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Random Thoughts from a Stupendous Sunday of Sports

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• I’m sick and tired of hearing about the Madden curse, the SI jinx, and the curse of the billy goat. You could combine the power of those three devious forces and still have nothing even remotely close to the devastating impact my man John Royal has with his picks. I begged him to

back off the Colts

. He didn’t listen. And now we’re stuck with the biggest mismatch since Amy Winehouse versus sobriety for the AFC Championship game. What a shame. Thanks for ruining my (and CBS’s) fun, JR.

In all seriousness though, full marks to the Chargers for pulling off the mind-blowing upset; especially considering everything they had to overcome in that game. I’m not just talking about injuries, either. Sad Diego found itself smack dab in the middle of a classic “no f***ing way” game. Anyone who’s ever played Madden football knows what I’m talking about. From the ridiculous holding penalty nullifying Antonio Cromartie’s touchdown return, to phantom pass interference calls, the Chargers got screwed more than Jenna Jameson. Yet, somehow, they found a way to win. Amazing.

• Fans of competitive football probably aren’t too jazzed by the NFC’s championship match-up, either. I know the Giants are road warriors this year, but does anyone actually think Eli Manning and company can go into Lambeau Field and take down the red-hot Packers? Even with a level playing field, New York would be hard pressed to compete. But the Giants—like San Diego—are so beat up it’s hard to fathom them derailing the Brett Favre Express; especially since the entire football world outside of New York and San Diego is now desperately pining for a Pats-Packers Super Bowl.

• Six weeks ago, how long were the odds that everyone’s favorite whipping boys, Norv Turner and Eli Manning, would be one win away from the Big Game? 1,000 to 1? 1,000,000 to 1? I never thought I’d say this, but both deserve credit for taking their teams as far as they have. Eli has avoided the killer mistakes that have been his calling card for years, and Turner should be commended for somehow steering a team with major injuries past the powerful Colts—on the road no less. God help us if New York and San Diego both win next week, setting up a Manning vs. Phillip Rivers showdown in Super Bowl XLII. Hopefully Royal picks both to win so we won’t have to worry about that nightmare scenario becoming reality.

• Meanwhile, the Tom Brady versus Peyton Manning debate continues to look increasingly one-sided. Peyton didn’t play poorly of course, but that’s a game he just can’t allow his team to lose; especially since the Colts had two golden opportunities to score in the final three minutes. It’s a good thing Manning engineered that stellar comeback against the Pats last year, otherwise he’d be dragging around a “choker” label even heavier than the one currently worn by Alex Rodriguez.

• How sweet was it watching the Cowboys season go down in flames? And, gee, who would have guessed a Wade Phillips-coached team would disappoint in the playoffs? Sure, it’s kind of sad that the best Houston fans can do is gloat over Dallas’s demise, but it will be a different story next year when the Texans are still playing in January while the Cowboys are watching from home. Yeah, I just said that. I believe it, too. Sorta.

• Finally, for those wondering where my Rockets reports went, they’ll return this Wednesday after I pop in on the team for Tuesday’s tilt against Philadelphia. No doubt the Rockets have been playing better of late (Sunday’s loss to New Orleans, notwithstanding), and I’ve maintained from the start that this team would showcase its best ball after the All-Star break. Still, Houston will be hard pressed to earn anything higher than a #6 or #7 seed come playoff time, if they even qualify at all. In other words, there’s a great chance we’re in for another rousing rendition of the one-and-done postseason blues. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed that—if the Rockets do make the playoffs—they end up facing Royal’s pick to take home the title.

- Jason Friedman

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