Thursday, January 17, 2008

NFL 2007 - Conference Championship Games

Here's the thing: Patriots-Packers II (don't forget XXXI) would be the most anticipated Super Bowl in history, and probably the most widely watched television event in years. It would feature the only two current NFL quarterbacks that my wife might have a chance of actually identifying [I realize it might seem weird that I don't think she could identify Peyton Manning, but, a) his commercials -- of which there are thousands -- pretty much just run during sports shows, which she would never watch, and b) for a woman who seems pop-culturally literate and lives and works in the Los Angeles area, she can really surprise you. Like last week, when she had no idea who Michael Bay was. Am I a jerk for being stunned by that?]. It would, in the minds of a lot of sports fans, pit good vs. evil. It would cast one of the nation's most beloved, accomplished athletes as a scrappy underdog going up against the kind of soulless, win-at-all-costs operation that makes your over-the-top, slick-haired, ozone-polluting, toxic-waste-dumping '80s action movie villain look like some sort of Care Bear. And not the grumpy one, even; the one with like a rainbow on its chest.

I can't really even think of an event in sports history that compares; some have brought up the 1980 USA-USSR Olympic hockey semifinal game, which is somewhat apt because the Packers (Brett Favre aside) are a young, likeable, relatively inexperienced bunch going up against a joyless, cyborg-like group of win-bots who don't give a damn about you or your family. The Patriots may as well come out with C.C.C.P. on their jerseys.

(That would be the angle, anyway. I personally like the Patriots even though I imagine Bill Belichick is a jerk, and as a true Vikings fan I can't possibly root for the Packers. At least, not admittedly)

But that's what has the potential to be so dangerous this week: Patriots-Packers is almost too good to actually happen. Stuff like that doesn't happen in real life, right?

I mean, if you were making a movie about a fictional quarterback, you'd have him go to a small Southern college and excel, go to a Southern team but never get to play, and then get sent to Wisconsin (brr!). He'd win a Super Bowl right away, and everything would be gravy.

But then, things would take a turn. He'd lose the Super Bowl the next year to an older, better quarterback, all the while fighting a losing battle against pills, booze and partying. His wife would finally tell him, "It's me or the lifestyle, honey." A kindly old veteran whom our young quarterback helped win that long-awaited Super Bowl title would help him get right with his family and with his God. Our quarterback would turn things around in his personal life, starting charities and becoming a pillar of the community, growing into a national hero.

But our movie isn't over. Our hero's father passes away, as does the beloved veteran who helped our man turn his life around. His Mississippi hometown is flattened by a hurricane, he has a couple of sub-par years on the playing field and he starts to wonder if maybe this part of his life hasn't passed him by.

Nope, he decides. I'm coming back for another year. And then what happens? His team starts winning. And winning. And winning. They get all the way to the Super Bowl, one last hurrah for our hero, but there's one more problem. Their opponents are none other than an undefeated juggernaut -- winners of three of the last six Super Bowls -- who happened to have been caught cheating at the beginning of the season and laughed it off on the way to 18 straight wins.

At this point, any fan of sports movies would have to say, "Come on. That's stretching it a little. Do they have to be undefeated and have been caught cheating that same year? That seems unlikely, if not impossibly convenient for this storyline."

That's why I'm wary about getting too excited about a Patriots-Packers Super Bowl before Sunday's games; like Cubs-Red Sox World Series we were so cruelly teased with in 2003, it seems far too good to actually happen.

But then you look at these matchups, and you can't help it.

Giants @ PACKERS -7

My little "movie of Brett Favre's life" bit from before leaves one thing out: he should be facing the Cowboys in Dallas, where he's never won in his career, then moving on to play the undefeated juggernaut in the Super Bowl. That would be a better storyline than the "who cares" Giants coming into Lambeau and getting pasted. The Giants vaunted pass rush -- like the Seahawks vaunted pass rush before it -- could have a little trouble gaining traction on the frozen tundra (Sunday's Green Bay forecast calls for a high temperature of 4, with flurries), and, let's not forget, the Packers' offensive line has received one or two vaunts of its own. They pushed Seattle around and ran all over them, and they should do the same to New York.

Meanwhile, the Giants put together 57 yards of offense in the second half last week on a nice warm artificial surface in Dallas in a game that I'm still not convinced they actually won.

And finally, I don't think the Giants can count on Brett Favre being as distracted this week as Cowboys QB Tony Romo was last week. A thorough study has revealed that this is the most attractive Favre groupie in all of Wisconsin.

Chargers @ PATRIOTS -14

The Chargers have the Colts' number. Nobody has the Patriots' number. No chance they lose this game, and it's probably not close.

The Super Bowl is two weeks after the conference title games, but, I'll be sure to put something up next week, too. In the middle of what promises to be the best Super Bowl hype ever!

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