By Jason Keidel
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Once we get the feeling back in our hands after digging our cars out of their frozen, white cubicles, we can summon our snowy romance with the NFL playoffs.
For those of us raised on John Facenda, the baritone bard of NFL Films, this is the time of year that revives our preteen adoration for the march to the Super Bowl trophy, named after the sport’s ornery patriarch, Vince Lombardi.
Football is the only sport where my team can be on the golf course and I can still be enthralled by the postseason. And with the rush to buy thousands of empty seats to avert three blackouts this weekend, many of you would also rather be home in front of your sprawling flat screen and thumping sound system.
Every game this weekend has fascinating plots, from Cincinnati trying to break their playoff futility to the Frozen Tundra earning its sobriquet with a 30-below wind chill expected Sunday.
With my black & gold ousted by a botched Chiefs field goal and the referees’ inability to call a penalty on the play – no sour grapes, of course! – here’s a fairly objective look at the wild card buffet.
Colts vs. Chiefs
Kansas City supporters say that the recent game between these two teams – dominated by the Colts – means little. Why? Not only did the Colts push the Chiefs all over the field, but the field was in Kansas City. Indianapolis is home, and has defeated the three best teams in the NFL – Seattle, Denver, and San Francisco. Kansas City hasn’t beaten a team in these playoffs. After starting 9-0, the Chiefs finished 2-5. Make it 2-6.
Eagles vs. Saints
Despite their woeful home record over the last few years, the Eagles are favored over the pyrotechnic Saints. That’s probably because the Saints haven’t won a road playoff game. That should change here. Nick Foles has been a revelation and Shady McCoy could be the league MVP if not for a certain Denver QB. But Drew Brees is hungry and can choose between four players with at least 70 receptions this year – the first such foursome in NFL history.
Bengals vs. Chargers
The Bengals are 8-0 at home this year – winning their last four in the Queen City by an average of 24 points – and are hosting a schizophrenic Chargers team that must travel east, into the cold jungle, with a 10 a.m. West Coast start time. Andy Dalton isn’t Philip Rivers, but that’s about the only position where San Diego has the edge. San Diego barely beat Kansas City, at home, with the Chiefs resting 21 starters. All the best Bengals are playing this game.
Packers vs. 49ers
The cherry on top of a delicious weekend. With all due respect to Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers is the best player on the planet, and he showed it by tossing a 4th-down, 4th-quarter touchdown against the Bears to hurl his Packers into the playoffs in his first game back from a broken collarbone.
Lambeau Field will double as a hockey rink, and the arctic winds will make the football harder than a hockey puck. As great as he is, Rodgers can’t keep Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore from gouging the Packers on the ground, or Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree from slashing their secondary. On a frigid field, give me the team with a far better running game and more rugged defense.
Jason writes a weekly column for CBS Local Sports. He is a native New Yorker, sans the elitist sensibilities, and believes there’s a world west of the Hudson River. A Yankees devotee and Steelers groupie, he has been scouring the forest of fertile NYC sports sections since the 1970s. He has written over 500 columns for WFAN/CBS NY, and also worked as a freelance writer for Sports Illustrated and Newsday subsidiary amNew York. He made his bones as a boxing writer, occasionally covering fights in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, but mostly inside Madison Square Garden.
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