Friday, January 15, 2010

You're The Best...Around! (NFL, Part 2)

I knew I should've made this a combo post from the jump.

I know, I know. I promised you that I'd be back with Part 2 like, yesterday. I ain't gonna front. I knew ahead of time that we'd be going hard on a serious back-to-back, but I thought I'd find time to squeeze in another post during the off-peak cool down. I didn't want to intimidate you guys with a monster 1,000 word expression of my love for the NFL playoffs.

And then my job happened. And then overtime (hooray, money!) happened. And then my earlier promise was ground into dust.
That's how the media business is sometimes. You can never predict how long a game's going to be, or if your director's comprehension skills are beyond that of a field mouse, or if your equipment is going to malfunction and force you to make tremendous video fixes after the game. By the time we were done last night, it was 12:30am, my boss was delirious with laughter, and I unleashed a tirade of psuedo-expletives on the production truck that I knew would be a disaster as soon as I stepped through the front door.

But hey, whatever right? It's about results, not excuses. But if I begin to sound like Mush Mouth from Fat Albert over the next few paragraphs, please refrain from hurling an Allen wrench at my sternum. Thanks.

Part 2, let's GET. IT. ON! (I can feel the lameness kicking in already.)
4. San Diego Chargers (12-4, bye week)
Best Player(s): San Diego's O-line
Strategy: Phil Rivers throws jump ball to taller receiver, gloats and point in direction of head coach, laughs menacingly as he walks with peace sign extended to the huddle
Weakest Link: Norv Turner (he's gonna cost them a game, you watch)
X-Factor: Darren Sproles
Super Bowl Chances = An Old Lady Getting Preggo at Age 90 (Genesis 21:1-7)

Has anyone else noticed how Rex Ryan always calls the NFL postseason the "tournament" like we're watching March Madness? I think that's freaking hilarious. It's almost like, in his own mind, Sexy Rexy (whoops, sorry Grossman!) has decided to convince himself that his squad has just as much opportunity to knock off an opponent as any other team. And in some ways, he's right. The Jets are one awful Rivers game away from the AFC Championship.

Unfortunately, this is professional football. The Chargers are way better than us. I'm just counting on Norv to remember that he's in the playoffs and choke under pressure again.
As as I tweeted yesterday, I pray that LaDainian Tomlinson gets a TON of carries tomorrow. Yeah, I know he thinks he's still got the LT shuffle going strong. But I refuse to believe that he's even half the RB he was three years ago.

The Chargers should've drafted Mike Vick. (I kid! I kid!)

3. Minnesota Vikings (12-4, bye week in Round 1)
Best Player:
Adrian "All-Day, Purple Jesus" Peterson
Strategy: Hand the rock to All Day, setting up the play-action pass
Weakest Link: Brad Childress (bad beard, crazy QB)
X-Factor: Jared Allen (if he gets to the QB, instant blowout)
Super Bowl Chances = Sleeping With a Lion All-Night and Not Becoming Seconds (Daniel 6:16-24)
There's going to come a point in time where Calm Favre gives way to Crazy Favre. You know, the guy that wanted to play in a meaningless Sunday Night Football game when his team already had their postseason position locked down. The one that wants to see how hard he can throw it into triple coverage while Adrian Peterson stands behind him with his hands folded.

I can't wait to see the ole' gunslinger play, er, FAIL. God, what did we do to deserve this?

2. New Orleans Saints (14-2, bye week in Round 1)
Best Player: Drew Brees
Strategy: Get the ball to the open man
Weakest Link: Reggie Bush (ain't no sunshine when's she's gone...)
X-Factor: Running Game (Pierre Thomas, Mike Bell, Reggie Bush)
Super Bowl Chances = 300 Men Laying the Smackdown on an Entire Army (Judges 7)

The Saints probably got the best and worst matchup for themselves in Round 2. The Cardinals can score with anybody (especially if Madden 2000 Warner shows up). The Cardinals can also forget how to form tackle in space. If Darnell Dockett (whose current wife went to HU!) and the front four can get pressure, then the Cards are in business. If they don't...we're looking at Breesus and the crew putting up a 50 spot in Katrina's kitchen later today.

(Had to get that off my chest.)

1. Dallas Cowboys (10-6, man-handled Philly in Round 1)
Best Player:
DeMarcus Ware
Strategy: Who KNOWS. Should just hand rock to King Felix and Marion the Barbarian until defense cries "Uncle!"
Weakest Link: The fragile Wade Phillips-Double J-Nerd Boy triumvirate
X-Factor: Felix Jones/Roy Williams' hands
Super Bowl Chances = A Wall Falling Down Due to People Yelling Loudly (Joshua 6:6-25)

The 2009 Cowboys look eerily similar to the 2007 Giants. Think about it.

You've got a young, fragile quarterback capable of finding and riding a tremendous hot streak (Eli = Romo), cagey veterans that desperately crave that elusive championship ring (Strahan = Ware), a cadre of explosive running backs (Barber/Jones/Choice = Jacobs/Ward/Bradshaw), talent and speed at the skill positions (Austin/Williams = Burress/Smith), a ferocious defensive front that wants to plunder the O-line and run roughshod in the backfield (Strahan/Tuck/Umenyiora = Ware/Spencer/Ratliff), and young guys who are starting to find their niche as the team plows further and further into the postseason (Mike Jenkins = Aaron Ross).

Real talk, the parallels are unmistakable.

I'm afraid to say it, but this Cowboys team is probably the odds-on favorite to win the Super Bowl. Even with Wade "Tubbs" Phillips at the helm. And Jerry Jones in his crazy box.

(An addendum to the Part 1 wife talk: Finding an intelligent, attractive (non-crazy) sports gal on the market is the sports equivalent of Tim Lincecum making it to arbitration without a contract offer; or Miles Austin sitting in your fantasy football free agent pool. It's virtually unfathomable. It's like batting .406 for five straight seasons. You get my point.

When the time comes, you've got to be ready to make the Godfather offer. Pull out the big guns. Use your best tactics. Don't be afraid to take her out to Buffalo Wild Wings on the first date.
Enjoy the playoffs everybody. I'll see you come Super Bowl Sunday.
Mike Benjamin, II

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Happy Days Are Here Again! (NFL Playoffs, Part 1)

(Editor’s Note: I’ve decided to transcribe the conversation that I overheard in my brain the other day. You know…the talk that every man would like to have with his wife (God, PLEASE BLESS ME WITH A SPORTS WIFE!) around this time of the year (if we actually had any say in what goes on around us):


Okay, so I may have taken some liberties with the verbiage. Ladies, don’t be alarmed. This is only what we’re thinking when we politely excuse ourselves from company to forage for mindless entertainment. Just kidding. Kinda.

I’ve been watching way too much Lopez Tonight.)

Woman! HELLO! Wife! There's a man speaking over here!

We NEED to talk! Which means, for a change, you’ll do 95% of the listening! ZING!!!!

Let’s skip the foreplay and get right to business. You know why I’m here. It’s playoff time. Teams are gunning for my J-E-T-S to drown in a pool of their own excrement, Pey Pey just won another MVP trophy for those commercials that make freaking Tele-tubbies chortle, and Kurt Warner just toasted the Pack in his chariot of fire (TOASTY!) to get them W’s.
I’m not gonna even front. I don’t plan on doing any house work this month. I’m here to lay in my own filth, waddle in place as not to miss an offensive drive while in the can, and bad mouth my favorite football team as they trot down the field in an attempt to keep me from pouring liquid nitrogen on the new flat screen. I know this may sound banal and incomprehensible, but just let me be MAN. Me don’t have time for complex methods of speech.

So, please, PLEASE…every January weekend from the hours of 1pm to 9pm, don’t injure yourself or others. I’ll be too preoccupied with the TV set to notice your blood seeping into the carpet. I WILL become a nuisance to you (MA! THE MEATLOAF!), and at times I’ll seem distant from the charismatic sweetheart you came to know and love. Don’t be alarmed. You can find that guy under the self-made mountain of Slim Jim wrappers.

Feel free to join me, if you dare. Make yourself at home. Just not in Big Daddy’s seat.

Now get me my food stuffs!

(WARNING: Do not actually say this to your wife/girlfriend. I don’t need to be reading any Marvin Gaye stories in the Daily Bugle. Hot grits ain’t no joke.)

Folks, there are eight teams left in the playoffs. Let’s break down their chances as we head towards Super Sunday. You too, ladies. You can’t possibly still be mad at me, right? RIGHT?

8. New York Jets (9-7, beat Bengals in Round 1)
Best Player: Darrelle Revis, CB (Defensive POY runner-up)
Strategy: Run the ball, stop the run, unleash Revis
Weakness: Mark Sanchez (rookie QB on the road, USC quarterback)
X-Factor: Shonn Greene
Super Bowl Chances = Camel Going Through Eye of a Needle (Matt 19:24)

Ahh...I remember it just like if it were yesterday. Jets lose to a woeful Falcons team, the T-Rex prophesies destruction for the rest of our season, and the Giants are looking like they might be the only team representing the Jersey Shore Big Apple.

Fast forward to last week. Jets cream Ocho-Stinko on his home turf, Mark Sanchez looks like the best quarterback to come from Pete Carroll's system, and everybody in Greenland is starting to feel themselves a little too much.

And this is the precise moment where we've always taken the L. Really. Look at our history. The Monday Night Football fake-spike. The Mile High Massacre in '98. The Doug Brien game in '03.

Mark's cool, but he's lunch meat if he can't read defenses. If SD plays us like the Falcons did (put 9 guys in the box and force Mark to throw)...he's toast.

Clearly, I have absolutely no faith in my team. We haven't made the Super Bowl since 1967.
7. Baltimore Ravens (8-8, owned Pats in Round 1)
Best Player (tie): Ray Rice, Ed Reed
Strategy: Run the ball, stop the run, unchain Reed
Weakness: Joe Flacco (monobrow)
X-Factor: Willis McGahee
Super Bowl Chances = Slaying a Nine-Foot Giant with Some Rocks (1 Samuel 17:32-50)

Last Monday, I entered the mall to return a gift. I left the mall with an instant re-gift and a new pair of sneakers. And I completely blame this on the hand lotion counter girl. She said some things, I nodded, handed her a twenty, and BOOM!

Instant punk.

I say all things for one reason: The Ravens are like the hand lotion lady. For the last ten years, we've been tricked into thinking that the Ravens are a really good team that's one measly piece away (Kyle Boller, Derrick Mason, Steve McNair) from winning the entire thing EVERY YEAR.

But they're not. Tony Siragusa isn't going to stop acting like a glorified color analyst on FOX, Bart Scott isn't walking through that door, and Ray Lewis isn't getting any younger.

And there's really no reason to buy what they're selling. But we will anyway, because we remember the beatdown they laid on the G-Men in 2000, and hey, their jerseys are the same color! Ray's not in prison! There's still gotta be some magic in that old top hat!
But there's not. See you on draft day, lovable black GM (Ozzie Newsome) in the NFL!

6. Arizona Cardinals (10-6, beat Packers on blatant facemask in Round 1)
Best Player
: Kurt Warner (when he reverts back to the Madden 2000 model)
Strategy: Get the ball to the playmakers (Larry Fitzgerald, et al)
Weakest Link: Tim Hightower/LeGuy Who's Name I'm Too Lazy to Look Up
X-Factor: Defensive Line (Darnell Dockett)
Super Bowl Chances = A Man Staying Alive in a Whale's Belly for Three Days (Jonah 1:17)

I remember waking up for Round 2 last year, looking at the matchup between Carolina and Arizona, and guffawing loudly as I shuffled to the dorm kitchen for a huge bowl of Frosted Flakes GOLD. I later remember waking up later that day (gotta LOVE the nap after the big snooze), looking at the score, and planting the remains of said cereal into dorm carpet. Classic.

Remember that book that came out a few years ago about the "unknown" qualities that vault a company from being good to great? Me neither. But the Cardinals are that kind of team...good, but missing those perennial key ingredients that begat greatness (D, running game). Yup, Arizona is the Duane Reade of the NFL (hella convenient to find and enjoy, but doesn't completely get the job done).
The bigger question this week: How does Kurt Warner handle playing against the SAINTS? Discuss.

5. Indianapolis Colts (14-2, bye week in Round 1)
Best Player
: Peyton Manning (Pey-Pey, 18)
Strategy: Dissect defense like a med student, then try really hard to make Jim Caldwell laugh
Weakest Link: Rookie Receivers, Wimpy Secondary
Super Bowl Chances = A Carpenter Turning Aquafina Into Cristal (John 2:1-12)

As Elmer Fudd would say, be vewy vewy quiet. I'm about to teww you the twuth. Shhh.

Indianapolis isn't a good football team.

Yes, it's true. The Colts haven't whipped their opponents all year (they've only beaten one quality opponent by more than 10 points; Arizona) and won seven games in which they trailed in the fourth quarter (the Manning effect). Bob Sanders has been out all year, and they've gotten away with playing a guy who only runs fly routes (Garcon) and a psuedo-Brandon Stokley (Collie) all year.

Here's the recipe for Saturday's game: If Peyton Manning comes out and sees Chris Carr covering Reggie Wayne, that's six. If Peyton Manning sees Ed Reed covering Reggie Wayne, he'll then have to throw to Dallas Clark. And that's six. But if Baltimore double covers Wayne AND Clark...well, then we'll see how good Collie and Garcon really are.

(By the way, I'm sad that we didn't invest as much time into all-decade lists as we did back before Y2K. I don't even think MTV bothered to even schedule a Top 100 music videos list to end off the year. Don't they know that I wanted an excuse to see Ok Go! walk on those treadmills in "Here It Goes Again"?

But if I had the opportunity to create any of the all-decade lists, one of the many I'd go with would be biggest foreheads. Why not? We've seriously had some epic ones make me wish for non-HD televisions...

5. Sam Cassell (because keeping him off any all-ugly ranking would automatically discredit the list)
4. Jason Kidd's son (remember the '02 and '03 NBA Finals? Yikes.)
3. Peyton Manning (check out his dome when he takes off his helmet)
2. Rhianna (OK music, bad boyfriend, unusual amount of space between eyebrow and hairline)
1. Alex Tyus, Florida PF (because when your headband doesn't reach your dreadline, I'm tempted to call you Stevie Wonder)
Am I grimy for that? Probably. Hehehehehe.

(Check out Part 2 coming...tomorrow. Out.)