Thursday, January 12, 2012

NFL Playoff Cheatsheet - Round Two

After all the Tebow-mania this week, you're either a little more sold on football, or you could not possibly be more OUT. Either way, it's cool - that's what the cheatsheets are for, so you can be socially aware without really caring. If you live anywhere near Chicago, you're in the midst enjoying your first WINTER STORM FREAKOUT of the season, so you might as well strap on your snuggie, pour a beverage, and ready yourself for two more days of playoff insanity.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS vs SAN FRANCISCO 49ers
Saturday January 14, 4:30pm FOX


Last week, choosing who to root for was easy because there were clear instances of good versus evil. Not this time. Now it gets a little complicated, like what-trumps-what in poker.

On one hand, you have the Saints - they stole the nickname 'America's Team' from the Cowboys after Hurricane Katrina displaced them for a season and they played every game on the road. They score a lot of points, they're good stewards of the game, they're fun to watch. If you're a neutral observer, you just feel good about yourself when you root for them.

On the other hand, you have the 49ers - once a Roman Empire-esque golden dynasty, but lately a crumbling ruin, as evidenced by their stadium having not one but TWO power-outages during a nationally televised game earlier this season, which had them threatening to move the remainder of the game to Oakland (yikes). They drafted quarterback Alex Smith with the number one pick in 2005, but he's been considered a colossal disappointment. It's actually something of a wonder that he's still on the team, or even in the league for that matter.

Watching the 49ers is like watching renaissance in motion - they've had good players for awhile, they just needed someone who knew how to use them. Enter Coach Jim Harbaugh, the Colts quarterback prior to Peyton Manning and one of the major reasons I'm a football fan. 'Captain Comeback' Harbaugh had one magical season in 1994 when he took the hapless, hopeless Indianapolis Colts to within a dropped Hail Mary of the Super Bowl.

Now, he's resurrecting Alex Smith's career and hoping for another shot at a championship (probably a lot like an over-enthusiastic dad living through his son). If it weren't for the whole Tebow thing, I'd be pointing to this as the Disney story of the season.

So this is my dilemma, friends - do I go with Harbaugh, childhood hero and architect of the 'when nobody believed in you, I believed in you' story arc? Or do I go with Drew Brees, my first love and brother Purdue Boilermaker, even though they just won a Superbowl a couple of years ago and have already had their rags to riches story fulfilled to the point that Mercedes now has their brand on the stadium, right about where they once had a hole in their roof?

[Note to any potential gambling degenerates who might read this blog: Over the course of this blogging effort, my auto-correct renamed them the New Orleans Stains... probably not a good sign.]

DENVER BRONCOS vs NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Saturday January 14, 8pm CBS


Oh THERE you are classic good vs evil match-up!

I don't care who you are or what rock you live under, you've been beaten over the head with Tim Tebow for at least a week, and there's probably not much new that I could tell you. I'll just leave you with this: The playoffs are a wacky time, and the weirdest of the wacky tends to happen during the Saturday night games.

Whenever I watch Tim Tebow in the 4th quarter, it's 1994 and I'm a euphoric twelve-year-old again, watching Captain Comeback and that crummy, overachieving Colts team defy the odds, consistently coming from behind to win. It's fun to watch as a neutral observer. It's out-of-your-mind magic when it's happening to your team. I couldn't be happier for the Denver fans - and it seems somehow appropriate that Harbaugh and Tebow are playing back-to-back.

That entire 1994 season, the 'experts' kept scoffing at Harbaugh, saying stuff like, "One of these days, that four-leaf clover's gonna fall out of his back pocket and order will be restored to the universe!" And it was true. The Colts had that one awesome season, and a couple of years later they were the worst team in the league (which is why they got Peyton Manning). But, they still got *this* close. And I wouldn't be surprised if history repeated itself. In fact, I'd be delighted if it did.

HOUSTON TEXANS vs BALTIMORE RAVENS
Sunday January 15, 1pm CBS


Congratulations to Houston on winning their first ever playoffs game. All together now: awwwwwww! And they did it with a rookie quarterback! Double awwwwwww, yay expansion team!

All things considered, this might be something of a good vs evil match-up as well. I could see equating the Ravens with the forces of darkness, generally speaking, but I honestly haven't paid much attention to them this year. As for the Texans, I say let them have their fun, enjoy their improbable playoff run with the skeleton crew they've got left. No matter what happens, they'll be able to say, "If we'd had our real players, WE COULD HAVE WON IT ALL!" And, who knows... they may be right.

But here's the thing - the Texans are in the Colts division, and I don't like the idea of them getting too cozy with that playoff spot. Take care of business, get it all out of your system, then back to your cupboard under the stairs. Love ya!

NEW YORK GIANTS vs GREEN BAY PACKERS
Sunday January 15, 4:30pm FOX


Remember what I said about the Giants last week, about how they were that friend who would either find $20 randomly on the street or end up in the wrong place at the wrong time and accidentally get arrested? Well, last weekend THEY FOUND $20! They scored every single point in the game, including the two point safety awarded to the Atlanta Falcons!

Gosh I love this game. Eli Manning, the Official Little Brother of the Indianapolis Colts, is an all-or-nothing player. When he's great, he's great. When he's lousy, he's lousy. Since the Packers are considered by many to be the best team in the league (and since fans are VERY MUCH IN FAVOR of a rematch between the Packers and the Saints for playoff glory), Eli's prime for Helmet Catch style heroics. ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN!

And then Eli and Aaron Rodgers can have an adorkableness competition. I propose we call this game the Adork-a-bowl.


(Pssst, Don't forget to click here to enter to win a shiny new copy of CATCHING JORDAN, a fun and romantic young adult novel about a girl trying to become the first ever female NCAA quarterback). See you next week, in which I solemnly swear to cut back on the Colts references.