It’s the saddest Sunday of the season. Bars are empty, about half the games are meaningless and fantasy leagues have run their course. We’re all just playing out the string. The playoffs are great, but I won’t experience the satisfying head-whip of eight simultaneous games again until September of 2013. Oh, NFL, how you rot my attention span. Oh, how I miss it when you don’t.


One more mention of fantasy: I am my league’s champion. It’s no big deal or anything, just please make sure you curtsey before speaking to me. Thank you.


It’s so quiet in here today that I was just startled by a Bears fan cheering. I startle easily, but I’m pretty well-attuned to the acoustic environment of the sports bar. It’s so dead in here today.


But hey, good news: Michael Vick is back, and he still really, really wants the other team to have the football. On 2nd down, he fell on his own fumble, and on 3rd, he overthrew the shit out of Brent Celek and was picked off.


Meanwhile, several televisions away, 22 monkeys dressed in Bills and Jets uniforms continue to hump footballs while praying that they’ll be able to upgrade to Michael Vick next year. I’m going to go ahead and pencil the Patriots into the 2013 playoffs, too.


Three of the four televisions directly in front of me feature games that don’t mean anything: Cleveland @ Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay @ Atlanta, and Jacksonville @ Tennessee. Collectively, I consider these games to be the NFL’s answer to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.


The Browns have a new quarterback under center this week, too. It’s a fellow named Thaddeus Lewis. The early scouting report: He’s black. We’re currently awaiting word from Rob Parker on whether or not he’s black, like, for real black. He appears confident and he throws a nice ball, though.


The Bears fan across the way, excited about a Matt Forte run, cheers “Go Matt!” Like they’re close personal friends or something! I guess this dork is on a first name basis with ‒ wait a second. I do that exact same thing sometimes. Never mind.


Is it a coincidence that the girl from Workaholics is in a commercial that takes place amongst a sea of cubicles? I don’t know. Some mysteries can’t be solved. But I do think that girl is cute.


It’s already 21-0 Giants, and we’re not even out of the first quarter. It must be nice to look at the schedule in a must-win week and see that you’re playing the Eagles. Like getting a sex doll for Christmas. “Oh, I am just going to go to town on this thing.”


No, I didn’t get a sex doll for Christmas. There’s always next year.


Buccaneers tight end Luke Stocker is rumbling down the far sideline when he leaps over a would-be Falcons tackler. I’m comfortable in calling that the greatest hurdle by a white tight end in NFL history.


And then the Bucs go right back to Stocker on the next play. Two plays, two catches, 43 yards. Draft Luke Stocker in the first round of all your fantasy drafts next year.


Oh good, there’s a new celebrity high-diving show. I’ve been waiting for something to combine America’s great love of the high dive with their passion for Terrell Owens. The official title is “Stars in Danger: The High Dive.” What’s the danger? Are they diving into a drained pool? Are eliminated contestants forced to have sex with Greg Louganis? Or are they just in danger of not being famous for much longer unless you’re teased with the idea that they might really hurt themselves?


A Google search to see who will be joining TO on the high diving show reveals that this is actually a Fox rip-off. ABC’s been planning a high-dive show, scheduled to debut in March, and that one actually does feature Greg Louganis (though I doubt anyone will be forced to have sex with him). Apparently, celebrity diving shows have become all the rage in Europe, so from now on, you can just save your bullshit about being culturally superior, Frenchy.


Chad Henne has completed six straight passes for the Jaguars. Anyone looking forward to next year’s Henne vs. Tebow vs. Gabbert quarterback competition in Jacksonville? In a related question, how many times do you think Mike Mularkey will have his mouth around the barrel of a shotgun this offseason?


The Browns vs. Steelers game is 3-3 late in the second quarter, which I’ll use as an excuse to mention that Pat Shurmur is getting the shaft here. I guess if you get nine wins in two years, it’s hard to mount much of a defense for yourself, but with the roster he was given and the progress the Browns made this year, it certainly seems like he’s earned a third year.


Darius Reynaud takes a punt to the house for the Titans, making that game 21-14, Tennessee. This may actually be the most entertaining game I can see at the moment.


Just after halftime, Reynaud takes another punt to the house. Draft him in the second round next year, right after you get Luke Stocker. You will dominate.


That’s followed almost immediately by another Chad Henne pick-six, and the Titans have 35 points somehow. I’m not sure I remember even seeing their offense on the field. I will later learn that the Titans, in a stretch that lasted less than five minutes on the game clock, scored 28 points without running a single offensive play. And it could’ve been 35, but the next Henne interception was returned only to the Jaguars 14. At the end of the game, the Titans will have 38 points on 221 total yards.


Arian Foster remains one of my favorites: After a 13-yard touchdown run, he runs over to a #CHUCKSTRONG banner in the endzone, and gives it a tap in respect to returning Colts head coach, Chuck Pagano. It’s a very sweet gesture.


You know what’s worse than a group of dickheads at a bar? A well-behaved bar crowd. I’ve really failed to fully appreciate the asswads that populate this place every week, because they’re not here now, and I miss them. They make this better. Not that I’m unhappy ‒ through a chance encounter, I’ve been joined by a friend who I didn’t even know was in town ‒ but he’s a very pleasant and amiable fellow, unlikely to engage in the sort of miscreant behavior on which the Smorgasbord thrives. I’m hurting for material. COME BACK, ASSWADS.


The national Fox feed switched us from Eagles/Giants to Bears/Lions, because the Giants are teabagging the Eagles, and the Lions have closed a 20-3 deficit to 20-17. A perfectly reasonable decision, but my buddy’s a Giants fan, and he’d still like to see that game. The bartender (who, bless his heart, seems a nice fellow) is just not capable of helping us out here. “Yeah, that game’s not on anymore,” he tells us. It is, my man. You guys have the Sunday Ticket. Just come over and say, “I don’t understand how television works,” and we’ll label this a more honest interaction.


Hey, there’s a Plaxico Burress reception for a touchdown. That’s nice. There’s got to be a pretty good chance that that’s the last catch of his career. That it comes in a Steelers uniform and goes for a touchdown? That’s a nice way for Plax to wrap things up. If only all careers could end that nicely.


With 1:22 left to play in a meaningless, two-touchdown game, Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons destroys Thaddeus Lewis. Obviously, I don’t fault Timmons ‒ as long as you’re playing, you play, I suppose ‒ but Lewis just had easily the best day of his career, and I’d really hate to see him get hurt at the end of it, just to satisfy a Steelers vs. Browns rivalry bloodlust.


On a late 3rd and 3, Jay Cutler executes a beautiful play action fake, then runs to the opposite side for a gain of 19. That’ll put the Lions away, close the curtains on the Giants, and send the Bears home to root for the Packers to beat the Vikings. Do you think Jay Cutler even watched that game? Or did he just get showered and say, “Hey, someone call me if we have to play next week?”


There are six games at 4:25 this week. I think that’s some kind of record. And oddly, most of the early games ended quickly, so we’ve actually got a stretch of about 10 minutes here with no football. I don’t recall this ever happening before.


Can I interest you in some bonus college basketball coverage? Eastern Kentucky vs. West Virginia? No? I didn’t think so.


Between its total unattractiveness as a football game and the bartender’s failure to understand the magic moving picture box, it might be a struggle to get the Chargers/Raiders game on. I better start now.


I end up missing only the first three minutes of the game. Not bad. I am in time to catch this stat: The Chargers have just three rushing touchdowns this season. Three. How’d we ever get three?


Meanwhile, in a game with good football players, Adrian Peterson is killing it. It’s week seventeen, and the guy looks daisy fresh. He’s got over 50 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter. He is the exact opposite of Jackie Battle.


EJECTIONS! Takeo Spikes is losing his mind after being ejected from the game, along with Mike Goodson of the Raiders. I didn’t see what happened. Let’s check the replay. Let’s see … they shove each other a bit. Then they grab each others’ facemasks. And … that’s it. No punches, no kicks, no middle fingers, no general Suh-like behavior. Grabbing a facemask is an ejection now? I thought that’s what facemasks were for.


Spikes is acting like he wants to tear out an official’s thorax. Goodson might want to, too, but we won’t know, because Terrelle Pryor pulled him away from the scuffle like he was a secret service agent. I like it. That’s a strong, bold, decisive act of leadership. In that same situation, I’m sure Philip Rivers would’ve done the same thing. Either that, or yelled something at someone, and then gone back over to the sidelines and said, “Hey, did you see me yell at that guy, Norv? I’m awesome.”


If you’re ever feeling lonely on a Sunday in late December, head to your local sports bar and know every possible playoff scenario. People will ask you questions all day.


It looks like Adrian Peterson’s going to come up short of the all-time single-season rushing record. It’s kind of a shame. He’s running his balls off today. He’s been brilliant to watch.


CBS is showing video of Colts head coach Chuck Pagano dancing in the locker room after his Colts beat the Texans. It’s an emotional scene that peaks with Pagano doing a do-si-do with Jim Irsay.


I wonder what would happen to a Chargers fan who showed up at Qualcomm today with a big “KEEP NORV” sign. Would’ve been an interesting social experiment.


Philip Rivers makes a beautiful 34-yard throw to Danario Alexander for a touchdown, and then sprints downfield to talk shit to the Raiders cornerback who was beaten. I have no idea how to feel about this. It’s great that Rivers is so insanely competitive, and I guess it’s a good quality for a quarterback to keep a high level of confidence, but … Jesus. It’s week 17 against the Raiders, and your team is going to finish under .500. Let’s calm it down. It doesn’t make me want to punch him in the face, but it makes me understand if you want to punch him in the face.


Fox’s New Years Eve show will be hosted by Tate Stevens. Say, that reminds me: Who the fuck is Tate Stevens?


Pretty slick move by Jordy Nelson to try to pick up the challenge flag thrown by Mike McCarthy. It didn’t work ‒ the Packers still picked up the 15-yard penalty for throwing the challenge flag in an unchallengeable situation ‒ but it was a heads-up thing for Nelson to do. A few plays later, Nelson will run onto the field and pull an extra man out of the huddle for the Packers. The guy should be collecting an assistant coach’s paycheck, too.


And the Chargers, knowing their time is running short, get one more punt blocked in this fairytale season. The Raiders quickly convert it to a touchdown, pulling them within three with enough time for an onside kick attempt. In a season containing the fourth-biggest collapse in NFL history, and then the 4th-and-29 to Ray Rice, it would be totally appropriate if we blew this game.


The Jordy Nelson show continues, as he hauls in a touchdown pass to tie that one up. It’s Jordy Nelson’s world. We’re all just renting.


I’d link to video of that play, but I’m starting a one-man silent revolution against long pre-roll videos on the internet. I don’t mind watching ads in return for access to video content. But asking me to watch a 30-second ad so I can watch 47 seconds of video is consumer abuse, and I’m not doing it anymore. Unfortunately, NFL.com, an otherwise excellent site, is just about the worst offender on the internet. From now on, if a pre-roll ad is going to last more than 10 seconds, I’m out. I don’t need to see it that bad. Evolve, internet.


The Vikings have the ball at the Green Bay 37-yard-line. That would be a do-able field goal for rookie kicker Blair Walsh, but it’s also just about the exact number of yards Peterson would need to catch Eric Dickerson. This should be his last chance. The give is to Peterson, and NO FUCKING WAY, MAN. HE COULD ‒ awwwwwww. It looked for a second like he might go the distance.


Nonetheless, it was a beastly run, one of about 34 he had on the day, and he made the game-winning field goal a chip shot. He’ll finish nine yards short of the all-time record.


Nine yards short. If you’re a Vikings offensive lineman, and you got called for holding on a 10-yard Adrian Peterson run at some point this season, how bad do you feel right now?


I’d add a couple of things, though: 2,097 yards in 2012 is more impressive than 2,105 in 1984. The lone, load-carrying, featured back is damn near extinct in this era. Dickerson did 2,105 on 379 carries, and Peterson did 2,097 on 348. Also, obviously, there’s the knee injury from which Peterson came back, which takes all of this from extraordinary to goddamn mind-blowing. He may not have gotten the record, but I’d call it the best season a running back has ever had.