A special shout out to all who attended the "Mike & Mike" celebrity roast in Atlantic City last weekend -- I had a blast, I appreciated your laughter and good will, we raised a lot of money for a great cause, and I hope we get a chance to do it again soon.
Technology giveth, and technology giveth away
Two days ago I actually Googled "Mock Draft" just so I could read something Buffalo Bills related that felt progressive and forward thinking. I was that desperate, and no, the fact that they just promoted offensive coaches from within following a three-touchdown season wasn't my idea of either progressive or forward thinking. Certainly not as exciting as trolling the World Wide Web to see if any insane Internet sages were predicting the Bills might snag a big wide receiver, or a bonafide pass-catching tight end, or even a run-stuffing defensive tackle in round one; typical fan bile following yet another campaign that leaves me watching the playoffs with no rooting interest.
Yes, my friends, we have finally reached the bottleneck: That excruciating point in the NFL season when the vast majority of fans are on the outside looking in. On the upside, it's also the only time of year that allows us to focus our undivided attention on three more games without any distractions. Between the Internet, the bottom line info crawl, and all those delightful Sunday Ticket stat-delivery systems, it has become a special event when we can hunker down and simply focus on one game at a time -- free of the focus-splitting anarchy of a crowded Sunday at 1 p.m. ET, as you try to watch the game that matters most to you, while simultaneously keeping your antennae trained to 10 concurrent games, standings, and billions of fantasy factoids for you to exalt and suffer over.
Don't even get me started on the mid-game scrambling triggered by an injury to your stud starting running back and the ensuing waiver-wire frenzy. Only a Pentagon-level war room of screens, dishes and laptops could possibly let you manage all that and simply kick back and immerse yourself in one, single, meaningful game.
So here's to a long overdue respite from multitasking as we watch the conference championships collide with a pair of frozen fields. In some regard, this is the final week of pure football before the hype machine snatches the game and flies off with it. Come Super Bowl Sunday, the hardcore fan is forced to open up the door to every fly-by-nighter and their even less-informed friends and relations, world wide, and share the proverbial couch as the big game is played in yet another sunny city, before a crowd filled with bi-partisan perc-sters.
You could make a case that the rust factor had its share to do with the elimination of Dallas and Indianapolis -- two of last week's favorites. No such worries this week…
It's hard enough to picture the Chargers braving the cold, not to mention destiny's team, and leaving New England with a win -- and that's with all their studs healthy. No doubt this Chargers team is a far cry from the one that walked straight into the fresh storm of videogate early in the season, when they got punched in the nose to the tune of 38-14. Everything that looked so very "Norv Turner was a bad idea" then has turned to roses, and if they can beat Indy on the road, how dare I disparage their shot at New England?
I'll tell you why. This team is crazy-banged up straight down the middle: Philip Rivers may just be sporting a damaged ACL and MCL, LT is hurting too, and on the other side of the ball we have superstars Shawne Merriman and Jamal Williams so dinged up, they haven't been practicing either.
No one is beating the Pats this year without all hands on deck. That being said, Rivers spent his time jawing with the fans while Billy Volek engineered the key drive -- Volek took the snaps this week and while it may be blasphemy, this one might be a push.
I have no doubt LT will play, and if not, who is deeper at running back than the Chargers, thanks to Michael Turner and Darren Sproles? I would also be shocked if Merriman and Williams sit, but that doesn't mean they're 100 percent. Then I take a look past the middle of the field and try to imagine San Diego winning this game without Antonio Gates, or with a marginal Gates like the one who caught two balls for a total of 28 yards last week.
Only a simpleton could doubt New England -- it is just too good, as in undefeated good, and unlike a team that only wins as a frontrunner, these cats know how to snatch a game back when they are trailing in the fourth quarter; the same kind of win that eluded the mighty Colts last week.
1. Gridiron wingman theory: I have a hunch that just because Randy Moss has been the center of some unwanted attention this week, Tom Brady goes out of his way to toss him three TDs in the first half. It's all a part of the huge chip on the shoulder New England has thriving.
2. Even if Rodney Harrison tosses his former team a couple of cheap first downs thanks to some signature cheap shots, it will have the desired effect, a.k.a. Chris Chambers channeling Dennis Northcutt and finding a way to curl into the fetal position just as a ball is headed his way with the game on the line.
3. History: Like it or not, the Pats are going to run the table, so do you really think the football gods have a Philip Rivers victory up their sleeves? Yeah, me neither. How 'bout a Billy Voleck upset? Yeah, me neither.
The Super-secret NB number machine says ... NEW ENGLAND, 38-14
N.Y. Giants at Green Bay Packers
Just spitballing here, but since the AFC is batting leadoff on Sunday, there is an extremely good chance the Pats will already be ensconced as a Super Bowl team at kickoff. In the depth of their hearts, do you think either one of these NFC teams double-gulps when they allow themselves to project two weeks ahead and visualize a humiliating jail pounding in front of the entire world? Does it dampen the enthusiasm to go out there and capture that NFC crown? Probably not, but if I can think it, you better believe someone is living it ...
Either way, here is one of the best showdowns you are ever going to see when it comes to the great home team versus the great road team. I mean really great -- the Giants are 9-1 on road this year, which is remarkable, and shows how well they play when they are away from the griping, negative, forgone-conclusion energy of those Giants fans. I spent a few weeks back east over the holidays, before Eli and Coughlin et al began this mighty postseason surge, and it was just amazing listening to WFAN. I didn't hear a single New York sports fan say a single positive thing about the Giants and Eli. It was a hopeless case -- the cat was in the bag, the bag was in the river, and with good reason at that point because the Giants looked lost.
Of course, whenever you hear sports radio callers batting a thousand on anything, the smart man will lean the other way. So far, so contrarian -- there is nothing to belittle about the way the New York went into Dallas and came out with that win. Can it do it again in Green Bay? I suppose the Giants could, but that fish is four days old and I ain't buying it.
For starters, the Dallas matchup was a divisional game, and we all know anything can happen when divisional rivals square off for the third time in the same season. We also know that earlier this season, the Pack not only smacked the Jints around in a 35-13 laffer, but they did it to them in their own house, back in September when the weather was a non-factor.
Now they got 'em at home on what promises to be a nasty winter day. Have you seen the Giants try to throw the ball in the snow? Picture James Lipton trying to throw a spiral to David Hyde Pierce. I know they won a snow game in Buffalo, but that's 'cuz they ran all day and the Bills couldn't keep the Dillon Panthers from racking up 300 yards on the ground. Mix the ground game with that pass rush, and you've got the kind of profile that gets you to the conference championship game -- but it's not enough to get it done against the Pack. If you can't throw it all day, you are going to get smoked like a nice, tailgate beer bratwurst.
1.Justin Tuck just got a 30 million dollar raise, and now he's making more than Michael "Hold Out/Ugly Divorce" Strahan. I say it gets into the big man's head, and no matter how much he begs Favre to throw him one of those phantom sacks like he did for the single season record, it's not gonna happen.
2. Shaun O'Hara's wit may have gotten the best of Aaron Kampman in their war of the words after Kampman's cheap shot complaint -- manly points to the Giants center, for sure. On the other hand, if the Giants are as chippy as has been recently intimated, this puts the refs on alert and you might just see some early flags to keep them on the leash. Advantage: Packers.
3. Can you say "Frozen Tundra?" Until proven otherwise -- and he has been a surprise of late -- Eli is one of the worst cold-weather throwers I have seen in a long time, and he is going against one of the best ever.
The Super-secret NB number machine says ... PACKERS, 30-20.