It’s no secret the NFL is king in America, and nothing proves it quite like Conference Championship Sunday. It’s like this: If you live in the Eastern Time Zone like J-Dub, the games are on at 3 and 6:30 p.m. If you live in the Central Time Zone like Meehan, they air at 2 and 5:30. What that means is that the NFL basically doesn’t give a fuck about you eating dinner. They know no matter what your usual schedule is, you’re going to break it, and you’re going to do so with a bigger smile on your face than a lonely guy who just got mailed a Viagra sample and a free weekend of Cinemax.
Kommissar Goodell and the rest of the NFL Politburo know that, and that’s why they schedule these games making sure that 80% of the U.S. population has to choose between football and feeding themselves. Do you think it is a coincidence that one of the league’s biggest stars spends his time hawking those tomato-sauce herpes discs Papa John’s flings? Face it, the people who think that shit is good pizza are…well…the people who think that shit is good pizza.
But on the positive side, since Fox has the second game of the Sunday double-header, 80% of America will be spared those god-awful cartoons like Bob’s Burgers or the 74th season of The Simpsons the Rupert Murdoch network has been raping our eyes with lately. For the poor saps in Seattle and San Francisco, the thrill of victory and/or the agony of defeat will be superceded by the after-effects of eating Papa John’s. If you have never experienced this level of gastronomic emergency, swallow a quart of gasoline, then use a rope to drag a flaming tumbleweed through the length of your digestive tract.
Another upside is the NFL also gives us good story lines, and this year’s Championship Sunday schedule is a perfect example. What you’re going to see here is essentially a greatest hits compilation followed by the new album, but in this case, the new album is actually good. Picture it, you are at a Rolling Stones concert in 1981, and you just sat through the best of “Sticky Fingers” and “Exile on Main Street,” then the boys broke into “Start Me Up.” At first, you wonder “What the fuck is this?” Then you catch yourself grooving to the new stuff. (In case you were wondering, that 30-year old music reference was made by AARP member J-Dub. The only thing hip about that man is the replacement he’s having next week).
Music references from the 8-track era aside, it works like this. First you’ll have “The Classics” in the form of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, whose match-up will remind us why the last fifteen years in the NFL will be defined by their names. After that, the music is going to change when Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson show us what the next fifteen years are going to look like. It will be just like that moment back in the day when J-Dub and your grandfather were ripping bong hits to Led Zeppelin, then years later at the home they both forcibly ejected their catheters with glee the first time they heard Nirvana. Either way, football fans won’t get fooled again; the “Read Option” is not “The Wildcat.” We’re going to meet the new boss in Wilson and Kaepernick, who will prove to be the same as the old boss in Manning and Brady; the sameness being winning.
Knowing that only required watching last weekend’s games. Here’s why.
Last week: Seahawks 23, Saints 15
A stat line like Russell Wilson’s 9 of 18 for 103 yards illustrates exactly how imbalanced this game really was. By comparison, Drew Brees threw 43 passes, yet only completed 24 of them for 309 yards. The Saints had almost twice as many first downs as the Seahawks did, and aside from Marshawn Lynch most of Seattle’s offense was as quiet as a Little Italy pasta house just before the mob hit. The Seahawks fans are about as quiet as that same pasta house while the untraceable .38 snub-noses are being emptied into the faces of guys with nicknames like “The Chin;” it’s doesn’t take the FBI crime lab to see how CenturyLink Field would need a .38 of its own to do a bigger skull-fuck on Seattle’s opponents.
But does that vaunted home-field advantage mean they are invincible? Maybe, maybe not…Let’s give it the Sgt. Joe Friday “Just the Facts” approach:
The Case For the Seahawks being stoppable at home: It’s happened before, and not to mention recently. The whole world thought Mike Tyson could never be beaten until he got knocked out in his prime by a walking plate of Buffalo Wings named Buster Douglas. There’s something to be said for the “Veil of Invincibility,” and there’s something to be said for losing it. Mike Tyson in 1990, the German Army in 1940, and the post-2005 Patriots are all perfect examples (obviously, we are coming back later to that last example). Within the last month, a team not nearly as good as San Francisco came into Seattle and handed an “L” to the Seahawks. Not to mention, the Arizona Cardinals did so in Week 16 when Seattle was still trying to wrap up home field advantage. If the Polish Cavalry had faced the Wehrmacht after they saw what happened at Stalingrad, they might have had a little more confidence to go with the unimaginable balls it took to go up against 4,000 tanks with little more than horses and rifles. But the 49ers are coming in a bit better equipped than that, and even though Seattle smoked them like a Swisher Sweet in Week 2, if there is a team that can win in Seattle, the 49ers are as good a bet as anybody.
San Francisco 23, Carolina 10
The first of three games that can be summed up in 50 words or less. The 49ers were the better team, they have the play-off experience, and when firing on all cylinders, San Francisco’s ground game rolls through opponents like the Red Army did through Czechoslovakia in 1968.
New England 43, Indianapolis 22
The second of three games that can be summed up in 50 words or less. Andrew “The Next Tony Romo If I’m Not Careful” Luck chucked four picks. That allowed LeGarrette Blount to inflict some Blount Force Trauma on the Colts defense. Maybe they should let Pat McAfee play linebacker…
Denver 24, San Diego 17
Naturally, the last of the “50 words or less” troika. San Diego just didn’t have the horses to outrun the Broncos, who may be the weakest #1 seeded team we’ve seen in a long time. Despite the media’s knob-slobbing of Peyton Manning, Denver’s defense is very suspect and that running game they showed off last week was against the Chargers….think about that for a minute before we start anointing them as the AFC Champions.
OK, so we didn’t count that to see if it was less than 50 words, and if you are the guy who does count and comments as such…move out of your parents’ basement and at least try to date a female. (Blow up dolls don’t count) While that guy is busy putting on his “Spock” ears and Tom Brady jersey, let’s look at the Championship games.
New England Patriots (+4.5, Over/Under 55) at Denver Broncos
The line for this game has been moving more than a pregnant Kardashian waistline, and the only thing more tired than J-Dub’s incessant Kardashian jokes are the “Peyton Manning can’t win playoff games” screeds. Just because something is true doesn’t mean we have to beat it more than Rihanna’s face painted on Neil’s Peart snare drum. “Fetushead” Manning has a seemingly endless supply of weapons; DeMarious Thomas has the build of a Calvin Johnson, Julius Thomas is the best “Next Best” Thomas since Marlo “That Girl” Thomas took the “Not Really That Funny” reins from her father Danny (again, you can thank J-Dub for another reference to the Paleozoic Era). Then there’s Wes Welker, who despite the fact his brain been has beaten more than the egg-like chemicals in a Denny’s omelette, is actually shrinking at a rate faster than the polar ice caps and Lebron James’ hairline combined. At that rate, Welker will be shorter than Gary Coleman’s corpse by July. Don’t forget running back Knowshon Moreno, who is the hands-down winner for this year’s NFL award for having the dumbest name. (At least he is now…The Vikings cut Fo’Sho Washington earlier this week)
The deal is that both quarterbacks in this game have a shit-load of motivation over and above the usual. Peyton wants his second ring, but more importantly, he desperately wants to be remembered as anything other than “that guy who just couldn’t win in the postseason.” The stakes are ever higher for Tom Brady, because if he somehow manages to snag a fourth ring with this shell of a team, then we will all have to live through the “Brady is the greatest quarterback of all time” twaddle, the endless comparisons to Joe Montana, and just a lot of other blather that will make you want to fire a flare gun into your own face.
Since the Broncos have the more high-octane offense, they will want to score first, so they can control the game in the same way they did against the Chargers; and in much the same way Patriots did against the Colts. If the Broncos can keep their defense off the field for extended periods of time, their defense will return to the field more fresh and effective. This is something that Denver really fails to do a lot, such as in Week One against the Baltimore Ravens: They kept scoring faster than that a guard in a women’s prison with a fistful of pardons, which let that shaky Joe Flacco back onto the field against a Bronco defense that never really got a chance to hit the Gatorade and the oxygen tank. Nobody had an idea that Baltimore was going to score 27 points, and that’s where the theories were born about how Denver’s defense was never going to be solid enough for a Super Bowl run. To be fair, Denver did fix a lot of those issues, but if they aren’t careful, there is no reason why Tom Brady won’t get it over on them just like he did in the overtime win in the regular season.
Tom Brady is the better quarterback throughout his career, but Peyton Manning is having the better year. But the Broncos will be missing a key defensive element in cornerback Chris Harris who tore his ACL in the San Diego game, so don’t be surprised if this newfangled running game that the Patriots wheeled out last week takes a backseat to Brady trying to expose the poor sap that has to take Harris’ place.
J-Dub Takes: Broncos – Meehan is right to think the Patriots can pull this off, because even die-hard Broncos’ fans know down deep in places they don’t want to admit, they really don’t know which Denver team is going to show up…the one from the first half of that Patriots’ game, or (gasp) the one from the second half.
A Completely Unsolicited Aside From Meehan: Speaking of the Brady/Manning debate, be thankful that this is just one piece and not sports talk radio. I actually heard a sports talk radio personality (I won’t reveal his true identity, so let’s just call him “Kirk Morrison”) on Fox Sports radio this week ask who we’d expect to see win in a UFC-style fight. Haven’t we about heard enough of the whole “prizefighter” analogy? If they were boxers, they’d really be boxers. But they aren’t, they’re football players. If they were boxers, they’d be pretty shitty ones because we all know the sole purpose of white American guys in boxing is to be fist-stoppers.
San Francisco 49ers (+3.5, Over/Under 39.5) at Seattle Seahawks
Rarely do you hear more about a team’s stadium than you do about their offensive scheme, but that’s exactly what is happening to the Seattle Seahawks right now. If you think you’re hearing a lot about “game management” from the AFC game, just wait and see how disturbingly exhausted you’re going to be of that term by halftime of this one. Russell Wilson has made a NFL career out of being sneaky-effective without showing up on a lot of high-light reels, which is the reason he is the least mentioned quarterback of this upcoming weekend.
All week we’ve suffered through that awful commercial where Colin Kaepernick has all of the fans screaming at him and he quietly listens to his Ipod, but when the week is over he’s going to have to actually walk into that stadium and realize that the signals he’s barking could die in the air before his wide receivers (or worse yet, his offensive line) hear them.
Despite that, the 49ers actually do have a good chance at winning this game; just refer back to our aforementioned case for the Seahawks being stoppable at home. But it’s hard for us to get over the style of defense the Seahawks play. This is the second most important game in that franchise’s history, and if they win it the Super Bowl will wrest first place from the one they previously lost. This is huge for the Seattle Seahawks in every way. This was the year Richard Sherman was on the cover of the Sports Illustrated NFL Preview issue, this was the year they became more than just the 10-6 and 11-5 team that we’ve come to know them as, this was the year everything seems to have fallen into place, which means this is the year the expectations are also in place. Pete Carroll needs to be doing everything I can to distract the team from the fact that this current roster has a core group of players which could easily put this team in at least two of the next five Super Bowls. Winning on Championship Sunday is the first step.
Meehan Takes: Seahawks – I’m sounding like a broken record here, but I think it will be really close but the Seahawks will get it done.
J-Dub Takes: Seahawks – This game could easily look like two Cro-Magnon cave dwellers beating each other over the head with a thigh bone from a wooly mammoth. The home cave-dweller wins.
Another Completely Unsolicited Aside From Meehan: This is a memo to all of the marketing folks who use athletes to sell their product: We will never feel sorry for professional athletes. It didn’t work with Kobe Bryant and it sure as hell isn’t going to work with a guy in Colin Kaepernick who is covered into tattoos and supermodels. While I’m bitching about that commercial, am I the only one that noticed that the “You can tell everybody” portion of that track is ripped note for note from the pre-chorus of the Elton John track “Your Song?” (J-Dub: No you aren’t, but then again, I’m the one who know all of that music from before the Civil War.) Seriously, that motherfucker literally stole that note for note. There’s sampling, and then there’s plagiarism…This is straight up rape. Why doesn’t anybody take these assholes to task for shit like this?