It's 888 Miles to Chicago...

Christmas and the playoffs are around the corner.  College football is in bowl season, so that means we get NFL games on Saturdays.  That means 4 days a week with NFL games, and with all the bowls, you can basically watch football everyday, what a great time of year. 

When you live in the Pacific Northwest for 6 years, you forget what a real winter is like.  In Seattle winter means gray skies, misty rains, and temperatures in the 40s.  It’s basically mildly annoying…that’s about it…

Winter in the Northeast…well, that’s a different story.  This weekend we got a good dose of freezing rain, sleet, snow, and cold.  For those that have lived here all their lives, it was a normal winter.  For recent transplants…well…it was an icy hell. 

On Monday, with the ground covered in ice, the morning started with near freezing temps, and rain.  So a layer of ice, covered in water.

To add to the fun, our house has a steep, winding gravel driveway.  When that’s covered in ice, which is covered in water, well, walking up it is hard enough.  Driving up it becomes near impossible.  But that’s only where the fun begins. 

Heading up the driveway in my car, the traction was just enough to get the car moving forward.  Hit a large bump in the road, and came down hard…and then the car wouldn’t go any further.  Got out, threw sand under the front tires…got back in…no dice.  Went to throw some sand under the rear tires as well…and that’s when the flat tire was noticed.

The rear tire was completely flat.  Upon further inspection, the large bump was followed by landing on a sharp little stone that decided to ruin my day.  Do you know how frustrating it is to not be able to get out of your driveway, and to have a flat tire on an icy hill? 

As I stood there, staring at my car, cursing it, and the winter…one thought float through my mind…this about sums up the Bears season.

They slipped a little getting out of the driveway, then started to climb the hill, only to blow out a tire, and be stuck, some where in the middle of the driveway.  Unfortunately, a quick trip to the Sears Auto Center won’t help them. 

With the Bears season stuck on an icy slope, let’s look at the rest of the picks, and try to think cheerier thoughts.

Denver at Houston

My daughter has fallen in love with the Grinch.  We read the book just about every night…which always starts with this exchange… 

“Daddy, let’s read the Grinch!”

“Okay sweetie, you know I always love reading that one.” 

“I like the Grinch, he’s funny.”

For the first time this past weekend, we sat together and watched the animated Christmas special…and since she’s been walking around the house singing “Yahoo dooray, yahoo dooray…” and saying “You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch.” 

First, let me say a quick thank you.  Thank you Dr. Suess, for giving the world books that my daughter loves, and that I love to read to her.  Part of it is the pure nostalgia factor…but they are just so much fun to read, that I get excited when she chooses one of them at night.

Speaking of fun, it’s Thursday Night Football!!  It’s the NFL Network!!  It’s Bryant Gumbel!!!  Broncos-Texans!!!  Yeah, um, my advice?  Unless you’re a diehard Broncos or Texans fan, make up some hot chocolate, popcorn, and grab some Christmas cookies.  Throw the Grinch in the DVD, and kick back with your kids…or just yourself…and enjoy a little bit of your childhood. 

Oh, right, the game…the Texans seem to be playing the role of spoilers right now.  All their players are starting to gell in the system, and Andre Johnson is healthy.  Texans get the win, and the Broncos playoffs hopes get crushed.  Broncos fans, sorry for always picking against your team…just never get a good feeling from them.

Cincinnati at San Francisco

One of the greatest Christmas Specials…wasn’t really about Christmas.  The Seinfeld Festivus episode is a pure classic, and one that still cracks me up. 

This game is the Festivus of the weekend.  Not the real deal, none of the pomp and circumstance of Christmas, and there is a strong possibility that the Niners fans will air their grievances at some point.

Another great subplot?  Well, the Bengals could further injure their chances in the AFC next year by winning this game. Thanks to the Pats owning the Niners 1st pick in the draft, if the Bengals win, and push the Niners farther to the front of the draft, well…the Pats are already the most talented team in the league…imagine them with McFadden…or Dorsey…or trading the pick, and getting MORE picks…ugh. 

The rest of the AFC groans, as the Bengals beat up on the Niners.  If you get to watch this game in your area, take the chance to catch a glimpse of the best young LB in the league, Mr. Willis.  It will be a saving grace of the game, trust me, he’s good.

Buffalo at Cleveland

One of the great things this weekend, was seeing the Mr T commercial…what a great piece of advertising.  Made me laugh till my sides hurt. 

“Maybe T hacked the system!”

Great to see Mr. T back on top, doing his thing, and having a sense of humor about his career.  Have always liked the guy…first A-Team, and then his animated Saturday morning cartoon.  Trust me, all his phrases have worked into my regular vocabulary...but enough Jibber Jabber…there’s a game. 

It’s great to see the Browns and the Bills playing game that matter again.  These are 2 teams with great histories, and fantastic fan bases.  And their fans have been long suffering…the whole 0-4 in Super Bowls for the Bills and the whole Art Moddell issue for Browns fans…and through it all they have stuck by their teams.  Always admire that.

And now, here they are, playing for a wild card spot.  If Mr. T can get it back after all this time…so can these guys. 

Hoping this game is on in my area, should be a hard fought game, with a lot of great plays.  The Browns offense and mojo is enough to put them over the top.  Cleveland gets the win, in a close hard fought game.  Don’t worry, these guys will play many more games that count in the coming years.

Baltimore at Miami

Here’s the perfect illustration of the joy of December football.  Two teams that are dead in the water!!  Yes! 

The Colts game clearly showed that the Ravens have quit on Billick.  This team is floating in the bowl, just waiting for some to flush.

The Jets game clearly showed that the Dolphins have checked out for the year, and are really lacking in talent…and the mission is now to play all the young guys and see what happens. 

Playing all the young guys always trumps floating in the bowl, it’s just simple math.  Wait, there were no numbers…um…yeah, I’ll stick with math.

The Dolphins get their first win.  Beelzebub needs some salt, and a heater.  The Cubs start to like their chances next year.  And suddenly the skies are filled with pigs.  In other news, Ricky Williams sets a goal of 2000 yards next year. 

Seattle at Carolina

A confession needs to be made here.  One of the things that has been bragged about here time after time, is that my daughter loves to watch football with her daddy.  It paints a beautiful picture of a little girl sitting on her daddy’s knee, cheering on the Bears, and consoling each other when they lose.  And while she does like to watch football with me…I need to get something off my chest…

Her favorite thing to do right now…is watch cooking shows with her Mom!!  There, I said it…she’s not like her daddy, she doesn’t only have football on the brain.  But in the end, that’s a good thing.  She’s on the path to be a normal girl…but one that knows her sports. 

The best part of her love for cooking shows?  She does her own in her little kitchen.  Trust me, hearing your toddler turn to you, with a cake pan full of play-doh and say “Daddy, put this in the oven for 10 minutes at 400 degrees.”…just floors you.

But the best moment by far was the following… 

She was busy in her kitchen, making something for her adoring audience, when my wife needed to change her diaper (she’s in the middle of potty training, but has taken a stance it’s not for her right now…interferes with her busy taping schedule I guess).  After cleaning her up and getting a new pull up on her, she ran back to her kitchen, and said…

“Welcome back, today we’re making muffins” 

My wife couldn’t hold in the laughter…and she immediately called me to relay the whole story…which caused me to bust out laughing in the middle of my office.  The joy of having a child, it takes different forms everyday.

Now we turn to the Seahawks…welcome back, today we’re making the playoffs. 

After a sluggish start, and lots of abuse at the hands of this blog…the Hawks are getting hot at the right time.  From what looked like a 1 and done playoff appearance…this team is fact becoming a dish your guest will be shocked by.  They have all the makings of a team no one wants to play…getting hot at the right time, experienced players, been to the top of the mountain before, and opportunistic as a team.

They’ll have to take their show on the road, which is never their strong suit, but any team would be lying if they said “Bring on the Hawks!”. 

The Hawks pad their win totals in this one.  The Panthers are a dead team right now, lacking at the games most critical position.  Trust me, they are not something you would want to serve to company.

Atlanta at Tampa Bay

A common theme in most holiday movies and specials is ice skating.  Whether it’s a couple romantically skating in Central Park…or a kid out on a pond…or a couple of woodland creatures…ice skating is part of the holidays.  You’re probably sitting there saying, “Well yeah, it is…so what?”  Sometimes you have to state the obvious to prove a point. 

The point is…I’ve never ice skated.  Never.  I’ve been to ice skating rinks, and watched others.  I’ve held ice skates in my hands at thrift stores.  I’ve walked across the ice in my boots…even went as far as fake skating with my boots.  But I’ve never laced up a pair of skates and flew across the ice.

People that have, always tell me it’s a special feeling…there’s a feeling of weightlessness, as if for a second you’re flying.  And others would talk of the feeling of the wind in your hair, and the terrific speeds you can obtain with just a little work. 

Sounds great.  My problem?  All I can think of is falling flat on my face.  This isn’t cause I’m a clod…I’m a very coordinated person, have always had good balance and good body control.  But something about a sport that to learn you have to fall repeatedly on the hard, slippery ice…just never had a interest.

The point of all this…the Bucs fell on their face last week.  A division champ should not lose to a team like the Texans.  Oh, wait, they are leading the NFC South…yeah…um…let me rephrase… 

A team that has aspirations of winning a playoff game, should not lose to the Texans.

Luckliy, they have a game against the Falcons to help ease that pain. 

Bucs get back on the winning path.  The words “Chris Redman starting QB” should not strike fear into anyone, anywhere.  The only way to top that?  This team is so bad, that the coach left before the season was over…or maybe the coach was so bad, the team quit before the season was over…hmmm….jury is still out on that one.

Jacksonville at Pittsburgh

In a world of double digit spreads, and non-playoff teams facing each other… 

This is a game, we can all look forward to.

Two teams built around Defense. 

Two teams built around tough QBs.

Two teams that find themselves 9-4, and yet still facing an uphill battle. 

Two teams that need this game.

The Jags have the unfortunate luck to be in the same division as the Colts.  Which these days means they are always playing for 2nd.  Thanks to the Colts, they have to go on the road in the playoffs…even though they will most likely finish with a better record than the Chargers…and possibly the Steelers. 

The Steelers meanwhile, have failed to live up to the billing of “3rd best team in the AFC”…with loses to the Jets, Cards and Broncos…as well as a solid shellacking by the Pats…not to mention just squeaking by the Dolphins…the Steelers aren’t looking all that dominant.  A defense that was #1 in the league, allowed 421 yards to the Pats.

Now, it’s time for both these teams to prove a point.  The Steelers need to man up, and beat down a good team.  And the Jags need to prove that they can go on the road, like they will in the playoffs, and beat a good team at home. 

So who wins?  This is a match-up that favors the Steelers.  They beat up on the run, and the Jags have no talent at WR to take advantage of their secondary.  The Steelers get a big rebound win, and get a leg up on the Jags in case they see them in the first round of the playoffs.

Arizona at New Orleans

Have you ever had a really bad craving for something?  Out of no where a craving hits you.  It could be for your mom’s Pork roast…or ice cream pie…or Taco Bell…or good Thai food… 

It doesn’t matter what, it’s the craving itself.  It just hit you smack out of nowhere.  It takes control of you.  You run to the fridge to see if you can find the thing your stomach desires…but you know it’s not there.  It was never there, but you hope against hope that something in the fridge would leap out to satisfy the craving.

But you know it’s not there.  There is only one thing that can satisfy you…and it’s not there.  You look in the cabinets…the pantry…anywhere food might be.  You look back in the fridge, hoping maybe the contents have magically shifted…but they haven’t.  Suddenly, you realize, “Hey, I could go out to the store.  But looking at the clock, its 2am.  The likelihood you’ll find what you’re looking for… 

…slim and none.

And so you make do with something that isn’t really all that close.  Some crackers you found…or an old bag of Cheetos.  An empty feeling washes over you, as you know it doesn’t matter how many Cheetos you eat, the craving will not die. 

And that brings us to the Cards and the Saints.

The Cards are the poster child for that craving.  They leave it in the bellies of their fans every year.  Before the season starts, the outlook is rosy…as the fans rush to the fridge hoping to find the playoffs…by midseason, they know it’s not there… 

This year, the Saints have followed this same path…huge expectations…and instead all we can find are some old Cheetos.  Blah.

The Saints are one craving that isn’t going down without a fight.  Brees and Friends get a win, and keep their slim playoff hopes alive.  While the Cards and their fans…well…there’s always those Cheetos. 

Tennessee at Kansas City

A week or so ago, my wife was in the kitchen making hot dogs for dinner.  It so happens that is one of my daughters favorites…I know, shocking, an American child that loves hot dogs.  My daughter and I were in the family room goofing around.  My wife shouted that dinner was almost ready, so I turned to my little girl and said…

“Guess what we’re having for dinner?” 

“I don’t know dad, what are we having?”

“Guess?  What do you think mom is making?” 

Then, turning towards my wife, my little girl yelled at the top of her lungs, “WHAT ARE WE HAVING FOR DINNER MOM!!”

So much for the fun of guessing, subtle doesn’t work with a toddler. 

Every Titans fan would just like to know what’s for dinner.  The season started out so well, they were rolling for awhile there…one started to wonder just how far this team could go.  And then…they lose 4 of their last 5.  If we weren’t all so busy talking about the Lions’ sinking ship, we’d be beating on the Titans.

What is the next step for this team?  Are they playoff bound?  Or are they going to pull up just short like last year.  Their fans all want to know what’s for dinner, they’re tired of guessing. 

Titans get the win, and quiet the rumblings of their fans.  But thanks to the loss last week, they pretty much need to win out to solidify a playoff spot…and not sure if they can do that…Indy resting their starters or not.

Green Bay at St. Louis

Well, he’s Sportsman of the year.  His team is sitting pretty for the playoffs.  He’s breaking a record just about every week.  What more can Brett Favre want for Christmas? 

If you said his 2 front teeth…well, you’re thinking like me…which means you’re just as confused as I am why that popped into my head.

Home field advantage would be great…but the Cowboys would have to lose twice, while the Pack wins out.  Don’t really see that happening.  But hey, they get at least one home game. 

And with games against the Rams, Bears and Lions left…there’s a good chance the Pack will run the table.  Now they just have to hope and pray for a couple of ‘Boys loses.

The Pack get the win, as the Rams are just going through the motions.  That and the Packers seem to put away the teams they should.  Right now they’re wishing they had that loss to the Bears back…it’s killing them.  Yep, darn proud of that. 

NY Jets at New England

At the start of the summer, while still living in Seattle, one of our favorite family outings was the Zoo.  We lived very close, and had passes, so it was a great thing to do when ever the mood hit us.  And my daughter loved going.

We went pretty much once a week, and we’d wander the zoo, talking about all the animals.  My daughter, just 2 at the time, could name about 80% of the animals in the zoo.  She would walk up to kids who were calling the Gorillas “Monkeys” and say, “That’s not a monkey, that’s a Gorilla.”  Made me very proud. 

One particular day, we were near the Pachyderm area, having just left the Elephants.  My daughter was riding in a wagon, just relaxing and soaking in the zoo.

A lady with a group of kids came walking by, pointing at an exhibit and saying “Look at that funny animal, wonder what that thing is?” 

My daughter glanced over and then shouted, “It’s a Tapir”.

The woman stopped dead in her tracks.  She looked at the sign next to the exhibit, looked at my little girl, and then just shot this dumb founded look at me.  I just smiled, and walked off to see the Siamangs, at my daughter’s request. 

There are times when the best thing to say is nothing at all.  The next exhibit is always around the corner, and it’s a big zoo.

Boy, the Jets wish they would of realized that sooner.  Nope, they opened their mouth, and now they’ve made their way around the zoo, and find themselves face to face with that darn Tapir…and they still don’t know what it is. 

The Pats do…and they know they know…and they know the Jets know they know.  And the Jets know that the Pats know that they know.  Wait, what was I saying?  Oh, right…Pats get the win.  The Jets wish to god they had played against a Tapir.

Indianapolis at Oakland

So the Raiders get beat up by the Pack last week, and now host the Colts…wow, someone at the league office just doesn’t like them.  Bu they, they’ve already doubled their win total from last year!!  Way to go Lane Kiffin!!  100% improvement over the Art Shell era. 

Now about Jamarcus…when exactly is he going to play?  Or is he just for show?  Wait, did he hold out for a clause in his contract that says “Will only throw passes from knees, on an empty field.  Will not face live pass rush, or do anything to actually help the team win a game.”  Whoops, that’s a little mean…but just pointing out that holdouts are killers.

At least Jarmacus didn’t make a stupid Subway commercial like Brady Quinn did.  Every time I hear the line “Wait, can’t do it Sundays, I’m busy”…I just can’t stop laughing.  Busy doing what?  Holding a clipboard and watching at Derek Anderson becomes a local hero?  Good choice on that one Brady, fire your agent. 

The Colts cruise to another easy win.  Jamarcus looks good on the sideline, and even throws a few from his knees to satisfy his contract.

Detroit at San Diego

While watching the Titans choke against the Chargers last week, I was floored by a comment that Dan Dierdorf made…yes, I know, very shocking.  His big revelation was… 

“The Titans need this game, but I believe the Chargers can still win their division if they lose this one.”

Wow, really Dan?  That’s a huge revelation.  Man, mark me down as impressed with your ability to go out on a limb.  Really, there isn’t much more to say. 

The Lions meanwhile, played a great game for 3 quarters.  Did they get the memo about games being 4 quarters?  Well, really, when can you say 3 quarters equals a whole?  A quarter is by definition 1 fourth of something.  Maybe the Lions need to take a basic math class, concentrate on fractions for awhile until it makes sense.

The Chargers seem to be getting a little head of steam…and the Lions seem to be…well…not have steam…I guess you could say.  Although that doesn’t make much sense…but you get the general idea… 

The Lions continue their slide towards a 6-10 record.  Chargers get the win, and Dierdorf states, “You know, with a win here they might just win their division.”

Philadelphia at Dallas

Let me see if this all makes sense… 

AJ Feeley almost gets the Eagles a win against the undefeated Patriots.

Donovan McNabb comes back and almost gets a win over the Giants, who spent the game throwing up on themselves? 

Why does McNabb still have a job?  He talked at length about how he’s been unfairly criticized…but yet, he doesn’t seem to have what it takes to lead his team to victory these days.  He looks awful out there, can’t complete a pass, and every time he gets hit, you’re assuming he’s not getting up.

The question is, when does Kevin Kolb get the job? 

My daughter has a saying when a cd is playing…

“No like this one, goto the next one.” 

The Eagles should move onto the next one now.

The Cowboys already have the division wrapped up, but they want the road to the Super Bowl to go through Big D…that’s all the motivation they need in this one.  Dallas wins.  And McNabb looks horrible again. 

Washington at NY Giants

The Giants are trying their hardest to fall apart down the stretch.  Anyone that has watched their last 2 games…I’ll go ahead and raise my hand…has seen a team that has done everything to lose the game…only to face teams that do a better job of losing.

That and their Defense actually can play. 

Too bad that the only thing Eli shares with his brother is a last name…and that goofy look on his face when things go wrong.

After the Giants slide into the playoffs, and are then bounced in the first round…for the sake of Giants fans everywhere, I hope Coughlin gets canned, as well as Gilbride.  And then they bring in a QB to give Eli a little competition.  It’s the only way this team is going to get better. 

On second thought, as a fan of a different NFC team…forget everything I just said Giants.  Keep doing what you’re doing…it’s working perfectly.

The Redskins are the first team that decides to play all 4 quarters against the Giants.  This enables Washington to get the win.  Giants fan start to sweat the late season collapse…and impending doom lurks overhead…but that gets predicted every week….well, one of these weeks it will work.   

Chicago at Minnesota

With the season stuck on an icy slope, with a flat tire to boot…we’ve already tried the donut spare (Brian Griese)…that managed to get us a few feet.  We re-inflated the flat tire (Rex), but it blew out again.  So now we’re left with option number 3…which I’m hoping works out to be “brand new tire” and not “get out and push”.

My first car was a 1987 Chevy Cavalier.  My dad bought it for me in exchange for a computer.  It wasn’t a pretty car, but it ran just fine.  But for about 6 months of ownership, I couldn’t drive it very far.  The reason? 

The hood wouldn’t open.  You’d pull on the hood release with all your might…smack, pry, hit, cry on that hood…wouldn’t budge.  And since I couldn’t get the hood open…well…couldn’t put oil in the car.  And the car sort of burned oil.  So for about 6 months, I would only drive it in town…and it was surviving on a shrinking oil supply.

At the time, I was working this gig where I was traveling around central Illinois installing computers for the Illinois State Police.  You’re saying, “How were you traveling around if you couldn’t drive your car?”  Fair question.  There were 4 of us, and luckily one of the other guys lived close to me…so I would drive my car over to his house, and then he would drive us to that days destination. 

Until one day he was sick. Of course he didn’t tell me this, until I was sitting outside his house for about an hour…in January…in Illinois.  That meant I had to drive myself to the destination…which meant, I needed to put some oil in the car.  So I reached down, and gave the hood release a half hearted tug….

…and it popped open! 

I sat there for several minutes shocked that it worked.  Staring at disbelieve at the hood as if it was some strange creature.  I had tried many times before…had even devoted a whole Saturday to trying to get the hood open…and then, when I needed it most…it just popped.

Well, I topped off the oil and slammed the hood shut.  In the interest of seeing if it was just an illusion…I gave the hood release another try…wouldn’t budge.  Stuck shut just like before.  It wouldn’t be until another 6 months that I would get it completely fixed…until then, it would only pop when it wanted to. 

When I heard the news that Kyle Orton would get the start this week…I had that same look of disbelief and awe that I had when my hood popped that cold morning.  I had been hoping to see it happen for 6 months, but no matter how hard I tried, nothing seemed to happen.  And then pop!

My hope now?  That Orton doesn’t fall flat on his face, and we’re right back to having a stuck hood. 

The Vikings are a hot team, and the Bears are reeling.  Even with the excitement of Orton getting his shot, the Vikes have too much to play for.  Vikings get the win on the strength of their running game.  Which for some reason this year the Bears are having trouble stopping.  Orton plays good enough to warrant an extended tryout…come on Kyle, you can do it man!

Well, there you have it.  Two car analogies later, I’ve picked against the Bears for only the second time since I started writing this blog.  As always, I hope I’m wrong about that pick…but not liking the odds. 

As for me, well, we’re gearing up for a huge snow storm that is supposed to hit here about 1pm today.  Supposed to get 6+ inches of snow.  So if you’re in the Northeast, bundle up, start a fire, and sing a little “Let is snow”.  My daughter will be bouncing off the walls with excitement.

But what worries me most?  30 feet of gravel driveway…we’ll see if my car can get up it tomorrow.

If the picks here weren't enough...and the picks made in the comments still didn't satisfy can always read Dan's incoherent ramblings.  I'm told, reading his posts helps with motion sickness. 


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