Monday, January 12, 2009

Don't Listen To Me

Well, I'm just dumbfounded.

After putting forth what I felt were a solid set of predictions for this past weekend's NFL Playoff Games, I sat back and watched as, one by one, every team I picked lost.

This has never happened before. And I'm embarrassed by my performance, just as much as many of the teams that lost should have been embarrassed by their performances. By the time the Steelers game ended, I was just nodding off silently on my couch, numb to what had happened.

It started off promising, with the Tennessee/Baltimore game on Saturday. I was in transit for most of the first half, though I did hear a bit of the game on the radio, and ended up not missing much. It was 7-7 at the end of the 1st Quarter, but it seemed like Tennessee had the upper hand. The game was, as I expected, a defensive slugfest, and a low-scoring battle of field position and turnovers. Tennessee was moving, but not scoring, though it seemed to be only a matter of time until they broke through. But it didn't happen. Instead, Tennessee lost Chris Johnson, their one Home Run Threat, they started turning the ball over repeatedly deep in Baltimore territory, and finally, Joe Flacco strung together one late drive, got that lead Field Goal and left Tennessee with only :53 to try to come back. And it didn't happen. This was, for Tennessee, one of those frustration games where they seemed to have everything going for them, and just couldn't finish anything off at the end. And I'm sure they're still kicking themselves.

That barely prepared me for what I witnessed Saturday night. The game was a blowout, just as I thought it would be, however it was a blowout in the exact opposite direction as I thought it would be. Which begs the question: How was Carolina so good during the regular season with this offense? Was there just some inherent flaw with them that they covered up during the season to the point that we all just missed it? Because for all they indicated during the season, and for all Arizona had shown us, there's no explanation for this. Except that Arizona just caught the Panthers at the right moment, with the right game plan, and put the whole package together. Seriously. They made Jake Delhomme look silly out there. He had no idea what he was doing, and the game was over by Halftime.

That was just an appetizer for the carnage on Sunday. Early, I was raring to go, much like everyone else in New York, for the Giants to come roaring out and take it to Philly, perhaps to exert their will on the Eagles and begin a year of New York rising up to knock down Philly after the past two years. And in the end, I feel more inclined to say that the Eagles didn't so much win the game as the Giants simply lost it. This game must have been sheer torture for the Giants, because for most of the game, they were right there, and they were one big play away from getting themselves together and getting right back in it. And it never happened. The defense played well; at least as well as could be expected when the Offense kept throwing them out there. But you had a feeling that the Giants were in trouble from that first series. Bradshaw has a great return of the opening kickoff, Manning has Steve Smith wide open down the field on the first play, and he throws a dying quail that falls incomplete. The Giants move, barely, but can't get any further than to kick a field goal. And they do this again, and again, and again. And Eli is looking confused and over-and-underthrowing his receivers, and they try to run, and Philly starts teeing off, and before you knew it, the Giants were forced into a pair of posessions where they had to go for it on 4th down, and got stuffed both times. And then, Eli threw that final interception, McNabb ran and had a chat on the phone, and the Giants were shoved off the dance floor.

By this point, now, I'm just hoping San Diego makes it close, and being thankful that I didn't actually lay any money on these games. I had waffled on the final game all weekend, and I didn't exactly feel confident in my pick of San Diego. So I figured it was just a matter of time until the inevitable happened: Willie Parker has by far and away his best game of the season, Roethlisberger hangs in the pocket and makes all the throws he has to, and the Steelers Defense makes the Chargers look like the 8-8 team they were. And after the way they took out Indy, that was something that was all of a sudden very easy to forget, and it's a bad job by me for not realizing that on Friday. But Pittsburgh won, and I'd say they're the odds-on favorite right now to go to the Big Game.

So, after years of going 10-1, 8-3, 7-4, 8-3, 9-2, etc for the Playoffs, I now stand at a paltry 2-6. Which just goes to show you that this season, the NFL has just been ass-backwards. We now have an NFC Championship game played by a team whose record once stood at 5-5-1 and another team generally regarded as the saddest of the sad sack franchises, now playing their second Home Playoff game after not hosting one in over 50 years. One of those teams is going to the Super Bowl. How the Hell did that happen?

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