Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Carmelo Anthony is finally a New York Knick. Finally is an understatement, as Carmelo's "Will he, Won't he?" routine hijacked the New York Sports Talk Radio stations and stole every headline of every paper. For the last two weeks it was non-stop prediction and speculation about all things Carmelo. It is a great move for the Knicks, giving them a top-10 player along with a veteran point guard whose contract is set to expire right around the time that Chris Paul and Deron Williams become free agents. The Knicks did have to give up some nice pieces, but they kept their best young piece, rookie Landry Fields, and also got an underrated player in Corey Brewer from the Timberwolves. They are immediately a better team, and more importantly, a hot spot for basketball again. As a New Yorker, and a person actively hoping that the Miami Heat meet fiery endings to each season they employ one LeBron James, I love this move. I did not love, however, the horrible case of hypocrisy the Carmelo coverage illicited.

ESPN did cover the Carmelo coverage, to be sure. They did their due dilligence, leading off SportsCenter with Carmelo updates and had their different basketball minions (also known as analysts) makes some points, but there was a more apparent movement on ESPN and the other main sports networks the last couple of weeks. There was a movement to call the whole thing a headache and Carmelo a drama queen who couldn't make up his mind. Various ESPN personalities claimed that this was dragging and taking way too long and, of course, "can Carmelo make up his mind!!!" I heard this a lot. On ESPN. On SI.com. On WFAN Radio. This made me think: Where was all this concern and drama over the length of the situation when LeBron James was doing the exact same thing for basically a year from the beginning of the 2009-2010 season until his decision.

ESPN had a two hour SportsCenter for the sole purpose of previewing LeBron's Decision which was being broadcasted on ESPN, which was followed by a one hour SportsCenter reacting to the decision. ESPN spent most of the two-hour SportsCenter following the Cavaliers being eliminated by the Celtics talking about LeBron, a man who choked away another top-seed, and his future and not the Celtics and the brilliance of a team that would die for each other. ESPN spent approximately 20,000 hours covering LeBron and his decision, and not only never criticized the ridiculous amount of time spent covering one man's decision, they agreed to have a one hour special to announce news that could have been done in ten seconds. Really, ESPN? Spending two weeks talking five minutes per each SportsCenter about a top-10 player and a possible midseason Mega-Trade is nauseating and too-much, but spending the good parts of May, June and July, and ten hours on the decision day was fine (let alone the whole LeBron thing wreaking of unethical journalism)?

Then there's also the criticism of Carmelo. LeBron was criticized roundly and suffered a major image injury after the self-aggrandizing decision, but until it happened everyone was fine with him hijacking the NBA offseason. It was only until we saw the bastardized hour long special that everyone agreed that the whole thing was a dick move. In Carmelo's case, it looked like many media people thought it was a dick move before he made any decision. The whole time media personalities were begging Carmelo to finish it, to make a decision, for the Nuggets to hurry up the process, for Mikhail Prokhorov to stop trying to force the Knicks into giving up more (a genius move, by the way). Everyone showed impatience when Carmelo was privately going over his options. He didn't hijack the league. His team still did pretty well. However, when it was LeBron, he was basically given carte blanche by everyone until it was over, until we realized what a douche he had been.

Of course, LeBron is the star. LeBron is the icon of the NBA along with Kobe and Melo is in that next tier with Duncan, Durant, Griffin, Nash and others. That said, he's worthy of taking his time to make his decision about where to play. He's worth giving up five minutes per SportsCenter. No one was worth what LeBron did, except for LeBron (in the eyes of LeBron.... and ESPN). I have rarely seen a more obvious example of big-star bias at work and it really shows that unless you are willing to be a lap-dog for the media and self-promote yourself to no end (you know, like creating a twitter moniker called "KingJames") you aren't worth the media's time.

I hope Carmelo wins a ton in New York, and not only because it might be really fun to go to a Knicks game again. I hope Deron Williams or Chirs Paul joins up in two years and they form a more well-suited Big-3 than the one in Miami. That said, Carmelo's decision leads more credence to the theory that the NBA will be hijacked by Super Teams in the near future.

At the current rate, by 2014, the NBA will pretty much have five big teams in the biggest markets, and 25 shit ones. After seeing Wade, Bosh and LeBron pull off what they did the Super Team is really becoming a reality, especially after in Carmelo Anthony's wedding, Chris Paul said in his speech that him, Melo and Stoudamire would be playing together within three years. We are two-thirds of the way there. Top players are basically telling the league that they will only go to big markets, and it will become more relevant when Deron Williams leaves sleepy Utah and Chris Paul leaves New Orleans and Kevin Durant eventually leaves Oklahoma City, and Dwight Howard leaves Orlando for LA. The NBA will become an uncompetitive joke, even to a bigger extent than MLB, because there are no real undervalued skills like there are in baseball and individual players have a bigger impact in basketball. Free Agents just will not go to Utah, or Portland, or Sacramento. And drafted stars on these teams will leave at first sight of "freedom" for their quiet, little town. In the new collective bargaining agreement, the NBA and NBA Players Union better come to some sort of way of solving this issue, some way to keep players on their team, to not turn the NBA into the English Premier League. That said, let's hope that this super team keeps it up.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Love Springs Eternal

The picture was a cover of a Sports Illustrated issue in 2003. Tom Verducci wrote an article about the joys and beauties of Spring Training, one that was a lot better than the sap I am about to write down. Be warned, this might be my most overly-dramatic writing yet.

I can't dump them. I should. They aren't any good, they aren't talented. They have an owner that, albeit being a nice guy, has a "Good Ol' Boys Club" streak to him and has turned the franchise into a mess. They have few known players, and are roundly predicted to finish 5th in the NL Central, and considering Pittsburgh is basically a Triple-A team, that is basically a last place finish. Yet, I just can't dump them. The Astros mean too much to me, and that thought was banged home to me yesterday.

Valentine's day was interesting this year. No, it had nothing to do with any personal valentine I may or may not have, but more to do with its idyllic placement with a parallel event in the sports calendar. February 14th was the day that Pitchers & Catchers started reporting to their teams in baseball. My Astros reported to Kissammee, Florida, as did many other teams to their respective locations, and the long, arduous process known as the baseball season has started again. For the Astros, this is a time of great unease, with the owner putting the team up for sale, them cleaning house of big contracts, and having their two iconic players from the 2000s lacing it up for other NL teams. It is the best time to cut bait, to leave the Astros as my team, to go and look for another baseball partner, as I thought I might do last year when the news of Roy Oswalt's impending trade came about, but I just can't do it. Spring Training has taught me many things, but the most important is that Love is really eternal, in baseball, and hopefully in my life in the future.

It all starts over in Spring. Everything seems possible in my relationship with the Astros. The new beginning completely erases all the flaws that I know are there. I know the Astros can't hit worth a damn, and aren't great at fielding, and have little immediate help coming from the farm. I know all of this, but I don't know is if any of it is true. What if they suddenly can hit? What if they suddenly can field? What if Bill Hall and Clint Barmes can actually play relatively well? What if some unknown draft pick turns into the next Roy Oswalt (who was a 19th round pick in baseball's draft)? That is the beauty of baseball, the beauty of Spring Training; the "What If?" factor. What if this is the year that my team turns the corner and does what the Giants did last year, or the Tigers did in 2006? Just like the flowers, my team is about the be in bloom, and it may just be more beautiful than ever.

Like in quite a few marraiges (especially the ones to a sports team), they have a lot of time to disappoint me, to upset me and torment me. Hell, they can drive me crazy, but there was a reason I loved them in the first place, and that was what I relearn every spring. After the football season ends, the sports world turns quiet. Combine this with the darkness and cold of winter, and there really is nothing much to look forward to for those brief days after Super Bowl Sunday for a sports fan. However, that's when those four words enter into the minds of a baseball fan, the words that make one love their team all over again, and prepare themselves for the road ahead, no matter if it is filled with nights of anger and loathing, or nights of joy and laughter. "Pitchers and Catchers report," has a special place in the minds of a baseball fan, because it is the signal to start dreaming again, to start loving the team again, to start looking forward to the sun, the blue sky and the sounds of baseball in summer. It starts in Spring, when the four words come to mind.

The Houston Astros will be my team forever, and this Spring made me know it. I never thought I would be excited for Spring Training, excited to hear about how none of the Astros youngsters can hit, field or throw, and how this team is a lock to lose 90 games. Yet I was, and I am. I am as excited as I have been every year. I needed the break that the offseason gave me, but I am ready to commit myself to this team again, for another 8 months, for another 162 regular season games, another twenty or so Spring Training games and, God willing, some postseason games.

A sports fan is usually in a depressed state (about his teams, mind you, not in life in general - just wanted to point out that discrepancy, just in case anyone was worried that my overall emotional state was in despair and the 'Stros rescued me from a fiery end). More often than not, your team doesn't win, and if you get unlucky enough, your team might lose spectacularly, either in total embarrassment (like being a Pirates fan) or in some scarring way that leaves you in a shell (like the Colts with the exception of 2006). Few events have the power to lift a sports fan out of that depression that don't involve a playoff run or championship. For some it is the draft, which for NFL fans is almost like their Spring Training, where the opportunities seem endless. For me, it is Spring Training. It allows me to quickly get over football, which is usually hard given the ridiculous nature in which the Colts have in recent playoff years, and switch my attention to something that truly needs it: the Astros. Baseball teams need attention, they need time. 162 games is a lot to ask for, and you need to be willing to be there for them all (not exactly watch them all, but still take them all in) to be a true fan. It is a daunting task, but one that seems easy when the Pitchers & Catchers report, when a baseball fans' love springs eternal.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Pack'n It In

Well, after going 8-3 picking playoff games last year, I went 1-2 in my abbreviated playoff picks. That said, that was an interesting Super Bowl. I'll get out my rambling thoughts on Super Bowl XLV.

- How else would I start? Congratulations to the Green Bay Packers, Aaron Rodgers, Ted Thompson, Mike McCarthy, and the rest of the crew there. They were the better team on Sunday. They overcome some huge injuries, battled through three straight road games, and closed out one of the most resilient teams in the NFL to win it all. The Patriots in 2001 beat a Rams team looking to cement itself as a dynasty, and then they went on to be a dynasty themselves. You never know, history could be repeating itself.

- That said, most likely, history will not repeat itself. Today started the yearly round of "Team (insert Super Bowl Champion Here) is poised to dominate the league for years to come." I've heard it every year. It is never that easy. The Saints were poised to do it coming into this year, but weird things happen. You need luck to win the Super Bowl these days, and luck doesn't come around that often. Want proof? The Super Bowl Champion has not won a playoff game the following year since the 2004 New England Patriots, who won their Wild Card game in 2005. Want further proof? Other than the Patriots, the streak goes back to the 2000 Ravens, who won their Wild Card game. Other than the 2003-2004 Pats, the last team to make the conference title game the next year was the 1997-1998 Broncos. Repeating is damn hard.

- Same for Aaron Rodgers. Everyone wants to crown him the "Best QB in the world." However, let's backtrack 12 months, when Drew Brees finished a Super Bowl run where he didn't throw an interception over three games. Everyone then crowned him the best QB in the NFL. He then proceeded to throw 22 interceptions the next year, and although his team went 11-5, wasn't exactly "best QB in the NFL" material. That title is fleeting. There is always the flavor of the week. Aaron Rodgers should savor this moment, because however great he might be, and however young and talented the Packers might be, nothing is guaranteed. If you told Dan Marino after his one Super Bowl appearance in 1984 or Brett Favre after winning the Super Bowl with a loaded Packers team in 1996 that you would never win a ring (or in Marino's case, get to the Super Bowl) again, they would have laughed at you.

- It gets annoying when people bring up the drops killing Aaron Rodgers night. The only bad drop was James Jones' in what could have been a touchdown. Of course, if the DB used proper technique and batted the ball down instead of trying to make a play and get a pick, it is an easy incompletion. Also, its James Jones, who drops the ball as much as Big Ben drops trou. The others weren't as bad. Nelson followed up his bad drop with a 30-yard gain the next play, and his "drop" on the first drive was a really tough catch. Rodgers played about as well as his stats show, which is a great performance. But let's not act like this was Joe Montana going 22-28 for 5 tds against the league's best scoring defense in Super Bowl XXIV.

- I still stand by my pick. I think if the teams play 10 times, the Steelers win 6. Despite losing the turnover battle 3-0, and despite missing a field goal, the Steelers still had a drive to win the game. The Packers, like they have so many times this season, didn't really put a team away. The Packers did nothing in the 3rd quarter for the second straight game, and if Rashard Mendenhall doesn't fumble that ball (or if Johnson doesn't stand there like a statue instead of realizing the ball was fumbled), I think the Steelers score a TD there, and since Rodgers was 2 for his last 9 up to that point in the 2nd half, I'm not sure the Packers could have come back.

- One last Packers' slight. This talk of "Oh, they were so resilient, with all those players on IR!" is so grating. Other than Ryan Grant and Jermichael Finley, can anyone name the other players on IR? Were there any other starters? One was Nick Barnett, but how about the guy who Charlie Peprah replaced? Anyone know him? This wasn't analogous to the Colts situation. The Colts lost talented, important starters. If the Colts lost their version of Nick Barnett and Atari Bigby (know where he plays? He's one of those IR guys), they would not have gone anywhere near 10-6.

- Also, in no way was Super Bowl XLV a great game. It was a good game, and compared to the junk that happened on Super Sunday in the 80's, it was a major step up. It would have been great but that last drive for the Steelers fizzled out about instantly, making the ending anti-climactic. The game overall was quite sloppy. The Packers were dropping passes, then they couldn't block for Rodgers. The Steelers committed turnovers, then missed a field goal so badly I thought they had signed Vanderjagt. I've watched every Super Bowl multiple times from Super Bowl XXXIV to now (except for Super Bowl XXXV - Ravens vs Giants). I remember every detail from a lot of those games. I doubt I will remember much about this game five years from now. The game was like Super Bowl XXXIX, where despite it being a 3 point game, and the Eagles having the ball with a minute to go down a field goal, it wasn't all that good of a game.

- The Halftime show was a joke. First of all, Slash should never have agreed to appear on stage with the Black Eyed Peas. Then, it gets annoying when instead of singing four songs completely, they do a medley of 10 songs. The Who did the same thing last year, and it ruined it. Also, what happened to having fans on the field for the halftime show. They used to do this each year I can remember, but instead they just had lit up performers who basically added nothing to the show. I please hope this shows that going with a current act is not at all better than going with a bunch of 50-60 year olds from the past.

- With that in mind, I really hope for Super Bowl XLVI, they go with Van Halen. They're recording a new CD right now (the first with Roth since 1984), and are supposedly going on tour at some point this year. Not sure they would agree to it, but similar acts have done halftime. If they can't get them, or don't want them, I would also recommend Aerosmith (although it's been done already), the Eagles (at least one group of Eagles should get to the Super Bowl), or if they want to go modern, Rihanna.

- There was nothing more annoying that media members (specifically Peter King) complaining about the weather in Dallas. Peter King even complained that the city didn't buy enough snowplows. Does Peter King realize that this was the biggest snowstorm in about 20 years? That the normal temperature in February is far warmer, or that in a city with a crippled education, they might have better things to spend money on than snow-plows for a snowstorm that happens once every two decades. Honestly, the media members are getting an all-expense paid trip to Dallas to do work; work that includes hob-knobbing with radio stations, players and attending the Super Bowl. Millions of Americans would volunteer to do that "work", so stop complaining that the temperature wasn't 72, and you had to drive in, you know, 6 inches of snow.

- The seating mess was ridiculous. That Jerry Jones was setting up seating that apparently had its stability questioned months ago, and the NFL okayed it was crazy. Does Jerry Jones really care that much about setting an attendance record. I would never bring the Super Bowl back to Dallas just to shove it in Jerry Jones' self-aggrandizing face. Honeslty, Indianapolis will probably put on a good time, but people will complain about how small and un-Dallasy it is, but I guarantee that at least all the people who bought tickets will be able to attend.

Overall, it was not the most fun of NFL seasons for me. The Raiders going 8-8 was fun, but I'll dwell on their missed opportunities that could've had them make the playoffs. However, other than that, it was a disaster. The Colts were ravaged with injuries at a rate I have never seen before. The Patriots flew to a 14-2 record (although their loss to the Jets gave me a great moment). In the end, a team I don't particularly care for won the Super Bowl, but such is life. After a near perfect 2009 season for me (God, how I still am scarred by Super Bowl XLIV and what could have been), it all evened out. I just hope 2011 will be a little bit better. The odds are against it, since the Colts are trying to do something that no other team has ever done: play the Super Bowl in its home stadium. However, no team had won twelve or more games seven straight years either (or 6 years, or 5, or 4). The Colts proved that possible.

On the baseball.....

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Super Bowl XLV Pick

Super Bowl XLV

Green Bay Packers (-2.5) vs Pittsburgh Steelers

Not going to spend much time here. I'm a fan of defensive football (despite me liking the Colts), and teh Steelers are the best defense in the NFL. They have the best rush defense by far. They ahve the best pass rush in the NFL. They have a hall of famer at safety, and a corner playing hot (Ike Taylor). The Packers also had a great defense, but they played a much softer schedule. That said, forget the matchups. The Super Bowl is often about emotion. The Colts matched up really well with the Saints last year. Look how that turned out. No, the Super Bowl is about will.

The Packers are getting much love. Despite being a 6th seed in the weaker conference and barely holding off a 3rd string QB in the NFC Championship Game, they come in as favorites in the Super Bowl. The Steelers have an experienced team who's nucleus won the Super Bowl just two years ago. They have a quarterback who is 10-2 in the playoffs. They have the league's best defense and beat a better team more convincingly in the Championship Game than Green Bay did. So why exactly are the Packers favored? This isn't like 2005, when the 6th seeded Steelers were favorites against the Seahawks. No, the Steelers were in the far tougher conference and dominated a 14-3 Broncos team in Denver. This is different. This makes no sense.

Much of it is probably due to the Aaron Rodgers hype (again, despite a mediocre if not bad performance in the title game). People say "Rodgers in a dome.... this is perfect." And this idea is mainly built off their 48-21 beatdown of top-seeded Atlanta in the divisional round. However, and this is key, the Falcons defense, in the words of Bart Scott, "cannot stop a nosebleed." The Steelers are the toughest test the Packers will face on defense in the entire playoffs, more so than the Bears (and scoring 14 points, and none on offense in the second half, isn't exactly passing the test). Aaron Rodgers started 10 games this season, including the playoffs, against defenses in the top-half of the league. Here are his numbers.

Wk 1 @ PHI (W: 27-20) 19-31 181 yds 2 tds 2 ints
Wk 3 @ CHI (L: 17-20) 34-45 316 yds 1 td 1 int
Wk 5 @ WAS (L: 13-16) 27-46 292 yds 1 td 1 int
Wk 6 vs MIA (L: 20-23) 18-33 313 yds 1 td 1 int
Wk 8 @ NYJ (W: 9-0) 15-34 170 yds 0 tds 0 ints
Wk 16 vs NYG (W: 45-17) 25-37 404 yds 4 tds 0 ints
Wk 17 vs CHI (W: 10-3) 19-28 227 yds 1 td 1 int
WC @ PHI (W: 21-16) 18-27 180 yds 3 tds 0 ints
CON @ CHI (W: 21-14) 17-30 244 yds 0 tds 2 ints

His total stat line: 192-311 for 2329 yds and 13 tds and 8 ints for a passer rating of 89.4, which compared to his season one of 101.4 is not great. If you take out that win over the Giants, who showed no interest on offense or defense in playing that game, it becomes 167-274 for 1925 yds with 9 tds and 9 ints for a passer rating of 80.9. That won't cut it, especially since Pittsburgh's defense is better than all of those.

Another line I hear a lot is "the Packers can spread out the Steelers like the Patriots did." Wrong. What the Patriots did that day was special. Brady was on fire, and more importantly, the Pats were able to run the ball. You have to be able to spread the Steelers out and still run on them to make that work, and the Packers with their flaccid running game coupled with the Steelers great rush defense that is on a roll right now makes that a hard proposition. I don't see the Packers having nearly the same amount of success that the Patriots did back in Week 10.

On the other side of the ball, the Steelers can run on the Packers. Most teams can. Michael Turner didn't but the Eagles did and the Bears did. Also, when these two teams met last year, Roethlisberger shredded them. Of course, Rodgers shredded the Steelers as well, but that game was played without Troy Polamalu and Bryant McFadden (with Ryan Mundy and some random corner instead), while the Packers defense is largely the same. I like the Steelers on that side of the ball to have some success, or more properly, enough success.

I don't want to see Roethlisberger get hailed as a "winner" or whatever when he wins his third Super Bowl. In fact, if he does win that third, it can go in two ways. Either the media analysts will feel skeptical to put him on the same level as Manning (rightfully so) and devalue the rings argument in judging QBs, or they will go the opposite way and shove a guy who was up for debate as the greatest ever before Super Bowl XLIV into 3rd position. Either way, I would still rather see the Steelers win. They have the right mix of force, swagger and balls. They are the team that I wish I could root for (too late to start). They have the defense, the tough QB, and they are a bit undervalued.

The Pick............................................

Steelers 27 Packers 20 (PIT)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Top 10 "Not In Our House" Playoff Games of the 2000s

These are the games that were close heading into the game. These were toss-up, or close to toss-up games heading in. The road teams were getting some buzz, getting some love. However, when the game was done, the game gave you the feeling of "There was no way they were losing at home today." These are the games that make you slap yourself for thinking the road team could win. These aren't just blowouts, games like the Raiders 27-0 win over Miami in 2000 or the Bucs 31-6 win over the 49ers in 2002. No, those games were obvious heading in. These were not, but after the performances of the home team, they should have been. Here are the Top-10 "Not In Our House" Playoff Performances of the 2000s.

10.) Steelers 35 Chargers 24, 2008 AFC Divisional

This was both a game that was not as close as the score indicated (it was 28-10 midway through the 4th quarter), and was in the balance at the two minute warning in the first half (10-7 Chargers lead). However, what took place in between those two events, where the Steelers outscored the Chargers 21-0 and ended any hope of the Chargers miracle run from 4-8 to the Divisional Playoffs continuing, was pure awesome football. The Chargers held the ball for exactly one play in the 4th quarter. The Steelers took the opening kick of the second half and drove for a touchdown (to make it 21-10). Then, after a long Darren Sproles kick return, the Steelers intercepted Philip Rivers on his next pass. They then were forced to punt, and the punt hit Eric Weddle in the helmet, which the Steelers then recovered, and ran out the clock in the quarter all the way to the one yard line. After a nice goal line stand by the Chargers, Rivers was sacked and the Chargers had top punt back. The Steelers this time put the game away. In the part in between, the Steelers ran 39 plays to the Chargers 4. Gained 177 yards to the Chargers -2. It was domination, and allowed the Steelers to go from playing a close game against a hot team late in the first half to easing through part one of their road to the title in 2008. Ben Roethlisberger showed why he was up to that point, the king of the 2004 QB Draft Class.

9.) Falcons 47 Rams 17, 2004 NFC Divisional

Despite being a #2 seed, there was reason to be skeptical of the Falcons. They had only outscored their opponents by 3 points through the season (mainly due to two losses - 56-10 to the Chiefs and 27-0 to the Buccaneers), and had been outgained. Nevermind the fact that the Rams were worse in all those numbers, the Rams in a dome was still a scary proposition. After trading TDs on the teams opening drives, everyone thought they were in for a shootout. They were, but one team did all the shooting. The Falcons ran for 327 yards, which is by far the most by any team in the 2000s. It was all three members of their DVD running attack (Dunn, Vick and Duckett). Dunn ran for 162 and 2 tds. Vick (who was a steady 12-16 for 82 yards and 2 tds passing) ran 8 times for 119 more yards. TJ Duckett put up 66 yards of his own. The Falcons, though, didn't stop by just throwing and running for scores. Allen Rossum returned a punt for a TD, and the Falcons, who lead the NFL in sacks in 2004, sacked Bulger four times including once for a safety. When it was all said and done, the Falcons had scored the last 26 points in the game, and had delivered the final KO to the Rams "Greatest Show on Turf" era (they haven't been back to the playoffs since). It was Michael Vick's best day in a Falcons' uniform, and for one day, the Georgia Dome was the hottest place in the NFL.

8.) Steelers 27 Ravens 10, 2001 AFC Divisional

2001 was the forgotten year in the Steelers-Ravens rivalry. The Ravens were the defending champs, and the Steelers had missed the playoffs three straight years. Those things were not going to continue. After going 13-3, the Steelers had to face their rival for the third time. The Steelers had lost to the Ravens in Heinz Field earlier that year, but this was no repeat. In Heinz Field's first playoff game, the terrible towels waved like they had never waved before. The Steel Curtain would have been envious of the defensive stats the Steelers put up. They limited the Ravens to 150 yards and just 7 first downs. They sacked QB Elvis Grbac 4 times, picked him off 3 more times, and held the Ravens to 22 yards rushing. The Steelers moved the ball with ease against the Ravens defense, and controlled the game from start to finish. There was no doubt who the best defensive team in the AFC was in 2001. This would be the start of a decade-long rivalry, and although there were two more memorable meetings in the playoffs later in the decade, neither could match the pure intensity and domination of this one. The Steelers laid the hammer down with a ferociousness that would make Jack Lambert wet, and that is a hard thing to do.

7.) Broncos 27 Patriots 13, 2005 AFC Divisional

The Patriots entered the game a tidy 10-0 in the playoffs under Belichick and Brady. The Broncos entered the game having not won in the playoffs since John Elway capped off his career in Super Bowl XXXIII. However, these were the new Broncos. With the league's third ranked defense and seventh ranked offense (and second best rushing attack) the Broncos were balanced. More importantly, the Broncos matched up beautifully against the Patriots, having beaten them soundly earlier in the year. The game did not start out too well for the Broncos, as they were being outplayed through most of the first half, and were lucky to be down just 3-0. However, they forced back-to-back fumbles, turned them into 10 points, and went into halftime up 10-3. In the second half, the Broncos set the new Mile High on fire. In what was easily the loudest, most energized game in Invesco Field history, they Broncos battered Brady repeatedly in the second half, and the hits, while not turning into any sacks, made their mark. Brady, to avoid being hit, lofted a pass into the end zone on 3rd and goal (with the Broncos up just 10-6). Champ Bailey picked it off, raced 99 yards, and one play later, it was 17-6, and the invincibility of the Patriots was over. The Broncos finished if off by going up 24-6, and the Patriots continued to make every mistake possible in the raucous stadium. Adam Vinatieri missed a field goal. Troy Brown muffed a punt. Tom Brady looked confused and looked absolutely Favrian, flinging the ball around. John Lynch capped the win with a juggling interception of Brady. It was the perfect way to end the Patriots reign.

6.) Colts 20 Ravens 3, 2009 AFC Divisional

The Colts record after resting their starters before a bye was not good (they had won games previously after just resting starters without the bye). In 2005 and 2007, the Colts lost their divisional round game at home, and the odd year curse would surely reappear against a Ravens team that throttled the Pats 33-14 in Foxboro, wouldn't it? After driving 62 yards on their first drive, and tying the game at 3, the Ravens looked ready to make it three straight home losses after byes, or at least make it interesting. However, that would be the last time the Ravens would even enter the red zone. Against a defense that made Tom Brady look like Jeff George the week before, Manning was great, hitting receivers in ungodly small windows time and time again. He engineered a perfect two minute drive to make it 17-3 right before half. It was pointless, since the Colts only needed 6. The Colts defense held the Ravens to 84 yards on their next 8 possessions. They turned the Ravens over 4 times in the game, held Ray Rice in check and were able to eliminate any possibility of the Ravens coming remotely close to beating them. In the first playoff game in Lucas Oil Stadium, the fans didn't know if the Colts from 2005 and 2007 would arrive. Luckily for them, the Colts who went 14-0 in the 14 games they tried in that year arrived, and the Colts dominated a team that had come in on a tremendous high.

5.) Bears 39 Saints 14, 2006 NFC Championship

The Saints were the sentimental favorite. Forget 2009, these were the miracle Saints. In the first year back in New Orleans, with a rookie coach and a QB who had a torn rotator cuff and labrum coming into the season, and a team that finished the 2005 season 3-13, the Saints were able to run out to a first round bye. The Bears did start the season 7-0, and led the NFC wire-to-wire (winning it by 3 games), but they had Rex Grossman at QB. It was Rex Grossman against Drew Brees. Luckily for Grossman, however, he had a defense and a running game on his side, as well as perfectly wintry Chicago conditions and a jacked up crowd in soldier field. When the Bears forced fumbles on back to back drives early, it was already a sign that there was no way the Bears were actually going to lose this game. The game was basically over when the Bears ran it 8 straight times with Thomas Jones, gained 66 yards and scored a TD to make the game 16-0. Drew Brees did throw for gobs of yards, and the Saints would make it interesting, but his safety resulting from an intentional grounding in the end zone would ice it. The Bears would pour on points as the snow intensified (along with the crowd). The Bears ended the game scoring 23 unanswered, running for 196 yards, sacking Drew Brees 3 times and forcing four turnovers against the league's top ranked offense. It was clinical efficiency by the NFC's best defense, and as they proved, best team.

4.) Colts 41 Broncos 10, 2003 AFC Wild Card

In Week 16, in a game that mattered, the Broncos went into Indianapolis and pummeled the Colts 31-17, outgaining them 465-183, rushing 54 times for 227 yards. It was pure domination. Couple that with the fact that Manning was 0-3 in the playoffs and the outcome of the Wild Card game seemed pretty obvious. It wasn't close at all. It was a blowout of epic porportions, but just the opposite way of the one-sided affair three weeks earlier. Peyton Manning got the playoff monkey off his back. The Colts didn't punt. The Colts didn't come close to punting. They racked up 479 yards. Peyton Manning didn't only win a playoff game, but tied an NFL record with four TD passes in the first half. The RCA Dome was basically a party zone for four quarters, with the Colts up 31-3 at halftime. Brandon Stokley caught 4 balls for 144 yards and 2 tds. Marvin added 7 catches for 133 yards and two more tds. Despite the Broncos actually running the ball pretty well, the Colts defense added to the fun, sacking Plummer twice, picking him off two more times and giving the ball back to the Colts offense that was about as perfect as any offense could be. In fact, as far as Manning was concerned, they were perfect, as Manning tossed up the second perfect passer rating in playoff history with a tidy line of 22-26 for 377 yards and 5 tds (more tds than incompletions). It might not have been Steve Young getting the monkey off his back with 6 tds in the Super Bowl, but Peyton Manning was on top of the world, and the RCA Dome was witnessing offense better than it had ever been played.

3.) Seahawks 34 Panthers 14, 2005 NFC Championship

The Seahawks were criminally underrated, despite outscoring their opponents 452-271 and having the NFL's best offense. The Panthers were a tad overrated after their 29-21 win in Chicago the week earlier and the sickening brilliance of Steve Smith. That said, there is no better explanation as to the domination of this game more than Steve Smith. Smith had 22 catches for 302 yards and 3 tds in his first two playoff games in 2005. In the Title Game, he had 5 catches for 33 yards (with just one coming in the first half). The Seahawks employed a weird moving zone to stop Steve Smith, and with him eliminated, the Panthers could do nothing. The Seahawks shut down the Panthers, giving up one punt return for a TD and a garbage time td (when the score was 34-7). In the process they picked off Delhomme three times and limited the Panthers to 36 yards rushing on 12 carries. On offense, they were just as amazing. Hasselbeck was brilliant, going 20-28 with two tds. Shaun Alexander, against the 4th ranked rush defense, put up 132 yards and two tds. However, three things defined the domination the Seahawks laid on everyone's favorite underdog team. First, was Seneca Wallace's amazing over the shoulder catch on the Seahawks first TD drive. Next was Walter Jones blocking Mike Rucker about driving him about 20 yards downfield. Finally, was the Qwest Field crowd. For three straight hours, the place was as loud as the boeing factory about 40 miles away. That was the loudest crowd I have ever heard in an NFL game, and it seemed to impact both teams. The Panthers seemed star-struck and overwhelmed. The Seahawks played with a never-ending passion and in the end were able to hoist the Halas trophy in front of the loudest 12th man ever.

2.) Patriots 20 Colts 3, 2004 AFC Divisional

This one hurt. This game happened before I knew that offenses, no matter how great, how explosive, were stoppable. The 2004 Colts were the best offense I had seen in my life. I hadn't been cognizant of the NFL enough from 1999-2001 to fully enjoy the Greatest Show on Turf, so the 2004 Colts were the team that opened my eyes to how great an offense can be. With their performance in this game, the 2004 Patriots opened my eyes to just how great a defense can be. This is the game that forever made me love defensive football. Losing in this game didn't hurt as a Colts fan. We were outclassed, outdone by a defense that wouldn't let their team lose (plus a running game that allowed the Pats to hold the ball for nearly 40 minutes). Manning played well, but his running game, run defense, and receivers let him down. Brady played well, but the true star was Corey Dillon. Brought to New England because he wanted a shot at even getting to the playoffs (something he never had done until then), Dillon ran for 144 yards and a game sealing TD. The game was actually close at halftime (6-3), and the turning point was when Tony Dungy punted on the Pats 49 on 4th and 1 on the Colts possession to start the second half. The Patriots went 87 yards for a TD (which took eight minutes off the clock), forced a quick punt, and then drove 94 yards for a TD (which took seven minutes), making the game 20-3. It was the most dominating 20 minute stretch in the Patriots dynasty, as they cooly finished off the team many predicted to upset the Patriots. The fans made the stadium into a winter wonderland, as for once, Gillette was rocking and ready to go. The stadium that is now notorious for it providing a lack of a home-field advantage was as loud as any. However, the most memorable image is Bill Belichick, right after the game ended, calmly dusting off his hands, telling evreryone "our work is done." There was no way the Colts were beating the Patriots that day.

1.) Vikings 34 Cowboys 3, 2009 NFC Divisional

The Cowboys were the hottest team in the NFL entering the divisional round of the playoffs. Sure, the Chargers had won eleven straight, but they rested their starters. The Cowboys had outscored their last three opponents 75-14. They had finally won a playoff game. They had the #2 offense in terms of yards. The Vikings were 12-4, and more importantly, were 8-0 in the Metrodome, but the team had to overcome the drama of a chilly relationship between Chilly and Favre at the end of the season, and a 3-3 finish. The game started with the Cowboys picking up yards, but in field goal range, Ray Edwards sacked Romo, who fumbled. The Vikings recovered. After trading punts, Brett Favre lofted a perfect pass to Sidney Rice, just past a Cowboys DB. The Vikings were up 7-0, and the game was already over. In one of the loudest stadiums, the Vikings faithful were louder than the Superdome crowd that would get all the love in the 2009 postseason. Tony Romo could do nothing against a pass rush that resembled the Giants in Super Bowl XLII. The main star was Ray Edwards, who sacked Romo three times, but Jared Allen chipped in with another, and the DTs shut down the Cowboys supposed three-headed monster and added a sack of their own. By the second half, the pressure from the d-line and the crowd had Romo ducking and flinching even before getting hit.

On the other side of the ball, the Vikings were on fire. Adrian Peterson was held in check. Sidney Rice, however, was not. The recipient of three touchdowns from Brett Favre, Sidney Rice ran through, over, around and past the Cowboys #2 ranked scoring defense. It was a sight to behold. Brett Favre added a 4th touchdown (a personal playoff record) late in the contest to make it 34-3, which was questioned as running it up the next day. It is the playoffs. There is no running it up there. The Vikings knew this and poured it on. In a game where despite having the superior record and being undefeated at home, the Vikings were only three point favorites and picked by many to lose (10 out of 12 ESPN experts picked the Vikings to go down), the Vikings were in complete control the whole time. Their defense kicked the crap out of the Cowboys in every way. The crowd was loving it, and so were the millions of Cowboys-Haters nationally. Just when people thought the Cowboys had changed, and that this year would be different, they were hammered in the most fun way possible. At least in 2010 they got creamed in the divisional round, and not Week 17 like the year earlier. It was Brett Favre's last amazing day, and boy was it amazing. With his performance, the crowd's noise, and the unrelenting pressure, there was no team in the NFL that could have gone into the Metrodome that day and hung close.

More Super Bowl stuff to come.

About Me

I am a man who will go by the moniker dmstorm22, or StormyD, but not really StormyD. I'll talk about sports, mainly football, sometimes TV, sometimes other random things, sometimes even bring out some lists (a lot, lot, lot of lists). Enjoy.