The divisional playoff weekend is unquestionably the best football weekend of the year. If you think otherwise, you are wrong, and I am sorry you are stupid.
Two days with the 8 best teams in the NFL facing off against each other in elimination games, trying to get to the biggest stage in American professional sports. All I know is, I've got my beer, and I've got my guacamole, and I've got my nacho chips, and it's going to be a very, very good weekend.
So let's take a look at Saturday's matchups.
CARDINALS AT SAINTS
Any analysis I do on this game is certainly tainted by the fact that I am 100% gay for both Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald. Fitz's one man wolfpack performance in last year's playoffs cemented him as my favorite player in the league (that and the fact that he's a fellow former NFL ballboy, which helps). Warner, meanwhile, is for my money the single most compelling sports story of this century. First he emerged from nowhere to take a previously horrible Rams team to 2 Super Bowls, winning MVPs in the process. Then all of a sudden nobody wants him. The Bears were going to sign him as Rex Grossman's backup after the Giants cut him. Seriously, think about that for a second. He then goes out to the desert to slowly fade away as Matt Leinart's backup, and now somehow he's better than he ever was and trying to take the Arizona Cardinals to their second straight Super Bowl. THE ARIZONA CARDINALS...SECOND STRAIGHT SUPER BOWL. Put those words together. They no make sense. Then add to that the fact that he is a genuinely good guy in a sporting world full of scumbags and criminals, and there you go. He's the NFL player of the decade in my mind.
As for this game, New Orleans is going to lose. They've lost 3 straight, but of course there's the caveat that they were not really trying because they had nothing to play for. OK, fine, but before that they were struggling too. They beat an injury crippled Falcons team (who didn't have either Matt Ryan or Michael Turner) by 3 and the Redskins by 3. Their defense has been steadily disintegrating to the point that it's really really bad right now.
I've simmed this game 5 times on Whatifsports.com and the Saints win every time. I call bullshit on that. The Saints gave up 30 points to the Redskins, okay?
CARDINALS 38, SAINTS 27
RAVENS AT COLTS
Geez isn't this what the Colts specialize in? Losing in the first round of the playoffs? After watching the Ravens go all shock and awe in Foxboro last week and making Tom Brady look like a modern day Curtis Painter, this is almost too easy. Ray Rice looks to me like he's angling to get the 2010 Larry Fitzgerald award for just being so much better than everyone else on the field, and thus carrying his team to the Super Bowl.
RAVENS 30, COLTS 27
So there you go, I picked 2 road teams, two upsets. Which is par for the course this season where for some reason it turned into junior high at the end of the year and became cool for all the good teams not to try their hardest. We'll see how that strategy works out, because the Saints and Colts are the two biggest perpetrators of this. So far this gambit has been validated, because the Patriots lost Wes Welker in a game they didn't need to win, then got their doors blown off in the playoffs. Maybe a part of me is hoping the Colts and Saints fall on their faces in the playoffs as punishment for sandbagging the last two weeks of the season.
...and don't think I forgot about the futbol..
LIVERPOOL AT STOKE
The ol' wolves are at Rafa Benitez' door! Rrrrowwrrr!! Not only has Liverpool been bounced from the Champions League, not only are they tied for 7th in the Premier League with mighty Birmingham, they just got knocked out of the FA Cup by second tier Reading this week. Oh and a bunch of players got hurt in that match too. It's been a lovely season for Liverpool.
SUNDERLAND AT CHELSEA
The Blues lead the EPL by 1 point over Man U. They should be able to keep that lead as they face a Sunderland side that hasn't won a league match since Nov. 21. The onion in the ointment is that Chelsea has a bunch of their studs out playing in the African Nations Cup and trying not to be on a bus that gets shot at.
BURNLEY AT MAN U
United got knocked out of the FA Cup by second tier Leeds, but they trail Chelsea by only 1 point for the Premiership lead, so they can get that taste of their mouth real quick if they vault into the lead. Burnley has earned a whopping 1 point on the road all season, so this should be an easy win for the Devils.
HULL AT TOTTENHAM
Spurs manager Harry Redknapp is feeling the heat for tax evasion. Or is it avoision? I'm never sure. Hull's been getting their brains beat in on the regular lately, so Tottenham should be able to get 3 points in their quest to finish 4th and be allowed to play in the Champions League qualifying rounds in the fall.
MAN CITY AT EVERTON
City are the current holders of that 4th spot. They got a big scare with that Togo bus tragedy, as Emmanuel Adebayor was on that bus. He's OK though. City's red hot, having won 5 matches in a row, including their 1-0 FA Cup win over Middelsbrough.
Real Madrid and Barca are both in action on Saturday. Real trails Barca by 2 points for the league lead. They have an away match at mid-table club Bilbao. Barca faces Sevilla again after seeing them this week in the Copa del Rey. Barca beat Sevilla in that match 1-0, but it wasn't enough to give them the win in their home and home matchup, so Barca is out of the Copa Del Rey. Is it payback time?? With a vengeance??
Jose Mourinho's boys at Inter look like they could lap the field, up by 8 points (although AC Milan has been playing well lately). Inter travels to the land of my ancestors, Bari, for a match tomorrow. This is Bari's first season in Serie A, and they have been scrappy, residing in the top half of the table. Hope this is on GOL TV!
MLS had its SUPERDRAFT!! Yesterday. The expansion Philadelphia Union had the 1st pick, and they took Oregon St. sophomore Danny Mwanga, who had 14 goals last year.