It’s the New Year, and unless you’ve made a resolution to suck all the joy out of your life, you’re gearing up for NFL Wild Card Weekend.
Well, unless you’re a Browns fan.
I’m here to answer all of your top playoff questions, and even some you didn’t know you had.
What is Black Monday?
Not to be confused with Black Friday or Cyber Monday, Black Monday is not about doorbuster deals or online sales. Instead, it’s the day after the last regular season game of the year, the day where struggling teams give their coaches the axe. Two years ago, a full SEVEN coaches were fired on Black Monday. That’s more than 20% of all coaches, for those of you math wizards out there.
Chicago’s Mark Trestman, Atlanta’s Mike Smith, New York’s Rex Ryan and SF’s Jim Harbaugh got the axe this year, although Harbaugh was actually couched as “parting ways”. See last week’s rant about this. He actually already has a new job at Michigan. And the NFL being the NFL, most of these guys end up with either coordinator or head coaching jobs elsewhere. It’s truly a carousel of recycled coaches in this business, and one minute you can be on the outs, and the next at the top of the heap. You feel me, Jim Caldwell?
Why is it called Wild Card Weekend?
So, this weekend is the start of the playoffs. The NFL employs a “sudden death” style playoff, meaning if you lose, you go home. Funny, though, many teams had their playoff weekend last week. Atlanta and San Diego were “win and you’re in” and although they were masters of their own destiny, their destiny was to golf this weekend.
The “Wild Card” teams are the ones who did not make it in by winning their division, but had records good enough to qualify them behind those four division winners. These teams are Wild Card teams and have to not only play all three playoff games to win, but do not get a home game at all.
Still, these Wild Card teams are often as scrappy as Scooby’s sidekick and can get red hot molten lava starting this week.
Who are the teams to watch this weekend?
Speaking of Wild Carders, I’m calling out the Bengals and the Lions to make some noise in the playoffs.
The Bengals are looking sharp despite their loss to the Steelers last weekend. They play my Colts, who I like to believe have a chance but are playing as inconsistently as any team in the league. Andrew Luck can’t carry it all on his shoulders, and the defense is not looking poised to pull off another shut out.
As far as the Lions, despite Matthew Stafford generally tanking in the playoffs and his girlfriend being hot but jealous, I think they could upset the Cowboys on the road, with their 2nd ranked defense coming up big against the likes against DeMarco Murray (who may or may not be sleeping with an ex-teammates girlfriend) and Dez Bryant (who may or may not have playah-d it out on Instagram recently).
Who are the top seeds and why?
So the god damn top seeds can spend the weekend goin to Chik-Fil-A (well, at least on Saturday) and kicking their heels up like Alabama’s secondary.
The Patriots and Broncos are leading the AFC and I am losing my mind because everyone and their brother is picking Belichick and Brady to head to another Super Bowl. Ugh, please, somebody knock them off. Enough is enough! And while the Broncos are playing hit or miss and I have no trust in Peyton Manning at playoff time, getting to three Super Bowls is no slouch so I have to put my stock in them.
The Seahawks and Packers top the NFC. This is an interesting mix as Seattle is coming into the playoffs with the longest win streak, but still hasn’t shown me anything decisive against top teams. The Packers, on the other hand, look like they could take on almost anyone and I would love to see a match up between these two. I’m counting out the Cardinals (third string QB) and Panthers (won their division despite not even posting a winning record) but think that either the Lions or Cowboys could make a run for the top.
Most importantly, who are some of the hottest players left in the race?
Patriots backup QB Jimmy Garoppolo. One can only hope that Brady gets injured and this handsome lothario saves the day.
Bengals QB Andy Dalton. If you’ve got a thing for Gingers, why not go for one that looks just like Heat-Miser?
Panthers DE Kony Ealy – Forget the fact that his unfortunate name is the same as the most famous warlord in the world. This rookie is on a sack roll and I will refrain from making the obvious “in the sack” joke and let his photo speak for itself.
And what off-the-field issues should I be following?
As predicted by yours truly, Ndamukong Suh has stomped again, and been disciplined for stepping on Aaron Rodger’s leg during last week’s game. First of all, young Aaron is a national treasure famous for his hilarious commercials and ambiguous sexuality. Suh is a problem child for this league…can he get a leg up against Cam Newton on Sunday or will Superman win the day and annoyingly celebrate?
Let’s steam ahead into the playoffs, enjoying our green juice cleanse over the weekend, knowing that by next week we’ll be back to nachos and Bloody Marys. Hey, at least veggies are involved. And here’s to your team stomping through the playoffs in 2015.