So...here we are, and welcome to the party.
With only vague apologies to the NCAA Inc., we have arrived at the The Final Four of the football season. The Colts, Jets, Saints and Vikings are still alive and playing for the hallowed Vince Lombardi Trophy, while teams like the Steelers, Eagles, Patriots and Giants aren't.
New blood is what everybody is calling it, though we weren't aware a transfusion was in order.
But this is what we have, and, please, stop your whispering over there. We know what you're saying and, no, we have no idea what they are still doing here, either.
There's always one loudmouth left at every party with one fat hand in the bean dip, and the other on your girl.
Of course we're talking about Buddy boy's team. All this talk about how you will be "shocked" if your Jets don't whip the Colts this weekend is the kind of irresponsible blather that only encourages a team, Rex.
We get the feeling that if you said you'd be shocked if your team didn't jump from a tall building if it lost, that the NYPD wouldn't have to rope off the Empire State Building Monday.
Words matter, buddy, er, Rex, so let's try to be more careful, capiche?
On the other side, a far more compelling matchup is brewing, even if we can't shake this morbid fascination with the Jets.
Brett Favre is somehow around and still playing about as well as he ever has for a bruising Viking team that still hasn't noticed Adrian Peterson has lost his burst.
The high-flying Saints, on the other hand, have done more to wash the bitter taste of Katrina from New Orleans' mouth than FEMA and its raging incompetence ever did.
So who wins Sunday? After reading this column for the past 20 weeks or so, you think we really have a single clue?!
If you want to find out who should win, however, dive into the bean dip and read on. But first, take your hands off the girl, pal.
N.Y. Jets at
Indianapolis Colts (minus-8)
Look, the Colts have themselves to blame for all this.
When they galloped headlong from perfection in the second-to-last weekend of the season, they also gave the Jets life.
Of course if they hadn't done that, they'd probably be looking at Norv Turner's Chargers this weekend. And we all know that for whatever reason, the Colts play with cement in their shoes against that crew.
So maybe they are lucky to be facing the Jets this weekend. And by lucky, we mean like being lucky you only have a whopping head cold as opposed to full-blown pneumonia.
The Jets defenders stick to you like glue, and make nothing easy on an offense. Trouble is, they blitz like drunkin' Pirates, and there isn't a QB alive better against that kind of thing then Peyton Manning.
Of course Buddy boys' team knows that, so don't be surprised if they don't just rush three or four, and drop loads of guys into coverage to confuse Manning.
Of course, Manning knows this, so don't be surprised if the Colts muster just enough of a running game to keep the Jets' defenders honest.
(Admit it, where else do you get such razor-sharp analysis?)
Since honesty is the Jets' worst policy, about the time they are back to bringing eight to the line to squash the run is about the time Manning will find one of his WRs streaking up some seam for a big play.
On the other side of the ball it is easy: The Jets must run, and not turn the ball over.
They will run some, but not enough, and are good for a couple of stupid mistakes from their rookie QB. Does anybody besides a Jets' fan think this is a good spot for Sanchez?
So the Colts will start reasonably fast, and go out to a 13-3 lead or something. The game will stay that way until early in the fourth quarter when Sanchez will throw an ill-advised pass that will lead to Colts' points. The Colts will add another score later, as all the hot air starts its two-week process of seeping out of Buddy boys' 490-pound balloon.
The Colts win, 23-10.
Minnesota Vikings at
New Orleans Saints (minus-3.5)
Start to finish, these have been the two best teams in the NFC this season, so it is fitting they are in this spot.
We'll be honest here, this is a tossup if there ever was one.
So we'll arrive at a winner using the same logic the czars in Vegas did when they set the odds.
The Saints win because they are playing at home and in a place so loud Rosie O'Donnell would have trouble being heard.
What's that? You want more convincing than that before committing five bucks on the Saints?
OK, then log out, and skedaddle over to your TV. Find whatever ESPN station it is that is parading scores of ex-jocks purported to be 'experts' in front of its cameras. Then watch as they break this baby down breathlessly like a couple of monkeys in a locker room.
Watch, as they dazzle you on some rapid-fire segment sponsored by a watered-down beer company.
Be amazed as they deftly spit one-syllable words at one another - some with no meaning -- with that oh-so-pleased look on their faces.
Go ahead...be enlightened. We'll wait for you to return.
You're back -- and so soon. Feel better?
Didn't think so.
You say Rex Ryan has a huge career waiting for him?
At least you learned something...
Anyway, Saints win, 28-24.
(N.Y. Post, photo)