So are the Cowboys the Yankees of the NFL or are the Yankees the Cowboys of MLB? They both buy what they think is the best talent – the Cowboys recently getting Adam Jones, Terrell Owens and Roy Williams, and the Bronx Bombers signing CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira – and seemingly demand to stay right smack-dab-in-the-middle of their sports’ focus.
And the big problem? Playoffs! Yeah, Allen Iverson and Jim Mora we’re talking about the playoffs – as in that post-season period devoid of the Yankees and Cowboys. Names like A-Rod and Jeter and Clemens and Romo and T.O. become part of the culture while names like Lidge and Hamels and Rollins and Jacobs and Pierce just win the titles.
As far as handicapping the next 10 bowl games, bleep the bowls. Way too hard to figure out motivation and momentum between two teams that don’t know wach other held at an unfamiliar site sparse with real fans of either team. This week we’ll pick the NFL Wild card round (love dem road teams), the Gator Bowl, the Rose Bowl, the Sugar Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl ... because eight is enough.
Thursday, Jan. 1
GATOR BOWL @ Municipal Stadium, Jacksonville, Florida, 10 a.m. PT, CBS
Clemson (-2½, 55) vs. Nebraska: Happy New Year! Now let’s get to some gambling. It seems Cornhuskers games are like speed boat races to the end zone so let’s hope Clemson cooperates and can play a Big 12-paced type of game here. Prediction: Clemson 33 Nebraska 30. OVER 55.
ROSE BOWL @ Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California, 2 p.m. PT, ABC
USC (-10½, 45½) vs. Penn State: Las Vegas Sports Consultants head Kenny White rates Southern Cal’s defense as the best ever and they way they have been playing of late will make it hard for even a talented offensive team like the Nittany Lions to score like they will want to score. The site provides a big advantage for USC and with QB Sanchez and a cast of talented RBs and WRs, the Trojans will get their points and expect to beat PSU – and you know they think they should be playing in the national championship game and will have that little chip on their shoulder. Prediction: USC 31 PSU 10. USC -10 ½, UNDER 45½.
Friday, Jan. 2
SUGAR BOWL @ Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana, 5:15 p.m., FOX
Alabama (-10½, 45) vs. Utah: Probably not the game either team wanted but this interesting match-up between the undefeated Utes (12-0) and the Crimson Tide, two teams who can play some defense as the total reveals.
Alabama was just 15 minutes away from earning a chance to play in the national title game but Tim Tebow and Florida, who are playing in the national championship game (Jan. 8), had plans of their own.
Utah finished No. 12 in the nation in scoring defense (17.3 PPG), but most of that came from playing its somewhat weak MWC schedule which included patsies like San Diego State, UNLV and Wyoming,
The only way I see Utah hanging with such a talented team as Alabama is by playing solid defense, which they can most certainly do. The Utes are 0-6 lifetime against SEC foes and laying the 10½ seems a tad too high for an undefeated team so let’s look for the final score to duck under the total of 45 points. Prediction: Alabama 24 Utah 17. UNDER 45.
Saturday, Jan. 3
NFC WILD CARD (NBC, 1:30 p.m. PT) Atlanta Falcons (-2½, 50½) at Arizona Cardinals: This should be a very entertaining game with the old guy (Arizona’s Warner) and the young guy (Atlanta’s Ryan) dueling in the desert. The Cardinals are adept at the pass and with Fitzgerald, Breaston and Boldin, have plenty of targets to look for. The Falcons will look for RB Turner to be their catalyst and this combination of realities will means points, points, points and more points.
As far as choosing sides, like cohort Denny the Dog, I think the way Arizona played down the stretch leaves a lot to be desired whereas the Falcons are thrilled to death to even be in the postseason and will want to show the public how they did it. And kudos to owner Arthur Blank for turning Atlanta around just like that. Hey, who would win in a fight brother, a falcon or a cardinal? Prediction: Atlanta 33 Arizona 24. FALCONS, OVER 50½.
AFC WILD CARD (NBC, 5 p.m. PT) Indianapolis Colts (-1, 49) at San Diego Chargers: Like Denny the Dog and GT columnist Andy Iskoe, I too like Indy in this game. It seems they have focused better than any other team down the stretch and again, Peyton is the main Manning in the family. This team could make it all the way to the Super Bowl – and even win it (Grab the AFC at PICK ‘EM right now while the pickin’ is still good.)
With receivers Wayne, Clark and Gonzalez and RB Addai back to his old self, the Colts are doing what they have to do offensively but the key is the team’s defense, which looks great again with Bob Sanders leading the way. Indy beat SD earlier this season and
played a much tougher schedule and also expects to beat a team like the Chargers to get where they’re trying to go. Prediction: Colts 34 Chargers 17. COLTS.
Sunday, Jan. 4
AFC WILD CARD (CBS, 10 a.m.) Baltimore Ravens (-3, 37) at Miami Dolphins: Just as much credit as Blank gets in Atlanta, the same goes for Parcells in Miami. But the Fish are in for a butt-whipping against the hardest-hitting team in the NFL – Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens.
Rookie QB Flacco has been wonderful managing the Ravens offense this season but the guy who makes it happen in Baltimore is DB Ed Reed. What can’t this guy do? Miami got a real find in QB Pennington and with Brown, Williams, and Bess showing they can do a little something when you get the ball in their hands, the team has built a great foundation for the future. But Baltimore can smell their rival Steelers in the future and they won’t get to bang with Pittsburgh unless they advance. So they advance. Prediction: Ravens 19 Dolphins 10. UNDER 37, RAVENS.
NFC WILD CARD (FOX, 1:30 p.m. PT) Philadelphia Eagles (-3, 42) at Minnesota Vikings: Can four road teams all win their Wild Card games for the first time in NFL history? In Chalkville they can. Full disclosure, I have a $5 future bet on the Eagles at 40-1 (Arizona Charlie’s) so I may be a bit prejudiced here but the way the Eagles played to close out the season was very impressive and McNabb, Westbrook and Buckhalter all are healthy. I am not willing to lay the three however, so let’s take the Eagle on the money line here in Minnesota. Prediction: Eagles 24 Vikings 20. EAGLES MONEY LINE.
Monday, Jan. 5
FIESTA BOWL @ University of Phoenix Stadium, Phoenix, 5:15 p.m. FOX
OHIO STATE vs. TEXAS (-10, 54): Back to college football? I’m getting whiplash doing this… Anyway, if GT analyst Richard "Dr. Steubenville" Saber thinks his Buckeyes are going to get killed, they are going to get killed. And I totally agree. All Texas has in their minds are that last play when TT’s Crabtree got the ball in the end zone to blemish their perfect season and hopes of playing in the national championship game and the Sunday the BCS poll came out and they were ranked No. 3 behind Oklahoma – a team they had beaten. Talk about rage!
Texas, which has seen 35 of its last 50 games go over the total, will want to send Colt McCoy off right and will want to leave an impression in voter’s minds that they are the No. 2 team in the USA, behind the Oklahoma-Florida winner. And they will overmatch an OSU team where QB Pryor is still feeling his oats and which will try an rely too much on Beanie Wells trying to run against the Longhorns. Blowout city baby. Prediction: Texas 48 Ohio State 27. TEXAS -10 (BE$T BET$), OVER 54.
NEXT WEEK: NFL Playoffs, BCS Championship game.