Welcome back, football fans, to our quasi-professional football picks! Each week we will pick game winners based on Vegas over/under lines, and add some the greatest preview commentary in the world! That’s right, ESPN, we said it.
It’s Wildcard weekend as the playoffs are under way, which is one of the most exciting times of the season. not because of the actual games, but because now our sports analysts must reach into the very bottoms of their souls to only mock teams that are actually good.
Saturday, January 5th, 2013
Cincinnati Bengals @ Houston Texans
LINE: Texans by 5
I’ve just given up smoking tobacco, not as a New Year’s resolution, rather just that I decided I’d sort of like to be able to breathe properly and not have my heart playing complex bongo rhythms when I stand up, not be wheezing like I’ve got a set of pan-pipes stuck in my throat, and that I need to save some money so I can afford to starve to death under the UK Government’s continuing austerity package. The worst part is that people are assuming it’s part of some new me for 2013 and therefore doomed to failure by the end of the week as I fall off the bandwagon that I and everybody else drunkenly jumped on after too many glasses of the good stuff at one minute to midnight and to the strains of Auld Lang Syne. I hate New Year’s Eve. As far as I’m concerned, it’s just there to make Christmas look good. When people wish you a happy new year, do they mean that they wished your last year was shyte but now you deserve a break ? Am I meant to wish them a happy new year in return ? What if there’s only so much happiness to go around? Will my wish negate theirs ? It’s all so complex, unlike the belief that a new day will make all the troubles of the world disappear and that everything will now be fluffy and sweet smelling and nice. Do I sound irritated ? Did I mention I’d given up smoking ? Oh, what ? There’s a football game to commentate on as well ? How am I meant to be a writer without a cigarette in my mouth ? I demand a recount.
Congratulations to the Cincinnati Bengals on putting together back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since… well, ever, probably. (What, do you want me to look it up or something? Do I look like a researcher to you?) In doing so, the Bengals have now firmly cemented themselves as the third-best team in the AFC North, and make a solid argument for being the second-best as long as the Steelers don’t have Roethlisberger on the field and instead have a player starting at QB who couldn’t start for a Pee Wee football team. Normally, this would be about the time that the Bengals start crumbling under pressure; luckily for them, they will be facing a team in the Texans that is turning the concept of the late-season breakdown into an art form. However, to their credit, they have been very helpful in assisting the Patriots, Colts, and Vikings in securing their playoff spots over the past few weeks. Expect a high-scoring game as both teams keep trying to give the game away to the other.
The Texans have tanked late in the season while the Bengals have surged. That means the Bengals have the edge, right? Maybe. But I see the Texans getting up for this game. The team is reasonably healthy and Gary Kubiak should have them ready. Perennial underachiever Marvin Lewis has seen his Bengals for once actually achieve, minus the ‘under’. Look for Andre Johnson to have a big game; ditto Arian Foster. Look for JJ Watt to become intimate with Andy Dalton. Andy is the red headed stranger Watt has lusted for all season.
Evil Peyton Manning:
The Bengals have been here before. They’ve been here 3 times since 1991, and have lost every single time by 10 points or more. They’ve even been here with Andy “Red Rocket” Dalton last year. Not just here in the Wildcard round of the playoffs, but here in Houston, playing the Texans. They were here with an ailing featured running back in Cedric Benson, and will be there this weekend with an ailing featured running back in BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
The Texans? Well, they haven’t been here as much, considering they only became an NFL team in 2002, but they’ve been here last year, with just about the same roster and a little less in the win column going into Wildcard weekend. They even lost 3 games in a row going into the playoffs, and this year they only lost 2 in a row.
What does this all mean? Nothing. This is football, where everything changes week in and week out. However, it won’t be in this game, as I still believe that the Texans were taking an extended bye at the end of the season, even if they were technically playing every week. It makes sense. With a hairline like that, Matt Schaub must be around 40 and need all the rest he can get, right?
Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers
LINE: Packers by 8
These two teams will face each other for the third time in six weeks. In this fascinating matchup, one team has a killer QB and a shit run game, while the other has a running back with ten-pound testicles but can’t throw to save their lives. Also, I guess they both have defenses or whatever (like anybody cares about that stuff). The difference in this game may be the weather, with one team that hides out in a dome and another one that nuts up and plays in the elements. Then again, pretty much all football players come from California and Florida now, so they’ll all be miserable anyway. Good news, boys; half of you get to go back to your warm-weather homes once this game is over.
In a replay of last week’s game, the Vikings seek to repeat their success. Uh, not gonna happen. Oh, Peterson will get his yards but the problem I’ve been pondering has to do with, well, Ponder. As in Christian. As in Christians to the lions. This may not be the Frozen Tundra of years past with mystique built in but it will still be cold and, more importantly, not a dome. The Pack knows how to play these games and Aaron Rodgers is one of the best in the business. While I look for it to be close early, the Pack will pull away and the Vikings will be left to ponder a season of possibilities.
Evil Peyton Manning:
In case you were wondering, yes, you just saw this matchup last week. The Packers visited Minnesota, and all they did was stop Adrian Peterson from breaking Eric Dickerson’s record for rushing yards in a single season.
But that was last week when the Packers were only playing for a 1st round bye, which would mean a week break for football and Lambeau Leaps in Wisconsin. The Packers probably just wanted to make sure they had one winnable game for the fans at home. They come into the playoffs like they’ve been all season: forgotten. It’s not that the Packers are a bad team. This year, Aaron Rodgers has taken the game management approach to being a quarterback, and throwing for a ton of yards from time to time. It takes off the pressure of needing to win every game by double digits. Let’s face it, blowout offenses haven’t had much luck in the playoffs these past few years. Just ask Tom Brady.
The Vikings are playing with house money. No one expected them to do much of anything, which Christian Ponder has done in a good way: protecting the football. When you have a beast of a running back in Adrian Peterson and a stout defense, that’s really all you need to sneak into the playoffs, sneak through some rounds, and maybe even sneak into the Super Bowl. I don’t really believe that, but I think the Vikings will cover, even if it’s sunny and freezing at game time in Green Bay.
Yayyyy, it’s the Vikings. My favorite of all the NFL teams, not because they are a great team (are they ? I’ve never seen a game in my life), but because of their rich and varied history of which I am one of the world’s leading experts. (When I say ‘the world’ what I actually mean is my sofa, but anyway, this is sport, and real life has no place here…). Actually, enough of all these tales of axes and alcohol, pillage and longships, let’s have some modern day Vikings instead. You readers and I have known each other via this sports column for 3 years now, and you know what, we’ve never even bothered to stop for a moment, put on our funkiest trousers and have a bit of a boogie, so let’s rectify that immediately. From Iceland, my favorite Nordic Afro Funk Big band, the Samuel Jon Samuelsson Big Band with their new release (yes, honestly). I saw this bunch in London a year or so ago, and cannot recommend them highly enough (no matter how high I get)..so let’s welcome in 2013 and have that New Years dance together, a one, a two, a one two three four http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ox3rOgoFY8Y&feature=youtu.be
Indianapolis Colts @ Baltimore Ravens
LINE: Ravens by 7
Frankly, for Ray Lewis and family, this is a game the Ravens have to win and, frankly, for the Harbaugh family, this is a game the Ravens must win. And frankly, for the Flacco family, this is a game the Ravens have to win. In contrast, for the Pagano family, this would be a swell game to win; for the Arians family, ditto. For the Luck family, it would be a stroke of you know what to win this game. My point is the stakes are much higher for the Ravens. If they can translate that into kinetic energy on the playing field and deliver a much needed win, we shall see.
Evil Peyton Manning:
It’s a sad week for fans of defense in football, as Ray Lewis proclaimed that he will retire after this season. Not because all of the muscle detached from his arm in the middle of the season, but because Lewis wants to be with his family and see his son crush offenses in college. That’s dedication. He’s been accosting offenses for 17 years, so I guess he deserves a break. At least, a break from football. Considering his rapport with Paul Rudd in those Madden commercials, I’m sure he’ll find himself on a screen in other ways.
Even if he only acts as the world’s largest, loudest, meanest cheerleader, Lewis and the Ravens will need to get back on track as they host the up-and-coming Indianapolis Colts in the Wildcard round. That other Ray, Rice, was allowed some nap-time last week, so he should be ready to run through the Colts defensive line with a few linebackers holding onto him like streamers in the wind. The main fear is that Joe Flacco will act like Trent Dilfer and only throw the ball once every 20 or 30 downs just to keep defensive backs awake.
The Colts, meanwhile, are riding the Andrew Luck and CHUCKSTRONG trains at the same time, jumping from one train to the other in a celebration for triumphs in sports and health. That could be a bit tiring for such a young team, so I’m taking the Colts on points, but doubt they win outright.
The last time I got to comment on the Colts, I made some offensive remarks about horse penises which I now realize was uncalled for and unprofessional and I won’t let it happen again. So what about the Ravens ? Well, the Raven is a bird, not unlike the Cockatiel. I only mention this similarity as a friend of mine had a couple of these birds as pets, and one of them used to masturbate furiously at almost any opportunity. It was a sight to behold, yanking away at its tiny tinkle with its gnarly clawed talons, it brought many a tear to the eyes of anyone that watched. The bird in question used to also be madly in love with a stuffed toy dolphin that lived high on a shelf. When the bird was let out of the cage for its regular exercise, it would often be found straddling the dolphin and humping away like there was no tomorrow..how we laughed. Phew, I think I got through that commentary without mentioning horse penises more than twice, this sports writing is harder than it looks you know.
Dear Andrew Luck: thanks for the great story-lines. Thanks for the heroics, for restoring our faith in rookie quarterbacks, and for giving the people of Indianapolis a reason to not throw themselves off the highest roof in the city (a five-story office building) when Peyton Manning left. But here’s the thing: these are the Ravens. Joe Flacco can turn a mediocre season into a brilliant playoff run. Their defense can turn any game on its head. And Ray Lewis, even off the field, can literally get away with murder. I’m looking forward to a day a couple years down the road where you and RGIII become the next Manning/Brady, or next Montana/a bunch of other Hall of Famers who got their asses handed to them by Montana. But for now, well… you get to play a lot of Madden 13.
Seattle Seahawks @ Washington Redskins
LINE: Seahawks by 3
Evil Peyton Manning:
RG3 was drafted by the Redskins in the 1st round as the 2nd pick overall. Russell Wilson was drafted by the Seahawks in the 3rd round as the 75th pick overall. It would have been a surprise story that either of these quarterbacks would have lead their teams into winning records, nevermind the playoffs, considering what happened with Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers last season, yet here we are, seeing these young upstarts go head-to-head this weekend to continue deeper in the playoffs.
The Seahawks will have both of their suspicious cornerbacks back for at least this game, as Brandon Browner has completed his suspension due to a PED violation and Richard Sherman won his appeal about a urine collector playing Tom Cruise in Cocktail with cups of urine. Unfortunately, they will be without one teammate that helped them through this season: the 12th man. This game will be played at the Redskins’ home turf, which usually doesn’t bode well for the Seahawks. With RG3 healthier than he’s been the past three weeks, this game bodes even worse for the Seahawks.
I’d take the Redskins outright, but if you want to give me 3 points, who am I to refuse?
I saw a great film the other night called “The Seahawk Redemption”, all about some old bloke in a prison or something. Morgan Freeman was in it, (he’s in everything anyway), and Tim Robbins, and the whole thing was very serious and dark and dank and not a whole bundle of laughs. It’s rated as one of the great films, but is it really? I mean, for a film to be truly great, it must have all the following : A plot so thin and obvious you can guess the ending from five miles away, car chases, explosions, and someone getting kicked in the throat. I mean, how hard can it be? It must be the classic formula, because Hollywood has made very little else for the last thirty years or so, and shows no signs of changing now. Oh, the other thing a Hollywood film needs, apparently, is a number in the title, you know ; Expendables 2, Rocky 5, Scream 4 etc. I always assumed this number represented a mark of quality, like those surveys you have to fill out,where 1 is very good, and 5 is utterly arse. A quick look at the films in question proves this theory right. I saw a film advertised called Columbus: 1492, I must admit, I never saw the first one, but hell, THIS is taking the sequel to new limits, I can only imagine how great on our scale of 1-5 this movie must have been. Hooray for Hollywood !
Whoa, wait. What? The Seahawks are getting three points on the road? Listen, Vegas. I know Russel Wilson is a beast. I know he only threw like one pick at home, and broke Peyton Manning’s rookie TD record. I know they edged out both the Packers and Patriots early in the season. But let’s be honest: the Seahawks play in the NFC West, and had out-of-division games against the Panthers, Bills, and Jets. My junior high football team could have managed six wins with that schedule. Err, if I had played football in junior high, rather than sitting alone in my room with Dungeons and Dragons rulebooks, crying myself to sleep. But I digress. After the first half of the season, when Mike Shanahan gave the “Well, it’s time to evaluate our roster for next season” speech, RGIII and company went into Tecmo Bowl “Eff You” mode, where there was nothing the other team could do to beat them. The Redskins are basically gonna ride their crazy-ass offense until they face a top-tier defense, which will be… umm… looking at the playoff teams here… oh. Shit. Umm. Guys? Has a rookie QB ever won a Super Bowl?
In one of the most unlikely matchups in the playoffs given the expectations for these two teams, two rookie QB’s square off against one another. And their pedigrees couldn’t be more different. RGIII is the Heisman winner, a high number one draft pick, he has the measurable, all the tangibles and many of the intangibles. Russell Wilson on the other hand was a 3rd round pick who’s 5’10 (pathologically short by NFL QB standards), drafted by a team that spent a ton of money on a free agent QB acquisition (Matt Flynn) who was expected to start. So what happened? Wilson beat out Flynn and became starting QB. RGIII starting for the Redskins on the other hand was pre-ordained. So what happens on Sunday? I think the upstart Seahawks surprise the Redskins.
Rob Wheatley: 131-128
Steve Elle: 131-128
Darby Shaw: 129-130
Evil Peyton Manning: 124-135