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Has anyone heard of the Bill Simmons "Kitchen Sink" Phenomenon?


Ricky Ervins

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Skins-Chargers is a classic example of Bill Simmons famous "Kitchen Sink" phenomenon. Below is an old article explaining it, for those who are not in the know.

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/051014

The NFL's Kitchen Sink

By Bill Simmons

Page 2

Sometimes I wonder if the NFL is less complicated than we think.

Last weekend, there were five matchups in which one team needed a victory more than the other team: Jets-Bucs, Steelers-Chargers, Packers-Saints, Cowboys-Eagles and Jags-Bengals. I'm not claiming that the Bucs/Chargers/Saints/Eagles/Bengals didn't care about losing; it's just that the Jets/Steelers/Packers/Cowboys/Jags needed those games just a little bit more, so they basically had to break out the kitchen sink for that extra somethin'-somethin'. That's why they won.

Check out each game...

Jets 14, Bucs 12

The Bucs were already 4-0 and playing an AFC team on the road, and their two best players (Cadillac Williams and Michael Clayton) were banged up. Meanwhile, the Jets were 1-3 and facing a "Buffalo/Atlanta/SAN DIEGO/Carolina/Denver" stretch (with the one home game in caps). They lose that Bucs game and they're finished -- with Vinny Testaverde as their QB, no less. If this were a bad Fox show (like "Head Cases" with Chris O'Donnell), you would just cancel the remaining episodes. Well, you can't do that with football.

Steelers 22, Chargers 21

The Chargers were 2-2 and coming off two straight emotional wins (Pats and Giants) to save their season. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh was 2-1, coming off a bye week and licking its wounds after an agonizing "maybe we just can't beat these guys" loss to the Pats (the same team that thrashed them in January). With a physical JACKSONVILLE/Cincy/BALTIMORE stretch coming up, the Steelers needed a statement win to boost their confidence, one of those games where they come up big on the road and Bill Cowher clenches his fist about 20 times and looks like Sergeant Slaughter right after pinning the Iron Sheik at MSG.

(By the way, I picked San Diego in this game. This is all hindsight, I didn't think through it enough when I made the pick.)

Packers 52, Saints 3

The 0-4 Packers were playing at Lambeau in front of a crowd that had a "Come on, don't lose this game, I'm not emotionally ready to start talking myself into the Andrew Bogut Era yet" vibe going. Plus, six wins is probably taking the NFC North, so it wasn't like they were only playing for pride.

Cowboys 33, Eagles 10

Philly was coming off two emotional wins against Oakland and KC ... and poor McNabb's body was breaking down piece by piece. Meanwhile, the 2-2 Cowboys knew they had no chance of taking the East without winning one Philly game, and they also knew that Bledsoe could go bad at any time (almost like a carton of milk). This was their one big chance to topple Philly; the stars had aligned.

Jags 23, Bengals 20

If the Jags didn't respond in this game (Sunday night, must-win), their fans were turning on them for good -- which is dangerous because there's absolutely nothing to do in Jacksonville, so you don't want to make these people unhappy. Meanwhile, with their schedule, the 4-0 Bengals are guaranteed 11-12 wins as long as Chad Johnson and Carson Palmer don't fly to Haiti to film a Bad Ideas Jeans commercial during their bye week.

Here's the point: In all five of these games, the winning team was ready to use everything but the kitchen sink to come out on top. For instance, the Steelers scored a TD on a delayed QB sneak with Roethlisberger from 14 yards out, the kind of play you run once a year (because it will only work once). That's a kitchen-sink play -- you don't use it until you absolutely need it. On Monday, the Steelers needed it.

Anyway, from now on, I'm dubbing these Kitchen Sink Games.

Two related notes on the Kitchen Sink Games...

1. You can't qualify if your coach is terrible and/or all hope for the season has already been lost. For instance, the Texans could have qualified last weekend, but I think they quit on Dom Capers about two hours after Houston completed its expansion draft in 2002. Same goes for the Vikings and Mike Tice, the Rams and Mike Martz (who is out indefinitely with a heart infection), and maybe even the Saints and Jim Haslett. I would throw in Mike Sherman and the Packers, as well, but those guys would never lay down with Favre on the team. If/when he gets injured, watch out.

2. There's a flip side to this theory: The Anti-Sink Game. I don't know who invented it, but it's been a Bill Belichick specialty during any regular-season game against an inferior opponent -- you can always count on the Pats to keep everything close to the vest, avoid any gimmick plays or defenses, stick to basic formations and try to win doing the bare minimum (like against the Raiders in Week 1). They're almost like a con artist who keeps passing up small poker pots and playing possum until someone is dumb enough to raise the stakes.

The Colts' organization, to its credit, has finally realized there's no reason to unleash heavy artillery against crappy teams (like the ridiculous 2004 stretch in which they walloped four terrible teams by a combined score of 182-57). Why not control the clock, keep Edgerrin James happy, keep their defense off the field and save the fireworks for big games? Sure, Peyton Manning can't throw for an extra 30 meaningless TDs and win another ESPY for Record-Breaking Performance this way, but it makes them infinitely tougher to scout during the season -- watching them these first five games, I almost feel like they're biding their time until Week 9, when they'll almost certainly be bringing a 500-pound kitchen sink to Foxborough with them.

And for the first time in three years, I'm honestly afraid of the Colts; they're almost like The Others in "Lost." What's going on with them? Why haven't they unleashed the passing game yet? What happens when they drop the hammer? There isn't a more frightening team in the league -- not only does their schedule pretty much guarantee them home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, not only is the Super Bowl in a Dome this year, but they only have to break out kitchen sinks for two games this season (at New England in Week 9, at Cincy in Week 11). Maybe they aren't a mortal lock for the title or anything, but it seems like Manning and the Colts finally realized three things:

1. It's a marathon, not a sprint.

2. This isn't about breaking records and winning ESPYs, it's about winning football games and peaking in January.

3. Great teams break out the kitchen sink only when they absolutely need it. That's why the 2005 season doesn't officially start until Week 9, when both teams bring their respective sinks to Gillette Stadium and pull a Coralles-Castillo on one another.

And honestly? I can't wait.

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2. There's a flip side to this theory: The Anti-Sink Game. I don't know who invented it, but it's been a Bill Belichick specialty during any regular-season game against an inferior opponent -- you can always count on the Pats to keep everything close to the vest, avoid any gimmick plays or defenses, stick to basic formations and try to win doing the bare minimum (like against the Raiders in Week 1). They're almost like a con artist who keeps passing up small poker pots and playing possum until someone is dumb enough to raise the stakes.

God, if this could only be true for us! It isn't, but if only it could be....

This is a good read, though. THANKS!

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