NFL Playoffs are always a blast (except when the Giants are involved, and they become nervewracking, unpleasant, sometimes depressing, and sometimes life-affirming),and I hope this year will follow form. Just like March Madness, the first two rounds are always the most exciting and action-packed. And it starts with a New York team this year...the wrong one, but hey, sometimes you take what the big hand is offering.
Theoretical question from the public: SCSD, what's your policy on rooting for other New York teams when your favorite team isn't involved?
Answer: I'll root for the Jets. They aren't rivals. In fact, the two teams barely play. I think it's once every four years under the current NFL scheduling policy. They could meet in the Super Bowl, but that's never happened. Basically, the two teams are separate entities, so I'll support the Jets based on NYC loyalty. As for other local teams...I don't support the Nets, because they're not a New York team and they've always been boring for me. The Islanders I could give two shits about.
Last, the Mets. This is a tricky one. Historically, I've come down on their side (hideous secret: as a very little kid who didn't actually follow baseball that much, I was a Mets "fan"...loved Strawberry and HoJo). But since the start of interleague play, it's become abundantly clear that their fans have a chip on their shoulder about the Yankees. Big surprise. You hear countless tales of the Mets supporting Boston just because they don't want to see us win. And I've been to interleague games at Shea where the Yanks lost, and "Yankees Suck" chants have followed me down the concourse and out of the stadium.
Which is all evidence that I should start treating them like enemies. But when the dust settles, I have trouble following through. There's just a part of me that wants New York teams to succeed, and I can't see myself ever rooting for a team like the Phillies or the Cardinals over the Mets. No matter how badly they treat us. It's a little bit like how you'll always support a family member, even if that family member is a total screw-up. They're still family.
And speaking of total screw-ups, here's the final tally of my Bowl Prediction gambit after last night's Alabama win:
16-18 straight up, 13-21 against the spread.
I'm going to surf the momentum wave of that success right into the NFL Playoffs! I've read other writers who look at an 11-0 prediction record for the entire playoffs as the Holy Grail of gambling augury. Experts and old men who smell like newspapers go their whole lives without quite reaching that rareified plateau. I've never tried it, myself, so what the hell?
Jets (+3) over Bengals
Believe me, I'm not expecting this one to be as easy as week 17. At the same time, I don't buy into the idea that Cincy was 'playing possum' or anything like that. They put their starters on the field, and they got their butts kicked. Yes, it was freezing. Yes, it was on the road. At least one of those will not be true on Saturday. But that Jets defense is awesome. I keep harping on the comparison between this team and the Giants Super Bowl squad, and it's because I think I'm onto something. Granted, the Giants had more offensive options, but people forget that Eli was viewed as a loose cannon and poor pressure performer going into those playoffs. In every game, his job was to keep things simple and not screw up. If Sanchez can manage that, which Lord knows is not a given, the Jets can make a serious run. But regardless of what happens later, I don't think the Bengals have the downfield threats to make a serious dent in the NY defense. After Revis shuts down Ochocinco, what's left? This one won't be 37-0, but I'm seeing a 24-10 type game.
Eagles (+4) over Cowboys
The NFL is a weird league, and I'm counting on a bit of that weirdness here. On its face, this prediction doesn't make much sense. In Week 17, the Cowboys beat up on the Eagles in the same venue in a game that mattered to both. It gave Dallas homefield edge and the NFC East championship. So why should this week be any different? Because the stakes are higher, and McNabb's record on the big stage speaks for itself. That offense won't be held scoreless again; if the Giants can put up 40+ on the Cowboys, so can Philadelphia. You can count on Reid to make key defensive adjustments to stymie the running game and make Romo beat them through the air. Plus, there's that old saw about how tough it is to beat a team 3 times in one season. And until Team Romo/Phillips proves that they won't fold on the big stage, why roll with Dallas? Why indeed. You know the old saying...only two things come from Texas: grape jellies and nervous nellies. And Tony Romo ain't been sitting in my kitchen growing mold since the '98 Laredo County Fair.
Patriots (-3.5) over Ravens
Belichick and Brady at home against a team who could barely get by the Raiders last week in a must-win game? Welker be damned; the Pats aren't a Super Bowl team this year, but there's no way they won't cover on Sunday. I've never been more certain of anything in my life.*
*You should now bet your life savings, your home, and your loved ones on the Ravens.
Packers (+1) over Cardinals
Boldin's complaining, probably out, Warner's old, and Green Bay unleashed a pounding on the Cards last week. Granted, that won't mean much on Sunday, but I still think the Pack has the inside track in this one. And they're hot as hell going in...they've taken seven of their last eight, with the only loss coming in fluky fashion to the Steelers. Meanwhile, Arizona has been dicking around with the likes of St. Louis, San Francisco, and Detroit (expect the phrase 'dicking around' to start appearing here more regularly). I ride with Rodgers and Jennings in this one. And our vehicle is a golf cart with some kind of cheese motif going on up at the top.
I should probably write some words about the BCS Championship, but it basically went how we all expected. I personally don't believe the result would have been any different with McCoy at the helm, though I'm sure Longhorn fans will hold onto that little nugget for the rest of their lives. Bama was just the better team, and I'm happy for Ingram and Saban and the rest of the crew. They were a pleasure to watch all season.
Duke-Georgia Tech at 2 on Saturday! That one should be a gas. Hotlanta ain't seen Devils like these since Sherman was getting his march on. And with that, I shall now conclude what has probably been the most accidentally anti-southern post in SCSD history. And holy shit, I just noticed I picked the northern team in every single NFL game...I need to get this checked out. I might be a geographist. Have a great weekend.