Last week: 9-5-2
Last week: 10-4-2
Scott Reid: I don’t get all the bellyaching. Frankly, Mike Shanahan had it coming. He didn’t get his team to the playoffs three years in a row. Sure, in Detroit, that qualifies you for a promotion. But this is Denver where they’re actually used to winning football games. To those who believe he deserved the Broncos’ job for life I offer up five words: Blown. Out. By. Norv. Tuner. End of story. My best guess as to who gets the bullet next? Gruden. (Herm Edwards and Dick Jauron can keep on keeping on though).
Turning to the playoffs, this post-season will feature 8-8 San Diego but not 11-5 New England. That’s such a bad joke I keep expecting Pauly Shore to show up and take credit. Nevertheless, wild card weekend is my favourite weekend of the year (next to ‘non-pasteurized cheese weekend’, ‘Sarah’s House marathon weekend’ and ‘who cares if you don’t button up your pants weekend’). Four whole games. Longshot winners. Miami losing. It’s got it all. So I got to wondering – is there any way to make wild card weekend even better (that doesn’t include the phrase ‘sex pirates’)? And the answer is yes! It can be made better with an innovative mixture of gambling and rhyming verse. So here’s the deal: Whichever one of us calls the fewest correct picks this weekend must compose and post a short poem about the other that is at least two four-line stanzas in length.
Whattya say? Man enough for that, Feschuk?
Scott Feschuk: Man enough to place a poetry-based wager? Permit me to accept your challenge by theatrically adjusting my ascot and demonstrating my inherent sensitivity by shedding a tear at man’s inhumanity to man. You’re on, numbnuts.
In other news, Wade Phillips is still employed, thus proving my economic theory that the safest harbour in a severe global recession is to be employed by a wealthy man whose face is stretched so tight that it now constrains his brain’s ability to formulate common sense. Your move, Nobel committee.
On to the games of wild card weekend…
Atlanta (minus 2.5) at Arizona, Saturday 4:30 p.m. ET
Reid: There are only three really worthwhile mysteries left to humankind: What happens when we die? Has JD Salinger written an unpublished novel about lesbians? And what does it do to a team when they clinch early and limp into the playoffs? The Cards won their final regular season match up but during December their defence looked highly suspect, Kurt Warner looked spotty at best and Matt Leinart looked at anything that jiggled in a T-shirt (congrats Feschuk – you qualify!). Atlanta is looking hot. Balanced offence. Super composed rookie quarterback and a strong running attack. I have not believed in the Cards all season and I’m not about to start now. Atlanta will hassle Warner all day and the old man will throw at least three picks. Pick: Atlanta
Feschuk: Atlanta is playing Arizona? In a playoff game?? And Miami’s playing Baltimore?? Anyone waking up from a coma right now would have no choice but to assume they’ve been magically transported to another dimension wherein up is down and left is right – a backwards kind of place in which teams that sucked last year are great and Sarah Jessica Parker is somehow regarded as attractive. Arizona seems content to have made the playoffs. Atlanta looks like they actually want to accomplish something. And your man-crush Matt Ryan looks at the photos you send him, Reid, and thinks to himself: “Now there’s a guy who just doesn’t have the body for fishnet stockings.” Pick: Atlanta.
Indianapolis (minus 1.5) at San Diego, Saturday 8 p.m. ET
Feschuk: On one hand, the Chargers have suddenly become a potent offensive force, with Philip Rivers looking impressive and the running game finally coming to life. On the other hand, their coach is Norv Turner, who is to clutch football games what Billy Bob Thornton is to the sanctity of marriage. I’m not sure what it would take for me to wager on a Turner team in the playoffs, but I’m fairly sure it can be summed up with the equation: 40 ounces of gin + 40 more ounces of gin + a big beaker of gin. Meanwhile, the Colts have won nine straight, Peyton Manning is in MVP form and Tony Dungy is so calm of late that he’s either discovered the secret of inner peace or slipped into a working trance. I don’t think the Chargers will be able to stop the Colts. Indy will put up at least 40. And you can take that to the bank (specifically, the First National Bank of Dubiousness). Pick: Indy.
Reid: It is hard to imagine where to place the over on this game. Is thixpillion more than a hextillion? Neither defence could stop a bum rash with a gallon of tetracycline. Let’s peg it at the number of hairs on Amy Winehouse’s head multiplied by every point of light you can spot in the night sky from the surface of the moon. However, you make some interesting points. True, both quarterbacks look like they are in top form. And yes, it is fair to characterize the coaching styles of Dungy and Turner as ‘very sleepy’ and ‘f—king brainless’, respectively. But we all know what floats and I have a sick feeling that Norv Tuner is going to be a wearing a chocolate brown Captain’s hat on Saturday night. Rivers is looking good and groin pull (insert snicker here) or not, I think LT is back. Pick: San Diego
Baltimore (minus 3.5) at Miami, Sunday 1 p.m. ET
Reid: What kind of a freaking mess is going on in the Miami front office? Everyone talks about what a genius Bill Parcels is and there’s no denying the team’s regular season turnaround. But with days before hosting a wild card matchup Parcells is back to his old tricks – no, not busting Terry Glenn’s balls – he’s leaking crap to the media about himself. The only thing larger than Parcell’s ego is his capacity to consume dim sum. Now he’s letting it be known that when the Dolphins sale goes through, he may bolt after only one season at the helm. This is, of course, not a distraction at all. It is however, timed to give Parcells maximum leverage – paralyzing other teams that might be looking for a new head man and causing Miami media to demand Parcells be retained on any and all terms. It’s ridiculous. And it will come to a welcome end when they discover that they cannot score on a suddenly young-again Raven’s defence. If Flacco keeps giveaways below two, Miami doesn’t score more than six points. And Parcells will get away with his ‘me first’ media show once again. Pick: Baltimore.
Feschuk: The oddsmakers sure like the Ravens in this one – on a weekend where all four road teams are favoured, they’ve earned the biggest spread. For all the Dolphins’ success this season, their potential in the playoffs comes down to the simple question of whether their gimmicky Wildcat formation can surprise and outwit the mighty Ravens defence. Call me skeptical. Ed Reed is going to be all over Chad Pennington’s wobbly throws like John Mayer on a passing vagina. And unlike during the Dilfer years, when touchdowns were considered as mythical in Baltimore as unicorns and thin people, these Ravens can actually score. Pick: Baltimore.
Philadelphia (minus 3) at Minnesota, Sunday 4:30 p.m.
Feschuk: Attention Donovan McNabb: Playoff games cannot end in a tie. They can, however, end with you having your ass handed to you. There’s really no reason to back the Vikings in this one – they made the playoffs competing in a weak division and their quarterback has all the passing skill of a cured ham. But the Eagles have been hugely inconsistent and Andy Reid is not only a lousy coach in high-pressure games – he’s also still working Christmas dinner through his system. Having crushed Dallas to improbably make the playoffs, it would be entirely fitting for this Eagles team to turn in a dog of an effort. I’m predicting the upset – Minnesota wins outright. And remember: I was right about Burt Reynolds and Loni Anderson not making it as a couple. Pick: Minnesota.
Reid: Are you drunk? Let me list the finer qualities of a cured ham: tastes good, makes a lovely meal, provides for many day-after sandwiches, can throw on the run. That gives it exactly four advantages over both Tarvaris Jackson and Gus Frerotte. Also, there are no recorded incidents of hams giving themselves a concussion. Philly is going to control the clock, force Minnesota to turn over the ball and win by ten points easy. At the same time, I am going to make myself a fantastic sandwich. Pick: Philadelphia