Friday, January 6, 2012

An NFL Playoff Preview That Mostly Doesn't Talk About Football

It's very odd that I'm doing it this way, particularly considering that I love football and, well, I only really like basketball, which is what this is will sort of focus on, but as a newsman you need to understand what is prescient and newsworthy at the time. And since almost none of you will care both about the news I'm going to tell you for my future trips or my certain to  be incorrect NFL playoff predictions, I'm going to talk about what I want.

Deal with it.

See, I've never been to Texas. Well, that's not exactly true. I've been to Dallas on multiple occasions -- once in 1998, once in 2005 and once in 2011. However, on not one of these occasions did I take a single solitary step outside the delightfully enormous Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. I will say that it has some delightful amenities, namely a McDonald's where the mcnuggets are twice the size of normal mcnuggets (because everything is bigger in Texas), and a terminal in which TVs dot the concourse every five feet, which enabled me to sprint to my gate without missing a moment of the fourth quarter of Tiki Barber's 200-plus yard rushing effort against Kansas City in 2005.

So really, it's a great airport.

But what lays beyond DFW nobody knows. Or, well, at least I don't know. But if all goes according to plan, I will find out this March, when I boldly step outside the airport so I can see the Blackhawks visit the Stars on March 16 and then see the Mavericks host the Spurs one night later. I'm pretty excited for a number of reasons, but since I haven't actually booked a plane flight or put in for time off from work yet, this is still very much a pipe dream. But as I slowly pull the pieces of the plan together, the very first piece of the puzzle came into play last night when I came home and found out that my four tickets to the Mavs-Spurs game had arrived.

Considering the opportunity to see two teams that are so good in a rivalry that's not half bad -- and that I get to see the Hawks the night before -- I'm pretty excited. Particularly since I now have a satellite in Dallas since the intrepid Nomaan Merchant has relocated there. When he first told me he would be moving to Dallas, I asked him how long he expected to be there and Nomaan said, "Long enough for you to see the Giants visit the Cowboys, if that's what you're asking."

He knows me well.

Hopefully I can put a Giants-Cowboys game on the docket somewhere, but in the meantime, knocking out the Stars and Mavericks in one weekend is a good start. Speaking of the Giants, however, I may or may not have mentioned that they have a playoff game this weekend against the Atlanta Falcons. I could tell all of you that this first ever postseason meeting between the teams is the first ever "Allison Hall 2050 Bowl", as my freshman-year roommate at Northwestern, Sam, is a resident Atlantan who has returned to his hometown now that college is over.

That's him on the right looking devious, like all enemies of the Giants do. That picture comes from our last night Freshman year when we were packing up our belongings. See Sam learned many things that year, and almost certainly the most important was learned form me when I taught him the ins and outs of buying an authentic NFL jersey on eBay. Sam succeeded with flying colors. Flying red colors as it were, because this was the year that the color red, Madden 2003 in Mike Trawicki's room and Mike Vick all conspired to turn Sam into a full-fledged Falcons fan.

Unfortunately for Sam, that Falcons jersey didn't exactly represent the most upstanding citizen. Sam told me years later that he was considering using it as a pooper scooper for his pigeon Simon. Since then Matt Ryan has given Sam a quarterback he can be proud of, but I wouldn't suggest that he's gotten too proud of him since Sam seemed somewhat in the dark that the Giants and Falcons would be playing when I spoke to him this week. And perhaps more pertinently, I'm hoping Ryan doesn't make Sam too proud this weekend.

I'm more than a little anxious. I do think the Giants are playing better at the moment and given that the Falcons are not exactly used to this weather, I'm slightly confident that my team will win the day .... but I have seen them blow up these chances on more than one occasion so I'm hardly that confident. As for the rest of my picks, well, I'll probably be right about those ones. Because it would be just like my lot in life to be spot on with every game except for the one I care about. You know, other than that Texans-Bengals barnburner they've got going on.

Let's see how it goes.

Last week: 10-5-1
Season: 116-116-13

AFC Wild Card Playoffs
(3) Houston (-3) over (6) Cincinnati
Man, did NBC luck out when they got this matchup or what? Whew. This is, quite possibly, the least interesting matchup of teams in a playoff round, uh, ever. Seriously. I'm not sure if we've ever had Jacksonville play Cleveland in a playoff game, or perhaps Jacksonville playing Arizona in a Super Bowl, but that's pretty much the only one that could be duller. Also, you know who isn't better than Houston? Cincinnati. I mean, Houston is pretty beat up, so I go back and forth on whom to pick, but, hell, whomever wins this is losing next week anyway, so let's just pick one.

(5) Pittsburgh (-9) over (4) Denver
Ok. Ok. .... Ok. If Tebow wins this one, against this defense, I might convert. Also, did anyone see that Ryan Clark literally can't play in Denver's thin air for fear of losing organs? That is some home-field advantage.

NFC Wild Card Playoffs
(3) New Orleans (-11) over (6) Detroit
Detroit is a fun team. They're a really fun team, in fact. The defense is tenacious and the offense, when it's clicking, is really explosive. It's almost like they're the poor man's version of another team that has a slightly better head coach and championship experience. If only that team existed somewhere so that we could make an apt comparison. Oh wait, it does.

(4) NY Giants (-3) over (5) Atlanta
So yeah. I'm anxious and uncomfortable and generally sweaty in regards to this game, but I don't think I've picked against the Giants once this year when the spread was involved, and as you saw above, I finished with a .500 record, so..... I've got like a 50% chance of being right here. Right? Good lord I hope so.

Enjoy the football, people.

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