Tuesday, January 29, 2013


SUNDAY FEB 3, 6:30pm EST (CBS)

Here's everything you need to know to enjoy the Super Bowl, and a few things you could probably live without.

  • Your national anthem will be brought to you by Alisha Keys, not Beyonce.
  • Beyonce will be performing the halftime show. I've heard rumors that Jay Z (her husband) and Justin Timberlake will also be involved. And there may be lip-synching, so just LIGHTEN UP, people.
  • The commercial cheatsheet can be found here. So glad someone else took the time to do that.
  • The game will be played in the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans. The Superdome was completed in 1975; it covers 13 acres and is 27 stories tall. This will be the Superdome's 7th Super Bowl, and it's first since it acted as a shelter of last resort for ~30,000 New Orleans residents during Hurricane Katrina. Other NOLA Super Bowls were in 1978, 1981, 1986, 1990, 1997, 2002, and now 2013.
  • The 49ers have won five Super Bowls since they were founded in 1946: 1981, 1984, 1988, 1989, 1994, with quarterbacking legends Joe Montana and Steve Young. They have never lost a Super Bowl game.
  • The Ravens have won one Super Bowl since they were founded in 1996: 2000. They too have never lost a Super Bowl game.
  • From 1953 to 1983 Baltimore was home to the Colts. The Colts moved to Indianapolis, leaving Baltimore teamless for more than a decade. Then, in 1996 the Cleveland Browns relocated to Baltimore and were renamed the Ravens, a reference to famous resident Edgar Allen Poe's famous poem. The man who owned the Browns/Ravens at the time of the move was Art Modell, who died last September. The Ravens wear a black patch with his name 'ART' on their uniforms to honor his passing. (Note: The Cleveland Browns were brought back to the league as an expansion team in 1999.)
  • Ravens defensive player Ray Lewis is retiring after the Super Bowl and will join ESPN's studio. He was one of the first players the Ravens drafted in 1996 when they moved to Baltimore. His first career sack was on Jim Harbaugh, when he was quarterback for the Colts.
  • The 49ers play in Candlestick Park, an old combination baseball and football field. In October of 1989, the stadium hosted a World Series game that was delayed by an earthquake. The San Francisco Giants eventually lost the series.
  • British tennis player Andy Murray won his first major tournament, the epic US Open Championship against Novak Djokovic, during the Ravens first game this season (Monday Sept 10, 2012). Last weekend, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic played again for the Australian Open Championship, only this time Andy lost. I only bring this up because I wonder if Andy Murray and Joe Flacco may both be animagi, and thus, their fates may be cosmically linked. Also, I love Andy Murray.

  • John Harbaugh is the coach of the Ravens. Jim Harbaugh is the coach of the 49ers. The two are brothers; John is 15 months older. Their parents' names are Jack and Jackie, and they also have one sister, Joani (who is married to Indiana University basketball coach Tom Crean). The two brothers shared a bedroom until John left for college.
  • Jim and John Harbaugh have coached against each other once before - last Thanksgiving, when the Ravens beat the 49ers 16-6.
  • Jim Harbaugh (age 49) played quarterback for the Michigan Wolverines and also played in the NFL for fourteen years (6 years for the Chicago Bears, 3 years for the Indianapolis Colts, 1 year for the Baltimore Ravens, and 1 year for the Carolina Panthers). Jim took the Colts to the AFC Championship game in 1995 and came within a dropped Hail Mary of the Super Bowl. He left the Colts the year they drafted Peyton Manning. He also coached current Colts QB Andrew Luck at Stanford University.
  • John Harbaugh (age 50) played defense in college for Miami of Ohio.
  • John Harbaugh was the quarterback of his high school football team until Jim beat him out for the job.

  • Joe Flacco (quarterback) is 28 years old, originally from New Jersey. He spent two seasons as a backup for the University of Pittsburgh before transferring to Delaware (the Blue Hens), a division I-AA (smaller) program. Because he transferred, he had to sit out a year, give up his scholarship, and pay his own way (~$30,000). There is speculation (by me) that he may be in the midst of a Freaky Friday episode with Eli Manning.
  • Ray Rice (running back) is 26 years old. He's from New Rochelle, NY, and he attended Rutgers (which is in the process of joining the Big 10 conference).
  • Anquan Boldin (receiver) is 32 years old. He's from Florida and attended Florida State University.
  • Michael Oher (offensive lineman) is 26 years old. He's originally from Memphis, attended college at Mississippi, and the movie THE BLIND SIDE was based on his experiences.
  • Ray Lewis (defense) is 37 years old. He's from Florida and attended the University of Miami. He's the face of his franchise, retiring after the Super Bowl. He tore his tricep earlier this season, and fought to come back to finish the year. He's been playing with a brace that makes it look like he has a cyborg arm. Ray is not without controversy, but gold medal swimmer Michael Phelps (who is from Baltimore) credits Ray Lewis with encouraging him to compete in the 2012 London Olympics (during which Phelps became the most decorated Olympian of all time - or, at least modern times, since the Ancients' records are not available).
  • Ed Reed (defense) is 34 years old from St. Rose, Louisiana, which is about 17 miles from the Superdome in New Orleans. He attended the University of Miami.
  • Bernard Pollard (defense) is 28 years old, from Fort Wayne, Indiana. Some New England Patriots fans have a superstition about him being their team's kryptonite, because over the years, he's been involved in plays that have resulted in injuries to key Patriots players (Brady, Welker, Gronk, and last week, Ridley). I like him because we went to Purdue at about the same time, and my knees are fine, thank you very much.

  • Colin Kaepernick (quarterback) is 25 years old. He's originally from Milwaukee, played college football at Nevada, was drafted as a pitcher for the Chicago Cubs, but he decided to stick with football instead. Since becoming a 49er, he's started seven games and won five of them (the first game was against the Chicago Bears on November 19th).
  • Alex Smith (quarterback) is 28 years old, originally from Seattle, played college at Utah, and was the 49ers number one overall draft pick in 2005. He's been the 49ers starter since he was drafted, but he hasn't played since November, when he suffered a concussion against the St. Louis Rams and Kaepernick replaced him.
  • Frank Gore (running back) is 29 years old. He's from Miami and attended the University of Miami. The league fined him $10,500 for uniform code violations (wearing his socks too low) during the NFC Championship game two weeks ago against the Atlanta Falcons.
  • Michael Crabtree (receiver) is 25 years old. He's from Dallas, attended Texas Tech, and he had at least one encounter with basketball coach Bobby Knight, back when he was still a two-sport athlete.
  • Mario Manningham (receiver) is 26 years old, and he attended the University of Michigan. Last year, he won a Super Bowl ring with the New York Giants, and actually caught the critical pass from Eli Manning to set up the win. He's currently injured, so he's not playing this weekend, but he should still be eligible to collect another ring.
  • Randy Moss (receiver) is 35 years old. He's from West Virginia and went to college at Marshall. He holds the single season touchdown receptions record from his 2007 season with the Patriots (the year they won every game except the Super Bowl). This is his first season with the 49ers.
  • Vernon Davis (tight end) is 28 years old. He's originally from Washington DC and attended the University of Maryland (which is in the process of joining the Big Ten conference. He was a studio art major, and has since opened a gallery for emerging artists.
  • Justin Smith and Aldon Smith (defense) are jokingly referred to as the 'Smith Brothers,' though they are not related. Justin is 33, Aldon is 23, and they both played for the University of Missouri.

  • I want Alicia Keys to nail the National Anthem, and make it happen in 2 minutes or less.
  • I want lots and lots of images of New Orleans during the broadcast, full of all the flavor and character showing how far they've come and how much they've rebuilt. Also, I want to have plenty of time to admire the flashy colored lights that they installed outside the stadium post-hurricane. Basically, I want to go back.
  • Part of me wants Jay-Z to do the halftime show with Beyonce... and part of me wants him to save it for next year, when the game will be in New York and he and Alicia Keys can do "Empire State of Mind" as part of that show instead. I'm not particularly excited to have Timberlake back... unless he performed with Jimmy Fallon... now THAT would pique my interest. The last time the Super Bowl was in New Orleans, it was just a few months after September 11th, and they called U2 to do the honors - for my money, that's a tough act to beat.
  • Not that I want anything bad to happen to Kaepernick - but I want to see Alex Smith take at least one meaningful snap. I feel like he's earned it.
  • Most of all, I want to see my Harbaugh, Captain Jimmy Harbaugh, finally get a ring. And please, let it not be in a sloppy, nasty, boring fashion. They said during the Pro Bowl (yes, I watched the Pro Bowl - and no, I'm not proud of it) that the last time the 49ers played a Super Bowl in New Orleans was in 1990 and they beat the Denver Broncos 55-10, or something gross like that. They also pointed out that, at the time, Colin Kaepernick was two years old.

So I'll be cheering for the 49ers, and also for the game itself. The older I get the more I realize that I'm rooting for players more than teams anyway.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

2013 NFL CHAMPIONSHIP CHEATSHEET: Flacco stole Eli's Mojo

Last weekend's playoff games were epic, from what I've heard - but since I didn't see most of them, I'll blissfully pretend they never happened (cough-Denver-cough). This Sunday we have two Conference Championship Games: four teams have the chance to advance to the Super Bowl in New Orleans with Beyonce. (And by the way, how in the hell did Timberlake get invited back to the halftime show? Did everyone forget what happened last time? If he tries to pull anything this time, will Jay-Z have him killed? So much potential drama and we haven't even gotten to the football yet.)

San Francisco 49ers vs Atlanta Falcons - 3pm, FOX (in Atlanta's dome stadium)
Baltimore Ravens vs New England Patriots - 6:30pm, CBS (outside in the Boston winter elements)


Atlanta Falcons
They finally won a playoff game. Lord knows they tried to lose, but the Seahawks insisted, "No, please! We've played the 49ers enough for one year!" I watched this game in an airport bar (in the South), and it was funny because EVERYONE was cheering for Seattle. Everyone. And as I realized that no one wanted the Falcons to win, I also realized that I had no idea who their coach was. I mumbled aloud, "What's his name, what's his name, the one who looks like John McCain..." And then Seattle's coach Pete Carroll called a timeout to "freeze the kicker" and everyone laughed. So in conclusion, I only remember a coach's name if a) they've been associated with the Colts, or b) they produce an aura of hilarity. So high-five, Coach Who Looks Like John McCain - I don't know your name, and that's probably a compliment.

Baltimore Ravens
Last year, a reporter interviewing Eli Manning asked, "Do you consider yourself an elite quarterback?" When Eli said 'yes,' the football media exploded with laughter and debated his merits for weeks. Next things we knew, Eli had a second Super Bowl ring, and no one was laughing anymore.

This year, a reporter interviewing Joe Flacco asked, "Do you consider yourself an elite quarterback?" When Joe said 'yes,' there was a quiet combination of chuckle-and-headshake before everyone moved on with their lives. Next thing we knew, Eli missed the playoffs, and Peyton Manning's dream comeback season was ruined by the bloodthirsty Ravens.

Coincidence, or the clear work of a wizard-animagus? You be the judge.

New England Patriots
They're baaack! Part of me thinks it would be fun to see them go to the Super Bowl and lose it again, in hopes their legacy would go the way of the 1990's Buffalo Bills.

San Francisco 49ers
Kaepernick'd (v): To lose one's job to a backup as the result of suffering an injury. Example: Christian Ponder was NOT kaepernick'd by Joe Webb.

I'm developing a sports-crush on Colin Kaepernick. I get why Harbaugh loves him. He seems like a great kid, he's a two sport athlete (he was at one time a pitching prospect for the Chicago Cubs), and he's a flat-out joy to watch if you're an impartial observer. But that doesn't negate the fact that the 49ers are a prime targets for an epic sports-karma curse.

49ers quarterback Alex Smith was the number one pick in the 2005 draft (the same draft as Aaron Rodgers, a Bay Area native, who fully expected to be taken instead; one might argue that Smith has since been a victim of the Curse of Aaron Rodgers, but seeing as how the Packers just lost to the 49ers, it's lost most of its steam by now - apparently just a 'seven years bad luck' type of thing).

Since entering the league, Alex has been skewered and jerked and smashed and boo'ed. He's had multiple coaches thrust upon him, making for a consistently unstable (and arguably incompetent) team. His career has been miserable, and he was declared a bust years ago. But he stayed classy, always doing everything he was asked. Last year, his savior arrived: Coach Jim Harbaugh, a former quarterback who understood him, who had been through many of the same career struggles and pitfalls. Harbaugh rejuvenated Alex's career, and together, they got within a goofy special teams performance of the Super Bowl.

This season, the reborn Alex was well on his way again - until he was sidelined with a concussion. Harbaugh started Kaepernick instead, and here we are. Alex Smith got kaepernick'd.

For reasons I still can't explain, the sight of Alex Smith used to make me irrationally angry. I wanted him to lose, I enjoyed watching the slapstick drops and fumbles. When Harbaugh joined the team, I had an existential crisis, wanting Harbaugh to win and Alex Smith to lose when they were both on the same team.

Now, when they show Alex on the sidelines, fully healthy and capable of playing and winning, I want the Disney ending for him. The Ballad of Alex Smith hasn't been fully written yet. He'll probably go to another team, and he'll probably do well. Will he leave some sort of hex behind? Will we wonder what he could have been - if he'd had a stable situation the last seven years, if he'd not gotten hurt, if he'd insisted on playing despite his injury? As much as I want the 49ers and my beloved Coach Harbaugh to win it all this year, I suggest we continue to watch this space.


Atlanta Falcons vs Baltimore Ravens

New England Patriots vs Atlanta Falcons
And thus I'm forced to root for Matty Ice to have as many Super Bowl wins as Peyton, thus further perpetuating the comparisons and driving me to give up sports and go live in the wilderness with no shoes.

San Francisco 49ers vs New England Patriots
This would be the glamor match-up. Big names, big teams, high ratings, and a higher likelihood of the Patriots losing again on an international stage. *delighted hand-clasp*

Baltimore Ravens vs San Francisco 49ers
The coach of the Baltimore Ravens is named John Harbaugh - he would be Jim Harbaugh's brother. Coach Harbaugh East versus Coach Harbaugh West with eternal family bragging rights on the line. If it were up to me, this is the match-up I would choose.
  • A prologue of brotherly love (in which I can pretend they're talking about Mannings instead of Harbaughs - and by the way, Indiana University basketball coach Tom Crean is their brother-in-law, too; the Mannings need to up their game, stat).
  • A final Ray Lewis dance (complete with cyborg arm) before he retires and joins ESPN's studio crew.
  • The possibility of a million sad cutaways to Alex Smith on the sidelines, as he silently wishes broken bones upon Colin Kaepernick so he can once, JUST ONCE, be the hero and get the recognition he deserves. I can't fathom how he would feel if he got a consolation Super Bowl ring whilst holding the clipboard, heaping insult upon his injury. That ring would probably be hurtled off the Bay Bridge at one in the morning - and goodness hopes it would be an accurate throw, not off his back foot.
  • Joe Flacco continuing to channel his inner Eli (because for me, all football eventually circles back to the Manning Family).
  • In the end, I rather like the idea of Jim Harbaugh getting a ring. He's been close twice, once with the Colts and last year with the Niners. Enough flirting, Captain; get the job done this time. And I hope Andrew Luck's in attendance to celebrate with his old Stanford coach, just to take the season full-circle.
The Super Bowl is Sunday Feb 3 at 6:30EST on CBS.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


I downloaded Ransom Riggs' e-book after hearing sparkly reviews (and finding out that Riggs is a cohort of Tahereh Mafi's). But once I'd finished and attempted to digest it, I realized the majority of my joy at reading this book was inspired by the vintage photographs and my delight at discovering they weren't just CGI creations for the book, but rather relics that Riggs had accumulated through collector friends.

From the Acknowledgements section at the end of MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN: "All the pictures in this book are authentic, vintage found photographs, and with the exception of a few that have undergone minimal postprocessing, they are unaltered. They were lent from the personal archives of ten collectors, people who have spent years and countless hours hunting through giant bins of unsorted snapshots at flea markets and antiques malls and yard sales to find a transcendent few, rescuing images of historical significance and arresting beauty from obscurity-and, most likely, the dump. Their work is an unglamorous labor of love, and I think they are the unsung heroes of the photography world."

These photographs take reader from the realms of mere 'reading' to full-fledged 'experiencing' the story. They add depth and help you get lost in the world Riggs is building. But what if the photographs weren't there? Would I still have enjoyed the story? Would I have been as easy-going about story elements that normally rub me the wrong way? And how different would the reading experience have been if I'd had the hard cover book instead of the electronic version?

So, now that I've mentally removed the photographs from my e-book, a little text analysis...

* I loved the mystery of trying to piece together Grand-dad's past - from when he was a young Jewish boy escaping Nazi-occupied Poland, to when he was the only one who walked away from the midnight blitz in Wales.

* A little bit of me was disappointed that the mystery of Grand-dad's past ended with a paranormal solution. I feel like if there had been some other real-world explanation, that could have been, in the end, even more magical for its plausibility. But, 'paranormal' has never been my genre of choice, so that's on me and my personal tastes.

* Island off the coast of Wales makes for different, interesting setting - especially when exploring the big, empty, bombed-out house. I was lukewarm on the Floridian setting - a wealthy family of pharmacy magnates and grandpa in his retirement village left me disinterested. But the island itself, with cliffs and lighthouse and bogs, surrounded by shipwrecks, powered by generators and drowning in sheep - that island popped so three-dimensionally by comparison that I can't help but feel it was done that way by design (much in the way the 'Wizard of Oz' goes from black and white to color).

* Time travel loop struck me as cliche, like the 'dream sequence' in the book REVOLUTION where the girl awakens to find herself in revolutionary era France for reasons I still don't understand. This sort of spontaneous time-travel often strikes me as a cop-out, but I talked myself into this one, much like I did with the JJ Abrams version of Star Trek. I think it was at least partially due to my fascination with the photographs, like they lent an aura of credibility. But for the purposes of this exercise, I have to ignore the photographs, so I revert to my initial gut feeling. Down with overly convenient time-travel devices.

But, the fact that we could move back and forth between the 1940's and modern day as we pleased without the threat of being 'trapped' - that went a long way toward helping me keep a good attitude about the story. We floated easily between island's two settings - one, a raging modern-day thunderstorm with a blood-thirsty murderer on the loose; the other, a 1940's blitzkrieg in which we knew a significant portion of the island would be heavily damaged (thanks to the island's history museum). A lot of good, sensory world building that would look fantastic on a movie screen.

Also, I loved how every time we arrived in the 1940's, we always relived the same day - like the movie 'Groundhogs Day'.
I actually would have like to have seen more of this repetition; it could have added a lot to the characters of the children who perpetually existed there.

Once we started meeting all of the peculiar children in the 1940's children's home, I had a really hard time keeping track of who was who. I'm not sure if this is an issue Riggs' character development, or just of my shoddy reading, but at any rate, not all supporting characters were created equal. So many of them felt one-dimensional, solely defined by their peculiarity, and half the time, when I saw the characters' names in print, I couldn't remember what their peculiarity was until they actively used it. Off the top of my head after one read, all I remember is that Olive defies gravity, Millard does invisible things, Wyn is Hercules-strong, and Emma is both hot and makes fire (these things are related, and therefore easy to remember). The 3-12 other male characters blend together in my mind, and I can't tell you anything about them without going back through the text and creating a chart.

By the way, was anyone else a little on edge about Emma having a crush on both grand-dad and grand-son? Only in paranormal does that sort of thing make for an okay happy ending. Like how Bella and Edward can pretend they're the same age. Or in '30 Rock', when Liz Lemon almost dates her own cousin. You know what, never mind, forget I said anything.

Since I took a whole paragraph to pick apart supporting character development, let me now take a paragraph to praise it. I found the narrator's parents compelling, allowing Riggs to explore some interesting themes - such as how a kid might develop his attitude toward money by watching his mom, or how father/son relationships might be passed down through generations. The father was particularly interesting to me, because he's caught in the middle of a closeness between his father (grand-dad) and his son (our narrator, Jacob) - but he's on the outside looking in, envious. The father is the outcast who has never belonged anywhere - even his own pet projects seem to reject him as inadequate. And even still, we find ourselves hoping the his son will ditch him for the more 'peculiar' life, leaving him sad and abandoned again. Very nicely crafted.

Before we leave the subject of character development, I never fully warmed to Miss Peregrine, who struck me as a reworked Professor McGonagall type, only with less attitude and bird wings instead of a cat's tail. She seemed to exist to explain the rules of the world, and to give the children a common 'something' to fight for. And for the sake of withholding spoilers, I was disappointed to the point of eye-roll with the way the core villain was handled. I'm fascinated with so much of the character development in this book - some of the work is so precise and interesting, it makes me wonder if Riggs knows he's fully capable of it, but decides to choose his battles for the sake of managing word count.

There's a lot to like about this book, imperfect though it may be. But the photographs were such an integral part of the experience for me that I think, without that added bit of depth, I wouldn't have spent the past two weeks meditating on it. I don't think I would have felt compelled to recommended it to others. But the photographs are there, and they do compel you to keep turning the page. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience with this book, and I give Riggs full marks for thinking of using this method of storytelling in the first place. This book has an IMDB page; I hope that evolves into a Tim Burton-style, eye-popping final product. I would absolutely see that, and recommend it to others.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


The Colts lost and I don't care. In fact, I may have subliminally cheered against them, selfishly, to avoid the post-dramatic stress disorder I would have suffered in the wake of a Colts vs Peyton match-up. My boys beat three of the twelve playoff teams (Packers, Vikings, Texans), won eleven games (nine more than last season), and delivered one of the most memorable seasons I've ever been a part of, reminiscent of the 1994 Jim Harbaugh year, which created an awesome full-circle moment, since 'Captain Comeback' went on to coach Andrew Luck at Stanford.

A little bit of me wants to be happy for Ray Lewis, celebrating his final home game - an honor Peyton and Colts fans were denied. Despite Lewis's checkered past, I get why Ravens fans love him. After the Colts left for Indianapolis, football disappeared in Baltimore for around fifteen years. When the Ravens were brought back, Ray was their first franchise player (selected in the Ravens' first draft). And his first career sack was on Peyton Manning. Again, we come full circle.

And speaking of dear Peyton, I make no secret of what I want to happen next - a Broncos/Patriots AFC Championship game, if nothing else for old times sake, followed by a Broncos Super Bowl victory in Peyton's home town of New Orleans. That would make this my personal dream season; the only thing missing is Eli for the all-Manning final, but we've got to have a reason to keep watching next year.

If you haven't been following this season, there's still time to jump in. Here a cheatsheet to catch you up before Super Bowl party season.

(4) Baltimore Ravens at (1) Denver Broncos
Saturday Jan 12, 4:30pm EST CBS

A game of grizzled-old-falling-apart veterans. Peyton Manning has a frankenstein neck. Ray Lewis has a cyborg arm where his torn-tricep used to be. Peyton's running an eleven-game winning streak, and Ray's team was the preseason favorite to make the Super Bowl (they were a sneeze away from making the Super Bowl last year).

These two teams played each other December 16th in Baltimore, and the Broncos won 34-17. This game is in Denver, a mile above sea-level where the air is thin and dry and chilly, and Peyton likes to play fast. The Broncos can score more quickly than the Ravens (unless Boldin makes multiple long plays, like he did against the Colts last week, or Ed Reed picks Peyton off and runs the ball all the way back). Chances are the Ravens will have to play from behind and the Broncos will just grind them into something they can then sell at one of their special corner pharmacies. And once again, for the record, I will continue to believe Joe Flacco is an animagus until presented with irrefutable evidence to the contrary.

(3) Green Bay Packers at (2) San Francisco 49ers
Saturday Jan 12 8pm EST FOX

These two teams met the first week of the season, and the Niners won 30-22. That game featured replacement referees and quarterback Alex Smith, who used to make me irrationally angry until he was 'kaepernicked' by his backup, Colin Kaepernick. Now Alex Smith sideline-sightings just makes me sad. He lost his gig because he got a concussion, and the NFL's new kick (rightly so) is to protect guys who get concussions. Alex sat out, Kaepernick won in style, and the rest is history. For people like me on the look-out for sports-karma curses, watch this space.

And speaking of sports-karma, for the season to be complete, the Packers must win, and they must play the Seattle Seahawks in a rematch of the week 3 game that ended the use of replacement referees. The game must be replayed, and the prize must be the Super Bowl. It's the only logical thing to do.

(5) Seattle Seahawks at (1) Atlanta Falcons
Sunday Jan 13 1pm EST FOX

I hate watching the Falcons. I can't explain why, I just can't make myself do it. They've been the best team all season, at least in terms of wins and "on-paper" things. Matt "Matty-Ice" Ryan is a fine quarterback, but all of the Manning comparisons make my skin molt. Tony Gonzalez is a hall of fame tight end, and Julio Jones seems like a delightful addition to any 4th place fantasy team, but I can't get excited to watch them. I don't hate this team, I just want them to go away. That's why it's PERFECT that this may the only game I'll actually be able to watch this weekend.

In a year where rookie quarterbacks have been the sparkly storyline, Russell Wilson, Seattle's quarterback, is the last rookie standing. Every time he wins, I consider it a win for the Big Ten (we have to take what we can get). Wilson's a short, baby-faced, baseball player who was drafted in the thirty-sixth round of the NFL draft (or thereabouts), and was lucky enough to fall to a team that not only gave him a chance to play, but also had outstanding defense and special teams that helped him stand out.

All that being said, this team also features Golden Tate (receiver from Notre Dame responsible for the catch against Green Bay that ended the referee lockout), and coach Pete Carroll (the dude who fled USC like Leonardo DiCaprio in 'Catch Me If You Can' when they were slammed with NCAA violations). I can't WAIT to watch Green Bay beat them in the NFC Championship game.

(3) Houston Texans at (2) New England Patriots
Sunday Jan 13 4:30pm EST CBS

As a Colts fan, I feel terrible for the Texans. They've been in the league ten years, and for most of that, they had to face Peyton and the Colts twice each season. I learned recently that they consider the Colts their top rivals - we're their Patriots. And, because we beat them in week 17 and blew up their season, the camera zoomed in on the faces of the players on the bench like a Cinderella losing at the end of a March Madness basketball game. These guys are better than they get credit for. They (with Atlanta) were at the top of the standings all season, but they've never in franchise history won a game in Indianapolis, and so, they have to go play in Foxboro in January to keep their season alive. You don't have to be a Texan fan to see why that sux.

The Texans were booed by their home crowd during last week's wildcard game against the Bengals, even though they ended up winning. I feel like they've earned a shot at the Super Bowl, and lord knows I don't have it in me to root for the Patriots. Last season, I congratulated Houston on winning the AFC South and joked, 'Take good care of that playoff spot, we're gonna want it back soon.' Now, I can see Texans/Colts turning into a legit, two-sided rivalry, and I'm not sure I like it. Will we make each other stronger, like Duke and North Carolina? Or tear each other apart, like all the football teams in SEC not coached by Nick Saban? I don't know - and I'm not sure I want to find out.

Ergo, I'll be rooting for the underdog Texans, all the while secure in the knowledge that Manning v. Brady is just a week away. But the Texans aren't going anywhere. One of these seasons things will click into place for them, and they won't be a 'cute' little underdog anymore. I'm not looking forward to it.