7.1.06

Wild Card Weekend

VFLOAB is back and better than ever. I know it’s been almost two weeks, but we’re loaded with things to say and we’ll get those words out over the next week or so. Expect much.

But for today we’ll start with the NFL Playoffs! I can’t wait. Playoff anything is always a good time, and while the NFL playoffs are always boring, overrated, and lacking in good games (besides 2003, which of course took place in 2004, but whatever) it’s always fun to take part in the hype and watch the one good game per weekend. Last year the Jets/Chargers game comes to mind. 2003 gave us a bunch of good games. And there was the Tuck Game in 2001. Okay whatever… most NFL games are boring. I know.

The NFL was smart enough to move the games on Saturday to late afternoon and evening which only makes the games more enjoyable because drinking can occur over both games. Throw some money on the games and you’ve got magic.

But before I make myself barf on over hyping these games, let me just say this: 2005 was the worst year of NFL football in my lifetime, and I had a team that had a magical season and played great all year long (the Bears). I watched so many bad games this year: just off the top of my head… The Bears and ‘Skins in week one. Jets vs Ravens… 49ers vs Texans… Any Eagles game, including pretty much all the Monday Nighters they took part in (the worst being the Seahawks games). That brutal Chiefs and Giants game when no one on the Chiefs could tackle. Any Packer, Texan, Titan, Raven, Bill, Lion, Jets games. Most Colts games weren’t that interesting because the Colts aren’t that much fun to watch.

(Seriously, why doesn’t anyone talk about this? Remember how much fun the Rams were to watch in the late 90s and into the first years of this century? Why aren’t the Colts like that? Why is it almost painful to watch the Colts? Is it because Manning spends 30 seconds yelling then they snap the ball and you’re so bored and anxious that it doesn’t matter? Is it because Manning is the most uninteresting and unlikable superstar in my lifetime? (even if those Kenny Chesney rumors are true, Peyton still isn’t all that interesting. BTW Google those two names if you haven’t already…))

These were all bad games because there are so many bad teams. Even the good teams weren’t that much fun to watch. I mean is anyone excited about a Panthers/Bucs game? Jags and Pats getting anyone pumped today? Even the Skins and Bucs isn’t making me do cartwheels.

The fact is the NFL stinks right now. It’s not much fun to watch. There aren’t that many interesting teams. There isn’t a complete team out there (please, the Colts D is not that good. A good O can put 30 on them, it’s just they can hang 40 on pretty much 30 teams in this league). And watching a good NFL game is near impossible. Either one team can’t tackle, or the other team can’t throw the ball, or the other team makes too many penalties, or the other team turns the ball over too much… it’s just not much fun. In fact, it’s painful at times.

But this is what the NFL wanted. A totally skittish, even schizophrenic, league year in and year out where no one knows who will be good and who will stink. And as a result, most teams just aren’t that good. Since most teams aren’t good, most games aren’t that good. Which is of course logical (as for why, I still think is a Vegas/NFL conspiracy to make picking games near impossible. Just look at how well favorites did this year… it was like something out of Hollywood movie. Wasn’t it two years ago or something where the underdog won like 70% of the games? It’s a conspiracy I tell you).

So the NFL relies on two things:
1) Gambling
2) Fantasy Football

The first is fine; it puts the emphasis on the team. The second? Not so much. In fact fantasy football is slowly killing the NFL, something that they’ve got to watch. If the league becomes a fantasy based/followed league, it will plummet in popularity because people will just go to the computer or Xbox/PlayStation and get their kicks there. And this is all a result of the salary cap and all the other NFL mambo-jumbo. Since players switch teams all the time and teams are never good for more than two years… well fantasy football almost becomes more interesting and important. As the bond and importance to the team fades, so does the NFL.

But the NFL wanted this. This was their poison, and they’ve taken it to the top. They’ve given up good teams and good football for this #1 position. But it’s the tops for them. They’re Number One, and the NFL peaked in 2001 or 2003. Now it’s all falling apart. And it’s going to be a long hard fall, probably something like what the NBA has and is going though. And it’s because the game is becoming harder and harder to watch.

Just compare and NFL game to an NCAA game, weren’t all the BCS games better than pretty much every NFL game this year and what we’ll watch in the next month? Is there any way the NFL could ever present the country with a USC vs Texas game? Of course not. The NFL is at least ten years removed from good football games. And this will lead to the NFL falling into ‘crisis’ around 2010, just like the NBA did in 2000. What will make the blow from the fall softer will be gambling. But I’d rather be the commish of MLB than the NFL right now.

While we’re officially bigger NCAA fans than NFL fans here at VFLOAB, Wild Card weekend is still fun just because as we said, it’s the playoffs. VFLOAB just loves the playoffs. Well not the WNBA playoffs, but everything else is fun.

So on to the picks of this Wild Card Weekend… let me just get this out of the way, I agree with every single pick of the Sports Guy. But unlike Simmons, I don’t think this weekend is all that tough. Sure there are some really weird lines, but at the same time things seem to be shaping up like this:

Redskins (+1) over BUCS
This line has been running towards the ‘Skins over the last few days, but I still like them for four reasons:

1) Chris Simms is starting for the Bucs. While it isn’t a lay up (like if he was starting on the road), I’m still not sold on Simms as a starter. Maybe next year.

2) Both teams have good Ds, so it’s not like one of these teams is going to run away with this game. Unless of course one of them turns it over five times. But I can’t see the Skins doing that.

3) I’ve watched 16 Redskin games this year. I’ve been saying that they were a playoff team since Week Three. And right now, they’re the hottest team in the NFC. They can run the ball and throw the ball (thanks to the H-back and Moss).

4) And the Skins think they can win this week and next week. The Bucs know they can’t beat the Bears in Chicago. But the Skins think they can beat the Seahawks in Seattle next week. Not that I think it’s going to happen, but the ‘Skins think they can.

This one is going to be close, but I like the Skins: 20 – 13

PATRIOTS (-7.5) over Jags
Please, this is a no brainer. Jacksonville is a good team that doesn’t lose to bad teams, but they aren’t going into New England with a banged up running game and quarterback and giving the Pats a close game. Patriots roll in this one. Only thing to worry about, as Simmons points out, is a cheap touchdown at the end that makes this a 7 point Pats victory. Patriots 27 - 17

BENGALS (+3) over Steelers
Wow. Lee Corso Rule! Lee Corso Rule! The Steelers are giving three? Why? Didn’t they just lose to Cinncy at home a month ago? And now they’re getting three? Why? Did Carson Palmer’s arm fall off? Chad Johnson break a leg? Rudi Johnson and Chris Perry catch the Clap? Is there any reason why the Steelers are favored here?

There is something missing from this years Steelers team. I’m not totally sure what it is, but they don’t seem to have it. They had it last year, but lost in the end because they had a rookie QB. But this year, they don’t seem to have that ability to impose their will on the other team like they’ve done for so many years. If this game was in Pittsburgh, I’d like the Steelers, but it’s in Cinncy. The torch will be passed. Bengals 38 – 24

GIANTS (-2.5) over Panthers
I’ve liked the Giants for a while, and I’m hopin’ and prayin’ for a Bears vs Jints game next week. So maybe I’m wearing hopeful fantasy goggles, but I’m stickin’ with it.

Because frankly, I don’t like the Panthers, I really don’t. I love Steve Smith, I hate everyone else. They just don’t strike me as a good team, just a team that has enough talent and a great coach. Since the coaching match up won’t matter (btw, not one bad coach in the playoffs this year, has to be a first), and the QB match up should be a wash and both Ds are about even… it comes down to Tiki vs Steve Smith. Old NFL running game vs New NFL passing game… and I’m going to go old school and go with the running game. I think Tiki and the Giants control the clock make a few Panthers miss tackles, and the rest is history. Giants 23 – 17.

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