The "Just Hook It To My Veins!" Wudder Sports 2019 Divisional Round Weekend Preview
There’s countless things that Roger Goodell’s NFL has done to aggravate and alienate large factions of its customer base, disrespect the bread-and-butter of its participating constituents, all while perpetually diluting the power of America’s Game.
But for spectators like us, who still can’t look away, are you not entertained?
In the past five years, the 2018 regular season was easily the most fun campaign.
And during these first two weekends of the postseason, with that good football smack rushing through our sporting fan lifeblood, from mid-afternoon Saturday thru early Sunday, with four straight well-matched football games?
Just hook it to my veins.
Last Sunday’s Wild Card Weekend lineup had Nostrabombus coming in hot, calling shots, winning lots, tossing out loot like Sonny in Dog Day Afternoon.
Those games, despite being an unprecedented playoff weekend in which a superior set of road teams covered or won all four games, felt fairly easy to call tho.
This week’s slate? Far less so.
But with a 4-0 start already banked, let’s see if Nostrabombus continues to roll.
Indianapolis Colts at KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Arrowhead Stadium, Saturday, 1/12, 4:35 PM Eastern, 3:35 Central
Kansas City, MO
Line: Chiefs by 5
The last time the Chiefs played the Colts, was before Andrew Luck was sidelined for nearly two years, while the Chiefs won the game in Indianapolis that day due to a customarily strong performance by Travis Kelce, along with the steady hand of Andy Reid’s backup QB plan, The Now Legendary Nick Foles.
What does it all mean?
In terms of the game this weekend in Kansas City?
Probably not much, besides Kelce getting another chance to dance.
But it warranted mentioning to show you how quickly things change, when a year ago the speculation was mounting that both Luck and Foles were looking down the barrel of the end of their careers, for vastly different reasons. It’s now Divisional Playoff Weekend and both men are a big part of why their team is here.
But if we’re talking dancing, it ain’t a Chiefs win, till Coach Big Red does his thing.
And speaking of coaches, who’s the Colts head coach again?
Oh yeah, that guy.
Who could forget?
Meawhile, their triumphantly returning Coach-on-the-Field’s dancing seems more destined for a Pro Bowl Luau than for Disney World.
Incidentally, why is the 2019 Pro Bowl in Orlando?
Strike that, why does the Pro Bowl still even exist?
That’s an existential, but wholly facetious question, it exists for the same reason as any other bad decision that the NFL continues to make: because there’s money in it.
Despite Indy starting their season 1-5, while KC blasted off at 9-1, led by their first-year-starter-turned-record-setting-MVP-winning-QB, there’s a lot of things that make this a very tough match-up, even with the Colts travelling to Arrowhead, chiefly (seewutidthere?) among them:
The Frank Reich-coached Colts occupying the “Hot AFC Team” slot comparable to the Eagles in the NFC, Indy’s potential to “muck it up” with a ball-control offense led by Marlin Mack & Andrew Luck, the Chiefs’ release of star running back Kareem Hunt immediately after that video surfaced, injuries to other key players, plus the double-whammy of the Chiefs last two decades of postseason performances paired with the playoff failures of teams led by Andy Reid.
That being said, can the Colts win a shootout in KC vs. the soon-to-be-youngest MVP?
Nostrabombus Pick: Rollin’ With Mahomies
Salute to Alicia Silverstone.
RIP to Brittany Murphy, along with Stacy Dash’s career and opinion.
Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Saturday, 1/12, 8:15 Eastern/5:15 Pacific
Los Angeles, California
Line: Rams by 7.5
Though I’ll concede that due to some combination of the scheme via Coach McBae, coupled with the efforts of a healthy version of the greatest running back in football Todd Gurley, and My Man Hundred Grand Trojan Fam Robert Woods + Coop-n-Cooks, for a good stretch of this NFL season pre-December, plus a stretch of pre-playoff 2017, Goff has already been better than I originally thought he’d be.
But as a devoted Cowboy Hater…I know damn well Goff’s presence, or lack thereof in the face of a strong pass rush, is an advantage in the Dark Side’s favor.
Luckily, ACK! Prescott ain’t much either.
So the quarterback match-up is a bit of a tossed-salad toss-up.
Unfortunately, despite home field, so likely is the audience between Cowboy and Ram Fans in my old stomping grounds, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
That great old, decaying host of the 1984 LA Olympiad, countless USC Trojan Legends, the first three seasons of the re-located Brooklyn Dodgers, the ’83 NFL Champion Raiders, Wattstax, Evil Knievel, where a relatively unknown 21-year-old version of Prince got booed plus pelted with objects while opening for The Rolling Stones, the very first Super Bowl then subsequently six mo’, and grand-opening, grand-closing of former USC standout/ten-year NFL wide-out Johnnie Morton’s one-bout MMA career, isn’t much of a homefield advantage for the Rams anyway.
For many reasons, not least of which is the city’s large number of transplants, the Rams having only been back in the city for so far three seasons, or the fact that among the local faithful that the Raiders, twenty-seven years after they said “later”, still remain the local’s favorite, add up to an NFL city that’s just different.
Now these Rams are not greeted with the cold indifference of the San Diego Chicken Home Depot Center off The 405 in Carson that the Chargers are.
The Rams do, after all, even before this incarnation, have a fairly rich history that is remembered by Angelenos-of-a-certain-age.
Shout-out to the Fearsome Foursome, John Robinson, Eric Dickerson, and even “Don’t Call Me Chris” Jim Everett as well.
Once that monstrosity in Inglewood gets done, presumably while fielding a title-contending team, the fan fervor might begin to look and feel like the real deal.
But Cowboy Fans don’t die, they multiply.
This ain’t Philly or DC or Jersey, where the approach is, Jheri Curl Era Ice Cube voice “if they approach us…”
All these shameless didn’t-get-held-enough-as-a-child-grown-ass-little-sniveling-children called Cowboy-Fans-who-can’t-find-Dallas-on-a-map need is a sniff to call em out from the crack or crevice they crawled, before another beatdown sends them scurrying for safety like someone just turned the lights on.
This game’s winner would not surprise me either way.
I’d lean Rams if given a straight-up choice, but if we’re talking about a road team that I think could actually win (in this case, unfortunately due to defense and Zeke that’s the ‘Boys in LA), then I’m gonna hold my nose and take the seven and a half points.
Nostrabombus Pick: Cowboys Cover Like Its A Crime.
Los Angeles Chargers at New England Patriots
Gillette Stadium, Sunday, 1/13, 1:15 Eastern
Line: Patriots by 4.5
Phillip Rivers has never beaten Tom Brady in seven tries during his career.
When asked about it on Tuesday, Philip Rivers said he’s “well aware” of this.
But for this first-ballot Hall of Famer, plus father of NINE kids, something’s gotta give.
Maybe putting another nail in the coffin of the Brady/Belasterisk Dynasty this weekend will be the way Prince Philip finally gets his.
And while it’s not a popular thing to say, Rivers is better than Brady, right today.
Yup, I said it and meant it.
It’s possible, even arguable he always has been, just without the blessing of Brady’s sweetly consistent organizational set-up.
But that’s a pointlessly hypothetical debate designed to make folks hysterical some other time, hopefully in the near future if Rivers is flowing on Sunday.
There’s a bit of an unstoppable force versus an immovable object sense to this contest.
Yes, the Patriots are undefeated in Foxborough in their last sixteen.
But then again, the SD/LA/Carson-405-Exit/Exiled Chargers are the first divisional round NFL playoff team to play every game on the road over their last seventeen.
The Chargers are also 9-0 when playing outside of LA County.
Sure, Rob Gronkowski is only 28, but he suddenly looks ten years older than Antonio Gates, who by the way is still somehow playing good football for the Chargers at 38.
Was there any play that might have further illustrated Gronk losing some athleticism, or Belasterisk potentially losing his strategic fastball, than the Polor-Bear-on-Skates game ending comedic attempted-tackle-turned-Miami-Miracle-pratfall?
Not at all.
Is Charger Head Coach Anthony Lynn ready to win?
Hard to say, I’m not familiar enough to feel confident.
But at least going in, he doesn’t have that not-this-ole-choking-muggfugga-again-2006-Pats-in-San-Diego-Division-Round-L Marty Schottenheimer vibe to him.
Speaking of Marty, twenty-two years after The Drive, his presence is still felt in the league, particularly during the early rounds of playoff time, since he continues choking on thru his son, as recently as last week, watching Brian the shitty Offensive Coordinator known as “Schottie” refuse to abandon the run, despite trailing equipped with one of the game’s best quarterbacks in Dallas, play-calling the Seattle Seahawks’ offense to their seasonal death, straight out of a potential road Wild Card playoff win.
During the regular season, the Pats did what they always do, clean up in a division filled with tomato cans on par with Rocky Balboa’s montage of weak-sauce title defenses before a hungrily mean contender named Clubber Lang delivered a brutal beating.
And yes, I’m well aware that the Patriots Pseudo-Dynasty, aka Two Decades of Title Contender Status While Lying, Cheating and Stealing…feels like it could live, or at least exist undead for a thousand years, like Donald Trump’s presidency, Rick Pitino’s coaching career, or any other blood-sucking entity you’ve come to loathe and fear.
But possibly maybe this Sunday the 13th, in the newly minted Year of the Pig, a devout Catholic from Decatur, Alabama named Philip (with one L) Michael Rivers will be the Good Ole Altar Boy that drives the final stake thru New England’s cheating-but-still-beating heart, with the precision of a tuning fork, then proceed to roast it like pork.
Sound crazy?!? Please pass me a fork.
Wackier things have happened before…
As Wu-Tang Clansman Ghostface Killah famously and offhandedly stated on a record back in ‘98, granted in an unrelated Tyson-bit-Holyfield ear context, “we love the sport”.
Nostrabombus Pick: San Dee-Yay-Go, Super Char-, wait…now near LA they play tho, SUPER CHARGERS!
And last, but definitely not least, in Flock of Eagles territory…
Philadelphia Eagles at New Orleans Saints
New Orleans Superdome, Sunday, 1/13, 4:40 Eastern, 3:40 Gulf Coast
New Orleans, Louisiana
Line: Saints by 8.5
In George Thorogood slurred “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” voice
I’m having a tough time calling this one.
Let’s walk thru it together but first lemme get a few things off my chest.
I didn’t see a single play of the Eagles November in New Orleans game.
Don’t ever plan to at this point either.
That’s maybe the first Eagles game fully missed in decades.
But as it turned out, there was many pressing tasks to complete in Santa’s Workshop that Sunday.
While the season was already feeling damn near over anyway.
Plugging along, I had my man Timmy updating as he circulated with his iPhone:
“Already 7-0…Matt, it’s 14-0, Matty it’s 24-noth-“
“Timmy, stop telling me anything unless it gets better”
Unfortunately, it never did.
Conversely, that game I didn’t see now feels like fuel for a Bird bonfire to me.
While as they’ve navigated a minefield of must-wins ever since, Dem Saints have remained sittin’ pretty.
So knowing that, why not roll the red-hot Defending Super Bowl Champions, from the City of Gritty?
Or at least, that’s what I’m currently trying to sell myself, out of intrinsic senses like “my gut” and certainly not anything like “game tape” or “metrics”.
Nick got something that to measure requires a full yard-stick.
While the Eagle offensive and defensive lines, which have been the trademark strengths (along with strong quarterback play) of this nucleus, look primed.
I’d also like to declare from the jump that I have no beef with the Saints as a team, Saints Fans, or especially the City of New Orleans.
Since the first time I visited The Duke, with Big Geoff, Phil, and Dante, in Spring of ‘98, that place will forever remain one of my favorite places to be.
So despite the beatdown delivered in November, as a fan, this a game fueled by animosity.
This challenge in the Superdome is the biggest one this team has faced yet, and yes, that includes going into a Super Bowl against the five-time champion New England Patriots with their backup quarterback.
There is no more daunting draw since this:
The Birds have faced the Saints thrice in playoff games over my lifetime.
The first one, a Wild Card game in NOLA, was led by Randall, Reggie, Arkansas Fred, Seth Joyner, Eric Allen & Company, all part of the Buddy Ryan nucleus, now coached by Rich Kotite, a year and a half after Jerome Brown passed, finally getting over the no-playoff-win hump against Bobby Hebert, Pat Swilling, Ricky Jackson & Dem Boyz as “the Eagles have blown the roof off the Superdome”.
The next time, in a Divisional Round matchup in early January of 2007, led by an incredible 2006 late-regular-season-plus-Wild-Card-playoff push after starting 5-6 under Donovan McNabb, now riding the back of backup QB Jeff Garcia, starts fine.
Particularly that famous moment when Sheldon Brown delivered the kill shot that echoed thru New Orleans and has reverberated around the world ever since.
Watching it with some of my best friends, Granite & G-Man + surrogate little sister Katherine, while their respective siblings were in Crescent City for the game.
I admit to having mixed feelings hearing a bloodthirsty roar in the bar of Barney’s Beanery in Santa Monica when Reggie Bush got “c’mon man”-d, or what was probably still permitted to be called “Jacked Up!” back then.
I thought my man Reggie Bush Trojan Fam might actually be dead.
He lived to fight another day, even returning in this one, after heading to the sideline to be shot up, sniff smelling salts, and somehow get back up to play.
In the end, the Birds let things slip, while Drew Brees proved well equipped, then Andy Reid inexplicably punted away any remaining shot they had of winning.
Fast forward six years.
The Birds under Chip Kelly have a surprising bounce-back in Chip’s first year, while Nick Freaking Foles has what looks to be the biggest statistical anomaly season in NFL history during ten starts in the regular season of 2013.
This time, the Saints were traveling to Philly, visiting the Linc in a Wild Card game.
I know some Birds Fans, particularly many of my friends, tried to tell me then, and likely still would even now, some shit like “Foles left the field with a lead”.
And while that’s technically true, so is the following thing I’m about to tell you:
Foles sucked in that game, much like he did in literally every game he played prior to last year’s playoffs while losing whenever pitted against a winning team.
The punt return before New Orleans final drive, when Cary Williams needed to take a horse-collar personal foul just to stop a potential game-winning punt return TD by then-still-a-member-of-the-Saints-Darren-Sproles, which led to the clock-expiring field-goal winning score, was the bell tolling for the briefly promising, quickly-turned-totally-insane Chip Kelly Era, after which the Eagles stumbled into a 180-degree course-correction by hiring first-time Head Coach Doug Pederson, both a playing-plus-coaching, card-carrying product of Old Andy Reid’s system, and that decision within two seasons resulted in bringing the City of Philadelphia its first ever Super Bowl win, and only second championship spread across four pro sports teams since 1983.
I don’t know how, and in many ways still can’t believe, it all happened, but the end result works for me.
So can the Birds really go into NOLA as an eight-point dawg, and pull the greatest upset on the books of this postseason so far?
We’ve already witnessed wilder outcomes while watching TV in Philly.
Plus we’ve already crossed one hard-to-recall task on January’s to-do-list off the calendar.
Big Dick Nick’s Birds are The Champs and Drew Brees is the challenger.
Q-Tip ‘Award Tour’ Voice
Nostrabombus Pick: Eight-and-a-Half? Yeah, The Champs Gonna Cover That.
Nostrabombus NFL Playoff Record: 5 Wins, 1 “Loss” (in quotes because when it’s a half-point L in a Dallas Cowboy defeat, it feels far more like a W)