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Dallas is the great loser. Like a schoolmarm who has run out of patience with the class dullard, Dallas players brought home their message of quit with a slap to the face. The Boys were stuffed 44 to 6 by the always-struggling Philadelphia Eagles. It was their largest margin of loss in 20 years and cost them a postseason slot.

Embracing failure as his own child, owner Jerry Jones assured his gasping fans that nobody will be fired. Jones wants continuity and continuity he shall certainly have.

Best line from the local press? Jean-Jacques Taylor of the Dallas Morning News: “Wade Phillips presides over the most gutless team in franchise history.”

Of course, as Taylor points out, Dallas won the fourth quarter 3 to 0. Now, that’s something to build on!

Biggest winner: Miami Dolphins, from 1-15 in 2007 to 11-5 and AFC East champion in 2008. Bill Parcells is still the man and quarterback Chad Pennington earned himself a rare, perfectly timed draught of revenge. For every guy who’s been cuckolded or laid off when a lesser man kept his job, or was the first cut in every sport he tried out for, this one is for you. Pennington bested Brett Favre and beat the Jets 24-17, thus winning the AFC East. Best line from the local press (Miami Herald): “A fitting finish: Pennington outplays Jet who replaced him.”

In his own way, Parcells is as big a drama queen as Favre, but he’s better at finding the next place to land. It was learned on Sunday that Parcells has a clause in his contract that allows him to opt out if his team is sold.

The principal owner, Wayne Huizenga, said the team will be sold two days after the Dolphins’ season ends. Parcells has 30 days after that to exercise his right to exit.

The Tuna will demand a huge raise, better office furniture, later tee times, or he will leave Miami and get a huge raise, better office furniture, and later tee times somewhere else. Nobody ever said he was loyal.

Loser: Brett Favre and the New York Jets. This is an odd one because it’s mostly about perceptions. Considering where the Jets came from, 4-12 in 2007, Favre and his team were a success, finishing 9-7 this year. Do that anywhere else and everybody keeps their job.

The Jets beat New England at Gillette Stadium, followed by defeating undefeated Tennessee on the road. They were 8-3 and number 1 in the AFC East on November 23rd. Things looked golden for third-year head coach Eric Mangini and superhero-in-the-making Brett Favre. Then, the Jets lost four out of their last five games.

The bar was set too high in the beginning, so all hands looked like losers in the end. Best line from the local press (New York Daily News): “Brett Favre, Jets complete collapse as Eric Mangini awaits fate” (Mangini was fired on Monday).

Detroit is just sad…Dresden 1945 sad. From its two major dailies cutting home delivery to three days a week, to the incarcerated ex-mayor, to the imminent bankruptcy of General Motors, upcoming bankruptcy of Chrysler, slash-and-burn downsizing of Ford, a population one half of what it was 50 years ago, to locals talking about turning large sections of downtown Detroit into forests with streams and grazing deer, it’s sad. This year, Forbes ranked Detroit as the most miserable city in the United States. Detroit is the nation’s first post-apocalypse city, so it is fitting that their football team would go 0-16. Best local headline (Detroit Free Press): “Road to XVI is complete.” (“They earned this achievement, all 16 pieces of it.”)

Winner: Philadelphia. Besides their Sunday win, it took Oakland beating somebody and Houston overcoming Chicago. And so it was. Loser: Jon Gruden. Tampa Bay blew a ten-point lead and their ticket to the playoffs after losing to the Oakland Raiders. At home.

Loser: Denver and all its evil works. Winner: Baltimore makes the playoffs as a stealth 11-5 team, good enough for the sixth seed in the AFC. Loser: New England, 11-5 is good enough for civic disgrace. Winner: New York Giants. Back again. Big winner: Atlanta, with a rookie QB and an owner who loves his job.

Biggest surprise that wasn’t surprising. San Diego. You watch the way San Diego played Sunday night and you think, What a beautiful team. With the same won-lost record as Houston, and one game better than San Francisco’s, the Chargers are rolling into the post season in fine shape. They’re as good as anybody out there. Still, it’s hard to get excited and impossible to trust them. On Sunday we saw the team they should have been on the field in September. But, hey, they made it. Now what?

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