Time to hand the controls over to Zeus for another of his unique opinions here on Championship Sunday.
Iâ€™ve been a bit under the weather this week and a business trip had me out of town for a couple of days. Returning home yesterday, it finally started to hit home. My adrenal glands started pumping, my pulse began to race and my senses sharpened. Today, my chest is pounding and my eyeballs are spinning in different directions. Now, I am wired.
1. Watching the replay of last yearâ€™s AFC Championship game in my hotel room Thursday night, I was shocked at how poorly the Patriots played. This yearâ€™s New England team is deeper, more talented and more versatile. The good news is that we wonâ€™t see a running game that is solely dependent on the departed BJGE nor will we see Julian Edelman trying to cover Anquan Boldin with the game on the line. However, the absence of Gronk is cause for concern.
2. Whatâ€™s in the Gatorade? – This seasonâ€™s epidemic of ruptured tendons and exploding muscles hasnâ€™t fazed the Ravens even a tiny bit. In fact, both Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs made miraculous recoveries from what used to be season ending injuries. Superior training and rehab techniques? Or Fun with Pharmaceuticals? You decide.
3. Joe Flaccoâ€™s three long TD passes last Saturday were a bit like a .250 hitter pounding 3 home runs in a game. The Ravensâ€™ offensive game plan is for Joe to close his eyes and heave it down the right side of the field as far as he can, hoping that a DB will lapse into a catatonic stupor or fall down, a zebra will toss an inexplicable flag, or a receiver will miraculously catch the ball. Once this happens, Joe can lay claim to being ELITE. Flacco did make a huge, clutch throw on 3rd and 13 from his own 3 yard line during OT, a seam route to Dennis Pitta for a first down that arguably saved the game for the Ravens. At least publicly, Flacco seems more concerned with his image than whether the Ravens win. This is likely a natural consequence of competing for attention with the galaxy-sized ego of Ray Lewis.
4. Chinese Water Torture â€“ One of the advantages of going to the game is to not have to listen to the nonstop glorification of Ray Lewis. By Sunday, tributes will have poured in from the ends of the earth and beyond. We are all truly fortunate to have walked the earth at the same time as this transcendentally great human being. Ray will forever be an inspiration to billions of people (not to mention Squirrels) throughout the known and unknown universe.
5. The Myth of Manning â€“ The Peyton Manning Sycophant Marching Band was working overtime last week trying to polish the turd that was Peytonâ€™s latest playoff debacle. Since when does committing three turnovers leading directly to 17 points in an OT loss constitute â€śplaying well enough to win?â€ť Manning shook the Broncos down for megabucks, knowing full well that he was not anywhere close to being fully recovered. This happened not 12 months after he swindled the Colts for a huge contract somewhere between his 3rd and 4th major neck surgery. Am I the only one that has a problem with this appalling level of greed or is it just another endearing characteristic that makes him a great guy?
6. Manti and the Real Girl – At first blush, a sane person would be hard pressed to make up a weirder story than The Tale of Tâ€™eo. But maybe itâ€™s not that unusual after all – pretty much everyone has had A Fake Dead Girlfriend at some point in their life. Still, this is unexplored ground, even for NFL personnel types who have dealt with world class dysfunction that is the inevitable result of years of coddling young men who are athletic freaks of nature. Teams may now find it necessary to supplement the infamous Wonderlic with a personality test to assess oneâ€™s ability to deal with Invisible, Imaginary or Inflatable Playmates.
7. Hempstead Hi-Jinx – My New Yearâ€™s resolution to stop picking on the jets is once again a miserable failure. But surely you can understand that it is not my fault â€“ the 24/7 Freak Show continues throughout the jetâ€™s typically prolonged off-season. Who could possibly resist?
- How it is that Le Grand Rex is still on the payroll after the GM, offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator and special teams coach all got turfed. Might it be that that Rex has certain photographs in his possession involving his owner and, say, a lingerie-clad goat? Just speculating, but thereâ€™s really no other rational explanation.
- The jetsâ€™ hired a high-priced outside consultant to plead with semi-qualified candidates and random passersby in Times Square to even consider the teamâ€™s general manager position. The manic-depressive search concluded Friday with the hiring of the 437th choice, Jeff Idzik, whose name (changed from the original Izdik) translates as Reincarnation of Tannenbaum in an obscure Slavic dialect. Coupled with the all but inevitable hiring of offensive (Marty Mornhinweg) and defensive (Barney the Purple Dinosaur) coordinators who have been abject failures elsewhere, this guarantees that the nonstop buffoonery will continue until Rex accidentally deletes his picture of Woodyâ€™s barnyard indiscretions.
- HBO has announced a live pay-per-view telecast on the eve of the Super Bowl during which Rex will have the new jet playbook tattooed in its entirety on his ample derriere.
8. ESPN- Style Meaningless Stat (Angry Birds Edition) â€“ The Patriots face long odds on Sunday as they are 0-3 this season against teams with feathers (Cardinals, Ravens and Seahawks). According to experts such as Peter King and Trey Wingo, this is likely fatal to whatever meager chances the Patriots had.
9. Home Again â€“ The AFC Championship game is once again in Foxboro. Where it belongs. As always, I hope that you enjoy the game with people you care about and that we get to spend the next two weeks in yet another frenzy of nervous anticipation. What could be more fun than that?
Jeff Beck performing Goodbye Pork Pie Hat, from his Wired album:
Thanks once again to Zeus for aiding me in filling this space.
Falcons 27, 49ers 23
Falcons +4Â˝ (two units)
Patriots 31, Ravens 24
Ravens +10 (one unit)
Over 49Â˝ (one unit)
Ravens +16, Falcons +10Â˝ (five units)
Follow on Twitter @AllThingsPats