In my early days at NFL Films, my colleague and friend, Marc, and I used to slump in to a deep depression this time of year. Not only was the NFL season coming to a close (though that meant more sleep for us), but we were both summer loving beach bums and now that the holidays are over and football season is coming to a close, there was very little to get us out of bed in the morning. It was a 150 day or so countdown to Memorial Day weekend. Marc was a Ventnor / Margate guy and me, Sea Isle City.
These days, I have similar conversations with Cousin Nick. As New Year’s Day came to a close last night, the ‘how many days’ conversation popped up. Why wouldn’t it? We really are entering the worst few months of the year. Cold, gray, ice. It can be fun when it snows with the kids but let’s face it…that fun lasts one, maybe two days. Then you get tired of tracking dirty snow in to your car, home and office.
There’s even a clinical diagnosis for what I feel this time of year. SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder. The Eagles’ season is over. The holidays are over. Football season, as a whole, is coming to a close. Someone get me to Memorial Day. Someone get me to the 54th Street beach in Sea Isle. Someone crack me a Corona Light. The summer can never get here fast enough.
But the season ain’t over yet…the NFL’s post-season is about to begin so let’s take a look at the Wildcard Round in this week’s What 2 Watch 4…
Baltimore at Pittsburgh
There’s something off with the Ravens this year. They struggle to move the ball and, at times, quarterback Joe Flacco fails to find the open man. Pittsburgh continues to play very well at home and are my sleeper team in the playoffs this year. The big question is the health of their star running back, Le’Veon Bell. I think he finds a way to play and I think the Stillers find a way to move on.
Cincinnati at Indianapolis
This Bengals team has boasted vast talent for several years but fallen flat on their faces in the post-season, particularly quarterback Andy Dalton. I believe this is the year he and Cincinnati get it together. The Colts have not played well down the stretch. Quarterback Andrew Luck has been turning the ball over and a lack of running game has taken its toll on him. He looks tired. He looks beaten up. Cincinnati wins on the road to finally get over the hump.
Arizona at Carolina
The Cardinals are down to their third string quarterback, Ryan Lindley, who stares down his receivers more than a lonely boy at his Sophomore Cotillion. Carolina’s defense is good enough to make him pay and the Panthers are suddenly the darling of the NFC but the Panthers won 7 games this year. SEVEN. Arizona’s head coach Bruce Arians is my pick for coach of the year and the Cardinals’ defense is strong on all three levels. I expect Arians and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to keep Carolina’s Cam Newton in check and somehow advance to the Divisional Round.
Detroit at Dallas
The Lions are another team loaded with talent that can never get out of its own way. Quarterback Matthew Stafford has to find a way to win these big games. The Lions’ boast one of the league’s best front sevens on defense so going against Dallas’ running game is strength against strength. Since I don’t have confidence in Stafford right now to pull out a big win on the road, I have to, begrudgingly, select the Cowboys to win this game and move on to the Divisional Round. Detroit has the weapons to eat up Dallas’ secondary but the pressure is more on the Lions’ defense to stop running back DeMarco Murray.
The Magnificent Bastards returns next Tuesday on Wildfire Radio with me, Brian Startare and Lyndsay Brown. Wildfireradio.com. We’re live at 5:30pm.
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