Monday, January 14, 2008

Monday Hangover: Divisional Playoff Edition (1-14-2008)

As I write this, I’m back in classes, which are starting up at 9:30 AM. Having pretty much gone through two months, one easy and one hellish, in which the only consistent thread was that I could pretty much set my own schedule, there is no worse kick in the balls than a wakeup time that involves a single hour digit in the AM. I say “kick in the balls” both to emphasize how miserable it is, and also because it’s one of the only other experiences that creates that lingering nausea. As I write this, I’ve got my digestive system working both ways, actively trying to get down the breakfast burrito that will fuel my day (champion fuel) while I simultaneously try and keep down the prior contents of my stomach, mostly booze, frozen dinner, regret, and booze (CHAMPION FUEL!). Oh yeah, it’s a great day to be anywhere near me.

Anyway, I’m coming to the conclusion that dealing with waking up early isn’t a part of growing up; it is the ONLY thing that separates growing up from being blissfully immature. I’m firmly convinced that the only maturity issue separating me from a CEO of a Fortune 500 company is that after we’re both done doing the mini-throwup that accompanies these morning rituals (and we’re just going to accept that as normal, and not as a sign of my burgeoning alcoholism), he’s just less likely to do the whole “Eff this, I’m going back to bed” thing that I do pretty much once a week, which, unless you’re pregnant (you lucky few), doesn’t really fly. In any case, I’m looking forward to writing more over the next month, largely because all that bitterness in my stomach (and the aforementioned “bad news bears” mix of sundry items) has to go somewhere, and this football blog seems like a better idea than leaving a lecture hall smelling like eggs and tequila.

And on that pleasant note, the games!

- Boring Jack Del Rio’s boring style of game planning finally caught up to him on Saturday, when his Jaguars team, a team that played as clean an offensive game as could be expected up until a fourth quarter interception, failed to create any kind of blitz packages to pressure Tom Brady. On the one hand, I get the idea; you want to keep those receivers covered. Still, this is the league’s best offensive line you’re dealing with, and asking any secondary to cover all those receivers for the kind of time that the Jags were allowing is just unfair. The result was a defensive game that was as boring and ineffective as the offense was boring and effective, with the Pats scoring on all but two possessions, and one of those ending in a rare missed field goal. All in all, the game was probably the best example of how you can’t just take jabs at the favorite in the ring and hope to win via decision; you need to knock them out.

- Also, kudos to Jack Del Rio, because just when I thought he couldn’t look like more of an out of place Neanderthal than he did in a suit, he shows up looking like a stuntman from Wild Hogs in an AWFUL leather jacket.

We are THIS close to him coaching in finger gloves and a handlebar mustache, and it will be glorious.

- I love the idea that David Garrard, having proven himself one of the smartest quarterbacks in the league this year, could have easily wound up a defensive tackle because big name programs are essentially racist. Who takes a proven high school quarterback and decides “oh, he’s one of the smartest guys on the field, but he’s big and black, so he’s probably a natural for the least complex and most brutal job”? Does the Klan run a BCS football program? Ah, sorry, I forgot Ole Miss. Carry on.

- On a related note, and after initial resistance, I’ve come to accept that David Garrard adds charm to the Jags. Byron Leftwich wasn’t actually charming, we all just thought so because we think fat people are jolly.

- Rodney Harrison really might be the most dirty player in the league, and I think it’s largely because nobody has perfected the “WHO, ME?!?!?” look quite like he has. The Pats as a whole clearly run drills on the move (Wes Welker, a quiet competitor on the Dolphins, had a couple of great “What do you MEAN that pass was dropped?!?” moves), but Harrison is taking it beyond a move. It’s like he wasn’t there when he cheated in the first place, as though he’s offended by the very suggestion he could go un-canonized after his death. We are about three seasons removed from him pulling a The Last Boy Scout, gunning down a player on the field, and making bug eyes of disbelief as the police take him away (crying about getting “no respect” the whole time, of course).

- Alright, I know I’ve been hard on Philip Rivers, but I was only half joking about the Chargers needing to “out-douche” the Pats next week. Who would you rather have in that game, the quiet Philip Rivers who couldn’t beat the Reche Caldwell Pats of last year, or the absolute A-hole who has helmed a seven game win streak at the end of the year. Also, the new Philip Rivers seems one bad booing session away from punching a fan in the face, which, in a stadium full of Massholes, is both great television AND good for America.

- I’m also not buying that the Pats would rather be seeing the Chargers than the Colts. First, you’ve got to think that Belichick has had some sort of plan in the back of his mind for an eventual Colts-Pats rematch. Second, this Colts team isn’t even as good as the one that lost to the Pats during the regular season due to injuries (forget Dungy, I’m wondering whether Marvin Harrison will still be with the team next year...), let alone better than the Chargers.

- Third, these Chargers can beat the Patriots, and are perhaps better geared to do so than any other team that made the playoffs. They’ve got three incredible downfield threats. They’ve got a run game that has to be respected, which will let those receivers find favorable matchups. They’ve got a shifty 3-4 defense that keeps offenses guessing as to where the blitz is coming from, complemented by the scariest defensive backfield to throw into in the entire league. Finally, and I’ve said this already, this team has looked hotter than anyone else in the league, speeding up and getting better while everyone else seems to be slowing down a step or two. Whether or not they’ll win next week is another matter, but at the very least they’re the team with the best shot.

- Rodney Harrison, Philip Rivers, Shawne Merriman, Jabar Gaffney and LT2 all on the field at the same time? It’s like a reverse-baseball-cap-wearing frat guy’s wet dream!!!!!

- Seattle is not winning their division again next year. Too much went right for them this year, and everyone knows that they just can’t run the ball anymore. Tiki Barber v.2.0 isn’t getting it done, and MoMo is even more mediocre. The shame of it is that Hasselbeck looks like he’s hitting his prime, too.

- Can anyone not be rooting for the Packers at this point? Wait, sorry, forgot about Aaron Rodgers. My mistake.

- Also, don’t sleep on the Packers, or the NFC contenders for that matter. Both of these teams have shown an ability to hang with AFC opponents. Both can go downfield (the Packers more so), and have developed power run games (the Giants more so). Also, both have defenses that have created problems for every opponent when they’ve been clicking. I’m not saying they could do it easily, but at the very least there’s a chance that either one of these guys could keep the Super Bowl from being the afterthought we thought it would be early on in the year.

- So when T.O., who looked as heartbroken as I’ve ever seen him after Sunday’s loss, even mentions his quarterback’s new relationship we all think he’s a cancer and a team distraction, but nobody is going to even SUGGEST that perhaps Tony Romo didn’t act in his team’s best interest when he disappeared to Mexico with a gossip magazine favorite during the playoffs? Hmm…

- Only non-playoff related note: We call Chad Johnson a team cancer for celebrating and showing signs of anger at his team’s constant underachievement, but we say nothing about Carson Palmer basically asking for his coaching staff to be fired. HMM…

-In reality, I just want a Chad Johnson/T.O. wideout tandem somewhere. Anywhere. I’ll start a multimillion-dollar flag football league if it will facilitate this.

- You know why it sucks to be Eli Manning? Not because people jump down his throat when he has boneheaded days; that happens everywhere. No, the worst part is that when he has a string of solid, bt not amazing performances, everyone somehow acts like he’s “turned the corner” and is now ready to take his brother’s throne. Case in point, he had a solid game against Dallas, but he was 12/18. His stat line shows he did a great job managing the game, but it certainly doesn’t show that he’s a premier quarterback yet, AND THAT IS OK. He doesn’t need to light the world on fire with his offense; he just needs to keep defenses honest and let his “Jaguars of the NFC” style game plan do the rest.

- Guarantee that fatty Giants backup QB Jared Lorenzen asked Eli more than once whether or not there really was an Oreo Double Stuff Racing League.

- All in all, these are the most entertaining playoffs in a long time. Every divisional matchup was intriguing for at least a little while (with Packers/Seahawks being the worst, and making the best case for dropping the divisional format of playoff seeding), and the resulting matchups are potentially great. You’ve got the unstoppable juggernaut facing off against the team that looks like it could not care less about its opponents, its ranking, or the fans (either their opponents’ or their own). You’ve got the spry overachievers who seem to be caught up in the wake of their cagey veteran leader’s revival tour running into the only team in their conference with more momentum, playing with perhaps a bigger chip on their shoulder than anyone else. I’m looking forward to another weekend of destroying my body to sweet, sweet football action.

That's all for this week, more to come as we move on. It's a New Year. I've got a new change of gear (I swear).

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