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Who will go to the Super Bowl? It's Complicated

Jan 21, 2010, 4:00 PM EDT

Jelisa Castrodale stops by to handicap this weekend’s NFC and AFC Championship games, and also do a little bit of light yardwork. It should be noted that she attended Wake Forest at the same time that a certain Jim Caldwell was the Demon Deacons’ head football coach, so this should be fun.
By Jelisa Castrodale
After last Saturday’s division playoffs, my enthusiasm for the NFL has waned to somewhere between my interest in contracting a food-borne illness and my desire to see deleted scenes from It’s Complicated. In all three cases — my Cardinals’ crushing loss, eating slightly undercooked chicken, or seeing a post-coital, post-menopausal Meryl Streep — I’m left feeling more than a little sick to my stomach.
The New Orleans Saints absolutely destroyed the Cardinals on both sides of the ball en route to a 45-14 victory. Cards QB Kurt Warner told ESPN’s Rick Reilly that he was “the sorest he’d ever been” following that game, probably because Saints defensive end Bobby McCray drilled him so hard that he spent the first part of the week at Maaco having the dents pulled out of his ribcage.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees had no problem picking apart the Cardinals defense, and Reggie Bush racked up both rushing yards and action verbs as he swiveled, juked and sprinted his way down the field. As for Arizona’s offense, Warner didn’t get much help from his receivers, who would’ve played exactly the same if they didn’t have arms.
The Saints were clearly the better team last Saturday, but how will they fare against the Brett “Has Anyone Mentioned That He’s Forty? Because He’s Forty” Favre and the Minnesota Vikings? At quarterback the teams are almost identical, save for Drew Brees’ superior bone density. Both Brees and Favre put up over 4,000 yards this season, their passer ratings are within two points of each other and — if you count the postseason — they’ve each tossed 37 touchdown passes.
Favre has the edge when it comes to experience, having been in the league since the days of leather helmets and unprotected personal areas. He’s also wrapping up what has statistically been one of the best seasons of his career and — most importantly — he hasn’t been forcing throws, making dumb mistakes or carelessly chucking the ball like he’s trying to win an oversized Eeyore at the Dixie Classic Fair.
“But Minnesota’s defense looks better on paper,” countless analysts with garish pocket squares have insisted all week. Sure they do, especially if you draw angry eyebrows and frowns on all of the players. What’s “on paper” doesn’t matter, because “on the field” last week, the Saints’ much-maligned D held the Cardinals to a mere fourteen points, essentially taking Larry Fitzgerald out of the game and leaving Warner crumpled on the ground like a deflated Christmas decoration.
This has the potential to be an incredibly good game, one that’s hard-fought and high scoring, but I think the Saints will get the W and a trip to South Florida.
And now, the AFC:
Several years ago when I was at Wake Forest University, our football team was terrible, fielding the kind of players you’d expect at a liberal arts college whose mascot is an angry clergyman. We’d occasionally collect enough points to beat, say, Northwestern or Duke, but most of the time we had to consider it a win if we beat the spread. Our coach tucked a lot of criticism into the pockets of his high-waisted khakis, most of it deserved. He often looked indecisive, inept and passive to the point where no one sitting in the stadium would’ve been surprised if he’d opted to punt on third down. That coach? Jim Caldwell.
I’m not comparing the Colts to the Demon Deacons, but some of the game mismanagement he honed in the ACC showed up during Indy’s regular-season loss to the Jets. Caldwell decided to pull his starters late in the third quarter, starting by swapping Peyton Manning for Curtis Painter, who is only slightly more effective than a pie crust. The Jets came back to beat the second-string Colts and — although none of Indy’s players criticized their rookie coach’s decision — Manning was seen giving Caldwell the same disgusted look I get when people see me eat in public.
While Caldwell probably — probably — won’t yank Peyton out of Sunday night’s game just to keep him fresh for the Super Bowl, I still question his decision-making skills. Perhaps the saving grace is that Manning himself has a huge amount of control over the offense, flailing and gesturing before each snap like people in those churches profiled in PBS specials about the Appalachians. And the Colts did win fifteen straight with Caldwell holding the clipboard marked “Coach”, so maybe I’m overreacting. Or maybe I’m still bitter about my freshman year.
As for the Jets, they also have a rookie coach and a rookie QB. They also have the hard-nosed defense and run-first offense that are, perhaps, holdovers from coach Rex Ryan’s days as defensive coordinator with the Baltimore Ravens, a team whose game plan is the Miley Cyrus to the Jets’ Hannah Montana.
Despite some lingering questions about Mark Sanchez’ abilities to complete passes under pressure, I’m going with the underdog and picking the Jets. If they win, I’ll look like I know what I’m doing. If I don’t, I’ll look less credible than that woman in the Walgreens parking lot who throws pennies at cars.
But I’m OK with that. My season ended last Saturday anyway.
Jelisa Castrodale is a writer and comedian who has learned a lot about life by making a mess of her own. She chronicles her failures at The Typing Makes Me Sound Busy, covers music for London’s BitchBuzz and twitters while she waits at stoplights. Castrodale was featured in the book Twitter Wit and was named one of Mashable’s 10 Funniest Twitterers.
* Also by Jelisa Castrodale …

  1. johnnyh913 - Jan 21, 2010 at 8:00 PM

    this is racist garbage. everyone gets tired of discussing race, but what else could it be? Coach Caldwell takes his team to 14-0 but he is indecisive?? if he leaves his starters in the game and someone gets hurt he is still at fault! Bellichek makes major errors and receives a little flak. Schottenheimer blows a whole game and nothing is said. The Cowboys are blown away, and all the media discusses is a contract extension for their head coach. Meanwhile the BLACK coach has earned a 1st round bye for his team, a month of recuperation for his starters, they are still in the playoffs, yet he is still questioned??? I respect all the other coaches I mentioned, im just using them as an examsple. Black people are not stoopid (joke), we know when we are being singled out because of our skin. New rule called tell the truth, “hey were messing with you cause youre black.”

  2. johnnyh913 - Jan 21, 2010 at 8:31 PM

    New rule called tell the truth, “hey were messing with you cause youre black.” In other words, stop p******* on my leg and telling me its rain!

  3. Jelisa Castrodale - Jan 21, 2010 at 9:14 PM

    johnnyh913: I’m sorry that alleged racism is what you take away from my article. My issues with Coach Caldwell have absolutely zero to do with the color of his skin and more to do with what I saw firsthand while he walked the sidelines as the coach at my alma mater. In fact, I’m not sure where your allegations come from, since I didn’t address any other coach directly, save for noting that Rex Ryan was also in his first year. New rule: Perhaps you should re-read the column before you post two comments that make serious allegations toward the writer.

  4. Podge - Jan 21, 2010 at 9:14 PM

    Consumption of Jelisahol has been found to impair both judgement and motor skills, specifically typing. Pregnant women should avoid Jelisahol because of the risk of osmotic racism.
    Please drink Jelisahol responsibly.

  5. kg - Jan 21, 2010 at 9:16 PM

    Bellichek never gets flack…really? He was criticized most of the year after 4th and 2 against the colts and when Welker got hurt in the last game. People are angry because he didn’t try to be perfect and chumped out. He didn’t want the pressure of a perfect season and now there’s more pressure!

  6. johnnyh913 - Jan 21, 2010 at 9:38 PM

    Jelisa: With respect to your new rule, I have re-read your article and “looking inept,indecisive and passive” are subjective. My diatribe states facts (14-0, 1st round-bye, rested players, STILL in the SuperBowl hunt) to back up my statements, but I am missing the facts that support your stance. Your article has a racist slant because it lacks facts and it contains the “coded” words used to describe Black males(inept, indecisive and passive) with no support. Thats not p*ss, its rain!

  7. Podge - Jan 21, 2010 at 9:39 PM

    Over-consumption of Jelisahol impairs judgement and motor skills, specifically typing. Pregnant women should avoid Jelisahol due to the high risk of osmotic racism.
    Please enjoy Jelisahol responsibly.

  8. Karma - Jan 21, 2010 at 10:02 PM

    Johnny, you have probably gone your whole life very miserable due to the fact that your imagination runs wild with thoughts of racism.
    I feel sorry for you, I bet you play the race card with your whole life. you my friend are the problem…………..Caldwell sucks if he is green, black, or magenta.

  9. johnnyh913 - Jan 21, 2010 at 10:17 PM

    kg : go back to the second new rule i did not state “never”
    save your pity!
    you lose the bet.
    you left out white(hmmm)
    thats not pee its rain!

  10. johnnyh9 - Jan 21, 2010 at 10:37 PM
    Maybe I was wrong. Our author is not racist, she’s just not football literate! (Should women be allowed in the football locker room?) The above link is to an article written by a person who shares the dominant point of view contained in this blog, but it contains LEGITIMATE football jargon, which in turn can make for a lively debate based on x and o’s, not a debate based on someone “looking” inept, indecisive and passive. Referring to ones looks and using coded words is a smoke screen employed by incompetence and yes, racist.

  11. ak - Jan 21, 2010 at 10:54 PM

    The reason Colts are 14-0 have little to do with the head coach and everything to do with their QB. Caldwell inherited a top team and have may as well stayed home this season (I am not implying his is a bad coach, just irrelevant). His only contribution was blowing a shot at history. Rested players are great, but there is much to be said for rhythm and momentum in the NFL. We will see how the rusty Colts perform against a red hot motivated Jets team. No, I am not saying they will lose, but it will be closer and tougher then people think.

  12. LewP - Jan 22, 2010 at 5:00 AM

    May I just say I really enjoyed this article and I thought there was some great personality to it. (Even it was indeed written by a female, [joking])
    The Cowboys, (as were the Cardinals) were ledt on the side of the road as roadkill this past weekend, so my team is out as well. The lessons learned here is to get the home field advantage. That said I go with the Saints this week…and yet the home field advantage won’t matter in the AFC game as I too like the Jets.
    As a kid in rural America, I learned long ago how to not “stir up a hornet’s nest’. The Jets are the hornets, the Colts rested theirs.
    Good article.

  13. willmose - Jan 22, 2010 at 8:28 AM

    Of course, this article is racist. The NFL league is racist, why shouldn’t a blogger covering it be racist. They are part of the new KKK, “I didn’t mention skin color, so I can’t be racist.” Let’s see a first year coach leads his team to the best record in the NFL, he rests his players so they don’t hurt in meaningless games (pissing off the bookies and their lackeys, aka racist bloggers who worry about “beating the spread”). His poor decision making skills are about to land his team in the Super Bowl. You aren’t saying the same thing about Childress or Payton or Ryan who have made many more bad decisions than Caldwell, but hey they aren’t black are they?
    Finally, we all have to question your decision making skills. Not for picking the Jets, but for questioning Caldwell decision to remove Manning. Would New England still be in the hunt, if cheater Belichick had the guts to rest Welker? Yes, the bookies would have been pissed, so that is why Belichick didn’t do it and you haven’t given him heat over it. It is almost why picked the Jets, trying to drum up some business for your bookie buddies.
    I guess maybe you aren’t a racist, just a shill for the smart money bookies.

  14. Booner - Jan 22, 2010 at 8:56 AM

    TO johnnyh913 and willmose:
    Wade Phillips, Brad Childress, Bill Belichick, Rex Ryan, and many other “white coaches” get villified for a variety of reasons in the press every day by “black” columnists but do you ever hear them playing the “reverse” race card? Why is it that every time a black coach or a black athlete gets criticized it’s racist? I feel very sorry for you that you need to find racism in every criticism of a black person. You remind me of Jesse Jackson and Rev. Sharpton who never found a camera they didn’t like so they could accuse all of us “white folk” of hating blacks. I don’t give a shit if you think it’s racism or not – there is absolutely nothing in Jelisa’s article that amounts to racism. And go ahead and spend the rest of your life being miserable thinking that all criticism of black coaches are a personal attack on you.

  15. johnnyh913 - Jan 22, 2010 at 9:31 AM

    oh yeah, give me the Colts to beat the Jets. Both teams are one dimensional, the run v the pass, but Manning has too many weapons for the upstart Jets to shut down. The Jets had an excellent run, (AnyGivenSunday)but I think the road ends here.For the record I would rather see the Bears rep the NFC but we had Ron Turner at the O.C. position.
    To the Bears brass, GET MIKE MARTZ!!!

  16. johnnyh913 - Jan 22, 2010 at 9:53 AM

    who throws the prettiest spiral in the nfl?
    JaMarcus Russell!!! Mike Vick is second…

  17. Jim Guida - Jan 22, 2010 at 10:30 AM

    johnny913 – IF that’s your real name…
    I’m not a sports guy. I read Jelisa’s story because she is a good humor writer. I have no idea who Jim Caldwell is and didn’t know he was Black until you started ranting. If someone is looking to be offended, he will find a way. Congratulations.
    By the way, seven of the 16 posts above belong to you. I think you really have a crush on Jelisa and don’t know how to get her attention so you’re dipping her pigtails in the inkwell. Not that I blame you.

  18. johnnyh913 - Jan 22, 2010 at 11:35 AM

    Good post Guida.
    you left off the h (for handsome)
    So what are your FOOTBALL observations?

  19. JackM - Jan 22, 2010 at 11:46 AM

    Johnny, seriously?! How much flak has Tony Romo gotten? Rex Grossman was the butt of all jokes in the 2006/07 season. Bellichik got roasted after his decision to go for it on 4th and 2 earlier in the season?
    Why does Bellichik get a free pass some of the time? 3 super bowls! Not because he’s white.
    The reason everyone for the hostility towards Caldwell has nothing to do with race, it’s because he looked history in the face and said “Fu** it”. Then again I’m guessing the owner of the team told him to rest the players.
    Also, people got used to the Colts floundering in the first playoff game after a stellar season.

  20. willmose - Jan 22, 2010 at 1:58 PM

    Well, I guess you agree that she is a shill for the bookies. I am just saying that when you call a black coach other for no reason, I have to think that it is racial motivated. There were no facts or arguements behind the criticism. Just opinions. That’s where the racism comes in. Beating the spread is an out right reference to the bookies. Gambling has no place on this blog.
    Your personal attacks are because you have no facts to back you up. I forgive you for the hate in your heart.

  21. RichDS - Jan 22, 2010 at 4:58 PM

    I think the coach chumped out against the Jets and deserves to have it come back and bite him on the butt. Hope that doesn’t make me a racist. I just hate the wimpiness he showed. Going undefeated is a once in a lifetime chance. You go for it, just like a much better coach did with the Patriots and gave everyone a real thrill in an otherwise meaningless game.
    Caldwell had a chance to eliminate the No. 1 defense in football from the postseason. If they now eliminate HIM, it should be his last game with the Colts.

  22. fromindy - Jan 22, 2010 at 5:47 PM

    You want facts johnnyh?? How about this for ineptitude, he was up by over 20 points twice this season and didn’t pull starters. The week before the jets game, we played the jaquars and the game ment nothing. Starters stayed in the intire game. The week after the jets at buffalo in a blizzard and terrible field conditions?!?! He plays the starters for at least two series…. THAT IS AN IDIOT!!! WHITE, BLACK, PURPLE!! And those are facts.

  23. Acne No More Review - Feb 10, 2010 at 10:35 AM

    lol, Miley is so wild! I love her.

  24. Anthony - Feb 28, 2010 at 12:44 AM

    Hey, I bookmarked this and will return again. Thanks for the info.