Pic: Ray Lewis consoles his latest victim, Tom Brady.
Strange Week, and now, Football
Strange week, if we’re putting it mildly.
Fake girlfriends created through real lies, a celebrated cyclist comes clean (kind of) making “Did you watch Oprah last night” an acceptable water cooler conversation for sports fans in offices across the world. And, well, that’s about it really.
So it’s kind of nice to get back to the regular schedule programming of football, and no big deal, just two games for a chance at the Super Bowl.
In Atlanta, the proverbial monkey is off Matt Ryan and Mike Smith’s back, no thanks to the strangest (there’s that word again) last two minutes of a playoff football game I can remember. There’s now playoff wins on the resumes of the quarterback and coach, and yet, who exactly is picking the Falcons at home this week?
Hard to imagine the court of public opinion not backing the San Francisco 49ers after Colin Kaepernick turned the Green Bay Packers defense into a Rookie settings Madden blowout. The 49ers have been here before, before as in last year. Prior to Kyle Williams’ personal nightmare, you’d have to go all the way back to 2002, and reference names like Jeff Garcia, Terrell Owens and Garrison Hearst to remember their last playoff appearance.
Back to back NFC Conference Championship appearances signifies progress, a return to better years for the storied franchise, but in a league where dominance is more or less a year to year thing, this game feels important for the 49ers too. It’s easy to look at the core on defense, the promise of Kaepernick and say that there’s still years of contending to come. It’s harder to actually realize that future potential. Instead, this is as good an opportunity at winning it all as any. When is that not true?
Over in New England, no big deal, just a sixth Super Bowl appearance for Tom Brady if the Patriots win, and a few more weeks of the Ray Lewis farewell tour if the Ravens can get revenge on what is a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship game. No Lee Evans or Billy Cundiff this time around — although ESPN gave them a great profile this week — just a chance for guys like Joe Flacco and Torrey Smith to elevate themselves into a different stratosphere. It’s what playing in the Super Bowl does to players.
And so, with no idea whether I’m picking with my head or heart, or caught in so many web of lies this week that the truth seems harder to see, I’m going to go with the 49ers because I know that Eugene Robinson is thinking the same, just so no one brings this up again.
And in New England. I think the Ravens find a way to get it done.
See you at the Harbaugh Bowl.
What does everybody else think?
The NFL playoffs always come down to quarterback matchups. Let’s look at these guys head-to-head. Let’s look at Tom Brady vs. Matt Schaub, AKA, New England vs. Houston.
- Brady: Waterslides
- Schaub: Male pattern baldness
- Advantage: Brady
- Brady: Three Super Bowl rings
- Schaub: Missed last year’s playoffs with a case of ringworm
- Advantage: Brady
Historic antecedent to his team:
- Brady: Irish guys tossing around a pig bladder and punching each other.
- Schaub: Houston Oilers
- Advantage: Schaub
- Brady: Married to supermodel Gisele
- Schaub: Deathly allergic to Brazil nuts
- Advantage: Brady
- Brady: Never plays because he’s in the Super Bowl
- Schaub: Won MVP in 2009
- Advantage: Brady
Post-NFL career plans:
- Brady: Congressman
- Schaub: Founder of his own discount brokerage, Charles Schaub.
- Advantage: Brady
Tom Brady takes it 5-1, while Matt Schaub pulls a hamstring just participating in this matchup.
Texans at Patriots: Champions Of The Past
In the last seven seasons:
Detroit Red Wings: lost in quarter-finals, lost in Conference Finals, won Stanley Cup, lost Stanley Cup Finals, lost Conference semi-finals, lost Conference semi-finals, lost in quarter-finals.
San Antonio Spurs: lost in semi-finals, won NBA Finals, lost in Western Conference finals, lost in first round, lost in semi-finals, lost in first round, lost in Western Conference Finals
New York Yankees: lost in ALDS, lost in ALDS, missed playoffs, won World Series, lost in ALCS, lost in ALDS, lost in ALCS
New England Patriots: lost in divisional round, lost in Conference championship round, lost in Super Bowl, lost in Wild Card round, lost in divisional round, lost in Super Bowl
In a sample of 28 seasons across the four teams which you would consider to be most consistent over the past decade or less, the teams have combined to win just three championships. None for New England.
We can talk helmet catch, or the Manningham encore that prevented two more Super Bowls for Brady and Belichick, but what about a wild card round loss to the Ravens where the game was essentially over after one quarter, or the more inexplicable loss to the Jets in the season after that?
At some point, we cross a threshold with these teams where it’s hard to manage between reputation and actual results. The Patriots are great every year — they’ve almost unbeatable in the second half of the season. Their defense isn’t exactly a brick wall, but the offense can turn it on almost at will, as we saw against Buffalo and San Francisco this year.
Brady is still one of the best quarterbacks in the league but even being half a step slower — with a lesser defense than the championship years — means the margin of error between a playoff exit and a Super Bowl has gotten much thinner.
We don’t expect the Texans to put up much of a challenge, as they were unimpressive in victory last week, doing as little as you could in winning to convince anyone that they were once 11-1. Also, we’ve already seen the Patriots methodically tear down this Houston team just several weeks ago, and that was without the injured Rob Gronkowski.
The talent should win out this week, but assuming that the Patriots are the best team in the AFC or in the league might be too simple of a conclusion and one that merits less and less support as the years between championships go by.
It just might not matter this week.
Patriots win 21-16.
What does everybody think?
The decal that Tom Brady & the New England Patriots will be wearing today in honor of the City of Newtown and Sandy Hook Elementary.
Making the #Patriots #throwback helmets
New England is getting all gussied up for their Jets game this weekend.
The Seattle Seahawks took Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to task today, and since they’re 4-2, Seahawks corner Richard Sherman decided to boast about it on his twitter account. He briefly posted the above photo and went on, saying:
"Brady sure looks like a man who turned the 12thMan against us"
Sherman then attached a photo of Brady walking off the field dejectedly.
Spoils of victory? Or is the 2nd year defense man kicking up a hornets nest?
New England’s Brandon Lloyd ladies and gentlemen.
He made that first touchdown of the season count.
Now, bring on the Photoshop!
“It was inappropriate for me to contact the official. I take responsibility for what happened. I accept the discipline and I apologize for the incident Sunday night in Baltimore.”
- Statement from New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick.
|—||Al Michaels, trying to talk over the deafening chant of “BULLSHIT” at the Ravens-Patriots game.|