There’s a belief in the NHL that once the playoffs start the healthiest team with the hottest goalie will prevail. It doesn’t matter if they had 95 points during the regular season or 105, or even 110. Smart money knows what kind of regular season success to ignore. It’s a common complaint in the NHL. They play this long regular season, 1/2 the league gets in the playoffs, and then 1 and 2 seeds fall with a regularity not seen in any other sport. This isn’t always true, of course. Sometimes the best team also has the hot goalie. Sometimes the best team wins no matter what, but when people discuss playoff hockey the notion of the “hot team” is always in the conversation.
It’s a phenomenon that’s beginning to penetrate other sports. In fact, the NBA and their star-driven league may be the only ones that are truly immune. For better or worse, it’s become an epidemic in baseball. Three of the last four World Series champions peaked at the right time after less than dominant regular seasons. And now in the NFL we’ve got New York trying to sneak and streak to their 2nd Super Bowl in five years and match Green Bay’s timely run from last season. Of course, no team was hotter of late than New Orleans and they lost on Saturday–but more than actual results the playoffs in the major sports just feel more wide-open than they’ve ever been.
It requires an adjustment from a fan’s perspective. I didn’t watch a 49ers game all year (why would I?) and now they’re in the NFC Championship game and I don’t know what to think. Should I be disappointed? Should I appreciate the story? I have no more allegiance to the Saints than San Francisco. When you boil it down, I don’t care about either team, but I wanted New Orleans to win on Saturday I guess for no other reason than that’s what I was conditioned to root for. I suppose it’s time to change gears.
1. Packers Defensive Scheme. I’m no defensive coordinator. I know very little about football schemes. But, from what I saw the only time Eli Manning looked anywhere near bothered was when the Packers brought some pressure. Time and time again, though, they dropped back into coverage and the 3 or 4 men they were rushing might as well have been in the stands selling beer, because they were doing nothing. Eli had all day. Waited. Waited some more. Then made them pay dearly. The Packers defense was so atrocious, the Giants probably should have scored 50.
2. Tim Tebow/Mike McCoy. McCoy, the Broncos offensive coordinator is being interviewed by the Dolphins. I’d tell him to pack his sh*t and fly back to Denver. I just got a live report from Foxboro. Tim Tebow just ran another read-option play for negative four yards. My goodness. Mix it up! You’re down 3, 4, 5 TDs. You really want gimmicky 3 yard runs? And, if Tebow honestly can’t throw the ball down the field, maybe put someone else in. What, it’s going to get worse? It’s 42-7. How could it possibly get any worse? And, the week after Tebow made some plays against Pittsburgh, he was a total train wreck against New England.
3. Aaron Rodgers. This was basically a guy winning the Cy Young and then going out and getting his lunch his handed to him in the top of the 1st in the LCS. Or, you know to be more specific, Rodgers kind of pulled a “Glavine.” Green Bay receivers took a lot of heat on Sunday for some drops, but Rodgers was uncharacteristically erratic. It was like watching a different guy play QB. Great job by the Giants’ defense, but still, gotta make a few more plays.
Top-3 Beasts of the Weekend:
1. Alex Smith. Ok, what percentage of the population saw Alex Smith for the first time on Saturday? The guy played at Utah (yawn). He’d spent his entire career up to this point struggling to keep his job on a bad team. You didn’t have to watch Alex Smith to know that he was terrible. It was just an accepted fact. Then, Saturday happened. Or more specifically the 4th quarter–and if you weren’t sitting on 5 years of Alex Smith trash talk you would have been enamored with this guy. That guy could go #1 in the draft! It was one of the strangest sights I’ve ever seen.
2. Hands, Hands Everywhere. These guys in the NFL need to settle down with some of these catches they make–especially the tight ends. Here’s an idea for a reality TV show: Gronk and Jimmy Graham get up to full speed, hit a trampoline and soar into the air out over a pool of water. On the other side, someone is working a Juggs football gun. They rifle the ball all over the place and Gronk and Graham just contort themselves, make one-handed catches, flip, etc. and then land in the water. You wouldn’t watch that for a half hour?
3. Tom Coughlin. I took a little shot at Coughlin last year when the Giants missed the playoffs. The funny thing is, I was mostly just using stuff I’d absorbed from Giants fans who hate the guy. I’m not going to get into the Eli thing again this week, but what about the coach? Is he exonerated yet? What does this guy have to do before his the fans of his own team give him a break? Huh?
Divisional Round D.A.–T.J. Yates.
Tebow was 9/26 for 136 yards against a much-maligned defense. And, most of those stats(if you can call them that) were accumulated late. But, I just had the sense that there was no way Denver was going to win that game. I wish I had that sense before I made my picks, but two possessions into the game–I knew. Tebow could have been his full, elusive and efficient self and it wouldn’t have mattered. The Broncos were way short on talent overall. Houston on the other hand, probably can upset the Ravens if they get any kind of quarterback play. And, let’s not overlook the numbers for Yates. They were there. 17/35 for 184 and 3 INTs. His rating (28.8) was almost twice as bad as Tebow’s. You might think we’re running out of time for good D.A.s with only 4 teams left, but I still think Joe Flacco is going to have his day this post-season.
Reluctant Pick Recap:
- Big Dub–6-2 Overall (3-1 This Week)
- Kraft–2-2 This Week
- Grossy–3-5 Overall (1-3 This Week)
The game that tripped everyone up was Baltimore/Houston and from there I was on the wrong side of the hunch machine all week. It was horrid. As soon as Donte Whitner separated Pierre Thomas from the ball and the conscious world, I knew my picks were in bad shape. Wasn’t a good omen. Big Dub continues a really nice roll. If he can sweep the last 3 games, that’ll be one of the better playoff performances I’ve ever seen.