Saturday, January 08, 2011

Surely... (NFL picks, first round)

* Packers over Eagles
So years ago, I'm working at my old pizza delivery job and wouldn't you know it, I have a shift scheduled on the same Saturday night that my beloved Packers are facing the Falcons in a playoff game. No problem, I figure. I'll listen to the game on the radio, and for kicks, I'll even wear my Brett Favre jersey and cheesehead out on the road (my store had a lax dress code) and get a few laughs and hopefully bigger tips from the customers at the front door. The game itself would be no problem, since Green Bay had never lost a home playoff game in its history and they were only playing ol' overrated Michael Vick and the Falcons, and gee, the Pack would sure be in tough the next week against the Buccaneers, and...

Well, you can see where this went. Not only did Atlanta win, they kicked the Packers' asses and handed them their first playoff defeat in Lambeau Field history in embarrassing fashion. That damn Mike Vick showed me on that day that no matter what the circumstances, he can't be taken lightly. My cheesehead stayed in the car that evening, though my Favre jersey did probably earn me a few 'oh, that poor guy' tips. Ah, pity.

Fast-forward to today, and even though the Packers seem to be a trendy upset pick to take Philadelphia out on Sunday, I'm not letting my guard down for a minute when it comes to the ol' dog-killer. (What? If Favre can be the ol' gunslinger, then surely we can give Vick a nickname based on his actual crime.) Vick is even lulling everyone into a false sense of security by complaining of injury and suddenly worrying about an inability to pick up blitz packages. This is when that jerk breaks out for one of his insane three-TDs throwing, two-TDs running games and leaves Mike McCarthy standing on the sidelines with that same glazed-over look he always gets when he can't adjust his gameplan whatsoever. That's right, I'm still standing by this post completely in spite of the fact that Green Bay ended up in the playoffs. Mike McCarthy is a bad football coach. I figure since he won't be fired after getting the team to the playoffs, so while we're here, what the hell, we might as well win the Super Bowl.

So, why am I picking Green Bay? Well, they beat Philly back in the first week, and the GB defense is (theoretically) perfectly built to shut down the Eagles' offense. I'm not at all confident in this assessment, mind you, but I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that the D comes up big again and Vick is laid out with at least one bone-crunching sack.

(N.B. The most obnoxious part of this NFL season, bar none, is the media insistence that Michael Vick is this great story of redemption. Um, no. He's not a guy returning to stardom after rehabbing some major knee injury. He committed a thoroughly stupid and brutal crime over a long stretch of time. Vick isn't a victim in any way. I bite my thumb at him. At least the ridiculous MVP talk seems to have faded. That would've been the NFL's worst MVP vote since that year the kicker won.)

But in short, yeah, I'm picking the Packers over Michael Vick again. What can possibly go wrong?

* Ravens over Chiefs
Two weeks ago I would've picked Kansas City without a bit of hesitation, but then the Chiefs played probably their worst game of the season in a stinker of a loss to Oakland. Suddenly, the previous 16 weeks of solid, Patriots-lite football just washed away and we were left with a young, inexperienced team whose offensive coordinator just bolted on them at the least-opportune time. Good thing they have a calm, laid-back coach in Todd Haley who can keep them on an even keel through these hard times....oh, wait, never mind.

So even though Baltimore is old, and tired, and increasingly unable to sit on leads late in games, I'm still picking them. Their latest late-game fade (last week against Cincinnati) can't be held against them since they still held on to win in the end and the Bengals always inexplicably play them tough. If the 2009 Ravens can go into New England and hammer the Pats in a playoff game, the 2010 unit can surely go into Arrowhead Stadium and beat back the upstart Chiefs. The only possible setback could be if some bizarre incident involving one of the star players' brothers breaks just days before the game, and what are the odds of that?

"Hey Mark, are you picking Baltimore just to give yourself some slight reprieve, since your obnoxious, Ravens-loving brother will be even more insufferable if they win this game?"

Er, next pick, please.

* Colts over Jets
I'm of two minds about this game. Firstly, it seems unlikely that the Colts are actually very good this year, and they made it into the playoffs largely thanks to a dysfunctional division and on the grit of Peyton Manning's arm. So theoretically, the hard-nosed Jets can rattle Indy and knock them off, right? Well, maybe, except....the Jets might not be very good. Sure, the Jets were 11-5 and everything, and beat the Steelers and Patriots this year, but this team has faltered too many times to let me believe in them. LaDainian Tomlinson has reverted back to the sucky form that sunk my fantasy team the previous two years. Mark Sanchez swings wildly from terrific to godawful on a quarterly basis. The vaunted defense is tough, but I'm not sure they're "beat Peyton Manning at home" tough. I've gotta say, I think that damn Manning squeaks another one out. On the bright side, Rex Ryan won't take the defeat all that hard. I've heard he loves da feet. (rim shot)

* Saints over Seahawks
Surely there's no way New Orleans can lose this game, right? I don't care if all their running backs and a good chunk of their defense is injured; they're the Super Bowl champs and they're playing the worst playoff team in NFL history. Surely that's too much to overcome the Seahawks' only advantage, which is their absurdly loud stadium. The sight of the 7-9 Seahawks parading around the field in their 'NFC West Division Champs' hats after their win over the equally sad St. Louis Rams last Sunday night was one of the funniest moments in recent football history. If I was a Seattle fan, I'd totally buy that hat as a novelty gag. Fun fact: the only way the Seahawks will finish with a record above .500 for the season is if they WIN THE SUPER BOWL. Even if they make it to the big game and lose, they'll still be just 10-10. Good lord. I'm not totally sure about the spread (I think New Orleans is favoured by 10.5 points the last time I checked) but the Saints cannot possibly lose to such a crappy team.

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