Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Kobe…The Passer?

How long will the passing last?

Things are just so crazy right now in my life that I barely have time for anything. I feel like I’m getting so busy that I need to have Siri remind me to eat at least once a day. Living in Los Angeles is so fast-paced but laid back at the same time. Weird I know, but trust me, if you lived here you'd get it. It’s really unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. 

Being an aspiring screenwriter means I’m always busy doing five things. 1) Writing a screenplay, 2) reading a screenplay, 3) making calls to sell a screenplay,  4) researching a screenplay or  5) talking to someone about a screenplay, theirs or mine. That’s pretty much become my life. I can’t remember the last time I watched SportsCenter or PTI or Around the Horn in the pass few weeks. I’ve been almost completely out of the sports loop, save for one thing. I’ve found a way to carve out time for my beloved Los Angeles Lakers. So I wanted to take a moment to give you a few of my thoughts on their “mini” resurgence.
Pau Gasol, The 20 Million Dollar 6-Man
Earl Clark is giving LA a spark.

Weeks back, I wrote a piece on them and gave my thoughts on their struggles at the time. It got REALLY REALLY bad between then and now but I held off on killing them, writing about them because the team was basically the walking wounded. A lot of what I wrote back in December is still true. Mike D’Antoni still isn’t the right fit at head coach. He keeps trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. His style of play will not work with this team but damn if he isn’t trying to force it to. That’s why one of the leagues best low-post players, Pau Gasol, is on the bench and the "Immortal" Earl Clark, is in the starting line up. Clark fits what D’Antoni wants to do, so he’d rather play him than find a way to play a guy that’s a better player with a much higher basketball IQ. Anyway back to other things that's wrong with them, Dwight Howard still doesn’t look healthy, (A HUGE FACTOR RIGHT NOW. The guy just doesn’t look right. He did return to playing earlier than he was suppose to and maybe that wasn’t the best move after all. That being said, I’d STILL take him over Andrew Bynum any day.) and their defense is “shaky” at best. With a record of 20-25, the Lakers still have a hole to climb out of just to make the playoffs, but they can finally see the light. 

Nash's MVP/All-Star days are long gone.
It’s not because of Steve Nash’s presence, (Wow, I’d really like to have Chris Paul over him right now. I’m sorry, but Nash is looking really old this season. Oh wait, maybe it's because he’s been in the league 17 years, he’s about to turn 39 in a week and he’s no longer in Phoenix with the NBA’s best medical staff. A place where I’m totally convinced they have a freaking witch doctor on staff. There’s no way a team like the Lakers shouldn't have a better medical staff than them. More money = better doctors. And he has TWO YEARS LEFT ON HIS CONTRACT. I NEED A DRINK!) or Earl Clark’s “meteoric” rise. (AGAIN, SOMEONE THAT SHOULDN'T BE GETTING MORE PLAYING TIME THAN PAU GASOL.) The Lakers recent and future success is all about Kobe Bean Bryant and him NOT scoring 30 plus points a game.

Looking back at the last nine games, the Lakers are only 5-4 but going inside the numbers you can see the effect that the change in Kobe’s playing style is having on the team. Kobe has become more of a presence on the defensive end of the court which has led to the team only allowing over 100 points twice in the last nine games. A big deal considering they’re allowing 101.1 ppg, good for 26th in the NBA. In the five games before these last nine, they allowed at least 103 points. And yes, they lost all five of those games, which was part of a six game losing streak. (And they ONLY allowed 99 in that sixth lost.)  If it weren't for a late surge by New Orleans last night, the Lakers would have held them under 100 points as well.

With Kobe using so much energy on the defensive end, it’s forced him to become a passer. Nash is still the best facilitator on the team but in the end, Kobe can do anything on the court he puts his mind to. Even pass. Kobe has only averaged over 6 assist in a game during a season once in his career and that was only because he DIDN'T WANT to average more. He’s a scorer and he’s done that better than almost anyone in the history of the game. But what Kobe is above all things even above being a scorer, and a winner, is he’s a HYPER COMPETITIVE PSYCHO and I say that with love and respect for him as a basketball fan and a Kobe fan. It took him a while to figure it out but even he realizes going all “Kobe” was going to fix this team’s problem. (Webster’s Defines going “Kobe” as  going into a state of mind in which you feel like your team/partner can’t possibly help you "win" anymore. You feel the need to do whatever JOINT activity you're participating in by yourself, in order to have team success. While going "Kobe", you perform at new personal heights of unseen selfishness for the greater good of your team. However, most times going “Kobe” leads to greater individual success than it does to overall team success. If you’re married, going all “Kobe” in the bedroom could get you divorced.)

Howard is all smiles as long as Kobe shares.
Defense is all about effort because playing defense isn’t fun and the effort given relates to the amount of “fun” you get to have, i.e. shooting the ball. It’s not fun playing basketball with someone who shoots thirty times a game. In fact, it sucks. When Kobe is hogging the ball and the shots, the other players feel left out and like they’re not involved in the game. And where's the first place it shows when a player doesn’t feel involved?  Their effort on the defensive end. When Kobe is looking to pass first, it makes his teammates more willing to go “balls to the wall” on the other end of the court because they know going back down the court they actually have a chance to score. Ron Artest Metta World Peace always plays great when Kobe shares the ball. Howard looks like he's having fun again and the team "vibe" is a million times better. Kobe’s always been a very gifted passer because he’s a very gifted basketball player. He' the hardest worker in the league while also being the league's smartest player. No way THAT guy, hardest working/smartest guy, couldn't pass the ball, and pass it beautifully and effectively no less, if he didn’t want to.

Kobe looks to do whatever it takes to push LA into the postseason.
 Earlier in the season, Kobe was too busy chasing points when he should’ve been chasing wins. I don’t know how many points Kareem scored and I don’t care. I do know how many rings Kareem has and how many rings Jordan has. Kobe knows that he can score a million points this season but if THIS team doesn't make the playoffs it's going to be a huge stain on his legacy. Too much talent for this team to flame out and the captain will ALWAYS, fairly or unfairly as it may be, get the blame. It’s all about winning and for the Lakers to win, Kobe has to keep doing what he’s doing. Keep passing the ball, keep making his teammates happy and keep playing killer defense. I still think the Lakers have more than a few problems, mainly a coaching one, but I always go back to this. There's too much top-end talent on this team for them to miss the playoffs. And if THIS team figures it out, no one wants to play them.

Thanks for reading and don't forget to subscribe and share the blog. Join in the discussion by leaving a comment below. Follow me on twitter @ParisLay. Until next time... Enjoy the View!

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Weekend That Was (Divisional Round Recap)

Baltimore Ravens 38 – Denver Broncos 35
Ray Lewis and the Ravens live to fight other day.

Let me start by saying this game was one of the greatest playoff games I’ve ever seen. Defensive TDs, special team TDs, big runs, big passes, ties, lead changes, defensive stances, overtime; I mean this game had it all. All but the outcome we all expected that is. Seems like every year, in this round, someone loses that “shouldn’t” lose and it happened to be the top-seeded Broncos in 2013. Now, I’m not the type that believes in God having anything to do with sports, as far as the outcome of games goes, but someone is answering Black Tebow’s Ray Lewis’ prayers. The Ravens defense played much better than they did last week. They forced one more turnover against Denver than they did against the Colts. Plus, Denver had two overtimes and still didn’t outgain the Colts’ effort last week. (419 yards of total offense vs. 398. Andrew Luck’s 288 yards were only two yards shy of Peyton Manning’s passing yard total. And both teams ran the same number of plays, 87.) The first INT you can live with. (Not really because it was a pick-six.) Tipped ball, I get it, it happens but the last one was nothing more than your classic “cold-weather-playoff -game Manning INT”. I’m starting to think there’s a reason why he's tied with Brett Farve for the most career playoff losses. It’s because he’s just not as good in the playoffs as he is in the regular season. (Now you want to know something really scary? Tim Tebow has a better winning percentage in playoff overtime games and a better win-lost record in Denver home playoff games than Peyton Manning. Ouch.)  Champ Bailey has clearly lost a step, or five, and doesn’t deserve to go to the Pro Bowl this year. He got burned over and over but the biggest story of this game is the clutch play of Joe Flacco. Can we all stop saying he sucks now? I’ve always liked him and I wasn’t as down on him as some people have been this year. (I'll admit it, I was down on the team as a whole.) He throws the best deep ball in the NFL. He’s won at least one playoff game every year of his career. He’s tied with Eli Manning with the most career road playoff wins. He always seems to play well when it really counts and he’s the only QB to make $100 million off of one throw. Great year for the Broncos but they were coached to lose this game every way possible in crutch time. I can get past them not passing on 3rd Down to stop the Ravens from getting the ball back. Even after the horrible coverage that allowed that $100 million completion, I was still thinking the Broncos would win, but not even “trying” at the end of regulation, with two timeouts and Peyton Manning, was all I needed to see to jump ship. No way you want to go into overtime when your defense has proven they can’t get a stop. Without Trindon Holliday making NFL playoff history by returning both a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns, this game isn’t even close. (Even more surprising when you learn that the Ravens have the best special teams unit in the NFL. So it was really a fluke that Denver even made it a game.)

San Francisco 49ers 45 – Green Bay 31

This kept happing a lot.
If you had told me Aaron Rodgers would play bad in this game I would’ve believed you. He was going against one of the two or three best defenses in the league so I guess it’s possible. (This is the team that passed on him for Alex Smith in the ’05 NFL Draft. The one team that he’s been dying to play in a do-or-die game, so you know the motivation for Rodgers should be at an all-time high.) But if you had told me Rodgers would get out played by a guy making his first career playoff start and 8th career start overall, I would have told you to get your head checked. I knew the Packers defense would give up points and yards but DAMN. 31 points use to be more than enough to beat the 49ers. With Kaepernick pulling the trigger that’s not the case anymore. I said it in my season review, the 49ers offense is so much scarier with Kaepernick under center and we saw why and in full-force this weekend. (The 49ers outscored everyone in the biggest scoring weekend in playoff history.) Michael Crabtree finally looks like the All-Pro receiver the 49ers thought they were getting when they drafted him. Crabtree’s emergence is a complete indictment of just how bad Alex Smith was at QB. With Smith as the QB, tight end Veron Davis was the 49ers’ number one passing option and the tight end is suppose to be a safety net, not a main threat. (Unless your last name is Gronkoski that is.) Good QBs pass the ball to their receivers. Something Smith didn’t do at all in the playoffs last year and don’t even get me started on how amazing Kaepernick looked running the read-option. The Packers didn’t know what to do or what was coming. Was it going to be a Kaepernick run, Gore hand off or a Kaepernick pass? I like Kaepernick in this system because he’s a much better runner than RG3. He’s not a better runner I should say, just a smarter one. Kaepernick doesn’t try to juke guys out or go head first at the defense like RG3 does. He takes what he can and gets down. I also loved the way he bounced back after that first drive pick six. It shows he’s not easily rattled and you can trust him to rebound after a big mistake. Kaepernick is totally making Jim Harbaugh look like a genius for dumping Smith. I still haven’t heard Smith’s thoughts on this whole thing but boy do I want to. (The irony of Alex Smith on the bench for that game is too much for me. The whole QB dynamic in that game in general was crazy. It’s like a guy (49ers) choosing a hot chick (Alex Smith) over an ugly duckling. (Aaron Rodgers) The ugly duckling then uses it as motivation and gets really hot. I’m talking hair coloring, working out, acne treatment, breast implants; the works. The guy (49ers) really knows he’s made a mistake and it’s made worst by the fact that the hot chick (Smith) starts getting fat. So the guy gets a new chick on the side. (Colin Kaepernick) The hot chick (Smith) notices this and starts making changes. She loses the extra weight, dresses better and all that jazz but the guy still dumps her for the new hot chick. So the once ugly duckling (Rodgers) goes to a huge party, where everyone knows she’s going to rub it in the guy’s face. She’s in a great dress and tries to make a grand entrance but falls on her face, while the new hot chick (Kaepernick) steps right over her with the guy (49ers) in tow, as the old hot chick (Smith) is forced to watch at home.)

Atlanta Falcons 30 – Seattle Seahawks 28

Matt Bryant kicks the Falcons one step close to the Super Bowl.
I really thought the Seahawks would win but I forgot won HUGE factor in the game. Seattle was being coached by Pete “I got fired from the NFL before for making these mistakes” Carroll. That being said, the Falcons really tried to be the “Falcons” in this one. They did everything they could to give this game away. Ryan throws the untimely INT, their defense starts choking, the offense starts stalling, Bryant misses the first field goal attempt, they mess up the kickoff, I mean the Falcons did everything but put a bow on this game for the Seahawks. But you know what they say, “a win is a win”. I’m sure Matt Ryan and the Falcons will definitely take it, but they shouldn’t sleep too well on it. (I’ll tell you why in the “Next Up” part of this post.) The one silver lining for Atlanta is the way Ryan played on their final drive. He had been pretty horrible up to that point in the second half and while I thought they had a chance because of their weapons, I didn’t think Ryan would capitalize. He went 2 for 2, kept his team calm and made the plays he had to make to win so there’s that. As for the Seahawks, what a fight in the end! Atlanta had ZERO pass rush and Russell Wilson had all day to throw the ball. He was single-handedly killing the Falcons and almost pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history. He threw for over 300 yards in the second half alone and clearly out played Ryan down the stretch. The Seahawks have their longterm answer at QB and their future looks really bright but Pete Carroll killed them. Two rules. One, in a playoff game, or any game for that matter, you always take the points. Especially if you’re team is putting up a goose egg so far. You just need to get on the board at that point. You never want to leave points on the field or time outs in your pocket. Two, NEVER EVER DO THE ICE THE KICKER RIGHT BEFORE THE BALL IS SNAPPED AGAIN! I don’t care what the numbers say, don’t do it! It’s a lose-lose. You're giving a guy the chance to practice something he shouldn’t be able to practice. Why do you think some Broncos fans are still mad about the Baltimore kicker going out on the field between the overtimes? If the kicker misses it, like Bryant did, you look silly and like you just cost your team a chance to win the game when you call that timeout. There’s no advantage to letting a guy get to do something twice that he should ONLY HAVE THE CHANCE TO DO ONCE! You also take a metric ton of the pressure off of him by letting him have the free kick. Pete Carroll I blame you for this!

New England Patriots 41 – Houston Texans 28

Tom Brady leads the Patriots to their
7th AFC title game under his watch.
I don’t always go 0-4 when I pick playoff games because if I come close, I always got the Patriots to cover my butt by beating a team in the divisional round. The Patriots offense has been damn near unstoppable at times this season. Tom Brady seems to have so many options it’s like he’s at a freaking buffet, (Four different receivers with five or more receptions.) but the main reason for the Patriots offensive success is they’re balance. They can actually run the ball now and that’s just an added weapon for Brady. The Patriots ran for 122 yards and two TDs on Sunday, which means they can control the clock and run play action. Their defense is still “hit or miss” but they’re much better than they were a season ago. When you’re defense is THAT bad you’re getting nowhere, even with a great QB. (Cut to Packers fans nodding.) The defense isn’t as good as it was when they were winning Super Bowls but it’s good enough to win again. (The loss of Gronk doesn't hurt them this season because they've already played a chunk of their season without him.) The Texans had no real shot and they’re forced to look in the mirror. They even seem to have that “it” about them. The Texans just seem like another “good” team and not a “championship” team. They really missed Brian Cushing and they need someone on the other side to free up J.J. Watt. Matt Schaub couldn't seem to drive the ball down the field at all and he’s honestly looked hurt for a few weeks now. Not sure where Houston go from here but they need to do something to take that next step.
Will the Harbaughs reunite in New Orleans?

Next Up: AFC Championship Preview: The Patriots should have been praying as hard as Ray Lewis for a Broncos victory because the Ravens aren’t scared of them at all. They won big in the playoffs in ’09. (First home playoff lost in Gillette by the way.) They’re a caught pass and made field goal from beating the Patriots in the AFC championship game a year ago. Plus, Baltimore beat New England already this season. Sometimes a team has your number and Baltimore at least seems to have what it takes to beat New England. They’re like the AFC version of the Giants. Flacco outplayed Brady last season and I think he does it again this year, but will it be enough this time. I don't know what it is but something special is happening with this Ravens’ team. Maybe it’s destiny, maybe it’s they’re time or maybe it’s just Black Tebow. I’ve learned my lesson. No more betting against the Ray Lewis’ retirement world tour. If he got away with murder, he can get away with stealing a Super Bowl on his way out. (IT’S A JOKE, IT’S A JOKE. I KID, I KID.)

Next Up: NFC Championship Preview: Remember when I said the Falcons shouldn’t sleep too well about their victory over Seattle? It’s because running/read option QB’s have killed them all season long. Cam Newton beat them once and it should have been twice. (No INTS, four TDs passing, 196 yards rushing and 2 rushing TDs in two games.) RG3 doesn’t get hurt and the Falcons lose that game. The Falcons don’t do the two things they need to do in order to stop Kaepernick. The Falcons don’t generate anything close to a decent pass rush and this last game against Seattle not withstanding they don’t stop the run. I still count that game as a lost because Seattle kicks one FG and they beat the Falcons. I still don’t trust them because they’re still the Falcons and they needed Pete Carroll to bail them out of what would have been the worst collapse in team postseason history. I'm going out on a limb and saying Jim Harbaugh doesn’t make those coaching mistakes. So in the end, the Harbaugh family is going to have a very confused/torn time this year as both Jim and John will lead their teams to the Super Bowl. And don't forget, we were a few plays from that happening last year. 

Thanks for reading and don't forget to subscribe and share the blog. Join in the discussion by leaving a comment below. Follow me on twitter @ParisLay. Until next time... Enjoy the View!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

All That Glitters...

Academy Awards - Oscars
       On Sunday, February 24, the Academy Awards will be handed out.

A long time ago I realized that predicting who’s going to get nominated for the Oscars is like trying to predict where that little disc in Plinko is going to fall. You can put that sucker in the middle, on the left or the right side and it’s still going to do whatever it wants. I stop trying to predict who’d get nominated years ago. Every year there’s someone/some film that should’ve been nominated that gets left out and someone/some film that shouldn’t win, but it does.

I'll prove it. Let’s play the “do you remember game” shall we. Do you remember Ed Wood? Do you remember Martin Landau in Ed Wood? Even better, do you even remember who the hell Martin Landau is? (“No” would be a totally reasonable answer to all three of those questions by the way.) Do you remember Pulp Fiction? How about Samuel L. Jackson’s role in Pulp Fiction? Not only can you probably name Jackson's character, you can probably give me more than a few lines of dialog from him in that movie. I tell you that to tell you he didn’t win the Oscar that year. Jackson lost best supporting actor to Martin Landau. Neither did Denzel Washington for Malcolm X, but don’t worry, I’ll give you another chance. Do you remember Saving Private Ryan? It’s only the greatest WWII movie ever made and it arguably has the greatest opening sequence in movie history. (When WWII vets of D-Day saw it, the opening beach assault that is, it was said that some started to cry and have flashbacks. Now that's movie making.) Well that movie didn’t win best picture. Neither did Citizen Kane. Too far back you say? Okay, lets do something more "recent". Do you remember The Iron Lady? How about The Help? Do you remember Viola Davis in The Help? Well, Davis lost best actress to Meryl Streep for her lead role in The Iron Lady. And that was just last year!  Needless to say, the Oscars get it wrong sometimes. Really, really wrong. I just find it easier to do the biggest snubs and the biggest surprises of the nominations and then do the same thing to the winners weeks later.

Biggest Snubs

Ben Affleck - Kathryn Bigelow - Argo - Zero Dark Thirty - Oscar Snub
Affleck and Bigelow won't be hearing their names called.
There were a few snubs in the best picture category but I can give the Academy a pass because 2012 was a strong year for films. They have ten slots for this very reason and they STILL only used nine. Skyfall, The Dark Knight Rises, Moonrise Kingdom, and The Master come to mind right off the top of my head as films that could have garnered that tenth slot but I can still give them a pass. It’s not including Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow in the best director block that got me. I get that Bigelow has won before and all that jazz, but you can’t tell me Affleck couldn’t beat out anyone not name Spielberg or Lee for a spot in the best director category this year.

Samuel L. Jackson and Leonardo DiCaprio getting left out of the best supporting actor category was a little shocking as well. Jackson I understand because he did so much "chest-beating" about how he was going to win, that I just knew he wasn’t even getting nominated. I guess DiCaprio’s turn as the sadistic slave owner Calvin Candie was a little too "raw" for the voters. Funny, because the Academy usually loves when a “good guy” plays the bad guy.

Biggest Surprise

Beast of the Southern Wild - film - Quvenzhané Wallis
Quvenzhané Wallis is cute but she shouldn't win an Oscar.
Beast of the Southern Wild getting nominated for anything, much less getting nominated for four out of the big five; best picture, best director, best screenplay and best actress. I saw this film and I got to say it because no one else will, it sucked. I watched it two times with the hope of liking it and still nothing. Sometimes, just because something is “weird” or “offbeat” or “hard to understand” doesn’t mean it’s good. Sometimes, it’s just “weird” “offbeat” and “hard to understand” because it sucks. Also, I thought the film being released so early in the year would hurt it because I didn’t think it had the staying power to remain fresh in the voters’ eyes. I was CLEARLY wrong on that one.

Lincoln-Daniel Day Lewis-film
Greatest "one man carry the team" job since
LeBron led Cleveland to the '07 Finals.
If you ask me, it’s setting up to be a very big year for Lincoln. It has the most nominations with eleven, critics love it and it’s done very well at the box office. (Those eleven nominations can’t hurt its chances of making even more money either.) However, the most nominations doesn’t always guarantee Oscar success. Even if that movie is directed by Steven Spielberg. (See 1986’s The Color Purple.) With Affleck and Bigelow missing, best director seems to be a lock for Spielberg and without Zero Dark Thirty and Argo getting the nod at director, it seems like the best picture award is Lincoln’s to lose as well. (Not always the case as both Lee and Spielberg have walked away with best director wins with their films still losing out on the big prize. Saving Private Ryan to Shakespeare in Love. Brokeback Mountain to Crash.) Best actor is just a “show trial" this year because we all know Day-Lewis is walking away with that one. It’s this year’s “mortal lock/willing to bet my life this guy/girl wins it” category. The toughest category to call is the best supporting actor. It’s going to be really tough to pin down because it’s the first time in any category, that I can remember anyway, anyone could walk away with it and I wouldn’t be upset at all. I have no clue who wins but they all honestly deserve it.

Personally, I would not have wanted to be a voter this year. With so many great films, great filmmakers and great performances in 2012, a lot of them were undoubtedly going to get left out. I’m not going to go line-by-line and award-by-award because it’s pointless. We really don’t have a clue what’s going to happen and years later, some of the winners are going to look "funny" and others down right wrong. You know kind of like that time when everyone thought those “finger mustaches” were all the rage. (Funny.) Or in the 80s when everyone thought doing cocaine was "cool". (Down right wrong.) I say why try to stop a car that has the key broken off in the ignition and no brakes when it’s heading for a cliff. Do what I do; get a stick and a bag of marshmallows, let it crash and burn. Then just sit back, relax, enjoy the flames and have a roasted marshmallow.

Thanks for reading and don't forget to subscribe and share the blog. Join in the discussion by leaving a comment below. Follow me on twitter @ParisLay. Until next time... Enjoy the View!

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Weekend That Was (Wildcard Weekend Recap)

Houston Texans 19 – Cincinnati Bengals 13

I picked Houston to win this game but I wasn’t totally confident in them because I didn’t trust Matt Schaub. But I didn’t trust Andy Dalton more. It was kind of like asking me to choose between a punch to the face or a kick to the “boys”. Either way, this is going to hurt and I’m not going to be happy with my decision. Schaub sucked but Dalton sucked that much more on Saturday. Nice season for Cincy but they just didn’t have what it takes to win a playoff game on the road, even if Gary Kubiak was coaching the opponent. Marvin Lewis had a great defensive gameplan to stop Schaub and Andre Johnson, but Arian Foster and his 32 carries and 140 yards killed the Bengals. Andy Dalton never looked comfortable and he played that way. He completed 14 of 30 passes and only averaged 4.2 yards per completion. You don’t need to do math to tell thats less than 50 percent right? The Bengals were 0 for 9 on 3rd downs and only mustarded up 198 yards of total offense. I knew they’d struggle to score and that’s why I didn’t pick them. All the Bengals had was AJ Green and he could only do so much.

Next Up: The Patriots smoked Houston at Foxborough, 42-14 (And it wasn’t even that close.) in week 14, in what Houston called, “the biggest game in franchise history”.  Well I’d surmise to say this game is a lot more important. If Marvin Lewis, a guy that's never won a playoff game as a head coach mind you, can out coach Kubiak what do you think Belichick does, having had two weeks to prepare for the Texans.

Green Bay Packers 24 – Minnesota Vikings 10

“Joe Webb is a real x-factor” words said BY NO ONE UNTIL SATURDAY NIGHT. If I didn’t have faith in a guy with “Christ” in his first name, why the hell would I have any in a guy that didn’t throw a single pass all year long? I couldn’t believe the way Criss Collinsworth was talking up Joe Webb in NBC’s pregame broadcast. C’mon son, like he really had a shot to win. That was the greatest sell job since Daniel Day-Lewis tricked people out of their land in There Will Be Blood. I’d officially like to nominate Collinsworth for this year’s Best Actor Academy Award. Backups are backups because they suck. All you need to know about Joe Webb is this; no matter how bad it got, (And it got REALLY, REALLY BAD AT TIMES) Joe Webb COULDN’T beat out Christian “If I were wearing a Jets #6 you’d think I was Mark Sanchez” Ponder. NOT EVEN FOR A GAME, A HALF, OR A SINGLE DRIVE did Joe Webb challenge Christian Ponder for his starting job. Not much to say about Green Bay other than they had seen enough of Adrian Peterson to figure out a way to finally stop him. (He only ran for 99 yards and his longest rush was for 18 yards.) Even with Ponder, Peterson needed to go “Super Saiyan” for the Vikings to have a chance. The Packers bottled him up all night and forced Joe Webb to beat them. The Packers look just like they did in 2010 when everyone got healthy at year’s end and they won it all. Rodgers picked the Vikings apart all night to the tune of passing to a record ten different receivers in a playoff game. Green Bay looks ready to go and they have the best QB left on the NFC side of the playoffs by miles.

Next Up: The 49ers beat the Packers in Week One but I gave that no thought when I was picking this game. If Russell Wilson and Tom Brady could find holes in that San Francisco defense, you got to think Rodgers would. I’m still not sure if I trust Colin Kaepernick here. The more I think about it, I don’t. In the end, when a game feels like a toss up to me, I go with the QB I trust more. (See Cincy vs. Houston.)

Baltimore Ravens 24 - Indianapolis Colts 9

Ray Lewis playing his last game at home > Playing on the road for your cancer survivor head coach. Last week when I wrote that the Ravens would lose in the first round, I didn’t have the knowledge of Ray Lewis retiring before I made that pick. I still gave the Colts the edge for a few reasons. The Ravens looked like crap down the stretch, Andrew Luck stopped throwing INTs and even though I knew the crowd would be jazzed in the first quarter after Lewis’ pregame antics, I thought Indy would settle in, but I didn’t know it was going to be like this. (Hell, I wanted to hit somebody on Indianapolis after I saw it.) The Colts moved the ball pretty well (419 Total Yards vs. the Ravens 441) but they just couldn’t cash in with TDs. The Ravens showed a real commitment to running the ball by rushing for 172 yards on 32 carries. Anquan Boldin played out of his mind grabbing 5 receptions for 145 yards and one TD. When it’s all said and done, Ray Lewis’ passion and energy infused a level of urgency in the Ravens that I hadn’t seen in them all year long. I’ll save my thoughts on Ray Lewis’ career and legacy after the season, when, or IF he retires. (He better freaking retire. You don’t get to play THAT card more than once.) Ray Lewis, winner, champion, leader…cancer survivor… murderer? (Relax it’s a joke, it’s a joke!)

Next Up: I really wanted to see Luck go up against Peyton Manning but Ray Lewis going to Denver isn’t a bad consolation prize. Their "battles" were always legendary and its only fitting Lewis has to go through Manning to keep himself out of early retirement. The Ravens got man handled by the Broncos 34 to 17 back in week 15, but that was without Lewis and without this newfound motivation they have now. It’s an added dimension I didn’t know I'd have to account for but they aren’t going to be in Baltimore, where they feed off the AFC’s best home crowd. (Like I said, the Colts racked up a lot of yards, moved the ball easily and were on the field for 37 minutes but just they kept scoring FGs. Going out on a limb and saying Manning turns those into TDs.) The Broncos and the old Colts QB will be ready to go and I think the whole Raven’s team retiring wouldn’t help them get a win in Denver.

Seattle Seahawks 24 – Washington Redskins 14

This game will always be a great “what if” to me. I picked the Seahawks to win even before I knew RG3 wasn’t 100%. The Seahawks are the NFL’s most balanced team and I thought they had the athletes to contain RG3. He clearly wasn’t himself and the Redskins didn’t have a shot if he wasn’t the dual threat we’ve seen all year long. He looked even worst than he did last week. It’s clear the Redskins “sold their souls” to win against the Cowboys in the season finale and RG3 didn’t have enough to get it done on Sunday. RG3 is a grown man and if he says he’s good to go then you give him a chance to play. I don’t think Shanahan made a mistake by sticking with him because Griffin III said it himself, even when you’re healthy you’re taking a risk playing football. RG3 went on to say, he was the best option at QB for the Redskins and he was right. (People seem to forget that backup rookie QB Kirk Cousins had that great comeback against a then choking Ravens team and he played his only full game against the Browns.) Russell Wilson gets mad props for staying grounded and leading the Seahawks’ comeback. (24 unanswered points, 340+ Yards of offense after the 1st quarter.) Even though RG3 was hurt, Seattle made the changes on defense to shut the Redskins out for the rest of the game and held them to 74 TOTAL YARDS after the 1st quarter. That’s championship level defense right there and Wilson’s got to have all the confidence in the world now. The Seahawks aren’t going to be an easy out for anyone.

Next Up: It looks like the stars are aligning and we’re headed for a Green Bay vs. Seattle rematch at Lambeau Field because I have ZERO faith in the Atlanta Falcons at home. There’s a reason Bill Simmons and Cousin Sal have been "foaming at the mouth" to bet against them in the playoffs. The Falcons just aren’t a proven playoff team and for someone with the nickname “Matty Ice”, Matt Ryan hasn’t played very “icy” in the playoffs. (0-3 with more INTs than TDs and he hasn’t passed for over 200 yards in any of those losses.) The Seahawks have won seven straight now and will go into Atlanta being the first top-tier defense the Falcons have faced since week two against the Broncos. I’ll start believing in Atlanta when they give me a reason to and as of yet, they haven’t.