The Super Bowl Pick.

I'll Take The Clydesdales.

I’ll Take The Clydesdales.

This is it.  We’re entering the worst sports month of the year.  Perhaps we should thank the NFL for stretching their schedule into February, because the shortest month can be cruel to your sporting heart.  Of course, if you watch a lot of sports in February, you must REALLY like sports.  Congratulations on that, and honestly, I’m not in any mood to praise the NFL.

For the first time I’ve really noticed advertisers falling in line with the ban on using the term, “Super Bowl.”  If you pick up a flyer from Pepe’s Pizza, they can’t advertise that they have Super Bowl deals.  I’ve heard that the NFL is even trying to stop people from using the term “Big Game,” as a euphemism for the Super Bowl.  So, instead of making a reasonable ad, everyone is stuck with, “Hey, gonna be watching TV any time soon?  Call us, We might have some Dealz.”  Goodell probably just got a Google alert.  BORDERLINE language there.

I don’t see what this policy accomplishes.  Certainly the NFL isn’t selling pizza in your municipality.  I guess they just don’t want anyone on their coattails?  I guess they view the word “Super Bowl,” as something akin to the NFL logo. You couldn’t put THE SHIELD on your menu, so the term “Super Bowl” is out as well.  Anyway, as far as idiotic stands the professional sports leagues take, this one is right up there with MLB not allowing clips on YouTube.  It’s a Pick ‘Em over which is a bigger waste of time.

***

Before I make my pick, which is what everyone should be scrolling through this garbage for anyway (16-3-2 last 21 playoff games–that’s documented), I will list the five greatest consequences of each team’s victory.  I figured these out using science.

If the Broncos Win, Prepare for the Following:

5. We’ll live in a world where John Fox is a Super Bowl winning coach.  Not sure I’d be comfortable there.

4. Eli Manning will have nothing left over Peyton.  Eli gets dominated in every category from forehead area to sense of humor.  All he has is his 2-1 lead in Super Bowls.  If Peyton evens him up at two, I’m fairly sure Archie and Olivia slowly start to cut ties with the East Rutherford Pick Factory.

3. Tom Brady supporters will lose a bit more footing in the Brady vs. Manning debate, and die-hard Patriots fans may look into the deportation of Gisele.  The curse is real.

2.  Peyton Manning will almost certainly host Saturday Night Live again.  Or maybe he’ll star in a movie with Zach Galifianakis.

1.  Five million articles will be written.  2.5 Million about overrating the running QB, and 2.5 million about how defense doesn’t win championships in the modern NFL.

If the Seahawks Win, Prepare for the Following:  

5. We’ll live in a World where Pete Carroll is a Super Bowl winning coach.  I know I’m not ready for that.

4. Seattle fans will take WAY too much credit for the team’s success and somehow turn it into a sign the Sonics should come back.

3. The Peyton Manning choker narrative will live on–Probably forever.

2.  Russell Wilson will host SNL, and he’ll be terrible.

1. Five Million articles will be written.  2.5 million about the death of the pocket passer, and 2.5 million about how defense wins championships.

***

The Pick:

Having two weeks to think about a game is way too much time.  It would be like if you were in an intimate moment with the person of your dreams and they excused themselves from the boudoir….for 90 minutes.  By the time they get back, you’re ruined.  It’s ruined.  You’re going to screw it up.  Know that.  That’s what staring at this 2.5 for 12 days has felt like–to me.  Maybe that means I’m not normal.

A casual analysis says that with two weeks Peyton will figure out a way to beat the Seahawks defense, it says that Seattle won’t be able to score enough to win, and even the weather seems to be lining up right for Denver.  Of course, the vast majority of people are on the Broncos.  The line shot in Denver’s direction immediately after opening and has stayed steady since.

Am I part of the mob, part of the crowd who will dismiss those 2.5 points?  NO.

This game opened up as a Pick ‘Em, or even with Seattle as a slight favorite before shooting quickly in Denver’s favor.  So, is the early money the smart money in this case?  It’s not really a concern for me, because the line tells me that the teams are virtually even.  Seattle will be competitive.  If Vegas was worried about a blowout, or an avalanche of public money on Denver, the line would be much higher.  And, as far as Peyton getting two weeks to prepare, from what I hear, Seattle just lines up on defense and plays.  There’s not much to figure out, their success is based mostly on having very good players.  Weird. There isn’t a revolutionary scheme.

I think Seattle’s defense will be allowed to play their game by the referees, and I think Peyton will spend at least a portion of this game frustrated.  Denver’s running game will go NOWHERE.  Seattle’s ability to score is my only hesitation, but I think they can do it ugly.  Ugly and outright folks.  That’s the motto.  Seahawks, 23-20.

Other Picks:

JCK:  Denver

DC: Seattle

Nichols: Omaha

The Universal Skill.

This Car Must Have Been Without Driver.

This Car Must Have Been Without Driver.

It’s snowing a lot this winter.  How do I know?  I’ve spent a lot of time looking at the streetlights outside my apartment window.  Still coming down?  I learned to look at the light from a young age.  When I was a kid, praying for a snow day, I’d open up our back door–let in an inordinate amount of cold air–and stare at the porch lights.  That snow always looks more devastating while illuminated was besides the point.  Just show me something, anything, in that light–a two-hour delay?  Anything.

Of course now I’m mostly thinking about shoveling out my car, but I still look to the light and after a year or two of mild winters we’re getting our share this time around including a fresh ten inches or so a few days back.  What does all this weather mean?  It means it’s time for me to start hearing people talk about how well they drive in the snow.  And, to listen to them quietly–all the time thinking, “No, I’m really THE great snow driver.”

Before I move on with this, I’ll just offer the disclaimer that I am discussing Mid-Atlantic snow driving and snow totals.  I’m not trying to draw the ire of someone who is buried under five feet of lake effect.  This isn’t a contest.  At least not one you’d want to win.  Keep in mind this disclaimer does not apply to people who live in moderate climes, but spout off horsebleep like, “I went to summer camp in Buffalo,” or “I crossed the Rockies in a Volkswagen back in ’85.”  Being in a cold weather city for thirty seconds does not give you any special powers.

So, what is it about snow that makes people lose their ability to judge themselves?  Now, I know there are certain areas where people don’t often look in a true mirror, but most can admit to a shortcoming or two.  Let me be a good example.  I can’t sing.  I can’t perform ANY winter sports.  I can’t grow a mustache.  You get complete honesty from me on these issues, and I feel like I would get some agreement in the crowd.  Maybe you can’t carry a tune either, but what if I were to say I wasn’t a good driver in the snow?

Maybe you’d think, OH YOU’RE THE GUY, because we all know the terrible snow drivers are out there, it’s just that no one is taking credit for the fishtails, the sliding back down hills with the brakes locked, the gentle tumble into the guard rail.  And yet each time it snows we are all behind dozens of these people.

I think everyone has their own comfort level for driving in poor conditions.  A person who is driving a steady 10 mph through the flurries probably thinks they are doing a GREAT job.  After all, they haven’t crashed, right?  They are just sitting there, behind the wheel of their Civic (or whatever) thinking, MY GOODNESS, I can practically feel the tires gripping the road right now.  The guy in the jacked up F-350 behind them, though, is about to pop a few capillaries until they finally get the chance to rip by at 65 mph in a spray of slush and rock salt. When this pass inevitably happens, both parties are likely cursing the other, and thinking, “why can’t anyone drive in the snow?”

So, I have my own snow driving story from today.  I was on a particularly odd stretch of back road, trying to avoid a bit of traffic on the way home.  I’m headed up a winding hill and about halfway up the road forks and I take the fork. The fork, still moving uphill, immediately comes to an intersection and at that intersection is a school bus.  So, everyone is stopped and the car closest to the bus pulls toward the shoulder a bit.  The courteous thing to do?  It was narrow, but the bus had plenty of room.  What I couldn’t see is that under the snow debris the front car had inadvertently pulled into a little depression.  A now, icy, slushy depression.  Stopping for the bus had ceased all momentum for the front car and for traffic in general.  Several cars waited while little Petey and Marybelle meandered toward their driveway.

The blinking red lights stop, the bus pulls away but the front car is still motionless.  Is that the sound of a tire spinning?  The cars lined up behind are getting a bit impatient.  Incredulous.  “First time driving on a hill there, Chief?”  It gets to the point where the front car has to roll their window down and wave people around.  Go on ahead, SAVE YOURSELVES.  What was I thinking?  I was thinking, hurry and pass me so I can back out of this f*cking rut. That’s right, a perfect career of snow driving and a tremendous ego was shattered this afternoon.  Perhaps I am the one.  The one who cannot drive in the snow.

To Redeem Self-Esteem, Quiz of the Day Nostalgia.  Sports Team Logo Timeline.  My Score: 21/25.

The NFL Semi-Finals.

Not A Longshot in Sight.

Not A Longshot in Sight.

Is Conference Championship Sunday better than Super Bowl Sunday?  Is this the one-day pinnacle of the NFL season?  I’ve heard this argument made, and while it makes sense on some levels (you’re getting two premium games as opposed to one) I really don’t like to hear Super Bowl Sunday disrespected in this way.  I can hear people saying all the pros you might list about Super Bowl Sunday don’t really apply to the football: parties, crazy prop betting, the commercials.  Well, that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?  If you are basing your argument solely on the amount of football, then your basic regular season week would reign supreme.  Siding with the conference championship games is like saying you prefer your birthday to Christmas, because on your birthday you don’t have to buy anyone else gifts.  Poor attitude.  So, while this Sunday is big, let’s not get it confused with the real thing.

***

The media, the fans, the announcers, they all love to boil games down to one thing.  If it’s possible to sum up a game in one sentence, or a quickly formed fragment–that’s the road people will take.  The games couldn’t be any better for that this weekend.

BRADY vs. MANNING

I can’t believe this is the 1st game of the day.  No disrespect to the further west residing people of Seattle, but I never thought this game would be the appetizer.  Is it TV network based?  It has to be.  Anyway, the battle between the generation’s two best quarterbacks will kick things off on Sunday.  The hype has actually become so intense around the quarterbacks that people are backing off.  The thing has been to say, “You know what, no matter what happens Sunday–it’s not going to define the legacies of these players.”  I’ve read that 100 times.  You know what I say to that?

ERRONEOUS, ERRONEOUS on all counts.

This game doesn’t impact their legacies?  Are you serious?  At some point we’re going to watch these guys battle in a big game for the final time.  They will eventually stop playing Super Bowls and wining MVPs.  For all we know, this could be it–what if Pey-Pey gets a scary neck scan after the season?  We’re not talking about whether or not these guys are making the Hall of Fame, we’re talking about best of ALL TIME.  You’re telling me if Peyton get’s his butt kicked again this Sunday, he’s got any claim to being the best?  With one Super Bowl and a career of getting bested by his most significant rival?  No chance.  And, for Brady we’re now about 10 years gone from his peak as a “winner.” A couple more losses in big games, and he’ll have officially faded away.  A fourth Super Bowl and he might be kicking aside Montana and Elway.  So don’t tell me the legacies are set.  They’re never set.  Ask O.J.

***

Defense vs. DEFENSE

I heard Ray Lewis breaking down the NFC championship game on Friday and he was speaking with a particular level of passion.  I didn’t exactly follow what he was saying, but I could tell he was fired up for this game.  Ray Lewis would like to play on both of these teams.  Seriously, anyone need a pre-game dance?

Colin Kaepernick has started to exert his control over the Niners a bit, so I might be stretching it with my headline there, but this is still the game that has everyone relying on the old “smashmouth football,” routine.  We’re going to line up AND PUNCH YOU IN THE MOUTH.

In Seattle, the defense, the crowd, it’s all morphed into this aura of invincibility.  And, aside from a blip against the Cardinals (and really, sometimes Carson Palmer just beats you), the Seahawks have been impossible to handle at home.  That includes throttling the same Niners on their last visit.  The Seahawks defense ate Kaepernick alive and the blowout put an apparent gulf between these two teams.  But, in the weeks and months since, the Niners clipped Seattle in San Francisco and are playing what most people perceive to be the better brand of football.  The question is, can they play it in Seattle, against that DEFENSE?

***

The Picks…

Big Dub, 7-0-1 (Whistle)

Three more wins to go for Pick ‘Em Immortality.

New England (+5.5) over Denver.  As much as I hate Peyton I have to admit the matchup between him and Brady is a coin flip. The defenses of each team is a coin flip. Special teams? Keep flipping the coin. The only edge I can clearly give any team comes at head coach. Do you really trust John Fox in this spot? I know Peyton is the one who really runs the show, but I just have this feeling that Fox is going to eff this thing up more so than Peyton.

San Francisco (+3.5) over Seattle.  Russell Wilson has proven an ability to manage games and not lose games, but I’m not sold on his ability to win games. The Nners and Seahawks are even across the board except offensively. Too many weapons for San Fran to go along with a red-hot Kaepernick.

***

Grossy, 5-2-1

Denver (-5.5) over New England.  What I noticed right away was that the line felt a bit high.  I was expecting to see the 3, 3.5 stuck on this, but for Denver to be this favored indicates to me that they are the better team.  They blew a big lead to New England on the road this year, but that game was so odd, you almost just throw it out.  Hard to imagine a New England team this decimated making it to the Super Bowl and the line is telling me Denver.

Seattle (-3.5) over San Francisco.  Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense might not be in top form, but I’ve seen no indications that the Niners can win in Seattle.  I’m not sure they can even compete.  I think Kaepernick’s rise the last two weeks has been a bit overblown.  Pete Carroll’s going to the Bowl.  Live with it.

***

Kraft, 3-5

  1. New England (+5.5) over Denver
  2. Seattle (-3.5) over San Francisco

***

Nichols, 4-3-1

  1. New England (+5.5) over Denver
  2. Seattle (-3.5) over San Francisco

NFL Quarterfinal Winners.

Ever Been Last Picked?

Ever Been Last Picked?

This is going to be the round of the QB.  Pocket passers vs. Dual Threats.  Old vs. Young.  Idols vs. Upstarts.  Really the only thing missing is Aaron Rodgers.  In the spirit of this high concentration of QB talent I will rate the eight remaining QBs.  I usually do this every year before the playoffs start, but I didn’t do it this year which saved me the trouble of having to find a spot for Nick Foles.  The only criteria for the rankings is: who would you want to be quarterbacking your team for the rest of this post-season.  That’s it.  In ego-crushing, reverse order:  

8: Cam Newton.  I like Cam Newton.  He throws lasers, he’s durable.  He’s a bit like an in shape Duante Culpeper. But, in what will be a nit-picking process, Newton’s deficiencies stand out.  He’s the only QB left without any playoff success.  And, while he doesn’t have the greatest supporting cast, Newton is still too erratic to trust in a deep playoff run.  We still don’t know if Carolina can put together a run against good teams and that’s partly due to their QB.  

7: Russell Wilson.  Wilson is a leader.  There is no questioning that now.  He’s the smartest running quarterback in the league, maximizing effectiveness while limiting contact.  But, there are a few QBs remaining that lean on their defenses.  Wilson is one of them.  He’s not necessarily asked to win games.  It’s still too early for me to say you could take Russell Wilson and put him on Indy with that (relatively) terrible defense and he’d still be as effective.  

6. Philip Rivers.  Rivers is constantly the butt of jokes, but seems to be highly regarded by teammates who always have his back during the hard times.  In recent years, San Diego has given Rivers nothing to work with and his best chance to win a Super Bowl may have passed.  But, Rivers at his highest point can compete with anyone in the league. A three/four game hot streak at the right time is not out of the question.  

5. Drew Brees.  I’m down on Brees.  He was absolutely terrible in the first half against the Eagles and Philly not making New Orleans pay for those interceptions was the difference in the game.  There’s something wobbly about his arm-strength.  He’s accurate, but seems to increasingly need perfect conditions to execute.  He could make me look stupid today, but I don’t think so.  

4. Colin Kaepernick.  Kaepernick can flip plays, drives and games with one burst of speed or one incredible throw. He’s already nearly won a Super Bowl and is making a habit out of beating Aaron Rodgers.  He’s got a great defense to support him, but for me he’s a bit like Rivers with more ways to beat you.  When he’s going well, you can’t imagine a team ever drafting a pocket QB again.  

3. Andrew Luck.  Luck still makes a lot of mistakes, but he has that irrational confidence in himself that I love to see. And, what can I say, that throw to T.Y. Hilton last week won me over.  I could watch it all day.  

Zip.

Zip.

2. Tom Brady.  Brady is number two, because I hear a lot of Patriots fans and experts starting to talk about Brady in the past tense.  You hear things like, “That’s something Brady used to do.”  Perhaps it’s just a way to set themselves up for the eventual next QB, but there could be something to it.  Brady’s dominating the field in rings, but it’s been a while since he was at his best in the biggest games.  

1. Peyton Manning.  Manning on the other hand is coming off the best statistical year of any QB.  He’s been blessed with incredible skill position talent for almost his entire career, but he’s also made his share of stars.  Brady and Manning is something you always flip-flop on, and right now I’m tipping to the Manning side.  The good news is that these guys have a way of settling it on the field.  

***

The Picks…

Big Dub, Last Week: 4-0 (Whistle)

New Orleans (+8) over Seattle.  If there was ever a chance for a team to look ahead or look past an opponent in the playoffs, this is it. 

New England (-7) over Indianapolis.  If Luck falls behind by 28 again he and the Colts are dead. They’re going up against Belichick and Brady, not Reid and Smith.

San Francisco (Pick) over Carolina.  San Fran lost outright at home against the Panthers and then they opened as a favorite in Carolina in the playoffs. I’m buying what Vegas was originally trying to sell.

San Diego (+9.5) over Denver.  Peyton + Playoffs = Choke.

***

DC, Last Week: 1-2

  1. New Olreans (+8) over Seattle
  2. Indianapolis (+7) over New England
  3. San Francisco (Pick) over Carolina
  4. Denver (-9.5) over San Diego

***

Grossy, Last Week: 2-2

Seattle (-8) over New Orleans.  I’ve picked New Orleans in Seattle before.  Probably on multiple occasions.  It usually goes very, very poorly for me.  There’s only one game I really like this week, and this is not it.  It’s a ton of points to give Brees, but I don’t think he’s going to play well.  I can see something like 24-10.  Now go bet the over.  

New England (-7) over Indianapolis.  The Colts just aren’t good enough.  They come from a dreadful division. They exploited a collapsing Chief team last week, but keep in mind they gave up 45 points to Alex Smith and a third-string RB.  Andrew Luck might put a scare into Patriot fans, but it’s not happening yet.  Not this year in Foxboro.  Pats pull away late.  

San Francisco (Pick) over Carolina.  I think San Francisco is playing as well as any team right now.  The trip to Carolina should be a cake walk compared to last week.  The Niners are simply a better version of the Panthers.  Throw away their game from earlier this year.  Not relevant.  

San Diego (+9.5) over Denver.  I think Peyton and Company pull it out, but I like San Diego’s chances to keep it within one score, or possibly get a tasty backdoor cover.  Rivers is hot right now, there’s nothing too intimidating about the Denver defense.  35-31?  Why not?

 

Phillies Have to Reinvent the Wheels.

Wheels and Boris the Bullet Dodger.

Wheels and Boris the Bullet Dodger.

Rough day in baseball yesterday.  As we all know, Hall of Fame election day has become a black eye for the sport, highlighting everything that was wrong with the steroid era and calling attention to bitter and deranged factions of sports writers.  It doesn’t even make sense to argue about the Hall of Fame anymore.  Not when the following happens:

1. Someone voted for only Jack Morris

2. Dan LeBatard gave his vote to Deadspin (and you don’t really care)

3. Someone voted for Armando Benitez

4. People send in blank ballots

5. Jayson Stark is very, very, flustered.

So, that was Hall of Fame day.  Oh, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas got in.  Congratulations to those three, all very deserving, though I always had a special and visceral distaste for Tom Glavine.  What can I say?

In Philadelphia, though, the baseball story was not the Hall of Fame.  The Hall of Fame won’t be a story for another five years until we latch onto Roy Halladay again.  In a story timed with the Phillies TV contract extension with Comcast, the Chris Wheeler era (and much less notably the Sarge era) in the broadcast booth is over.  The move, perhaps the most non-Phillies move I’ve seen in my lifetime came at the insistence of Comcast who will hire the new TV color man.  I guess a couple billion dollars does buy you something.

I’m not sure what the origin story of Wheels is within the Phillies organization.  He’s been there forever, and he started in PR*, ticket sales, or program sales, or hot dog wrapping, or something.  The point is, it’s not important to get that part right, the important part is that Wheels eventually became part of the Phillies announcing team and stuck in the job for a long time.  While being the last link to Harry Kalas, Wheels became a bit of an institution in his own right.

I was probably five or six years old the first time I remember meeting Chris Wheeler.  I was at a 5K fundraiser and Wheels was helping out with some emcee duties.  I was with my father and a family friend and the friend of ours encouraged me to pull to Wheels’ toupee off his head.  There was no secrecy in it, no tact.  He didn’t whisper, everyone including Wheels heard what he said, something like, “Meet Chris Wheeler, go pull that squirrel off his head.”  You should have seen Wheels laugh.  I guess he already had years of practice at that point, but the guy takes a joke better than anyone I’ve ever seen.

I’d see Wheels every once in a while through the years and he never seemed to escape that role of nerdy little brother within the Phillies organization.  Someone, whether it was Larry Bowa, or Vuk, or Sarge, or Larry Anderson was always giving the guy a hard time and he was always laughing at his own expense.  Without knowing him well, that was always my impression of him, this guy takes a lot of sh*t.  In fact the first thing I did yesterday when I heard he was getting reassigned in the organization was make a joke, “what are they going to do, make him VP of hair pieces?”  That I don’t think Wheels would have laughed at, not yesterday.

I don’t think Wheels would have survived with the Phillies so long if he didn’t love baseball so much and wasn’t such a nice guy.  That’s the other lasting impression you get of him when you meet him in passing.  He is always friendly and in a good mood.  Part of that probably attributable to his job, which allowed him to be around the sport he loved and the players who I imagine he idolized–at least in the beginning.  His announcing talent can be debated, but over time Wheels proved to be the ultimate company man, and even an honorary “baseball man,” a term not thrown around loosely.

I was never a huge supporter of his work in the booth, but the Phillies have employed far less skilled broadcasters. For a long time he suffered from being not Harry or Whitey. Because he didn’t play, and because he didn’t have Harry’s voice there was always an assumption that he didn’t deserve the job.  People looked at him as a Phillies puppet stuck in the booth by upper management to cheer on the team and push the front office agenda.  There were rumors that Wheels’ tormentors, the Bowas and Vuks, offset that harassment by telling Wheels the signs.  This way, when Wheels said, “good situation for a hit and run,” he could often sound prophetic.

Of course, Wheels has about 50 years of sitting on the hip of every kind of baseball mind.  He has absorbed a lot of information.  As I said, Wheels is a die-hard fan.  He’s the guy on the road who goes back to the hotel and watches more baseball.  A lot of the time, he does know what he’s talking about.  Then after a while, that became a problem, people thought Wheels was always trying to educate.  Don’t teach me about baseball, Wheels, just call the game. And, after all these years his pet phrases, like “no-doubles defense,” can incite a riot.

For all that, though, I thought Wheels was the strongest link in the most recent version of the Phils’ TV booth, even if that isn’t saying much.  Tom McCarthy talks so much that you don’t hear Wheels as often.  And, Gary Mathews, well…I never understood that one. Considering the favored announcing duo of Franzke and Anderson want to stay on the radio side, I’m envisioning a moderate period of discontent in the booth before Comcast lands on anything worthwhile.  That’s right, believe it or not, I don’t think it’s going to be that easy to replace Wheels.

The candidates mentioned tell the story.  The best choice would probably be John Kruk or Mitch Williams.  Good luck prying them away from their choice TV gigs.  Darren Daulton has proven to be decent on the radio, but he has serious health concerns.  Doug Glanville has the local ties, but I never thought he really shined on ESPN, and might not leave that job anyway.  Keep in mind that these aren’t even the guys being mentioned.  We’re talking about Brad Lidge, Chris Coste, Ben Davis and Ricky Bo.

Quickly, Lidge is too nice.  Davis is too statuesque.  Ricky Bo isn’t that great at the post-game and will try to make a name for himself too quickly.  And, Chris Coste?  Really with this guy?  I get it, underdog story, but let’s move on.  I have a pretty strong feeling that whoever Comcast plugs in there is going to be a disaster, at least at first, and maybe that will give Wheels a final bit of satisfaction as he settles into his new role as Wall of Fame tour guide?  See, I can’t help myself.

*actual first job

Dylan Penn (Thankfully) Looks Like Mom…

dylan penn

…Has Those Winners

I’m done trying beers for a while.  The lax drinking efforts of some guests at a holiday party have left me with a ton of beer left over and there are only so many ways I can describe an IPA.  Resin-y!  Pine notes.  Great citrus.  So, as a nod to our great history here at Three Putt Territory–LOOK, a woman!

***

The Wild-Card Round:

The NFL gets good matchups for the wild-card round.  Let’s rate them in order of intrigue….

4.  San Diego @ Cincinnati 

Wait, the Chargers are in the playoffs?  Did anyone else have that reaction last weekend?  This looks like one of those middling AFC games that someone with an NFC bias shouldn’t care about, but there are several points of interest for this game, the first being the weather which is supposed to be terrible.  Philip Rivers in the slush, people. The Bengals are heavily favored, but haven’t won a playoff game in 23 years.  Andy Dalton might be the worst QB in the playoffs.  He’s 0-2 with 4INTs and 0 TDs the last two years.  Marvin Lewis has never won a playoff game.  The Chargers have a chance for an upset here.

Most Important Charger:  Philip Rivers.  Rivers was seen as a possible weak link during the LT years, but he’s dragging the Chargers into the post-season this year.  Rivers is capable of the spectacular and he’ll need to be almost perfect for San Diego to win this road game.

Most Important Bengal:  Giovani Bernard.  The Bengals leaned on their defense to beat San Diego 17-10 last month, but don’t expect them to contain the Chargers that well this time around.  Cincinnati will have to score more points, and Bernard is the only explosive player on the offense whose fortunes aren’t tied to Andy Dalton.

3. Kansas City @ Indianapolis

There’s something inherently boring about Kansas City.  Also, the game is being played in “Nap Town.”  But you get past those factors and this should be a very good game and an important milestone in the Andrew Luck development cycle.  Luck wasn’t as good statistically this season as some expected, but he’s still the most envied young QB in the league.  Luck’s first playoff game last year, a beat down against Baltimore, was definitely filed as a learning experience.  He’ll be expected to start winning now.  Kansas City at full health (they aren’t quite there) can beat anyone, and Andy Reid can definitely win in the Wild-Card round.  I’d throw out their game from earlier this year and expect a good one.

Most Important Colt:  Donald Brown.  Brown was part of the difference in their first matchup, gaining 110 yards and scoring two touchdowns.  The Colts offense is going to need the balance Brown provides and I wouldn’t expect the depleted and inexperienced Indy receivers to provide much support.

Most Important Chief: Alex Smith.  You know the Chiefs will get something from Jamaal Charles, and their defense should be healthy enough to keep them in the game.  The question will be if Alex Smith can make enough plays to put the Chiefs into the next round.  He was absolutely brutal in their matchup with Indy in week 16.  That cannot happen again.

2. San Francisco @ Green Bay.

This is a team vs. a mystique.  The 49ers are a better team than Green Bay.  They proved that in various ways during the season, including a head-to-head win in the opener.  But, even as road favorites, there are two major areas of concern for San Francisco.  First, the weather at Lambeau is going to be arctic.  A high temperature of -3 degrees. Secondly, they’ll have to deal with Aaron Rodgers who returned last week to give the Packers enough magic to make the playoffs.  I think Green Bay might have the advantage if it was twenty degrees.  At twenty below, I don’t know who that favors.

Most Important 49er:  Frank Gore.  Gore is coming off his worst game of the season, but Green Bay has a weak run defense and you’d think the conditions would lead to running the football.  San Francisco is also going to want to keep Rodgers off the field, so Gore’s help in melting the clock could also be a huge factor.

Most Important Packer: Aaron Rodgers.  Rodgers is Green Bay.  That was evident last week and all year as the Packers were nearly sunk by his injury and the play of their atrocious backups.  I wouldn’t expect San Francisco to yield much on the ground, so Rodgers might have to pull this one off on his own.

1. New Orleans @ Philadelphia.

This isn’t all bias.  This game was given prime time on Saturday for a reason.  The weather will be cold, but I wouldn’t worry too much about its impact on the outcome.  The Saints are terrible away from the dome, dome teams are terrible outdoors in the playoffsbut it’s hard to brush aside Drew Brees with weather trends.  These two teams are headed in different directions.  Midway through the season the Eagles were thinking about drafting a QB and the New Orleans was trying to secure home-field advantage.  Now, the Saints are travelling and people are talking about Philly as the “hot” team, capable of making a long run.  First playoff game for Chip Kelly and Nick Foles, a wild and lathered Philly crowd.  Good things.

Most Important Eagle:  Nick Foles.  LeSean McCoy is easily the best player, but it’ll be up to Foles to guide the Eagles into the divisional round.  The 2nd year QB has risen to the occasion more often than not and Chip Kelly has done an amazing job of playing to his strengths.  Can Foles operate with the pressure cranked up another notch?  If he continues to take care of the ball, the Eagles will be tough to beat.

Most Important Saint:  Jimmy Graham.  The Eagles don’t have an answer for Jimmy Graham.  Fans should be terrified of the league’s premiere tight end, especially after watching Jason Witten pull in 12 balls last week.  Brees to Graham could be all the Saints need.

***

The Picks:  

San Diego (+7) over Cincinnati.  I don’t know if I’m feeling bold enough to say the Chargers will win outright, but it’s hard to trust the Lewis/Dalton combination given their track record in the post-season.  This is a lot of points to give to a team with a much better quarterback.  Remember, 23 years since the Bengals won a playoff game.  And since you’re wondering, Ickey Woods had 11 yards on six carries as the Bengals beat an Oiler team QB’d by Cody Carlson. True story.

Indianapolis (-1.5) over Kansas City.  Is now the right time to say I don’t have much a feel for these games?  The Colts appeared to matchup well with KC in their first meeting and I think Andrew Luck is ready to make a bit of noise.  The Colts are a hot team.  KC’s defense won’t be good enough to compensate for Alex Smith.  And, speaking of droughts, the Chiefs haven’t won a playoff game since ’93 when Joe Montana beat Warren Moon.

Green Bay (+2.5) over San Francisco.  I think San Francisco is the better team, but I’m going to cave under the pressure of Lambeau and yield to my love for Aaron Rodgers.  The Packers are going to lose at home when it’s 20 below?  Doesn’t feel right.

New Orleans (+2.5) over Philadelphia.  I’ve spent all season doubting the Eagles.  Why stop now?  I don’t the Eagles can stop Brees.  I think the Saints came out of a stronger division (the only time the Saints played an NFC East team this year they destroyed Dallas), and I don’t think Nick Foles is going to have his best game.  The Eagles are moving in the right direction, but they’ll have to wait another year to make some post-season noise.

Other Pickers:

Big Dub:

  1. San Diego (+7) over Cincinnati
  2. Kansas City (+1.5) over Indianapolis
  3. San Francisco (-2.5) over Green Bay
  4. New Orleans (+2.5) over Philadelphia

Nichols:

  1. Kansas City (+1.5) over Indianapolis
  2. New Orleans (+2.5) over Philadelphia
  3. Cincinnati (-7) over San Diego
  4. Aaron Rodgers (+2.5) over San Francisco

 DC:

Indianapolis -1.5 over Kansas City.  I’ve been waiting all year to pick against Alex Smith and KCY in the playoffs.  Now’s my time.  Colts also seem to be peaking at the right time.

San Diego +7 over Cincinnati.  A pretty significant Cincy line here tells me I ought to be anticipating a Cincy rout here.  I just can’t get on board with that so I’m going the other way with the pick.

Green Bay +2.5 over San Francisco.  I’ll take the home team, Aaron Rodgers and the points.  We’ll see.

As a personal rule I don’t pick PHI games and I’m not starting now.

Return To Sender, Rejected Mail From the North Pole.

Lots of Bacogon, but the One Bat Mobel with Suffice.

Lots of Bacogon, but the One Bat Mobel with Suffice.

It seems like posting your kid’s Christmas list online has become a new way to try to draw attention to your blog, or to garner Facebook likes, and I can’t say I’m surprised.  Kids are designed to raise your social media profile.  That’s what they’re for, so post away.  It seems like the lists take three forms.  First, they might highlight incredibly bad penmanship and spelling like the list above.  Look at my 5-year old try to spell!  Hilarious.  Second, the kid could be asking for a list of preposterous things: cash, dinosaurs, bat mobels–whatever.  And, lastly, the kid could be doing something cute like, “Dear Santa, can you get my mommy a different job so I can see her when I get home from school?”  Then you post that and wait for the job offers to come pouring in.   In my youth, I believe I was more of a list-maker than a letter writer.  It didn’t matter to me who was getting the stuff.  If you want to outsource to Santa–GO AHEAD.  It’s all the same to me.

*I wrote this before Christmas, when it was SO timely, and then didn’t come anywhere close to finishing the post.  But, I’m not deleting it, so put yourself in a December 19th kind of mood.

Q: Do two people ever meet at a bar, order a couple of sodas and that’s it? I mean, do people meet for a drink if it’s not coffee or alcohol?  And, if they do, where does this happen?  Bud Dry, Golden, CO.

A: I think this happens.  You just need to go back in time, hit up the counter at WOOLWORTH’S, and there will be countless people sharing a soda.  Is soda being phased out by the way?  Between sugared waters, energy drinks and toddlers lining up like fiends at Starbucks, is soda even relevant at this point?  I outgrew soda my freshman year of college when it was all you can drink in the dining hall.  I hit my limit and now probably have three a year. ALL ROOT BEERS–for nostalgia.  Anyway, I think people probably meet for non-alcoholic drinks, but I’m not sure they would go to a bar, and if they did perhaps they’d be one of those people who just drinks club soda straight (for god knows what reason).  If two people are having a nice convo and a soda I feel like they’re probably at the concession stand of a T-ball game, Friendlys, or sitting on a bench outside of a 7-11.  The bottom line is, if you want to talk to someone and no food is involved, you better be a booze bag or know your way around some venti horsebleep.  

Q: Talk to me about clementines.  Those miniature, orange things.  Am I correct in thinking if they were around all year no one would give an expletive about them?  Gray P. Froot, Jacksonville, FL.

A:  I did some research on the clementine, because  I’m not as well-rounded as I’d like to be on produce and it turns out the clementine gained popularity in the United States in the nineties during an especially poor orange harvest.  No word on whether or not the Duke brothers were involved.  But, anyway, as an outsider my main issue with the clementine is why do I have to get 40 of them?  Oh you want a clementine?  Here’s a shipping crate full of them! ENJOY.  I like to pick my fruit carefully (on the rare occasions when I buy fruit).  I would NEVER buy a bag of apples, unless it was for a horse, so I can’t endorse the Costco-esque quantities.  None of this is answering your question.  Is the clementine the shamrock shake of fruits? The Cadbury egg of citrus?  I do think they have a bit of seasonal novelty.  After all, they are known in some parts as “Christmas oranges,” so that can’t be ignored completely, but the clementine does appear to bring something to the table aside from novelty.  That’s sweetness and seedlessness.  Seems like something that would sell, at least moderately well, year round.   To some people, for me, orange is a flavor best experienced in popsicles.

Q: What percentage of the nation’s reading do you think takes place on the toilet?  I’m thinking if people answer honestly, we’re approaching 50%.  Tuck Padd, Boise, ID.

A:  I don’t know, that sounds awfully high.    Sometimes I wonder why reading on the can is so popular.  Does it take people that long?  Is it boredom?  Or are people just taking a breather from life in there?  I could think of better places to relax, but sometimes you can’t pick which door you can hide behind.  I never understood the bathroom reading when I was a kid.  We had a basket full of reading material in our downstairs bathroom, but I didn’t really see the point of it, until I got a bit older.  Now I’m a pretty big sh*tter scholar, but I stop short of the people who celebrate their bathroom reading lifestyle.  I’m sure we’ve all worked with someone who marches around with the sports section and announces to anyone within earshot, “I’LL BE IN MY OTHER OFFICE.”  This is, for my money, not necessary.  I think some people probably do ALL their reading on the toilet and phones make this job a whole lot easier these days.  But, I think the people who read the most do the majority of their reading with THEIR PANTS UP.  So, because of that, I’m going to put the overall number at 10%.  Seems fair.  

Q:  What’s going to happen to all the pot dealers in Colorado?  

A:  I hope they can put a little kiosk at the end of their driveway and continue to ply their trade.  I have no idea what the long term effects of the legal pot trade will be, but I’m not particularly worried about the pot dealers.  NO OFFENSE.  I’m sure if they want to they can move into another realm of illegal drug trafficking.  I hear prescription pills are a growing industry.  And, from the looks of the lines going down the street in Colorado, they might want to hire some dealers to work at these legal dispensaries.  I imagine the money would be somewhat less lucrative.  And, I also imagine that individuals will continue to sell pot in Colorado, right?  Not everyone is going to go to these new places. I am a little lukewarm on the idea of legalizing pot.  I don’t know why.  I’ve had generally bad experiences with people who smoke A LOT, so maybe that’s it, or maybe I’m just being a huge hypocrite.  

Q: If you had to play in Green Bay this weekend (possibly coldest NFL game ever played) do you think you’d be the guy out there in short sleeves, or the guy wearing a full head sock and a fanny pack hand warmer?  E. Muffs, Kenosha, WI.

A:  Well, it’s very cold in Pennsylvania today.  Not Wisconsin cold, but it was cold enough to freeze my hair solid as I extricated my car from my parking spot.  That’s a real, REAL solid look.  Let me tell you.  And later in the day I popped outside for a brief moment in my shirtsleeves and that was not comfortable–at all.  You know that some fan is going to be at the game without a shirt on, but that fan is also going to be completely sh*t-housed and as a player you’d have to be sober.  I never played football, so I don’t know about the warmth or lack thereof in wearing pads, etc., but I do know that physical activity can keep you warm for short periods of time in very cold temperatures.  I used to wear gloves during a jogging phase and they were great until about two miles in when it felt like I had stuck my hand in a furnace.  And, do forearms get particularly cold?  I think if you kept your core and extremities warm that you could conceivably get away with short sleeves.  But, what would I be doing?  If I was “in” that game, it’s probably likely I’d be safely on the bench, which means I’d be in full hood, parka, fanny pack hand warmer, etc.  This despite being a generally warm person, 20 below is no joke.  

Q:  Am I the only one offended by the notion of, or the quest for a hangover cure?  You got hammered.  That’s what happens.  Suck it up, or don’t drink–baby.  Harry O’Dogg, Atlantic City, NJ.

A:  My drinking now is governed by a severe aversion to being hungover.  I try not to complain too much when I overindulge, but it does seem a bit pointless.  What did you think was going to happen when you sucked down seven different kinds of alcohol over the course of one evening?  I read recently about a guy who started a business that offered hangover cures.  Essentially he drops in the morning after you burn that mother down and hooks you up to an IV bag.  He hydrates and replenishes you much faster than you can yourself with Gatorade, four bags of fast food, pedialyte, or a bloody mary.  I think this service costs nearly a thousand dollars, so you know, it’s not QUITE mainstream.  More economical hangover cures in my experience, do not work.  A sampling of what I’ve heard over the years:

  1. Exercise
  2. Drink 7 gallons of water before bed
  3. Raw eggs in some form
  4. More liquor
  5. Grease
  6. Consenting adult time
  7. Pedialyte (from bottle or in popsicle form)
  8. Drink only Coors Light (might actually work)

Like I said, almost none of these work.  I was only so desperate to try more drinking one time in my life and OH MY was that not a great idea.  The only thing that works for me is the 2nd sleep.  You wake up the first time and it’s like you never went to bed, because your body was doing gymnastics trying to process those 11 G&T’s.  So once that’s finally over, the next time you sleep is your cure.  Unfortunately, as a functioning, non-c0llege student adult this usually has to wait until the evening when you go to bed.  Thus, the full-day hangover that haunts us all.  Not that I’m complaining.