North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

These NFL WIld Card Weekend Picks are Superbad

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I had a discussion the other day with a friend on the best movies of the decade. We threw around a lot of titles but didn’t really come to any conclusions: was it No Country for Old Men? Almost Famous? Inglorious Basterds?

Anyway, a couple nights later, I caught Superbad on Showcase. I hadn’t seen that movie since it came out a few years ago and frankly didn’t want to; I got really tired of people making McLovin jokes.

But as I watched it, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Two years later, it still felt fresh. It felt fresh the next day when I watched it again. And it felt fresh yesterday when I shelled out five bucks for a used copy.

Is it the best movie of the decade? Maybe. But without a doubt, it’s the most quotable. And with a nod to Bill Simmons, it inspired me and my buddy Bernard to hand out quotes for my NFL Playoff picks.

1) “We could be that mistake!”

To the Baltimore Ravens, who seem primed to make a mess of the AFC Playoffs. They have to be at least looked at to upend the Patriots, especially now that Wes Welker is gone for the playoffs.

One factor I keep thinking about is their point differential: Baltimore has scored 130 more then they’ve allowed, third-highest among playoff teams. That’s more then Indianapolis (109), the Jets (112) and Cincinnati (14). It’s not far behind New England (142), either.

And if it weren’t for their middle-of-the-road offense, it’d be a lot closer too: Baltimore has allowed the second-fewest points of any AFC team with 261 (the Jets lead with 236 allowed points). They rank right near the top in almost every defensive category, save sacks and interceptions.

They’re facing a Patriots offense that’s basically hobbled: no Welker and a really banged-up Brady (three broken ribs?). This likely leaves Randy Moss as Brady’s go-to guy. But if defenses can shut him down – as they have at various points this season – who are the Patriots going to turn to? Ben Watson? Julian Edelman?

I think that the Patriots are really going to miss Welker, the team’s leading receiver, against the Ravens.

2) “Oh Really? You don’t have the technology or the steady hands to pull off a procedure like that.”

To Bengals QB Carson Palmer, who will be really under the gun on Saturday. The Bengals are facing the AFC’s best defence and only boast the most average offense in the playoffs. Their 305 points scored is – by a wide margin – the lowest of any playoff team.

Sure, their meeting last Sunday isn’t exactly reflective of what will happen on Saturday, but it’s worth noting that the Jets completely shut down the Bengals: 0 points for, three turnovers and 72 total yards. Palmer was held to zero yards on 1 of 11 passing and was picked off once.

It’s not like the Bengals are going in on any kind of a good streak, either: they’ve lost three of their last four, with all three to playoff teams (Jets, Vikings and Chargers). Only twice since their bye week have the Bengals scored more then 18 points (a 27-24 loss to San Diego and a 23-13 win over Detroit). Palmer has been ineffective in those games; in his last five games, he’s thrown five interceptions (and six majors) and had passed for more then 200 yards twice.

Against the AFC’s best defence, in the cold, Palmer’s likely to be ineffective again. If the Bengals are going to win a game that’s likely to be a ‘defensive battle’, they’re going to need a big day from Cedric Benson.

3) “How old are you, McLovin”

“Old enough”

“Old enough for what?”

“…. to party.”

To Tony Romo, who just may be able to get the no-playoff-win-this-decade monkey off the Cowboys’ back.

With their big win over Philly last week, they nailed home-field for Saturday’s game; when you consider how if they lost, the game would be played at night in a frigid Philly – expected high: 27 degrees –  they pulled out a close one.

Plus, things are rolling for them. Romo is having his best season yet, setting career highs in completions, yards per game and career lows in turnovers (interceptions and fumbles). I’m not getting a feeling of something ominous in the horizon – Romo might be just hitting his stride.

In his last five games, Romo has thrown for three picks and nine majors. He’s never had that good a finish to a season before:

  • 2006: eight interceptions, six touchdowns
  • 2007: six interceptions, seven touchdowns
  • 2008: seven interceptions, eight touchdowns

So not only is he throwing more scores, but he’s turning the ball over less too. Given how the Eagles are only average against the pass (17th in passing yards allowed per game, for instance) and how he’s playing in a warmer climate, I’d expect him to continue this streak.

4) “Can we shoot at it?”

“I dunno… can you?”

To Kurt Warner, QB for the Arizona Cardinals. Sure, they won a lackluster NFC West, but that shouldn’t disqualify them as a very solid team. While their schedule doesn’t appear too intimidating – wins over St. Louis, Detroit; a loss to Green Bay last Sunday – it’s worth remembering they beat a 10-1 Minnesota not too long ago.

There is something worth noting: the Cards are a pass-heavy team, it’s what got them to the Super Bowl last year, remember? But they haven’t been as dynamic on the pass as they were. Warner’s completion percentage, passing yards and touchdowns are all down from last season. So is the team’s points scored, from 427 to 375.

And this has happened with two good, healthy wideouts too. Both Larry Fitzgerald and Anquon Boldin have been healthy this season. But both of their receiving numbers have dropped this season.

Which brings up a critical point: the Packers have the best pass defence in the NFC playoffs. They’ve allowed just over 200 passing yards a game; not counting Sunday, the only game where Warner had less then 200 yards was a 24-9 Cards loss to San Francisco.

Can he throw on the Packers defence? He didn’t show he could last Sunday… but if the Cardinals are going to win, he better air it out.

5) “I’m just sick of all the amateur stuff… if I’m paying top dollar, I want a little production value, you know?”

To the Indianapolis Colts, and especially their fans, who surely want a little value when they pay to see their team. On Sunday, the Colts once agan rested their starters (the second time this season) and lost a game they should have won. Sure, nobody got hurt, but by basically throwing a game, they not only pissed off fans so much that there’s talk of changing the rules to prevent that, but likely sealed their playoff fate again. As one of my co-workers, and a huge Payton Manning fan put it, “they do this every year. They lose every year.”

And it’s likely going to happen again. Manning hasn’t had played a full game since week 15; by the time he suits up again next week, it’ll have been close to a full month.

There’s a good argument that they saved somebody from getting hurt. Fair enough – but the Patriots didn’t rest anybody two years ago, when they went for 16-0. And nobody got hurt. The Steelers kept their starters in for a good chunk of their week 17 blowout of Cleveland last year.

And anyway, there’s always the old Joe DiMaggio line: when asked why he played so hard in a meaningless late-season game, he said there could be some fan out there that’s never seen him play before.

Picks (Home team in CAPS)

Saturday

NY Jets over CINCINNATI

DALLAS over Philadelphia

Sunday

Baltimore over NEW ENGLAND

Green Bay over ARIZONA

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