Friday, January 13, 2012

NFL Divisional Playoff Preview: When Hockey and Musicals Collide!

I'm not going to deny that I was way too excited about something special this week, but in case we haven't yet discussed the magic, I'm going to explain some of the details right now. See the woebegone Atlanta Thrashers are no more in the NHL this season after packing up and moving to Winnipeg. In doing so they took on the old moniker of the long-since departed Winnipeg Jets. That, in and of itself, is not terribly significant. However, what happened this Thursday night was, as for the first time the reborn Winnipeg Jets faced off with the now 21-year-old San Jose Sharks.


If you don't quite understand why this is exciting, I suppose I'll have to spell it out for you. The Jets are playing the Sharks. Yeah, that's right Broadway nerds. Thursday night in Winnipeg, for the first time in 15 years in the NHL, we had a fucking rumble. And if you want to know just what happened, here are the full highlights of the showdown. Tony! Bernardo! Maria! What a night in Winnipeg!

Ok, ok. So that wasn't exactly what happened at the MTS Centre last night. In actuality the action looked less like a bunch of jazz and tap dance vets and more like this, but what man with a rudimentary fandom of West Side Story wouldn't get excited about the two namesake gangs facing off on a sheet of ice? I've listened to "America" and "Tonight, Tonight" far too many times on childhood car trips not to get excited, and as the preview I wrote for the game this week, well, I might have gotten a little carried away with the subtle in-text references to the Sondheim and Bernstein masterpiece.

Yeah, I'm not sure if you caught them, but there are 11 references to the show in there. Someone really should have kept me under control. Either way, I had been looking forward to writing this preview for about six months, so considering all the anticipation I thought it turned out quite well. The game, too, was, well fine I guess. All things considered, I didn't really have a horse in the race, but no one was fatally stabbed attempting to defend their sister's honor from a group of delinquent xenophobic teenagers so there's that. My only disappointment, really, is that the game didn't feature any moments where the players spontaneously broke out in song like they did in the classic film "Score: A Hockey Musical". But you can't have everything.

When it comes to not having everything of course, there are more pertinent concerns on my mind for the coming weekend than whether or not Sharks center Joe Thornton can carry a tune. If you know me and you don't already know that those concerns are whether or not the Giants can upset the Packers in their divisional round playoff game Sunday afternoon, well, you're completely oblivious to all that matters in my life.

But I'll forgive you.

Just know that I'm trying to fight the urges to compare this Giants team to the championship squad of four years ago, although with the defense finally healthy and looking like it's peaking at just the right time, and the fact that the Giants scored 35 points on them without Mario Manningham already this season and with a horrendous defense at the time -- well, those facts all make it hard not to get excited. So should the Giants lose, even as fairly significant underdogs, I'm probably still going to be enormously disappointed. By try not to let that bother all of you as you watch the previous three games this weekend. And I do hope you enjoy them, because I will probably be coiled up in the fetal position in my living room the whole time in anticipation of Sunday evening.

It will not be my proudest moment. Unless they win. On with the picks.

AFC Divisional Playoffs
(1) NEW ENGLAND (-14) over (4) Denver
You know, I don't really root for the Patriots often. I don't particularly dislike them, even if their arrogance in 2007 made beating them in the Super Bowl that much sweeter, but I don't generally care to see them win either. But yesterday Sportscenter said the word "Tebow" 160 times in the course of an hour. Really. 160 times. One hour. I'm counting on you to make it stop, New England.

(2) BALTIMORE (-9) over (3) Houston
It was a nice run, Texans. Really, you did a pretty decent job of finally getting into the playoffs, and getting a win no less. But, it's time for the big boys to play. Even if Joe Flacco is playing quarterback for them.

NFC Divisional Playoffs
(2) SAN FRANCISCO (+4) over (3) New Orleans
Call me crazy -- and you probably should considering how dominant the Saints were over the last half of the season -- but I actually like the 49ers here, despite common wisdom. They're home, they play efficient football, the Saints won't get to play on a speed track like they do in the Superdome and after a slow start against Detroit -- with some mistakes to boot -- New Orleans should be wary of facing a team that actually has a defense. A really good one at that.

(4) NY Giants (+9) over (1) GREEN BAY
I should spinelessly note that this isn't necessarily saying the Giants are going to win. Clearly, I want them to and I do think that they way the defense is playing, the talent on offense, and the sheer mediocrity of Green Bay's 32nd-ranked defense by yardage mean they certainly have a chance. But either way, it's going to be far closer than some of the Wisconsin-based prognosticators might think.

Good lord I hope so anyway. Enjoy the weekend, people.

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