Sunday, January 21, 2018

The FGR's Conference Championship Game Picks

We now return to our seemingly neverending saga . . . The FGR: A Football Life. Even I'm growing weary and this one has turned into quite the multi-day grind that I'm trying to finish with an obnoxious hangover. Manage your expectations accordingly.  

So Baltimore had found/stole itself a football team. Unfortunately that team was the Cleveland Browns and, in the same way that it takes time for the smell of an overly perspirational parking attendant to leave your car, it would take a few years for that Cleveland stink to wear-off. The Ravens were, however, spared the kind of vitriol that would normally be inspired by a team that went 10-21-1 over two years because they had a built-in honeymoon period. For the first two years, the city was still in so much shock that we got a team that we kind of treated it like grandma's couch by leaving the plastic on. 

Then the they moved into their new stadium which was phenomenal. It's now twenty years old and still shows no signs of needing a major upgrade much less a replacement unlike that dump in the D.C. suburbs which should be bulldozed into the Potomac River. You can justifiably fling a lot of monkey shit at Baltimore from the drugs and murders to the riots and syphilis but one thing we do right is stadiums. Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium sit side by side right on the south edge of downtown so there are dozens of bars within walking distance yet the tailgating, if that's your scene, is still high quality (more on that later). 

We proudly claim Omar Little
as our own. Just sayin'. 
The Ravens went 6-10 in their first season downtown and after that the grace period was officially over. Nice guy coach Ted Marchibroda was thanked for his service and replaced by hotshot offensive mind Brian Billick who had just coordinated what was then the highest scoring offense in NFL history. (We would later learn that Billick's success in Minnesota may have had something to do with Randy Moss and Chris Carter combining for 29 touchdown catches). We all know what would happen next. After an 8-8 season, Billick and the Ravens would come back the following year and ride an epically good defense to a Super Bowl win over a hopelessly overmatched Giants team coached by Jim Fassel. Ironically, after each was eventually canned, neither Billick nor Fassel would ever get another head coaching gig in the NFL.

From a personal standpoint (and yes, it is all about me), that Super Bowl win landed right in the middle of the FGR's NFL golden age which was one five year stretch from 1998 to 2003 when the FGW and I lived within a twenty minute walk to our seats. That walk took us past  the aforementioned dozens of bars including a big city market that sold arterial clogging pretzel dogs which were the perfect thing to galvanize a stomach that was about to accept 200 oz of Bud Light via garden hose.

Tailgating? Pfffft. Too much effort. We had everything we needed right there and we didn't have to do anything but crawl out of bed to make it happen.* The day usually started around 11:00 a.m. and went until at least 7:00 pm. and closer to 9:00 p.m. if the Ravens won . . . 10:00 p.m. if it was a win over the Steelers. And on one special New Year's Eve in 1999, the Ravens beat the Broncos for their first home playoff win and we took it deep into a night that started with me playing tackle football in the street using a thermos (that left a mark) and ended with me almost getting into a fight with the lead singer of a low-rent NYE party band who apparently didn't take too kindly to my point-blank/real-time review of his performance.

Even with the Super Bowl win, the quality of the football during that stretch was pretty brutal. If it wasn't for the fact that the Ravens' defense would go full road grader on opposing teams at least every other home game and the knowledge that Ed Reed was always on the verge of doing some crazy Ed Reed shit, the games would have been unwatchable. But we went anyway because rooting for a bunch of guys in purple to knock the piss out of some guys wearing a different color with 70,000 of your fellow disrespected Baltimoreans was fucking awesome. I hoped it would never end (subtle teaser right there). 

On to this week's picks.

New England -7.5 over Jacksonville

So far in these here playoffs the underdogs are 6-1-1. That may explain why this spread started at 9.5 and has since dropped to 7.5 though it may have as much or more to do with the speculation that Tom Brady's right hand is about to fall-off. I originally had the Jags keeping this one within the number but now I have a feeling that Bill Belichick might be the coach who finally exposes Blake Bortles as a somewhat flawed quarterback. In a related story, "Bortling" has entered the lexicon in the same way the Italians call a whiff in soccer a "Frasier" and, if the player whiffs and also falls down, it's a "Frasier Crane."    

Patriots: 24 . . . Jags: 13

Minnesota -3 at Philadelphia
Allow me to distract you from the 
fact that Case Keenum or Nick
Foles is going to the Super Bowl.

The best thing you can say about this game is that we didn't end-up having to watch the Saints and the Falcons because conference championship games with two teams from the same division suck for those of us who aren't fans of said division. This one could be a tough watch. Minnesota versus Philly feels like a battle of the bands between Van Halen with Sammy Hagar and Motley Crue with John Corabi. I have no idea which is the Vikings and which is the Eagles so there is literally no point to this analogy. I am therefore taking the Vikings because their defense against the Eagles offense feels like a really big mismatch. That's all I got. Hey check-out this pretty picture.

Vikings: 17 . . . Eagles:13 

Last Week: 1-2-1 . . . Overall . . . 2-5-1.


* I love the occasional tailgate but I've never really understand the preference to get hammered before the game as opposed to during and after the game. The first option requires you to get-up early on a Sunday and ends with you being a non-functioning drunk at 5:00 p.m. with nothing to do but lament your shitty Monday morning. The second option adds a third night to the weekend and allows you to drown that lament with booze. Also, you'll wake-up Monday morning feeling like you maximized your weekend instead of wasting the last five hours of it in a haze on the couch nursing ice water and picking at General Tso's chicken.  

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