Ah, the unpredictability of the NFL playoffs post-2000 and especially 2005 and after. Last year, a team about as stone-cold as you can be entering the playoffs nonetheless made it within one Santonio Holmes catch of winning the Super Bowl, while last year's Super-Bowl-winning Steelers fielded the 7th-worst point-scoring offence for a Super Bowl champion ever.
Last week, during which I went a hilarious 1-3, the hottest team in the NFL over the second half of the season fell to an improbable overtime defensive touchdown (that would be Green Bay). Hot team Dallas buried Philadelphia, which had been hot until it played Dallas the week before in the season finale. And over in the AFC, 9-7 wild cards New York and Baltimore buried the Bengals and Patriots in fairly convincing fashion.
A lot of storylines came out of last week's playoffs about why teams won or lost. However, everything boiled down to one thing: turnovers. The losers pretty much turned the ball over like drunken sailors on leave or, in Cincinatti's case, missed two makeable field goals to squelch any comeback possibility against the Jets. Missed makeable field goals are turnovers in my book (and technically they are in real life, too), and only another turnover by Green Bay saved Arizona's Neil Rackers from a lifetime of regret about that awful hook on a really makeable field goal at the end of regulation.
On the other hand, turnovers are fickle. Green Bay forced the most of them in the regular season, but it was the Cardinals -- whose entire defensive philosophy boils down to 'Please, God, let us force three turnovers while the opposing team piles up a jillion yards of offense' -- that won the game. The Saints have the reborn Darren Sharper, a monster of interceptions this season and throughout his career.
Heaven knows. Since I don't, I'm going to base this week's predictions on which team's name could win in a fight.
Baltimore Ravens at Indianapolis Colts: This fight would really depend on how many ravens took on how many colts. I mean, if a whole flock of ravens took on one colt, then the ravens would win. But in a balanced battle of equal numbers, colts would eventually trample ravens. Indianapolis Colts 27, Baltimore Ravens 21.
Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings: Vikings and cowboys would be pretty evenly matched in any real-world battle that only involved hand-to-hand combat...but cowboys have guns! Lots of them! Dallas Cowboys 35, Minnesota Vikings 24.
Arizona Cardinals at New Orleans Saints: The ultimate religious battle, as I'm going to shelve the bird meaning for the Cardinals, despite the fact that the bird is on their helmets. Cardinals are pretty high-ranking church officials, but saints -- saints are all-time hall-of-famers! New Orleans Saints 63, Arizona Cardinals 59.
New York Jets at San Diego Chargers: The Dodge Charger was a fine automobile, but it wasn't any match for a jet of any kind. New York Jets 27, San Diego Chargers 23.