I just looked over the gallery of "Best Regular-Season Games Since 1990" and I have to say, it kind of upset me. Sure, at the moment of the opening kickoff, those were the best games - they had the best teams playing for the highest stakes. But some of them weren't even close! And none of the games were of make-or-break significance - they were all two good teams, usually vying for home-field advantage should they meet in the conference championship. Sometimes, winner-makes-the-playoffs games are far more exciting. All but one of the games featured mini-dynasty teams, too, feeding the hype machine even more and ignoring the achievements of the one-year wonders.
To me, a great game needs to have:
1) a close finish, where a play within the final minute determines the outcome.
2) two teams playing very good football throughout (no slopfests)
3) significance - either playoff implications, a rivalry, or a turnaround game.
4) memorable plays or events.
With that being said, I'm going to say something that the NFL world might consider sacreligious. Sunday's Pats-Colts game was NOT the Game of the Century. It wasn't even the Game Of 2007.
1) The finish wasn't any more exciting than any other 4-point victory. It's not like the Colts made it to the 1-yard line and stalled. The game-sealing plays happened with 2:25 and 2:13 left to play. After that, it was over. Grade: B.
2) They definitely do fine in this category - both teams played very well. The turnovers were because of superb defensive plays, not sloppy offense. Though the Patriots' heavy number of penalties knocks it down 1/3 of a grade. A.
3) We all know about the significance of this one. Rivalry, check. Playoff implications, check. Plus, it's the biggest hurdle on New England's path to undefeatedville. A+.
4) There were two plays that will stick in my memory for a while: Joseph Addai's masterful running (and the perfect blocking downfield) on his 73-yard touchdown, and the strip-sack of Peyton Manning at the end of the game when the ball fell into Rosevelt Colvin's arms. Yeah, Randy Moss caught a 55-yard bomb. It wasn't even one of his six best plays of the season. B.
So that's a darn good game, and ranks in the top ten for the year, certainly. But I think we've seen better. For example:
Cleveland vs. Cincinnati, week 2:
1) An interception with 21 seconds left sealed the game for the Browns. After a offensive scorefest, a defensive play won the game. A.
2) Yeah, the defenses were awful, but the offenses were SO GOOD that they still get a solid grade here. B+.
3) Yes, it's a rivalry, and this game signified the changing of the guard in Ohio, which has proved to not be a fluke. It was also the coming-out party for Derek Anderson, who is turning out to be a Pro Bowl candidate. We're just missing playoff implications. A.
4) How about 11 combined touchdown passes for memorable plays, 8 of which were 10 yards or longer? Plus the midfiend interception, Jamal Lewis' 66-yard run, and kick returns of 85 and 65 yards by Josh Cribbs and Glenn Holt, respectively? A+.
Oakland at Denver, week 2.
1) A missed field goal with no time left caused overtime, and overtime was won by a field goal. Dre Bly threw in a final-minute interception to boot. A+.
2) There were a number of interceptions, but both teams have very talented secondaries, so I won't deduct too many points. The defenses get the credit for this grade. A-.
3) Long-standing rivalry, could end up having playoff implications in a weak division. B.
4) A safety, a 44-yard interception return TD, a 46-yard TD pass to nearly-forgotten Jerry Porter - yeah, they're all good, but this game will be remembered ultimately for starting the trend of calling last-millisecond timeouts to make kickers try the field goal twice. A+.
Chicago at Green Bay, week 6
1) An end-zone interception by Brandon McGowan clinched the victory, after a TD right before the 2-minute warning got the Bears a 7-point lead. A+.
2) This was another game marked by darn good defense, with a few turnovers, and fairly low yardage. The Bears played the best they have all year, though the Pack didn't quite have their act together. B-.
3) Huge rivalry, thus far it's Green Bay's only loss, and could cost them home-field in the playoffs. Time will tell. A.
4) Lance Briggs picked up 16 tackles, the final-second interception was a record-tier, entering Favre into the record books with George Blanda, a 41-yard TD to Greg Jennings, and a 34-yd go-ahead TD to Desmond Clark to affirm that Brian Griese is not Rex Grossman. A+.
I'm sure I could think of more, but there are only so many hours in a day. So what I'm saying is, let's let go of the hype. The Game is over, it was great, but it wasn't anywhere near the greatest.