That's right, bitches. Playoffs. We're talking 'bout playoffs. Not practice. Not practice. Playoffs.
What a strange season. Let's tick off the major themes of the year.
1. The worst defense in football last year morphed into one of the best. They did this despite losing their best defensive back and one of their only playmakers to what can best be described as congenital stupidity. Some say it's the steady play of Harper and Hope and the increased amount of general slobberknockery from Lowry, Fuller, and Griffin. Some note the upgrade from Sirmon to Tulloch and the utter domination of Haynesworth and VanDen Bosch on the right side of the line. Other's point to the emergence of Cortland Finnegan as a legitimate playmaking corner in the NFL.
-Sidebar- How does someone manage to look cocky while admitting they're from Samford during the intro montage? I didn't think that was possible, and literally laughed out loud. Dude has serious issues. I kept picturing what would happen if the camera guy responded with any of the following:
b) The guy from the junk shop who yelled at Lamont all the time?
c) Samford? Isn't that a chick school? Is that near Wellesley?
d) Stanford? Oh yeah. Great school.
But I'm afraid none of these things have anything to do with the improved defense this year. No, the real culprit is the Gris-gris I made in my basement during the offseason. Papa Legba! Ouvrier barriere por moi passer! Loa, Loa Legba! Ce Letbah, qui ap vini, ce Papa Legba! Débarassez-vous svp du Lamont Thompson!
I felt bad about it, being well outside the bounds of conventional Judeo-Christian practices and all, but now that we've made the playoffs I think it was justified.
2. The electric ground game and come-from-behind fireworks of last season morphed into the most boring form of football known to man. I'm starting a Wikipedia page for Fisherball after the season is over. It's like watching paint for three hours after it's already dried. If I wanted to watch someone fumble around for hours with only a brief moment of success here and there I'd make my two year old eat dinner with a pair of chopsticks. It's like one of those foreign films where people wander around talking to each other all the time but nothing ever happens. This is America, Jeff. We like blockbusters, and sex, and explosions. Throw in some werewolves or dead pirates or mean robots or something at least. You're killing me. And you're making me agree with Terrell Davis of all people. Not cool man. Not cool.
3. Vince has had a bum wheel most of the season. The theories on exactly when it went down and how badly it's hurt are legion- guys with handles like TitansRulz! have pieced together the youtube equivalent of the Zapruder film out of Tampa Bay gametape trying to explain it. He's improved his passing percentage considerably but the guy hasn't been able to run all year. I've never seen him jog three yards and sit down during a game before. Surreal. Fortunately he doesn't have a single legitimate deep threat to throw it to either, so he has that going for him, which is nice. Knowing how Fisher is with injury information I won't be surprised to find out his leg was severed and stuck back together with duct tape after the season is over.
Which brings me to the Indy game to wrap up the season. Everyone saw it so I'll skip to the post game quotes.
Tony Dungy- "We felt like we saw what we needed to, and got the individual records we needed to, it's about playing smart at this time of the year. If Peyton goes down we're in real trouble. If Sorgi gets decapitated there's several WAC quarterbacks I could draft next year."
Peyton Manning- "The game went like we expected, I looked awesome. Then I got to wear the headseat for awhile and pretend I'm a coach, which was cool because I usually pretend I'm a referee. I'd just like to thank everyone that made this season possible: Sprint, Sony, MasterCard, Gatorade, DirecTV, H.H. Gregg, the American Red Cross, Xbox, Dr. Scholl's Odor Eaters and Stayfree Ultrathin with Wings."
Jeff Fisher- "The game went how we thought it would go, we played it close with Peyton in there then did some things to win at the end. I wasn't surprised Tony didn't take that last time out, we've worked together in the league a long time. We text message each other a lot, hang out in a hot tub on occasion. Play the 'No, you hang up' game sometimes. He's cool."
Vince Young- "Owwwww"
Norm Chow- "I never said Vince was immature. What I said was he locks himself in the treatment room for several hours and breaks things after I show him the offensive gameplan each week. You guys are taking things out of context. Trust me, it's a legitimate reaction."
Antwan Odom- "Having Albert and Kyle tie up blockers helps me out, most definitely, most definitely. I like Big Al and I cannot lie. You other brothers can't deny. What?"
Chris Henry- "Didn't hurt. I shot a cocktail of of something I call meth-roids into my eyeball before the game. Plus I played behind Arizona's offensive line. I'm used to it."
Andrea Kremer- "Can you just talk about how surprised you are to be here with such a shitty team Jeff? Or about how unlikely it is that the washed-up has-been towering over me who can hear what I'm saying, Kerry Collins, could actually play a decent football game? Or about how huge a pansy Vince is while he rolling around on the ground over there? Is it okay if I pretend you're Tom Brady?"
John Madden- "Bob Sanders is... here's a guy, who plays like we used to play when it was supposed to be played like it was, you know what I mean, just wow, and then he does it again but different too, cause it's different now. One time I ripped a guy's arm off and tripped him with it."
So now we get to face the Chargers again, and after the implosion we had last time to those guys frankly I'm glad. Most painful loss of the season, bar none. The Chargers were who we thought they were, and we let 'em off the hook. More importantly, I view them as the the reason I missed my 11-5 prediction this season which would have made Scipio my personal slave for one year. Now I have to buy him the Gilmore Girls box set. Sometimes life isn't fair.
The pregame talk is going to center around whether a hobbled Vince is more effective than Kerry the Statue, frankly I'm not sure it matters. Defenses don't respect VY running that much anymore and a spy can get to him now anyway, and it's not like either does much other than hand off from the I with the occasional desperation pass to a well covered receiver on third and long. I'd like to see Vince play and play well, but 16 games of Fisherball have beaten any optimism on that score out of me.
The other major theme will be the allegations of Merriman that we put a hit on him, his propensity for retaliation, and the physical nature of the first matchup overall. Both teams want payback and both have the mindset on defense to make good on it. Make no mistake, this will be the most physical game this weekend by a longshot. It'll be the chariot scene from Ben Hur. It'll be an Iroquois guantlet full of captured Huron and Yangeez. One of the captains will come back from the toss tied to his horse, and Fisher will reach down and rub a little dirt around in his hands before kickoff. We should go ahead and deactivate most of the skill players and go with a good kicker and loads of fresh bodies in the 240 lb and up range because we're going to need them. This should be one helluva football game.
It's going to be brutal.
You stay classy, San Diego.