The Falcons and Patriots Have a Date Set on February 5th (Super Bowl LI)

Let’s face it: we all overrated the Green Bay Packers, especially after they narrowly defeated the Dallas Cowboys after blowing an 18-point lead. We saw Aaron Rodgers do Aaron Rodgers things, and we all ooh’ed and ahh’ed.

Well, I had the Falcons beating the Packers, but not the way they did it. Atlanta slapped Green Bay around so badly that they are forcing ’em to relocate to another city before the Raiders do. In all seriousness, Atlanta jumped out of the gates, Mason Crosby missed a field goal (which prompted one of my friends that’s a Cowboys fan to text me with an expected and very appropriate, “Oh now you fucking miss one, Mason Crosby”) and the Packers made mistakes. That Ripkowski (kickass last name) fullback the Packers had fumbled, and Atlanta hardly let their foot off the gas.

We should have saw this coming. Atlanta is so fast; the Packers were hobbled and hurt coming into the game. Let’s also face the fact that the Packers aren’t very good. Aaron Rodgers is the makeup to the Packers’ acne. I still believe that Matt Ryan is the unequivocal MVP of the NFL this year, given the fact that the Falcons’ 2016 campaign is the 8th ranked offense of all-time, but take Rodgers away from the Packers and they are the Cleveland Browns of the NFC North.

The Patriots dominated the Steelers from start to finish. I’ve said it for years about Mike Tomlin being the most overrated head coach in the league. I’m sure he’s a great person, and well, he’s also a good “rah-rah” coach, but he inherited the Steelers after they were built up by Bill Cowher, and he was lucky to win Super Bowl XLIII against the Cardinals (he better thank Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes for a lifetime). He rode the coattails of the players Cowher brought in. Also, the fact that he has Roethlisberger — who’s probably the best quarterback in the AFC North outside of a temperamental Joe Flacco — and they’ve lost the division to the Cincinnati Bengals two of the last three years, underperforming with a high powered offense. From the Steel Curtain to the aluminum trash bag.

“So, Troy, you are saying that Tomlin is overrated just because he lost the AFC title game to the best organization in football?”

No, I’m saying he’s overrated because the Steelers have underperformed over the last five years with Tomlin. Besides, Tomlin is on the upper echelons of “coaches that Belichick consistently owns” list. Tomlin is a rah-rah guy, so the media loves him, but hey, just like Terry Bradshaw said, I reckon he’s more of a glorified cheerleader in a coach’s outfit rather than a head coach.

My early predictions for the Super Bowl? The Patriots will stifle the Falcons’ offense. The Falcons will score and get things going, but the Patriots will control the tempo of the game and not make mistakes like the Packers did. A lot of people refuse to believe in momentum in football, but think if the Packers would have hit that field goal to make the game 7-3 in the Falcons game, or if Ripkowski didn’t fumble. Momentum is absolutely real; these pro football players are still human. They have emotions and confidence issues at times. The script can be flipped and the tide can change.

I do hope the Falcons win, however. I heavily followed the Falcons when they drafted Michael Vick out of Virginia Tech in 2001. When they weren’t facing the Rams (or Dolphins), I rooted for them. One of my great friends/de facto brothers is a Falcons fan. Matt Ryan is the real deal; I watched him pick apart a menacing Virginia Tech defense when VT led Ryan’s Boston College Eagles 10-0 with a few minutes left in the game. Ryan tossed two touchdowns in 2 minutes and 11 seconds to stun the Hokies in Blacksburg. He’s the real deal. I can’t repeat that enough.

I’m hoping for a great game. The conference title games were stinkers!

Mike Tomlin says the Steelers will go all the way

One of these four teams will be NFL champions:

Baltimore Ravens
Arizona Cardinals
Philadelphia Eagles
Pittsburgh Steelers

Baltimore will take on Pittsburgh on Heinz Field next Sunday afternoon, while Arizona and Philadelphia will tangle in Phoenix Stadium. Don’t let me forget to remind you that CBS is the number one watched station in America (in case your mind is a bit drubbed, I’m making fun of the incessant chatter that’s being brought up by announcers repeatedly saying that).

If I have to hear one more slur about Pittsburgh being the team to beat, I’m about to go crazy. Let me make this nice, concise and any other adjective that has an “ice” sound at the end of it: the Steelers will not win the Super Bowl. Point, blank, bottom line.

Name me one team in NFL history who has ever won a Super Bowl with a mediocre offensive line. You can’t. Because every champion is propagated from up front. It all begins from the trenches. The Steelers don’t have the same line they had a couple of years ago. This line is unstable. It can protect Ben Roethlisberger and Willie Parker a couple of times, but not a whole lot.

Baltimore will beat Pittsburgh next Sunday.

There, I’m saying it. The Ravens will hand Pittsburgh a one-and-done loss by the hands of the physical Ravens defense getting all over Pittsburgh and Roethlisberger.

I guess I better stop. Pretty soon a Pittsburgh fan is going to show up with a knife and head straight to my pineal gland.

NFL Playoff Picks You’ve Always Wanted

So the title just deceived you to get you to read this blog. Get over it, folks.

Naughty or nice? Who cares, Christmas has been over, it’s December 29, and the NFL playoffs are on lock.

If there’s a heaven, my father has smiled multiple times this season dating back to February 3, 2008 when the 1972 Miami Dolphins held onto their lone perfect season. He also smiled on December 28, as the Miami Dolphins picked off Brett Favre and the New York Jets three times AND held our most hated team in the NFL, the bastardly New England Patriots, out of the playoffs. The Miami Dolphins are the AFC East champions for the first time since 2000, and making the playoffs for the first time since 2001. Ah, at least my second favorite NFL team is making some noise. Hear ye.

No Jason Taylor, no Zach Thomas, no Chris Chambers, NO PROBLEM. Behind the smart passing of Chad Pennington and the thrilling rushing trio of Ronnie Brown, Patrick Cobbs and Ricky Williams, the Phins took back what was theirs nine seasons ago: the AFC East crown.

The Denver Broncos were once upon a time 8-5. The San Diego Chargers, 5-8. But because choking in the NFL is avid, fans are attracted to watching underdogs and other teams just make unprecedented comebacks. The improbable happened. Jay Cutler threw more passes into double coverage than home interior gifts my Uncle Steve’s wife throws at the wall, and that’s a lot, my friends. San Diego ripped off three consecutive victories, including a thrilling F-U win to knock out Denver last night to clinch the AFC West. There’s nothing more to say about this. If there were, it would be like talking about the Patriots’ 56-3 snapping of the Buffalo Bills from last year, and blowouts are snoozefests unless they’re completely unexpected — and then they’re awesome.

Mike Tomlin looked like the biggest bonehead in America yesterday afternoon. I was talking to my homie g Winston from the north (reppin’ Cleveland twenty-fo’-seven), a relative Browns fan, at the time, and he was pulling out some point blank Jim Ross aphorisms when Willie McGinest and D’Qwell Jackson almost ripped off Ben Roethlisberger’s head. It was a ‘slobberknocker!’ What I don’t understand is why Tomlin was playing his starters in a meaningless game against a crummy Browns team in the final week of the season? You already have seed number two, have fun with it. With the way Tomlin was coaching, you would have thought he wanted them to NOT have a first round bye. He talked about how he didn’t want his players to have that big of a rest, but think about it: you are playing your starters right before the playoffs, against possibly your biggest rivals in the NFL. It was a big game for the Browns — they were missing the playoffs and wanting to get a few hits on the Steelers. Of course they were going to injure one of the Steelers’ players. It’s virtually a part of NFL rules for players on opposing teams to get a little bit of revenge for what they should be getting. Thumbs down, Pittsburgh. Don’t be freakin’ morons like that.

The Dolphins. AFC East champions. I love it; it has a nice ring to it. They’re the only team in the playoffs — besides Atlanta — where I’m even sitting back and rooting for.

The Baltimore Ravens, who pose the scariest defense that will be manned up with in the playoffs, are walking in with a win over Jacksonville (also a horde of props to Baltimore for holding New England AND New York [Jets] out). Joe Flacco’s rookie success and the undaunted play by injured receiver Derick Mason have made the Ravens a frightening group to play.

I’m not going to tell you about the Giants and Titans that are the number one seeds of their respective conferences. I’m not going to tell you about Philadelphia somehow becoming the sixth seed of the NFC or Atlanta grabbing the fifth seeds or how Carolina, in their win more games than usual every couple of years mode, snatched the second seed.

It’s time for some first round playoff picks.

Dolphins over Ravens
I know what you’re thinking: you’re thinking that I’m a homer for saying the Phins can beat the Ravens. Maybe I am. Who cares? I really think this is going to happen. Yes, Chad Pennington is going to get smoked by that vaunted Ravens defense, and yes, the Wildcat is in jeopardy. However, the Phins are bringing something to the table that will make this a completely low scoring game: their own defense. The Phins’ defense, as evident from what they did to Favre and the Jets yesterday, are going to pressure you and try the best they can to force you to give up the ball. Favre did it. And Joe Flacco, the rookie from the University of Delaware, is likely to incur the same.

Colts over Chargers
Good job, Chargers. Nice way to enter the playoffs by winning an AFC East cramper against the Broncos. Now you have the Colts, who you barely beat last year, which last year you also had a tough defense that featured Shawn Merriman and a group of other guys who stepped up. This year, that’s not the case. Sure, the Colts’ run d is handled by some minuscule guys and their pass d is suspect (Chargers’ quarterback Phillip Rivers has been off the chain lately, too), and if it comes down to their kicking game Adam Vinatieri will have a time considering he’s been the most shaky out of any AFC kicker this season, but the Colts have their offense to test San Diego with, not to mention a load of confidence and reason to exact revenge on San Diego for last year’s playoff game in the Divisional Round.

Falcons over Cardinals
This will be a doozie. The Cardinals’ passing attack that’s being anchored by the former two time MVP from his Greatest Show on Turf days in St. Louis, Kurt Warner, is vaunted — almost as vaunted as the Baltimore Ravens’ defense — and for a good reason. The numbers being poured in by that offense are ridiculous. Tim Hightower, Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin. A core group of guys (I’m not mentioning Edgerrin James because he fell off his high horse) that are always capable of having big days. But Arizona, you have a problem: Atlanta is one of the toughest teams to play in the NFL because they never quit. They’re a group of guys (I’m sadly beginning to write like the way John Madden sounds) who are young and energetic. The running attack of Jerious Norwood and Michael Turner have transcended the Falcons. Also, the passing that’s been handled by rookie Matt Ryan has proved successful, as he has hinted at being a franchise quarterback. In the end, Atlanta looks more powerful and more balanced than Arizona, who shouldn’t be in the playoffs anyway. . . but they play in an NFC West that features the Rams, Seahawks and 49ers.

Eagles over Vikings
Being in any other division, the Vikes missed the playoffs. A lot of short-sighted analysts had these buffoons as the number one seed in the NFC before the season. Way to go. A couple of games with Tarvaris Jackson and Gus Frerotte landed these guys a slim division win that didn’t come until yesterday, the culmination of week 17. The Eagles barely got into the playoffs, but did so with thunder, by hammering Dallas like the way O.J. Simpson hammered Nicole Brown (HOLY SHIT, THAT WAS UNNECESSARY). The Eagles have more experience, more weapons, and more game than the Vikings. Unless Adrian Peterson brings a double dosage to the table and Vikings’ D (Jared Allen in particular) steps up like never before, the Eagles have this one in the bag.

Respect for Roethlisberger

I’m not anywhere near to being a Pittsburgh Steelers fan whatsoever, but last night quarterback Ben Roethlisberger displayed a skill-set that many players have (but most that do choose not to use it in its correct form).

During this season and last season, I’ve been angered by Marc Bulger’s calm, collected and tranquil attitude towards his offensive line. Bulger’s been sacked 91 times over the past three or so years, and when I see him go down with a sack, I expect him to get up and get into an offensive lineman’s face, to tell him off, tell him to block, and question whether they want to win or not.

Ben Roethlisberger did that — What did he do? After being sacked 12 times combined for the past two games, Roethlisberger’s Steelers went into halftime trailing 13-3 to the Baltimore Ravens. Roethlisberger literally yelled at his linemen, told them he wanted them to do a better job, and questioned whether they wanted to win or not. Before going back onto the field, he gave all of them one of those Football Love Taps (when a player pats another player on the butt) and they came back in a valiant manner in the second half, winning 23-20 in overtime, overcoming a 10 point deficit.

I’ve never been a huge fan of the way Roethlisberger plays football, but after watching the man put his best efforts out there, watching him try in the best sense of what the word try literally means, I gained a whole new respect for the man. Not because he was the catalyst of a Pittsburgh Steeler comeback in the end. It was because he voiced his frustrations toward his teammates when the chips were down, and he didn’t lie on his back and act like everything was OK. He manned up and decided to take the role of being a leader as serious as possible. And in the second half, the Steelers played the old kind of Pittsburgh Steelers football that people expected, and it was against a tough Baltimore Ravens defense.

If only Marc Bulger could be as vocal.