Thursday, January 06, 2005

MacKrell, Barcus, Danny and Tyler have departed the Wilson Ranchero, and they all seemed to have a really nice time, so I’m glad. They got to experience the overall lack of spirit at West Shamokin sporting events (“Why is it so quiet?!”), enjoy Putneyville food and hang out in the top of the garage. It was nice to combine some of my peeps from back home with some of my peeps from school, and it felt all-too-natural and surprisingly comfortable to be sitting across the poker table from MacKrell last night, coolly destroying him at Hold ‘Em while Danny sprawled on the couch and manned the remote while Barcus and Tyler BSed with everybody from back home. It was nice, and as soon as we find a cheap, quick way to import people from Boise, Taos, Boston and Atlanta (you deserve that, Pat, for the lack of USC-respect), we'll be in fantastic shape as far as transferring Dillon 1A to the Wilson Ranchero occasionally.

(And to be fair on the poker front, I got a lot of cards, but I played well with them, so I’ll take it.)

I had a great time, I don’t think there’s was too bad, despite thinking that the garage was very creepy downstairs at night, and now I only have a few days left before I head back to school. If anybody has some exciting plans from now until Sunday morning, please let me know so I can make these few days count.

Now, without further ado..

Warning: Explicit Pigskin Content To Follow

Before I get into some NFL playoff stuff, I just want to comment on the wooping that USC put on Oklahoma. We got home from West Shamokin’s first boys basketball win over Freeport and turned on the TV to hear USC’s fight song playing. The next thing we know, their kicking the extra point to extend their lead to 21-points. And it’s only the 2nd quarter.

This immediately removed Adrian Peterson from the realm of effectiveness, as USC’s defense proved too good for Oklahoma to just hang around there until their stud running back could start ripping some big gains in the second half. Not to say that perhaps Oklahoma’s Big 12 opponents sucked at defense, but OK State, Texas and Texas A&M all gave up over thirty points in their bowl games to Big Ten and SEC teams, not exactly the most high-flying of conferences. (On a side note, at least Texas won their bowl game, while the Cowboys and the Aggies combined to score fourteen points. Go Big 12, Go.)

I think it’s safe to say that the BCS should implement a rule along the lines of “Any time there’s a slight controversy about who should be playing in the national title game, and there’s a choice between the Big 12 and any other conference, pick the other conference”, as this year, last year and Nebraska’s 2001 debacle should really back that argument up. Somehow, because the Big 12 throws a lot of big program and player names out there, winning it is considered so much harder than any other conference. But when you look at it, three of the top teams couldn’t even throw the ball consistently – Texas, Texas A&M, OK State – and none of them played a dominating brand of defense, unless it was against Baylor or a Big 12 North foe.

So for two years in a row Oklahoma has embarrassed itself in the BCS Championship game while denying us USC against the SEC champ. I believe both this year and last year would have gone about the same: USC’s defensive line takes away both LSU and Auburn’s running game, but both SEC teams’ defense plays the Trojans much tougher, but through sheer athleticism (See: Bush, Reggie and Smith, Steve), the Pac-10 champs win it something like 20-10. Now I couldn’t tell you how Utah would match up against the Trojans, or the Tigers for that matter, because I don’t know about the quality of their lines against USC’s pass rush or Auburn’s running attack. However, I sure would have liked to have seen that as opposed to them coolly, casually, laying waste to the Pitt Panthers.

(And no, I’m not going to bring up that Pitt basketball has now lost two games in a row at home. That would be immature and silly of me. Woops.)

So as far as the bowl season goes, not having a tournament really hurt us because we didn’t get to see the Trojans against the Tigers or the Utes, but that pain was slightly dulled by the fun that was brought to us by the Rose, Liberty, Sun and Capital One bowls. I guess until they finally institute a playoff, just like every other sport in the NCAA, we’ll just have to live with Vince Young trading big plays with Breaston and Braylon, Hail Mary’s to end Nick Saban’s LSU career, a classic shoot-out between Boise State and Louisville and a Purdue/ASU game that went from being 3-2 at the half to having three lead changes inside the final few minutes.

Despite the Irish’s failings, it was a fun season. Now, onto the gentlemen who get paid, and I don’t mean Ohio State.


Sunday was a really, really depressing day as far as playoff results go. You have the Saints, doing stupid Saints things but playing hard and knocking off the equally game Carolina Panthers. Meanwhile, Minnesota phones in maybe one of the worst fourth quarter performances I’ve ever seen as they can’t stop Lydell Betts and show absolutely no hustle on offense when they’re down two scores with three minutes to get in and lose to the lowly Washington Redskins.

The Saints don’t get in, the Vikings do.

In the AFC, for the second year in a row, I need the Colts to beat the Broncos so that my team of interest could get in (Last year the ten-win Phins, this year the Jags). Granted, the Jags don’t deserve to get in after dropping a bomb at home against the Texans, but they put up a goalline stand against the Raiders and won, but it was all for naught, as again the Broncos earned themselves a first-round playoff loss against the Colts, as the only thing more guaranteed than Evil Lord Manning choking in the playoffs is Mike Shanahan being unable to win a playoff game without big Number Seven there to help him out.

So now, all the first-round matchups are rematches from throughout the year, and while this usually happens, it just seems so much more prominent this year because both the Packers and Vikings, and Seahawks and Rams, have played twice this year and the Broncos and Colts just played last week. When the match-ups were first announced, I was just really, really bored with the entire first round. Then I started looking at some potentially intriguing things that could happen, and I realized it might not be a total bust after all.

Granted, I’m much more excited for the divisional round, with the potential of the Favre vs. Vick, Evil Lord Manning traveling to New England and Drew Brees against the Steel Curtain, but we’re not going to sell this weekend’s action short, especially when it will be my first NFL playoff weekend split half in the friendly confines of my living room, half in the friendly, yet smaller, confines of my dorm room. How about some picks?

GREEN BAY (+6) over Minnesota

The Vikings are a dead team walking. Favre would have to make an awful lot of mistakes to not be able to combat a team with this little heart who made the Dolphins’ previous December collapses look like inspiring runs to the playoffs. With Antoine Winfield dinged up and Corey Chavous breaking his arm, expect to see Donald Driver and Javon Walker both go over a hundred yards receiving, with Randy Moss walking off the field with two seconds left in the third quarter.

BUT, the Vikings offense is just good enough and the Packers secondary is just bad enough to keep this in the 34-31-style shootout these teams have played twice already this year. I just can’t see the sleep-walking Vikings team I watched in Washington make that extra effort to wrap up Ahman Green or get to Favre, but if the score is that close, I’ll lose via the spread, but I don’t think so.

St. Louis (-4) over SEATTLE

Granted, they were playing a Jets team that couldn’t win a big game all year, but the Rams offense was looking Greatest Show-ish against Gang Green, with Bulger tossing the ball around to Holt and Bruce like no one was covering them. And coincidentally, in the game at Seattle on Saturday afternoon, no one will be covering them, so that should make it easier. The Rams running game took three steps back against the Jets front seven, but they won’t need it against a Seahawk secondary that has gotten so much worse since the beginning of the year it’s really hard to imagine or rationalize.

BUT, the Seahawks can score some points and the Rams are outside in January, so nothing’s for certain, especially with Mike Martz as coach. I still don’t see the Seahawks winning this game, despite the momentum that big win over Matt Schaub and the Dirty Bird JV team to clinch the division title got them.

SAN DIEGO (+6.5) over New York Jets

There’s been loud rumblings from the New York media about how terrible the offense is and how there needs to be a new coaching staff on that side of the bowl. It strikes you as kind of silly until you look at the weapons they have: Curtis Martin, Lamont Jordan, Santana Moss, Justin McCareins, Anthony Becht. These are really good players, and to only be scoring 20.8 points per game, something has got to be wrong.

The strength of the Jets offense is their running game, and the strength of San Diego’s defense is their rush defense. If the Jets are to win, Chad Pennington’s going to have to show to the New York writers what a privilege it truly is to be covering the Jets, as he’ll need to throw on the pretty bad Charger secondary to win. Then again, New York’s defensive backfield wasn’t exactly the Four Horsemen against the Rams, so I’m thinking Comeback Player of the Year (where had he gone?) Drew Brees will get plenty of opportunities to establish a solid passing game to draw back the Jets quality pack of linebackers, allowing some more cracks for LT to cut through.

BUT, the Jets already won in San Diego this year, despite it being back in September. This is Marty Ball in the playoffs with his main duo – Brees and Tomlinson – having never been on the big stage before. Pennington beat Evil Lord Manning 41-0 in 2002. Draw your own conclusions, but my pick is above.

Broncos (-10) over INDIANAPOLIS

First off, I don’t think Denver can win this game, and there’s no point in me analyzing this any further then it all hinging on one man:

Jake Plummer.

Three weeks ago, Bad Jake Plummer traveled to KC and got blown out by the Chiefs in a game the Broncos really needed. The following Saturday night, he led to a second-half annihilation of a Titans team that wasn’t even playing with a full roster, but it was a win nonetheless. This past Sunday evening, he completed the Broncos’ postseason charge by knocking off Jim Sorgi, Dominic Rhodes and the rest of Indy’s second string.

The question looms large as the only important question in this game: Which Jake Plummer shows up?

I’m going to gamble and say after sucking really big time in Indy last year and giving Evil Lord Manning the first playoff win of his illustrious postseason career (Almost typed that out without giggling), Good Jake Plummer shows up. I still don’t think that’s enough, though, because despite Ashley Lelie becoming almost-consistent, he has no tight end and both Ruben Droughns and Tatum Bell are dinged up. Indy’s offense is purring, rested and really excited to have their fearless leader toss four more picks against the Patriots next weekend. Good Jake Plummer keeps it close, but the Colts win.

BUT, what if there’s some new, never-before-seen Awesome Bearded Jake Plummer that makes Good Jake Plummer look pedestrian? He is playing Peyton Manning, and this is a playoff game (people forget that Manning lost 41-0 two years ago), so maybe this turns into some surreal blowout. However, I’d be more willing to believe that Bad Jake Plummer comes through and it’s 24-3 at the end of the first quarter. But again, my pick is above.


I’ll end with the warning that a comprehensive Dolphins rebuilding plan is forthcoming, and you can bet it’s going to be way more Orange and Teal stuff then anyone in their right mind wants to read, but it’ll be there, along with a boatload of additional NFL playoff and college basketball stuff over the next few weeks. Happy January.

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