PREVIOUS COLUMNS 4

2014 COLUMNS


NOT ANOTHER FAVRE!


There are few things in life that really tick me off.  I am pretty even keel, and go through life like a twig on a stream.  However, like the average Joe, there are still a few things that really get under my skin.


The person in front of you when you are in a hurry, paying with a check at the grocery store.  Speaking of grocery stores, I can't stand those people who put two carts worth of crap on the conveyor belt at the "15 items and under" line.  Repair places that tell you, "we'll get right to it.  It'll only be a few minutes", and then you sit there for two and a half hours waiting.  Meteorologists who call for a beautiful, sunny day, you make outdoor plans, and then it rains all day.


I'm sure there are a few other things, if I had more time to think about it.  The worst thing that drives me crazy though....are wafflers.


You know the type.  You've stood behind them in line at McDonalds, Burger King or Wendy's.  


"OK, I will have the double cheeseburger, fries and chicken sandwich, annnnd, no wait...make that a fish sandwich, side salad annnnd.  No, on second thought....gimme a second.  OK, I will have two regular cheeseburgers, a kids meal and, no wait.  One cheeeseburger, a chicken wrap and....  No, I'm not in the mood for a wrap now, how about....", and you just want to yell at the top of your lungs, "For cryin' out loud dude, it's a freaking burger joint!  Just order SOMETHING before Halley's comet comes back!  Sheesh!"


As bad as that is in real life, it is far worse to me when it comes to sports.


There have been a few boxers who have gone through a number of "retirements".  It's pretty prevalent in the fight game.  Muhammed Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Larry Holmes and Evander Holyfield come to mind.  I am tempted to give boxers a pass though.  It's the nature of the beast.


Magic Johnson had a much publicized comeback after a retirement, but that had to do with HIV, and was a unique case, so I give him a pass as well.


The most famous waffler of all time though, bar none, was Brett Favre.  He had at least three "retirements" and subsequent comebacks.  Told the Packers he was done.  They asked if he was sure.  He said yes.  Then two months later he wanted to come back, then acted like an insolent child when they told him to stick it.  Retired again with the Jets,  Cane back with the Vikings.  Favre drove me crazy, made a lot of people think it was all about him, and badly tarnished his legacy.  Now, it looks like we have another famous, future hall of fame waffler.


First ballot, sure to be hall of famer Tony Gonzalez made news today by saying that he is open to a comeback.  Again.  


This is not new for Gonzalez.  Two seasons ago, he told anyone who would listen that it was his last season playing football.  He was retiring at the end of the year.  He had a "farewelll tour", complete with gifts, cheers from visiting fans, and accolades from announcers doing his games.  Then, after his Falcons lost in the NFC Championship game, he changed his mind, and said how he can't leave the game with his team so close to a Super Bowl.


OK, I can see that.  He's still in good shape, and all the experts thought the Falcons would be a contender again this year.  So, Gonzalez came back, played and played well.  Again, more gifts, cheering and accolades on the 2nd "farewell tour".  A standing ovation from the home fans in his last game in the Georgia Dome.


Now, once again, Gonzalez says he is open to the possibility of a comeback.  Obviously, it won't be in Atlanta either.  That after he dissed his quarterback, Matt Ryan, in an interview with ESPN, the Magazine.  Gonzalez told the magazine that Ryan is "not an elite quyarterback", and that he was open to a trade last year.


Amazing how quickly that loyalty fades when you start out 2-5 huh?  


It will be interesting to see what happens.  Like Brett Favre, if Tony Gonzalez wants to play again, there WILL be a team that signs him.  He certainly has the track record, and even in his late 30's, is still one of the top ten tight ends in football.


I just hope it isn't with one of my favorite teams.  If Gonzalez comes back again next year, my respect and 

appreciation will be gone.




BRONCOS WANT A "DO-OVER"


 Has there ever been a more one-sided Super Bowl?  Ever?  


Probably not.  It would be among the most one-sided Super Bowls of all time, but was the result really one of complete domination and the result of the better team winning?  I say "no".


Was this the most "flukey" Super Bowl ever.  Possibly, yes.


I honestly don't say this just because I was rooting for the Broncos, or that I predicted they would win.  I say it because of the way the game went; the fact that the Broncos were actually the team that was favored, and the bizarre things that happened that resulted in a 43-8 final in favor of Seattle.


Has there ever been a Super Bowl game that was decided on the first play of the game?  If there was, I surely don't remember it.  For all intents and purposes, this one was though.


Two weeks of hype.  All the waiting, talking, preparing and waiting some more.  The Seahawks won the toss, deferred to the 2nd half, and kicked off.  A kick return to the 13 yard line, and the Broncos started 1st and ten.


At that point, everything went to hell for the Denver Broncos.  A Manny Ramirez snap over Peyton Manning's head, when he wasn't even ready for a snap to be made, resulted in a safety as Knowshon Moreno recovered the ball in the end zone.  That was just the beginning of the end.


The following kickoff resulted in a decent drive for Seattle that included a 30 yard end-around by Percy Harvin, and a short Seattle field goal.  After a quick three and out and Denver punt, the Seahawks drove into field goal range again and another Steven Hauschka field goal and it was 8-0 before Denver could even breath in the low altitude air of the Meadowlands.


At that point, as the Seahawks prepared to kickoff, I told my wife, "the one thing that Denver can't do at this point is turn the ball over",  Sadly for Denver, that is exactly what happened, as Manning threw an ill-advised pass on 3rd down that was intercepted by Kam Chancellor, giving the Seahawks a short field.  The subsequent touchdown by Seatttle made it 15-nothing, and at that point, the fabric of the game was decided.


Anyone who has watched NFL football this season knows that the Seahawks are money when they get ahead by a couple of touchdowns.  The Seahawks defensive linemen pin their ears back and rush the passer, and the defensive backs smother the opponent.  Anyone who knew anything about football knew the Broncos were up against it at that point.  

The next time the Broncos had the ball, they drove downfield again, but Manning was picked and returned 69 yards and suddenly, it was even worse--22 to nothing, Seattle.


Denver was able to drive downfield to near the red zone again after that, but went for it and missed on 4th and short, and the game went to half, a one sided whitewash.


The second half was not even worth commenting on.  The Seahawks continued to add to their lead, while the Broncos continued to take needed chances.  Seattle kept forcing turnovers, keeping Denver from getting back into the game.


The way the game went, it is hard to make the case that Seattle wasn't the better team by far.  I honestly still don't see it that way.  The Broncos were favored for a reason.  They have as good of a team as the Seahawks, but the game didn't go their way.  If things play out differently, it could be a much different result, and each team might win five times if the game was played ten times.


If we have a time machine, and that first snap doesn't go over Manning's head, the Broncos could go down the field and score a touchdown and it's 7-0,Denver.  Who knows how things work out from there, but Seattle surely isn't any better than Denver at getting back into games coming from behind.


What is left for the two teams looks much more bright for Seattle.  They had the 4th youngest team in the NFL thjis year and the 2nd youngest team to ever win a Super Bowl.  They will have to be favored next year as well and possibly could be on the verge of a dynasty.  For the Broncos, if Peyton comes back, they will be favored in the AFC again, but above that, no one will be talking dynasty.  Also, Peyton took a hit to his legacy.  It wasn't   all his fault but I'm afraid he will be looked at as more of a choker in big games than a champion of big games.


Right now, the main thing I feel is sadness and depression.  Sure I was cheering for the Broncos to win, and believe me, my wife is nearly inconsolable right now, but I am just sad football is over.


Six whole months go by before the beginning of training camps.  That's a looooong time.  Right now, I always wonder if I am going to be able to make it.  I sure hope I will be able to, but it certainly brings a sadness to me that I will be "sans football" until late summer.  That could be more depessing than what the Broncos are feeling right now.



  

THE SUPER BOWL GOES TO POT


There is one thing I find interesting about this Super Bowl.  I have heard some analysts mention it, but I have not heard it made a focal point like I believe it should be.  


What I am referring to is that both teams represent the only two states in the US nation that have legalized marijuana.


I'm honestly wondering if that is just coincidence, or could actually have something to do with the matchup.  


Most of the time, I am a card carrying member of the conservative right.  I believe in capitolism, the smaller the government--the better, and that you are rewarded and not penalized if you work hard and earn good money.  


There are really only two hot button political items that I do not hold the party line on.  One of them is abortion.  I have always been pro-choice.  What a woman does with her body should be her choice.  I believe that life doesn't "officially" begin at conception, or in other words, the right of decision of the potential mother usurps the right of the fetus.  The other hot button item of mine that I don't stand with my right wing brethren is the legalization of marijuana.


I am not a pothead or a stoner.  Never have been and I doubt I ever will be, although if it is legalized, I can see myself checking out if it helps my eye condition.  I am not going to lie and say I NEVER used it either though.  My first time, I had bet a fraternity brother during hell week that if we make it through this and get into Sigma Phi Epsilon, that I would get high with him.  We did, and I followed though.  I actually didn't like the way it made me feel actually.  I remember going back to my dorm room and trying to read a book.  The lights in the room seemed soooo darn bright.  And I kept getting caught up on the same line in my book, over and over.  I ended up giving up and just going to sleep.


The second time, I was with other frat brothers at a Van Halen concert.  One of them passed me a blunt and just as I was about to put it to my lips and inhale, a security guard knocked it out of my fingers and ran off.  Other than that, I have maybe tried it about 2 or 3 other times.  I'm not an expert by experience, believe me.


What I have learned though makes me realize how ridiculous it is that pot is illegal.  First of all, it is holistic.  It is completely natural.  Pot also has healing qualities.  If you add up a list of "positive things about pot" against a list of "negative things about pot"....the positives outnumber the negatives.


One must also consider that according to an informal straw poll of current NFL players, more than half already indulge in marijuana use.  Some of it is recreational.  Some of it has a bearing on dealing with pain.  


Those who smoke pot and play a sport that is physical and involves a lot of contact will tell you that using marijuana helps them deal with the pain associated with their lingering injuries.  When you consider the alternatives when it comes to dealing with pain in the NFL, pot comes off smelling like a...well, a sweet, stanky, rose.


When NFL players have serious pain and injuries, they are usually prescribed vicodin, tramadal, neurontin, percocet and so on.  Most of these drugs are highly addictive and end up causing more harm than good after the injury has healed.  Many players, like former Nebraska defensive end Jason Peter, has had their careers ruined by prescription drug addiction.


Legalizing marijuana would help many of these players with lingering injuries deal with the pain associated with those injuries.


As for the rest of the public, I don't think legalizing pot would have huge implications either.  If anything, there will be less shootings and it might result in fewer drug dealers on inner city streets.  It also could have a huge economic benefit as well.  Convenience stores would see a huge spike in business from stoners desperate for a 3 am ho-ho binge.


If I am wrong with anything I have said here, I'm sure my doctor friend Jeff will fill me in, but I really believe legalizing marijuana will benefit society in general.  Or at least not hurt society as much as some politicians seem to think it will.


It will also help profession sports.  The Broncos and Seahwaks could be testament to that.




NFL HAS TURNED PRO BOWL INTO A COMPLETE JOKE


The Nfl Pro Bowl has been going downhill for years.  It was never really a great game in the first place, but compared to 20 or 30 years ago, the game has been going downhill lately faster than a runaway locomotive.  


In an attempt to stem that tide and slow that slide, the NFL has resorted to desperate measures.  They are calling it "fantasy football for real", or something like that.  What they have done is to appoint Hall of Famers Deion Sanders and Jerry Rice honorary captains, and let them choose their own Pro Bowl teams, much like kids used to do on the playgrounds.


What this has done is turn what was a bland exhibition game into a complete and total travesty.  


The draft was held earlier this week, and was televised by the NFL Network of course.  This "dog and pny show" is scheduled to be played this Sunday--a week before the Super Bowl.


With this ridiculous notion, the NFL has successfully lost any fan of the league that they had left, as far as this game goes.


It was bad enough when the league started putting the game the week BEFORE the Super Bowl, instead of the traditional week after the Super Bowl, which it had been for decades.  As a traditionalist who usually believes that any change is a bad thing, I was never a fan of that in the first place.  You have your two best teams for that whole year, and since that asinine change, none of them are able to play in the Pro Bowl, for fear of injuries.  Now this!


The ONLY thing left that made the Pro Bowl at least semi-interesting was the conference battle.  Not that they really ever battled mind you.  There is usually more hitting at a typical hairdresser convention than there is in a typical Pro Bowl.  But for fans, you are either an AFC guy, or an NFC guy.  Wither you live near a city that is in one of the conferences, or your favorite team or teams play in one of the two.  Therefore, at least you had some small rooting interest in the game usually.


Now, that is all gone.  What is there left now for the average fan to cheer for in the game?  Taking away the conferences takes away any rooting interest.  Plus, not that history mattered much in the Pro Bowl, but at least you could know which conference's record was against the other in the game.  Now with no conferences represented, what goes into the history books of the league?  Deion Sanders beats Jerry Rice?  Ridiculous!


As a die hard NFL fan that usually loves everything about the league, the one thing that I always had after the Super Bowl was over, was "at least I have the Pro Bowl next week before football is over for another year".  You can't say that anymore about the Pro Bowl.  In fact, you can't really say anything about the Pro Bowl.  I'd rather watch the Puppy Bowl.


Let's hope the powers that be realize how ridiculous this joke of a game is this weekend and put it back to its normal, where it should be, week after the Super Bowl, next year.  Or else get rid of it completely.  Name a Pro Bowl team for each conference on paper, but don't play the game.  I'd be fine with that too.  As it is currently constituted though, it's not even worth watching.  I doubt many will.  Hopefully the NFL notices that. 




IS TOM BRADY'S LEGACY NOW IN QUESTION???


One week ago, I wrote a column on this very webpage about how Peyton Manning's legacy is at stake this postseason.  How he will be remembered and thought of years from now will depend greatly on how he performs over the next two games and if his team wins.


Well, it's time to revisit that topic, only now, not to examine the Manning legacy, but his vanquished opponent, Tom Brady.  


While Manning's greatness is never questioned, his losses in big games have brought into question if he will be thought of as a winner.  Brady has never had this question mark next to his name and being a "winner".  I'm here to say, that maybe it should.


That had never been the case early in his career.  In fact, over the first seven or eight years of his career, Brady was the poster boy for being a winner.  The Merrium Webster dictionary actually put a picture of Brady in their 2005 edition next to the word "winner".  OK, so maybe that's an exaggeration, but you get the point, and probably remember it yourself--how fans and media alike regarded Brady.


Brady's problem may be that he set the bar too high early on.  In three of his first four years as the Patriots starting QB, he went 9-0 and won three Super Bowls (over the Rams, Panthers and Eagles, in that order). Brady was 10-0 in the playoffs until he finally lost, to the Denver Broncos in the 2005 playoffs.  He was 12-1, when Peyton Manning finally beat him in an AFC Championship game, en route to his only Super Bowl ring in 2006.  Since then, Brady has not been the same big game quarterback, but still seems to get a pass.


Tom Brady is only 4-6 in his last ten postseason games.  In those games, he has thrown 19 touchdown passes, along with ten interceptions.  Not awful, but considering that Brady threw only THREE interceptions in his first ten playoff games, it is quite the comedown.


In the 2007 season, he had his career year, leading his Pats to a near perfect season, but was upset by the heavy underdog Giants in the biggest game of all--Brady's first Super Bowl loss.  He didn't perform all that well either in the Super Bowl, and seemed fearful of the Giants fierce pass rush all game long.  


In the 2009 playoffs, the Patriots lost at home to the heavy underdog Baltimore Ravens in the conference semi-finals.  The following year, Brady also didn't look great, losing to the heavy underdog New York Jets.  In 2011, it was eerily similar to four years earlier.  Brady and his Patriots cruised through the playoffs, and were not quite as heavily favored as they were against the G-men in 2007, but they still were favored.  Brady underwhelmed in that Super Bowl as well, losing again to the boys from the Big Apple.  Finally, the past two years, Brady and his Pats lost in the Conference finals each time.  Brady didn't win those big games for them either.


Now something important to keep in mind is that when Manning loses a big game, it's his fault.  When Brady loses a big game, it usually falls on the team as a whole.  Ever notice that?  It's true though isn't it?  When the Patriots lost any of those games, you really never heard anyone say how it was all Tom Brady's fault.  Because of Peyton Manning's greatness, the same cannot be said for him.  When Manning threw that pick to Tracy Porter against the Saints, no one ever said "oh, the Colts lost that game because of their lack of a running game".  No, Manning is the sure target, just as he is usually the sole credit when his team wins.


That being set aside, Tom Brady is still a first ballot hall of famer.  I'm not disputing that.  I am simply saying that perhaps when we think of Brady decades from now, that temptation to put him with Joe Montana as the "greatest winner of all time" in the NFL should definitely be tempered.  In fact, his place in history is falling with each playoff loss.  At one point, Brady was thought of on the same level as Montana.  Now, I think he has dropped down perhaps even below John Elway, Brett Favre, Johnny Unitas and maybe even Dan Marino.  His lofty place in history used to be on the highest echelon.  Now, he is starting to fall down into the Eli Manning, Terry Bradshaw, Drew Brees, and maybe Kurt Warner type level.


Maybe we are starting to see now that Brady maybe never was as great as we all made him out to be.  Perhaps he was just the perfect guy to run that system for all these years?


That loss in this year's Championship game could be more costly for Tom Brady than anyone had ever thought of before last weekend.  




REPLAY REDUX 

Baseball made a big splash yesterday, announcing that an expanded video replay system has been approved by major league baseball and will start immediately.  They are trumpeting this achievement from the highest mountaintops as well, apparently convinced that they have now cured all that is wrong with their sport.


Once again, they don't have a friggin CLUE!


Ironically lost in this incredible "triumph" to bring replay to the game on a much less limited basis, is that by doing so, it will most likely make baseball's biggest problem even WORSE!


Everyone who watches the game of baseball nowadays knows exactly what that "real" problem is of course.  It is simply the tiume it takes to play a regular nine inning game.  The guys who run the sport don't have one iota of of comprehension about this.


Back in the 1960's and 70's, when baseball was king, and nearly the perfect game, a regular nine inning game took just under two and a half hours to play.  It was the perfect amount of time to pay your money to come and watch.  If it was a quick game, you still felt you got your full, nine innings worth.  If it went into extra innings, you felt you got some "bonus baseball" and still got back to your car around three hours or so after you went in.  Currently, the average nine inning baseball game takes around three hours and 15 or 20 minutes to play, with extra inning games routinely coming in over four hours.  In some Yankees-Red Sox games in fact, you can watch the season change over from spring to summer or summer to fall while it is being played.


Now each manager will get a replay "challenge each game.  If they win that, they will get a 2nd.  That makes for four replay challenges per game possibly, and that's just from the managers.  You know once this is tweaked, any umpire will be able to call for one whenever they want in an effort to "get the call right".  


Now don't get me wrong--this is all good.  baseball should want to get as many calls right as they can, so that the proper winner of the game can be determined without the umps involvement.  When it comes to solving the game's biggest problems though, it pales in comparison to the length of games on the priority list.  In fact, with all these ecxtra challenges, it will make the problem far worse.


Lets say there are four replay challenges a game.  Major league Baseball says its replay system will be able to get each call decided in under two minutes.  So, let's say two minutes for the sake of argument, because these things always take longer than anticipated.  Just ask football.  That means the average game will take EIGHT MINUTES LONGER THAN BEFORE!!!  Now you are getting closer to three and a half hours for an average game!!!  


It is getting ridiculous, and the guys who run the sport need to realize this, and not be so oblivious.  If they don't realize it soon and start doing something about it, the sport hay never have a chance of coming back to even a percentage of it's former levels of populatrity.


Now of course, it's time to shift gears and talk football!  It's NFL Chamionship Sunday in a couple of ays and many of you can't wait.  Neither can I.




MANNING A LEGACY


Peyton Manning is one of the game's greats when it comes to NFL lore.


His status as one of the NFL's greatest quarterbacks is secure.  Fifty years from now, fans will remember him.  They will talk about him and his accomplishments, much like we do today about Otto Graham and Sammy Baugh.  


Yes, no matter what happens in the remaining two weekends of the NFL playoffs, that legacy as "one" of the NFL's greatest is pretty well established.  That is not in doubt, to me, and to most other observers and historians of the game.  


What Peyton Manning can do about it though over the next two weekends, is to go from "one of" the greats...to arguably "THE" greatest quarterback to ever play the position.


That is how much is at stake for Manning right now in this year's postseason.


Manning led his Denver Broncos to a record breaking season as the highest scoring team in NFL history for a single season.  Manning himself broke the single season record for touchdown passes with 55, beating Tom Brady's old record by FIVE whole scores, which is like a game and a half more than Tom Terrific.  He broke Drew Brees record for passing yards in a season as well, completing the NFL version of the "holy trinity" of single season quarterback records.


Now what can he do for an encore?  Well, the only thing TO do is complete the feat with a Super Bowl ring. ANYTHING else for Peyton will be a total disappointment and just not suffice.  


It would be akin to the 2007 New England Patriots, who had a chance at the first perfect season of the 16 game schedule era.  Tom Brady had compiled a similar record breaking season that year as well.  What happened of course, was that Brady's Pats were upset by the Giants in the big game, putting a huge blemish on that season.  If he and the Patriots win that game, Brady is looked at as the greatest quarterback in history and that team would have been put on a near God-like pedestal as the greatest team EVER!


Manning's Broncos don't have that same worry.  Of course, if they win the Super Bowl, they will be in the discussion, but it won't be as unquestioned as that Patriot team.  Manning however, is a different story.


There are two different scenarios right now when it comes to Peyton Manning.  One is, if the Broncos lose either this week's game at home against New England, the story will once again be how Tom Brady is the much better big game, postseason quarterback.  It will probably be said that Brady finds a way to win, and how Manning choked in the clutch once again on the large stage of big playoff game glory.  Manning will be looked at as one of the best signal callers in NFL history, but one who couldn't win "The Big One".


If Manning vanquishes the Patriots and beats Brady, but then loses in the Super Bowl to the Seahawks or 49ers, I believe the same things will be said about him by the experts, pundits and fans alike.  It really is a "no-lose" situation for Manning.


If Manning wins the next two games and notches his second Super Bowl trophy (and probable game MVP award), I believe it validates him as THE greatest quarterback to ever play the game.


If Denver wins the whole thing, beating a tough Patriots team along the way, slaying the dragon that is Tom Brady for the 2nd time on the way to his 2nd title, and then beats a formidable Seahawks team (who will most likely be favored), I believe it will leave no doubt.  


Oh sure, some will still say that Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw had more Super Bowl wins, and that Brady 


not only had more Super Bowl wins, but also got the better of Manning in most of their head-to-head matchups.  Some will still say that Dan Marino had his success in a completely different era, or that John Elway was more versatile, or Brett Favre was more of a "gamer".  But in my mind, if you add up Peyton Manning's career dominance among his contemporaries and the numbers he is putting up combine to make him the best ever.


If Manning has his surgically repaired neck examined after the season, and is given the greenlight to continue playing, and he chooses to, then he should pass Favre in career yardage and touchdowns, as well as holding most other career passing records.  If the doctors shut him down and force him to call it a career, then he finishes 2nd to Favre in yards and touchdowns, but would have two Super Bowl wins to Favre's one.  Scoreboard!  


It all will be decided in the next three weekends.  A legacy will be born, or forever tarnished.  No pressure Peyton!




THE BEST TWO WEEKENDS OF THE YEAR


Yes, we are in the midst of the two best back-to-back weekends of the year.  For many sports fans, there is no question about that.


Wild card weekend in the NFL, followed by the divisional playoff weekend, or if you prefer--conference semi-final weekend.  As the ol' beer commercial says, "It doesn't get any better than this."


Last weekend, we had three incredible games, and the one that wasn't all that great was the biggest upset of the week.  I will start with some thoughts on the four games.


The first game of the weekend gave us all an inkling that this was going to be one pretty extra special weekend of football.  The Kansas City Chiefs jumped all over the Indianaplis Colts and their young star Andrew Luck, jumping out to a shocking 38-10 lead early in the 2nd half.  This despite the fact that KC's best player, Jamaal Charles left the contest on the first series of the game with a concussion, never to return.


The Chiefs were frustrating Luck, forcing interceptions and turnovers left and right.  Still, the Colts scored to pull to 38-17 and then the key play of the game happened.  Alex Smith was sacked by Robert Mathis, fumbled, and the ball was gathered in by Kelvin Shepherd just before going out of bounds.  A Luck to Donald Brown 3 yard TD pass followed and the momentum switched 180 degrees at that point.  Suddenly, the Colts were down by only two touchdowns and were able to come back and win 45-44.


It was the 2nd largest comeback in NFL playoff history, surpassed only by the Bills amazing comeback against the Oilers in the '93 playoffs.  


The crazy thing about it was, I honestly think the better team won.  For two and half quarters, it seemed like that would be the Chiefs, but Indy showed some amazing fortitude and a never say die attitude.  The Colts came out of that game much healthier than the Chiefs would have, and have a much better chance against New England than KC would have.


For Kansas City, it was a fitting ending for a season that started with such promise.  A roaring 9-0 start was followed by a whimpering 2-6 finish, but there will be better days for the Chiefs, who have too much young talent to continue to regress like they did late this season.


The next game was just as good as the Saints came from behind to beat the Eagles.  Philadelphia looked like the better team in the first half, but in the second half, they inexplicably played like the road team, looking unsure and unconfident.  New Orleans played more like they wanted it and grinded out the win on the ground, which is very unusual for a Drew Brees-led offense.  The Saints need to continue that running success this weekend if they hope to have any chance against the Seahawks.


On Sunday, the Bengals did what they always do--choke in the first round of the playoffs.  Cincinnati scored the games first touchdown, but that would be it for them, as the Chargers dominated from that point on.  San Diego was able to run a balanced offense, and play surprisingly great defense.  Watch out for the Chargers!  They seem to be peaking at the right time, and are gaining confidence with each win.  If they can shock the Broncos at home this weekend, the Chargers could be the team to beat the rest of the way--even with an 8-8 regular season.


Finally, the final game of the weekend was as good or better than the rest of them, as San Francisco won a close, back and forth game over the Packers on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.  


The difference in the game, just like last years playoff game, was Colin Kaepernick's legs.  Kaepernick ran for 98 yards on 7 carries, while also passing for more yards than Aaron Rodgers.  Kaepernick appears ready to do exactly what he did last year--peak at the right time and play his best football in the playoffs, which is scary for the rest of the NFC.  Green Bay should have learned from last year's playoff game when Kaepernick torched them for nearly 200 yards rushing, but apparently, they learned nothing and have no one to blame but 


themselves (and defensive coordinator Dom Capers and assistans Mike Troovac and Kevin Greene).


So, what can we expect this weekend?  Will it be more of the same?  I don't know but it sure looks good.  Here are my bold predictions:


Seattle  27--New Orleans 23


The last time these two teams played in Seattle, it was no contest as the Seahawks handed the Saints their worst loss of the year in a blowout on Monday night.  Usually when two teams meet after a blowout, the next game is always much closer, but usually the same team wins.  That is how I think this one will go.  The Saints need to run the ball with effectiveness, like they did last week, to have any chance at all.  The Seahawks can be run on, but their pass defense is the best in the league.  If New Orleans falls behind early, like they did last time, it's lights out, and the Saints will go marching out.


New England 30--Indianapolis  17


The old adage says "give Tom Brady and Bill Belichick an extra week to prepare for a big playoff game and they will carve their next opponent up".  Well, something like that.  OK, maybe it's not an adage, but it should be.  Brady and Belichich always seems to win the game after the bye week.  It is the conference final that they have struggled with.  Anyways, they should have no problems with the Colts.  Teams generally coming off amazing comeback wins usually lose big the following week.  I think back to the incredibel Chargers win over the Dolphins in that overtime thriller in the 1981 playoffs.  They got hammered by the Bengals the following week.  Expact a similar fate for the Colts, even with Luck on their side.


San Francisco  19--Carolina 15  


These two teams met toward the end of the regular season (week 10 I believe) and Carolina won a close, low scoring game.  That game was in the Bay area, and I expect the Niners to repay the favor in another close, low scoring game.  I'm thinking the Panthers will get five field goals and the 49ers will get four.  The difference will be the late touchdown by Colin Kaepernick, where he does his Burt Reynolds impersonation--running the ball in from the one yard line, just like in "The Longest Yard".


Denver  38--San Diego 35 in overtime


This should be the game of the weekend.  The Broncos should be rested and ready, and the weather should be decent with temperatures in the 50's.  That should mean that Peyton Manning and his record breaking offense should once again be unstoppable.  The problem for Denver is, their defense has to take the field at some point, which should mean Philip Rivers and the Chargers offense should also be unstoppable.  The result should make for the most entertaining game of the weekend, and could go either way.  I'm banking on an overtime finish with Matt Prater using his distance edge over Nick Novak to kick a game winning 72 yard field goal in the thin Rocky Mountain air.  


Grab your popcorm folks, and make sure you stock up on plenty of beer and soda.  This should be a LOT of fun!




WHO WILL ENTER THE HALLOWED HALL?


This is one of the toughest times of the year for a baseball fan.  It is about smak-dab halfway through the offseason.  Pitchers and catchers don't report for another month or so.  Most of the off-season free agent signings have already happened.


Ahhh, but then comes the baseball Hall of Fame selection.  


The elected class of 2014 to enter the hallowed hall in Cooperstown this coming summer will be announced tomorrow.  Who will it be?  Some of the biggest first year names include Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Mike Mussina.  Then there are the steroid holdovers.  Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and so on.  Will Maddux be the first unanimous choice?  Lots of questions to be answered.


A player needs to appear on 75% of the ballots of the baseball writers of america to get in.  Each voting writer can vote for up to ten names on their ballot.  I don't have a ballot, but if I did, I thought it would be fun to write down who I thought deserves to get in.  So, here is my ballot...If I had one, in order of preference.


--Greg Maddux.  The bespectacled right handed hurler looked like an accountant.  He never had the best fastball or curve.  He just plain knew how to pitch, with perhaps the best changeup the game has ever seen.  If you complile a list of the top ten pitchers of all time, Greg Maddux would be one of the names you should see.  A 355-227 record in the live ball era.  A 3.16 career ERA, but in his absolute prime, his ERA was nearly two runs lower than the league average.  Maddux was purely dominant.  The only downside was his 11-14 postseason record, along with a slightly higher 3.27 ERA.  Should be the first unanimous selection in history in my book, but we know he won't be already, as a writer from MLB.com has admitted he inexplicably did not vote for Maddux 


--Mike Mussina.  "Moose" was one of the top five dominant starting pitchers of his era.  That is my rule of thumb, and in my mind, Mussina fits the bill.  A 270-153 career record means he won a percentage of his games much more often than not, and is very H-O-F worthy.  He had his best year in his final year, winning 20 games for the first time in his career at age 39 in 2008.  He was a five time all-star and was in the top five in strikeout to walk ratio a whopping 12 times in his career.  That says hall of fame to me.


--Tom Glavine.  Glavine wasn't as dominant at Mussina or Maddux, but to me, he still has the numbers.  He could be the final 300 game winner to get into the hall for a long time, with a final 305-203 record to go with a 3.54 ERA.  Not the best postseason pitcher, but usually kept his team in games.  Glavine was also a ten time all-star and a two time Cy Young award winner.  Open the doors Cooperstown--here comes Tommy!


--Frank Thomas.  "The Big Hurt" was one of the top five sluggers of his era, again meeting my basic criteria.  At his adsolute peak, there were few better sluggers in the history of hte game.  521 career homeruns and 1704 RBI shows he has the magic numbers needed for enshrinement.  What really separates Thomas from his contemporaries was his amazing batting eye at the plate.  Thomas had 100 walks in a season an incredible TEN times in his career, putting his on base percentage as well as his OPS (on base percentage plus slugging) into stratospheric numbers.  He was a five time all-star, two time MVP and won one batting title, which is almost unheard of for a pure sligger.  That all says the Big Hurt is hall of fame worthy to me.


--Mike Piazza.  Piazza is one of those guys who is in a grey area.  Was he a steroid guy?  I think he probably was, but he is also one of the guys who skated through the scandal relatively unscathed--never being lumped in with the others.  Therefore, I have to go by the numbers, which Piazza has, especially at the catching position.  For a catcher, he had outfielder type numbers:  a .308 career average, 427 homeruns and 1335 RBI.  His career on base percentage was .377 and his career slugging mark was a remarkable .545.  Piazza was a 12 time all-star and won the silver slugger award 10 times.  He was never the best fielding catcher and had an average arm, but with those offensive numbers, especially in his prime, I don't care.  He's in!


--Jeff Kent.  Like Piazza, Kent is deserving of enshrinement to me because of the position he played.  Second basemen, with the exception of Rogers Hornsby, are usually not hall of famers based on slugging.  Kent is a rare exception, and with the possible exception of Joe Morgan, no second baseman since Hornsby was as proficient of a power hitter as Jeff Kent.  Even I was surprised when I saw that Kent had over 1500 career RBI (1508).  He also had 377 homeruns, a .356 on base percentage and a .500 slugging percentage--very lofty numbers for a second baseman. Kent was a five time all-star and won one MVP, and I believe, was still underrated.  Being a contestant on the reality show Survivor puts him over the top.


--Given serious consideration, but just missing out on my ballot:


--Moises Alou.  Very good mubers, especially in his prime, but injuries and missed time because of them leave him just short for me.


--Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio.  The Houston duo have the numbers and will get in eventually I believe, but for me, not in this particularly bounteous year.


--Edgar Martinez.  Also has the offensive numbers to get in someday, but again, what kills him is the fact that he was a DH only for much of his career.  Frank Thomas was just a DH too for the most part, but at least he played some first base, even if it was poorly.


--Jack Morris.  A workhorse, and the ace of his staff most of his career.  I think he gets in someday, but this year, the ERA is just too high to make my ballot (3.90).


--Curt Schilling.  "Howdy" as he was known during his Rochester Red Wings career, Schilling was a dominant postseason pitcher.  He just wasn't good enough for Cooperstown during the regular seasons.  And finally....


--Larry Walker.   With a career .313 average, and an eye-popping .400 OBP and .565 sLG, Walker is perhaps the toughest for me to leave off.  Problems are, he fell just short of 400 homeruns and 1400 RBI AND put up most of his numbers in hitter friendly Coors field.  Still, Walker has better numbers than a lot of current hall of famers and might get in eventually...just not this year.


How would you vote?




IT"S TIME FOR NFL TO CHANGE PLAYOFF SEEDS


The NFL has a problem.  Year after year, a popular topic on sports radio and at water coolers everywhere is how the league seeds its playoff teams, and who gets home games. 


Some years, it's worse than usual.  Remember a couple of years ago when the Seattle Seahawks won the NFC West division and hosted a playoff game after a 7-9 season?  This year, it's not quite that bad, but it still doesn't make any sense. 


The New Orleans Saints were 11-5 on the year, but lost out on the division title to the 12-4 Carolina Panthers.  Same for the San Francisco 49ers, who went 11-5, but finished 2nd to the Seattle Seahawks.  Yet for some inexplicable reason, they are both "wild cards", and will be playing at the 10-6 Philadelphia Eagles and 8-7-1 Green Bay Packers facilities respectively.


It doesn't make sense to me.  Never has.  Why should teams with better win-loss records be playing on the road, just because two other teams won their divisions?  Isn't getting in the playoffs enough of a reward for teams who win their divisions?  Why isn't win-loss records the definitive decider when it comes to the playoffs?


The NFL doesn't do many things wrong.  The NFL is the best thing going in american sports, and most decisions they make are the right ones.  Therefore, it seems woefully inconsistent when they much up this situation year after year.


I think it's about time a change is made.


The NBA and NHL seeds their playoff teams one through eight, where one plays eiught, two plays seven and so on.  I can see why you can't do that in football.  First of all, there are only six playoff teams per conference.  Six doesn't work out if one plays six, two plays five and three plays four.  You'd have three winners, and no way to match up three teams the next week.  So that's out.  You'd have to allow two more teams to make the playoffs for that to work, which would take too long in January.  


The other option, and the best one in my mind, is the NFL should give the top two seeds a bye week and a home game against the winners of the previous week.Teams three to six should then be seeded regardless of division win, based on record and record alone.  The third seeded team would play the sixth seed at home, while the fourth seeded team would host the fifth seed.  Doesn't that make much more sense?


If you win each of the four divisions, you make the playoffs.  After that, it all goes by record.  Easy peasy.  Plain and simple.  Makes the most sense to me and I'm sure you too.

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