls.

It’s true! The Steelers got robbed of another chance to fumble away the game. This is an injustice!

/cries into already soiled towel

Quote of the Week III

“The runner’s buttocks was down on the ground before the ball came loose. Therefore, it’s Indianapolis ball at the 47-yard line. The clock should be reset to 13:22.”

— Referee Ed Hochuli, explaining why he reversed a call that originally had Indianapolis fumbling and Buffalo recovering in the second quarter Sunday.

And if you weren’t watching, yes, announcer Marv Albert did chuckle when Hochuli said “buttocks.”

It’s good to see pervy Marv making a comeback.

Quote of the Week V

“He writes down everything. He writes down my Wednesday talks to the team, and then I’ll hear it again with the media. I’ll hear it again when he talks to his teammates, at the end of practice. It’s off-the-chain leadership. He holds guys accountable, man. They don’t want to let him down.”

— Denver coach John Fox, to Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times, in a story about Peyton Manning’s road back to the NFL (I recommend it.)

If John Fox doesn’t spend half of team meetings insulting Peyton and then have Pey-Pey recite the insults back to the team, I have zero respect for him.

Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me

For two men so inextricably connected in Cincinnati Bengals history, it’s notable that the first time Carson Palmer and Andy Dalton met was on the field at Paul Brown Stadium Sunday.

The extent of their conversation after the game went something like this, per Dalton:

Dalton: “Stay healthy.”

Palmer: “You too. Good luck.”

Two guys who don’t actually know each other have nothing to talk about. Riveting exchange. LOFTY exchange.

Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note of the Week

Not mine. Ian Eagle’s.

Ooh, I hope it’s as enthralling as Bob Papa’s travel itinerary. Just kidding. WHAT COULD BE MORE INTERESTING THAN THAT!!??

What the CBS football/YES Network basketball/Dial Global sports radio football announcer has done in the past week:

Sunday, Nov. 18: Flew from St. Louis to New York after doing Jets-Rams game for CBS. Arrived at his New Jersey home at 11:15 p.m.

Monday: Flew from Newark to Los Angeles at 8 p.m.

Tuesday: Did the Nets-Lakers game in Los Angeles for YES Network. Flew on Nets’ charter with team from Los Angeles to San Francisco. In bed by 2 a.m. Wednesday.

Wednesday: Did the Nets-Warriors game in Oakland for YES Network. Flew on Nets’ charter with team from San Francisco to Newark after the game. In bed in his New Jersey home by 9 a.m. Thursday.

Thursday: Did the Patriots-Jets game for Dial Global Radio. Home by midnight.

Friday: Did the Clippers-Nets game from Brooklyn for YES Network. Home by midnight.

Saturday: Flew to San Diego at 8:20 a.m. Did CBS production meeting with Chargers at noon at their team facility.

Sunday: Did the Ravens-Chargers game for CBS at 1 p.m. Pacific Time. Returned to San Diego hotel. Rested. Flew to Newark at 9:30 p.m., with the redeye due to deliver him home just after dawn today.

“At one point on the flight to San Diego Saturday,” Eagle reported Sunday night, “I napped for about seven minutes and woke up and I thought I was flying to Buffalo to do a Bills game. Then again, I also thought at one point I was an orthodontist.”

He sat somewhere and he talked. Then he sat on a plane, flew somewhere else, and sat and talked there. HOW IS THIS MAN STILL BREATHING!?

Tweet of the Week I

“Manning family has 750 combined @NFL TD passes. Peyton (425), Eli (200), Archie (125). #justwow”

— @NFLhistory, NFL Record and Fact Book editor Jon Zimmer Sunday night, as Eli Manning passed Phil Simms for first on the Giants’ all-time passing touchdowns list.

Yeah, well, the McCowns have, like, 750 combined passing yards. #NBD

Tweet of the Week III

“I HATE LOSING!”

— @TerrellePryor, after the 3-8 Raiders lost their fourth straight game, in Cincinnati on Sunday.

Just think if he had actually contributed to the loss in some way.

Ten Things I Think I Think

1. I think this is what I liked about Week 12:

b. Tom Brady, on pace for 35 touchdown passes and four interceptions. Is it possible he’s getting better with age?

Is Tom Brady’s gaze the secret for eternal youth? If not, why does it give Peter his throbbiest boner since his teenage years?

h. Jay Cutler. If we define “value” in “Most Valuable Player” as someone whose loss would totally deflate and screw up his team, then Cutler has to be in the running for the award.

Along with at least 20 other starting quarterbacks in the league, which is why that’s a retarded standard. Cutler doesn’t even deserve the award over teammate Charles Tillman, so piss off, you starfucker.

m. Chad Henne, for leading a Jags win, their first at home this year. He’d have to royally mess up to not be the Jacksonville quarterback heading into the 2013 offseason.

That’s the saddest thing I’ve read all month and I read this drivel every week.

q. Indy’s defense. In winning five of its last six, the D has allowed 13, 13, 20, 10 and 13 points in the five wins.

I see the Hollywood movie that is the Colts season will conveniently omit the 59 points the Patriots laid on them last week.

2. I think this is what I didn’t like about Week 12:

b. Rex Ryan’s logic after the 49-19 loss to New England Thursday. He tells his coordinators he doesn’t want them to play Tim Tebow, then says Tebow (two broken ribs) was “100 percent available.” I’m not getting that. Wonder if Woody Johnson is.

Woody Johnson is too concerned with how the Republicans can take back the White House in 2016. To that end, he’s busy trying to lower the required candidate age so Tebow can top the GOP ticket.

c. Great Carson Palmer trade, Raiders. I like the headline I saw somewhere during the night about Bengals assistant Hue Jackson “taking the high road” after the Bengals wiped out the team he head-coached last year, Oakland. What? Jackson got fired from the Raiders, in part because he overpaid (first- and second-round picks for Palmer) for a quarterback and went 4-6 after acquiring him. What high road exactly would he be taking?

Via reader Michael:

“Once again, PK fails to do his homework. No one likes Hue Jackson, but a simple Google search of “Hue Jackson high road” comes up with the Mercury News article that states that the “high road” Hue Jackson is taking is that he’s refusing to trash the Raiders for the way things ended last year. Everyone knows Jackson blew it as a coach (and obviously so as a personnel man), but refusing to trash your former employer (who also sucks) is fine by me. And the use of “high road” was not Jackson’s, rather, it was the reporters. Shoddy PK at work, folks.”

g. Catch the easy interception, Asante Samuel. But I can’t kill Samuel too much, because he played hurt down the stretch when his Falcons desperately needed him.

Not like Asante has a history of that or anything.

i. The Norv Turners, scoring three points in the last 59 minutes of another crushing loss.

Referring to a team as the Norv Turners might be the most mean-spirited thing I’ve ever seen. I’m sorry, San Diego.

3. I think the league overreacted, and that’s putting it mildly, by censoring Rich Eisen’s interview with Oscar favorite Bradley Cooper and yanking it from Eisen’s Thanksgiving special on NFL Network. “The segment was pulled because the movie included content related to gambling on NFL games,” the statement from NFL Network said.

Sure, that’s pretty fucked up, I suppose.

/continues to not give a shit about Eisen’s podcast or specials

4. I think, by the way, there isn’t a more pro-NFL guy on TV than Eisen, and he can do it without seeming like a total house man. That’s a great skill to have. And what the NFL has done, essentially, is to say to Eisen, who is the league’s Brian Williams: We don’t trust you. If I’m Eisen, I’m furious.

No doubt he is. Prepare for the angriest toadying you’ve ever seen, NFL execs.

6. I think these sound like the top 10 NFL assistants who will get sniffs for head coaching jobs in the league next year (in order):

1. Mike McCoy, Denver offensive coordinator
2. Mike Zimmer, Cincinnati defensive coordinator
3. Vic Fangio, San Francisco defensive coordinator
4. Perry Fewell, Giants defensive coordinator
5. Dirk Koetter, Atlanta offensive coordinator
6. Dave Toub, Chicago special teams coordinator
7. Bruce Arians, Indianapolis interim head coach/offensive coordinator
8. Ray Horton, Arizona defensive coordinator
9. Kyle Shanahan, Washington offensive coordinator
10. Clyde Christensen, Indianapolis quarterbacks coach.

Zimmer is on there every year. Oh, and I wish so hard that an NFL team makes Kyle Shanahan their head coach. That would be the best dumpster fire ever.

10. I think these are my non-NFL thoughts of the week:

b. Controversial: Mike Florio says he was bored by Lincoln. I have to carve out three hours, and soon, to see it.

REAL TALK: Mike Florio’s opinions about movies are the only thing people give less of a shit about than his trollish views on the NFL.

c. Black Friday. One of the lightest traffic days of the year, because I had to drive quite a bit Friday. Can’t figure that one out.

It’s like people want to be at home with their families instead of buzzing around the city looking for Allagash. WEIRD!

e. Congrats, Toronto Argonauts, for the Grey Cup win, the 100th Canadian Football League championship game. Argos 35, Stampeders 22. You can be sure Doug Flutie was there, and received a standing ovation. One of the fun things about working with Flutie at NBC these days is listening to his stories about the CFL.

Just one of the many delights of NBC employment. What’s that? YOUUUU don’t get to see former quarterbacks regaling bystanders with tales of glory at your place of business? Why bother getting up in the morning?

f. Congrats, Notre Dame.

h. My Bobcats sank like stones, didn’t they? Still think Nick Saban quakes at the thought of facing the mighty men of Solich.

i. Florence Norman has been born. One piece of advice, Flo: Don’t listen to a word your grandfather says about rooting for the Yankees. It’s the wrong thing to do.

Goody! An update on the Normans. But what of the Bowers clan? You can’t deprive me of an update of all of the people in your life that I don’t give a shit about.

j. Coffeenerdness: Daughter Mary Beth is visiting, and I’m proud to say I’ve got her on the espresso trail. Her drink of choice: a quad (four-shot) grande Americano. Chip off the old block, that girl.

“I’m proud that my daughter is addicted to same substances I am!”

k. Beernerdness: Thanks, Ommegang (Cooperstown, N.Y.) for making your White beer available throughout Manhattan. I don’t like it as much as Allagash White, but any port in a storm when you’re jonesing for some Belgian beer is a good thing.

Thanks, Ommegang, for your quasi-Allagash-ish swill. It’s not good, but it is available in places that rich people can easily purchase it! And that means something. I THINK.

Regarding tonight’s game, I have Philadelphia 21, Carolina 17. In a battle of endangered coaches, it’s not going to do Ron Rivera much good to lose to a team that hasn’t won a game in October or November. Not to make you feel worse, Eagles fans (is that possible?), but how about this for offensive frustration: Games scoring 25 points or more in 2012 — New England 9, Philadelphia 0.

Wins against Arizona: New England 0, Philadelphia 0. THE GREAT LEVELER!

The Adieu Haiku

Colin Kaepernick.
Looks like I misjudged the lad.
Chiefs sound good, Alex?

Must be God at work
That’s what Parcells would call it
And God hates Jap plays