NFL Playoff Football Is Back, And We’re Gonna Get In Trouble Trash Talk

It has been a hell of a fun first few months week of 2021. So, with no further adieu, lets get to the ball. A nearly unprecedented SIX games in one weekend (there was that one weird strike season, which doesn’t really count). And, there really are no bad matchups on tap. Away we go!

First up is Indiana at Buffalo. The Colts seem a better team than their 11-5 record, and Phil Rivers can still chuck the ball. They have weapons on both offense and defense. But, dang, the Bills have looked like a serious Super Bowl contender all year. And, while Rodgers may be the MVP of the league, to my eye, Josh Allen was pretty close. The Bills are at home for a rabid and great fan base that has been dying for this since the mid-90’s. And the Wagon Circlers have weapons too, including Stephon Diggs, arguably the leagues best receiver this year, a fair, if not great, running game and a very good defense. Expect the Colts to be good, but the Bills to win. And that would be a very good thing for the City of Buffalo and their long suffering excellent fans.

Second up for Saturday is LA Rams at Seattle Squawks. This is a harder call. Rams first string QB Jared Goff is “questionable”, but expected to play (but for how long with a recently broken thumb on his throwing hand?). Jamal Adams, the Seahawks safety that is one of the best is in the same boat. It is not the same without the 12th Man fans in Seattle, but, despite a rough patch, the Squawks seem to be gelling. And then there is those Russell Wilson and DJ Metcalfe dudes. They are pretty good. Seattle wins.

The Saturday Night Game is Tampa at the Washington Football Team. WFT is on the clear rise under Riverboat Ron Rivera, they are better than you think, and on both sides of the ball. Young Chase Young and the superb DC D-Line are going to try to spook and hurry the old man Brady. The rest of the WFT defense is really good as well. But this is the first time Brady has been defended this way, and Tampa has a very talented defense as well. All pro receiver Mike Evans is nicked up, but will play, as will Ronald Jones. WFT is nicked up, but the most relevant one is QB Alex Smith. His entrance turned their moribund season around after Dwayne Haskins. If Smith can play, and play well, this could be an upset. Not gonna bet that, but that may be the X factor. Still will take the old man and the Bucs.

Okay, and here we go with the Sunday games.

First up Sunday is Baltimore at Tennessee. I have no real idea what to make of this one. Tennessee is good, and made it to the AFC finals last year. They have Derrick Henry, and that is one powerful weapon. But the Ravens have been rushing the heck out of the ball over the last five games. Sure, there is Lamar Jackson, but it is more than that. By a tiny margin, think the Ravens are better on D, but only a tiny amount. Am still inclined to go with the Titans at home.

Second comes Bears at Saints. This, on paper, is the least interesting game of the weekend. It is probably Drew Brees’ last year. The Aints are at home in the Dome. Nawlins will, apparently have both Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara on the field. Sorry, not sure how the Bears and Trubisky have a real shot here.

Lastly, Brownies at Steelers. For a short period, it really looked like Pittsburgh was in the doldrums and Cleveland would do the unthinkable and take the division championship. But the Steelers righted the ship and won out over Cleveland for the title. Nick Chubb and Baker Mayfield (watch out for Mayfield on play action, he is really good) are maturing and growing quite nicely. And the Cleveland defense is pretty good. But this is still the Stillers, and the Browns will be without head coach and chief play caller Kevin Stefanski because of Covid. That seems rough. Have to take Big Ben and Pittsburgh at home, but this could be a great game.

A lot of people are saying they want a revolution. John, Paul, George and Ring have one for you. Rock it up.

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Cards from Arizona

College football is done and over. I thought Clemson had a lot better chance against Bama than many did, mostly because of their quarterback, Deshaun Watson, and their defense. One of those was spot on, the latter, not so much. Irrespective, Alabama won fair and square in a fantastic game. Big hat tip to Tide QB Jake Coker, who proved to be calm and cool under big game status. He reminds me a little of Jim Harbaugh (and, seriously, I was personally present at Harbaugh’s last college game. Was in the Rose Bowl against ASU, and big Jim did not fare so well, but has had a hell of a career as a player and coach afterwards). Coker is a big kid, with a strong arm and huge heart. Coker might actually be a smart late round draft choice for an enterprising NFL team that could afford to try to groom him. I know Alabama QB’s have a bad name since Bart Starr and Joe Namath, but Coker seems to have something intangible.

Before we get down to the games, a word about David Bowie. Music, for better or worse, has always been a part of Trash Talk at Emptywheel. If you like it, many thanks, if not apologies. But a part it has always been. Because Trash has mostly been one of my duties here, you all usually get stuck with some music I select. Sorry about that.

I have been around a while (read: way too long chronologically) and, truly, have a pretty diverse range of likes in music. There has been everything from Charlie Pride and John Cash to Jimmy Hendrix and Be Bop Deluxe. And everything in between, here in Trash Talk. They are not particularly random selections, it is all music I have known and loved throughout my life. It is a very mixed bag, but I hope you enjoy it all as much as I do.

So….with a heavy heart, a bit of homage to David (Jones) Bowie. I almost did a standalone post on Bowie’s death, but I was pretty tied up in court this week, not to mention a few other things that consumed attention. But the sudden awareness of the loss of Bowie did indeed have a profound effect on me. David Bowie was never the number one band in the moving target of my rock fandom, but he was never very far off either. He was that good, that long, and in ever changing ways that made Bowie both unique and remarkable. There will always be music, but there will never be another Bowie. RIP Ziggy and David.

First up on the docket is the Chefs at Patriots. Edelman is back and ready to go full out. What does that mean, and will his foot hold up? Nobody knows. That was the early concern. But now it the bigger concern is Gronk. No, not the knee that has bee jabbered about, but his back. Gronk missed practice Thursday to get “treatment” at a local Boston hospital. Best bet that was for a serious epidural. Ouch. If Edelman and Gronk both play the full game and play well, then I will take the Pats. If not, then the Chefs may cook them. Alex Smith is not sexy, but he is scary good and consistent. And Andy Reid, while not maybe a game clock genius, is one heck of a coach overall.

The late game today is here in the cactus patch. Packers at Cards. I’m sure some sport will be made of my dual loyalties. I am a Cheesehead from very early in my childhood. It started when I read a book about a former Bear Bryant player by the name of Bart Starr and, about the same time, Lombardi and Green Bay drafted and featured an electrifying ASU player by the name of Travis Williams. Arizona had no pro football then, and still didn’t for a long time after the Cardinals plopped their carpetbags down here. The Cardinals were unlovable losers until they drafted Jake Plummer, another ASU hero. Jake the Snake was also electrifying. But the Cards were still the loser Cards until Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald brought some real game. Both should be in the Hall of Fame, and both will be I hope. Now, under the guidance of Michael Bidwell, son of Bill Bidwell, and a quite decent chap I know from his days as an AUSA in the District of Arizona, the Cardinals are really embraced by the city of Phoenix and the state.

It took a very long time, but the Cards are really ours now, as Jerry Colangelo’s teams, the Suns and Diamondbacks were from the start. The Packers have won and been everything to pro football, from its inception. They are Titletown incarnate. But there is something special about the current Cards of Bruce Arians, Fitz, Carson Palmer, Honeybadger and all the rest. It is pretty contagious. I think Rodgers and the Pack are WAY different than they were a few weeks ago when Arizona rolled them. This will be a hell of a game, but Go Cards!

The early game on Sunday is Seattle at Carolina. The Panthers have been the darling of the 2015 season, and Cam Newton has been simply spectacular. Luke Kuechly, Josh Norman and the Carolina defense are better than even advertised. But the Squawks simply scare the hell out of me far more than the Panthers. We shall see what the Mode does, but the Seattle beast seams to be coming alive at just the right time. I’ll take the Squawks.

Lastly, the Steelers are gassing in the altitude at Mile High. Big Ben has a wounded clock arm, and Antonio Brown is out with the concussion the Bengals thugs claim didn’t happen. Bottom line, never count out the Stillers if Roethlisberger is on the field. But it is hard to see how the Steelers pull this off with an O-line that allowed the damage to Big Ben it did against the Bengals. Not to mention, of course, that Antonio Brown and D’Angelo Williams are out. Is it possible the Stillers overcome “against all odds”? You bet. But that is not my bet. I am betting on one last epic Peyton versus Major Tom battle for the AFC crown. But that is just me, the games speak for themselves.

So, that’s it. Music, of course, by Bowie. Suffragette City is one of the great rockers of all time. The overlaid guitar work by Mick Ronson is simply spectacular. Here’s a bit of trivia: There is a line in Suffragette City “Hey man, droogie don’t crash here, There’s only room for one and here she comes, here she comes”. Droogie is an homage to famed Brit author Anthony Burgess and his classic work A Clockwork Orange. The original book actually has a glossary with definitions for the liberal slang used throughout the book, and “droogie” is one of the more frequent terms used. It made it into the later (and, sadly, more famous) movie as well, but it really comes out in the book. Second fun fact: As quintessential a Bowie rocker as Suffragette City is, Bowie offered it to Mott the Hoople, but they took All the Young Dudes instead, which gave Mott new and continued life and, arguably, created their brand with the public. Bowie did so much for so many musicians over the years, his greatness is in all of them in addition to his own catalogue of work.

Wildcard Weekend and Battleship Potemkin Trash

Sometimes you see things that just make you shake your head and say “what the hell is going on here?

Here we are at the start of the NFL Playoffs – the always thrilling, and often surprising Wildcard Weekend – topped off by the Saturday night special featuring the Detroit Kitties first return to the playoffs since the late 1990s. And Marcy is going to be getting her culture on at a staging of Battleship Potemkin.

Say what???

Yes, you read that correctly. We have here a playoff game with two, count em two, 5,000 yard passers. Yep, while all the focus down the stretch was on Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, Matt Stafford quietly put up one hell of a season and eclipsed the magic 5,000 yard barrier. In short, he has been great and along with a semi-healthy MegaTron Johnson, gives the Lions a puncher’s chance tonight. One other thing about Stafford, while he did give up 16 picks this year, 9 of them came when he was struggling with a protective glove over a broken index finger. That has mostly resolved and Stafford was money down the stretch. Also, the Kitties have their defensive backfield back to full strength with the return of Louis Delmas and CB Aaron Berry. The Saints are, of course what we thought they were. Flat out bad ass nasty good on offense led by the field general Brees and Darren Sproles chewing up ground. The Saints’ O-boys can get some game on, but their defense is not what it was in the Super Bowl run two years ago.

I won’t bet any money on it, but the Lions are more than capable of winning this game over the Saints, and it should be a LOT of fun to watch. Well, that is, assuming you are actually watching the game and not Battleship Potemkin! Which brings up the collateral damage problem. McCaffrey. You see McCaffrey LOVES him some football, and must be in the throes of despair at not being able to watch the Kitties and Saints like other rational American dogs. McCaffrey, seen at left during happier times, is considering filing a lawsuit for emotional distress. Soon as he puts his paw print on the contingency fee agreement, we are off!

The early game on Saturday is Bengals at Texans. If the Texans were at full strength, this is not close. But Matt Schaub is done for the year and Houston is going with rookie TJ Yates, who has a bruised up left shoulder, with Jake Delhomme in reserve. Andre Johnson should play, but is clearly still fairly hobbled. Linebacker Mario Williams also out. Houston really backed in to the playoffs with three losses to close out the season, but do have a great ground game. The Bengals did not exactly light it up down the stretch, but did really shows signs of maturing as a team, and Andy Dalton looks very much like a professional QB rather than a rookie. Edge to the Bengals.

The early game Sunday is Dirty Birds at Gents. If this game was in Hot’Lanta, I think it is not even close. But in NY (okay New Joisey), it is a tossup. The Giants defense seems to be gelling at just the right time and the running game is coming around a little. Atlanta despite the stability that should come from the air/ground combo of Matt Ryan and Michael The Burner Turner, has tendencies to be flaky. Probably all comes down to whether Good or Bad Eli shows up. Bet here is that it is Good Eli and the Giants boasting is correct, they are going to be a tough out in the playoffs.

The late game Sunday is, of course, The Tebowl. Stillers are gonna go pay their respects to Baby Jesus at the Mile High Mount. Probably won’t be much actual respect shown though. Big Ben is gimpy, and Ryan Clark is staying home because of the altitude and his sickle cell issue. And the Steelers have other health issues and blah, blah, blah. They are still the Steelers and Tim is still Tebow, great heart and no arm. Is it possible for the Broncs and Baby Jesus to pull off a shocker and win? Sure, but not damn likely.

This will in all likelihood also be the designated Trash post for Monday’s BCS Championship game. Not much to discuss there, we have already seen this game, it is just that the craptastic BCS is making us watch it again. Both are excellent teams, and both have killer D’s. But, just like last time, the slight edge goes to Honey Badger and LSU.

Throw down some Trash people!