Sports talk is frequently used as a common language but it’s far from universal. If you’re someone who doesn’t follow or even understand sports, you can find yourself at a disadvantage in common small-talk situations like in an elevator, waiting for a bus, sitting at a bar, or around the proverbial water cooler at work. Even if you are a sports fan, it’s impossible to watch everything and know everything. To help in these situations, we provide lines to use when engaged in a conversation about all of the high profile sporting events of the day, plus explanations of what they mean.
Line: If defense really wins championships, watch out for the Texans. Of course, if it’s actually quarterbacks…
What it means: There are two cliches about winning championships in football that seem to contradict each other. One school of thought suggests that the team with the best defense has the best chance of winning. Another school of thought is that the only thing that really matters is who has the best quarterback. The Texans have a great defense but not a great quarterback, so Texans fans are hoping the first school is correct.
Line: The Steelers may have backed into the playoffs, but they’re still the scariest team in the AFC.
What it means: The Steelers needed help (in the form of another team losing) in order to even qualify for the playoffs today. They got that help and therefore just snuck into the playoffs as the last team to qualify. Don’t let that fool you though, they are one of the most dangerous teams because of their explosive offense. When their passing game gets going, they have the potential to simply score faster than other teams can keep up with.
New York Jets 17, Buffalo Bills 22
Line: Rex Ryan gets his revenge.
What it means: Buffalo Bills head coach, Rex Ryan, was head coach of the New York Jets for years before being fired last season. The fact that his new team had a chance to knock his old team out of the playoffs with a win today was almost too good to be true, plot-line-wise. This Jets loss seemed inevitable, not just because of the Rex Ryan factor but also because of the Jets long history of losing the most important football games in the most excruciating ways possible.
Line: It’s hard to tell whether the Patriots didn’t care about this game or did care but couldn’t get anything going.
What it means: After starting the year 10-0, the Patriots lost four of their final six games. The team looked oddly out of it today but it was hard to tell if they were dispassionate or impotent. If they were dispassionate, it’s because the only thing they had to win today was the first overall seed in the playoffs, which they might not care about. If they were impotent, it’s because they’re still missing two of their top wide receivers and the bulk of their offensive line.
Line: Too little, too late for the Colts. And probably their coach and general manager.
What it means: The Colts were supposed to win their division this year and content for the Super Bowl. Instead, their season was an unmitigated disaster, and even the major injury that their star quarterback, Andrew Luck suffered, doesn’t seem like it will help their coaching staff and front office keep their jobs. Expect word of their firings to come out soon.
Line: Great win, but will Dalton be back for next week?
What it means: The Bengals, once a laughingstock, have turned into a model of consistency. This will be their fifth straight trip to the playoffs. Surprisingly, the biggest concern for Bengals fans is not that they’ve lost their first game in the playoffs in each of the previous four years. Instead, they are worried about the thumb of their starting quarterback Andy Dalton. Dalton fractured that thumb four weeks ago and the team was surely hoping to snag a first round bye to give him another week to heal. That won’t be the case, so he’ll either need to press that thumb into early action or the team will be stuck with their back-up quarterback A.J. McCarron.
Line: Why not?
What it means: The Redskins didn’t need to win this game — it had no bearing on their playoff positioning at all. If you’re a true Washington player or fan, there’s never a bad time to beat up on your arch-enemies, the Cowboys, especially when they’re down as far as they were this season.
Line: These teams are going to look different next year.
What it means: Both of these teams disappointed their fans this year. More importantly, perhaps, they both disappointed their owners. It’s a good bet that at least one and maybe both of their coaches will get fired in the next few days. Lost of players, including long-time and beloved Saints quarterback Drew Brees, could also be on their way out.
Detroit Lions 24, Chicago Bears 20
Line: This game was so meaningless, I heard a rumor that the Red Zone channel didn’t even bother to show its scores.
What it means: The Red Zone channel is an NFL product that’s sole stated purpose is to show every score of every game every Sunday. For them to ignore a game would be a nearly unthinkable statement about how meaningless the game was. I doubt it actually happened, but just that the rumor exists is enough to describe this game.
Line: Bad team that fires its coach beats bad team whose coach is about to resign?
What it means: The Eagles made headlines last week when they fired their coach and general manager, Chip Kelly. Kelly has been one of the most controversial figures in the league over the past three years, coming in as a college offensive savant, and leaving as a bumbling coach and inscrutable general manager. The Giants coach, Tom Coughlin, will go down as one of the franchise’s best ever, having won two Super Bowls during his tenure. Still, it’s possible that tenure is over after a very rough season. He probably won’t get fired but he might retire. He is almost 70.
Line: Dysfunctional beats boring, I guess.
What it means: The 49ers have been a dysfunctional organization for the past two years, thanks to power struggles between their old coach, Jim Harbaugh and General Manager Trent Baalke, a bizarre head coaching hire, Jim Tomsula, and a mid-season quarterback change. The Rams haven’t been dysfunctional, but their coach, Jeff Fisher, guarantees that they’ll be boring. They believe in running the ball and playing solid defense and not much else. There’s little to no creativity in the way they play, and the results show that.
Line: 15-1 and the 1 seed and somehow the Panthers still feel underrated.
What it means: The Carolina Panthers will end the season with the best record in the entire league. Their quarterback, Cam Newton, is the favorite to win the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award. Still, somehow, despite all of that success, their name doesn’t come up in discussions of Super Bowl favorites nearly as much as you’d think it would.
Line: It ended up not mattering, but the Chiefs still have to feel good going into the playoffs with 10 straight wins.
What it means: The Chiefs were hoping that this win would let them leapfrog the Denver Broncos into a higher playoff seed. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, the Broncos also won, so that won’t happen. Seeding aside, there’s no team that should feel more confident heading into the playoffs than the Chiefs, who completed a near-miraculous recovery from a poor start and the loss of their best offensive player to win their last 10 games and make the playoffs.
San Diego Chargers 20, Denver Broncos 27
Line: Manning’s back. Which makes me wonder, was this whole thing a ploy to get him rested coming into the playoffs?
What it means: The Denver Broncos clinched the top overall seed in the AFC by winning this game. They also reignited a quarterback controversy by replacing quarterback Brock Osweiler with future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Peyton Manning after halftime. Manning was himself replaced by Osweiler earlier in the season and the Broncos had more or less convinced everyone that they were happy to go with the younger Osweiler for the rest of the season. Now it seems like Manning will start their first playoff game. It’s an odd situation and choice that makes me wonder if the Broncos planned to go back to Manning all along.
Line: The Seahawks should change their name to The Walking Dead. Or Mark Twain.
What it means: We all should have known better than to declare the reign of the Seahawks over after only six games. When they were 2-4, we piled on and said (and wrote) that they were not a great team anymore. That was a mistake! Now they look just as good as ever and I would not be surprised to see them make the Super Bowl again, for the third straight year. Oh, and the references? The Walking Dead is a zombie show, where dead bodies come back to life. Mark Twain is often quoted for his line about how the news of his death was “greatly exaggerated.”
Line: Congratulations Vikings, your reward is to play Seattle next week.
What it means: This is sarcastic. By winning this game, the Vikings won their division and secured themselves a higher seed in the playoffs and a home game in the first round. Unfortunately for them, it also means that their first round opponent will be the Seattle Seahawks, who look like one of the best teams in the league. They’re certainly more dangerous than the Washington Redskins, who the Packers now get to play in the first round. Sometimes a win is a loss and a loss is, well, at least a good thing.