Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What You Talking About, Randy?

Super Bowl Media Day for reporters is  a mission to get an interesting quote out of  any of the players. The high caliber of player, the more impact the quote will have. Yesterday will be remembered for only one quote (and it had nothing to do with the accusations against Ray Lewis, surprisingly).

"I think I am the greatest receiver to ever do it. I don't think numbers stand because you talk about this and this. This year has been a down year for me, statistically, then the year when I retired was a down year and  then in Oakland was a down year.  So, I don't really live on numbers. I live on impact and what you are able to do on that field."

Guess who? If you said Randy Moss...ding ding ding!

It's like he was making a case for himself while arguing against himself in the length of twenty seconds. Let's break this quote down, Zapruder-style.

"I think I am the greatest receiver to ever do it."

Well that's pretty vague. Do what, Randy? Give up on  multiple teams? Hit a traffic cop?  Vagueness aside, I can't argue with the ability of someone to think they are the greatest. Go right ahead. In other news, Tim Tebow tries to argue he's better than Peyton Manning ever was. Receivers are typically divas who have a...different way of thinking. It usually revolves around them and the amount of passes thrown their way, or lack thereof.

"I don't think numbers stand."

Numbers don't always tell the whole story, but these cannot be ignored:

Moss: 14 seasons, 15,292 yards (ten 1,000 yard seasons), 156 touchdowns
Rice: 21 seasons, 22,895 yards (fourteen 1,000 yard seasons), 197 touchdowns

Rice beats Moss' totals by almost 8,000 yards. Granted he played longer- but that is a testament to his durability. He also had two of the all-time great quarterbacks at the helm (Joe Montana and Steve Young), but to discount those statistics to the ability of those hall of fame quarterbacks is unfair to Rice.  He worked just as hard to get open and run precise routes while perfecting the art of dragging both feet in bounds.

Moss, on the other hand had Randall Cunningham in his rookie year. It can be argued that regardless of Moss' talents, he was lucky that Cunningham had a season where he played out of his mind, passing for over 3,700 yards with a 3.4 to 1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He also played with Daunte Culpepper at the height of his quarterbacking prowess. Moss was consistent year in and year out. Somewhere along the way, the only opponent who could shut him down was...himself.

Of his fourteen seasons, Moss missed six games due to injuries, while Rice had seventeen seasons of his twenty-one where he didn't miss a game. There is no way to calculate the number of games Moss wasn't there mentally for, though. Numbers cannot tell how reliable one is.

Thanks to Moss' personal opinion, it looks like we can just throw away the way we have been recording sports all this time. I mean, some youth leagues don't keep score because "everyone is a winner". I'm sure numbers matter when Moss looks at his checks, or when he plays for incentive bonuses.

Proclaiming who is greatest of all time can definitely be subjective at some point, but as they say - numbers never lie. This type of "numbers not standing" thing is said when it is convenient for the person making their case. What about your record-breaking 2007-2008 season, Randy? Does that not matter either? I'm sure if asked, he'll find a way to make note of that season, while going with the whole "numbers don't stand" for a career-long perspective. That is the ONE season you can claim was better than any of Jerry Rice's- but based off what you've said here, it means diddly squat.

"This year has been a down year for me, statistically, then the year when I retired was a down year and  then in Oakland was a down year."

The first adverse season Moss experienced was in 2005 when he hit a roadblock in Oakland. The team went 4-12. He just barely made the sacred  one thousand yard plateau for receivers, but recorded (by a receiver of his status) a mundane 8 touchdowns. It's not like his quarterback was a slouch, either. Kerry Collins threw for over 3,700 yards and 20 touchdowns that season. But the 2006 campaign made 2005 look elite. Moss played in 13 games, totaling 553 yards and a dismal 3 touchdowns. Oh, and the team got worse. They finished 2-14.

For  the record, the 2010 season in which he "retired" included three different teams. Sometimes a player needs a change of scenery to reboot himself, but a change after a change? Any wide receiver who considers themselves the greatest of all time would never be on three teams in one season, then retiring right after...eventually leading to a fourth team in three seasons. This would be a not-so-subtle sign that maybe that receiver's time as an effective pass catcher is over. During that season, Moss totaled 393 yards and 5 touchdowns, a far cry from anything a healthy Rice would do. He also did this.

Simply put, a healthy wide receiver in his prime who would be potentially considered the "greatest ever" would not put together three sub-par efforts.

"I live on impact and what you are able to do on the field."

This one blurb is where Moss might have a little credence. What he was able to do on the field ability-wise such as burning many a defensive back, or jumping up against multiple defenders to snag a deep bomb cannot be taken lightly. God blessed him with his incredible athleticism, more so than Jerry Rice. But where Rice lacked God-given ability, he made up for by working hard. No one can calculate the percentage of Rice's work ethic that Moss would need to have been the "greatest", but one would assume had he been more humble and less introverted at times, that it would have greatly affected his on-field performance.

What's Rice have to say about all of this?

"I impacted the game by winning Super Bowls," Rice told, "Randy is still trying to win his first one, and I wish him the best, but I was very surprised that he said he's the best receiver to ever play the game. I leave that up to my fans to make that statement."

Simple and to the point. Rice has three rings, and Moss has zero. The greatest measuring stick in any sport is "Have you won  a championship, and if so- how many?" Just ask Dan Marino or Karl Malone. One might be able to argue that Moss is the greatest receiver of all-time had he beat Rice in every major statistical category regardless of his lack of rings- but he hasn't. Moss will have the settle for at best, second place. If anything, he can lay claim to having one of the most interesting Youtube videos of any past or present NFL player.

Then again, maybe Moss doesn't truly believe what he said. Maybe he said it to make himself relevant heading into Sunday. Moss was once asked how he paid for things, to which he responded, "Straight cash, homie."   This is just "straight honesty", Randy: You are not the greatest wide receiver of all-time.

And that's coming from a current Vikings fan whose sole reason for liking them in the first place as a fifth grader in 1998 was because of you.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Movie 43: An Ode to the Offensive

When I first saw the trailer for Movie 43 months ago, I was legitimately looking forward to it. It was flush with various celebrities of varying degrees. Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Naomi Watts, Halle Berry, Richard Gere, Liev Schreiber, Uma Thurman, Emma Stone, Jason Sudeikis, Elizabeth Banks and Terrence Howard all have parts in the movie. Heck, even Snooki is in it.

My anticipation was only later exceeded by the empty feeling I had as I left the theater wanting my money back. 

What is interesting to note is how aside from the trailer, there wasn't much publicity for the movie in terms of promotion by its own actors. Maybe this was its "charm"- to leave the viewer knowing only a little bit in hopes that their intrigue for this comedy ten years in the making would cause them to drop twelve dollars on it. As it has been said by some, "January is where movies go to die." Movie 43 was dead on arrival.

The movie opens with Dennis Quaid pitching a movie idea to a studio executive (played by Greg Kinnear). His first idea  is a blind date between a busy working woman (Kate Winslet) and the city's most eligible bachelor (Hugh Jackman). Everything seems fine until during the date Jackman's character reveals an inconvenient and awkward deformity. This causes Winslet to be disturbed, and off we go.

From my perspective, there was roughly four or five relatively strong sketches out of the twelve-sketch movie. Each was directed by a different person. What's that other saying? Oh right- "Too many cooks in the kitchen." What I had hoped would be a delicious film rich in comedic flavor and ironic moments was quickly turned into a burnt mess of sketches that were generally predictable and anti-climactic.

It's like they gathered all the celebrities together, patted themselves on the back, and then flew by the seat of their pants with very little direction. If you throw enough things at the wall, something has to stick.

At an hour and thirty-seven minutes, the film follows the traditional length for a comedy, and speeds right along up until the final sketch about black basketball players afraid to play an all-white team. Oh, and then the movie ends. No real build-up to a big finale that would leave you laughing in stitches. It just ends. Well until after the credits roll, when you are treated to a "bonus" of Josh Duhamel, Elizabeth Banks and a cartoon cat in a truly disturbing mini story. I am not one who is easily offended at all, but even this sketch made me wonder what exactly I had just seen.

The biggest problem this movie had was the complete uncertainty of it. The cast was always in a state of flux, with three kinds of actors: the ones who knew to avoid this mess (George Clooney), the ones who broke off their verbal agreements, (Colin Farrell) and the ones who took forever to commit (Richard Gere).

This kind of movie should not be seen in theaters due to how expensive tickets are. It is a jumbled mess of actors who go knee-deep in the shock factor, or ones who completely go through the motions in an attempt to be seen as funny. If you are looking for a way to get value out of this movie, it would be for one dollar on Redbox, but only because you haven nothing else to do but kill time.

Final Verdict:  F

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Royal Rumblings: The Jumpstart Towards Wrestlemania

Now that we are in 2013, specifically January, it's a revival of sorts. People begin to conquer their resolutions and try to be better than they were last year. Well....until they give up and realize last year wasn't so bad, and that it was the same person they were two or three years ago. January also marks a revival for  World Wrestling Entertainment ( aka WWE) and their "Road to Wrestlemania", jumpstarted with this month's  pay-per-view Royal Rumble.

"Oh great, Sean. Wrestling....really? You are going to write about wrestling?"

First of all, yes- yes I am. Secondly, we live in a different time. This is no sideshow anymore. The WWE is a publicly traded business. It is a corporation which involves live entertainment, rakes in millions upon millions of dollars a year and has tie in campaigns with various charities/organizations (Make A Wish, Susan G. Komen, B. A. Star - an anti bullying campaign).

Wrestlemania is WWE's over-the-top culmination of the calendar year's storylines displayed on the national stage for  a mainstream audience. The super show is ingrained in the figurative fabric of Americana such as the Super Bowl, big S.U.V.'s,  baseball games, etc. Big time venues which put the show on a grander scale have become prevalent since the days of Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant at Wrestlemania III in Detroit. That year they managed to seat 93,000 fans. People from all over the world come to see the "grandest show of them all" as billed by WWE chairman Vince McMahon.  It's the one time of year your friends who used to watch wrestling and are now too cool for it come back, if for one night only, to try and relive the good ol' days. They'll pepper you with questions to get them brought up to speed and to help sort out the "Spandex Jungle", also known as the WWE. Mainstream media outlets pick up on the happenings, whether celebrities (such as athletes, musicians or actors) get involved.

'Mania is commonly known as  "The SuperBowl of Wrestling" such as when you compare someone's expertise in their respective field to that of Michael Jordan's in basketball - and with great cause too. Wrestlemania can consistently garner well over one million world wide buys on pay-per-view, as well as generate millions of dollars for the host city's economy, as evidenced below:

Wrestlemania 28 (Miami, April 2012) - 102.7 million dollars
Wrestlemania 27 (Atlanta, April 2011) - 62.1 million dollars
Wrestlemania 26 (Phoenix, April 2010) - 45.1 million dollars

That's a sixty percent jump from 2010 to 2011, and a forty percent jump on top of that the following year. This isn't your grandpa's wrestling at the local armory.  There's a reason the location is announced well over a year ahead of time, and is similar on a small scale to how countries bid to host the Olympics.

Now you can see why they begin to prepare for it months out in order to have more time to build up storylines and increase the stakes which hopefully leads to bigger profits for the company after the dust is settled. This is where  we are now.

Currently there are two world titles, one held by C.M Punk (the WWE Champion) and the other held by Spanish-born wrestler Alberto Del Rio (the World Heavyweight Champion).

The often controversial Punk has broken all sorts of records, holding his title for an impressive four hundred-plus day title reign, almost unheard of in this day and age. Last summer during the company's 1000th edition of their flagship show, Monday Night RAW, Punk came out and did the only thing he could at the time to be perceived as bad, or "heelish"- he blindsided long time fan favorite The Rock (also known  as Dwayne Johnson- the prodigal son of the WWE Universe, returned from Hollywood- if only for an occasional cameo or match). Now that he has The Rock's attention, the two are on a collision course at the Rumble, with the WWE Title on the line. Punk has made  quips here and there  about Rock's actual devotion to wrestling, questioning if the spotlight should be placed on him after so many years away from the ring. He makes a valid point.

Sources have been saying that the company is looking to set up a rematch from last year's 'Mania which pitted the Rock against John Cena. Except this time it would include the title on the line. This means two things: The Rock would have to beat Punk at Rumble, and Cena would almost have  to win the thirty man over-the-top Rumble to have the guaranteed shot against Rock. This is a match to my knowledge which no one was really clamoring for. But the WWE sees dollar signs, and if that's the match Vince wants, Vince gets it.

This would almost assuredly bounce Punk from defending his title on the national stage -a title which he worked so hard to get- on the road for months at a time, wrestling through injury after injury, surgery after surgery. Most of you feel that you bust your butt at work, and do not get the desired appreciation for it. As Rodney Dangerfield once made famous the line, " I can't get no respect." To have Rock come in and end the historic reign of Punk's just  like *that* would be like showing up to work each day, being the best at your job until your boss feels the blonde with nice cleavage can make the company more money, and reducing your role with them.

In my opinion, the WWE has settled for rehash after rehash of matches that might have been good, even great and made lots of money. That is their right to keep booking them this way, but is also very narrow minded. Progression is what helps make money and build stars- not the form of regression where they seek the immediate gratification, making money hand-over-fist in the short term while not building any new stars for the long term.

This year, the match a lot of fans would be dying to see would be the legendary Undertaker (around since 1990) and his 21-0 record at 'Mania versus Punk's long title reign. That way there is something on the line for both parties. 'Taker does not even need to win the Rumble. He is such a big star he can walk in and simply request it, but unlike Rock it is not only  because he is a money-making star, but because he has truly earned that right. Like Punk, Taker has wrestled through many an injury - and always the company man- never  throws any tantrums. He's at the age and position where he is a novelty act, one in which the fans respect him immensely. His body simply cannot take the wear and tear of traveling two hundred-fifty days out of the year.

On the flip side, we have World Heavyweight Champion, Alberto Del Rio. Fresh off last week's win versus the massive Big Show, Del Rio looks to be the new top good guy. The key is that he is Spanish-speaking and can lead to  what else? Expanded markets and more money. While his opponent is not set in stone for 'Mania, Money-In-The-Bank winner Dolph Ziggler looks to play a role within the coming few months. That designation gives him the right to a title shot within the last calendar year (he won it in July). If I were in charge, I'd write him out of any storylines, seeing as John Cena did everything to completely emasculate him the past few months after repeated losses. I'd wait until 'Mania so he could heal his literal and physical wounds and have him just randomly show up during the title match to make it a triple threat, thus guaranteeing him  a well deserved main event spot at the biggest show of the year as well as surprise the fans. 

If there was one other surprise I'd plan, it would be to re-debut former Oklahoma standout amateur wrestler Jack Swagger at the Rumble. "The All-American American" would enter, eliminate current United States Champion Antonio Cesaro, and  begin a feud which would culminate with a win at 'Mania.

There is still a lot of work to be done before Wrestlemania's card is set, and the Rumble is the first piece in this three month puzzle, also known as the Road to Wrestlemania, or in my opinion- the best time of year for a wrestling fan.

"The Five Degrees Of 'Catfishing' "

If there are two things that make a television show great, it's that it keeps you coming back for more and gets better every episode. MTV's "Catfish" does both of those. A "catfish" is someone who pretends to be someone they're not using social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.

What started off as a 2010 movie - about  a guy (Nev) who discovers the girl he has been corresponding with for months is actually a middle aged woman - came to the small screen this past fall. I was weary of the idea at first, but after seeing the movie and two minutes of the premiere show, I was  hooked.

The first episode centered around a female who found out the guy she had been talking to for almost a year was not the guy at all....but in fact a girl. The show has its trademarks/red flags. E-mails and instant message conversations are zoomed in on for added effect, with phrases such as "Baby, I love you", or "I want to be together forever" spread across the screen. I find this part extremely nauseating.

Almost every episode, as soon as the trio of the two filmmakers and the person pursuing their romantic interest close in on the pursued person's location, it is typically very underwhelming. In this case it was an incredibly small house with an unclear entrance. I'm convinced that if you are the "catfisher", you have to live in a very random location with a very hard to find entrance: "Is it this door? No, maybe this door. Wait is this a shed? Is this a garage? WHAT IS THIS?"

Then another trademark of the show being that  half the time the person who is being searched for doesn't answer the door but comes from the side of the house out of nowhere. The two meet, and the conflict is encountered. The initial shock is offset by a cool down period, where Nev and the hopeless romantic regroup to discuss the situation, and then revisit the person the next day.

The next day, the person either forgives the other and  tries to forge a relationship or decides there is no future, platonic or romantic.

All of these cases involve two kinds of people: a very  insecure, dishonest person and a very gullible and vulnerable person. The "catfisher" acts like a pro wrestling bad guy, convincing themselves and others that  their acts are justified. They either realize the err in their ways, or continue their life of dishonest online relationships. Most of the time, when they see there is no happy ending in sight, the lying party begins to paint themselves as the victim and admitting they have a problem while expecting the duped party to accept them for it. While it can work part of the time, the majority of the time it makes the other side bitter and embarrassed, causing the whole situation to be snuffed out like a candle.

Out of the first eight episodes, I can only recall one person actually being honest in terms of that it was actually them who the other person was talking to. The catch was that he never let on the extent of his obesity to the girl. So eighty-eight percent of the time on the show, the other party is an outright liar. Yes, I just did the math on that.

The most recent episode -*SPOILER ALERT*-  is about a guy named Tyler who wants to meet a very pretty blonde named Amanda. After realizing early on with assistance from Nev that Amanda has some red flags, Tyler begins to settle in his head. Except this time it turns out there is no Amanda, but he has been talking to a gay African American male.  While you always expect the twist, its the uncertainty of how severe it will be each episode that peaks your interest. It is typically "What the hell?" This episode was the first ever "WHAT.THE.HELL?!" After Tyler said he could deal with it even if it wasn't the girl he saw from online, part of me guessed it would be a guy. 

This sparked the invention of "The 5 Degrees of 'Catfishing'." It may not be Socrates-esque, but its 2013. Work with me here. Without further ado:

1. They were who we thought they were. 

This has only has happened once this season. We root for the hopeless romantic to succeed, but we have our doubts and know it'll likely not happen. If this happened every episode, no one would continue to watch the show. Reality television is like one big car crash. Secretly we want car crashes, not happy endings.

 2. Not exactly the same person, but in the ballpark.

Yeah, you aren't happy you were partially deceived, but it could be worse.

 3. Almost sort of bears a resemblance to them.

They might initially look like the original envisioning, but due to added weight, age or the fact that their pictures are  at least  a couple years old, its not the same person as once thought.

4. The "Messed Up Jesus".
 Looks nothing like them. Like this.

5. Are you freakin' kidding me?!

The person is not even the same gender. This has happened four times this season. Yes, fifty percent of the time the person is not even their originally stated gender. Had I been this foolish to have it happen to me like it did to Tyler, I would have punched the guy square in the face and walked off. No words, just bitter embarrassment partially relieved by assaulting the verbally lying party who would now be physically lying- on  the ground.

Now if this blog were a T.V. show, I'd be having "final thoughts" like Jerry Springer. I leave you with this sound advice if you so choose to involve yourself in an online relationship:

1. Skype is your friend, and if you are dumb enough to not use  what is readily available to you through the miracle of technology, then shame on you.

2. Google image searching, like Skype, is your other friend. It's not very hard to use, folks. The truth hurts - but finding out the hot babe you've been talking to in a very personal way for months and months is a dude- hurts more.

Power Ranking the First Eight Episodes ( talk amongst yourselves.)
1 being "WHAT.THE.HELL."
8 being "Yeah I expected that."

1. Tyler and Amanda (episode 8)
2. Jasmine and Mike (episode 4)
3. Sunny and Jamison (episode 1)
4. Kya and Alyx (episode 6)
5. Trina and Scorpio (episode 2)
6. Jarrod and Abby (episode 5)
7. Joe and Kari Ann (episode 7)
8. Kim and Matt (episode 3)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

This is 40: This is Boring

Judd Apatow is back, with Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann as a couple of parents with two daughters....traveling the seas of middle age family life with all of its tension in tow in "This is 40." It is supposed to be the older person's version of 2006's "Knocked Up", but   the difference is that "Knocked Up" had a better cast with better chemistry and didn't drag on for over two hours.

The positives will be gotten to first. The chemistry between Rudd and Mann is natural...both actors can deliver genuine laughs as well as serious moments when called for. Rudd carries the movie for as long as he can, but eventually even his act gets old and you just wish it would all end.

I believe the first culprit of this disappointment of a movie ( an understatement)  could be the casting. Rudd and Mann were fine- even though at some points it felt like they had too much dialogue in scenes, and repeated the same old over and over again. The older daughter is funny at first as well, but every single other line is said in the same  impatient, annoyed tone. Her constant pessimistic ways reminded me of the girl from Homeland. Just get over yourself already and start helping the family, damn it. The younger daughter is funny, too- but even in some scenes you think to yourself that there is an awkward pause here.

The only other stand out in the rest of the movie was Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids) who is one of the best female comedic talents- if not the  best- in the movies today. Her delivery was brilliantly timed with great tone and passion and legitimately made me laugh out loud, especially after the movie is over and they show a few  outtake clips. Megan Fox is obviously hot in this, but more of a side thing than a main character. 

Albert Brooks, who play's Rudd's broke father who always asks for money yet has three adopted three year old sons, is funny for all of five minutes. Then he sort of hangs around the rest of the movie, dropping very unfunny lines and just being a general pain in the ass.

John Lithgow plays Mann's dad, a robotic, uncharismatic enigma who shows no personality until the end in which he explains why he is the way he is  in an attempt for us to give a crap about their relationship after almost two hours of walking in the time they get to it, no one cares.

The second reason this movie just does not work is its razor thin plot depth. A forty year old female fears getting old and lies about it? You don't say! Her husband tried to make her not feel old while  not wanting to upset her and tell her the truth of how his music label is failing? (Hello, economy.) He dreads bringing up the fact that they'll have to sell the house to make ends meet if Graham Parker's reunion CD  doesn't rake in a huge profit. (Surprise, it doesn't.) So your label is failing, and you choose to stick to what has caused you to fail? Being loyal to one thing is well and good and all until it affects what you are bringing to the dinner table at home. Like any guy out there wouldn't choose to change his gameplan?  Come on, Judd.

The third and biggest issue with this movie is the length, Comedies are not designed for two hours and thirteen minutes. Comedies are supposed to be light, easy and fun and not go beyond an hour and forty five minutes.

You sit there and literally wish he would say, "Guys, let's just stop here." As funny as Rudd can be, and as well as Mann and the two children (Apatow's daughters) can be entertaining,  all three get very tiresome. The movie spends the majority of its two hours and thirteen minutes displaying the dysfunction of their family as   a whole, whether its the two daughters bickering, the parents fighting, or the older daughter fighting with the mother. I felt after a while like I was watching a real life family delve deeper into a depression, not escaping the negativity of the real world while I watch a  movie ( a comedy no less). That is not why people go to see comedies.

After an hour and a half, I literally looked at my watch every five minutes, and began apologizing to my date about the movie dragging on. I was waiting for something...anything  to signal some sort of beginning of a conclusion to the movie.Most  movies, whether action, comedy, thriller, drama, documentary- have a sort of pacing to them in which you can begin to sense when the final act is playing. Not this movie. I had no idea when that was going to begin, and it really threw me off. In the end when Rudd is in the hospital,  after Mann finds out about their newest "obstacle", she wonders how they will afford it. Rudd replies "I don't know." Then she suggests selling the house out of nowhere, and he agrees just like that. A problem he's had telling her all movie, and in ten seconds, it's all good? Well that makes sense.

After its all said and done, I give TI40 a solid 6 out of 10. It as no where near  perfect, poorly paced and generally unfunny. Any other rating would be too generous.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Let the Games Begin: The NFL PLayoffs are Upon Us

Time flies when you're n NFL fan. The long and often agonizing offseason is put to rest the moment the opening kickoff of the first game is underway. Even in an age where you can get information about your team and players on a 24/7 basis, you still long for actual football that matters. And now here we are seventeen weeks later, on the precipice of the NFL playoffs. After the regular season dust settled, we are left with these first round match ups, followed by my predictions as well as thoughts on the top four seeds who earned byes.


(5) Indianapolis Colts vs. (4) Baltimore Ravens

In a season no one saw coming, the Colts finished the year 11-5. I'll let you read that again, and  then  maybe it will sink in. A franchise that completely started from scratch after  the Peyton Manning saga of the last two years in which they got the number one overall pick (Andrew Luck) in last April's draft finished 11-5. Even in Manning's rookie year, he struggled to a 3-13 record and threw 28 interceptions. But with the play of  the rookie quarterback Luck as well as  a team that came together after first year head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with cancer, they strung together an impressive season and earned a match up against the 10-6 Baltimore Ravens. Try and watch Pagano's rallying post game speech to his team from a few weeks ago and not get choked up. I doubt you can. After a humiliating loss to  the second seeded New England Patriots on November 18th, the Colts went 5-1 to end the season. The lone loss came in week fifteen against the rival Houston Texans. The numbers tell one story (7th best pass offense, 22nd best rushing offense, 21st against the pass and 29th against the run) but the eyeball test tells another. When you watch the Colts play, you see a young team hungry to prove themselves. The entire franchise yearns to step out of the shadow  cast by the legacy of Peyton Manning. Luck will always be compared to him, which he seems comfortable with as well as capable of stepping up to the challenge.

On the other side of the field, the Baltimore Ravens back in to the playoffs 10-6, losing four of their last five. Part of this is due to the simple fact that their defense is one of their weakest in years. They allowed 122.8 rushing yards per game which is almost unforgivable if you are a Ravens fan. The other reason for being the least convincing team in the playoffs is that they have no offense outside of star running back Ray Rice or tight end Dennis Pita. Quarterback Joe Flacco is in his fifth season and put together a typical Joe Flacco season. He threw 22 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, against averages of 20 touchdowns and 11 interceptions during his whole career.  He has yet to break the four thousand yard mark in any of his five seasons. For all his talk of being an elite quarterback,  he has yet to prove to any football fan that he has the capability of putting together  a  kind of season  even remotely close to the average season of Drew Brees, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. Ray Rice was the workhorse once again, as none of the receivers on the team broke the thousand yard mark. Neither Torrey Smith or Anquan Boldin established themselves as consistent threats. Had they done so, Ray Rice would have been able to put up even better numbers.

Based on the evidence presented to me, and the eyeball test, I believe the Colts will "upset" the Ravens on the road, with a little help from "Chuckstrong."

Colts 27, Ravens 21

(6) Cincinnati Bengals vs (3) Houston Texans

"Sneaking in" would be an understatement for how quietly the Cincinnati Bengals made it into the postseason. In a division where its Pittsburgh, Baltimore and.....not much else, the Bengals have made it to the playoffs (albeit through the wildcard) for the second straight year. Led by second year players Andy Dalton (QB) and A.J. Green (WR) and a surprisingly stout defense, the Bengals are looking to upset Houston Texans and their high powered offense. Cincinnati has won four of its final five heading into the playoffs with the one loss being by a point to the Dallas Cowboys. If they look to win on the road against such a talented team on both sides of the ball, it'll take a superb effort from the Dalton/Green duo in order to keep up with the scoring ability of a team that has both Arian Foster and Andre Johnson. Green lead the AFC North this season with seven drops. He can't let those chances slip away on the road. Their running game with BenJarvus Green-Ellis won't be a factor as it will have to go against the staunch defensive line anchored by J.J Watts who led the league in sacks (20.5).   It's the eighth best defense in the Bengals versus the eighth best scoring offense in the Texans; something has to give.

The only other thing that could happen to allow the Bengals to pull off the upset is Schaub throwing costly interceptions while Foster has a lackluster effort. The Texans know what  is at stake. After constantly hearing they are overrated and can't beat the big dogs (they got crushed by both the Patriots and Packers), Foster and company are looking to prove the doubters wrong. Also like Baltimore's Flacco, Schaub looks to prove his worth as the field general. He's been a question mark during some of the games in terms of being able to handle the pressure against good defenses.

I  don't see the Texans letting this home field opportunity go to waste, as Foster will be his usual self and Johnson will be  a threat downfield, making Schaub look better. After ending the regular season on a two game skid, Houston looks to have a solution for Cincinnati.

Texans 31, Bengals 20


(1) Denver Broncos

 After a rocky 2-3 start, Peyton Manning and the Broncos really began to gel, ending the season on an eleven game win streak. In the NFL, that is almost unheard of, especially if your quarterback is coming off an offseason where he  had more questions surrounding him than Alex Trebek during a week's worth of Jeopardy episodes. Can he still throw the long ball? What happens if he gets hit? Will his neck break again? Is this the same old Peyton who  won multiple MVP's and a Super Bowl? Manning himself even admitted at time during the season that he pondered retirement on the offseason. When I heard the news of him signing with the Broncos, I thought how odd it would be to see him with anything else but a horseshoe on his helmet. After a few weeks though, he looked right at home with his new team, connecting with Demarius Thomas and Eric Decker for 23 of his 37 touchdown passes. On the year he has 11 interceptions, which means 2006 stands alone as the only season where Manning didn't throw double digit interceptions. Veteran back Willis McGahee played well for someone who is a nine year vet, but eventually went down in late November with a knee injury. You would think that would doom their season or slow them down, but they simply plugged former Georgia standout Knowshon Moreno in and he played some of the best football of his career to help the Broncos finish 13-3. I foresee at least an AFC title game for the Manning-led crew, possibly against Tom Brady and the Patriots. Speaking of which.......

(2) New England Patriots

Another NFL season means another winning one for the Patriots. Its almost like going through the motions isn't a bad thing- if you are Tom Brady. With Minnesota's Adrian Peterson and Peyton Manning dominating the MVP talks, Brady is fine to play third fiddle with his 34 touchdowns and 8 interceptions, as well as over 4,800 yards passing. If you look in the dictionary, Brady's picture is next to the word efficiency. He spreads the ball around, whether you are a star receiver, slot receiver, tight end, running back or full back. He is one of only a handful of quarterbacks (Brees, Rodgers, Manning)  who many who watch the NFL feel  could win the game on the final drive without question. Tight end Rob Gronkowski  had an encore performance of last season up until he got hurt, oddly enough on an extra point  attempt when he broke his forearm. The other star tight end (only the Patriots would have two star tight ends, from the same draft no less) Aaron Hernandez struggled to get on the field due to a lingering ankle injury. The one weakness this team has is it's secondary, who contributed to a defense that was 29th best against the pass this season. Regardless, you can almost pencil them in for an AFC title game.


(6) Minnesota Vikings vs (3) Green Bay Packers

By virtue of their 37-34 victory over the Packers in week 17, the Vikings won the right to....face the Packers again- in Lambeau. And not just ANY Packers team. This is one with a chip on its shoulder. Minnesota played spoiler to any hopes Green Bay had at being the second seed and getting a first round bye. You better believe a quarterback with the talent such as Aaron Rodgers is going to be looking to snuff out the Vikings upset hopes from the first snap. 2012 was the breakout year for receiver Randall Cobb who provided a dual threat- receiving and kick returning. Greg Jennings was lost for most of the season, so there was an obvious void and  Jordie Nelson is not a primary option, as good as he is. Their defense is great against the pass, but struggles against the run and has allowed over 400 yards to the Vikings' Adrian Peterson.

Without any consistency under center in Christian Ponder, teams loaded up the box in attempts to slow down or stop the Vikings' running attack. Some of Ponder's inadequacies were mitigated by wideout Percy Harvin until he  went on injured reserve late in the season. Tight end Kyle Rudolph became Ponder's favorite target, especially in the red zone. Even with teams targeting Adrian Peterson all season, he ran right through them, narrowly missing Eric Dickerson's all time single season rushing record by nine yards. He finished with 2,097 on a run last Sunday with twenty four seconds left in the fourth quarter against the Packers which led to the game winning field goal by rookie kicking phenom Blair Walsh.

If there is any hope that Minnesota can pull off an almost impossible upset, it rests on the shoulders and legs of one Adrian Peterson, and relies on Christian Ponder not turning the ball over. Their defense has shown it can get stops when it needs to, but even the Packers' offense at full health could be too much on the road for the Vikings. I'm going with my heart here, though. The Vikings are very hungry for a win here, and a player as motivated as Peterson could be that x-factor which pushes them over the edge.

Vikings 24, Packers 23

(5) Seattle Seahawks vs. (4) Washington Redskins

This game is the battle of the streaks. The Seahawks ended the season winning five in a row, while the Redskins finished on a seven game win streak. Both are on incredible highs, and headed on a collision course this Sunday.

This game will be a battle of the running offenses, as Washington leads the league in rushing yards per game thanks in part to rookie sixth rounder Alfred "WHO?" Morris and D.C. demigod Robert Griffin III, and Seattle is third mainly because of Beastmode, Marshawn Lynch.

The fact that this game is at Fedex Field and not Qwest Field cannot be understated enough. To go from the best home crowd in the NFL in Seattle, to a town that hasn't won a playoff game since 2005 is a major deal. The last time the 'Skins won in 2005, they were eliminated the very next round against who else? The Seattle Seahawks. Granted it was a different time with completely different personnel, but the revenge factor for Washington against Seattle does play a part...if only because Seattle eliminated them in their last playoff appearance the very next year in the wild card round.

Russell Wilson has been nothing short of spectacular this season. It all started in the off season when Wilson came out of nowhere as a rookie to upstage big free agent signing Matt Flynn to earn the starting job. He looked very sharp in the preseason as well, and carried it into the 2012 season. The Seahawks first entered the national stage on Monday Night Football when they beat the Packers when the replacement refs made the worst call in football history to decide a football game. Wilson went on to achieve a passer rating of 100 for the entire season, and tied Peyton Manning for the record of touchdown passes by a rookie with 26. His uncanny ability to avoid the sack and extend plays has provided his team with more chances to win games. The Seahawks were eight points away from having three games in a row of 50 or more points.

Seattle can certainly score, but Washington will look to snuff the running game. They really need a solid effort from a defense that is 30th in the league against the pass. The difference in this game will be the quarterback play. If RGIII can stay on the field and be effective running and throwing the ball, this will allow -in my opinion- the second best play action in the NFL to be more threatening and effective. The 'Skins will have the home crowd roaring, and they'll look to get first downs and wear down the Seattle defense on the way to their first playoff win in seven seasons.

Redskins 28, Seahawks 21


(1) Atlanta Falcons

In his four years as an Atlanta Falcon, quarterback Matt Ryan has yet to win a playoff game. Does this still mean he deserves the nickname "Matty Ice"? The pressure is not just on him, but the Falcons as a whole to come through and deliver a win, and show they aren't a front runner in the regular season. They have home field advantage- but these aren't the dirty birds of years ago with Jamaal Anderson.

They have the sixth best passing offense in the league, but will need bigger efforts from Michael Turner and Jaquizz Rodgers in order to get that ever elusive first playoff win for Ryan. Julio Jones and Roddy White have been huge all year for Ryan, as well as star veteran Tony Gonzalez. Jones does need to cut down on his drops though. This might be the year they put it together and make a run. Then again, would anyone be surprised if they failed to live up to their own hype? Prove me wrong, Matty.

(2) San Francisco 49ers

Lastly we have the 49ers. After a daring midseason quarterback switch, the dynamic Colin Kaepernick seemed to pay off at first. Then they ran into the Seahawks, losing 42-13 in a blowout no on could have foreseen, regardless of the game being in Seattle. Their marquee win came in New England in a back and forth contest which saw them pull away 41-34. Frank Gore has been their anchor all season, with a speedy receiving corps that extends the field. The corpse of Randy Moss occasionally runs good routes and gets into the end zone from time to time.  Aside from their weak passing offense, San Francisco ranks 4th across the board in rushing, as well as yards allowed. Time will tell what the rookie quarterback is made of. If need be, Alex Smith is still on the bench.

It is one thing to be successful in the regular season as a rookie (Wilson, RG3, Kaepernick, Luck) but the post season is a different animal. Players like Manning, Brady and Rodgers all know what it takes. Others like Ryan, Flacco, Ponder and Schaub are unproven. 

Predictions and forecasts rarely hold any weight. The time for speculation and prediction will soon cease, and the real fun will begin- on the field.