Tough cookies, sweetheart. This weekend is NFL WILDCARD WEEKEND (!!!) and it's one of my favorite weekends of the year.
It's cool if you don't care about football. It's cool if you want to ignore what's going on. But, there will come a day (and that day is February 5, 2012) when you will most likely participate in a Super Bowl related event. If you don't want to watch the playoffs, at least check the cheatsheets - that's what they're here for - to enhance your enjoyment of the game, whether it's your choice to watch it or not.
THE RULES OF ENGAGEMENT
- There are two conferences: AFC (American Football Conference) and NFC (National Football Conference).
- Each conference is broken into four divisions (North, South, East, West) - and those distinctions are assigned rather... loosely. For example, the Indianapolis Colts are in the AFC South. By the transitive property, that makes me a southerner.
- The team with the best record from each 'direction' earns a playoff spot, and they are ranked 1-4, based on how many wins they earn during the season.
- Then, the two best remaining teams from each conference are given the distinction of 'wildcard' - they play the number 3 and 4 ranked teams for the right to move on toward the Superbowl (while the number 1 and 2 ranked teams get the day off).
- New England Patriots (AFC East)
- Baltimore Ravens (AFC North)
- Houston Texans (AFC South)
- Denver Broncos (AFC West)
- Pittsburgh Steelers (Wildcard)
- Cincinnati Bengals (Wildcard)
- Green Bay Packers (NFC North)
- San Francisco 49ers (NFC West)
- New Orleans Saints (NFC South)
- New York Giants (NFC East)
- Atlanta Falcons (Wildcard)
- Detroit Lions (Wildcard)
The rules are simple my friends - win, or go home. There will be heroes and villains, triumph and tragedy. Let's break down the specifics.
GAME 1 - SATURDAY, JANUARY 7, 4:30PM (NBC)
CINCINNATI BENGALS vs HOUSTON TEXANS
My husband is a Bengals fan. There's nothing really wrong with that, they just haven't historically been a fun team to follow.
They do have a promising rookie quarterback with bright red hair (that clashes remarkably with his bright orange helmet). They have a rookie receiver who's last name is Green (to further add to the color pallet, I guess). And they have this guy who does things like this:
On second thought, I guess they are a pretty fun team. My husband did a move kind of like that when they clenched the wildcard spot last weekend.
As for their worthy opponent, this is the first time Houston has EVER made the playoffs (awwwwww, yay for them!). Last time I checked, their entire team was injured, so they'll be suiting up cheerleaders, pets, and the odd houseplant for this game. Good luck, Houston. Hope your first playoff experience is everything you always hoped and dreamed it would be.
GAME 2 - SATURDAY, JANUARY 7, 8PM (NBC)
DETROIT LIONS vs NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
I started out the year secretly rooting for the Lions. They're one of those 'cursed' teams, kind of like the Chicago Cubs. The Lions curse, however, had a specific expiration date, so I was curious to see what would happen with them now that it's supposed to have passed. And you know what? They're winning more often, but they play like thugs. Or petulant children. And if their receiver Calvin 'Megatron' Johnson would have squeezed out just a few more yards, I WOULD HAVE WON MY FANTASY LEAGUE. *bitter sigh*
This is one of those games with clear cut "good guys" and "bad guys." The City of New Orleans forged an unbreakable bond with their football team in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and their relationship is still special, maybe unique. They are lead by my first true love Drew Brees, one of the most pedestal-worthy guys in all of sports. The Saints were upset in the wildcard round last year, so I'm guessing they'll be more than ready to redeem themselves. Pencil this one in as a win.
GAME 3 - SUNDAY, JANUARY 8, 1PM (FOX)
ATLANTA FALCONS vs NEW YORK GIANTS
Atlanta Falcons... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
The Giants I love. They're kind of like your crazy, unpredictable friend. The one who skips class/work and never gets in trouble, who never seems to need sleep, and who randomly finds $20 bills on the street. You hate 'em but you love 'em and you want to stay close but not too close, you know?
When they're good, they're good. When they're bad... get out of the way. They're at their best when everyone expects them to be bad. Unfortunately, they're favored in this game. It's a shame, I really wanted to see a Manning play in Indianapolis this year, even if it has to be the Official Little Brother of the Colts. Stupid Falcons and their stupid "Matty Ice."
GAME 4 - SUNDAY, JANUARY 8, 4:30PM (CBS)
PITTSBURGH STEELERS vs DENVER BRONCOS
Wildcard weekend ends on potentially the wackiest match-up of all. Some of you may remember the Pittsburgh Steelers from their fine work as Superbowl losers about this time last year. Since then, they've stayed pretty much the same, except they've gotten older and more brittle. Actually, between the Steelers and the Texans, I'm not sure which team is more beat up. Math has never been my strength.
For the purposes of this exercise, the Steelers will be playing the role of villain. "Big Ben" Roethlisberger has something of an iffy reputation, but he's very good, and he wins a lot. He is, in fact, the Black Knight.
On the other hand, we have the essence of goodness itself, Timothy Richard Tebow, who was literally born to missionaries in the Philippines. Tebow's not what you would call a traditionally 'good' quarterback, but whenever he plays, excitement follows Pied Piper style. You want to root for Tebow because it's too damn fun not to.
This game could end in a score of 60 - 0 with the Steelers crushing Tebow beneath their cleats. But, if we get to the fourth quarter and the score is somewhere in the neighborhood of 17-10, buckle up and enjoy the show. Just, don't bother watching until the fourth quarter.
COMING SOON: A return to our normally scheduled programming which involves BOOKS!