Over the last couple weeks, for the first time in a long time, I've actually taken quite a few days of vacation (and almost all of the days were in succession, interrupted only by a show on the Monday after the Texans season finale!). It gave me a lot of time to catch up on some things I've been meaning to do and shows or movies I've been meaning to see.
At the behest of my girlfriend, who is a big fan of The Hunger Games, I finally caught up and saw the second HG movie, Chasing Fire, on Netflix, and saw the most recent one, Mockingjay, in the theater.
Anytime I watch a Hunger Games movie, I am perpetually depressed throughout the entire thing because, for all practical purposes (at least during the "Games" parts), the characters are all existing to die. It will end badly for ALL of them (except one). Literally, I'm looking at all the participants and saying, "You're all going to die...and you KNOW you're going die!"
Which brings me to wild card weekend for this season's NFL Playoffs, where I watched all eight teams participating and said to myself, "You're all going to die...and you KNOW you're going die!"....
It's all I could think of every time they showed the brackets for the second week of the playoffs, and you knew that the four surviving teams would be getting fed to New England, Denver, Seattle and Green Bay -- these eight teams we are watching play are essentially being groomed to be slaughtered.
It probably didn't help that the first game of the weekend was the horrific Cardinals-Panthers tilt in Carolina (Ryan Lindley!), or that the first three games all ended in double-digit margins of victory, or that the one game with the most compelling story lines and the most overall talent on the field was dominated by a "Which franchise quarterback has fucked up worse in his career, Matthew Stafford or Tony Romo?" theme.
That said, at least The Hunger Games had ONE survivor in the end. I'm having a hard time identifying which of these Wild Card Weekend teams is going to crash the Conference Championship party in two weeks.
But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. For now, let's take a look at what went down this weekend in a "4 Winners, 4 Losers" format....
4. Gary Kubiak The Monday after the regular season ends is typically referred to around NFL circles as "Black Monday," because that's when the bloodletting of head coaches around the league occurs, routinely marked by about a half dozen head coaches getting the axe. From there, Black Monday is generally followed by Retread Week, where we hear a bunch of names of coaches who've failed in other jobs get mentioned as prime candidates for open slots. (Hell, Rex Ryan was being mentioned for like three different jobs before the ink dried on his COBRA paperwork in New York.) For Gary Kubiak, who has done an admirable job rehabilitating Joe Flacco's career, this past week has been a decent heat check on what his stock is around the league, as he's been mentioned prominently for the openings in San Francisco and in New York with the Jets. Apparently, the league appears ready to give Kubiak a mulligan on the 2-14 debacle in 2013 and the generally average output from the Texans during his eight years here. For his part, Kubiak has said he won't interview for jobs while the Ravens are still alive in the postseason, and with every Ravens postseason win, Kubiak's star continues to re-rise. I think if Kubiak thinks a little more spatially than just the "1990's Denver Mafia" when it comes time to hire a staff, he could have success the second time around. While loyalty is an admirable trait, I think Kubiak needs to be less loyal when his second head coaching gig comes about, if that makes sense.
3. Tony Romo If there were a drinking game for the Lions-Cowboys game on Sunday afternoon (and I'm sure somewhere, there was), and there were a rule that you had to take a sip every time they mentioned Tony Romo's playoff record (1-3, in case you missed it all 50 times it was mentioned), you'd be in detox today. I'm more hung up on the fact that Romo has only played in four playoff games than I am the fact that he's only won one. He's been in the league for like a decade now, and has only made the postseason three times?! On Sunday, he took some horrific sacks in that game, but made plays when he needed to and now has a potential defining game in Green Bay (in his home state!) on Sunday. My early read -- of all the underdogs on Sunday, I like Dallas the most to potentially win outright.
2. Los Angeles For the first time in a long time, we have a plan to move a team to Los Angeles that actually appears to have a) sensible financial structure and b) the proper moving parts on both ends of the move (real stadium plan in LA, fluid lease plan in the "city about to lose its team"):
A year after purchasing 60 acres of land in Inglewood adjacent to the Forum and Hollywood Park, Rams owner Stan Kroenke has teamed up with the owners of the Hollywood Park site to build an NFL stadium, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.
Stockbridge Capital Group, which owns the 238-acre Hollywood Park site, already had plans for a mixed-use community on the land that formerly housed the famed thoroughbred racing track which closed last year. Those plans will now include an 80,000-seat stadium and a 6,000-seat performance venue, the companies told the newspaper.
The Rams reportedly are about to convert their lease in St. Louis to year-to-year which would essentially make the Rams a relocation free agent. The earliest they could move to LA would be in 2016, and the new stadium, which would reportedly be funded with no tax dollars, would be ready in 2018. If this does go down, this will give the residents of St. Louis a lot more time to focus on studying baseball so they can continue to reign as the "smartest baseball fans who ever baseball fanned." (Sarcasm key pressed HERE)
1. Ric Flair After the Colts' win over the Bengals on Sunday, we got a glimpse inside the Colts locker room (a feature that, in the Internet age, I really do like -- coaches' post-game speeches) and got to see safety Sergio Brown pay homage to "Nature Boy" Ric Flair:
Two things here:
1. Sergio, you know that you're stealing the Texans' gimmick of stealing Ric Flair's shtick, right? The Texans thieved Flair's gimmick like two months ago, so you're late copycatting.
2. I love how the headlines on blogs and websites all talk about how "Sergio Brown Does INCREDIBLE Flair Impersonation." Incredible?!? I mean, yes, he has the words right, but he doesn't sound or act a thing like Ric Flair. If he did this impersonation in a room full of wrestling fans, they'd be like "Dude, that's horrible." It goes back to a theory that I have that athletes have a sliding scale where anytime they show any personality by impersonating somebody, even a shit impersonation is somehow considered "AMAZING" because athletes generally don't do impersonations. Like Arian Foster's British accent -- that was one of the worst British accents I've ever heard, yet the Internet was like "FOSTER DOES AMAZING BRITISH IMPERSONATION" and "WOW, he could audition for a BRITISH ROLE IN A MOVIE!!" Athletes need to start having their impersonations graded on the same curve as the rest of us. This is my key initiative in 2015.
4. Logan Thomas If you recall, quarterback (term used very loosely) Ryan Lindley was signed by the Cardinals off of the Chargers practice squad when Carson Palmer went down for the season in November. Then when Drew Stanton went down with a leg injury toward the end of the regular season, Lindley took over as the starter and essentially became a league-wide punch line for being the worst possible quarterback you could have starting important games. Then before the playoffs, the competition at QB for Arizona was thrown open between Lindley and rookie Logan Thomas, who is best known for throwing interceptions at a breakneck pace at Virginia Tech and generally being an overrated mess. It took Thomas one practice to lose out to Lindley, who responded by throwing for 82 yards against a 7-win Carolina team. My point of all this -- Logan Thomas, you suck.
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3. Andy Dalton Speaking of Lindley, I don't know what it says about Andy Dalton that I got the same feeling watching the Bengals play on Sunday as I did watching the Cardinals play on Saturday. As you know, if you read my weekly picks, I had both the Panthers and the Colts covering the spread. There really wasn't any juncture on Sunday where I felt like Andy Dalton was going to lead the Bengals down the field for scores that would make the game close. The score was 13-10 at halftime, but you knew if the Colts receivers would just catch the damn ball, Indy would run away and hide (which they did). Yes, Dalton was working without A.J. Green, but that's only a viable excuse if you're...well, Ryan Lindley. Dalton gets paid $16 million per year to figure out a way to win these games. He can't even throw ten yards down the field capably without A.J. Green on the field. I hope the Bengals keep Dalton, because betting against him in January has become quite lucrative (0-4 in the playoffs), but if I'm a Bengals fan, it's rough knowing this is my team's ceiling.
2. The New England Patriots I saw someone make a fairly radical proposal on Twitter during the past week where they said that the NFL should let the two bye week teams in each conference choose their opponents in the next round. My initial thought upon hearing that was "Sounds gimmicky, and the NFL already re-seeds after the wild card round, so what's the big deal?" Well, the big deal is that these wild card teams are as good or better than the four seed (final division winner) in each conference. I'm guessing that top seed New England would much rather face 4-seed Indy (who they thumped earlier this season, 42-20, in Indy) than a dangerous 6-seed in Baltimore, who won the AFC title in New England two years ago. And Seattle was one botched pass interference call away from having to play 11-5 Detroit instead of 7-8-1 Carolina. I'm not saying the league should go with the "choose your foe" strategy, although it would be wildly compelling, but they need to fix the seeding and home field to reflect actual quality of these teams. I'm fine with letting all the division winners into the postseason (otherwise, why have divisions?), but that Carolina has rights to anything over anybody is absurd.
1. Playoff expansion Which brings me to my final point --- it was bad enough that we were sold Carolina-Arizona as two of the 12 best teams in football (To be fair, before Carson Palmer got hurt, Arizona was one of the best twelve.), but we are also being faced with talk of expansion of the playoffs which would further water things down. Just know that if the playoffs were seven teams in each conference, we would have seen the Case Keenum-led Texans fed to Denver, and the Eagles fed to Green Bay, where they gave up 50+ to Aaron Rodgers earlier this season. Twelve team playoffs are fine. Stop messing with what works, Goodell.