NFL Playoffs Wild Card Games
wasnít going to make my predictions this year. The reason had nothing to
do with my ability to pick winners. It had to do with the truly awful
quality of todayís referees. There is no longer any way for a defensive
back to defend against the pass. The best football Iíve seen in the past
few years occurred when the replacement refs were on the job. They let
the players play. When the regular refs returned, the game deteriorated.
There are so many ridiculous pass interference calls that games become
meaningless. I saw a call a couple of weeks ago in which the defensive
back not only did not touch the receiver, he didnít come within two feet
of him. But a flag flew.
not just pass interference calls, though. The bad officiating permeates
every call of every game. Here are just a few examples from last
two examples from Green Bay-Chicago:
about the fourth play of the Green Bay-Chicago game the Bears downed
a punt on the Green Bay 1 yard line. The refs ruled it a touchback.
Chicago threw the red flag contesting the call. Replays showed that
one Bear tipped the ball back before he stepped on the goal line.
The player who downed it had his foot close to the goal but not on
it. The replays showed that the ball was properly downed and it
should have been first down on the Green Bay 1. The refs ruled that
the call on the field stood, without any explanation. That was a
huge difference as Green Bay took over on its 20 yard line instead
of being backed up against its goal line.
Later in the first half, Aaron Rodgers was tackled for a loss on 3rd
& 8, forcing a punt. The refs called unnecessary roughness because
of a guy who was in the process of tackling when Rodgers went down
rolled over him, not roughly. This was a huge, game-changing call,
although all GB got out of it was a field goal. Still, they should
have had to surrender the ball and not gotten any points. Even the
pro-NFL TV announcers proclaimed it a horrible call.
Rams-Seahawks game the refs completely lost control of the game and then
called three consecutive personal foul penalties against the Rams on the
same play after the play had ended, the last one against a player who
had innocently waved his arm and inadvertently knocked the cap off
another ref. A third ref threw a flag (not the one who was hit) and the
player, Kendall Langford, was ejected.
course the ultimate incompetence of the officials that day occurred with
about 3 Ĺ minutes left in the Dallas-Philly game when at a crucial point
they penalized Dallas for delay of game when the clock robbed Dallas of
15 seconds. TV replays showed the clock going directly from 40 seconds
to 25 seconds. Anyone watching the game knew without the replays of the
clock that 40 seconds had not gone off. Anyone, that is, except the
dopes in the striped shirts.
were all pivotal calls in the games. As a result, I have no confidence
in picking winners because so much rests on the shoulders of these inept
goofballs. The NFL should get rid of these guys, most of whom are old
and out of shape, and hire professional referees who all they do is
referee NFL football games. Surely with the billions of dollars (tax
free because the NFL is a charity with tax-exempt status, believe it or
not) they can afford to get professional referees and pay them well
enough so that it is their only profession.
took a look at the first weekís matchups and the picking looked pretty
easy to me, so Iím going ahead.
City at Indianapolis: This one I have to admit is just a guess. I
havenít seen Indianapolis play one game this year. I have seen Kansas
City and Iím not impressed. They rolled to a 9-0 start by playing mostly
the weakest teams in the NFL (only one of their wins was against a team
with a winning record, but that was Philladelphia, but it was early in
the season and this is a different Eagle team). Their next seven games
were mostly against the better teams. They lost to all the better teams,
only beating the dismal Raiders and Redskins, probably the two worst
teams in the league. They have a quarterback, Alex Smith, who doesnít
make many mistakes, but who really canít throw long, and they have a
pretty good defense. Indianapolis is another of the modern teams that
relies mostly on a superstar quarterback, Andrew Luck, although they do
have a pretty good defense. This is a tough call. If the teams are equal
(I think probably Kansas City has a better defense), Iíll go with the
quarterback. Luck is already a superstar while Smith is a better than
average journeyman. Indianapolis should defend against the run and make
quarterback beat them passing. Indianapolis.
Orleans at Philadelphia: Philladelphia has the leagueís leading
quarterback, Nick Foles, the leagueís leading rusher, LeSean McCoy, and
a good defense, although two of their starting defensive backs are out
of the game. Foles has an incredible TD-interception ratio (27 TDs with
only 2 interceptions!). New Orleans is terrible on the road, although
its Rob Ryan-devised 3-4 defense is better than it has been in the past
(4th in the league). Itís tough to bet against Drew Brees,
but he tends to throw interceptions at bad times. He also has a
butter-fingered receiving corps. Give him All Pro receivers and this is a
different game. I think Philladelphia should prevail playing at home.
Diego at Cincinnati: I'm not impressed with the Cincinnati
quarterback, Andy Dalton. Heís the weakest of all the quarterbacks
playing in the playoffs (save Alex Smith of KC) and isnít someone to
rely on, having already thrown 20 interceptions and he misses open
receivers more often than not. However, Cincinnati has a good defense
and San Diego barely beat Kansas Cityís benchwarmers last week to eke
into the playoffs. This one shouldnít even be close. Cincinnati.
Francisco at Green Bay: On paper this isnít close. San Francisco has
a much better team all around. About all Green Bay has going for it is
quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the best player in the NFL, and that is often
enough. But they are missing their best player on their weak defense,
Clay Matthews. Unless Rodgers can play like Johnny Football, this should
not be close. However, San Francisco is puzzlingly underwhelming in
victory, beating teams in games that are close when they should
dominate. I canít figure out why. San Francisco is the better team, but
if they play like they have all year, not up to their potential, Green
Bay has a chance because if it's close in the fourth quarter, nobody
would bet against Rodgers. The sub-zero weather could be a big factor,
although the field now has warmers so won't be frozen (unlike the Ice
Bowl in the 1967 Championship game against Dallas). San Francisco.
part of writing this column is that I often have to pick against teams I
would normally be rooting for. Without this column I would be pulling
for Kansas City, New Orleans, and San Diego.