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More Notes from a Frazzled Mind

Forget parity -- let's talk about mediocrity.

There is exactly one Week 11 match-up between two teams with winning records, the Atlanta Falcons (7-2) visiting the slumping New York Giants (5-4) in East Rutherford, N.J., where panic and the back-page headlines have already prompted head coach Tom Coughlin to name rookie quarterback Eli Manning his starter.

Citing the weekend's less-than-awe-inspiring schedule, critics of leaguewide parity have once again raised their voices in protest, contending that such unprecedented mediocrity is a sure sign that the quality of the NFL product is in decline. Are they correct?

Perhaps, but not if they base their argument on a scheduling quirk. Heading into Week 11, there are 15 franchises enjoying winning seasons, while 17 chase the .500 mark. At the same time last year, the league featured 12 winners, 15 losers and five teams sporting identical 5-5 records. Basically, it's the same story, different season.

And what does it all mean? Nothing, except that there will inevitably be a couple of upsets on Sunday. My pick: The Cleveland Browns (3-6) will take advantage of Chad Pennington's strained rotator cuff by sending the New York Jets (6-3) to a third consecutive loss.

Get Over It: What's more incredible -- the absurd public overreaction to ABC's Desperate Housewives spot prior to Monday Night Football or the fact that Terrell Owens actually apologized for it? In case you missed it, the ad featured Housewives star Nicollette Sheridan, who has probably never known a day of desperation in her life, approaching Owens in the Philadelphia Eagles locker room and seductively asking him to skip the game for her. At that, she sheds what little she's wearing -- a towel -- and jumps into the arms of the grinning receiver.

Is this worthy of serious discussion? Are Americans so dogmatically inclined to follow the rigid teachings of their Puritanical ancestors that a bare back, or even an exposed nipple, should cause such an uproar? Sadly, yes, because there is apparently nothing more offensive to our delicate sensibilities than the possibility that a half-naked supermodel might pollute our pristine airwaves. (My only question: What channel?)

For his part, Owens was surprised by the public outcry.

"I felt like it was clean, the organization felt like it was a clean skit and I think it just really got taken out of context with a lot of people and I apologize for that," he told reporters. "Personally I didn't think it would have offended anyone and, if it did, I apologize."

This, coming from the guy who recently told Inside the NFL's Peter King that he's never taken responsibility for anything, is possibly the strangest, scariest twist to this non-story.

Life in the Fast Lane: As Eli Manning prepares to lead the Giants against Michael Vick and an intimidating Falcons defense, Dallas Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells continues to insist that Drew Henson, another rookie quarterback, is not yet ready for prime time. And while veteran Vinny Testaverde has performed admirably this season -- with 2,305 passing yards to this point, he remains on pace to become the first Cowboys quarterback in history to surpass the 4,000-yard mark -- he's 41, leading a team clearly in need of a youth movement. If Henson is going to be a part of that movement, what's the harm in giving him a taste of the first-string competition?

Already Gone: and not likely to return anytime soon is Pennington. After injuring his shoulder against the Buffalo Bills on Nov. 7, the Jets QB was expected to spend 2-4 weeks on the bench. Now, the Newark Star-Ledger is reporting that Pennington may have suffered a slight tear, translating into an extended absence and tough times ahead for the reeling Jets, who suffered a 20-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Quincy Carter's first start of the season.