Monday, January 16, 2012

01/16 (Giants, Wow) Quickie

Hey, don't miss Quickish's NFL stream this morning, with some smart takes on yesterday's games.

The Packers were a great story this season -- a mini-dynasty (or standard version) in the making. The Giants waltzing into Lambeau and throttling them is an even better story, the kind of you-kind-of-hope-it-will-happen-but-don't-expect-it-to-happen result that makes sports fun. (As compared to, say, Tom Brady's evisceration of Tebow and the Broncos on Saturday night, which was -- lamentably -- entirely predictable and without much of any shade of doubt.)

It instantly lines up right behind the Super Bowl win over the Pats as the greatest game of Eli Manning's career -- one in which he is settling nicely into just enough consistency and signature wins to wonder whether it's unreasonable to think both Mannings are future Hall of Famers.

And it triggers a "hot hand" theory about these Giants that immediately gets the pundits talking about 2007 (but really -- per Grantland's Barnwell -- looks more like Green Bay's run from last year, most notably for the the road shellacking delivered to a seemingly superior No. 1 seed.)

Last big issue from yesterday's game (aside from the notable instances of atrocious officiating): Did the combination of the first-round bye plus taking off Week 17 hurt the Packers? Obviously, it's hard to say, and you'd like to think pros playing at a high level can manage that kind of tapering -- on the other hand, it's impossible to ignore, and I think that, at the very least, any team that far in the lead in Week 17 will at least play its starters for a half. (The far more intriguing idea is that playing in the bye week sharpened the Giants enough to pull the upset -- the Patriots and Ravens and 49ers are a counter to that, obviously, but qualitatively, it sure seems compelling.)

Looking ahead to next week: The Giants may have momentum and mojo, but I feel like Jim Harbaugh eats other teams' mo and mojo for a mid-day snack -- just look at what he did with the Saints' mojo. Now, the Giants' defense is far more dangerous than the Saints' D. Then again, the Giants' offense isn't nearly as tough to stop as Brees & Co. Harbaugh has proven himself to be the NFC's best coach (and perhaps the NFL's best coach... and perhaps the current best head football coach in the world, regardless of level), and the Niners' confidence is off the charts. Then again, that's what we all thought about the Packers.

I don't mean to dismiss or ignore the Ravens' win over the Texans. It was entirely expected (if not as decisive as folks would have liked to see). I think the conventional wisdom will be that the Pats will throttle them in Foxboro next weekend -- that's a mistake, obviously; the Ravens are far more set up to upend the Pats than the Broncos were. (Best thing I read about the Ravens' win was from the Baltimore Sun's Kevin Van Valkenburg.)

As for Houston, they should be thrilled by finally making it to the playoff field, and feel comfortable that if they can keep Matt Schaub healthy, they are a contender to advance one more round to the AFC title game. (Then again, ratcheted expectations -- without a whole lot of breathing room -- are typically a route to being disappointed.)

Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr.: SB Nation's Bomani Jones tweeted out a link to Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech, and it's always worth it to re-read.

-- D.S.

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