Thursday, January 6, 2011

NFL Weekly Predictions: Wild Card

By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.

New Orleans @ Seattle (+10½)

The Saints will begin defense of their Super Bowl crown by traveling to Seattle to face the Seahawks, champions of the NFC West. Of all the NFL's wild card teams, New Orleans likely has the easiest road to the divisional round, with just the 7-9 Seahawks standing in their way.

"Look at that," said Sean Payton. "We haven't even played and already we're in the 'loser's bracket.' Now the Seahawks have the team to match their '12th man' crowd, because Seattle was the '12th team' in the playoffs. But let's give the Seahawks some credit. They did keep the Rams, a fluke in their own right, out of the playoffs. So Seattle will go from facing 'The 'Greatest Faux on Earth' to 'The Greatest Sheaux on Earth.'

"But we won't underestimate the Seahawks, regardless of their record. They are at home, and we have to travel. Oddsmakers list us as 10½-point favorites, and I'm not sure who should feel more disrespected by that — us or them. Anyway, taking into account the 3 points typically awarded to the home team, it seems that not only do we gain two hours flying from New Orleans to Seattle, we also gain two touchdowns."

Seattle became the first team in NFL history to win a division with a losing record, knocking off the Rams 16-6 on Sunday night to take the West crown.

"Say what you will about our 7-9 record," Pete Carroll said. "But I'll make no apologies for our imperfections, just as I made no apologies at USC for our perfections. There are, in fact, quite a few similarities in the pro game and the college game. One being a Reggie Bush pay check. People can say what they want about me, but my record speaks for itself. In Seattle, it says 'You win some, you lose more.' In college, it said 'You win some, you forfeit more.'"

The Seahawks win the opening coin toss, and co-captain Matt Hasselbeck adds, sheepishly, "We want the ball, and we may or may not score," then scans Qwest Field for any sign of Al Harris. Hasselbeck's dreadlocked nemesis is nowhere to be found, but just to be safe, Carroll calls for three straight Marshawn Lynch runs. A successful drive ends in an Olindo Mare field goal, and the Qwest Field speakers blare the all-too-familiar sound of Frank Sinatra crooning the mantra "O. Mare, oh oh oh oh." Seattle takes a quick 3-0 lead. But a 3-0 advantage for the Seahawks just doesn't sound right; 3-7 is more appropriate, and after a Drew Brees touchdown pass to Marques Colston, that's what it is. Brees throws for 254 yards and 2 scores, and Reggie Bush returns a punt for a score, then displays the Heisman pose, empty-handed, of course.

New Orleans wins, 27-19.

NY Jets @ Indianapolis (-3)

The Colts secured their ninth-straight playoff appearance, beating the Titans 23-20 and clinching the AFC South title on Adam Vinatieri's 43-yard field goal as time expired. Indy will host the Jets in a rematch of last year's AFC championship Game, won 31-17 by the Colts.

"I've said it before and I'll say it again," said Peyton Manning. "Adam Vinatieri is living proof of the importance of having an American kicker with nerves of steel on your side. I have the utmost faith in Vinatieri. I never had this kind of confidence in Mike 'Canadian Missed' Vanderjagt. We also called him the 'Indy .500' because that was the chance of Mike making the clutch kick.

As for the Jets, we expect their best shot, whether it comes on the field or on the sideline. We've dealt with a great deal of injuries already this year, and persevered, so it's not a big deal if a Colt happens to get 'sidelined' against the Jets. In fact, I should caution Jets players should they wander onto our sideline. You've heard of the Colts piping in crowd noise. Well, we've taken a page out of musical savant Phil Spector's play book, and created a 'Wall of Sound,' which is sure to disorient any Jet that strays.

I understand Rex Ryan has described this matchup against me by saying 'it's personal.' That's interesting. It seems that lately, every time Ryan is asked about something, whether it be the playoffs or rumors of a foot fetish in the Ryan household, his reply on both occasions is 'it's personal.' History repeats itself, and so does Ryan. I'm 5-1 against Ryan-coached defenses in my career, so whether it's Rex himself or his wife, someone's getting licked. 5-1 also happens to be the 'toes-to-mouths' ratio in the Ryan household. For the Jets, 'football' is not just a game, it's an act of deviant, sexual behavior."

The Jets pummeled the Bills 38-7 to enter the playoffs with a hint of momentum after losing three of their previous four games. Ryan rested many of his starters, and Mark Sanchez played only one series without throwing a pass, giving his sore right shoulder a reprieve before the playoff push.

"Mark is still feeling pain when he throws," Ryan said. "I can certainly relate to his discomfort. All season, I've felt pain when Mark throws. Alas, he may not be the greatest Jet quarterback of all-time, but at least he knows how to treat a masseuse, and Suzy Kolber. Give 'Broadway' Joe Namath credit — he only asked for a kiss. By golly, Brett Favre puts the 'massage' in 'misogyny.' Apparently, as impending lawsuits suggest, if you don't rub Favre the right way, then he rubs you the wrong way. If Favre would have retired the first time, he would still be beloved. Now it seems he just wants to 'be loved.'"

Last year, it took Manning a half to solve the Jets defensive scheme. That's about 28 minutes more than it took Tom Brady back in early December, and that's been eating at Manning since. Manning comes out blazing, expertly mixing the pass and run. Ryan may nibble on toes, but soon his defense is biting on play action.

Manning throws for 278 yards and 3 touchdowns and Indianapolis wins, 30-25.

Baltimore @ Kansas City (+3)

With the AFC West title already clinched, the Chiefs looked flat last week against the Raiders, losing 31-10 and falling from the AFC's third seed to the fourth. As a result, they'll host the No. 5-seeded Ravens instead of the sixth-seeded Jets.

"I believe they call that 'quitting while you're ahead,'" said Todd Haley. "We really struggled with our protection issues, which doesn't bode well for us against the Ravens. Matt Cassel was sacked 7 times last week. Matt hit the ground quite a bit, so maybe our best bet against Baltimore is to hit the ground running, and live or die by our 'Pow! Wow!' rushing attack of the strapping Thomas Jones and the elusive Jamaal Charles. This duo is not your typical 'two-headed' monster. Oh no, they're the 'Arrow-headed' monster.

"Former Chiefs coach Herman Edwards once famously said, 'You play to win the game.' Then he was tricked into repeating it multiple times by those crafty Coors Light-drinking fellows. What's the point of that? I'm not sure, but if a few beer-swilling buffoons can dupe someone like Herm, then it frightens me to think what the likes Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, and Ed Reed can do to Cassel."

The Ravens will head to Arrowhead Stadium with the confidence of a 12-4 team, battle-tested in the AFC North, where men are men, and women are afraid to go to the bathroom alone. Baltimore squashed the Bengals upset bid last week, forcing 5 turnovers in a 13-7 win. Reed had 2 interceptions and Lewis recovered 2 fumbles as the Ravens avenged a 15-10 loss to Cincy earlier in the year.

"Another brilliant performance by Reed and Lewis," said John Harbaugh. "As you know, they're from the 'U,' and for someone whose coaching reputation depends almost solely upon them, that's good for the 'Me.'

"They say a good offense is the best defense. If that's the case, then our offense is the fourth-best defense on this team."

Ray Rice accumulates 159 total yards and a touchdown, and the Baltimore defense knocks Cassel out of the game early in the fourth, giving the weary K.C. quarterback a "Matt" finish.

Baltimore wins, 22-16.

Green Bay @ Philadelphia (-2½)

The Packers clinched the NFC's No. 6 seed with a hard-fought 10-3 victory over the Bears, and earned a Sunday afternoon date with Michael Vick and the Eagles, the NFC East champs and the NFC's No. 3 seed. Green Bay opened the season with a 27-20 win in Philadelphia, and the Packers knocked Kevin Kolb out of the game, opening the door for Vick's storied ascension.

"Maybe Vick should be asking for our autographs," said Charles Woodson. "Now, I can't say I agree with FOX News blowhard Tucker Carlson that Vick should be executed for his role in a dog-fighting ring. That's a little extreme. Death penalty? No way. Depth penalty? Maybe. However, I am hesitant to say that Vick should be allowed to own dogs again. He needs another dog like he needs another hole in his backyard. Let's pray that if Vick ever does get a dog again, he doesn't teach it to speak.

"Now, with the Packers, you never know what you're going to get from one week to the next. Much of that depends of the health of Aaron Rodgers. In our case, the 'Pack mentality' has more to do with Aaron's brain than with the team's overall state of mind. He's had two concussions this year, and we're still dealing with the repercussions of that. Aaron is young and vulnerable, which makes him a target, not only for the Eagles defense, but for Brett Favre, as well."

Philadelphia closed the season with two losses, dulling the luster of a 10-6 finish. However, the Eagles sat most of their starters in the season finale and should be well-rested when the Packers make a return visit.

"How is a meaningless loss to the Cowboys," DeSean McCoy said, "like a meaningless win against the Cowboys? You can get either by 'not trying.' This Eagles team is built on the playmaking ability of myself, LeSean McCoy, and, of course, Vick, who is the team's inspiration. It's with a nod to the hip hop genre that we call ourselves 'De Le Soul.'"

Philadelphia wins, 26-21.

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