It is worth mentioning, that in a League which prides itself on ‘parity’ and the “It’s a new season, we COULD win” philosophy of its die-hard Fan-Base, 3 of the same 4 teams which competed for a spot in the 2012 Super Bowl, will suit up again next weekend in the Conference Finals. Only eventual Champion and season-long hangover sufferers the New York Giants will be missing, whose dysfunction this season seemed eerily reminiscent of their cross-town non-Tebowing rivals. They will however be adequately replaced by the Atlanta Falcons who somehow, by the skin of their tooth, dodged a furious 2nd half rally by the Seattle Seahawks and rookie QB Russell Wilson, who continues to do everything that he can to prove to the world that Pete Carroll really isn’t an idiot. It is a weekend that has all the potential in the world to be utterly and completely drama free and the antithesis of the 4 games we just witnessed which saw 276 points scored and left The Secret Society Of Football Know-It-Alls rethinking a reworking of the 2nd Amendment of their Constitution which states that “Defense Wins Championships.”
On that note, let’s head south for our first tilt at a windmill next week when the San Francisco 49ers roll into Atlanta for a #1/#2 Seed match-up. The Niners will be a +3 road favorite according to the Wise Guys who make their living from such things in that desert oasis known as Las Vegas and this seems remarkably fair given the display put on by one Colin Kaepernick last week against the Green Bay Packers – 17/31, 263 yards, 2 TD/1 INT and 16 carries for 181 yards and 2 TDs on the ground. I’m pretty sure even Alex Smith recognizes the sound of the door hitting him on the way out. One really hopes though that irony doesn’t get completely lost on Aaron Rodgers because there really is nothing worse than getting beat by the guy who replaced the guy drafted ahead of you! Can I get a Discount Doublecheck whoop, whoop?
While the Falcons may have dodged a bullet this past Sunday there are going to be some serious concerns this coming week for a defense that had no answer for TE Zach Miller (8/142/1…recently returned from the land that time forgot) and made WRs Golden Tate and Sydney Rice look like world beaters. The Falcons front 7 is solid even without John Abraham but Kaepernick is a bigger, stronger, faster Red Bull version of Russell Wilson who has been running this modified Pistol offense since his Nevada college days and Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree and even Delanie Walker are options that a secondary which contains tackle dummy Asante Samuel are going to struggle to deal with. Yes, this defense is better than Green Bay’s but that is the comparative equivalent of Wendy’s vs. Burger King in the search for a great chicken sandwich… The Falcons will score. There are too many weapons for them not to – ageless wonders TE Tony Gonzalez and RB Michael Turner along with WRs Julio Jones and Roddy White and RB Jacquizz Rodgers will create match-up problems for the 49er D but it is quite possibly the most athletic D in the NFL even with the loss of vaunted pass-rusher DE Justin Smith. Helpful hint – take the Niners, give the points and get your chicken sandwich from the Colonel.
In New England, a ‘friendly’ rivalry between future Hall of Famers will be renewed and while both have admitted a begrudging respect for the other, it would be safe to say that Ray Ray is probably not getting an embossed invite over to Chez Tom and Giselle to check out her last incarnation of Brazilian clam chowder. Of course, house parties are not really Ray’s thing these days for obvious reasons, some of them legal. The Patriots continue to be able to score at will with an eclectic group of talent which the World Wide Leader in Racial Innuendo has often hinted at being surprisingly white (insert your best Rob Parker or Stephen A. Smith impression here) and while TE Rob Gronkowski is gone for the remainder of the playoffs, Tom Brady has a plethora of options to work with out of the no-huddle. This Ravens D is not the one from 5-10 years ago, although some of the faces are the same – they don’t stop the run and they barely slow down the pass.
The key will be the Ravens offence and the play of the most incredibly averagely elite/elitely average QB in the game, Joe Flacco. The Patriots front 7 should be able to contain RB Ray Rice but if he has the time to throw, Flacco has weapons and a gunslinger’s arm. WRs Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin provide speed and strength respectively and TE Dennis Pitta should have room to work underneath but one has to expect that the Human Hoodie will be dialing up some confusing blitz packages to try and out-think a revamped Baltimore O-line that has Michael Oher no longer on The Blind Side and Hollywood types desperately doing rewrites…again. One senses that the final fitting stop for the Last Ride of the Ray Train should be in New England after about an 18 tackle performance, 3 impassioned on-field speeches, 1 goofy bird dance and a helmet-to-helmet end of game man hug with Tommy Terrific that leaves us wondering if next season maybe, just maybe… Helpful hint – take the Patsies, give the 7.5 points and stay away from all other Sandra Bullock movies.
Until next we chat Kelowna…