So much to write, so little time before I pass out. I’ve got, like, a tonne of blog updates to do this weekend, which should be welcome news to all those who’ve offered me sincere compliments over the past four months. To those who come here just to read football previews, your time is running desperately short; soon you’ll be innundated with ramblings from a demented mind, the dazed and confused recollections of a graduate student in training and the other irrelevances that characterized this blog back in its glory days. To you I say, “Good riddance!” Now onto this week’s picks!
- New York Jets @ Pittsburgh Steelers. Can we all admit that the Jets win over the San Diego Chargers was a fluke? That the Chargers played not to lose, abandoned their reckless offensive style that made them such a treat to watch all season long…and then resorted to overtime playcalling that would make Scott Linehan proud? The bottom line: the Jets got lucky–and that won’t happen against the Steelers. Pittsburgh 20, New York 10
- St. Louis Rams @ Atlanta Falcons. Is Mike Martz really invincible? I’m going to wager a tentative “no”, but at this point nothing–and I mean nothing–the madman can conjure up would surprise me. They could lose by twenty; they could win by fifty…either way I wouldn’t so much as blink. And they’re playing the most overrated two-seed since the 2000 Minnesota Vikings, they’re on turf, they’re in a freaking dome…but still, I just don’t see it happening.* Atlanta 24, St. Louis 20
- Minnesota Vikings @ Philadelphia Eagles. WARNING! HEAVY BIAS ALERT! Once again, the Vikings are in a can’t-lose situation. Everybody (apart from two very ballsy ESPN prognosticators) have written them off; I’ve read that they’re going to get blown out, that they’ll give the Eagles a good run for their money but come up just short, that last weekend at Lambeau was Minnesota’s Super Bowl and, well, they probably don’t deserve to be here anyway. (By the way, I’m amazed at how little credit people are giving the Vikings for that win over Green Bay. For the record, Minnesota won–Brett Favre did not lose.) But here’s the thing: in doing so, people have put all the pressure squarely on the shoulders of the Philadelphia Eagles–and frankly, I don’t think they can respond. Firstly, they haven’t played a meaningful game since December, and their embarassing efforts at St. Louis and against Cincy drained just about every ounce of momentum they might have generated during their impressive first three-quarters of the season. Secondly, the loss of T.O. is way more important than the Eagles are allowing. Thirdly, what remains of their receiving corps is softer than a FOX Sports post-game analysis (and yes, I’m looking at you Mr. Pinkston…and so is everybody else). Fourthly, as good as Donovan McNabb is, as dangerous as he can be when he gets outside the pocket, as accurate an arm as he (sometimes) has, he isn’t as good as his counterpart, Daunte Culpepper, whose 2004 season is going to go down as one of the most egregiously underrated in the history of the NFL (and if you don’t believe me, just look at his numbers). Like last week’s Vikings game, this one will boil down to which quarterback does a better job. I don’t expect McNabb to melt down like The Great Cheese…but that said, I’m predicting (and, sure, hoping) that Daunte Culpepper puts together a performance on par with last weekend’s, takes the game by the scruff of its neck and carries the Vikings to an improbable win. Minnesota 30, Philadelphia 27
- Indianapolis Colts @ New England Patriots. This looks to be one helluva game, eh? All bets are off for this one–which is good, because I don’t want a couple measly dollars getting in the way of me enjoying it. Seriously, who could ask for anything more? On one side we’ve got The Experience, the Triple Threat, the Edge…all the elements that made for one of the most explosive offences in NFL history. On the other side we’ve got Brady, Belichek, Dillon…a team that’s virtually anonymous, yet that’s geled like few the league has ever seen, that’s won two of the past three Super Bowls and that finished second in the AFC this season. Wait…what’s that? The Patriots are the two-seed? Yes, that’s right–and lost in all the hoopla surrounding Manning, his MVP wins and his vastly overrated record is the fact that the Patriots are a damn good football team. 49 touchtowns? Great. Here’s another stat for ya: Tom Brady is a lifetime 6-0 in the playoffs. Want another? Peyton is 0-6 lifetime at Foxboro. Want more? Mike Vanderjagt guaranteed a Colts win. Now…call me crazy, but would you be guaranteeing victory if: a) you were on the road, in January, in a place at which you haven’t won in six attempts; b) your opponent is the league’s sole remaining dynasty and, hence, doesn’t need the added incentive; c) it was your missed kick in Week #1 that condemned your team to a 27-24 loss; d) wait…you’re a kicker? What kicker guarantees victory? Now see, I wouldn’t, because I think that’s stupid. Wanna know something else? As good as the Colts offence was this season, they still only ended up as the second-highest scoring team in NFL history. The first? The 1998 Minnesota Vikings, who scored a staggering 556 points in sixteen games. You see that team’s name on the Vince Lombardi Trophy? Me neither. A sick offence is a joy to behold during the regular season–but when you’re playing a team that’s as savvy, as deep and as decorated as the New England Patriots, you’ll need more than the NFL’s newest batch of fly boys to win. Do the Colts have it? I don’t think so. New England 23, Indianapolis 21
(* — I hate Mike Martz.)
And there it is. And while we’re talking football, no, I have nothing to add about the Randy Moss non-mooning of Lambeau because, quite frankly, it’s already been beat to a bloody pulp by a media that’s full of self-righteous, condescending, moralizing twits (and yes, I’m looking in your general directions, Mssrs. Berman and Buck). Did you know that a Chicago-area television station actually blurred out Moss’ midriff? He didn’t pull his pants down!!! “Children, avert your eyes! That man’s…he’s…he’s wearing clothes!” Please, everybody: calm the fuck down.
I’ll be back later this weekend with a review of the movie version of The Phantom of the Opera (yup, finally saw it), as well as comments on the many CDs I’ve bought in the last week. And if that isn’t enough to bring you back, I’ll up the ante with the promise of a non-strip tease for your entertainment pleasure. Now that’s what I call a deal!