Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Conference Championship Game Picks

There is an episode in Season 1 of The Newsroom where Jeff Daniels' character and his producers are faced with the dilemma of whether they should sell part of their souls as a news program and start covering the Casey Anthony trial because they are losing thousands of viewers a night to Nancy Grace. They labor over this decision and then ultimately close their eyes, hold their nose and swallow the trial coverage like a dose of castor oil. I hope the people at ESPN are having the same struggle in choosing to devote more coverage to Manti Te'o than they are to previewing the best day of football season. But I doubt it considering their past willingness to latch on to stories like steroids in baseball and the Terrell Owens saga and run them into the ground.*

So many good reasons to
watch The Newsroom.
The Fantasy Golf Report doesn't devote much time to topics like Te'o and Lance Armstrong for two reasons: (1) They're already over-reported and, more importantly, (2) I DON'T CARE. I don't care if Te'o ran a pyramid scheme, cheated on his SAT's and killed a drifter to get an erection. And I don't care if Armstrong has bionic legs. One is a freakin' college football player and the other a cyclist. They're not Supreme Court Justices.** Just tell me how both cases turn out and, in the meantime, give me the basics so I can tweet snarky things like "Did Lance finally admit that 'Sheryl Crow' was really just the name of his fictional internet girlfriend?"

OK. That's already too many words devoted to those two clowns. I feel dirty. Let's get to the games.

New England by 8.5 over Baltimore

You could easily make the case that Full Metal Jacket's* Gunnery Sergeant Hartman is the most quotable movie character of all-time.** One of my favorites comes when he makes Private Joker the squad leader because "he's silly and he's ignorant, but he's got guts and guts is enough." Well after what happened last Saturday, it's time for the Ravens to make Joe Flacco their quarterback for the rest of the decade because "he's inconsistent and he's maddening, but he's got guts and guts is enough."

"Let me see your Super Bowl face!!!"
It's time to stop generalizing about Flacco's playoff record and start looking at the facts. In his first two seasons in the league, he threw one touchdown pass and six interceptions in five playoff games. Since then, he has played in six playoff games and has twelve touchdown passes with two interceptions and he has spread those touchdown passes around to seven different receivers (Torrey Smith (3), Jacoby Jones, Dennis Pitta (2), Anquan Boldin (3), Kris Wilson, Todd Heap and Ray Rice . . . and there should be a 13th to a player that shall not be named). In this year's playoffs, he is the highest rated passer with 613 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. So it begs the question, "what does this guy have to do to get a little respect?"

And the answer to that question is obvious. Win this game. Just one problem. The guy on the other side is making a bid to become the greatest quarterback in NFL history (and one more Super Bowl title would do it for Brady). So in the end, it may not be up to Joe but I think he's going to hold-up his end of the deal and remember, the last two times Brady has faced the Ravens at home in the playoffs, he's totaled two garbage time touchdowns and five interceptions. The Ravens' defense is a total enigma that can make Charlie Batch look like a Hall of Famer and then come back three weeks later and make Eli Manning look like Mark Sanchez. For some reason, they have the latter effect on Brady.

Brady has been on fire lately so I don't see him getting completely stymied on Sunday, however, he's not going to torch the Ravens for 30+ points either. The Ravens' special teams will be better (because they couldn't be any worse than last week) and will deliver a big play. And in the end, Joe Flacco is going to pull a Rod Tidwell and make Ozzie Newsome wish that new contract had been signed last August.

Ravens - 28 . . . Patriots - 27

San Francisco by 4 over Atlanta

The 49ers appear to be the best team playing at this point and I think we're all a little surprised that the Falcons are still hanging around after gagging away the Seattle game only to have the Seahawks gag it right back to them. Last week I compared the 49ers' faith in Colin Kaepernick to going all-in on with a pair of pocket tens. Depending on which way you want to take that analogy, he either turned-out to be pocket aces or the flop was 10-10-2.****

Kaepernick has already turned in two performances that show he's ready for a game of this magnitude. The first was the Sunday night game at New England where he threw four touchdown passes including the game winner in the 4th quarter. The second was last week when he opened by throwing a pick 6 and then unleashed one of the greatest playoff performances in league history. It's pretty clear that the stage is not too big for him and you can't say the same thing about Matt Ryan yet after his uneven performance last week. Add in the huge advantage that the Niners have on the defensive side of the ball and I can't come-up with a winning formula for the Falcons.

49ers - 31 . . . Falcons - 20

Email the FGR

Endnotes

Hopefully this is the last
time we'll say "woo-hoo"
to Mrs. Welker until fall.
* Mike and Mike actually inspired me to buy a new car three years ago because I needed one with an iPod jack so I could choose what I listened to during my morning commute as opposed to being subjected to their endless redundant discussions about Roger Clemens, Floyd Landis, Michael Vick, Brett Favre, Spygate, etc... I don't doubt that in the weeks leading up to the 2009 NFL season there were millions of listeners hanging on every detail about whether Favre was or was not going to come back. I just wasn't one of them.

** I get that the Armstrong case is different because he was an inspiration to so many people and if making him do the walk of shame gives those who feel betrayed by him some satisfaction, then good. But again, I'm not one of them. There always seemed to be something about Lance that made him hard to like and it turns out that that something was that he was a devious and destructive pathological liar who would sacrifice anyone who threatened to bring him down. And to think that all along I just thought he was kind of a dick.

*** I have Full Metal Jacket as one of the three best war movies of all time along with Platoon and Black Hawk Down. To its credit, AMC has them ranked 3rd, 4th and 6th respectively with Saving Private Ryan at #1, Patton at #2 and The Bridge on the River Kwai at #5. I can't argue with those being the top six overall but I'd go (1) Full Metal Jacket, (2) Black Hawk Down, (3) Platoon, (4) Saving Private Ryan, (5) The Bridge on the River Kwai and (6) Patton. I felt the same way watching Full Metal Jacket for the first time as I did watching Pulp Fiction . . . like Stanley Kubrick had come-up with a previously undiscovered way to make a movie that just kept making you say "holy shit . . . did that just happen?" Black Hawk Down is right there as it doesn't stop coming at you for 144 minutes alternately overwhelming you with admiration for the courage and camaraderie of our troops and frustration over the hopeless circumstances that they endured in Somalia. By the time it's over, your back hurts as you realize you just spent two hours leaning forward on the edge of your seat rooting for Josh Hartnet and Eric Bana to get out alive.

**** The latter would probably be the way to go with it. For non-poker players, that flop would have given the 49ers an almost unbeatable hand of four 10's. It was over when the Packers' defense decided to push all of their chips into the middle with pocket 3's which was the equivalent of game planning for Colin Kaepernick by having Jamarcus Russell come out of retirement to run you scout team all week. Wow.