Posted on: September 27, 2011 9:44 am

The 0s: '72 Phins Not Worried, The Luck Factor

It is still WAY to early for the 1972 Dolphins to start icing the Champagne. Oh, they will pop the corks sometime in the next few weeks, soon enough to avoid any worry or angst that their standing as the only team to go undefeated through the regular season AND win the Super Bowl is in any danger whatsoever.

It is also too early to speculate on which team will finish the season in first place in the race for the opportunity to draft (or make a blockbuster trade to a team who will draft ....) Stanford's Andrew Luck.

Here's why the '72 Dolphins can breath easy ............

Detroit 3-0: The Lions should be the first undefeated team to fall. They travel to Dallas in Week 4 to face the Tony Romo led Cowboys. Although Romo hasn't always been one to bet the house on (see Week 1), he seems to have bounced back from a poor 2011 debut to find a little magic ... or to finally begin to reach his potential, you choose which one you like better. Additionally, although the Lions have won two road games already, they will be traveling for the third time in four weeks ... not a good recipe. Should Detroit get by Dallas, they return home to face the Bears,49ers and Falcons in Weeks 5 through 7. After a Week 9 BYE, they wrap up the season facing the Bears on the road first, as well as games against an improved Raiders' team, the SaintsChargers and Green Bay twice. Chances of running the table? 0.1%

Buffalo 3-0: With all due respect, the Bills have reached 3-0 merely by the skin of their teeth. Much respect for winning tight ball games in comeback situations against both the Raiders and the Patriots, but they are the Cardiac Kids of the remaining undefeateds! This team is definitely capable of beating the Bengals on the road in Week 4, but then again ANY road game is an iffy proposition. With a BYE in Week 7 to muddle things up, their next three games will take the team through a gauntlet of NFC East teams, including a road game versus the Giants. They follow that up by hosting the Jets before traveling to Dallas. Then things get TRULY tough! Three of their final six games include trips to New York (Jets again) and San Diego before facing the Patriots in Foxborough! How likely are the Bills to remain unblemished? 0.0%

Green Bay 3-0: The Packers are the one team that has a slight chance of making things interesting in the quest for 19-0! The remaining schedule is dotted with road games against the following good teams, Falcons, Chargers and Lions as well as hosting the Raiders, Bears and Lions in the three of the final four weeks of the season. The Pack is certainly capable of winning ALL of these games. I hate cliches, but we all know the phrase, 'On Any Given Sunday'??? With the way Green Bay has been playing defense, it would not surprise me if ANY team on the schedule erased the zero. Ok ... the Chiefs would surprise me! Regardless, I don't see this team making it to 8-0 unless there are some major improvements on the defensive side of the ball. Chances of ruining the Champagne toast? 8%

Changing gears .... will anyone have the 'Perfect Luck Season'? Better odds than an undefeated Champ ......

Minnesota 0-3: Most people have given up on Donovan McNabb. That opinion can be justified. But 0-16? Won't happen. Besides, even if Donny cannot turn it around, Christian Ponder will get his chance and find a way to win a few games. After all, the Vikings DO face the Chiefs this week!!! The Panthers and Broncos are on the schedule as well. 'Luck'y Charm chances? 1%

St Louis 0-3: The Rams opened the season against three very good teams. They will play the Redskins, Packers, Cowboys and Saints in their next four games. 0-7? Entirely possible, if not probable. But this team has some talent. Even if Steven Jackson continues to be injury prone, they have other options to fall back on. If you check their schedule, the Rams could easily win 7 of their final 9 games and make a great story!! Besides, even if they finished with the worst record, they would not draft Luck. Sam Bradford will be, at a minimum, a very good quarterback in the NFL. 0-16? NEVER .... although it may take a while to prove this. 0%

Miami 0-3: Ironic, isn't it, that the other part of this thread concerns a perfect Dolphins' team? Miami could potentially run the table in reverse. However, Kansas City IS on the schedule! Besides, Tony Sparano is going to get fired at some point during the season, and teams almost ALWAYS respond to a new Head Coach with at least ONE victory!! The Dolphins do face a tough schedule, but they will pull out a few games. 10%

Indianapolis 0-3: It would be AMAZING to witness the team who has been led by the immortal Peyton Manning have the opportunity to mold Andrew Luck for a couple of seasons before turning over the keys to the truck!! Won't happen. The Colts have at least four games remaining that they shoud win, regardless of who is playing quarterback. If Curtis Painter finally gets some practice reps, he may just surprise some people. After all, in sitting at Peyton's elbow for the past two seasons, something HAD to rub off .... although brains and an arm will not morph from one player to another. Still, the Ponyboys will win some games .... (KC on the schedule? YEP!) .... 2%

Kansas City 0-3: If you are one of those people who like to ROOT for the 'Reverse Perfect Season' (Jungle Clones know all about this), then THIS could be your team!!!! The Chiefs are a mess, period. Things were bad enough, and then Jamaal Charles went down for the season. In checking the other 0-fer teams' schedules, KC is my main reason WHY some of those teams will not reach 0-16. Sure, some team could 'let down' and drop a game at Arrowhead. Sure .... there is always the 'New Head Coach' phenomenon (Todd Haley's seat is hotter than Sparano's), but that should not help this team either. The only blips on their schedule are two games against the Broncos and the Colts' and Vikings' games. They will probably beat Minnesota this week and make me look like a fool, but if I had to bet on ONE TEAM to go 0-16 this season, KC would be the team. They may not find perfection, but this is the team most likely to have Andrew Luck on their roster next season. Shot at 'perfection'? 70%

Have at it folks .... 


Posted on: September 22, 2011 4:16 pm

What Jerry Jones DID for Me

I am a big time football fan ..... without a team.

Don't cry for me, Argentina. Although I have to admit that there are times when it kind of stinks not having ONE TEAM to root for above all others, most of the time it's a good thing. The fact that I am not tied to one team frees me to watch whatever game seems to me to be the best game, no matter the teams.

So how did I find myself in this situation and what does it have to do with Jerry Jones?
Well, as a football fan I am the product of three blessings. The first of which is that I was born into a family of sports fans. My father, uncles, grandfather and cousins (both male & female) all love sports. And growing up in 'Steeler Country', football talk was the first speech thaat I learned as a baby ... and that was even before the Steelers achieved any success.
The second blessing is that I grew up in a railroaders neighborhood in which sports were like a second religion. There were many kids older than me, and as they started to REALLY KNOW the game of football, I was whisked right along ... and could keep up due my family background. 
The third blessing is a very high sports IQ, which was apparent by the time I was three years old. Now I'm not going to try to convince you that I KNEW the game at the age of three, but with sports speak all around me I was learning and absorbing everything. By the age of five, I knew as much about football as any adult member of my family and more than any toher kid in my neighborhood. 

Which brings me back to the BEGINNING of how Jerry Jones affected my life. When I was four years old, I was really beginning to 'get it' when it came to the NFL,  but a lot of my knowledge had to with the items written on the back of Topps Football Cards. So the players who I first admired were the ones with the best bios on the backs of their respective cards. Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath, Deacon Jones and, for some reason, a Rams' Wide Receiver named Jack Snow were some of my favorites. I also rooted for the Washington's in San Francisco, Vic and Gene. I think they just LOOKED cool to me. As I have already written, my family was all about the Steelers, however. The variety of teams that my favorites played for combined with my family's die hard love for the Black & Gold did nothing to tie me to any allegience to ONE TEAM.

Then one day, my friend Phillip (who happened to be three years older than me, and much tougher at that time) asked what my favorite team was. I told him that I didn't have a favorite team, news to which he responded by trying to convince to become a Dallas Cowboys fan. My resistence to make such a declaration led to a punch in the stomach, tears, apologies, and finally Phillip begging me not to tell either his mother or mine that he had struck me. He offered me a FULL PLATE of his mother's World Famous Peanut Butter Fudge to seal the deal. I wasn't a rat, so wouldn't have tattled anyway, but I was no fool .... that fudge was AWESOME! But Phil was no dummy either. Before allowing me to consumate our agreement of silence, he held the plate in front of me and tried once again to gain my loyalty to the men with the big star on the side of their helmets. I agreed.

From that moment on, I spent my free time learning everything that I could about the Dallas Cowboys. Before long I not only had a favorite team, but a favorite player as well. Bob Hayes .... the BULLETT .... was a blur running down the field and hauling in long bombs!!! He was truly a sight to see. Every single Wide Receiver since Hayes, who relies on their speed to make their game, owes his living to Bullett Bob. If you have never been witness to his prowess, I suggest that you go on Youtube and look him up, you won't regret it!

As the years passed, more great players came through the Big D. Calvin Hill, Duane Thomas and Walt Garrison were great Running Backs. First Craig Morton and then Roger Staubach led the way at Quarterback. And then there were the defensive players .... Lee Roy Jordan, Bob Lilly, Chuck Howley, Mel Renfro, Herb Addison and Cornell Green were all to be admired. And there were many more, too many to mention them all here.
Later, as Staubach grew into a two-time Super Bowl Champion and Hall of Fame Quarterback, he led others onto the gridiron. Men such as Tony Dorsett, Drew Pearson, Preston Pearson and Billy Joe Dupree led the offense. And Harvey Martin, Ed Jones and Randy White provided a wall in front of Bob Bruenig, DD Lewis, Cliff Harris and Charlie Waters that led to a Championship in 1977.

The winning continued for many years, even though there was a Super Bowl drought from 1978 until 1992 ... marred only by a few losing seasons. But it was these losing seasons began the process that led to my disillusionment with the team. You must understand that as an intelligent fan, I not only admired the players, but the men who put the teams together. Starting with the ownership of the team by the Murtchison family. As classy and important as the Rooney family is with the Steelers, or the Halas family with the Bears, the Murtchisons led this team from the top by putting the right people in the front office positions. Then there were Tex Schramm and Gil Brandt, two men who worked with the coaching staff to bring the best players into the fold. And the there was the legend .... Coach Tom Landry. Landry epitomized class and work ethic, combined with cutting edge scouting techniques, to lead this team to the title of 'America's Team!' I never met the man, but as a fan from the age of four, I loved him as if he were a long distance uncle, and respected above all others.

Certainly, when Jerry Jones bought the team and made the decision to 'retire' Landry, it was justifiable. But he chose not to allow Landry to keep his dignity. that was strike one, and a BIG one. Although I still loved my Cowboys, I could not stand to watch them that first year after the legend was gone. I didn't miss much, they were terrible. But Jones' replacement for Landry, Jimmy Johnson, began to grow on me, despite the fact that I could not stand the man as a college coach. Perhaps you would be justified to assume that I was on a bandwagon, although I would argue that a loyal, die hard fan of so many years should be excused some dismay when a change that big was made. As the team grew under Johnson with the addition of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin, my joy in the team came back. Winning three Super Bowl titles in four years didn't hurt either. But it was during this run that Jones ran Johnson out of town and brought in Barry Switzer. True blue Cowboys' fans seethed at the audacity. After all, we had witnessed one great coach leading them for 29 seasons. And although his exit was less than what it should have been, Jones had succeeded in bringing in another great coach. But to drive Johnson out of town after a mere five years?  Unacceptable.

The revolving door that has been attached to the Head Coaching job in Dallas has driven many 'old school' fans away from the team, and others underground. The NEW Cowboys' fans have no clue what they are missing. But I feel fortunate not to be counted among them. While there remains a number of classy fans of the team, the majority of the NEW fans have no class whatsoever. They are loud, boreish thugs, and I would be afraid to attend a game for fear of witnessing a robbery or murder in the parking lots. 

A fan without a team. Is this a sad circumstance? At times, yes. But the benefits far outweigh the dross. And I have Jerry Jones to thank. What do ya know? 
Posted on: February 5, 2011 11:16 am

NHL Fights vs Hits in the NFL

On Wednesday, February 2nd, I watched the Pens v. Isles’ game. As a Penguins’ fan, I loved watching this game, a 3-0 victory with Pittsburgh’s two best players out with injury. It was at times a chippy game with a lot of minor cheap shots from both teams … at other times, it was downright violent. It’s hockey, people, it happens! Especially when one team is dominating the other …


Near the end of the game (16 seconds left), Islanders’ goalie Rick DiPietro deemed it necessary to step out of the crease and take a cheap shot on one of the Pens as he skated past. The unwritten ‘CODE’ of hockey states that a goalie is not to be engaged unless by the opposing team’s goalie, so a scrum ensued involving many players from both sides while DiPietro leaned on the goal and laughed. It was at this point that the Pens’ backup goalie, Brett Johnson, who had played lights out all night, took matters into his own hands. He skated to center ice and called DiPietro out. To his credit, DiPietro slowly skated out to meet Johnson, while discarding his equipment. What happened next will be celebrated in Pittsburgh for years to come, and vilified by opposing fans and those who decry hockey altogether. Johnson knocked out DiPietro with one left hook!


I have to admit, Johnson earned my respect. If you cheap shot someone with 16 seconds left, in a game that has already been decided, you have to pay the price … and pay the price DiPietro did. It’s unfortunate that he will miss many games with facial fractures, but what if his cheap shot had injured the Penguin who was innocently skating by? Frustration is not a good excuse for DiPietro’s actions.


Cory Giger, writer for the Altoona Mirror and host of ‘Sports Central’ on ESPN Radio’s local affiliate, posted a blog on Facebook written by Bob Smizik. With all due respect to Cory, who apparently agreed with the blogger, the article is a complete farce. Either Smizik is not a hockey fan or he has some kind of agenda. In his blog, Smizik uses a fairy tale example involving the Packers and Steelers in the Super Bowl in which Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers meet at midfield to duke it out following a cheap shot by Rodgers taken on Troy Polamalu during an interception return. He is attempting to make the point that professional football involves more civilized participants than does hockey. Mr Smizik, this is complete garbage.


Hockey is the only professional sport in which each and every player carries a weapon at all times (their sticks). If one watches closely, there are constant cheap shots taken using these weapons. Players are slashed across their hands and wrists, they are cross checked from behind, they are tripped and whacked across their ankles and feet. While these incidents do not always cause injury, the constant repetition of these hits does take a toll. Unless each game is reviewed and swift punishment is instituted for every stick related offense in the forms of fines and/or suspensions, there will always be fighting in hockey. Sound familiar?


Allow me to compare this to football. James Harrison of the Steelers has become the poster boy for hitting related fines in the NFL. Whether or not you are a fan of Harrison or the Steelers, one must admit that not all of the hits that resulted in fines were worthy of such punishment. If one watches the replays closely, it is easy to see that there were times when the player on the receiving end of said hit ducked his head at the last instant, AFTER Harrison had begun his tackle. It is my opinion that if the NFL continues on this course of action, the game will change, and not for the better.


I watched many, many, MANY professionall games over these most recent decades. One thing became clear to me, and to any observant fan, was that the players ‘policed’ themselves. If a defensive player took a shot that was perceived to be cheap or overly violent by the opposition, that player had better place his head on a swivel for the rest of the game, for the offensive linemen of the offended team would surely be taking retribution. Men like Conrad Dobler of the Cardinals, Mike Webster of the Steelers & Jim Langer of the Vikings would seek out the ‘offender’, and literally truck him into the ground or clothesline him as he rushed the passer.


Whatever happened to REAL MEN in the NFL? When these O-linemen were taking care of their own, you saw less cheap shots, less devastating injuries and significantly fewer concussions. This leads me to ask two questions. First, should both leagues change everything that has made them a great watch for the fans? If you answer yes, then perhaps you should contact your local cable provider and request ‘The Twiddlywink Channel’! Second, could the NFL learn a lesson by taking a page from the NHL? ABSOLUTELY! Police yourselves and allow the suits in the league to worry about the Collective Bargaining Agreement so we don’t lose football!


All of which leads to my final prognosis ….

LET HOCKEY ALONE! They are doing just fine …..



(my signoff seems inappropriate after THIS blog! Lol)

Category: NHL
Tags: NFL, NHL
Posted on: January 22, 2011 10:07 am
Edited on: January 22, 2011 10:57 am

Steeler Fans, My Family & Friends

We are down to four teams. It makes me feel good to report that I picked two of these teams to be in this position before the season started. It’s true, I wavered a bit on the Packers at one point this year, but just a bit. The loss of Ryan Grant to injury during the first game of the season hurt this team much more than I expected. And although Ben Roethlisberger was suspended for the first four games, I never doubted that the Steelers could be in this position, one game from the Super Bowl.


I am merely slightly surprised by the presence of the New York Jets in the AFC Championship Game, my preseason picks had them losing last week. I must admit that I am very surprised by the season that the Chicago Bears have put together. Not only did I not pick them to play for the NFC Championship, I did not pick them to sniff the playoffs. I expected an improvement from the Jay Cutler led, Mike Martz coordinated, offense. And if Brian Urlacher could stay healthy, he, combined with the addition of Julius Peppers, could lead the Bears defense back to prominence. Playoffs AFTER the 2011 season? Perhaps … just not this year. I’ll eat my hat over that one.


However … the true reason for blogging today is not to discuss my prowess as a pre-season NFL prognosticator, no no no no. My reason for turning to blog, my DILEMMA, is simply that the Pittsburgh Steelers have once again advanced deep into the playoffs … God help me if they win this weekend (which I expect) and advance to meet, possibly, the Green Bay Packers (a team that I like very much).


This dilemma has nothing to do with whether or not I will be rooting for the Steelers. It has to do with … ‘The Question’! What is the question? It goes something like this, “Ready for the Steelers’ game, George?” OR the ‘other question’, which is worse … “So, are you a Steelers’ fan?”


When answering the first question, I can (and at times do) take the easy way out by responding with something to the effect of, “Sure, always ready for football!!!” And yet, there are times when for whatever reason I feel that I must elaborate and add, “But, I am not a diehard Steelers’ fan.” It is during these times that I see some of the dirtiest, confused looks on people’s faces. What can be worse are the situations when I must answer the second question. I will share my polite answer, but you must know that it does not always get me very far. When asked if I am a “Steelers’ fan”, I most often choose to respond with, “Not the way most people around here are. But I respect the team, everything that they have accomplished as a franchise, the Rooney family, and they way they seem to have done it with as much class as possible in an ever changing societal atmosphere.” As you might imagine, that answer often gets me out of further explanation.


The real dilemma comes from those who comprehend enough of my previous answer to ask ‘THE Follow-Up Question’. “Well who eez yer favrit team then Gerrrrrrrrrrrge?” (forgive the phonetics, but these people tend to lose their grammar skills when confronted with another human being who does not worship at the altar of the black & gold)  Again, this is a question that I can answer simply by responding, “I am a HUGE NFL fan, but I just don’t have a favorite team. I tend to root for teams who have players or coaches whom I like and enjoy watching.” Most of the time, that type of answer will do it, especially if I immediately turn and walk away. It is simply not a very satisfying ending for me.


The true response is that I grew up a Dallas Cowboys fan, bleeding silver and blue all over the place, crying my eyes out at 14 years old IN FRONT OF OTHER PEOPLE when they lost yet another Super Bowl to the ‘Stupid Steelers’. There are times when I have a few minutes to ‘get into it’ that I do respond in this manner. Of course no one wants to hear about the fact that Jerry Jones has so ruined my pristine image of the Dallas Cowboys’ organization that it has come to the point that I simply find it nauseating to pull for that team. This is a subject for another long blog entry, however, and I do wish to wrap up this, my immediate, topic.


The truth is that I AM a huge fan of the NFL and the game of football on every level. I do tend to find new players and/or coaches to root for every year, although I do not consider myself a bandwagon fan (as evidence I can share that I pulled for the Jets all year in 2009, but the circus wore me out this season and I hope the Steelers smack them tomorrow). And it is a fact, I do respect the Pittsburgh Steelers organization, their owners, the three great coaches that they have had since 1969, the fans (for the most part) and appreciate all the success therein.


I guess what I just used all these words to say, boils down to this ….

If you are part of my family, one of my friends, a Facebook pal or even an aquaintence whom I rarely get the chance to talk to, there can be no doubt, I love you. If you know me then you know this is true, I have a big heart and a great capacity for loving people on different levels (thank You God). So if I am not joining you in all of the Steelers Madness, it is not intended as a shot or to be disrespectful. When you are happy, it makes me happy, so LIVE IT UP! Just please, don’t jump down my throat when you forget my position and inevitably ask me one of those questions!



Posted on: February 13, 2010 9:24 am

2/13/10; What Now? (Post Super Bowl Rut)

We are now one week removed from Super Bowl XLIV. What now?

Twenty-five years ago at this time, I would be in a rut. I might be watching some NCAA College Basketball, I was REALLY into Duke back then. The NBA could hold my interest for half a game or so. If it was an Olympic year, like this year, I would catch some of that as well. I rarely watched hockey, heck, it was rarely on TV anyway. I would not be all that interested in The Daytona 500, although I would watch a few laps and try to catch the end of the race next week. Perhaps a little PGA golf would make its way onto my set. And even though the Pittsburgh Pirates were going through a downslide, I would be paying attention through my local sports page (The Altoona Mirror). There were periods when some of my friends would rent a court and we would play a little hoops, but as far as spectating, I guess my main interest at that time would have been catching AAHS boys and girls basketball games as they neared post-season play.
Post Super Bowl RUT? YES

Twenty years ago was even worse. College and NBA basketball held about the same place in my heart. There was more hockey on the tube and Mario Lemieux finally was getting some help. The winter of 1990 was a prelude to the back to back Stanley Cups the Pens would win the next two seasons and this was the first time I really paid any attention to the NHL's regular season. It would be another five years before I developed any interest in NASCAR beyond the 'catching a few laps' mode. And even though the Pirates were playoff favorites during this time, I paid little attention to the off season. Even local high school sports held little interest for me during this period.
Post Super Bowl RUT? YES

Ten years ago, I began to find sporting events that grabbed me during the winter lull. I had finally started getting into NASCAR racing and looked forward to Daytona nearly as much as the Super Bowl. I finally had the internet, so this time of the year was full of paying attention to everything that was going on in MLB leading up to Spring Training. I watched every Duke basketball game that was on the air, which led me into watching more games of many varied teams. The NHL was in its own lull for me personally, Mario nearing the end and Sydney Crosby not even on my radar yet. But, I would begin to chart the NFL draft within a week of the Super Bowl. I watched quite a bit of golf and had somehow morphed into this guy who loved watching the Winter Olympics. My kids were getting to that age, and I was spending time watching and coaching my son play basketball in addition to taking him to local games. Truly, my children filled the void for the most part.
Post Super Bowl RUT? Yeah, I guess I still had it

Now I find myself in 2010. I have absolutely no interest in the NBA at all. College basketball does not hold my interest for long either. As I age, I find the lack of discipline and teamwork to be a shameful development in the sport. I still enjoy watching high school basketball when there is no "I" in "TEAM". I am paying some attention to everything leading up to Daytona, but it does not hold a place in my life or heart that it once did. Golf has become boring if they are not playing in a Major Tournament, so this time of the year is bland. I am no longer that guy who charts the NFL draft constantly, I'll wait until a week or so before the draft.

So WHAT DOES hold a former sports junkie's attention as I face middle age?

I am VERY into The Winter Olympics. For some reason I find the winter portion of 'The Games' to be more interesting than the The Summer Games. I love watching hockey now, and not just the Pens. As I age I find this game to be refreshing, I guess it's the fact that even though there are 'superstars', no team is successful without involving the WHOLE TEAM. I am watching what is going on in baseball, every team. And yes, I am the eternal optimist, hoping and praying that this is the year the Pirates break through and win at least 82 games. And lest we forget recruiting for NCAA football!

The thing is ...... I am soon turning 46 years old. I am remarried with six children between us. I have my work, and dreams of starting my own business. I find myself starting to plan where I would like to live when all the kids are self sufficient (Myrtle Beach, here I come). My priorities have changed. I still love sports, but there is just so much more to life. It took me all of this time and one failed marriage to learn this. If it sounds pitiful or stupid that it took me so many years to get to this point, please do not judge me. I have friends, and know of many others, who are so locked into sports that it takes precedence over everything else. I look outside of my home here in Central PA and see a driveway that badly needs attention after three feet of snow has fallen while I have been at work all week. There is college and high school issues concerning the kids to deal with. And I still need find time to make sure that my wife knows that she is the most important person in my world.

2/13/2010, Post Super Bowl RUT? I love the NFL & The Super Bowl, but I know that there will be another year (God willing), and football will return. I don't even miss it. So ......

In a rut? Well, yea. Snow, snow, snow and work, work work will do that to a man. But not because of sports. Please take my advice, if you ever find yourself in a rut because your favorite sports season has just ended, open your eyes and look around. The worst 'RUT' one can ever find themselves in is the type that isolates your world .... and as great as sports are, there is so much more out there.

Posted on: January 9, 2010 1:26 pm

WEEK 18: Here we go (picks & more)

Every NFL fan, and I mean the TRUE FAN (those of us who can get past whether or not our favorite team made the playoffs), looks forward to Week 18 from the moment the preseason camps begin to open. Some of us get labeled as 'bandwagon' fans because our allegiances seem to change from game to game in the playoffs (again, if our fav is not there), but I disagree with that label. I believe that those fans who are like me just LOVE NFL football and we appreciate great matchups and great games in the playoffs. Let's face it, there are separate rivalries in playoff season that go beyond the regular season, such as the Colts and Patriots , and, from the past, the Steelers and Cowboys . So, in each matchup I find reasons to pull a little more for one team than the other. Perhaps I appreciate one head coach more than the other, admiring the way they hold their team up in a classy way such as Tony Dungy always did. Or perhaps there is a player who is the most intriguing story of the playoffs such as Brett Favre and the possibility that if things fall just right he could be facing the Packers in the NFC Championship game. Regardless, I LOVE THE PLAYOFFS!!!

What follows are my picks for Wild Card Weekend, why, and which team I am pulling for:

Philadelphia @ Dallas
For some, this game is a no brainer and the Cowboys are the choice. There is no question that they have played their best all-around football over the past few weeks. The defense has stepped up big time, throwing two shutouts, Marion Barber seems to have found himself again and Tony Romo has matured into the best version of himself in his career. I believe this has more to do with coaching than anything else. The 'Boys are using Felix Jones and Tashard Choice , along with Barber, in a rotation that is most effective. Barber has not played in this situation since Julius Jones was let go. Barber was the most feared goal line back in the league in those days, and his recent performance shows he is once again benefitting from not being an every down back. As for Romo, he still has that 'goofy little kid' look going on, but I believe that something has clicked inside of his head and perhaps his heart. He looks fearless in the pocket and trusting of his receivers. He finally has a target worthy of taking pressure off of Jason Witten in Miles Austin , and other receivers are actually catching the ball too.
Conversely, the Eagles were the hot team and many people's pick to rise up and make a big run in the playoffs. Then Week 17 happened and everyone jumped off of their wagon. Donovan McNabb can still get the job done, but his line must protect him AND his receivers MUST CATCH THE BALL. Brian Westbrook looked like he was in the second week of the preseason against Dallas and provided little spark. And the defense just isn't the same without Coach Johnson dialing up the blitzes. I am a big Andy Reid fan, and if anyone can turn this around in a week, well he is certainly one who could. But ......
I don't see it. I grew up a Cowboy fan until Mr Jones bought the team (just don't like that guy) and I would tend to lean towards rooting for the Eagles. That being said, momentum is huge, and although the Eagles could grab it away with some stellar early play, I think it's all on Dallas' side.
Cowboys 27 Eagles 24

Green Bay @ Arizona
Here is the 'bandwagon' I am jumping on this week. I love what the Packers have done over the course of the second half of the season. Aaron Rodgers has proven in my eyes that he is a big time quarterback and that maybe the Pack wasn't so dumb letting the 'every year Favre off-season circus' move on. Rodgers has a bevy of receivers to go to in any given situation. In addition, the running game is clicking with Ryan Grant leading the way. The addition of Ahman Green has only helped. Defensively, despite the blip in Pittsburgh a few weeks ago (I was at that game), Green Bay has improved throughout the season. The young linebackers are on the verge of becoming one of the best crews in the NFC, the line works hard and the secondary led by Charles Woodson have made the 'big play' an every game occurrence.
I enjoy watching many of the athletes on the Cardinals roster perform, respect and admire the entire Kurt Warner story and all that he has achieved, and I like Ken Whisenhunt. However, I thought the Cards played over their heads last year (Larry Fitzgerald going all-universe) in the playoffs, and they truly benefit from playing in the weakest division in the NFL. Anytime you can combine Fitz with his receiver mates, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston , and have Warner throwing the pigskin around you have a chance to win. And as much as I believe Beanie Wells is a future star, he just cannot hold onto the ball.
In the end, I believe Green Bay is primed for a deep run. Unfortunately for the defending conference champs, they are in the way.
Packers 34 Cardinals 20

NY Jets @ Cincinnati
Rex Ryan made a lot of grandiose statements at the beginning of the season that only increased, both in volume and pompacity, after a very good start by the Jets. Somehow, despite a rollercoaster ride of team performances, the New Yorkers find themselves in the postseason. I love Ryan. I truly believe he is a future Super Bowl Champion coach. Mark Sanchez looks like he will develop into at least a good Qb, if not a very good one. Once Thomas Jones runs out of 'career gas', Shonn Greene will develop into a superstar. And Darrelle Revis already IS a superstar. All of this bodes well for the future, and making the playoffs this season will only accelerate future success. But that's the future, this is now.
The Bengals , on the other hand, are out of gas ..... NOW. Their defense has looked weaker and weaker as the season has progressed. Carson Palmer has proven that he is fully recovered from the knee injury that he suffered a few years ago, and is nice quarterback. But the receivers are old, Ocho is hurting, the running game is (can I repeat myself?) out of gas. Unless Larry Johnson comes off the bench and out of obscurity with a performance of a lifetime, I think the Cats are in trouble.
This might be the least entertaining game of this playoff season.
Jets 17 Bengals 10

Baltimore @ New England
Who doubts 'The Hoodie'? Bill Belichick, like him or not, is a proven winner. Tom Brady already has his bust being molded for when he reaches Canton. And Randy Moss ? Shoot, when Randy decides to play he is one of the best receivers in the history of the game. But this team is a shell of what we are used to seeing out of the Patriots. Moss WILL show up, and probably have a nice game. Although at times Brady played great this season, I don't think he is all the way back from the knee. He'll also play well in this game. But the running game is lacking, the defense is not good and Wes Welker is out. Yikes!!
The Ravens enter this game with a chip on their shoulders after what they feel was a referee influenced loss during the regular season. I still don't see what all the hype is about surrounding Joe Flacco . Sure, he's better than anyone expected coming out of college, but no one expected ANYTHING, so how is that a big deal? He's good, might become real good, but he's not leading ANY team into the Super Bowl this season. Despite aging, the defense is still the story in Baltimore. Ray Lewis is jacked up. Is that a surprise? Ray gets jacked up as soon as he opens his eyes every morning. And he will play his best football of the season during the post season, no matter how long it lasts. The big key to this game is can Ray Rice and Willis McGahee combine to dominate time of possession and get the ball into the endzone without putting it on the ground too often. The smart money says yes.
Now, I for one would not be surprised if 'Hoodie' has kept something up his sleeve. We all know that no one leaks in New England, the Secret Service could take lessons on security from the Chowds. This may or may not be the case, but what if Fred Taylor has been MUCH healthier for WEEKS than the Pats have let on? Maybe Fragile Fred has just been staying healthy, comes out and puts up 200 yards and 3 Tds? If so, Hoodie's legend multiplies by 1,000 and the Patriots win. If not .......
Ravens 23 Patriots 21

Enjoy the games friends and fellow fans!!!

Posted on: December 25, 2009 10:00 am

Vick, SMU and Volleyball

Pondering the most recent items that I consider BIG DEALS .......

Michael Vick wins 'courage' award? I started shaking my head before I read ANY of the info on this one. From what I understand, Vick has not even been a good clubhouse guy, and beside the game against Atlanta, he hasn't played all that great. I could go on about how 'real courage' is taking care of your ailing 87-year old mother fulltime while dealing with the recent news that one of your children has MS, like my friend Karen. But really, how many NFL players deal with something like that? Realistically, Donovan McNabb is a much more deserving recipient, coming back over and over from injury and then dealing with his coach sending in some dummy on half the third-down plays to run 'The Wildcat'.

SMU: From childhood through my mid-twenties I was definitely such a Penn State 'HOMER' that I did not root for any other college teams (except USC, loved that big white horse). As a 45-year old adult, I am so blessed to be able to remember some of the great college players and great moments that I have witnessed. Johnny Rodgers of Nebraska and Greg Pruitt of Oklahoma making such moves that everyone else seemed to be playing in mud, Joe Montana leading Notre Dame to a come from behind victory in The Cotton Bowl, Flutie's Hail-Mary pass Vs Miami and Dan Marino carving up defenses for Pitt just to name a very few. One of the best memories was watching SMU's Pony Express of Craig James and Eric Dickerson run all over the place. Soon thereafter, SMU suffered the NCAA's first 'Death Penalty'. That being said, it was heartening to see what SMU did to Nevada in The Hawai'i Bowl, completing a sporting resurrection. Congrats to June Jones and all SMU fans! If Jones sticks around, the Mustang program should keep improving. I was a little busy preparing for Christmas morning during the telecast, but I did at one point hear the announcers say something about the good recruiting class that would be arriving before next season. Continued good luck to SMU and their fans!

Did anyone not affiliated (or a fan of) Penn State or Texas witness the Women's NCAA Volleyball championship match? I have to admit that I am not a frequent spectator of volleyball, except for my daughters' games, but I do watch the Lady Lions when they go far in the tournament, which has been quite frequently these past years. I watched the last two years as they dismantled the opposition in what looked like romps, and then again in the semis this year. However, this year's championship tilt was a match for the ages. Texas jumped out to a 2-0 set lead behind the awesome play of Destinee Hooker. This girl came from everywhere and was dominating the match. Penn State was definitely off their game, but dug down deep behind superstar Megan Hodge who, despite playing one of her worst matches in this, her last game as a collegiate , reached a level of leadership that few of her age could define, let alone demonstrate. Fellow Senior, Alisha Glass, came up with some nice play and Freshman , Darcy Dorton, stepped up big as the Penn State ladies made a historic comeback to secure their third straight National Championship and keep their streak of 102 straight victories intact. WAY TO GO GIRLS!!!! You've made us so proud!

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com