I'm excited for hockey. The lockout was nonsense. Sure, one can feel anger and boycott the league. It's probably smart. There's going to be another work stoppage in 8 or 10 years.
Onto the picks:
San Francisco over Atlanta
-I live tweeted during the final minutes of Atlanta vs. Seattle, becoming one of those tweeters whose every thought needs to be known. It was horrible. I didn't want the Seahawks to complete the comeback. I didn't want them to win. The media is full of insufferable writers who would've written about the game like Seattle were heroic and mythic, not a sports team anymore but a group of men transformed and transfigured and whom transfigured us all through their productive fourth quarter in which their offense put the ball into a ten yard space called the endzone. Look at the media's embarrassment in wake of the Manti Te'o story. I heard an NPR guest defend sports writers because their industry is about building players up. No, that's bullshit. Read a Marcus Hayes column and tell me that guy's interested in building players up. He compared Chip Kelly to Richard Nixon today.
Anyway, Atlanta's going to get rolled by San Francisco. It's not even going to be close. The Rams were one of the rare teams that knows how to play San Francisco. Seattle knew how to compete. Basically, any NFC west team, and that's it. The fourth dashed any chance the Falcons will represent the NFC in New Orleans. Colin Kaepernick was unstoppable against a defense slightly better than Atlanta's, which is like saying Tom Arnold's a slightly better actor than Clint Howard. Charles Woodson said he, and the defense, didn't know how fast Kaepernick is and that he just caught them off guard. Atlanta's defense is slower than Green Bay's. Kaepernick played so well that Peter King, and other obnoxious writers like him (I assume), wrote about the many teams and GMs who passed over the speedy QB from Nevada, like they knew Saturday night was inevitable and that, they, the writers, represent the smartest minds in football. Retroactive hindsight bullshit that is actually bullshit is the worst aspect of sports journalism, i.e. the 'we're never wrong!' shtick because they have the benefit of writing their reaction to a game, a controversy, whatever. Again, read a Marcus Hayes column and tell me I'm wrong in my assumption/assertion. I'm not. The media created doubt about Kaepernick for over two months. Jim Harbaugh had to answer the same shit week after week about the bold change. Peter King wrote a goddamn prose poem about Alex Smith, the desired effect being sympathy for a guy the city of San Francisco wanted out, which was disingenuous, because Peter King, amongst others, created the clamor for Alex Smith to lose his job. Stop the unnecessary fluff pieces about Kaepernick and just acknowledge he was awesome on Saturday night. People were wrong about him. Move on.
Matt Ryan shushed the critics for a week. Bryant's game-winning field put an end to the questions about Matt Ryan not winning playoff games. Matt Ryan had to answer a question for three years; now he doesn't. Read the last sentence in an authoritative football voice. You know the voice. It's the voice that's supposed to elevate the utterance and trick the viewer/reader into thinking what he or she just heard is profound and ground-breaking. At least Paul Domowitch of the Philadelphia Daily News admitted the media will change the question to, "How come you can't win a Super Bowl, Matt?"
Speed is the difference between the teams. San Francisco flies. Atlanta does not. The 49ers will fly by Atlanta and into New Orleans.
Baltimore over New England
-The "Want-to" phrase in football this season caught on like wildfire this season. The phrase conveys what people want sports to be: that a weaker team can beat a stronger team if they have desire and determination. Baseball writers hated sabremetrics for year, because it messed up the little magical narrative of the game that's paramount to it. If Brian Billick worked for CBS and worked the AFC title game, he'd talk about Baltimore's "want-to" endlessly, because Billick's broadcast career has been built on football clichés and using the second person breaking down what happened.
Phil Simms salivated over New England's offense last week. Baltimore seems sort of similar to the Giants last year, though. Their struggling defense allowed just 21 points to the Denver Broncos. Trindon Holliday made it a game with his two returns. Joe Flacco's playing out of his mind. Dan Dierdorf would've proposed marriage to him if he was allowed to; it was Flacco's third down throw to Dennis Pitta in overtime that Dan Dierdorf gushed about. Riding the wave is how to win a championship in American sports. The defenses cancel each other out. Whoever scores first will give up the lead, so the importance of that won't matter. Baltimore's still pissed off about last year's AFC title game. They were better and lost.
New England fans fear the Ravens. Gronkowski's injury is already being used as an excuse. The 'woe is us' act is present. Patriot fans recall the Super Bowl with sadness. An injured Gronk played in that game. A healthy Gronk would've assured the Patriots a Super Bowl trophy. You'll hear about Baltimore's 'want-to' so much you'll change the channel and watch a La Liga or EPL repeat on beIN Sport or FOX Soccer. No, that won't happen (I'll do it, though). People will write mean words about Phil Simms instead. The stats (mathematics) don't favor the Ravens. Pascal was blessed with a brilliant mathematical mind, but his most famous work is a defense of Christianity--a religion that ignores science and mathematics. Faith, i.e. that feeling in your gut about something, matters, and it's fun. And, oh crap, I'm predicting a Harbaugh Bowl.
Last Week: 1-3
THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK