Falcons a real mess - and really horrible

This week's electronic conversation between Sports columnists John Romano and Gary Shelton:

By GARY SHELTON and JOHN ROMANO, Times Columnists
Published December 16, 2007

JR: So do you suppose they are wrestling for the remote control at the regional jail in Warsaw, Va.?

GS: Absolutely. Not only do you have the Bucs-Falcons game on at 1 p.m., but Benji is on cable. Good thing Michael Vick has TiVo in his jail cell. This way, he can watch them both and have time for his afternoon massage.

JR: Hmmm, is Bruno the Biker still the inmate masseur there?

GS: No, Bruno was promoted to maitre d' at the nearby Paris Hilton Celebrity Prison last year. The current masseur is called Skullcrusher. He's in for tax fraud.

JR: All of which raises an interesting question. Would you want to be stuck in prison, surrounded by scary men, cut off from your loved ones, with your reputation in tatters, or would you rather be Bobby Petrino?

GS: At least Vick has a chance to be reformed. I don't hold out much hope on a coach who would quit on his team as the season enters the fourth quarter. Don't coaches teach their players that, no matter how bad things are going, quitting is not an option?

JR: That's absolutely right, except in those rare cases when the world has discovered that you are, in fact, a weasel.

GS: That might be the most terrible thing anyone has ever said about weasels. Of course, Petrino was a terrible thing for the Falcons, too. Poor Arthur Blank. He seems like too nice a man to be caught among the dogs and the Hogs.

JR: Yeah, Mr. Blank's season started poorly and went downhill from there. The past four weeks, the Falcons have lost by an average score of 31-14. I have to believe the Bucs are planning a locker-room dance party around 4:05 p.m.

GS: If the Bucs want anyone to take them seriously in the playoffs, they have to close out the division today. It's not just that the Falcons are bad, they're horrible. If Atlanta played Miami today, I would pick the Dolphins. If they played Notre Dame, I'd pick ... well, I'd pick the Falcons. I'm not crazy.

JR: Tampa Bay is one victory away from clinching the No. 4 seed in the NFC and is virtually eliminated from the No. 2 seed. That means, essentially, the Bucs are playing for the third or fourth seed, which is the difference between going to Green Bay or going to Dallas in the second round of the playoffs. Should anybody be worrying about that? Isn't that like choosing between decapitation or evisceration?

GS: Wait a minute. You won't even watch the previews for next week's Dexter, and you're already jumping ahead to the second round of the playoffs? Are you worried about the 2011 draft?

JR: Hey, call me an optimist. Or call me an idiot. I assume the Bucs will make the playoffs. I assume they will win a home game against the Vikings or Giants in the first round. And I assume Dexter will whack that crazed British chick or I'm canceling my subscription to Showtime.

GS: I would never call you an optimist. But I'm not ready to assume the Bucs are going to win their first-round playoff game. The Vikings are hot, and the Giants are a good road team. To be successful, the Bucs will have to execute. Of course, you could say the same thing about Dexter.

JR: Can I at least get you to agree the Bucs will win today? Can I get you to agree the offense will find the end zone at least three times? Can I get you to quit humming the theme to The Simpsons while you work?

GS: Yes, the Bucs win today. The offense will score 30 points. And I'll stop humming the song to The Simpsons when you stop being such a Homer.