All season you hear the mantra, all around the NFL: Gotta get into the playoffs. Gotta make it to the playoffs. Gotta get into the tournament.
Well, the tournament is here, and it's...kinda blah.
Panthers-Cardinals, with Ryan Lindley playing quarterback for a faltering team, facing a team with a losing record?
Ravens-Steelers, with the Ravens featuring 18 players on injured reserve and the Steelers losing their star back, Le'Veon Bell?
The Bengals, who never win in the postseason, against the Colts? At least you get to watch Andrew Luck.
The Lions and the Cowboys?
Ok, that last one has my interest.
Like it or not, the Cowboys are always fascinating, and this year they've been good and fascinating. DeMarco Murray will face a stout run defense led by a guy who should be suspended, Ndomukong Suh, and who is, in the twisted thinking of the elite athlete, somehow motivated that the NFL is out to get him, even though his proposed suspension was overturned.
One of two talented and productive quarterbacks, Tony Romo or Matthew Stafford, will be forced to win a playoff game.
My silly picks are as follows:
The Panthers are as hot as a losing team can be. Cam Newton is playing well, and the Panthers have rediscovered their running game just in time to face a Cardinals defense that has been vulnerable to the run the last five weeks. Ryan Lindley won't be able to keep the Cardinals in the game. I like Carolina, and maybe by a lot.
Losing Le'Veon Bell means the Steelers may have to rely on Ben Tate, who was cut by two NFL teams thsi year. That completely changes their offense. The Ravens are battered but their offense is much improved because of Justin Forsett and Steve Smith. The Ravens win this one.
The Bengals are not going to win their first postseason game under Marvin Lewis without A.J. Green, and it doesn't look like Green will play. The Colts will pick off Andy Dalton at least twice and Luck will have a big game.
Lions-Cowboys is the toughest to pick and should be the most interesting game. The Cowboys' running game has slowed in the last third of the season and the Lions' front is impressive. But I like Tony Romo to continue his brilliant play, and as much as the Lions have improved I don't trust them to make big plays in the fourth quarter against a good team. Cowboys, with Dez Bryant making a winning play in the fourth.
Just watched Houston complete a remarkable comeback against Pitt. Houston went for the two-pointer for the win with less than a minute left, and got it, to win 35-34. I would have supported the call even if they had missed. Why not give your players a chance to gain two yards and win the game instead of hoping that circumstances fall your way in overtime? I love the call.
At 3 p.m. today, Strib hockey writer Michael Russo and I will run our next podcast. You can listen live or later at SouhanUnfiltered.com.