Thursday presentation be damned. Below are all the possible Super Bowl scenarios and what it will take for us to realize them. I’m telling you all I know – go forth and spread the word.
Jets – Vikings
Why It’s In Play: Because there are two kinds of people with whom you never want to pick a fight: crazy dudes and gunslingers. Ryan would be the former – he’s impetuous, he’s overly aggressive, he’ll say and do just about anything to put his team over the top. And his players love him for it. He’s running his yap again this week, spouting all kinds of nonsense about being the best team left and Super Bowl favorites and whatnot. Meanwhile rookie – rookie – quarterback Mark Sanchez is chilling with a teammate or two in some posh club in lower Manhattan wondering why nobody is talking about him. It’s a brilliant strategy.
Why We Want to See It: Are you kidding me? For a million reasons, but for now let’s focus on the field generals. Old School vs. New School. Battle of the Beards. The Wrangler Cowboy vs. the Real Life Vinny Chase. Call it what you want – this is a win-win for all involved. Either outcome gives us a victorious quarterback sticking it big time to the doubters. I would rather see Favre give Ted Thompson, Jim Rome and the entire state of Wisconsin the giant foam finger, but watching Pete Carroll bow to kiss The Sanchize’s ring would be pretty sweet as well.
Why It Won’t Happen: Because Peyton Manning has a say. I’m picking the Jets right now, but I know I’ll talk myself out of it by the time Sunday afternoon rolls around. When Eighteen steps out of the tunnel for Colts-Jets, he’ll summon the high-topped ghost of Johnny U, stir flashbacks to The Game That Changed It All, and impart a sobering revelation to brash New Yorkers that, this time, Broadway Joe isn’t the other guy calling the shots.
You see, there’s this little thing about rookie quarterbacks in big games… Only three frosh QBs have ever reached the conference championship. Let’s see how they did:
1999-2000: Shaun King, Tampa Bay at St. Louis
Result: 6-11, Loss
Stat Line: 13-29, 163 yds, 0 TD, 2 INT, 34.1 rating
2003-2004: Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh vs. New England
Result: 27-41, Loss
Stat Line: 14-24, 226 yds, 2 TD, 3 INT, 78.1 rating
2008-2009: Joe Flacco, Baltimore at Pittsburgh
Result: 14-23, Loss
Stat Line (disclaimer: not for the faint of heart): 13-30, 141 yds, 0 TD, 3 INT, 18.2 rating
That’s some fugly stuff. On the other hand, we both (thanks for reading, Mom!) know that there are greater forces at work -I’m thinking there’s something in that Hudson River water, and not just the stuff that makes the bagels great.
Jets – Saints
Why It’s In Play: Because Cinderella’s been working out since September and, damnit, she’s gonna flaunt that two-piece on South Beach. The Jets are the obvious dark horse – they backed into the playoffs, start a college senior at QB, and have no real home run threat to speak of. But don’t let New Orleans’ 13-0 start fool you. The Saints franchise resides in the same pantheon reserved solely for the Clippers, Lions and Fredo Corleone. And you know what they say: can’t spell Saints without A-I-N’-T… All of which would make a New Orleans victory on Sunday taste that much sweeter. They only thing better than Miami in late winter? Mardi Gras in February.
Why We Want to See It: For the biggest philosophical throwdown since Kant-Marx II. Sexy Rexy wants to prove to every clipboard junky with a spread offense and five wideouts that shutdown defense and smashmouth running wins rings. Of course, Ryan could confront his Dr. Jeckyll in the form of Shaun Payton, a spotlight-shunning, quiet killer who does his dirty work with a cannon-armed quarterback and laser-guided playcalling. Labeling these two diametrically opposed opposites would be an affront to diametrically opposed opposites. What’s the difference between Payton and Ryan? The difference between a chisel and a jackhammer.
Why It Won’t Happen: Because Number Four has come this far, and by now, I’m starting to think that the football gods had it all planned out from the beginning. If they had chosen to preordain the Saints, New Orleans would have won five years ago.
Colts – Vikings
Why It’s In Play: The Jets are playing with house money, but they’re about to go all-in against the NFL’s Phil Ivey. Manning dispelled any “rust” worries by picking apart a gritty Ravens defense in the most crucial moments of Saturday’s late game, and in the process put in play a possibility that none would have in a million years considered: Jim Caldwell, Sneaky Genius. By benching his starters at the end of the regular season, Caldwell effectively jettisoned his own players into the nether regions of Eff You Mode. He robbed his own team of a chance at perfection, denied 53 men instant immortality, and looks to have given the Colts an edge that no amount of bulletin board material could ever have. Have you gazed into the eyes of The Horseshoed Eighteen lately? He looks like somebody just took his G.I. Joes. He’s got this steely poker face working – good luck to the 11 guys on the other side of the table.
Why We Want to See It: Because the more opportunities you give him, the more likely it is that Jared Allen will actually wear hot pants during a game. Of more importance, you’d have in Manning vs. Favre the rarest of scenarios in which the winning quarterback jumps Sega cheat code-style to the top spot in the Greatest Of All Time Discussion. You can argue with me all you want, but both of these resumés would qualify:
Manning – Super Bowl Champion (x2), Super Bowl MVP, MVP (x4), All-Pro (x5), Pro Bowl (x10), 4,000 Yards (x10), 25+ TD (x12), Career High 49 TD, Regular Season Leader: 4000-Yard Seasons, 10+ Win Seasons, 12+ Win Seasons, Single Season Passer Rating (121.1)
Favre – Super Bowl Champion (x2), MVP (x3), All-Pro (x3), Pro Bowl (x11), 4,000 Yards (x6), 25+ TD (x11), Regular Season Leader: Victories, QB Consecutive Games Played, TD, Yards, Completions, Attempts, 30-TD Seasons
Why It Can’t Happen: How’s this for a head-trip? Woodstock, Earth Day, the Elvis comeback, the BMW 5 Series and the Minnesota quarterback: all conceived in early ’69. The Watergate scandal was old news by the time a waffling young Favre was planning his preschool retirement. Some guys just aren’t meant to play professional football, and those guys are 40 years old. He just can’t keep this up, right?
Why It’s In Play: Adrian Peterson’s late season Houdini act doesn’t bode well for a team whose strengths supposedly lie in its massive lines of scrimmage. Bryant McKinnie still hasn’t gotten his mojo back after that Julius Peppers debacle in week 15, and AP hasn’t cracked the century mark in two months (and only after a bye week against the Lions). We thought coming into the season that this would be Brett Favre’s “Dilfer Year.” So wrong… The old gunslinger is locked and loaded, and at 40, playing the very best football of his legendary career. If something’s gonna give, it’s gonna give in a shootout against the best offense in the league. Let’s say Favre DOES have another turn-back-the-clock night in him. That just means the Vikings secondary is in for a deluge of trick plays and fly patterns. Nope, not good for a team whose best defensive back is a banged up 5-foot 9-inch 32-year-old gladiator smirf. I’m Antoine Winfield’s biggest fan, but when guys around the league insist that you’re “gritty” and a “gamer,” it’s usually just a backhanded way of saying you’re washed up. Drew Brees is about to turn Colston, Shockey, Henderson and the rest of the Black Angels Arial Display loose, and by Monday, I fully expect “Black Angels” to be incorporated into the media vernacular.
Why We Want to See It: I’ve already covered this. “Garcon! Thomas! It’s the French Connection on CBS!”
Why It Won’t Happen: For one, it’s been a full 17 years since a pair of No. 1 seeds met in the Super Bowl (Cowboys-Bills). But that doesn’t mean anything, so let’s talk about running backs. While Indy tries to figure out a way to rectify finishing dead freaking last in rushing (What will the Colts do when Revis and Co. shutdown their wideouts?), Shonn “Correct Spelling” Greene is licking his chops to tear into that Indy front seven. Look, I like Greene as much as the next guy, provided the next guy is Shonn’s father. He’s been the X-factor in this year’s playoffs, pulling a Ray Liotta and magically appearing out of some cornfield in Iowa to save the Jets season. He’s become the team’s go-to guy, permanently supplanted Thomas Jones as the ’10-’11 starter, and rendered the once-thought indispensable Leon “I’m the Only Threat You Got” Washington an afterthought. I’m not done. Greene, a 5-foot-11, 226-pound bowling ball of a human, rushed for 30 yards through the first six weeks of the season. He had a 100-yard game back in late October and zero – I said zero – 20 carry games.
I’m glad you asked about his playoff performance because I was going there anyway. Forty-four carries, 263 yards, two 100-yard games and a sweet little 6 yard-a-pop average. How do you neutralize the league’s best pass-rushing tandem (Freeney/Mathis), the best quarterback (Manning), and your biggest liability (Sanchize)? You pound the rock. Again. And again.
Not to belabor the point, but when Sexy Rexy sent in the big uglies on fourth and two feet without batting an eye, I 1) made myself an honorary Jets fan right then and there and 2) developed a full-on man crush. Hell, Ryan was ready to check himself in at fullback. I’m falling for this team, and I’m not afraid to admit it. I love the way they hit. I love the way they run an offense from the pre-rock ‘n roll era. I love the way they own the trenches. I love Darrelle Revis and I love Revis’ nickname. I love that Ryan wouldn’t know a “.” if it bit him in the ass. I love that Thomas Jones is older than water and still getting it done. And I love – I love – the way this ragtag team stepped off the ship with five bucks in its back pocket and nothing to lose.
I leave you with my favorite quote of the weekend and the one that adequately describes my inner spirit: “We’re going for it! LET’S GO!”