NFL Playoffs, second round

Peyton had his happy playoff feet going early against the Chiefs last week, and they’re likely going to get a lot happier today against the Ravens. The Ravens will be able to move the ball against the weak Colts run defense, as Billick isn’t dumb enough to keep smashing Jamal Lewis into an eight-man box the way Herm Edwards did last week. McNair isn’t what he once was, but he makes good decisions and he can handle a play-action fake and a ten-yard out just fine. Baltimore over the Colts in a low-scoring game that isn’t as close as it looks on the scoreboard.

(I’ll be cheering harder than usual against the Colts today, as a loss would lend some weight to the rumors that Tony Dungy is the target of those responsible for filling the Golden Gophers job. I think he’s a sub-par gameday coach in the NFL, but then, he’s had a lot more success at the top level than Pete Carroll, Nick Saban or Steve Spurrier, to name a few national title winners. I’d love to see Mr. Dungy return to the U of M and bring the program to the top flight.)

Before the playoffs started, I thought the Eagles looked the best out of the parade of frauds that make up this year’s NFC contestants. I’m not entirely comfortable picking the Saints, since there are so few playoff veterans in New Orleans while the Eagles are nothing if not a veteran team. However, the combination of age, injuries, playing an extra game, playing on the road and their poor performance against New York at home has me leaning towards New Orleans now. If the Saints get rolling early, this could be the blowout.

Everyone is leaning towards San Diego, and with good reason. Home teams in the second round of the playoffs are one of the safest bets in sports, winning nearly 80 percent of the time. They’ve got a solid defense, a very good offense and LaDainian Tomlinson is very effective running behind that offensive line. But at the end of the day, I think playoff coaching genuinely matters. I’m going with Belichick over Marty Schottheimer. Patriots win a close one.

Seattle was wildly unimpressive last week, except for their fortitude. They never quit, and you have to respect them for that. I don’t think that will be enough to beat the Bears defense… it will be interesting to see if Lovie Smith is bold enough to simply hand the ball off three times and punt whenever the Bears are in their own territory. That would be tres cool, to see a coach play the hand he’s holding with such perfect logic! It won’t happen, Grossman will throw a few interceptions, but the Bears will win anyhow.

In other NFL-related news, once a Viking, always a Viking:

The NFL analyst who shall not be named that took a picture of his penis with a cell phone camera and has shown it to numerous, uncomfortable women, then was suspended by his network for it. Absolute true story.

And The Big Lead learned this morning that the analyst in question was ESPN’s Sean Salisbury.

I suppose this is when I’m supposed to lament the difficulty of being a Vikings fan. But that’s where you’re wrong. See, even when the team is awful, they’re entertaining. And speaking of our mutual, lifelong loyalty, the man who also owned a pair of purple corderoys with a Vikings patch on the rear pocket, Big Chilly, sends this little note about one of the greatest men in all of human history, Saint Bud Grant:

I was watching ESPN2 at lunch today, and they were running a special on the theme of the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat in the Super Bowl. They showed clips from a bunch of games and also had interviews with various coaches and players who had related stories. As you might suspect, the Vikings record in futility came up and they (actually the President of NFL Films) interviewed Bud Grant. It went something like this:

BG: “In the course of a career you play a lot of games and, in the end, the wins and the losses balance out.”

PoNFLF: “But don’t the Super Bowl losses really get to you?”

BG: “Not really. Nothing would really be any different if I’d won any of those games — I wouldn’t be any happier, I wouldn’t be any richer.”

(Allow me to mention at this point that BG was wearing a plaid shirt, khaki old-man pants and tennis shoes without socks, and they were sitting in what appeared to be cheap metal chairs in the back yard of his modest house. He was obviously not trying to portray any sort of “look” in the interview.)

PoNFLF: “But you’d certainly be richer if you’d won two or three of those games. You might have your own clothing line…”

(cut to Bud Grant with this patient “What the HELL is he talking about” expression on his face)

PoNFLF: “your own cologne…”

(camera still on BG as he rolls his eyes)

PoNFLF: “your own…”

BG: “Look, I don’t care about any of that!”

Now, I can’t really claim to know what Bud said to cut him off at the end because we were laughing so hard at his expressions, but it was something in that vein.

I miss that guy.

Me too, my friend. Me too.