Thursday, January 18, 2007

"I wanna hang a map of the world in my house. Then I'm gonna put pins into all the locations that I've traveled to. But first, I'm gonna have to travel to the top two corners of the map so it won't fall down."

--Mitch Hedberg

With four teams left there are 4 potential Super Bowl match ups:

1. New England v Chicago (rematch of Super Bowl XX, the 46-10 pasting...)
2. New England v New Orleans (battle of the "New", a fitting matchup for postmodern times...)
3. Indianapolis v Chicago (Battle of the Midwest, ho hum...)
4. Indianapolis v New Orleans (Peyton redemption story against Katrina redemption story, ho hum...)

Of them all, which is most appealing? None of them, really. There are massively boring storylines for all of them, save for the Bears who appear to have no story line at all and in any event, at the end of the two week Super Hype we would be sick to death of ever hearing them mentioned again, regardless of the match up.

It's a dilemma, quite frankly for a person who is bored with the consistent consistency of the Patriots who have already won their fair share of Super Bowls and bored with the idea of Peyton Manning no longer being the Elwayesque whipping boy. Hard to be excited about either in the AFC. I'd have preferred watching the Über Team of the season, the Chargers, storming their way to the title disrupting the story lines of parity but they had their chances and they blew it. So this is what we're left with - the lousy leftovers.

For that matter, the Bears with their historically subpar QB and daunting defence are hardly candidates for excitement, not like those Bears of 85. And christ, haven't we had enough of the Saints and Katrina and suffering shoved down our gobs all season already?

The question is really who is least repulsive, which match up would provide the most entertainment for this mind numbing two week interlude between this Sunday and Stupor Sunday?

It doesn't matter much, not yet anyway. Whilst one may dread that fortnight in between and the even duller time between the end of the Super Bowl and the onset of pitchers and catchers reporting, there are two more games to be played this Sunday before then.

For reference, over the past 10 years, the home team is 6-4 in the NFC Championship Game, while the AFC home team is 4-6.

Saints At Bears

NFC best offence versus NFC best defence. Best against best has happened 10 times previously and the top offense has defeated the top defense seven times.

And let's face another disturbing fact. Chicago has a long and lengthy history of disappointing their fans. Sure, there was Michael Jordan. Sure, there were the 1985 Bears which crazy people around the country had the unmitigated gall to compare this meaker, lesser version to at various points during the season. And sure, the White Sox shocked everybody and won the World Series a couple of years ago. But pile that up against the accumulation of crappy Bears teams, disappointing Cubbies teams, virtually non-existent White Sox teams and basically every Bulls team before and after Michael Jordan and what you have is a compelling history of failure and disappointment, a compendium, if you like, of mediocrity. So the Bears have that going against them.

Going for them is the seemingly rabid desire of almost every football fan outside of Chicago to see Rex Grossman fail and fail miserably so everyone (including thousands inside of the Chicago Metropolitan area) can leap off of their sofas at the appropriate time pointing their Dorito dust and salsa-stained fingers at their plasma screens and screaming I Told You So! I Told You So! a thousand times until their voices go hoarse. There hasn't been such a collection of people waiting for a QB to fail since Peyton Manning's last playoff game. (well, that wasn't so long ago but this is after all, a fickle sport of parity and certain things simply have to remain consistent for there to be any cohesion at all to bind these stories together as one season as opposed to a series of weekly random events).

The unknown factor is The Conspiracy of New Orleans and for all those conspiracy theorists out there who think there was never a moon landing, that the American government assassinated Kennedy, that 9/11 was some twisted Zionist plot, the sudden rise of the Saints from the receding flood waters of Katrina must be a virtual buffet.

First of all, how to explain Drew Brees signing with the Saints instead of the more established and certainly more favoured Miami Dolphins? Did someone in the organisation pull Brees aside and show him the blueprint of how to save the NFL season by creating this post-Katrina melodrama? (Here's how it works, kid. You sign with the Saints, the Texans inexplicably draft some non entity defensive lineman instead of the Heisman Trophy winner with the number one pick leaving Reggie Bush to fall to the Saints, every team in their division with a reasonable chance of winning the division, i.e. the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Bucs suffer inexplicable and rapid downslides leaving the division up for grabs between yourselves and the Falcons, a team with a wishbone QB and a gaggle of oft-injured running backs, your third game of the season is a much ballyhoo'd MNF matchup wherein the entire nation of America has the unique opportunity of replacing their collective guilt for having left your city to drown on its own with nary a buoy to save it with some bizarre instant romance that's supposed to make it all better overnight and to give them a new hero (a struggling metropolis) to root for.)

I mean, c'mon. If the sudden, inexplicable rise of the Saints isn't a conspiracy, then Bill Cowher has no chin and last year's Super Bowl never happened. This is what the Bears are up against, The Man, the Feds, the Commish of Corporate Football and the hearts and minds of the American People. Is there a more daunting collection of opponents? And let's not even imagine what the refs are going to be doing for this game.

And let's think about the weather. Blustery SSE winds gust to 20-25 m.p.h. at times. Snow develops mid/late a.m.; Accumulation possible. Bears/Saints game wind chills: 10s. Football in Chicago, in January, just as you'd want it for your homefield advantage. Yet realistically can anyone imagine a team dislocated for a season by a devastating hurricane is going to concern itself about a few flurries and little bit of bitter cold? No chance, so the one thing the Bears might have had in their favour is gone.

In addition to the collective hatred of Rex Grossman the Bears appear to also have in their favour the slighted feeling of being ignored for the better part of the season - ever since the bandwagons turned off somewhere around the time of that pathetic downfall and rise against the Arizona Cardinals on MNF. America never forgave the Bears after that and so now the Bears play their one remaining card: respect. They feel slighted, they're angry and they crave respect. The Saints on the other hand, are just happy to be here.

Prediction: Saints 23 Bears 17


Patriots at Colts

If you could avoid the enormity of the Manning v Brady hype, you might call this the Adam Vinatieri Bowl.

The man who has converted several of the most pressurised field goals in NFL history, including game-winning kicks in the final five seconds of two Super Bowls, was let go by the Patriots and picked up by the Colts between last season and this one and now Adam Vinatieri finally has his chance for revenge, Hamlet and Claudius style.

In the interim we can talk about this being the first time an AFC title match will be played indoors which means of course, the Colts are not worthy of advancing. We could also talk about the Patriots being 5-0 in conference championship games since 1970.

But this would all be so much popcorn chewed during intermission because the real protagonist's revenge tragedy is of course, Peyton Manning: 5-6 in the playoffs all-time, 2-6 against Brady all-time, 0-2 against Brady in the playoffs. In other words, Tom Brady, 12-1 in the playoffs all-time, is everything Peyton Manning is not. Manning is Madam Bovary to Brady's Don Quixote.

The question is which impulse will dominate in the American collective psyche when watching this game? That of redemption, i.e. Manning finally rewarded for his long and painful journey through postseasons past with a victory or Manning reaffirmed as the NFL's whipping boy, the man we can always count on to fail when the zero hour of truth arrives?

Manning is a much larger version of the antipathy we hold for Rex Grossman, the schadenfreude we feel in seeing repeated failure, the justification of our loosely held beliefs in predictability coming to fruition. Whilst unlike Grossman we might not extract ourselves from the depths of our sofas to cheer his every failure, nonetheless it is indeed difficult to find oneself rooting for Peyton Manning with the NFL pedigree, the mediocre brother and the misfortune to play for a franchise located in Indianapolis.

As much as we might enjoy seeing Manning fail there will be the other side of bandwagoneers who want to see just once, the improbable triumph over parity. Week after week this season one team rises and then falls, another rises to take its place and then falls as well. The Saints, an historic NFL laughingstock makes it the NFC Championship and even Peyton Manning gets another shot but through it all, the New England Patriots, despite hemorrhaging players like a ruptured vessel, plod along with that predictable intangible overcoming the NFL's best efforts to usurp them.

Two postseasons ago Sports Amnesia made a living off getting it wrong, picking at every successive turn against the Patriots and never really learning the lesson that this is a not a team to bet against come playoff time.

But this time, rather than the simple reasoning of jumping a bandwagon, we will be rooting for the Patriots not because they will probably win but because to see Peyton Manning overcome his demons and give joy to a miserable place like Indianapolis with its crappy domed monstrosity of a football stadium is simply too disgusting to stomach.

I want to find joy in seeing Peyton fail, not just this season but the one after that and the one after that, much like John Elway did throughout his career before bursting forth in the twilight of his career for the much deserved redemption and quite frankly, Peyton simply hasn't suffered enough yet to have earned such rewards. There is a magical quality to Brady's ability to pull another out of the fire much like Joe Montana did in his own prime and last week's absurdist victory was not an example of good luck so much as smart football and exemplary coaching. And let's face it, Bill Belichick against Tony Dungy is something akin to Lombardi against Art Shell and for that reason, more than Vinatieri or Manning or even Brady, the Colts don't really have a prayer.

Prediction: Patriots 36 Colts 17

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


So, my preseason Super Bowl picks have made it this far. The Colts easily beating the hilarious Chiefs and the Iggles narrowly knocking off the Jints means my crystal ball wasn't completely whacked. So there's my pat on the back and payslip because it does not look to Sports Amnesia like this run of good fortune is going to last another week.

Quick Facts About This Weekend

Both NFC games are rematches. Both AFC games feature teams that played each other last season.

Eyes on the fact that the home team is 214-96 in playoff games since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger, a 69 percent clip.

And when they've had the week off prior to opening their playoffs at home, da Bears dropped a home playoff decision to the Carolina Panthers29-21 after a first-round bye.

Of the last 13 teams to earn home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs dating back to 1993, nine advanced to the Super Bowl. The Bears' last home postseason victory was a 16-6 triumph over New Orleans on Jan. 6, 1991. The Bears enter their 13th postseason since the merger with a 7-11 (.389) playoff record, including a 4-6 mark at home.

Eyes are on the chokers: Marty Schottenheimer and Peyton Manning.

BALTIMORE (-3½) vs. Indianapolis - Harken yea back to the year 2000 and find a very similar sort of team the Colts will face. Stifling defence, lots of turnovers and a dodgy QB. This season the defence is not quite as stifling, the QB not quite as dodgy. Colts 8-0 at home this season and on the road, well, stink city is usually where they're traveling to. The real significance to this game is that this is the first time the former Colts of Baltimore travel to Baltimore for a playoff game since the backstabbing spring of 1984 saw the Colts sneak out of Baltimore for Indianapolis. The Ravens gave up only 264 total yards per game. Pick: Baltimore 26 Indy 24

NEW ORLEANS (-4½) vs. Philadelphia (48½) - Raise your hand if you imagined New Orleans hosting a divisional playoff game this season. Who Dat? Thought so. America's most surprising team will be playing on alot of emotion. On Oct. 15 in New Orleans, the Saints drove 72 yards on 16 plays before John Carney kicked the winning field goal as time expired (27-24). In the last 5 years of NFL divisional playoff games - 20 games total, in both conferences - the home team (which sat out the previous week with a bye) was shut out eight times in the first quarter.Pick: Nawlins 33 Philly 26

CHICAGO (-8½) vs. Seattle - Everyone's favourite joke is the Chicago Bears' QB situation and Rex Grossman. This week's second favourite joke will be the 37-6 loss victory by the Bears over the Seahawks in Week 4. Pick: Chicago 49 Seattle 20

SAN DIEGO -4½ vs. New England - Not facing a significantly weaker Jets team at home is one factor. Marty Schottenheimer's oft-ridiculed post-season history (5-12 playoff record,) and conservatism against the proven history of Belichick's playoff genius postseason winning record of 12-2, the is another as the Chargers becomes everybody's favourite whipping boys and the Patriots over the top-ranked Chargers everyone's favourite upset. Undefeated home team against one of the NFL's best road teams (7-1) this season. The Chargers' QB, Philip Rivers, unlike the Manning they traded away to get him, is inexperienced in the post season, yes. This seems like a no-brainer on the surface, MartyBall should reign with NFL MVP LT getting the ball enough times to batter a Pats defence and whilst Tom Brady gets better the more important the game, last season proved he couldn't go undefeated the rest of his life in the post season (he's now 11-1). This might well be the game of the week. Bill Belichick last time these two teams met The Chargers broke the Patriots' 21-game home winning steak with a 41-17 victory, with Tomlinson rushing for 134 yards and two TDs.
Pick: Chargers 23 Patriots 17

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Top Three Shocking Things About The Wildcard Weekend

Yes, but who wins the award for the lightest skin?

Everything went pretty much as planned this weekend. All four favoured home teams won their games. No road victories, no upsets. Don't expect next week's games to go as smoothly and as according to plan.

1. Tony Romo Butterfingers: So, the man who was one of the big reasons the Cowboys were even in the playoffs to begin with becomes one of the main reasons the Cowboys are now out of them. Ironic, isn't it? Almost as ironic as Mr Selfish and fellow butterfinger, T.O. being one of the first guys to console Romo after it all went sour.

2. David Akers Boots Winning Field Goal With No Time Left: As shocking as the Cowboys (or, more precisely, Tony Romo) muffing what should have been a simple game-tying field goal, the fact that the Iggles overcame an Eli Manning-led drive (shocking in and of itself, completing 6 of 7 for 66 yards including the game-tying touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress) to win the game on a last-second field goal. The Eagles finished the season with a five-game winning streak, their longest season-ending streak since 1949 when they defeated the Los Angeles Rams 14-0 for the NFL Championship and their consolation prize is a trip to

3. Colts have a run defence?: It was interesting to watch so many try and predict the obvious - Larry Johnson running rampant over a weak Colt run defence - whilst simultaneously forgetting that all season long, just when you thought a trend had been spotted as quickly as it appeared to appear it disappeared. That's why it was easy knowing Larry Johnson was going to have a very quiet weekend. 32 yards on 13 carries. That and the fact he is coached by Herm Edwards.

Thursday, January 04, 2007


Every year it's the same auld story. You go into a season making ridiculous picks for the Super Bowl and invariably, one or both picks struggle and/or don't even make the playoffs. This season Sports Amnesia had a Super Bowl matching the Indianapolis Colts against the Philadelphia Iggles and although both teams won their respective divisions, neither did in convincing enough fashion to merit a first round bye. Thus, both are forced to face Wild Card teams they could be upset by, an extree game no one really wanted, save for the wild card team of course, and a headache waiting to happen.

It's important to note that both the Iggles and the Colts could well make their unexpected runs onward to the Super Bowl. The Iggles have the suddenly infallable Jeff Garcia as their replacement QB and momentum, a valuable commodity going into the postseason. The Colts finally enter a postseason with zero expectation which might, considering their flailing amid high expectation, do them an unexpected bit of good.

It's also important to note that the two highest seeded teams, the Chargers and Bears are unlikely to find themselves facing each other in the Super Bowl. In fact, most are already calling the Chargers - Ravens potential AFC Title Game the real Super Bowl given the laughingstocks the NFC submissions to the postseason have become. The Chargers have the momentum of a long winning streak and a seemingly unstoppable team. We only have to look at the Colts of the last several years to know what that means as in sweet F.A. When was the last time you can recall a team being unstoppable all the way through to the Super Bowl? I thought so. Now imagine Marty Schottenheimer's historical postseason conservatism failures and humiliations and you can imagine where things might have a tendancy to go wrong. Of course, simply because everyone is thinking that already, well, perhaps that is reason enough that Schott won't, like the Colts, seize up in a gasping self-choke hold.

The Saints of course, are not only everyone's favourites but when you're looking at this seriously from the perspective of karma, performance, lack of pressure, lack of expectation, etc., there doesn't seem to be much in their way representing as they do the notoriously weak and laughable NFC bid for the Stupor Bowl. In fact, a Saints-Chargers matchup in the finale something very few would complain about and simply because it's probably the most appealing matchup, it's not likely to happen. The Saints are too inexperienced, too happy to be here sort of giddiness to match up with the gob-smacking reality of postseason football when every team that wants it, steps it up a notch, grinds it out, plays intimidating defence, (insert your own cliché here)

The Bears of course aren't going anywhere with Rex Grossman at QB. That's what their saying anyway. That's what they were saying in the preseason until he got them off to that rousing start that sort of fizzled out at the end. This team virtually mirrors the Ravens in that they are both tough defences, good running games and less-than-Super QBs running the low-octane offences. They always preach rushing and defence and headless as they may be, both might make it despite a distinct lack of visibly talented QBs.

The Patriots, who make a habit out of getting to Super Bowls they don't really belong in, are always a threat to outperform their expectations. But they haven't got an easy road ahead of them with the shocking Jets team being the first barrier and then either the Ravens or Chargers to follow. Not to mention Rodney Harrison being out. Yes Brady, Brady, the QB of the ages who never loses a big game, blablabla. I've got news for you. I watched him playing last week and on the sidelines he bent over to pick something up and he's got a big fat bald spot waiting to erupt. That won't make him a worse QB of course but it does in fact, shatter the myth of infallability.

There isn't much to say about the rest of the teams in this one-game-at-a-time crap shoot. The Seahawks, defending NFC Champs have bordered on mediocre all season but managed to crawl through a more mediocre division to get their playoff berth the cheap way, as the lesser of evils (imagine the Cardinals, 49ers in this slot instead) and this sort of lack of expectation is precisely what fuels postseason runs (much like the Colts). They only have to get by Dallas, who have given up more points than their NBA counterpart Mavericks over the last four miserable weeks and are led by a QB with the fastest falling stock his side of Rex Chapman. Once that's finished there's only two MORE games between them and the Stupor Bowl and that's pretty much what we all imagined last season and look what happened. Boom, as John Madden would say, the Seahawks were in the final.

Last season the Steelers defeated all doubters winning all their road games as a Wild Card team and eventually, the Super Bowl. Is there a wild card out there this season who could make a similar run? The Seahawks aren't a WC team but they are, in fact, for all intents and purposes, only with a homefield advantage for game one. Their road record is 3-5 this season with ugly losses to the Steelers, Dolphins and Browns to their credit. At home, they might have been good enough but two road victories against playoff teams? Forget it. Jets? The most overrated 10-6 team ever? Quite possibly. The Giants? Look how they crumbled last season when the games counted. Tom Coughlin, adios.

What Sports Amnesia is seeing, and it isn't as pretty a sight as you might imagine is a Super Bowl coming down to two factors: The lack of expectation on the part of the Colts and the team that has seen the bottom and made it back, the Iggles. That's right. I'm sticking with my preseason pick all the way.


KC CHIEFS (9-7) @ INDY COLTS (12-4) - This is of course a matchup made in heaven for those who love to hate the Colts, love to watch them choke and have fallen in love with cracking jokes about their inability to stop the run. It's almost as easy as making fun of Rex Grossman. Yes, Larry Johnson is a running back who could chew up and chew up and chew up the clock and the Colts' defence. The new defensive scheme for the Colts should be to let him run for a touchdown any time the Chiefs manage an offensive drive of more than 6 plays simply so they can get the ball back and score themselves because believe me, the Colts will score on these Chiefs and score often. Not only that, the Colts, for all their wretched play, have not lost at home yet this season. The Colts are favoured by 6 1/2 points and they will cover. Pick: Colts 36 Chiefs 14

DALLAS COWBOYS (9-7) @ SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (9-7) - If the Jets are the most overrated 10-6 team in the playoffs, the Seahawks are the most underrated 9-7 team left playing. They overcame the losses of their star QB and star RB, have taken a few weeks once those two returned to familiar with one another again and are ready to make their run. At least for one homefield advantage week. The Cowboys on the other hand, have their wunderkind QB on the ropes. Romomania is on the wane, Bill Parcells has not had a playoff run as the Cowboys coach and the team itself is prepared to collapse and collapse early. Even at home the Seahawks have such little respect they are only favoured by 2 1/2 points. Pick: Seawhawks 24 Cowboys 7


NY JETS (10-6) @ NE PATRIOTS (12-4) - Mentor v mentee, Part Three, ho hum. These are two teams, not two intellectual giants facing each other over a chess board. This is a very overrated Jets team facing a very veteran Patriots team that exceeded most expectations, overcame the usual plethera of injuries and basically, forced themselves to win. Yes, the Jets did beat the Patriots once on the road but that is more a fluke than a trend. The Pats are favoured by 9 points and deservedly so. Pick: Patriots 27 Jets 10.

NY GIANTS (8-8) @ PHILLY IGGLES (10-6) - About the only thing the Giants have going for them is Tiki Barber and whilst that might have been enough against the Redskins last week, though just barely, this is still a team waiting to be embarassed. The Iggles on the other hand, are a team of destiny and momentum. Is it possible that yet another Pennsylvania team will go on to the Super Bowl? Who knows but they are certainly good enough to beat these Giants. The Iggles are favoured by 5 1/2 points and that might just not be enough for the Giants to cover. Pick: Iggles 27 Giants 14

And if you're curious, you see who the "experts" are picking.