The January Sky Begins to Storm

Last week I wrote an exclusive Online Dispatch about the calm before the playoff storm (available at fgunion.blogspot.com, along with a complete column archive). I know it’s been a while since I had a column in print, but what with the wacky publishing and family traveling schedules over the last few weeks, it has been darned near impossible to write contemp-orarily.
Anyhoo, the play-off storm has indeed made land-fall and the clouds are now approaching the Wisconsin state line. By storm, I don’t mean an ominous gully-washer, but rather, an exciting and fast-paced release of coiled energies – Like a lightening bolt made of boiling cheese.
The Wildcard Weekend contests were for the most part fairly dull, aside from the Jacksonville win. None of the results surprised me, though. I mostly listened to them on the radio-wave converter machine out on the ice. I’ve got a new gizmo that works off a hand-crank, kind of like my Mora Ice Auger. You just whirl that handle around a few times and – presto – battery-free radio programming for hours on end.
Well, before we get to the upcoming McCarthy v. Holmgren battle roy-yal, let me throw down some predictions in the other contests,
In the AFC, there are four exceptionally well-run organizations squaring off for one spot in the Super Duper Bowl. Although I really like what Del Rio has done in Jacksonville, I just don’t think they’ll have enough in the tank to dethrone those Patriots on the road. Over in Indiana-land, the difference will be at quarterback. Rivers just ain’t ready and I again see the favored Colts pulling it out with ease. Although they are the defending champions, I have to pick New England to win the AFC Title this season. Hard to go any other way, really. They just don’t lose, especially at home in January.
Opposite The Packers we have an interesting matchup with Dallas against New York. This is the first time these division rivals have met in the playoffs and I think this will probably be the closest of the four games this weekend. With Owens missing or, at the very least, hindered, and New York riding a wave, I like the Giants here in a squeaker (it’s tough to beat a team three times in a season).
I am obviously going to pick the Packers to win in the early game. Seattle is a quality team and I will always possess a fond-ness for Holmgren, but in a contest of two pass-first offenses, I like ours way, way more. I also think we’ll have a more balanced attack and I‘ll give the nod to our defense and special teams as well. I know some of my acquaintances are sort of skittish about this game but I think we’ll be celebrating by the middle of the fourth quarter. McCarthy has done a great job of restoring the Lambeau Mystique in his short tenure, and a big playoff win at home would really solidify this resurgence. Breathe easy and mark it with confidence, dear readers: Seattle – 14, Green Bay – 27.
If I am right with my picks, this would of course set up another NFC Championship at home, with a possible Super Bowl rematch against New England. I don’t know about you folks, but I’ve been having the déjà vu all year between this season and the 1996 run. The picks just seem right, in that light.
Well, folks, make sure you’ve got your playoff party suits cleaned and pressed, and even if you can’t be at the game, make sure they can hear you hollering in Green Bay. Let us all unleash a storm this Saturday.
Until next week, then.