What a strange Wild Card weekend that was. Seattle was up 13-0 going into the fourth quarter. Then the two teams combined for 36 points. Jacksonville wastes an 18-point lead through David Garrard, he of the three picks the entire season, nearly doubling his turnover output within five minutes, while his counterpart tosses three of his own. In the first half. Eli Manning doesn't suck at all, but plays like his older brother. The Titans do a masterful job of shutting down the best running back in football, so, of course, Chris Chambers and Vincent Jackson catch a bushel of 20+ yarders. Expect at least one more odd occurrence this weekend. I'm not sure in what capacity, nor in what game, but there's gonna be some funky shit.
Anyway, on paper, these are all pretty decent matchups. Yes, including the New England-Jacksonville game. These Jags are even more physical than the 2005 squad that got waxed by the Patriots - which sounds like it shoots my argument all to hell more than I'd like - plus Garrard can make plays with his cleats, unlike human statue Byron Leftwich. Don't be surprised if at least one road team pulls the upset, as has happened in eleven seasons and fifteen times overall in the divisional round since the playoffs were last expanded in 1990. It could occur in the AFC, though it's more likely in the NFC, not because Dallas and Green Bay are relatively unexpected top seeds, and thus carry an aura of the postseason unknown about them, but simply because they're more flawed than their AFC counterparts. So watch Jacksonville win.
Seattle (11-6) @ Green Bay (13-3): The Packers want to score early and run run run young Ryan Grant, weakening the effectiveness of the blitzkrieg Seahawk D. Green Bay has a stout defense of their own and given that Seattle is a bit more one-dimensional these days, all the pressure will be on their Republican quarterback. Sure, Favre might try and toss a ball or five into coverage that he shouldn't, but for all of the talk surrounding Seattle's talented receiver corps, Driver, Jennings, Jones and Lee - sounds like a fucking law firm - ain't too shabby, either. Always heed the mantra of the Mighty Jaws: you've got to have balance. The Packers do, 27-20.
Jacksonville (12-5) @ New England (16-0): And so we enter end game. This matchup strikes me as a poor man's take on the greatest upset in Super Bowl history. A powerful, nearly unstoppable offensive machine versus a scrappy, overtly physical bunch. That ragtag group of unknowns hit the all-pro receivers in the mouth, constantly disrupted their routes, and pounded the hell out of the league MVP, defeating a team that, with a victory, would've joined the pantheon of all-time greats. Yes, they were that good. Better put your excitement away, Florida. Bill Belichick, not Mike 'why sure, I'll be glad to waste the best player in football to pass 50 times' Martz, is your opponents' coach. New England, 34-21.
San Diego (12-5) @ Indianapolis (13-3): Along with Tennessee, San Diego is one team that has in recent years played the Colts very tough no matter the location. Bob Sanders is healthy and one just needs to witness last year's Super Bowl run and the entire 2007 season to realize that he, not Dwight Freeney, is their most important defensive player. Ronnie Lott? Kenny Easley? This dude hits just as hard, and that's fucking saying something. LaDainian Tomlinson won't be held to 42 yards on the ground again, but real estate is going to be hard to buy, nevertheless. Though, if Philip Rivers finds a bunch of inexplicably wide open receivers like he did in the wild card game, the Chargers can win. He won't. Indianapolis, 27-17.
N.Y. Giants (11-6) @ Dallas (13-3): If you're a Cowboys fan - and nearly 99% of my 1.3 readers seem to be - you can't like how your team played down the stretch, though I personally found it hilarious. Yes, the World's Worst Teammate was out, and Washington had everything to play for and the jackasses didn't, but man, did the offense look bad. Ineffective. Preseason-y. For three games running now. And now they're going against a team that can really pressure the quarterback. Owens should play and I cannot imagine Dallas not being able to run the ball that poorly for a second straight game.
Before I continue with my not-in-depth preview I'm going to do something I can't believe I'd ever do, defend Tony Romo. The whole Jessica Simpson In Mexico garbage is the same bullshit that Vince Carter got in 2001 when he was at North Carolina in the afternoon for graduation then flew to Philly that evening for game 7 of a semifinal matchup. Carter's series-clinching three at the buzzer was no good, thus he was skewered with such righteous indignation that I half-expected Half-Man, Half-Amazing to go half postal. Yeah, he shot 6-18 from the floor. He also had 9 assists, 7 rebounds and zero turnovers while playing all 48 minutes. That season's darling, Allen Iverson, shot 8-27 (a lower percentage in case you were at all curious) with 16 assists, 4 rebounds and 4 turnovers. But that's never brought up. So if Tony Romo wants to hang out with his chick during a weekend off, whether the media approves of her or not - and if she was a nondescript babe from the suburbs, we'd be hearing nary a peep - Terry Bradshaw can go fuck the hell off. The 1980 Oakland Raiders were notorious nogoodniks and partiers. The Eagles were strait-laced and stoic. The Raiders crushed the Eagles in the Super Bowl. Ron Jaworski was my favorite non-Browns player at the time, so I remember that week quite well. Thus, talking hairpieces, shut the fuck up.
I don't give a fuck if you DID play the game. You don't have to have your nose buried in your playbook 24-7. Is number 9 suddenly going to forget how to play quarterback against a team he sees twice a year and beaten both times in 2007?
I almost want Romo to toss for 400 yards and 5 TDs just to shut you inane jackasses up. Almost.
Anway, if the other quarterback, Eli something-or-other, once more calls signals with élan, the Giants can win. Much to my chagrin, and the chagrin of those righteous souls not afflicted with Cowboy-itis, he won't. The image above will not have a sequel. This week. Dallas, 28-21.