This year’s round of NFL Wildcard playoffs is a little like watching Jeff Bridges eat an apple; it’s not apt to be the most entertaining thing you’ve ever seen, but goddamnit, THAT’S "THE DUDE" EATING AN APPLE. Anything that guy does is entertaining. I’d pay money to watch him trim his goatee and balance his checkbook. Similarly, you can’t not watch the NFL playoffs, even if it is the slightly wilted side-salad at the beginning of what promises to be an otherwise fantastic meal.
It seems a foregone conclusion at this juncture that the NFC will come down to the Packers and the Saints in the Conference Championship. Additionally, it’s likely that the Patriots will face either the Ravens or the Steelers in the Divisional round next weekend. In between, there doesn’t figure to be a whole lot of mystery.
The action kicks off Saturday, with a sexy-ass matchup between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Houston Texans.
Bengals @ Houston, 3:30PM Saturday, NBC
Cincinnati rookie QB Andy “the Red Rifle” Dalton takes on Houston rookie QB T.J. “I’m in the NFL” Yates in a battle of… I don’t know… yawns? Dalton has had a surprisingly decent rookie campaign, and is clearly the better of the two, but the Texans, oh, those poor Texans. Never in their worst dreams did they imagine having to start Yates in a playoff game. All that changed when the Matts—first Schaub, then Leinert—went down with season ending injuries. But never fear, Houston fans! Jeff Garcia—yes THAT Jeff Garcia, formerly of the Omaha Nighthawks, formerly of the NFL—is your third stringer! There may just be hope for ya’ll yet.
Okay… not likely. I think the Bengals win this but probably not by a lot, and probably not in a very entertaining manner.
Detroit Lions @ New Orleans Saints, 7PM Saturday, NBC
The Lions aren’t as good as they pretended to be at the beginning of the season. Their rushing game isn’t great, quarterback Matthew Stafford—despite having put together a nice, healthy season—is still capable of a 4 INT meltdown, and Calvin Johnson… well, you can’t fuck with Calvin Johnson. That is,unless you’re the Saints. Then you can fuck with him. In their previous matchup—a December 4th game in New Orleans that the Saints won 31-17– Johnson was held to 69 yards on 6 catches.
Who Dat, indeed.
The Lions are alright, but it’s just not their year. The Saints are better at virtually every position, play more cohesively as a unit, and their offensive juggernaut should steamroll an inferior Lions’ squad. Let’s just hope Ndamukong Suh (who was suspended in the first meeting, it’s worth noting) doesn’t get pissed and stomp that birthmark off of Drew Brees’ cheek. (oh, in case you’re reading about football for the first time, Suh is kind of a dickhead)
Atlanta Falcons @ New York Giants, 12PM Sunday, FOX
Ugh… we seriously have to watch this game? Both teams are perennially overrated, and aside from David Tyree’s miracle catch against the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII (in February of 2008, for you non-Romans), neither has really done a whole lotta recent winning.
As a fan of either team, you’d have to admit that the QB play is maddening—Matt Ryan OR Eli Manning is capable of giving you a, 14-32, 0 TDs, 2 INTs at the drop of a hat—but the receiving on both teams is potentially outstanding. The biggest difference, however, is the running game of the Atlanta Falcons, where Michael Turner can explode like a barrel of dynamite at any given second. And against the less than spectacular Giants’ run defense, explode he shall.
I say the Falcons get the run going early and often and cruise comfortably into Green Bay the following week (before getting thoroughly and utterly trounced). Circle of life, my friends.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Denver Broncos, 3:30PM Sunday, CBS
If the media played this right, this would be a Biblical battle between light and dark, good and evil. The Accused Rapist versus the Man of God. A city of gray, industrial depression taking on the city of clean, mountain air and John Denver Christmas specials. The media is full of pussies, though, so they’ll just talk about Tim Tebow’s woeful accuracy problems and whether or not Ben Roethlisberger’s battered ankle can handle cringe-inducing dives from Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller, two of Denver’s more punishing defenders.
But more to the point, it’s uncertain whether there’s a worthy story here at all. The Broncos are quite possibly the weakest team in the field. The backed in by virtue of Oakland’s ineptitude and after a miraculous run, have started to show their true colors. And though the Steelers are hobbled—Ben’s piggies, RB Rashard Mendenhall’s torn ACL and safety Ryan Clark’s what-the-shit-sickle-cell affliction—come on… does anyone in their right mind—aside from Denver fans—think that the Broncos stand a chance here? Wait: do Broncos fans even think they stand a chance?
Well, they don’t.
And thus concludes our look at the first round of the NFL playoffs. Quite a stinker, right? Tune in next week to catch me gloating about being right on all of my picks AND predicting the divisional round, once again with frightening accuracy (or making up excuses about altitude and the fight that forever survives in the heart of Texas).