Jazz: Ed cleverly picked the same teams as me yesterday, and equally cleverly agreed to the rule where Jazz Wins All Ties, so I get to mark up today’s NFL thread as well. In any event, we both started off the playoff season at 1-1. Ed seemed sort of unhappy with the level of play in the Carolina game, but I found Cam Newton’s performance rather inspiring considering his physical condition. For the late game, I had an agreement with Ed that if the Jets didn’t make it to the show I would support the Steelers. The results are a clear indicator that… well, let’s just say that I will root for the opponent of your favorite team in the playoffs for $500.
Ed: And here I thought I’d gotten the better end of that deal with Jazz. Give the Ravens credit – they came prepared for the Steelers, and the Steelers couldn’t do the job without Le’Veon Bell. He’ll be back next year, though, so hopefully we’ll be back. The Carolina-Arizona game was such a comedy of errors that either team could have been the State Department’s official NFL affiliate, but at least it never got boring. There won’t be much chance of that today, either.
Jazz: Here are the second pair of match-ups which will determine the final 8:
- Bengals at Colts (1:05, CBS) – Earlier this season the Colts shut out the Bengals 27-0, but I don’t think we’re awaiting a replay of that dismal performance by Cincinnati. Since that time the Colts have lost Ahmad Bradshaw and Andrew Luck seemed to wither without him. For the Bungles, the combination of Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill should be up to the task against a Colts defensive line that has been struggling. Indianapolis is a slight favorite, but I’ll go against the grain and pick Cincinnati for a 28-20 win.
- Lions at Cowboys (4:40, Fox) – It seems like everyone already knows how this one is going to go, or at least they think they do. The Cowboys are ascendent and the Vegas line has them up by a touchdown. But we still live in the world of Any Given Sunday, and there are some other factors to consider. Matthew Stafford has had his share of troubles, but he is 2-0 against Dallas in his career and knows how to beat these guys. Much of the Cowboys’ hopes will rest on DeMarco Murray, but the Lions have Ndamukong Suh back and are positioned as one of the better run defenses in the league, so they should be able to contain Murray. I’ll open the door for Ed here and take another, bigger upset and call for Detroit to win their first post season game since the early 90s, beating the Cowboys 24-17. (Oh, and who was the last team that the Bengals beat in the post season 25 years ago? Yep. The Cowboys.)
Ed: Rolling through the rest of the wild card round today … and it should be wild indeed.
- Bengals at Colts (1:05, CBS) – I like the Bengals, but they’re a one-note team. They run the ball effectively, but otherwise the rest of their game is mediocre. The Colts have the #1 passing offense and have won five of their last six games, while the Bengals have the 20th-ranked passing defense and have split their last four games. Indy at home will be too tough, 24-17 over Cincinnati.
- Lions at Cowboys (4:40, Fox) – The Lions played good ball this year, but not great. They haven’t beaten a winning team on the road all year, and dropped last week’s game to the Packers in Green Bay when they could have won the division. The Cowboys haven’t been great all year long, but they’re beginning to look great at just the perfect time. They have scored 38 or more points in their last four games, including games against Indianapolis and in Philadelphia. They have the second-best running game in the league, while the Lions have the best rushing defense in 2014. Detroit only has a middling offense at best, and on the road against a peaking playoff-caliber team, I don’t think they can pull it together. Cowboys 33-24 over the Lions.
Update (Ed): Just after this post went live, I saw that ESPN anchor Stuart Scott passed away this morning after a lengthy battle with cancer. USA Today recalls the man who faced his illness while being, to use his phrase, as cool as the other side of the pillow:
“ESPN and everyone in the sports world have lost a true friend and a uniquely inspirational figure in Stuart Scott,” said ESPN president John Skipper. “Who engages in mixed martial arts training in the midst of chemotherapy treatments? Who leaves a hospital procedure to return to the set?
“His energetic and unwavering devotion to his family and to his work while fighting the battle of his life left us in awe, and he leaves a void that can never be replaced.”
Scott, who received a standing ovation during his acceptance of the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at the 2014 ESPY Awards in July, addressed his uncertain future at the time.
“When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer,” Scott told the audience. “You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.”
Scott was just 49 years old, and leaves behind two teenage daughters. Scott beat the disease by going big, and now he’s going home. Rest in peace, and thank you for the memories.