It’s a great time to be a sports conspiracy theorist. Really, there’s never a bad time for it, but the NFL … oh, this league makes it so easy.
You shouldn’t really believe this stuff — just like you shouldn’t believe the NBA rigged the 1985 draft so the Knicks would get Patrick Ewing — but that doesn’t mean that we can’t have some fun with it.
So let’s take a spin through the NFL playoffs to date, and going forward, to create the ultimate start-to-finish, four-part conspiracy theory:
Part I: The NFL wanted the Cowboys to beat the Lions. While it’s true that overturning Ndamukong Suh’s suspension gave Detroit a better chance in last week’s playoff opener, a good conspiracy theorist would tell you that move was just to throw everyone off the real scent.
When push came to shove — literally and figuratively — the NFL ordered referees to pick up the pass interference flag, thus enabling the Cowboys’ comeback victory. Roger Goodell probably has a button he can push that sends an electric shock to the head official.
Part II: As much as the league wanted the Cowboys to advance in the opening round to set up the game of the weekend — Dallas at Green Bay, an 8-0 road team vs. an 8-0 home team — that’s where the league wanted the Cowboys’ run to end.
The best story line of this round was Aaron Rodgers’ gutting out a win on a gimpy calf (note: he was awesome Sunday) in order to set up a matchup of the two teams everyone wants to see in the NFC title game: Green Bay and Seattle.
So this time it was Dallas’ turn to feel the sting of a questionable officiating decision, with Dez Bryant’s catch — which almost surely would have led to a late go-ahead touchdown — overturned by replay during a year in which reversal rates have plummeted on similar bang-bang plays.
Well-played, NFL. Well-played.
Part III: Next week, though, it will the Packers’ turn to fall by the NFL’s hand. While we don’t imagine it will be anything as dramatic as the “Fail Mary” of Packers/Seahawks lore, a good conspiracy theorist should prepare to be on the lookout for suspicious activity.
A return trip to the Super Bowl by the Seahawks and young quarterback Russell Wilson is the story line the league wants to hype for two weeks. Sorry, Cheeseheads.
Part IV: But in the end, the AFC will win the conspiracy battle — and the Super Bowl. The lure of an iconic, veteran, future Hall of Fame quarterback making what could end up being one more run at another ring will be too much for the NFL to ignore and too much for Seattle’s repeat bid to handle.
You just watch. Conspiracies are wherever you want them to be.