The NFL’s Elite Eight

The first two rounds of the NFL playoffs might make up my two favorite weekends of the year. Four games over two days, with an energy and intensity unrivaled in all of sport. As a bonus, there’s even the Golden Globes on divisional Sunday, the most watchable of the awards shows. More television than can possibly be healthy. Anyway, some scattered thoughts from the couch:

Saturday, January 12

Baltimore at Denver

With his face paint, Ray Lewis looks like a villain from Pirates of the Caribbean. He’s snarling, growling, rearing to go – and it’s the coin toss. Hey, remember how he was involved in a double homicide? No one else seems to. Instead, he’s a “warrior” riding into the sunset. Sports!

CBS sideline reporter Solomon Wilcots talks about the need for gloves in the cold weather. I thought he was wearing some, but it turns out that he has enormous hands. I can’t overstate their creepy, bratwurst-like quality. His perfectly pink giant fingernails make it more surreal. How is “Solomon Wilcots’ freak hands” not trending?

Ravens right tackle Michael Oher gets his first mention on the telecast. I, along with the rest of the country, immediately hear Sandra Bullock’s accented voice in my head. Bad Oscar winner or the worst Oscar winner?

The cameraman lingers on a ‘Crow home’ sign. Weak effort. I would have gone with:

1) “Nevermore,” quoth the Bronco
2) Ravens don’t fly mile high
3) Baltimore sucks

The Broncos’ secondary is highly suspect. Torrey Smith is getting separation from Champ Bailey on every other play. A good offense would take advantage. Somewhere, Tom Brady is masturbating. Probably to a picture of himself.

Dan Dierdorf compliments a challenge from Ravens head coach John Harbaugh by saying, “What does he have to lose?” How about a challenge, a timeout, and – given an unfavorable ruling – a potential third challenge? Sports commentators are the worst.

Trindon Holliday: 90 yard punt return TD, 104 yard kickoff return TD. Trinsanity! ®

The game has devolved into a mess of yellow flags. Nothing says playoff football like a prolonged referee conference about which defensive ‘hands to the face’ penalty should be enforced.

Naturally, it’s ridiculous whenever athletes thank God after a play. But it’s especially so when a kicker does it, as Denver punter Britton Colquitt just did after pinning the Ravens deep with a 48-yarder. The almighty’s all about field position.

“Whoever’s responsible for booking halftime shows, well done.” – a subdued Dierdorf, on Beyoncé. A sobering sign of our post-Musburger-Webb world.  #neverforget

Greg Gumbel with some tepid praise for Ronnie Hillman (16 carries for an unimpressive 60 yards at this point), noting that he’s been “the man to step up and run the football” after Knowshon Moreno’s injury. …Don’t go overboard, Greg. What more could he do but “run the football”? Hillman ‘lined up in the right huddle.’ He ‘correctly put on a Broncos uniform.’ He ‘did not get lost on his way to the stadium.’

How is Baltimore punter Sam Koch’s last name pronounced “Cook” and not “Cock”, or at least “Cotch”?  Nifty maneuvering on his part.

Baltimore 38, Denver 35. 2OT (!). One of the most entertaining playoff games start to finish in recent memory. But the real winner is Tim Tebow.

Green Bay at San Francisco

Colin Kaepernick’s tattoos makes him look like an armed robber, who will be incarcerated in the same prison in which his brother is being held, putting into motion a highly elaborate escape plan involving D.B. Cooper. Later, he will publish a script as ‘Ted Foulke.’

I microwaved a frozen chicken burrito for dinner because I’m watching playoff football for seven hours straight.  I’m about to turn 30. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Pathetic, that is.

The Joe Buck-Troy Aikman team is doing this game. It’s like getting ice cream, only the flavors are vanilla and vanilla with concussions.

(Daniel) Kilgore blocks for (Frank) Gore, which seems notable somehow.

The FOX football robot has not only managed to stick around, but picked up a name through the years. ‘Cleatus’ has existed for seven years without seeming dated, an indictment on mankind’s utter lack of progress vis-à-vis robot-kind.

Buck makes note of a flu bug that has hit the Packers locker room. Who would have thought that influenza would make such a power play in 2013?

The double overtime Ravens-Broncos matchup, aside from overlapping the first quarter of this game, has left me quite disoriented. For instance, I am currently distracted by the fact that the Nike Swoosh is flipped around on the non-dominant shoulder of players’ uniforms. …How many more hours of football are there?

The Niners are physically dominant. Kaepernick, Michael Crabtree, and Vernon Davis all tower over the Packer defenders. They’re like fat kids playing pee-wee football.

San Francisco 45, Green Bay 31. A shoot-out for a half, but lopsided thereafter. The dream of a Har-Bowl stays alive for at least another week.

Sunday, January 13

Seattle at Atlanta

FOX offers its B-team of Thom Brennaman and Brian Billick today, a welcome selection over Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, and Tony Siragusa (of the cringe-worthy yet strangely endearing moniker, “Kenny, Moose, and Goose”). I like Albert and Johnston. But has anyone ever gotten more mileage out of being fat than Tony Siragusa?

Matt Ryan throws an early pick. As he walks to the sidelines, he keeps turning his head back to the field, as if confused. It’s what I do to save face after I trip on the sidewalk (note: this happens often). It wasn’t the elements, Matty Ice. It was you.

There’s a lot of attention on Tony Gonzalez potentially playing his last game. He wasn’t even involved in a double homicide! …that we know of.

Billick: “I’d have to have more than my pads readjusted after a run like that.” That’s a pants-shitting reference, right coach?

Body language, just broken down by Chris Myers, has to be the stupidest focal point of sports broadcasts. Russell Wilson is sitting on the bench staring forward instead of moving around and talking to his linemen? Oh no, the Seahawks are doomed!

It’s not easy to lose track of a 6’5”, 255 pound tight end, but the Falcons keep doing it with Zach Miller.

Why doesn’t the NFL offer basic statistical categories for non-skill positions? For instance, with offensive linemen, sacks against or hurries against, average rush yards as lead blocker, and the like. Why don’t television broadcasts impress such categories on viewers?

Every car commercial has aired over the course of the past two days. Tim Allen narrates 75% of them.

Brennaman: “It was 27 to 20. Now the Falcons lead to 6.” Rough day for the B-team. [Translated: Falcons led by 20, 27-7. Now it’s down to 6, 27-21.]

Broken City looks like the movie Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, and Catherine Zeta-Jones made while waiting for a good script to come along.

Atlanta 30, Seattle 28. A fantastic game to watch, unless you picked the Falcons -2 in a playoff pool that stipulates both sides lose on a push. You know, hypothetically.

Houston at New England

Evidently, the Patriots coaches used tennis rackets in practice to simulate J.J. Watt’s wingspan. Seems excessive. I now have an image in my head of a T-1000-like robo-linebacker with tennis rackets for arms.

Steve Tasker notes that Rob Gronkowski is “physically compromised,” in another blatant attempt to demonstrate to his parents the value of his Northwestern education.

Speaking of, the sideline reporters for the previous three games included Erin Andrews, Pam Oliver, and Laura Okmin. Break that glass ceiling, Steve Tasker. You go, guy.

Arian Foster is the only player ever to rush for 100+ yards in each of his first three career playoff games. Naturally, a quarter and a half in, they’ve given him the ball five times (for three yards). Someone show Gary Kubiak the graphic.

Hawaii Five-O is holding an audience vote to determine the ending of an episode, presumably with the logic that three half-baked ideas can add up to one mediocre show.

He might be the smallest guy out there, but Wes Welker kills it. He’s sure with his hands, gets physical with defenders, and has explosive speed. Also, I may have a man-crush on him.

Texan kick returner Danieal Manning is pulled down by a horse collar tackle, drawing a penalty. The horse collar tackle is named, of course, after the traditional manner cowboys used to drag down their horses in the Old West. (???)

Phil Simms: “What a throw. Determination.”  Again, sports commentators are the worst.

New England 41, Houston 28. A dominant performance by the Patriots offense. Somewhere, Bill Belichick cracks a smile – almost. Then he frowns at the thought.

Fun weekend. I’m off to watch the Golden Globes in peace.

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