Going Against the Tide

"You Gotta Be Kidding!"
by Mickey Charles, CEO Sports Network

And I am not speaking of Alabama, the Crimson Tide. Mine sounds more like glub, glub, glub, the noise you hear when on the verge of taking in more water than planned. In other words, drowning. That was yours truly last week, doing precisely that.

Atlanta fell victim to a rookie quarterback that spent too much time reading his own press clippings and a defensive coach that fell asleep on the sidelines. Arizona advances and is still not the team that it thinks it is, certainly not when away from the friendly confines of its own nest.

Peyton Manning's last-minute exploits, near legendary, were not on display and what looked a lot like "payback" by the zebras for some horrendous efforts during the season allowed the Chargers to move down the field in OT with three first downs that were a result of penalties. All Manning could do was watch. The "let 'em play and earn it" theory hit the depths of despair, together with the hopes for brother versus brother Super Bowl drama.

Baltimore did what it had to do...put its defense on display, stop the Dolphins from establishing any meaningful momentum and showcasing its own rookie quarterback, Joe Flacco, unflappable and playing more like a seasoned veteran with every outing. Actually, the Ravens were my saving grace, and a bit of air from above the water as my best bet of the weekend.

One of the keys to the success of the Eagles is the health of RB Brian Westbrook.

Which brings us to the Eagles and going against the public, the same folks that are wrong more often than right. Well, not this time. The Vikings thought their guy, Tarvaris Jackson, could bring them back to life. Not. The defense was splendid except for one catch-and-run by Brian Westbrook, the one that sealed their fate, but the offense proved to be offensive, in the literal sense. It was more wanting Philadelphia to lose than believing Minnesota could win. Mistake.

Now it is the Ravens at Tennessee...defense versus the rebirth of Kerry Collins and his air run-first attack. From a week when all the visiting teams were favored by the cognoscenti in Las Vegas and Costa Rica, to one where it is the home teams enjoying that role. If defense wins games, which many believe, then Baltimore is about to move on to the next round, one game away from the Super Bowl. This one is totally a matter of who sets the pace. Will it be over within the first few minutes or extend itself for the length of the game, until the visitors run out the clock with three kneels of prayer to do and, at the same time, give thanks to some Supreme Being that is a football fan and actually took the three points for a cloud or two? My guess is that cloud count will increase.

If Arizona wishes to prepare properly for its encounter with Carolina in the second game on Saturday, it will already be packed for the return trip home with tee times slated in the Cardinals' home town throughout the next week. Right, anyone can pick a winner (maybe) but what about the Panthers minus nine and a half or ten? Hmmmm, that might present a problem of another sort. OK, Carolina wins but, in the vernacular of the wagering world, will they cover? My guess (you expected more than a guess?) is that they will do so before half-time and, in all likelihood, within the first quarter. They simply have more guns than the other guys, a mission statement that reads better and a defense that is not exactly that of the Falcons.

Which brings us to the Iggles, as they are wont to be called in Philadelphia, as opposed to the Eagles by the rest of the civilized world. My guess is that the best thing that happened to the Giants is that they lost to the Eagles in their last meeting. After beating them in the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia went north and the Meadowlands where, whether one chooses to admit it or not, the New Yorkers simply did not show up and left their "A" game in the locker room with their press clippings. Will Plaxico Burress be missed? Will there be thunder after a lightning strike? Do birds fly? How about fish swimming? I know it depends on which ones but...for the most part? However, not enough to lose the game. This will not be the Vikings and Tarvaris Jackson, not by a long shot. It is ball control against Donovan McNabb throwing to everyone but the fans. Super Bowl champs to move on to play Carolina. This one from evaluation and not distaste of the Eagles, their coach and fans.

Phillip Rivers will face a much tougher defense this week when the Chargers take on the top-ranked Steelers.

The Chargers bring everything but their climate and a healthy LaDainian Tomlinson to Pittsburgh. Darren Sproles ran a clinic last week but I doubt he can repeat against the Steelers and their defense, especially if the weather turns wet, white, cold, and windy. That will also work against any aerial acrobatics that the visitors might have in mind. This one will not rank as one of the highest-scoring contests in playoff history, but the hometown guys ought to prevail and move on against Baltimore, where the final score will probably be somewhere around 3-2 or 5-4. For this one, however, tough guys in Pittsburgh should win by more than a touchdown, with emphasis on, and recognition of, "should."

We are back in the swim. Is there another giant wave in sight, the tide changing for the better, or worse? Darned if I know. If I did, we would all be at the counter at the Mirage with the family fortune. So, does all the studying in the world, tallying of stats, records, injuries and weather reports, field conditions and wind direction, home field advantage (if there actually is one), really help? You gotta be kidding!

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