A Hater's Guide to NFL Playoffs

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Welcome back to the NFL Pregame Flyover, the only NFL column that is not edited for accuracy.

Before we get to this week’s schedule of games – and tell you which games are Probably worth watching, which games are of Questionable worth, Doubtful worth, and no worth – I need to find a new rooting interest for the remainder of the 2012 season because my own team, Pittsburgh, has stopped playing meaningful football. 

I love the playoffs. But I can’t watch any game unless I have a rooting interest. How I establish a rooting interest is by determining which players, coaches and fan bases I hate the most – and then I root for their opponent. Does that make me a hater? Yes it does. But it beats being the opposite, which requires you to find something loveable about players, coaches and fan bases with whom you are largely unfamiliar. How exhausting. Better to base things on snap, prejudicial judgments that take less time. 

Here are some quick, handy reasons to root against certain playoff teams.

Indianapolis Colts. The Colts landed Andrew Luck with the No. 1 pick last spring because they brazenly spent years with no adequate backup to Peyton Manning. When Manning finally succumbed to injury, the team’s fortunes went south because it had no passable replacements. No way owner Jim Irsay would be so foolish again. The Colts got rid of Manning, fired their head coach and general manager, drafted Luck, and went out and got a new backup quarterback … Drew Stanton, who has a career passer rating of 63.1 in parts of five seasons and nearly twice as many career INTs (9) as touchdown passes (5). The Colts have not learned their lesson about the need for a suitable backup QB, and cheering for them is cheering for stupidity. 

Atlanta Falcons. Unless you’re a Falcons fan, you don’t want Matt Ryan to win his first NFL playoff game this year. Not when Atlanta fans are so pleasingly insecure about the possibility that the Falcons could blow the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. 

New England Patriots. It won’t be the same if they make it to the Super Bowl and lose to a team other than the Giants, but we can make do.

Houston Texans. You know they’re going to get blown out eventually, so I’d prefer it happen early in the playoffs and not on Super Bowl Sunday. 

Baltimore Ravens. If the Ravens miraculously win a Super Bowl this season, Joe Flacco will join a select group of Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks that currently has two members: Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson. 

San Francisco 49ers. Their backup quarterback is leading the NFL in completion percentage, which means their head coach is incorrectly looking at his depth chart. As with the Colts, we cannot condone stupidity. 

Seattle Seahawks. I like consistency, so if the Seahawks have to lose a big game, hopefully it’s because of questionable officiating, because we all know how their fans will react. 

Cincinnati Bengals. Boomer Esiason. 


Lomas Brown admits he tried to get Scott Mitchell hurt

Former Detroit Lions offensive lineman Lomas Brown went on ESPN Radio recently and admitted that in a 1994 game against the Packers he let an opponent have a free shot on Lions quarterback Scott Mitchell, because Brown was fed up with Mitchell’s lackluster play and he wanted to get him hurt. Mission accomplished. Mitchell suffered a broken finger on that play, and the Lions had to turn to backup Dave Krieg for the last six and a half games.

Is it shocking that Brown would allow an opponent to have a crack at his quarterback? Not at all. People are often petty, lazy and vindictive, and offensive linemen are among the few who can act (or in this case, not act) upon their emotions and bring harm to a person who is pissing them off – and do it without getting caught. Well, until they admit it 20 years later.


Jack Kerouac: Was his depression and drinking due to football-related concussions?

I was reading a review of Joyce Johnson’s new biography of Jack Kerouac in the L.A. Review of Books when I came across this particularly interesting section.

The Voice Is All deserves popular and critical acclaim, not least for an intriguing suggestion Johnson makes several times, that her subject’s middle-aged decline into depression and alcoholism could have been the result of head injuries sustained on the football field. From his youth in the sandlots of Lowell until a low tackle and fractured tibia virtually ended his career at Columbia, which he attended on a football scholarship, Kerouac racked up an undetermined but doubtless dizzying number of hits.

Johnson notes that the maximum protection in those days amounted to a thin leather helmet — not much use for warding off the long-term effects of head trauma that scientists are only now beginning to understand. The techniques for diagnosing football-related brain damage postdate Kerouac’s death by half a century, so Johnson can only speculate, but the evidence she summons is intriguing. In addition to his years caroming around the gridiron, Kerouac received head injuries at least twice, in a car accident in 1939 and in a fight in 1958. “Could there have been any truth to what his mother later claimed,” Johnson writes, “that he had seemed to her a very different person after the accident?” There’s no pathology report that can confirm Johnson’s hunch, but her conjecture goes a long way to explaining how a young writer who spent whole nights discussing Spengler could end his life drinking 14 boilermakers an hour.

Wow. Fourteen boilermakers an hour? Can that be right? Maybe for one hour, but it seems incomprehensible that someone could maintain that pace for longer than that. Regardless, the suggestion that Kerouac possibly suffered from concussion-related ailments is intriguing. Did Kerouac ever play with Lomas Brown? Maybe Lomas Brown killed Jack Kerouac. 

Probable, Questionable, Doubtful and Out

Just as the NFL puts out an injury report on the likelihood that certain players will suit up each week (Probable, Questionable, Doubtful or Out), we rate the NFL schedule on the likelihood that games will be worth watching. Because let's face it, you can't watch them all.

Probable Game of the Week: Dallas at Washington

Dallas needs to win this game to reach the playoffs, while the Redskins can still lose and reach the postseason with a little help from others. We’d all like to see as much RGIII as possible this season, but Dallas has an uncanny ability to give us exactly what we don’t want, so I have little doubt that the Cowboys are going to win this game and make the playoffs. Their fans will come out of the woodwork and take over the prime tables at Hooters for the playoffs, as the Cowboys go on a Giants-like postseason roll and ultimately win the Super Bowl. It’s bound to happen one of these years, so it’d make the most sense when people are trying to convince us that the Falcons and the Texans are among the best teams in football. 

(Other games receiving votes: Green Bay at Minnesota. Houston at Indianapolis, Baltimore at Cincinnati.)


Questionable Game of the Week: Philadelphia at New York Giants.

No Eagles were selected to the Pro Bowl, so if you want to see your favorite Eagles players in action one last time this season, you’ll have to tune in to watch this game against the Giants. Meanwhile, New York has an easy formula to reach the playoffs: NYG win + DAL loss or tie + CHI loss + MIN loss.

Here’s a brief preview from NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport.

The playoff ramifications are slim. The Giants have barely a prayer, and the Eagles, well, they have other things on their mind. But Michael Vick is back. And that fact is enough to make this fairly fascinating for a game that largely means nothing. The electric quarterback will step in for injured Nick Foles and play what might well be his final game as an Eagle. Vick says he doesn't see it as an audition for 31 other teams, but assume everyone will be watching just the same. A motivated Vick against a downtrodden Giants defense could play out in so many ways. It's a total wild card, which makes it a fascinating game.

Especially to Jets fans, who’ll have the opportunity to watch their 2013 starting quarterback.

(Other games receiving votes: St. Louis at Seattle, Arizona at San Francisco, Chicago at Detroit.)


Doubtful Game of the Week: (tie) Kansas City at Denver, Jacksonville at Tennessee.

If I’m a fan of the Chiefs or the Jaguars, I’d take this opportunity to travel to Denver or Nashville to root against my team, hoping the team’s loss can land it the No. 1 pick in the draft. You’ve had to endure 16 weeks of helplessly watching as the team you root for loses in new and creative ways; you might as well treat yourself to one game when you’re emotionally rewarded for your team’s ineptitude. 

(Other games receiving votes: Miami at New England.)


Out Game of the Week: Tampa Bay at Atlanta.

This is the final installment of the 2012 Pregame Flyover. It has never made sense to designate playoff games as Probable, Questionable, Doubtful or Out, since all of them are do-or-die games and they don’t overlap. The only excuse you have for not watching every single playoff game is that you perhaps have a life outside football. If that’s the case, good for you and your well-rounded self. 

Even though I love me some football, I cannot fathom why anyone would watch – or God forbid attend – any of these Out games on Sunday. The only one of these games that involves a playoff-bound team is Tampa Bay-Atlanta, and the only people who should be interested in attending that game are the Falcons fans who realize this is their last opportunity to see their team win a game this season. 

Enjoy the playoffs, and see you in 2013. 

(Other games receiving votes: Oakland at San Diego, Cleveland at Pittsburgh, Carolina at New Orleans, New York Jets at Buffalo.)

Cameron Martin has written for The New York Times, The Atlantic, ESPN.com, Yahoo! Sports, and CBS Sports. Send your ideas to cdavidmartin@yahoo.com.

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