It's been a while since the Steelers qualified for the playoffs but did not play in its second weekend. The divisional round had some great moments, but none shined brighter than the Giants upset win over favored Green Bay.
Fun, for selfish reasons.
The Packers final six games reminded me a bit of Davey "Lard Ass" Hogan from the immortal classic "Stand By Me."
Lard Ass was participating in a pie-eating contest in a typical small town in the U.S. He didn't intend to win the contest, but rather, extract revenge for years of abuse from the town.
He crushed pie after pie at the beginning of the contest, only to slow considerably down the stretch. It ended with him eating at a snail's pace, followed by completely stopping, then puking it all back out in a massive orgy of stomach acid and blueberry.
That glop may have been cleaned off the ground at Lambeau Field by now, but it won't be in the hearts and minds of the soon-to-be-former defending champs.
I was wondering comically at first if the Packers receivers were pissed at Rodgers for not getting them in any of the several State Farm commercials he made, while two notable defensive players did.
By the end of the game, I was seriously considering it a possibility. The "Discount Double-Choke" game will be remembered for a long time. After all, no 15-1 team has failed to win a playoff game.
As much fun as it was to watch the Giants dismantle the overmatched Packers, it doesn't make up for the laughable performance of the Baltimore offense getting bailed out by a rookie quarterback - not the Ravens defense, contrary to those easily persuaded by the hypnotizing gyrations of Ray Lewis celebrating a tackle after a seven-yard gain.
T.J. Yates made some of the poorest decisions in the history of the playoffs. Credit to Ed Reed for actually catching the ball, but let's be honest, I would dare to suggest every other free safety in the same could have picked that off.
I'm not even sure it matters, though.
There's lots of talk that Baltimore matches up better with New England than it did with Houston. I can buy that. Baltimore has a better balance of strength between its offensive and defensive units than the Patriots do.
But I've been saying that since Pittsburgh beat New England in Week 9. The Patriots' defense has been expected to lose games for them for the last nine contests. Hasn't happened.
When the Packers swooned, the Patriots peaked. And they're still climbing. It's not about their defense; it's about their quarterback.
I'm all about the NFC now, but Tom Brady is in complete and total "Eff You" mode, probably caused by the lack of respect (relatively speaking) he's received this year. While we're busy discussing whether Joe Flacco's just-north-of-50-percent completion rate is worthy of elite performance status, Brady will finish third with no first-place votes in the MVP race, behind two guys who are no longer in the playoffs.
I look at a motivated Brady the same way I looked at this heavyweight high school wrestler I covered back in 2004. It was the first round of the state dual tournament, and the school I was covering was going against a team who's heavyweight had a full ride to Iowa waiting for him.
This kid was probably the most impressive physical specimen I've ever seen. No exaggeration, he was about 6-foot-4, 250 pounds, zero fat. It's as if he was sculpted from granite. He hadn't lost in four years, and there was no way anyone could beat him.
The team I covered had advantages at every other weight class, so instead of wearing out their doughy, sloth-like heavyweight against this monster, they threw their even doughier and more sloth-like JV heavyweight against him.
The future Iowa kid had 15 takedowns in a three-minute match (state record) and the JV kid literally just stood there and took it.
The Iowa heavyweight is Brady. The doughy piece of dung is Flacco.
After that, he'll eye Alex Smith and even Eli Manning with the same look a shark eyes fresh chum. Quarterbacks don't compete against each other directly, but their egos led to the creation of a post-game handshake between them, much like the coaches do. Clearly, to some extent, they recognize each other as competitors.
I'm not going to think for a second Brady didn't read all of the hype surrounding Tebow, and prepare this past week in an effort to give him a soul-crushing beat-down only those complete secure in themselves, or ignorant to all life around them, could recover. He then would look Tebow in the eye after the game, and non-verbally inform him he's taking his headlines back.
I was surprised he took his foot off the gas in the second half. They could have broken every scoring and passing record ever written in that game. They put a tight end at halfback for cripessake! And he did well!
Brady's "I married a super model after dumping an actress" lifestyle took away from his need to ruthlessly crush any who dare take his place on top of Mount Attention. He wasn't shaken until the combination of losing to the useless Mark Sanchez last year, and the explosion of Tebowmania this year.
Now, he gets to crush the spirit of another wannabe rival, and get revenge on a completely unexpected thrashing the Ravens gave the Patriots in 2008. The following season, then-Chiefs SS Bernard Pollard blew his knee out in Week 1.
Pollard now plays for the Ravens.
Remember when Steelers FS Anthony Smith "guaranteed" a win over the Patriots in 2007? Brady took that really personally, and went after Smith every chance he had.
Pollard took one season away, and Brady essentially lost a second season after playing 2010 at 85 percent. He'll drool like Pavlov's dog the second he sees Gronkowski lined up on Pollard.
After that, it's either the ultimate revenge, it's the guy who took away his perfect season, Eli Manning - in Peyton's home stadium, no less - or it's the severely under-matched Alex Smith.
Needless to say, I'm betting on Brady.