Ahead of the Curve
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Timbo's back in the bloodstream.

This was suppose to be a Peyton Manning or Albert Pujols piece, but Mike Tomlin's mishandling of his gimpy, star QB Ben Roethlisberger in the regular season helped keep the story alive & kicking.  Tebowmania's been resurrected.

The Broncos not-so-improbable win Sunday over a battered & bruised Steelers squad gave new life to Tebowmania and made the jobs of program-managers at ESPN and NFL Network a lot easier, for at least one more week.

Nothing, not the announcement of a new NFL franchise (LA?), a Tiger Woods' caddy-spat or the hue & cry over a nixed Chris Paul trade moves the meter like Tebow rising.

Like a virus, Tebow-topic is hard to ignore and harder to treat.  Logic, rational discourse or sensible semantics, all useless, verbal-antibiotics in managing Tebow fever.

Only two other phenomena the past 50 years compare to Tebowmania: 1) the Fight of the Century (Ali v Frazier I / 1971), and 2) Brett Favre.  Mr. Rodgers can win five more Super Bowls and never top the day Brett landed on the tarmac in Minneapolis (2009).  That was "surreal(ism)" Salvador Dali could've put to canvas (Time / 3-71).

A polarizing figure, Tim is resented by some because of his race, his popularity, his religious crusade and a knack for 'landing butter-side-up.'  Others passionately promote him for most of, if not all, the same reasons (See; ESPN's 1st and 10).

The media's love for Tim is simple.  His crossover appeal is tremendous: big college credentials, a 'Little Engine that Could' narrative, a sizable Christian following and a rare, "marshmallow world" (King of Queens) view of life for a pro-jock.

Like most I fall somewhere between the two camps.

The pass that some feel TT's been given for his obvious lack of QB-savvy due to his race is freely handed out to others with serious shortcomings of their own (LeBron / Vick).

But while Tim's clean-cut image is touted as a breath of fresh air by many, I'm one who believes (naively?) that the selfish behavior which catches the camera's eye so often and stereotypes NFL players is more the exception than the rule in a League where most locker-rooms have no lack of team-spirit.  As for the Jets, I don't do gossip.

The vast majority of NFL'ers are decent guys (blood-draws for PED-testing would be nice this century), many with wives and families.  They just don't happen to speak in Pollyannaish prose or wear their religion on their shirt sleeve.  These are, for the most part, private men with private lives.

On that note, my Divisional playoff picks.

New Orleans (14-3) @ San Francisco (13-3) (1-14 / 4:30 EST / FOX)

A pick 'em if 49ers had more scoring zip.  They don't.  It used to be, however Frank Gore went, SF went.  But Alex Smith has quietly become an efficient, sound field general.  Saints' defense held when it most counted against feisty Lions and their offense is, well, very nice.  Best LB-combo in the NFL (Bowman / Willis) won't stop the NFL's MVP.

Saints win.

Denver (9-8) @ New England (13-3) (8:00 / CBS)

Game of the weekend, hands-down (forget it, GB).  Ratings record-setter.  Heck, game of the PS.  Would draw twice the normal Super Bowl viewership if CBS had more time to sell.  Dripping so much ratings-cachet the Suits & Skirts will be praying for a Denver win.

If there's one thing we've learned about Gator guy in his young NFL career it's how he makes the most of what's given.  Call Tim, Mr. Opportunity.  And when he's on top of his two-dimensional game good things happen to him and his Bronco brethren.  Whether it be early holiday gifting from the Vikes (12/4) and Bears (12/11) or the MASH unit that was the banged-up Steelers (1/8), Tebow & Co made good use of good fortune.

But Belichick & Brady are not the giving sort, not on the gridiron anyway.  And yes, home-field is, as Martha Stewart used to say, "a good thing," even for the PS-Pats.

Beatlemania started it (Liverpool lads got bigger than Jesus and Christians burned their records.  Funny how things change.).  Fernandomania brought it back (2 yrs).  Nomomania was fun (1).  Tebowmania, at four months, needs a break (and QB lessons), until next season.

Patriots win.

Houston (11-6) @ Baltimore (12-4) (1-15 / 1:00 / CBS

Biggest upset of this PS if the forgotten Cinderella Texans pull it off.  Solid defense and nice one-two punch in the backfield (Foster / Tate) gives visitors hope.  But it's a QB League and hard to glean much from Mr. Yates short resume.  As usual, Joe Flacco's numbers are competent and fit Harbaugh's style.  Both QBs must limit TOs and utilize run-games.  As it should've been this month for Ryan (Atlanta) and Romo (Dallas), this is a final exam / test game for Joe who needs a win to stay viable in Baltimore.

Ravens win.

New York Giants (10-7) @ Green Bay (15-1) (4:30 / FOX)

If not for Denver this would've been the game to watch even outside Packerland and the great Metropolis.  Winner should hoist hardware come February.  Didn't like decision to sit Rodgers last game of the RS.  Three weeks absent contact is a long time come January.  A young man's thoughts can turn to distraction, like golf (Romo).  And it should cost Aaron the MVP.  As usual, how both QBs handle the DL-pressure is key.  Tragedy (death of OC Philbin's son) can galvanize a family, a team, but Giants found some of that old mojo from 2007 when they surprised at Lambeau.  Upset special.

Giants win.

Steven Keys

January 12, 2012  12:14 PM ET

three out of four i agree with..... but GBay beats NY at Lambeau. if his one is played in NY, maybe different outcome. GBay playing at home will be a factor in them playing in a second SB. if GBay had to go to he Supedome, edge goes to Saints.

January 12, 2012  04:14 PM ET

Admittedly, DF77, I am out-on-a-limb on the Giants / Packers prediction. Pack is powerful. But I like Giants momentum, their experience (17 players remain from the 2008 squad) and do not like Rodgers extended idle-time.

January 12, 2012  04:40 PM ET

It is interesting that no one (but me) has talked about all the injuries Denver had to deal with. (Dawkins, Decker, Kuper, Miller and, of course, Noshow Moreno.

 
January 13, 2012  11:26 AM ET

No one, but you and Skip Bayless (ESPNs 1st and 10), MJ. You are both right. Those are some key players you list (Dawkins). But if Tim was hobbled, like Big Ben, oh my gosh.

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