Pick up the Slack: Sorting out the weekend’s NFL, BCS action
By PATRICK SLACK
In honor of my brother’s birthday, I’m going to sort this weekend’s NFL and BCS participants into “big brothers” and “little brothers.”
My brother won 176 matches in high school as a wrestler and went on to win a national title in college.
I, on the other hand, won two varsity matches, although, he did not go undefeated like I did.
I’ll let everyone take a wild guess at which one of us is the big brother from the following lists.
Big Brother: Alabama
Little Brother: LSU
Question all you want the fairness of LSU having to face Alabama a second time after already beating them on the road earlier this year.
The Crimson Tide were just flat-out better Monday.
Alabama had to settle for five field goals before finally finding the end zone late in its 21-0 win, but it moved the ball very well throughout the game.
Give credit to Nick Saban and the rest of the Alabama coaching staff for loosening the reins on quarterback A.J. McCarron and taking some shots downfield.
LSU proved to be susceptible to giving up some chunks against the pass early in games near the end of the regular season.
Only this time, the Tigers were facing a defense capable of keeping them from getting back into the game.
Had Alabama not gotten that last touchdown, though, and LSU found a way to make it a one-possession game, the Tigers may have at least had a shot at a split national title.
Which probably explains why LSU head coach Les Miles opted to punt on multiple fourth-and-manageable situations in the fourth quarter with LSU only down by two scores.
Another failure of the BCS, forcing teams to worry about making the score look good rather than do everything in their power to try to win.
Big Brother: Denver’s offense
Little Brother: Pittsburgh’s defense
It was mind-boggling to see a defense that had produced two AFC titles in three years give up yards by the dozen to previously-struggling Denver quarterback Tim Tebow, Sunday.
The Broncos beat only one team with a winning record all year and limped into the playoffs having lost three in a row.
Heck, they didn’t even have a winning record.
But the Steelers ignored the blueprint designed by Buffalo and Kansas City at the end of the regular season of bumping Broncos’ receivers at the line to throw off Tebow’s rhythm.
Given the time to throw, Tebow gave easily his best pro performance to date, shredding the Steelers’ secondary to lead Denver into the divisional round and a veteran Steelers squad to wonder if this is the beginning of the end for this particular corps of players.
Big Brothers: Texans, Brees, G-Men
Little Brothers: Bungles, Falcons, Motor City Kitties
There’s not much to say about the other three playoff games other than I’m glad I didn’t watch any of them.
The Cincinnati Bengals forgot to show up against Houston, Detroit wished they hadn’t against New Orleans and Atlanta hasn’t in the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.
The Texans certainly have the defense to shut down a merely average Baltimore offense this week and New Orleans can flat-out outscore anyone.
Can the Giants pull off an upset that would come close to rivaling their Super Bowl win over New England just four years ago?
Their defense reemerged against Atlanta, essentially shutting out the Falcons, who scored just two points on a safety.
The weather could play a factor, perhaps slowing down the Packers’ passing attack, but probably not.
The real question will be just how good can Eli Manning play.
Good won’t be enough: he has to be almost flawless.
If he can walk that tightrope, all three of these wildcard winners could move on.