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Gonzo: Measuring meltdowns

Who saw this coming? Come on, don't lie. A few weeks ago, the Eagles were all but dead, and the only thing up for debate was what kind of flowers to send to the funeral.

The Eagles' Brian Westbrook got some team love after scoring a touchdown against the Giants.
The Eagles' Brian Westbrook got some team love after scoring a touchdown against the Giants.Read moreRNO CORTES / Staff Photographer

Who saw this coming? Come on, don't lie. A few weeks ago, the Eagles were all but dead, and the only thing up for debate was what kind of flowers to send to the funeral.

But a few timely wins, paired with some losses by the competition, have put the Birds in the playoff hunt. And it's not just that the Eagles are playing better right now; it's also that some of the other teams vying for the two wild-card slots are playing worse. Mix a little of A with a little bit of B, and who knows? You just might have the right formula for a Philadelphia playoff appearance.

This is the time of year when some teams get it together, while others are beset by off-field issues and infighting, and completely crumble. To figure out who's who, SportsWit' has evaluated the wild-card contenders based on their SIM - Self-Inflicted Meltdown chances. Each team was assigned a SIM number from 1 to 10. (1 being Tiger Woods rock solid, 10 being Amy Winehouse in full breakdown mode.)

The lower the SIM, the fewer distractions the team must face. The higher the SIM, the harder it is, potentially, to focus on football.

Buccaneers (9-4):

At the beginning of the season, things had reportedly grown so frosty between Jon Gruden and Jeff Garcia that the two didn't speak for weeks. Now they're supposedly best buds again. I'm not buying it, but compared with some of the other teams on this list, Tampa is a bunch of choirboys. SIM: 3.

Cowboys (8-5):

Where to begin? Pacman Jones, who's now out for the season with an injury, fought his own bodyguard earlier this year. Terrell Owens spent the better part of last week complaining about not getting the ball, criticizing quarterback Tony Romo, and taking shots at ESPN analyst and former Cowboy Keyshawn Johnson (whom T.O. affectionately calls "She-shawn"). Meanwhile, just over a week ago, owner Jerry Jones publicly questioned the toughness of the team's best player, Marion Barber, for no apparent reason. Love Dallas. They put the Big D in Dysfunctional. SIM: 10+.

Falcons (8-5):

A new coach. A golden-boy quarterback. No more talk about dogfighting. All of a sudden, it's like a PBS after-school special in Atlanta. SIM: 1.

Bears (8-6):

Have you seen the various compromising photos of quarterbacks Kyle Orton and Rex Grossman? They've been all over Deadspin and The Big Lead in recent years. My favorite features Orton and his neck beard downing a bottle of booze. SIM: 4.

Eagles (7-5-1):

Donovan McNabb gets benched and doesn't pop off. Reggie Brown gets benched and doesn't pop off. Lito Sheppard gets benched and, for the most part, doesn't pop off. Meanwhile, people like Vai Sikahema and me called for Andy Reid's head, and he didn't even blink. There's boring, and then there are your Philadelphia Eagles. SIM: 2.

Redskins (7-6):

Aside from Dallas, no team is crazier than the Redskins. They employ Chris Cooley, who "accidentally" put pictures of his man parts on his blog. They also have Clinton Portis, who likes to dress up in costumes that would make the Mummers blanch, and who just last week threw his head coach under the bus while reporters gleefully took notes. If you're going to the Eagles-Skins game in Washington next week, make sure to wear a hazmat suit. SIM: 10.

Saints (7-7):

This anecdote comes courtesy of Pro Football Talk: Owner Tom Benson also owns some car dealerships. Each year, he brings a variety of vehicles to the training facility with the hope that employees will make purchases. They didn't. Instead, more than one of the cars was, reportedly, defecated on by unknown players. Yikes. SIM: 8.

What do you do when your team is all but eliminated from the fantasy season? While wondering if my virtual team can knock off and go video golfing, here are some start/bench suggestions:


QB: Tyler Thigpen, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Cassel

RB: Clinton Portis, Ryan Grant, Steven Jackson

WR: Calvin Johnson, Roddy White, Lee Evans

TE: Chris Cooley, Dallas Clark, John Carlson


QB: Joe Flacco, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Schaub

RB: Jamal Lewis, Fred Taylor, Willie Parker

WR: Braylon Edwards, Derrick Mason, Santonio Holmes

TE: Todd Heap, Heath Miller, Vernon Davis

Sunday Sixer

Last week: 1-5

Season: 41-30-6

PANTHERS -7.5 over Broncos: For much of the season, I thought the Giants were clearly better than the rest of the NFC. Looks as if Carolina is quickly closing that gap.

Patriots -7 over RAIDERS: Two straight West Coast trips for the Pats? Who's making their schedule, Eric Mangini?

Buccaneers +3 over FALCONS: It's time for Tampa to rebound. Still, I wonder if Jon Gruden is able to sit down yet. Because that was one serious spanking Carolina put on him and his crew last week.

CARDINALS -3 over Vikings: Here's hoping the television cameras don't pick up anything, uh, extra in the Vikings' locker room this week. Once was enough, thanks.

Steelers +2.5 over RAVENS: I picked the Cowboys to cover against the Steelers last week. Fool me once.

Eagles -14 over BROWNS: Does anyone think the Birds' season won't be decided by the final game against Dallas? First, though, the Eagles have to take care of Cleveland. Don't worry, this won't be a repeat of the Cincinnati game.