NEW ORLEANS — First, Merry Christmas.
Bah, humbug, says the NFL. More on that in a second.
Anyway, depending on how Saturday turned out, NFL teams either found a lump of coal or the equivalent of a Red Ryder BB gun — a spot in the playoffs — under their tree this morning.
So, with that in mind, here's a report card from Saturday's Bucs-Saints game.
Keep the change, you filthy animals
Today is Christmas. So what, according to the NFL. It's just another Sunday. It scheduled two games for today: Ravens vs. Steelers. Broncos vs. Chiefs. Good games, for sure. But shame on the NFL for this. Games shouldn't be played on Christmas Day. Not in the NFL. Not in the NBA. Not in any league. It's not that I feel for the players. They make millions of dollars, so asking them to play on Christmas Day doesn't break me up that much. I feel for the thousands of others who are forced to work. I'm talking stadium workers, security, parking lot attendants, ticket takers, concession workers, etc. These people need these jobs. They can't afford not to work an event. If they don't work, they don't get paid. And here they are, being forced to work on Christmas Day. Why? Because the NFL doesn't care. GRADE: F
Not so special teams
For the second time this season, Josh Huff bungled a kickoff and pinned the Bucs deep in their territory. It happened on the first play of the second half. Huff fumbled the kickoff. Fumbled it again. Then fell on it at the 3-yard line. Two plays later, Jameis Winston threw an interception that led to a Saints touchdown. A 13-7 game turned into a 20-7 game just like that. And that might have been the ballgame right there. "When we have bad plays, we have a tendency to string them too close together,'' Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said. "Bad play on that kickoff. … Bad string of plays right there.'' GRADE: F
Thanks for coming
The Bucs went into this week needing help to make the playoffs, most notably from the Panthers, who were taking on the NFC South-leading Falcons. They didn't get it from Carolina. The Panthers didn't seem all that interested in their loss to Atlanta. And who could blame them? Their season is over. They weren't about to lay it all on the line when the outcome had no impact on anything but their draft position. Now let's see if they play that way next Sunday against the Bucs. Oh, the Vikings and Bears didn't show up to help the Bucs, either. GRADE: Unsatisfactory
You better watch out
When you think of New Orleans, you typically think of Mardi Gras, Halloween and New Year's Eve. Let's be honest: This is a party town. You don't always think of Christmas, right? But give the Big Easy big props. The entire city was lit up like a Christmas tree, and visitors to New Orleans this weekend found that the town can be really nice as well as really naughty. The city loves Christmas and Christmas Eve. Flexing the Bucs-Saints game to a later time also flexed out fans. That's too bad. But they enjoyed Christmas. GRADE: A
Two hours before the game, the doors of the Superdome opened, and what was playing on the loudspeakers? A little Jingle Bell Rock maybe? Nope. Maybe some Silver Bells or Deck The Halls or one of those Beach Boys Christmas songs that are surprisingly bad for a group as great as the Beach Boys? No, no and no. Instead, we heard the Doobie Brothers' China Grove, followed by Joe Walsh's Rocky Mountain Way. Not sure who is in charge of picking songs, but my guess would be Don Kirshner. Doesn't anyone have a copy of the soundtrack of A Charlie Brown Christmas? GRADE: C-plus
At halftime, a military serviceman from New Orleans stationed in the Middle East surprised his family. It was a scene we've seen time and again. And like every other time, it NEVER GETS OLD. When you see that, suddenly things such as wild-card berths, homefield advantage and playoff scenarios don't seem that important. GRADE: Four stars