After a brief hiatus to celebrate the holiday season/cause irreparable damage to my liver Errant Balls is back! And what better time to return than for the NFL post season? So in sticking to my trend of writing the same cliche articles every other self absorbed sports writer tackles each year, here are MY predictions for the first round of the playoffs.
WASHINGTON REDSKINS at SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
The Redskins have been the league's hottest team of late reeling off four straight wins. En route to their playoff berth the 'Skins have been led by a backup quarterback who should have retired 10 years ago, run by a coach who should have retired 10 years ago, and sporting a logo and nickname that should have been changed to something less unbelievably racist 10 years ago. Nevertheless, the Redskins have banded together in the wake of the tragic loss of teammate Sean Taylor and put together quite a season.
They do however, have to head west to face the Seahawks in what has been called one of the toughest road venues in the league. The Seahawks home is known for its raucous crowd noise, which it turns out is just a bunch of people pitifully over-selling the idea that they actually care about the Seahawks. The one real plus for the 'Hawks being at home, Mike Holmgren will make his famous "Walrus on a Hog" entrance.
prediction: My money is on the Redskins. Playing for their fallen friend has them inspired... plus I'm hoping to see more post game interviews where Clinton Portis dresses like Carmen San Diego 'a 'la week 17.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS at PITTSBURGH STEELERS
The Jaguars are the epitome of a team adopting their coaches attitude, although if they chose not to it is likely Jack Del Rio would beat them all mercilessly. They rode their tough D and relentless run attack of Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor to a week 15 win over the Steelers. Although, even after the win, the oft injured Taylor expressed some distaste at the idea of having to play yet another game on the only field turf that has been torn up more than his fragile knees.
Despite their loss to the Jags two weeks ago, the Steelers may prove to be a worthy opponent. Known just as well for their staunch defensive play and solid running game, the boys from Steel Town match up perfectly to offer a game of smashmouth football. They will be hindered by the absence of tailback "Fast-Willy" Parker, but pending the safe game-time arrival of quarterback "Crashed-Ben" Roethlisberger the Steelers should have a fighting chance.
prediction: As long as Fred Taylor isn't waist deep in earth, the Steelers fans will be using their Terrible Towels to soak up their end of the season tears.
NEW YORK GIANTS at TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
After a surprisingly well fought battle with the Patriots in week 17, the Giants look poised to take their momentum right on into the playoffs. Its not every day you hear of a loss giving a team momentum, but with Eli Manning (karaoke extraordinaire) leading your squad to anything less than an embarrassing beat down against the league's best, you have to believe in miracles. And, as though that weren't enough to pump them up, Ronde "Bizarro Tiki" Barber decides to talk smack about the G-Men in a radio interview (although we can't be sure it wasn't just Tiki continuing his public besmirching of his former team).
The Buccaneers however, will certainly not be a roll over and die opponent. The Bucs sport a squad of wily veterans that include notorious Giant-killer Jeff Garcia, as well as the only 64 year old who still has 4.6 speed, ancient receiver Joey Galloway.
prediction: As long as Eli Manning doesn't go all Eli Manning, the Giants should come out on top of this one.
TENNESSEE TITANS at SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
The Titans are excited to already have their first playoff berth of the Vince Young era, although they seem to be less than enthused to be a part of the Vince Young era. The monster defensive play of guys like Albert Haynesworth (who has missed a few games this year due to injury, but has managed to keep himself out of inevitable altercations like head stomping) and the always solid ground attack have carried the Titans who have won in spite of their ultra-hyped, ultra-horrendous-throwing quarterback.
But if anyone knows a thing or two about winning in spite of someone, it has to be the Chargers. After firing Marty "I can't win in the playoffs" Schottenheimer in the off-season the San Diego brain trust decided to give Norv "What the hell are the playoffs?" Turner a shot. After a miserable start in which offensive genius Turner tried the use the best running back in the league as a decoy offense, the Bolts managed to get their offense on track and mount a strong second half push.
prediction: This one could go either way. With any luck Vince Young will be injured when he is tossed out of bounds and plows through Norv Turner, giving us the chance to see a decent game.