Almost there

"You Gotta Be Kidding!"
by Mickey Charles, CEO Sports Network
The waiting list for Super Bowl participants is getting shorter and shorter. Unlike a White House soiree, there is no getting past the security unless you were invited and can display the appropriate credentials concerning same. Those are encased in the final scores of games just played, with your team's name under "winners," point spreads and over/under results aside.

Arizona is bringing its version of an aerial circus to New Orleans and the Louisiana Superdome, where the Saints are waiting to march in and all over the Cardinals, or so it says on the chalkboard in the locker room of the home team. The fact of the matter is Drew Brees thrives on airing it out with an underrated running game in attendance just to keep everyone honest. The way this goes is that a high scoring affair favors New Orleans, and those who believe the total of the two will exceed 57?. Understood.

Tom Brady
Can anyone really stop the Patriots?
I, on the other hand, like the Cardinals with the 7 and a game that will be, in the vernacular of Nevada and elsewhere, an "under." Also, how serious were the Saints in their final three games after getting off to a 13-0 start? Rumor has it that Kurt Warner will be another ex-quarterback turned commentator very soon, but I am not sure that announcement will come Saturday evening.

Funny that Arizona and Green Bay broke all sorts of records in a New York street version of touch football, but won the game in overtime on a defensive play after a "chippie" field goal was blown. The result also allowed Neil Rackers to have a restful night's sleep. My guess is that Brees and company will leave the flight deck in their F-14 immediately, but that Warner will wait a bit and try to grind it out on the ground and with short pickups of 5-10 yards while the clock keeps ticking away.

Speaking of resting, I have already stated that I thought the decision made by GM Bill Polian and coach Jim Caldwell regarding early retirement from the NFL regular season for their team, the Indianapolis Colts, was one of the worst in NFL history. What is the lasting effect? Two weeks of reconciliation, focus adjustment, camaraderie sessions, enlarged photos of the Lombardi Trophy on the inside of locker room doors, a separate place in history preached to all every day and a goodly amount of prayer. That does not mean turning to a superior being for guidance or favoritism...just the belief that it will all work out.

Still, one of stupider decisions ever. Moving on, the Colts are the choice for one reason only, although there are supportive others. That reason is called Peyton Manning. And, his team will not allow the game to be over, as New England did, before the first break for commercials. Additionally, the Tom Brady of old was wandering around going through the motions, likely thinking of a better year in 2010-2011. The only thoughts he had of a Super Bowl appearance were in the past.

The Ravens are not to be taken lightly, but they are not the complete defensive juggernaut that will be spoken of on the pre-game show. The Colts are not in mortal fear of Ray Lewis and friends. And, it was not Joe Flacco that set the tone of their recent annihilation of the Patriots. Running back Ray Rice, the heart of the offense, busted the first play from scrimmage for an 83-yard touchdown run, and it was all downhill from there. The Ravens never let up as Rice rumbled for 159 rushing yards to lead his team in the Ravens' 33-14 victory over the Patriots.

This one will have to be played in slow motion if the visitors have any hopes of advancing. Manning, on the other hand, will shift gears as many times as necessary to take the lead and keep it. He is that good.

As one moves closer and closer to the big dance, caution sets in for one team or the other, maybe both, as the fourth quarter arrives and the clock winds down. Close game and it becomes a crawl; big lead and it is "Go to the Buick, cut behind the Chevy and I will hit you in stride as you come out from behind the Escalade."

This is that time of the year when the statisticians start spewing forth numbers, and historical traditionalists grab the record books for what has usually happened with this or that team, or someone like them in years past. Where does heart and gut come in? Mostly for those depending upon luck or who have come, seen, and not yet conquered but ostensibly know just from experience of their own and having watched and determined. I am good with that.

The Colts, for example, have crushed others in a number of games but, on the other hand, have just eked out wins in many more, the last two aside and forgotten. So, why then, lay the 6? Because Manning will need a 10-14 point lead heading into the final quarter to put the Ravens away. My guess is that he will have it and want to make sure it is more than eight if his club has a chance at advancing. Get there and hang on tight.

How hot is Dallas right now? Sizzling. What did they prove against the Eagles in two consecutive weeks of playing demolition derby? Not much other than establishing that the boys from Philadelphia were a legend in the making in their own minds. But, Tony Romo's confidence level is at its peak, the Cowboys believe in themselves, the legendary Brett Favre is preparing yet another retirement speech and this swan song had "return to the Super Bowl" written all over it so that he can talk the talk, then walk the walk all the way to Miami.

The Vikings' game plan is relatively 'n gun. Do the former if it works and bail out with the latter if it does not. Favre can still throw the ball long or short with unerring accuracy. But Dallas can be all over him in a heartbeat and he is not about to scamper in and out of trouble. Those days were left home, safe and sound, in the memory bank. Dallas has shored up its defense, has tremendous confidence in its running game and Romo thinks he is Ken Stabler reinvented...take what they give you, again and again and again. Then hit them long. Throw in a few runs from time to time just to prove you can.

The Vikings are in search of their first NFC Championship in over 30 years, but before they have a chance at a Championship, they must defend their home turf. This will not be easy and the oddsmakers know it so they have installed them as a home field advantage favorite, three points. My guess is that both Romo and Favre will throw more than run, decidedly so, and that will lead to points going up, more than 45? between them.

I am not certain if Dallas is the team to hate, like the Yankees, for having done so much early on, for having set the tone for style, looks, winning and the sexiest cheerleaders around. But, like 'em or hate 'em, the fans will be out there and in front of the tube from coast to coast.

Dallas plus and the over

You want a hot team? San Diego. You want a team that thinks they can beat them? Jets. The problem with the Chargers, as with Indianapolis, is that they opt to let it all out on some weekends and then just manage to win on others, doing a lot more of the latter than the former. Count on them to put up totals in the 20's, at a minimum, and maybe higher if they get on a roll. The Jets are good for from anywhere between 14 and 24. That makes the cover of 42 look like the mortal lock of last week's Arizona/Green Bay game.

But, lay 7?? Time for the Tums. It will be that kind of a game and Mark Sanchez has come across like a youngster that is no longer rattled by being thrust upon the big stage. But, behind the center on the other side is Philip Rivers, who has truly come into his own as a leader and well-rounded quarterback that can do it all. Jets in the Super Bowl? It does not even sound right.

Besting Cincinnati two weeks in a row is not an adequate or appropriate barometer. At the Meadowlands, the Bengals did not care. When they got home to Paul Brown Stadium, the Jets sensed the crack in the dam wall and pushed the water through fast and furious until it burst. There was not stopping it.

Laying the points for this one is the toughest decision of all but the over is not. No Joe Namath to guarantee any wins in sight, and Sanchez is certainly not going to do it. Actually, in the NFL, with rare exceptions like the Eagles, it is simply not the stimulus or fodder to provide to the other team.

Two weeks to go. Should be fun. What about the farm and the college funds?

You gotta be kidding!

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