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How Outsports saw the NFL's divisional round

Laughing heartily at the fools who picked the Jags; God sends Dungy packing

How Cyd Say the Week
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17 down, 2 to go

Thank you Jesus!

It’s very weird that I’ve now heard this kinda thing from three different people in the last 48 hours, including my old pal Brendan Lemon.

It’s official. God has spoken: Homophobes are out, gay marriage is in. Tony Dungy, the religious homophobe who has used his Super Bowl win last February to raise money for an anti-gay organization and preach the gospel, has been vanquished, sent home packing maybe (hopefully) for the very last time ever. In his place is the only team that represents the one state in the union that embraces gay marriage. Jesus isn’t sad today. He’s rejoicing! The kind of religious crap that the Tony Dungys of the world push on the rest of us lost in one of the most embarrassing fashions I can remember, while the true Patriots are on the road to glory.

Dungy said last year that God had made his Colts win. They’ve punished them this year. Thank you Jesus!

How Jim Say the Week
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BACK TO THE FUTURE: In hindsight, they should have just stopped the season after Week 2 and held the Super Bowl, Packers vs. Patriots. In Week 2, New England beat San Diego, 38-14, while Green Bay beat New York, 35-13.

My championship game picks:
AFC: Patriots 38, Chargers 14
NFC: Packers 35, Giants 13

Other than Giants and Chargers fans, I think all other football fans wanted to see Colts-Patriots and Packers-Cowboys; I know CBS and Fox did. Those would have been much more competitive matchups than what we are facing. The nice comeback stories in San Diego and New York will come to an end next week.

The doubters

You gotta love these guys who thought the Jauguars would beat the Greatest Team Ever. And even more, you’ve gotta LOVE the reasons they gave for picking the Jags.

I said it before, I’ll say it again – Jags will beat Pats
Jeremy Green, who has been writing for the last month a guarantee that the Jags would beat the Pats, repeating it just last week: “I know Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio will be reminding his players all week that they had no Pro Bowl players.”

Uh, dumbass, having no players good enough to make the Pro Bowl is not exactly a way to WIN a game, especially against the Greatest Team Ever.

There was this idiot, Andrew Kneeland, who made the same point: “Also, a quick question: how many pro bowlers do the Jaguar's have? Zero.”

Again, he was saying that would propel the Jaguars to victory! What these fools didn’t understand (and probably still refuse to admit) is that the Patriots are simply a step above the parity of the rest of the league where anyone can beat anyone else on a given day. Rolling into Foxboro with no Pro Bowlers doesn’t help a team, you idiots.

Then there was this gem, which became a popular perspective as the week rolled along: “So just how are they going to do it? With their returns and running game.”

Oh, right. Their returns like the one that Maurice Jones-Drew fumbled? Like that one? Yeah, that’s a great way to beat a team: To fumble kickoffs and leave your offense starting inside your own 10 yard line. Please, spread that strategy around the league!

As for the running game (the storyline all week was how the Patriots couldn’t run the ball and couldn’t stop the Jaguars’ unstoppable running attack), the Patriots’ much-maligned Laurence Maroney outgained all of the Jags’ runners, including their quarterback, by 42 yards. Please, again, keep doing your best to convince other teams that being outgained by a total of 63 yards on the ground is a way to win a game. That’d be great. Thanks.

What is the Matrix?


I gotta give props to my brother, Greg, for this one, because the notion originated with him. Watching Tom Brady this season has been like watching Neo in The Matrix. Brady isn’t just out there playing the game, he has completely mastered it. He stands back there, expressionless, no worries, calmly settling in, taking the ball from center, watching his receivers, directing some of them, and placing the ball in their hands. How good was his game Sunday night? Perfect. He was an NFL playoff record 26-for-28; and those two incomplete passes were drops by the receivers. He. Is. The. Man.

Yay the Pats get to beat the Chargers again!


The best part about San Diego beating Indianapolis is that the Patriots get to be the ones to knock them out of the playoffs again. The Chargers are a miserable team with a bunch of raging assholes, like Philip Rivers and Shawne Merriman, and whiners, like LaDainian Tomlinson, and the benefits of playing a group of unfocused loudmouths will show its head in the 15-degree weather of Foxboro next Sunday. I’ve already gotten an email and a text messages from two Patriot haters saying they’ll be cheering for the Patriots because they hate the players on the Chargers even more. Love it!

My thoughts on next week’s games

This will, I’m sure, be the coldest combined Championship games ever. Right now, the day’s highs at Foxboro and Green Bay are a combined 19 degrees. Crazy.

San Diego at New England (clear, 15 degrees). The San Diego injuries will determine whether it’s a victory for the Patriots or a complete blow-out. I actually think the homefield advantage will be bigger for New England in this game than it has in any game this season. With it being that cold, and the Chargers being as hated as they are, the Chargers will be very much out of their element. I can’t wait to see Philip Rivers’ three-turnover day.

New York Giants at Green Bay (cloudy, 4 degrees). Let me repeat that. High of 4 degrees. The day before, it will dip to –7. That’s MINUS SEVEN. I don’t think it will affect the outcome, because both teams are used to playing in the cold. I’ve doubted these two teams all season, so big kudos to them. If I could have picked the NFC Championship in August, this might have been the last matchup I would have ever picked.

With everything that has happened this year, I guess a Packers-Patriots Super Bowl is the only way for it to end.

GAG REFLEX: As a huge Colts fan, even being objective, it was obvious that they collapsed against the Chargers. Or should I say, their defense and some skill players did. This is not a loss to pin on Peyton Manning (402 yards, three TDs); he did throw two picks but one went off the hands of Kenton Keith for what would have been a touchdown near the goal line.

On offense, in addition to Keith’s killer drop/interception, Marvin Harrison fumbled at the San Diego 20 after catching a pass for a first down. The Colts led 7-0 at the time, and Harrison’s fumble really turned the tide. Coming back from injury, it was his first catch in 10 weeks and the lack of contact in that time showed on the play. He lost the ball simply after being hit in the legs by a tackler. Harrison had one more catch and then sat the fourth quarter when his knee swelled up again.

But the big flop was on defense. The Chargers played the last quarter without QB Phillip Rivers and almost the last three without running back LaDainian Tomlinson. Yet the Colts allowed Billy Volek(!) to drives the Bolts 80 yards for what was the winning score, with the key play a pass to Legedu Naanee. If you paid 99.9% of NFL fans $1 million based on their answer, they would have never heard of Legedu Naanee. Volek pretty much drove the length of the field against a defense that had been No. 1 in points allowed.

The Colts defense never adjusted from their base set most of the game and got zero pressure on either Rivers or Volek. Neither team recorded a sack and the Colts clearly were missing pass rushing stud Dwight Freeney, who was hurt in the Week 10 loss to San Diego.


KEY: The game was won and lost on third down. The Chargers converted 6 of 10, while the Colts (the league’s best third-down team in the regular season) were 3 of 11 (and 2 of 4 on fourth down). Rivers, who played tremendously, really excelled on third down, consistently converting third-and-7+.

SOLACE: Dave Kopay, another huge Colts fan now living in Seattle, called me after the game and said that while he was sorry about the outcome, he was glad that “that homophobe [coach Tony] Dungy” lost. There is always a silver lining.

As our Joe in Philly wrote: “Despite the fact that I don't respect the Chargers and I'm not thrilled about the Giants and Eli Manning (and the spectre of the Evil Empire looming above all in Boston), this is truly a joyous day. Homophobe Tony Dungy? Gone! The Dallas Cowboys? Outta here!”

CRASHED: A lot of people were writing how the 13-3 Colts were flying “under the radar” since they got little attention as defending Super Bowl champs. As Billy Witz of the L.A. Daily News told me, they were flying so low they hit a tree.

A YEAR REMOVED: This is kind of odd – in 2004, the Steelers had the best regular season and lost in the playoffs. In 2005, they won the Super Bowl. In 2005, the Colts had the best regular season and lost in the playoffs. In 2006, they won the Super Bowl. In the 2006, the Chargers had the best regular season and lost in the playoffs. In 2007, they have so far won two playoffs games (their first since 1994).

BYE-BYE BYE: Maybe the Colts should rethink this whole wanting a bye thing. In the Peyton Manning Era, they are 0-3 in the playoffs with byes and 7-4 without.

TURN-AROUNDS: In September, the only thing Chargers and Giants fans wanted was to have coaches Norv Turner and Tom Coughlin run out of town. Four months later, both won major upsets on the same day and are in their conference finals. Who would have thought that the surviving Manning in the playoffs would be Eli?

ROMO’S DISASTER: As big as the loss by the Colts was the Cowboys’ 21-17 flameout to the Giants. Tony Romo took a lot of grief for going to Cabo last weekend with Jessica Simpson and he is being roasted by many Dallas fans and the media. He only has himself to blame. Romo completed only 50% of his passes as Dallas scored only three points in the second half against a shaky Giants secondary. He also came a bit unglued at the end, taking bad sacks, arguing with the officials, berating teammates and throwing up uncatchable prayers on the final two drives.

Whether or not Cabo had anything to do with his shaky play (the Giants had something to do with it), Romo put a giant bull’s-eye on his back. His “I don’t care what anyone thinks” attitude is admirable, but leaves him open to major second-guessing.

And many Cowboy fans are happy to second-guess, as posts on one message board illustrate– “I think he is the second coming of Danny White. He puts up big numbers in the regular season but falls apart in the big games.” “I agree the guy is a classic choke artist if i ever seen one. Guy's blow this guy up way too much. He hasn't proven anything. 0-2 in the playoffs tells us enough about him.”

Rome had a weird answer in his post-game press conference. He was trying to defend his play and that of the offense by commenting that "Points can be deceiving sometimes." Points are the least "deceiving" stat in sports -- score more than the other guy and win, score less and lose.

He also had this to say about Cabo: "I thought that was better than going to Vegas, drinking for two days." As Tim Cowlishaw wrote in the Dallas Morning News: "Didn't realize those were the only two options."

This is the second bad playoff loss for Romo and his team has gone 1-3 in its final four games the last two seasons. The high-water mark for Romo and the ‘Boys was the Nov. 29 win against Green Bay. You know, the one that ensured home field advantage in the NFC title game. That one worked out well.

Romo had help in the disaster. The key play was a third-down drop by Patrick Crayton with Dallas ahead 17-14. Crayton might have gained 50 yards and put the game away. The offensive line also was shaky and committed several false starts, kind of odd since the game was at home and crowd noise should not have been a factor.

STATS ARE FOR LOSERS: The Giants were outgained 336 to 220 yards. The Cowboys ran 71 plays to the Giants’ 44 and had 13 minutes more possession time. They won, though, because Eli Manning was efficient and not rattled and their defense was the classic bend-but-don’t break variety.

A key sequence came late in the first half. Dallas had just scored to go ahead, 14-7. New York got the ball back at its 29 with 53 seconds left. Seven plays later, they were in the end zone and the game was tied 14-14 at half. Dallas’ defense played the dreaded “prevent,” very soft and not aggressive and Manning ate it up. A dumb 15-yard face-mask penalty also killed the Boys (another stat "won" by Dallas -- 84 penalty yards to the Giants' 25).

HISTORY, THE BAD WAY: Since the NFL expanded to 12 playoff teams in 1990, no No. 1 seed in the NFC had lost its divisional playoff game, until Dallas. … The Cowboys also tied the NFL record for consecutive playoff losses (six). The Cowboys have not won a playoff game since winning the Super Bowl in the 1995 season. … Coach Wade Phillips is now 0-4 as a playoff coach (Denver, Buffalo and Dallas).

WADE’S BAD NIGHT: This sums it up for Phillips, according to the Dallas Morning News: “Wade Phillips was about to get in his Lincoln Navigator, but the poor fella couldn't find his keys. As if falling to 0-4 in the playoffs as a head coach wasn't embarrassing enough.”

MOCKED: Terrell Owens came back after an ankle injury and was not much of a factor for Dallas (though he did cry well in his post-game press conference). Said Giants pass rusher Michael Strahan: "We play together, we play to win and we hope T.O. has his popcorn ready. Maybe he and Crayton can sit in his home theater and watch us next week."

CBS SUCKS: I usually hate Fox’s NFL coverage, but other than the useless-ness of Tony Siragusa, I have no complaints about their performance this weekend (I thought Troy Aikman was terrific in hammering home how Dallas was collapsing).

CBS, though, gets a D- for its effort. Saturday night, Patriots receiver Randy Moss had one catch, yet New England still moved the ball well. Why? I read after about Jacksonville devoting two or three defenders to stopping Moss, thereby leaving other options open for Tom Brady. But CBS did not isolate Moss and show us how he was occupying so much attention, and so many fans might have determined that Moss had an off game.

Sunday was even worse. Why no sideline reporters? Has CBS gotten cheap? They are often superfluous, but are vital in big games if injuries occur. In the Colts-Chargers game, the following starters got hurt at some point – Rivers, L.T., Luis Castillo, Reggie Wayne, Bob Sanders and Joseph Addai. This was in addition to Marvin Harrison sitting most of the second half. CBS gave us almost zero information on any of the injuries; sidelines reporters are paid for just such circumstances. In addition, they never showed a key grounding penalty against Rivers that helped lead to a missed field goal; was he out of the pocket? what defines the pocket? Beats me, because CBS never showed a replay. Lame.

SATURDAY’S GAMES: The Sunday contests were so riveting and so pissed me off that I don’t have a whole lot to say about Patriots 31, Jaguars 20 or Packers 42, Seahawks 20. Neither result was too surprising or that interesting or compelling. The snow in Green Bay sure looked pretty, though.