Two Cents: Playoffs Roll on Despite Poor Pundit Predictions (1/13/2006)

(I worked as a Sports Editor from late 2004 until the summer of 2006. This is one of the many columns I was able to save that were originally published in The Sun-Times of Heber Springs, Arkansas.)

This weekend, the eight remaining teams in the NFL will square off in divisional playoffs for the right to move one step closer to Super Sunday. So, I thought it would be a good idea to review my preseason prognostications, to further enlighten you – the reader – on my magical and mysterious soothsaying abilities.

Eight teams remain out of 32, and way back in September I correctly predicted four of them would still be alive, hunting for Vince Lombardi’s trophy.

But far be it from me to toot my own horn without showing the rust. While it’s true I predicted Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, New England, and Seattle would be in the postseason, they are the only teams out of my top 12 to make the playoffs.

In my absolute and unquestioned genius, I predicted that Oakland, Green Bay, Baltimore, and Arizona would make the playoffs. I also mentioned Philadelphia and San Diego, two teams that should have, but didn’t.

Five teams out of my bottom 12 wound up making the playoffs: Denver, Chicago, Jacksonville, Washington, and Cincinnati. In my defense, I had no idea that Jake Plummer would stop throwing drive and game killing interceptions, that Kyle Orton would be the second coming of Jim McMahon, that Fred Taylor’s hamstring wouldn’t snap right out of his leg, that Santana Moss would be the best Moss in the league and that Carson Palmer would finally prove why he won the Heisman. (And for the record, if Palmer isn’t injured on that freak play to start the game, the Bengals would have won that contest.)

It is cloudy; always in motion the future is.

I guess my hatred for the Broncos led me to predict that they would be the worst team in the league. I have no such explanation for the Chicago goof. Aside from the fact that practically no one (except for hardcore Bear fans like Sarah in composing and my friend Dave) saw this kind of Bear turnaround coming, I still feel like a Mistress Chloe reject.

As I said way back in September, parity rules the league now. Indianapolis dominated, but that’s about it.

When any other team took the field this season it always seemed like a toss-up, no matter whom their opponent was. Any Given Sunday was more than just a crappy Oliver Stone movie; it was truly the NFL’s mission statement this year.

For proof, look no further than the wildcard games last weekend. All but one home team lost, and none of the games were really even that close. When playoff time approaches, close games should be the norm.

After all, these are the best teams the league had to offer this year, right? Or were these just the teams that happened to survive a crummy division and won enough Chinese arithmetic tiebreakers to advance?

Hopefully, the games this weekend will be better. But I’m not counting on it.

Indianapolis and Pittsburgh looks intriguing, until you remember their Monday night game that the Colts galloped away with. I know it’s the second season, but history doesn’t bode well for the Steelers. The last time they won a second playoff game under Bill Cowher, was the last time they made the Super Bowl. Plus, the Colts are probably going to be that much more dangerous considering the season’s end they just had to endure.

Any game involving the Patriots automatically increases my serotonin levels, especially when they’re playing the team I most despise in the entire National Football League. Would it even be an upset if New England wins? I know I won’t be upset, unless I think of the chances the Pats have to return to their third straight Super Bowl.

In the NFC, the Seahawks and Redskins game has a chance to be high scoring. The Seahawks should win the game going away, especially if Shaun Alexander plays like the league’s best running back, which he was this year. But I can’t have an Alabama running back playing this well with a chance to go to the Super Bowl. Go ‘Skins!

The Bears and Panthers might well be the first 3-0 double overtime playoff game in the history of man. If Stephen Davis – Auburn – were playing, I might watch. I know defense wins games and when it is played correctly is a thing of beauty, but the only way I’m watching that game is if it’s snowing or Gale Sayers is coming out of retirement.

The AFC conference championship game will be good no matter who is in it. But who really – besides Sarah in composing and my friend Dave – wants to see a Chicago and Seattle NFC Championship game? I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that Seattle is in the NFC, much less good enough to contend for the championship.

At least my pick to win it all still has a chance. I foresaw a Colts/Falcons Super Bowl, and what a game that would have been.

But Nagurski, Halas, Lombardi, Stramm and the rest of the football gods had a different plan.

Since the Falcons won’t be there, I’m going to root for the Bears to make it. The league’s number one defense against the league’s number one offense. The immovable object against the irresistible force. The Monsters of the Midway against Peyton and his Pals.

It would be a meeting of two of the NFL’s oldest franchises, when you realize that this is the same Colts team that Art Modell secreted out of Baltimore late one summer night.

Now reread that last paragraph. I wrote root for the Bears to make it, not the Bears WILL make it. I’ve had enough NFL predictions to last until next September, when I’ll make some more and cement my reputation as,  “Mike Gaines – no Vegas bookie”.



Categories: Football, sports

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