My wish was the NFL's command, as the interesting wild card games I hoped for came to fruition. Yes!
But wait! In what can only be attributed to a "Browns fan moment," the future commish was out shopping with her hubby during the Kansas City - Indianapolis game, AKA, the Best. Game. This. Weekend. And I was in Boscov's.
The commish family did make it home in time to catch KC's failed 4th down attempt and Indy's victory kneel-down, but it really lacked the luster of watching the whole Colts comeback live. What an epic FAIL. As good as the other games were over wild card weekend, I stewed knowing the one I didn't see was the best one.
My failings as a viewer aside, I'm sure the NFL was quite pleased with how the first round played out. The NFL playoffs are great! Why would you want to mess with that? "Money, money, money!" cry the NFL marketing geniuses. "The millions and millions are not enough!" So, in true NFL fashion, changes to the playoffs could be on the table in the near future.
Among the options under consideration - reseeding so teams with better records get to host a game and expanding from 12 to 14 teams. I guess the expansion would be OK, but I am against reseeding. By giving the home games to the teams with the better record, the NFL is telling teams that winning a division is not important. A division champion is guaranteed one home playoff game. Yes, it's odd when an 11-5 team has to travel and play at a 9-7 team's stadium, but life isn't always fair. (SIDE NOTE: As a Browns fan, I would love it if my team made the playoffs and had to travel to Siberia. I'd just be thrilled they made it.) This rule would essentially penalize teams that play in tough divisions. It's a lot easier for the cream to rise to the top of a weak division, like the AFC East or AFC South, but in divisions like the NFC East and NFC North, it wouldn't be right to penalize a team that managed to slug it out with several other tough teams and win a tight division race. So to teams that whine about not playing at home during the playoffs - would you rather BE at home watching the playoffs? Quit your whining and win your division if you want to host a playoff game!
Meanwhile in Cincinnati, the Bengals morphed back into the Bungles after halftime, allowing the Chargers to outscore them 20-0. Andy Dalton contributed two picks and one fumble to his team's non-effort. As it stands, the Bengals have not won a playoff game since 1990 when they beat the Houston Oilers 41-14. Boomer Esiason and Ickey Woods were on that team, just to give you a little perspective of how long ago that really was. Anyone remember the Ickey Shuffle?
So now the finger points at Andy Dalton. He's got another playoff collapse under his belt and fans and the organization alike may be wondering if he is really the answer to lead the team to a deeper playoff run. The defense is quite talented, and the Bengals do have a huge offensive weapon in AJ Green. Will there be a shake up on this team during the offseason, or will they give it another go with the same cast of characters?
The San Diego Chargers, on the other hand, proved they deserved their playoff spot. Their reward is a trip to Denver, the number one seed in the AFC and fellow divisional foe. The Bolts and Broncos split their regular season meetings with San Diego winning the most recent matchup, a 27-20 week 15 win at Denver. Of all the teams the Broncos could draw, I'm sure they're probably not that excited to see the Chargers come to town, because they are certainly not afraid of the big, bad Broncos!
Also this weekend:
-- Tough to lose when you have Luck AND luck on your side.
Andrew Luck's diving touchdown was the defining moment of the Colts comeback win over the Chiefs. With the Colts lined up near the goal line, Luck handed the ball off to running back Donald Brown. The Chiefs knocked the ball loose, but the ball took a lucky bounce right at Luck, who scooped it up and made a flying leap into the endzone. It was elation and deflation in the same play for the Chiefs, who succumbed to the second largest comeback in playoff history. Kansas City was not helped when Jamaal Charles left the game on the first play, and other vital players fell victim to injury throughout the game. Andy Reid had a pretty successful freshman year with his team if you look at the record. However, Reid can't be happy with the way his team played down the stretch. I'm wondering how this would have turned out if Kansas City finished the season going 9-0 instead of starting out that way? As for the Colts, their next stop is New England. And even though he pulled out a victory over Kansas City, Andrew Luck certainly needs to play better if he hopes his team can knock off the Patriots.
-- Two kickers earned their paychecks this weekend.
Thanks to Shayne "With a Y" Graham and Phil "the Human Battering Ram" Dawson, the Saints and 49ers, respectively, march on to the divisional round. Both NFC contests came down to the final seconds and the kickers turned out to be the heroes instead of the goats. I still dislike kickers but when they make a big kick, I'm the number one fan! Yay kickers! Graham probably had to ice his foot down afterwards, having kicked four field goals for his team and helping them beat their bugaboo of not being able to win on the road. The Eagles certainly were not the high-powered Eagles we've seen a few times this year, and Nick Foles actually looked human. In a frigid Green Bay, Dawson's field goal capped off the 49ers game-winning drive after a back-and-forth 4th quarter. Colin Kaepernick returned to previous form, running up and down the field at will on the Packers. And he wasn't wearing sleeves! Polar vortex, polar schmortex - sleeves are for sissies! Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers was clothed in a turtleneck/hoodie combo that came up to his mouth. Just sayin'. Also, was it just me, or were the announcers for the Niners-Packers game extra annoying? Cris Collinsworth informed all of America that "the shin is above the ankle." Thanks for that breaking news, Brokaw!
-- The big boys are rested and ready to roll.
The divisional playoff games begin Saturday with the Saints visiting the Seahawks at 4:35 p.m. (FOX), followed by an 8:15 kickoff (CBS) for the Colts at the Patriots. The Seahawks are nearly unbeatable at home (suffering only one loss there in the last two years) and the Saints, despite a road win last week, will probably face many of the same "Can they win on the road?" questions. New England, as usual, has managed to piece together some semblance of an offensive attack towards the latter part of the season and looks to continue its playoff dominance. I was quite certain the Colts and Patriots played each other once this year with the Colts winning, but I guess that must've just been wishful thinking. Although the wishful part will be if that statement comes true this weekend.
On Sunday, the 49ers visit the Panthers at 1:05 p.m. (FOX) and then the Chargers battle the Broncos at 4:40 (CBS). Carolina already beat San Francisco once this year, winning a 10-9 slug-fest on the 49ers home turf. Meanwhile, Panthers receiver Steve "Rage-a-holic" Smith is now picking fights with professional wrestlers. Seems the legendary Ric Flair has turned his back on hometown Carolina to support the 49ers, and of course, Smith HAD to get in a comment, saying "That Golden Gate Bridge has been burned." Perhaps more disturbing, though, was Smith's revelation that he has a Ric Flair robe. Notice - he said "HAS" - present tense, not "HAD" like from childhood, which leads me to believe there is a sequined, feathered royal purple Ric Flair robe hanging in Steve Smith's closet right now. And he can't decide whether to wear the purple or the blue when he steps out of the shower. Wooo!!
Think warm thoughts and enjoy the games, my friends!