ADSHADE: First week of playoffs weeds out pretenders

Kevin Adshade
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This is what we saw when watching the 17-week National Football League season: a few very good teams (Broncos, Seahawks, Patriots, 49ers); some bad ones (Jaguars, Raiders, Rams, Browns... you know, the usual suspects) and a lot of mediocre teams, some of whom actually made the NFL playoffs, although more by default than because they actually deserved to play on. But we have what we have, and if nothing else, the first weekend of the NFL playoffs tends to weed out the pretenders.  

San Diego at Cincinnati:

Some history for you: In 1982, the Chargers hooked up with the Bengals for a playoff game at Cincinnati, with the wind chill pushing the game-time temperature to an un-godly 59 degrees below zero. The team from southern California could not handle the Arctic-like air, and the Bengals went on to the Super Bowl, where they would fall to the San Francisco 49ers, who were just beginning their dynasty.  On the way to the stadium prior to that game, a Chargers coach pointed at the steam that was coming off a river that winds through Cincinnati, and said, "see, it's not that cold", perhaps not knowing that the steam meant the air was colder than the water in the river. Yeah coach, it's still cold, no matter how you try to spin it. The Bengals have not won an NFL playoff game since 1990, when they beat the old Houston Oilers, then the next week lost to the old Los Angeles Raiders (who then were the old Oakland Raiders but are now the old Los Angeles Raiders) in a game that saw Raiders' running back Bo Jackson's career end with a debilitating hip injury. Jackson would still play baseball for a couple more seasons with the California Angels and Chicago White Sox, but his NFL days ended suddenly for the multi-sport athlete.  This year, the Chargers are hitting the playoffs the right way: winning games down he stretch, four of them to be exact as they squeaked in. Bengals' QB Andy Dalton is too inconsistent, some days he looks very good, others he looks terrible. Chargers, 24-20.   Kansas City at Indianapolis The Chiefs' successful season wasn't quite enough for them to overtake the Denver Broncos in the AFC West, which means Kansas City starts the playoffs on the road. Good matchup for them, though: the Colts, who won a bad AFC South division and aren't as good as an 11-5 won-loss record might indicate. Chiefs' defence wins the day, 27-17.   San Francisco at Green Bay The 49ers played in the same division as the high-flying Seattle Seahawks (Broncos/Seahawks Super Bowl, in a month's time) and are another good team that finds themselves playing on the road to open the playoffs.  The Packers have an advantage that is the mystique of Lambeau Field, not to mention the return of quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who after missing several games with an injury rode in on his white horse last week and lifted the Packers to a miraculous win against the Chicago Bears, just to get his team into the playoffs. I sense an upset here, if only because it's Rodgers and Lambeau.  Packers, 26-24.   New Orleans at Philadelphia  Philadelphia is one of those sports cities where every professional sports team that plays in it, I hate (the other one is Boston). So, while I'd love to see the Saints beat the Eagles, I strongly have doubts. New Orleans is much better when playing at home, and the wintry conditions of eastern Pennsylvania isn't something they would particularly enjoy. Really, the Eagles won a bad NFC East, but they're good enough to beat New Orleans. Eagles, 31-27. *    *    *   Other Sports Thought: Pay money to sit in a frigid football stadium in Michigan on New Year's Day, and watch an NHL game with the ice surface a trillion miles away? No, thanks. Although I did watch the Red Wings and Maple Leafs play on TV, and it was good fun, a nice way to spend a cozy New Year's afternoon. Added bonus: Pictou County's Dave Gunning won the CBC Song Quest with his A Game Goin' On, announced during the game by CBC commentator P.J. Stock. So good for Dave Gunning and good for hockey. I wouldn't want a steady diet of outdoor NHL games, but once in awhile, outside hockey is more than okay. 

Organizations: California Angels, National Football League, Chargers Bengals Seattle Seahawks Los Angeles Raiders Houston Oilers Oakland Raiders Chicago White Sox Denver Broncos NHL Lambeau Field Chicago Bears Red Wings Maple Leafs CBC

Geographic location: Southern California, Cincinnati, San Diego Arctic Kansas City New Orleans Philadelphia Indianapolis San Francisco Green Bay Boston Eastern Pennsylvania Michigan Pictou County

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