While I got off to a rough NFL Wild Card Weekend start, by the time it was over my "do the opposite" system of picking games ended up at 2-2, a respectable showing considering the circumstances. Respectable enough that I will employ it again in seeking to divine the divisional playoff winners. Since there won't be three games that replicate the pairings from the week before it will require a little more creativity this time around.
Baltimore Ravens at Indianapolis Colts
In Week 11 of this season, the Colts came to Baltimore and silenced the Ravens 17-15. Baltimore returns the favor this Saturday by going to Indy and beating the team that used to represent their city 25-17.
Arizona Cardinals at New Orleans Saints
Applying opposite principles was tough here as the two teams did not meet in the regular season and neither has what you would call a storied playoff history. So I'll fall back to the last time they met which was in December of 2007. The Saints won that game at home 31-24. This time I'll take the Cards 34-21.
New York Jets at San Diego Chargers
On January 8th, 2005, the Jets defeated the Chargers in 20-17 in overtime in a Wild Card playoff game in San Diego. The Chargers will reverse field this Sunday and down the Jets 17-10.
Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings
The Cowboys and Vikings have met six times previously in the playoffs (seven if you count the 1969 Playoff Bowl). Yet it was quite easy to pick the one game to apply the opposite system to. On December 28th, 1975 the 12-2 Vikings faced off against the 10-4 Cowboys on the frozen tundra of Metropolitan Stadium. The Vikings lead 14-10, but with 24 seconds left in the game, Drew Pearson committed second degree assault against Vikings cornerback Nate Wright allowing Pearson to get open and catch Roger Staubach's desperation 50 yard pass for a TD. That blatant violation of the rules, to say nothing of human decency, handed the Cowboys a much undeserved 17-14 win. It lead one irate Viking fan to drill official Armin Terzian in the head with a whiskey bottle, an act that was deplorable for its intent while admirable for its accuracy.
It also lead one impressionable seven-and-half-year-old boy to learn an unforgettable life lesson. We were watching the game in Wisconsin, either at the home of my grandparents or one of my uncles. While I--almost undoubtedly clad in the ragged #10 Fran Tarkenton shirt that I would have worn every day of my life if allowed--fought to hold back the tears of frustration and anger welling up at the travesty that had just befallen my beloved Vikings, I noticed that my uncles were not similarly distraught. In fact, they appeared downright ecstatic with the result, laughing and chortling as my heart was breaking. With a wide-eyed, Cindy Lou Who-like level of innocence I asked my father, why? Why are they happy that the Vikings lost? Why?
His response was seared into my memory that day, "Because they're Packer fans."
Packer fans. Part of me was forever changed that day. I now could see things as they really were. The enemy of my enemy was my friend. Bad news for my enemy was good news for me. If my enemy was up, I was down and vice versa. Most of all, I was able to identify the enemy clearly. That enemy was the Green Bay Packers. So when Arizona's Michael Adams stripped Aaron Rodgers of the ball and Karlos Dansby ran it into the end zone for a game winning touchdown in OT on Sunday, my inner seven-and-half-year-old was screaming with joy. Actually, my outer self was pretty damn excited too. You get the point.
Anyway, back to this Sunday's game between the Cowboys and Vikings. It will again be a close, hard fought battle just like in '75. But this time, it will be Sydney Rice making incidental contact with a Dallas defender before hauling in a late touchdown pass from Bret Favre to give the Vikings a 24-17 victory and Viking fans just the slightest bit of redemption.
Excuse me now while I go dash off a couple of quick e-mails to my uncles in Wisconsin. The needling never gets old and the whirlwind must be reaped.