Friday, January 20, 2012

A Blind Date with Destiny

"Hey Gronkowski, let me show
you what we like to call the
 "Charm City Bump and Run.'"
The two things I wish I could take credit for writing the most are the lyrics to Cake's Short Skirt/Long Jacket and this William H. Macy line from Mystery Men,  "We've got a blind date with destiny . . . and it looks like she's ordered the lobster" which is probably pretty close to what John Harbaugh is telling the Ravens at practice this week considering the Herculean task they face in New England on Sunday.  (Do you realize that the Patriots have not one, but two tight ends who can catch a football?  Is that even legal?)  But you know what . . . since the playoffs started, we never talk anymore.  You want me to got first?  Ok.   

Mystery Men holds a special place in my heart because I saw it at the Harbor East theatre in downtown Baltimore on a Thursday afternoon in 1999 at around 2:00 p.m. (Avon Barksdale wouldn't even go to the Harbor East after dark).  At the time, I was in the process of riding out the last few weeks of the worst job I ever had and was locked in a game of chicken with my employer who was hoping that I would quit out of sheer boredom because I had essentially stopped working and they had essentially stopped giving me work.  (They eventually won.  You know it's time to move on when you're playing on-line Euchre and you yell, "Here comes the left bower mutherfucker!" loud enough for the whole office to hear).  It's one of the very few benefits of working for a law firm.  The partners are extremely reluctant to fire you because (a) they're afraid you'll sue them (ironically, lawyers hate to be sued), and (b) it makes them feel like they made a mistake by hiring you in the first place (lawyers have ginormous egos.  You learn from the start that law school does not turn people into assholes.  A lot of people are like that when they get there.  Law school just teaches them to be better at it).  Anyway, going to a movie seemed like a good way to kill the afternoon and it was only made better by the fact that one of my disinterested fellow associates agreed to go with me in an an act of passive unified defiance.  I think we even told our secretaries, "we're going to the movies, be back around 4:30.  If anyone asks where we are, tell them we went to the movies."

"I don't think I want to take your
abuse and I know I don't want to
take your blood sample to Labcorp."
I would have a similar experience several months later when I was working for a courier service (they were hiring) and one day after making a delivery, I pulled into a movie theatre and watched Fight Club on a Tuesday afternoon with two of my closest hobo friends.  (Watching Fight Club under my then current circumstances would have been like going to see The Fugitive if you were on the run from the U.S. Marshals after being falsely accused of killing your wife).  This act turned out to be my version of throwing my keys off of the Triboro Bridge as I never went back to my delivery job.  It is not a time I look back on with great fondness but I can tell you that if you ever find yourself alone in a movie theatre in Severna Park, Maryland on a freezing Tuesday afternoon in January, there's a good chance that your life is about to take a dramatic turn for the better because let's face it, where else can it go from there?     

But I digress (that wasn't a digression, that was changing the course of a cruise ship to waive to your high school gym teacher).  On to the picks and I'm going to indiscriminately work in the Cake lyrics because I couldn't figure a way to make them relevant.

I want a girl with a mind like a diamond
I want a girl who knows what's best
I want a girl with shoes that cut
And eyes that burn like . . . cigarettes

New England by 7.5 over Baltimore:  The Pick - Ravens

Don't bother trying to analyze this game based on what happened in the regular season because for every trend, there are twice as many variables that negate it's probative value.  But let's run through a few of them just for fun anyway:

1.  The Patriots have not beaten a team that ended the season with a winning record:  That's an eye opener until you realize that they only played two and one was the Steelers in Pittsburgh which was a respectable loss so are we really going to let the fact that they lost to the Giants in Week 9 influence our thoughts on a game eleven weeks later?  From a gambling standpoint, I'm more interested in the fact that in Weeks 13-16, the Patriots only beat the Colts by 7 (at home), the Redskins by 7 (on the road) and the Dolphins by 3 (at home).  The opposing quarterbacks in those games were Dan Orlovsky, Rex Grossman and Matt Moore who combined for almost 900 yards and threw for 7 touchdowns.  Suddenly Joe Flacco doesn't look like such an anchor anymore.

2.  The Ravens are 7-0 against playoff teams:Flacco has what it takes to pull this off.  The bottom line - your record is what it is and beating the good teams doesn't earn you the AFC Championship game at home when you lose to Jacksonville and Seattle.

"We're gonna call this "Play #1.'"
3.  Joe Flacco stinks:  Joe Flacco is probably somewhere between the 10th and 15th best quarterback in the league but the one thing that came out of those seven wins over playoff teams that is worth noting is that Flacco threw 10 touchdown passes and only 2 interceptions including 4 touchdowns and no picks in the two games against the Steelers.  Joe might not always know what to do with the ball but he seems to have learned what not to do with the ball.

4.  The Patriots defense stinks:  They only gave up 5 more points per game than the Ravens' defense which you can get away with when Tom Brady is your quarterback.   What I don't want to hear about is how good the Patriots' defense is at creating turnovers considering they only played two teams with winning records and they faced Tony Romo, Tyler Palko, Tim Tebow and Mark Sanchez twice.  Everyone of those guys is good for at least 2 picks, a fumble and 9 dumbfounded expressions per game.

"We're trying to run out the clock,
THROW THE DAMN BALL!"
5.  Cam Cameron is a very suspect play caller:  This is true and could be a problem.  Against the Seahawks, the Ravens were down 13-7 in the second quarter and Cameron decided to abandon the running game to make-up the 6 point deficit.  The result was 5 carries for Ray Rice and 52 passes for Joe Flacco (I know I am prone to exaggeration but I did not make-up those numbers).  I noted at the time that either (a) he panicked or (b) that was the game plan and I'm not sure which I would have preferred.  If that ratio starts to develop on Sunday, look for Ravens' owner Steve Bisciotti to fire Cameron in the middle of the third quarter.  The guy owns one of the biggest staffing companies in the world.  He's got to have  at least a couple of offensive coordinators on standby.

Alright, enough of the sports talk fodder.  This game comes down to three things in this order:  (1) Turnovers - if the Ravens get more than the Patriots, they've got a decent shot, (2) Pressure on Tom Brady - if the Ravens can't get it, they won't get turnovers and they're going to lose by double digits (and stop telling me about how they didn't get pressure on T.J. Yates when they never rushed more than four, controlled Andre Johnson and picked Yates off three times which was clearly the plan), and (3) Ray Rice - he needs to carry the ball at least 20 times and average 4.5 yards per carry minimum.  I see the Ravens getting two turnovers to the Patriots one, three sacks and Ray Rice rushing for about 95 yards which will keep it close but not get it done.  Patriots - 27 . . . Ravens - 24.

Screw my original pick.  This love fest is out of control even by Tom Brady standards.  The bottom line is that the Patriots played one of the softest schedules in the league and only won one more game than the the Ravens.  In the past three meeting between these teams (all in New England), the Patriots have won by 3 points, 6 points and were blown-out in the playoff game.  This is the healthiest team the Ravens have sent to the playoffs since Harbaugh took over and anyone who thinks that Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are the keys to stopping Brady has no clue what he's talking about.  The Ravens played four games without Ray Lewis this year and went 4-0.  Ray and Ed are probably about the 6th and 7th most important players on the  defense for this match-up behind Terrell Suggs, Lardarius Webb, Cary Williams, Haloti Ngata and Jarrett Johnson.  Not to mention, Brady will be looking across the line of scrimmage at the guy who ended his 2008 season after one quarter in Bernard Pollard.  I'm pushing all of my chips to the middle of the table.  Ravens - 27 . . . Patriots - 24.  Bring it!!!!          
     
I want a girl who gets up early
I want a girl who stays up late
I want a girl with uninterrupted prosperity
Who uses a machete to cut through red tape
With fingernails that shine like justice
And a voice that is dark like tinted glass

San Francisco by 2.5 over the N.Y. Giants:  The Pick - Giants

"Your offense is a dog with fleas kid."
Someone needs to write a three act play where the characters say nothing but lines from Top Gun and Wall Street because I'm convinced that's all you'd need.  When I try to find a reason to pick the Niners in this one, all I can think of is Gordon Gekko telling Bud Fox, "I'm afraid sport, that unless you got a father on the board of directors of another company, you and I are gonna have a hard time doing business together" . . . as in, "I'm afraid sport, that unless you plan to get five turnovers again, you're going to have a hard time beating another Super Bowl caliber team."

I'm not trying to diminish the win over the Saints which was awesome (unless you're a Saints' fan in which case it had to feel like root canal performed by Dr. Gregg Williams, D.D.S.) but the 49ers are the classic overachieving opportunistic football team that needs the good teams to beat themselves when they play them (or have Gregg Williams playing a key role).  The Giants are just not that team right now.  They don't turn the ball over, they don't need to blitz and they have a quarterback and a coach who have been here before.  Then again, I just had a vision of Eli Manning pulling a drunk Dennis Hopper wandering out onto the court and letting down all of us doubters who had started to believe in him but I'm countering that with what I saw on Thanksgiving night when the Ravens put pressure on Alex Smith and the Niners produced a measly 6 points.  (Under the definition of the word "logy" they should have "the way one feels while attending a 16-6 football game after Thanksgiving dinner").  The 49ers will have their day, just not this year.  Giants - 24 . . . 49ers - 17.  

She wants a car with a cupholder arm rest
She wants a car that will get her there
She's changing her name from Kitty to Karen
She's trading her MG for white Chrysler Le Baron


I want a girl with a short skirt and a lonnnnggggggg jacket!

Last week:  1-3 . . . . Playoffs:  4-4