Football Jambalaya -- Rematch Edition

If I must give you a reason for that pic leading things off, I'll just say that the Chargers still being in the playoffs make me want to put up a beachy picture. But I know none of you care why a pic like that is here, so we'll just move along.

As my oh-so-clever title implies -- and as you've heard 8 billion times this week -- all games this weekend are rematches. Who cares? It doesn't matter. But since I'm feeling cranky, let me complain about something for a minute.

Why do we make our "picks"? Why does every writer, legit or otherwise, do this? Why do we do preseason picks? That's the most idiotic thing ever. Nobody has any clue how things are going to turn out, especially not in unpredictable sports like college football or pro football. Or even baseball. People were picking the Mariners to make the playoffs last year. Good gracious!

And worse than making these stupid picks, do you know what I hate the most? When a supposed expert, like, oh, say, Mike Golic, is asked how the Colts, for example, will do that upcoming weekend in the playoffs, and he starts his answer with something like, "Well, I picked them at the beginning of the season to go to the Super Bowl so I have to stick with that."

Um, no. No you do not. Things have changed since then. Circumstances have changed. You've got months worth of additional information at your disposal now to sift through and analyze. This is like This is like predicting in 1987 that cell phones are going to be a passing fad and then, in 2009, saying, "Well, I said that in 1987 and so I have to stick with my statement." Frigging idiots. You're actually paid to give a semi-informed opinion and that's what you say? I swear, of all the things on talk radio and ESPN that piss me off, that's really high up there. You're not bound to any earlier predictions. If you pick the Eagles to make the Super Bowl in August and then you're asked to pick their game this weekend and you honestly think they're going to lose, you say that. You know why? Because there aren't any rules! You can say whatever you want! And guys who say whatever they want and are brutally honest are usually celebrated for being that way! Charles Barkley just got arrested recently for driving drunk and saying he was trying to go get a blow job. But people love Charles! Enough so that he'll still be gainfully employed! If you or I did that, would that work out so well? Probably not. (Be fun to try, though.)

Anyway, that's enough of "What Grinds My Gears," by Peter Griffin.

Arizona Cardinals @ Carolina Panthers -- I'd be shocked to find anyone picking the Cardinals who wasn't doing it just to be a contrarian. Like when Mike Ditka picked the Giants to win the Super Bowl over the Patriots. I'm convinced he was forced to do that by ESPN, just so someone would say something different. He didn't even look happy saying it. The man has a canteloupe for a brain. Come on.

Anyway, my point is there's absolutely no reason to like the Cards here. They're not a good team. They cannot really run the ball. Though, yes, they sort of did last weekend. You know why? Becuase they had a lead, folks. Kudos for being logical and running the ball with a lead at home in the playoffs. They also have the corpse of Kurt Warner who has been putting up good numbers all year, but again, want to know why? Because he has two beasts in Boldin and Fitzgerald. Those guys are incredible athletes, even better than I think most of us realize. Did you see that Boldin catch between the two DBs last week? Would an average receiver get that? Or would it be another INT for ole Kurt Wobblyballs? And want more evidence? Did you see the way Kurt led Boldin into a fricking freight train against the Jets with his team down three scores in the final minute earlier this season? I'm sure those guys loving going up to catch passes for Kurt.

As for Carolina, nothing spectacular about them jumps out but they're really good at everything. The Giants were able to run the ball on them in Week 16 but if that's a weakness, Arizona can't capitalize on it. Plus the Cards are ninnys when they're away from the warmth of Arizona. Sure, it won't be frigid in Carolina, but it won't be Pacific Time, either, which is the only time zone the Cards win in.

All that said, with absolutely everyone already giving this game to the Panthers, it's beginning to feel like one of those games where the Cards could do something, if for no other reason than they know nobody expects them to go any further. And I'd love it, because it would mean the Giants (if they advance) would play the Cardinals instead of the Panthers. Still, as much as I think the Panthers have the potential to look past this game, I just cannot imagine the 9-7 Arizona Cardinals, led by Kurt Warner, playing in the NFC title game.

Panthers 27, Cardinals 21

Philadelphia Eagles @ New York Giants -- If ever there's a game that's all about execution, it's this one. Neither team has anything up its sleeve. The Eagles are going to throw 1500 screens to Westbrook in the flat. The Giants are going to try to establish the run and keep pounding. The Eagles D is going to blitz the hell out of Eli. The Giants D is going to pass rush Donovan in the hopes of forcing him into mistakes.

These teams know each other and they know what they do. And they really can't do much else at this point. Nobody's implementing a new game plan. It'll be a question of who executes well. And I'll tell you, two weeks ago, the Eagles were a long shot to make the playoffs and now everyone loves them. I heard them compared to last year's Giants. Okay, maybe. But I was not impressed with them in Minnesota and I'll tell you why.

The Eagles scored one offensive touchdown and it was on that 70-something yard screen to Westbrook. So McNabb dumped it off, Westbrook shimmied his way down, and suddenly everyone loves the Iggles. But that's the only thing they did on offense all day? They kicked four FGs, had that TD and had an INT returned for a TD. And yes, Asante Samuel is a good DB, but he's also the DB that the other Patriots called out for not hitting David Tyree in the Super Bowl last year on the helmet catch. And Tavaris Jackson, frankly, is just terrible. If he was even decent, the Vikes would have won and Philly would be back home, deciding whether to fire Reid and cut Donovan. (Both mistakes, by the way, but won't it be interesting if McNabb ends up in someplace like Minnesota next year? They'll be in the NFC Championship Game without question.)

Anyway, combine all that with the fact that the Giants are rested and Coughlin and Spagnulo have had a chance (when not interviewing for the fricking Broncos job) to prepare the team. Again, I'm not saying there's going to be anything special -- but I believe in these guys when it comes to execution. The Giants were the most methodical team for the first three months of the season. I think they'll get back to that and will be very focused this weekend. I think some of the focus dwindled when it became clear the division was effectively theirs by the end of October.

I think the running game will be huge and will help neutralize the Philly blitzes and I think Eli will make a play or two when he has to. Yes, the lack of Burress can hurt, but if the running game is working, it's more than enough (with that Giants defense) to beat this Eagles team.

Giants 27, Eagles 14

San Diego Chargers @ Pittsburgh Steelers -- This is the hardest game for me to pick, actually. I think the Chargers are the hottest, steamrolling team right now... but Tomlinson is out. And for all those people out there who now are in love with Darren Sproles...get a grip. The guy is good and quick, yes. But he's listed at 5'6". Do you remember Dave Meggett? I do, because he was a Giant for a while. And he was just like this. Exciting, fast, small, versatile. But in the end, he wasn't an every down back and when you think about someone like Brandon Jacobs crashing through the line and then think about Sproles... well, Sproles works against a non-punishing defense that he can scoot around. It may be hard to hit him, but if the Steelers do place a good hit on him, I think you'll see him be somewhat less effective.

Also, LT, sack up, man. I'm tired of seeing you torpedo your team's chances in the playoffs by always being too hurt to play. But you stand there looking like a mean little guy on the sidelines, in full pads and everything. Eat some Campbells chunky soup, tuck in your skirt and let's go. Your groin will heal. It's not like you play in the preseason anyway. And I bet they can start 4-8 with or without your help.

As for the Steelers, I've never been sold on them as much as it seems the media is. I think they're good, yes, and their defense is awesome. But Ben Roethlisberger has never impressed me. The guy throws some horrid picks and yes, he won a Super Bowl, but he had perhaps the worst performance ever by a QB that won. So there's that. And when they flash that graphic about all his fourth-quarter comebacks? Well, when your defense is that good and you still have a lot of fourth quarter comebacks, what does that mean? That you're behind a lot!

Also, Roethlisberger has a concussion, though I just read that he's off the injury report completely. As though he's 100% healthy. After being taken off the field on a stretcher two weeks ago because his melon was cracked so hard he couldn't stand up. Chew on that for a minute. Do you see why this is so hard for me? I don't fully believe in either team. But I think for kicks, and because I don't really care, I'll go for the upset.

Chargers 24, Steelers 23

Baltimore Ravens @ Tennessee Titans -- I have never liked Baltimore. Maybe it's because they beat the Giants in Super Bowl XXX. Maybe it's because of Ray Lewis' ridiculous dance. Maybe it's currently because of how the media makes Joe Flacco out to be freaking Joe Montana, despite things like him going 9-23 for 135 against, ahem, the Dolphins. But I just have never liked them.

All that said, I think it might not matter at all what Flacco does, provided he doesn't throw three picks. I think the Ravens defense is ready to win games all by themselves. I see a team that really believes they're amazing, even though the got blown out a few times this year, which is weird. That would seem to give me reasons to pick the #1-seed Titans. But the Titans looked awful the last week of the season -- and I know they had nothing to play for, but still. They haven't played a meaningful game in a long time and, in the end, do you trust Kerry Collins?

The Titans have beaten teams by rushing the ball effectively with Chris Johnson and LenDale White. And when teams tried to stack up to stop the run because they didn't think Collins could beat them, he did just that. But none of those defenses was the Ravens. Well, they did play one another, but the Titans eeked out a 13-10 squeaker. Something tells me they'd trade that win for one right now.

I think Ed Reed and the rest of that Ravens D will pulverize the Titans and if Tennessee gets behind, they'll need to throw the ball more. Ruh-roh.

Ravens 21, Titans 16

Enjoy it, boys and girls.

Last week's record: 2-2

Neither Ice, nor cold, nor poor performances keep the Paint Crew down!

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