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 …
- So long folks, it’s time for me to take off 18
- Man wins full marathon while pushing his daughter in a baby stroller (video) 14
- Lock and load, it’s youth baseball fundraising time: league raffling off AR-15 rifle (video) 8
- Sim Bhullar is a large basketball player, and I mean it. Anybody want a peanut? 0
- What’s with kids and all these death-defying stunts? 674
- Nothing to see here…just a 70-yard field goal by a high-schooler (video) 3
- None found