We are down to the final eight teams in the NFL playoffs. In a league that is quarterback-driven, generally speaking, this is the round where you need a minimum of a "plus-level" quarterback to get into the club.
So if this weekend is "the club," then next weekend is the VIP room, where you need a Pro Bowl quarterback, and the Super Bowl is the champagne room, where you must have someone "elite," and I say "elite" in the most annoying, overused-on-talk-radio way possible.
And yes, this is where we would show Ryan Lindley, Andy Dalton and Matthew Stafford standing in the long line to get into the club freezing their asses off. (Big Ben is inside the club, but he's in the ladies room doing Ben things.)
Last season, the final eight quarterbacks were as follows: Peyton, Brady, Rivers, Luck, Wilson, Kaepernick (good version), Newton (12 win version) and Brees (2013 version).
This season, how do they look?
Well, pretty similar. Five repeat appearances (Peyton, Brady, Luck, Wilson, Newton) joined by Flacco (Super Bowl winner), Rodgers (Super Bowl winner) and Romo (easily the biggest "something to prove" guy on this list).
Do all of these guys pass the "plus-level QB smell test"? Oh, you betcha. Let's roll on this, people. It's time for more playoff football. Here are my best bets for this weekend.
PATRIOTS -7 over Ravens I'll admit, I have no idea what to think of this game. The images that are rattling through my brain conflict me. On the one side of my brain, we have Baltimore ruining two postseasons for the Patriots and coming within a Lee Evans drop of crushing a third, all in Gillette Stadium. On the other side, all I can see is Joe Flacco going 4 for 18 to start the game against the Texans three weeks ago and him doing the J-O-B to Case Keenum. I'm going to go with Tom Brady and the Patriots, who have been on a mission ever since everyone was burying them after their Week 4 loss to Kansas City.
But just in case Flacco is feeling it...Ravens/PATRIOTS OVER 48
Panthers/SEAHAWKS UNDER 40 Since about Week 8, when we all seemed to realize that the team representing the NFC South was going to be a mediocre, .500-ish type of team, we all just couldn't wait to bet against that team in the playoffs. Well, of course, the 7-8-1 Panthers, the champion of that sewage tank of a division, catch the Cardinals starting a guy who they pulled off another team's practice squad five weeks prior. Naturally. So here it is, one week later than we thought we'd get it -- our chance to fade the NFC South champs. The Seahawks are a machine at home, and this game is at night, to boot. The Seahawks have won six in a row and have covered the spread in all of those games:
vs Arizona W19-3 @ San Francisco W19-3 @ Philadelphia W24-14 vs San Francisco W17-7 @ Arizona W35-6 vs St. Louis W20-6
Three touchdowns and six field goals. That's it. So let's tack this on, too ... Panthers/SEAHAWKS UNDER 40
Cowboys +5.5 over PACKERS With their ability to run the football (running game travels!), I was ready to take the Cowboys and the points before the news came down today that Aaron Rodgers's calf injury is a slight tear. I mean, a tear should scare the hell out of any Packers fan, right? That means the Packers are one misstep away from Matt Flynn steering the ship. That would seem to me to be a horrible feeling. Why would anyone willingly choose to feel that way? I choose not to.
Colts +7 over BRONCOS It's tradition in professional wrestling for older stars, as their careers wind down, to "put over" younger stars (wrestling-speak for "lose to them in order to build the young star into a bigger star"). Many a young, up-and-coming grappler has been made to look like a future superstar thanks to pinning guys like Ric Flair. Well, in the NFL, the past two postseasons, consider the fact that Joe Flacco's turning point game in the 2012 playoffs was the 38-35 shootout in which he beat Peyton Manning, and then in last season's playoffs, Russell Wilson's crowning moment was, well, his "crowning moment" in the Super Bowl. beating Peyton Manning. Both guys became bigger stars the day they beat Peyton Manning in the postseason. Now, here comes Andrew Luck, looking for his "next level" moment, playing Peyton Manning.....I'm just sayin'.....maybe Peyton Manning is the NFL's Ric Flair.
Making Sergio Brown's celebration last weekend suddenly a little ironic and perhaps a bit of foreshadowing...
Last week: 2-4 Season total: 55-58-1