Though I am not a member of the heretical Church of Football but rather a member of the one true Church, the Church of Baseball, I do pay attention to what happens in this aberrant sect. This weekend was the “Wild Card Weekend” where the teams with the best records that did not win a division title faced off against each other and the division title winner in each conference with the worst of the divisional winners.
I do not have any dog in the fight except for whoever is playing the Cowboys. I don’t consider me to be a “Cowboy hater” but I cannot be considered to be a Cowboy fan having suffered through Cowboy hubris living as a foreigner in the Republic of Texas, though serving as a sworn member and officer in that Land’s National Guard being a member of a unit with its heritage going back to the Texas Brigade of General John Bell Hood.
This weekend featured four games. In the first game the New York Jets under coach Buddy Ryan defeated the Cincinnati 24-14 Bengals for the second straight week in Cincinnati after having shellacked the Bengals last week to secure a playoff berth. This was not really a surprise to me because the Jets after an inauspicious start to the season where almost anyone with half a brain figured that they stood no chance of even having a winning season and that Ryan would be a former head coach by now turned things around and finished the season as one of the hottest teams in football.
In the monstrosity known as Cowboy’s Stadium where the scoreboard is bigger than Eritrea the Cowboys clipped the Eagles wings for the second straight week. In fact they made the Eagles who had entered the playoff never having lost an opening playoff game under Coach Andy Reid. The Cowboys won their first playoff game since 1996. The Cowboys much like the Jets had been pronounced dead after losing to San Diego and heading into their traditional December depression. This time Tony Romo and Coach Wade Phillips led the Cowboys to a 34-14 win over the Eagles sending Donovan McNabb home to eat soup with mom.
Now neither of these games were a surprise to me after the previous week where both the Cowboys and the Jets had made the Bengals and Eagles look bad. Now it is true that both the Bengals had nothing to gain in the final game of the season, but even so they were flat and the Eagles first lost the division last week and were booted from the playoffs Saturday.
Ray Rice had 159 Yards against the Patriots (AP Photo)
Today’s games were certainly entertaining, unless you are a Patriots fan. In the first game today the Baltimore Ravens dominated the Patriots with a crushing rushing attack and devastating defense led by veteran linebacker Ray Lewis 33-14. The Ravens made the Patriots who had one of their most uneven seasons of the past 10 years look bad. Tom Brady, who was probably cursed by the Grand Master Pastor Reverend Marc of the Amazing Grace Baptist Church who had labeled Brady a sinner bound for hell on their website had a terrible day. He went 23 of 42 attempts for a mere 154 years with three interceptions. Baltimore Running Back Ray Rice rushed for more yards by himself than Brady passed for. So the Patriots pass into off season oblivion while Bill Belichick commented “All of us that participated in the game are accountable for our performance and I don’t think anybody felt very good about it, players, coaches, anybody.” The Patriots looked really bad like they did not even belong on the same field as the Ravens.
In the final game of the Wild Card Weekend we were treated to a truly “wild” game. The Arizona Cardinals defeated the Green Bay Packers who had defeated the Cardinals in the last game of the regular season 33-7 by a score of 51-45 in overtime. This was an offensive display seldom seen in the playoffs; the most points ever scored in an NFL playoff game and possibly was one of the most exciting playoff games ever played. Kurt Warner led the Cardinals attack and the game was decided in the first series of overtime when Cardinal Karlos Dansby returned a fumble by Green Bay Quarterback Aaron Rodgers 17 yards for a defensive touchdown. The teams combined for 1024 yards of offense and 96 points. The Packers go home.
Next week the Cardinals will venture to the Bayous of Louisiana to play the Saints in the Superdome. New Orleans is favored but I would not count out Warner and the Cardinals. The Ravens stay on the road to venture into Indianapolis to play Peyton Manning and the Colts. The Colts are favored but have played very flat since resting their players in week 15 and giving up the chance at a perfect season while the Ravens have played like a team possessed. Moving on to Sunday Dallas will venture to the northlands to play the Vikings in the nation’s loudest venue the Hubert H Humphrey Metrosexual Dome in what could be the last game of any kind played there unless the Vikings win and the Saints lose forcing Arizona to go north. The Vikings stumbled into the playoffs while the Cowboys are hot. The game could certainly go either way but I think that the Vikings home field advantage might with a strong offensive and defensive performance might be what the Vikings need to send the Cowboys home. In the final game the Jets wing their way to the west coast to play the Chargers who have remained hot all year long. While the Jets could pull an upset I will go with the Chargers to shoot down the Jets.
My picks for what they are worth. I think that the Cardinals by 3 in a shootout in New Orleans and the Colts by 7 the over the Ravens despite a hope that the Ravens will pull the upset. In the Sunday games I take Brett Farve and the Vikings over the Cowboys by 3 and the Chargers over the Jets by 7.