It’s playoff time in Texas with at least a pair of playoff games to be hosted in the Lone Star State. Houston will host the Raiders in a Wildcard game on Saturday, while the Cowboys wait until next week to play in Arlington.
But first the season recap and a look back to the barely remembered days of the new season in September.
In Week 17, Red was 3-3 – ending the season on a losing note. Red was 39-43-2 for the season. Red hasn’t yet chosen his penance and welcomes suggestions. Forcing him to watch a replay of Clemson’s beat down of Ohio State in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl might be a good start.
As far as preseason picks went, Red fared about as well as a monkey throwing darts at third string quarterbacks strapped to a tackling dummy. And for the record, Red has personally witnessed two exhibitions of professional simian dart throwing competitions and ESPN-3 doesn’t have a clue as to what it is missing out on. In the NFC, Red had the Giants, Panthers, Cardinals and Vikings as division winners (that’s 0-4 for those keeping score) and the Buccaneers and Packers as Wildcards (for a total of 2 of 6 playoff teams). Red would like to say he fared better in the more predictable AFC. Red would like to say that he won the lottery Saturday night as well, but unfortunately neither statement would be what the fact checkers like to call correct. In the AFC, Red had the Patriots, Raiders, Jaguars and Bengals as division champs (that’s 1 out of 4 for the scorekeepers but since the 1 was the Pats it almost doesn’t count) and the Jets and Broncos as the Wildcards (for a total of 2 of 6). So the sad tale of the tape is Red’s worst season ever of pre-season predictions (4 of 12) followed up with Red’s worst season ever on his weekly picks. A word to the wise – stop reading here.
Wildcard week features several teams that were written off at various points this season.
Sure Bet Pick of the Week – Stealers sandbag Dolphins. Remember when the Stealers were 4-5 with a more than usually crippled Ben Rotlessburger at the helm. Not to mention having lost 34-3 to the Eagles in Week 3. Fortunately for the Stealers, the Bengals imploded, the Ravens stalled out and the Browns were – well, the Browns. Big Ben will be playing in what appears to be his 217th playoff game (surpassing Tim Duncan) while the Dolphins’ backup quarterback Matt Moore will be playing for the first time since his junior year of high school. Fantasy favorite Le’Veon (meaning “The Veon” in an obscure Indo-European language spoken only by sailors in the middle of Arabian Sea) Bell will also be suiting up for his first playoff game having been injured the last two times the Stealers snuck into the post-season. Speaking of being written off for dead, the Dolphins were 1-4 (having beaten only the Browns so really 0-5) when Pittsburgh came to Florida in mid-October. The Dolphins won 30-15 which ignited a 6 game winning streak culminating in a 9-2 down the stretch (a really long stretch if you will) losing only to the Ravens (badly) and the Patriots (automatically). They were aided by getting to play the Chargers, Rams, 49ers and Jets – but still someone had to win those games. The Dolphins will be riding Jay Ajayi (meaning “wild bull of the pampas” in Igbo) all game long. Unfortunately, it’s a long game and that works to advantage of the Steal Crew. Only the brave or the foolish or the bravely foolish or the foolishly brave would pick the Stealers to cover 10 points in January in western Pennsyltucky. Red is not foolish, but adheres to the axiom “Fortune favors the bold.” Of course, Red routinely hits on 17 when playing Blackjack. If it’s below 25 and snowing bet the under, if its over 35 and sunny bet the over, if its partly cloudy and somewhere between 25 and 35 order a pizza. Pittsburgh 25 Miami 14.
Underdog Pick of the Week – Lions lick Seahawks. The eyes of the entire football world are intensely focused on Matt Stafford’s middle finger. Exactly how many tendons have been shredded has not yet been exposed via Wikileaks but it is just a matter of time. What is known is that MS is playing with a specially engineered glove that cost more than the annual defense budget of Lithuania. This is thought to be a reasonable expense since being taken over by amiable Russian dictator Vlad Putin is now viewed as a more favorable option than losing in pinko Seattle. What is also known is that Stafford is now throwing like Vince Ferragamo. They saying rushing and defense wins playoff games. Not this week. The Seahawks leading back is Thomas “Lou” Rawls who has a mighty 349 yards rushing for the season. Consequently, the Seahawks have been chunking it up 35 times a game on average for about 260 yards in the air each week. It remains a mystery how they have been able to average 22.1 points per game – which exactly ½ point better than the Lions at 21.6. And to complete the picture you need know nothing more than that the Lions are 30th in rushing in the league making the Seahawks 25th ranked running game look positively scintillating. So this one comes down to passing and pressure on the quarterback. Will the Seahawks be able to pressure Matt “the Statue” Stafford or will the Lions be able to contain Russell “Crazylegs” Wilson? Red never misunderestimates RW’s ability to throw away a game. He throws up 3 picks this weekend and the Lions win a squeaker. Detroit 21 Seattle 20.
Texas Franchise Pick of the Week – Texans turnback Raiders. These teams last met for a romantic dinner on a charming sidewalk café in Mexico, D.F. The game ended with the Raiders winning. After the game, the emaciated ghost of Al Davis was reportedly seen sporting a silver and black tourist sombrero while doing Tequila shots at a less than reputable bar in the Zona Rosa. Many commentators thought that the sea-level playing Texans were sucking gas in the 7000 foot air of Estadio Azteca by the 4th quarter while ignoring the fact that Oakland also happens to be located on a bay – more or less at sea level. The Raiders game was the beginning of a 3 game losing streak after which the Texans were written off as walking dead. They responded by eking out wins over the Colts, Jaguars and Bengals to secure their 4th AFC South crown in 6 years – which as Red has previously commented is the rough equivalent of being judged the prettiest turd in the toilet. Meanwhile, the Raiders were rolling until life without Derek Carr proved to be problematic. It looks like unheralded rookie Connor Cook will be in charge on Saturday in Texas. He fared poorly against a very good Broncos defense. He will be facing the supposed No. 1 defense in the NFL in the Texans (they actually rank 10th in scoring defense – the only stat that really matters). Meanwhile in Houston, life with either Tom “Less than Terrific” Savage or Brock “If that really is your name” Osweiler has been already proven to be troublesome for the Texans. The Texans are only the 3rd team in the modern era to make the playoffs while failing to score at least 28 points in one single dadgum game. They join the 78 Falcons and the 94 Bears in that category of distinction. The Texans offense has had trouble finding the end zone (Hint: stand at the 50 yard line and look in either direction) this season reaching the promised land only 23 times. They would be in single possession of last place but for the Rams matching them in offensive ineptitude. Maybe that all changes this week. Or maybe not. But it won’t take too much to hand the Raiders their first playoff defeat in more than a decade or to convince Red to switch over to a Lifetime movie. Houston 13 Oakland 10.
Prime Time Pick of the Week – Giants gouge Packers. This week ends all the Aaron Rodgers for MVP rah-rah. The Giants simply win playoff games at Lambeau having done so in 2007 and 2011. The Giants defense is adept at limiting those critical things called points – having given up an average of only 17.8 per game this season – good enough for second in the league. The Packers are another team that lived on borrowed time for a while this season. They were 4-6 after Week 11 having been stomped in consecutive weeks by the OTNAs and the Titans – the Titans mind you! They snapped back with a 6 game win streak to claim the NFC Central banner – which will serve as a community towel in the team sauna. They beat 3 playoff teams in that stretch (Texans, Seahawks and Lions) and raised expectations of another Lombardi Trophy coming home to the nest. Not to be, says Red. Look for Eli “Short for Eliza” Manning to take control of this one and seal it with one last desperation drive to drive a stake through the heart of Packer Nation. New Jersey 28 Green Bay 24.