How do you know when a season of football has been successful? When you fret over picks. And there be lots of fretting over three of the games this coming weekend. Yeah, just three.
Saturday Night Fever
Two teams in the AFC flirted with perfection this year. One team chose to sit history out and held the door open for a team who’d given up on post-season play. They other wanted it bad for their team, their coach, and their community but had injuries and inconsistencies that added up. Both teams have had some weeks to think about what perfection means and to come to terms with the here and now of what they need to do.
For the Colts, they need to put their money where their competitive spirit hasn’t been…on the field. I’ve never played football, only played and watched sports all my life. When I was on the team, I wanted to do everything I could to help my team win. But in this regard, I listen to those who have played. Though I disagree with most everything else that comes out of his mouth, Trent Dilfer put it most elegantly while guesting on The Herd on ESPN. To paraphrase, he said you can’t turn that competitive spirit on and off. Great players want to play and win. For my part, I believe in momentum, in the theory that in sport, as in everything else, there is inertia. It’s science, baby. And even if it wasn’t, it’s human nature to believe in it. We all want the winning streak.
For the Saints, they would desperately love to be walking into the playoffs with it. They need to toss human nature aside and figure out what made them the scariest team in the NFL back in Week 12 when they dismantled what we now know to be a struggling Patriots team. The rest will have helped them greatly. Time for reflection, healing because in the city of New Orleans, they know a lot about healing and reflection…and conquering the odds. Overcoming diversity is something that the team that helped a community stand taller needs to know call on from that very community.
On the other side of the ball, a show in momentus interruptus restartus…two teams that have been consistently inconsistent. Baltimore and Arizona are alike in only one thing: their ability to confound prognosticators this season. Every time you thought it’d be an easy win, you got 16 – 0 Baltimore win versus Cleveland or a 24 – 9 Arizona loss to San Francisco. It’s nothing against the opponents they played but when they were on, they were on.
The Ravens are a team that needed to give themselves a bye week in the playoffs. They are hurt but resurgent. Their QB, already not a solid trusted performer, is gimpy at just the moment that their vaunted defense seems to have finally found its old footing. Their running game is tough, period. And they are playing without fear. But they are playing a team with a player who is one of the best at putting a shield against doubt around his players in Manning.
The Cardinals have such a player in Kurt Warner. You will struggle to find another better human being on the football field let alone leader let alone playoff quarterback. While all the spectacle of the aged quarterback story has been played on under huge media scrutiny in Minnesota, at 38 years young, Kurt Warner takes a different tack. He sits when he has a concussion and comes back the following game to kick arse. As Boomer commented this morning on Countdown, it’s amazing that he had to search for a job. Check his stats, people. If you can protect him, he is the best in the post season.
So with all this spinning in my head, I fret. Will the Colts come out ready to prove all us competitive critics wrong, that they knew what they were doing when they threw away history? Will the Ravens just keep sticking like the neighbourhood stray until they can found the trick in through the doggie door? Will the Saints look like the Saints of ole, ready to rip the paper bag off of history with a rested and ready attack? Will Warner take his bevy of weapons and tricks out of his playoff bag and show that it’s not the years, it’s the experience? Will I make a final decision?
Colts over Ravens, 27-10. This game needs a QB to battle the points against Manning…and as much as I hate it, I think the Ravens will not have an answer to Manning.
Saints over Cardinals, 37-27. Because a $20 bet early in the season says so.
Sunday Night Special
There’s only one game to pick on Sunday. And according to co-workers and sports analysts alike, it’s thought to be the best game. Minnesota versus Dallas. Favre versus an exorcised Romo. Well, folks, here’s something new. It’s an easy pick for me. Dallas. Done. I’ll continue to be a Favre hater this year because there is a better way of showing how an aged quarterback can lead a team into the playoffs….his name is Kurt Warner. He’s all about team. Favre, regardless of his talents, still feels like the Devil and Daniel Webster came to roost in Minnesota. Fans are chomping at the bit for it. But Romo knows all about how locker room dissonance can impact on the field. And that locker room seems angelic and tranquil by comparison.
Dallas over Minnesota, 33-24. Because a dysfunctional family is especially dysfunctional under duress.
And the final game of the weekend….oh boy, ready the Tums! First off American Sportscasters, get OFF my team! This isn’t going to be no cake walk! You saw last week. The Jets are here to play. They are eating up the dis and ready to try the upset. And the Chargers have been here before…
BUT! No one is playing better heading into the playoffs and no team has more to prove for their coach than these Chargers. And I will say it. IF these Chargers make it through the Jets and IF they manage to work that magic they do against Peyton Manning….I will personally draft an apologetic email to Norv Turner for dissing him since he arrived in San Diego. It’s a lot of If’s but you know I’ll be watching and hoping and praying. Chargers CHARGE!