NFL: Now There Are Four
I'm three for four this weekend on playoff games, including the Dallas meltdown I predicted would happen. But how about those Jets? That was the big surprise--San Diego was a frequent favorite to get to the Bowl, especially on the basis of momentum. But for San Diego (and Dallas) the momentum stopped cold on Sunday, and partly for the same reasons: the other team's defense getting to the Qback, turnovers, an unaccountably erratic kicker, and a certain loss of composure. I expected that from Dallas, but not San Diego.
I have to laugh at all the Dallas hype--and that's another commonality. I think both Dallas and San Diego believed their hype. Minnesota showed some character. So did the Jets, though they got some breaks and hung on. Minnesota just kept coming, taking every opportunity.
Saturday's story was the return of the winning moxie for New Orleans and Indianapolis, both undefeated until late in the season, both throttled back towards the end and lost several games. But they were vindicated about rest--both very energetic and, contrary to expectations, sharp. Especially New Orleans. That was the most fun to watch of any of the playoff games I've seen this year. I watched Reggie Bush at USC (all their games are broadcast here) so it was fun watching him do similarly flashy running (contrary to what the announcers were saying, he ran over people at USC too.)
So now that I'm on a roll, what are my picks for next week? I don't know if I will make any, certainly not now. I know the sportswriters have to be salivating for a Minnesota-New York Bowl: the wily 40 year old veteran Qback vs the rookie Qback half his age. And it could happen. Right now I'd have to give MN an edge for defense vs. New Orleans, but the Saints get a big home field advantage. New Orleans can be dominant, but Minnesota can be wily and if the game is close you can't ever count them out. So right now I'd say that one is even.
The Colts have the early edge v. the Jets, but the Colts have won so many games by getting breaks late that their luck has to run out some time. (They won by 17 over the Ravens, but the Ravens aren't that impressive.) How much pressure can the Jets get on Manning? Which team makes the fewer mistakes? I don't think anyone can confidently make the Jets the favorite. But you can't count them out.
Nobody expected three not very close games this weekend (New Orleans was a blowout, and though MN won by a big margin, it wasn't really over until the 4th quarter.) But I'm sure the conventional wisdom will be for a high scoring MN/N.O game and a low scoring Indy/Jets. We'll see.
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