2. The New York Jets. The "same old Jets" would have gotten throttled by the undefeated Tennessee Titans. They would have been gashed up the middle by Lendale White and made Justin Gage look like Randy Moss. They would have been deked by Kerry Collins on a fake at an embarrassing point in the game and surrendered the backbreaking special teams touchdown. And, of course, if these were the "same old Jets" then Brett Favre would have thrown another one of those pick-6s that he was handing out earlier in the season.
But, lo and behold football fans, these are not the same old Jets. These are the best football players in the AFC. Right now. Maybe not tomorrow, or even a few days ago, but right now the Jets are the best. The Colts are coming on strong and the Steelers' defense is as stalwart as they come but the New Jersey Jets were/are the cream of the American Football Conference as we turn the page on Week 12. Coming off a road win @ New England (which featured a dominant opening half followed by second half in which conservative playing-from-ahead lack of coaching nerve let NE back into the game and masked what a blowout it was early on), the Jets went up 20-3 on the Titans after three quarters. In Tennessee. The Jets manhandled the Titans on both sides of the ball. They stopped the run and they ran the ball against the heretofore unbeatable Albert Haynesworth. Thomas Jones scored a touchdown to cap the Jets' first drive and Gang Green never looked back. In the past 16 games during which Thomas Jones has scored a TD his teams have won. Favre "managed" the game (while Chad Pennington was actually in a gunslinging shootout with the Pats, which was odd) and refused to make the back-breaking mistake, using screens and short slants to perfection. These Jets are not record-setters like last year's Patriots but they are average/very good in every phase of the game. Right now they don't beat themselves. They just beat everyone else.
3. Lebron James. Everything that transpires in the NBA right now is for the sake of this young man. Peers with more experience than him are discarded in his name. Fan bases are alienated as owners try to move franchises to best meet his wishes. Professional athletes must grow accustomed to being the center of attention. Some even aspire to it. The most successful of them hear their games and their contracts dissected daily on television and talk radio. But I can't remember anything ever happening like what is happening with Lebron right now. The present-tense realities of multiple franchises are being shaped wholly based on hopes regarding his future. Lebron's current contract with Cleveland won't run out until after NEXT season and yet both NY-area teams are completely gutted already. It must feel nice to be wanted.
4. Quentin Richardson. The Chicago-native will not be a Knick when the 2010-2011 season gets underway. He'll be 30 years old going on washed up and probably coming off the bench for a Western Conference team looking for veteran shooter. Maybe Portland? Regardless of where he is then he won't be here. And, yet with the Knicks roster demolished (having lost its top two scorers) and demoralized (having lost two of the more popular guys on the squad), Q came out on Sunday night and carried his mostly younger teammates to a road win over Washington.
5. President-Elect Barack Obama. Has anyone else noticed that lamest-duck President Bush has pretty much ceded the highest office in the land to Obama already. This is totally fine with me but still seems a bit odd. I feel like if you walked into the Oval Office right now you would find W sitting at his desk with his winter coat buttoned up and an overnight bag at his feet. He's ready to go.