The NFL couldn't have asked for a better or more compelling pair of conference championship games. In fact, I can't remember a better PAIR of games than the ones coming next week:
In the NFC, you have best turnaround story in the NFL of the year (and possibly ever) facing the best team in the conference this season.
Chicago has home-field advantage, the conference's best defensive player and its most controversial QB situation, and arguably the conference's most marquee franchise. The Saints have the conference's best offensive player and its top two rookies, along with the sympathy of every non-committed fan. Going on the road for the chance to make the Super Bowl -- after last season?! -- only reminds everyone of their permanent road-team status from a year ago.
Rooting interest analysis: Who ISN'T rooting for the Saints? (Cripes: To make the freaking SUPER BOWL? You'd have to be heartless... or a Bears fan.)
In the AFC, you simply have the NFL's greatest rivalry of the decade – even better because the game is at Indy, giving the Colts that extra level of advantage that will make any loss sting that much more.
It's very simple and so so so compelling: Either the Colts finally overcome their nemesis and finally make the Super Bowl or the Colts are bested again, adding to their epic inability to win the AFC, let alone an NFL championship.
Rooting interest analysis: Fans without a rooting interest in this game are in a bind: How can you not be rooting to see the Colts lose... again? But how can you actually want to see the Pats win... again? You could say that either result would provide you with some measure of schadenfreude, but both results also deliver quite a bit of pain, too. We'll put this up for debate over the course of the week.
Tom Brady, Pats kicker do it again: When Tom Brady and the Pats offense got the ball late in the 4th quarter down 8 points after that ridiculous McCree INT-fumble on what should have been a game-ending gaffe by Brady, who DIDN'T think he'd rally them for the TD to bring them within 6, then pull off the Gators-style trickery on the conversion to tie it? And then who DIDN'T think, if given the chance, Brady would plow down the field and set up the game-winning field goal? He's so damn predictable. So damn damn damn predictable.
Meanwhile, The Genius was right: Who needs Adam Vinatieri? Obviously, Stephen Gostkowski hasn't kicked a game-winning field goal in the Super Bowl (uh, a few times), but yesterday's game-winner on the road with a minute to go wasn't a bad start.
Marty Schottenheimer is the biggest loser in the history of NFL coaching. It's no longer a mockery; he has no business coaching a contender. Yesterday's loss is his worst yet.
I'd sooner fire him than have a coach who so consistently makes the playoffs, yet so consistently fails to win in the playoffs.
This year was the worst: He had the best and hottest team in the NFL. Home-field advantage. The league MVP. The best defensive player. An 8-point lead in the fourth quarter. And he choked... yet again.
If the Chargers have any aspirations of making the Super Bowl while their nucleus of stars is still intact, they need to fire Marty and find a coach who actually knows how to win in the playoffs.
As for the Bears win over the defending NFC champs? All I can say is that it affirms the argument that the team's MVP this season is/was... kicker Robbie Gould. That was a hell of a boot. I'll actually be in Chicago tomorrow through Thursday; I'll try to keep up the posting through the hysteria all around me.
NFL OT rule is the worst: People complain endlessly about the way that college football determines its champion.
But as wacked as that system is, for sheer ridiculousness, nothing tops the NFL's system of awarding its first (and often only) playoff possession based on... a coin flip.
In all of sports, there is no worse system that impacts a championship than the NFL's overtime rule for awarding possession, particularly when it happens in the playoffs.
I say this every year: The system won't change until the Super Bowl winner is decided by a coin flip. Only then, when the league is humiliated so universally, will the NFL go to a "fair-ups" OT system.
Cards hire Steelers' Whisenhunt: I'm not quite sure why the Steelers passed on him (or left him hanging for so many years as the presumptive in-house successor if/when Cowher left), but the Cards took advantage. Enjoy Russ Grimm, Steelers fans.
Don't forget to check out my eulogy for the cancelled "Quite Frankly" right below.