The Athletic Reporter
September 12, 2005 Sports News the Way You Want It. Completely Made Up. Issue 127
 
The Average Mulder
by Joe Mulder
Playoffs, Baby!

Is there anything better than the NFL playoffs?

Well, probably, but, during the playoffs themselves, you're hard pressed to think of anything.

Rams at Seahawks

I didn't see too much of this game. I had planned to do nothing this weekend but sit on the sofa, drink beer and eat nachos, and watch the playoffs on TV. The wife works Sundays, and it was supposed to rain all weekend, so I figured it was the perfect plan.

Well, the beer and nachos part ended up working out.

On Friday afternoon, I won tickets to the Jets/Chargers playoff game in San Diego on Saturday evening. Great, but, short notice. No problem, though; I didn't have anything planned, and I knew someone -- my friend Jenn, a huge Jets fan -- who would go with me. Well, going to San Diego (or Orange County, or Long Beach) means going to the Yard House, so, we had to leave L.A. at about 11:30 in the morning to make sure we could park, eat, and make it to the stadium in plenty of time for the game.

So, I saw part of the Rams/Seahawks first half while I had my french onion soup and crabcake hoagie, and I saw the last play as I was walking into Qualcomm Stadium. To be honest, I don't care much about the Rams or the Seahawks, so this was probably the game to miss if I had to miss one. The Rams won by seven, which is good, because I've entered into that playoff mode of rooting for whatever is best for the Vikings. And, since the Vikings tend to stink when they play outside, I'd certainly root for a dome team (the Rams) over an outdoor team (the Seahawks).

Fitting, though, that the Seahawks' season ends on a dropped pass by a wide receiver.

Jets at Chargers

Well, only one road team wins in the first round of the playoffs, right? So, the Jets don't really have a chance, right?

One thing I have to mention: whenever I go to San Diego, I'm impressed. They've got things figured out down there. Nice Gaslamp Quarter downtown, nice public transit, great baseball stadium, nice football stadium, nice weather (except when I'm there; for some reason, of the five or six times I've been to San Diego, it's been either borderline rainy or actually rainy three times. It's always 75 degrees and sunny in San Diego, and I've been there three times when it's been lousy. That has to be some sort of record. That would be like seeing the Timberwolves play five times, and having Michael Olowokandi only suck twice).

You could certainly tell it was the playoffs, I'll say that. The Chargers came out to a rousing introduction featuring loud music, fireworks and a giant inflatable football helmet. Jenn, who has been to a few games at Giants Stadium in New Jersey, said that it was a little different than the introductions there; apparently the Jets eschew fireworks and fanfare and, minutes before the game, simply walk out onto the field, arms out and palms turned upward, saying "What? Whatta you gonna do about it, huh?"

The Charger fans, while personable and enthusiastic, weren't quite as knowledgeable as they could have been; several times, when the Chargers were inside the Jets' ten yard line and trying to score, quarterback Drew Brees had to attempt to quiet the crowd, and the scoreboard had to flash "Quiet Please." Most fans know that when your team has the ball you be quiet so the offensive players can hear each other, and you make a lot of noise when the other team is trying to run a play. But, in fairness, this was the first playoff game in San Diego in nine years; I'm sure the fans will get better with a little practice.

The game itself was a classic, going down to the final ticks of overtime. Both teams blew chances to win, and the Jets finally put it away with a field goal. Great fun. I've said that NFL football tends to be better on TV than in person, but going to a playoff game is something I'm glad I got to do before I die.

Broncos at Colts

I've got nothing against the Broncos, but, this had to be the no-doubter of the weekend. I'm not sure the Jets were given much of a chance in San Diego, but, I don't think Jake Plummer's mom even gave the Broncos a chance in Indianapolis. I'm sure all the articles this week will focus on the fact that the Patriots are vulnerable on defense and this looks like it's Peyton Manning's year, so, let me be among the first: the Patriots are vulnerable on defense, and this looks like it's Peyton Manning's year.

And I know people have been talking about Eli Manning's rough year, but, what about Cooper, the oldest Manning brother, who had to quit playing football because of a medical condition? Eli took his lumps this season, but, he's an NFL quarterback. As proud and happy as you are to see your younger brothers do things you wanted to but couldn't (or wouldn't), there's always a little part of you that wonders why it turned out that way. I'm pretty sure there's a room in heaven where Cooper Manning, Vince DiMaggio and I will just sit around, throw down beers and mutter, "I hear ya, man. I hear ya," for the rest of eternity.

Vikings at Packers

My wife told me one of her coworkers had bet against the Vikings. I don't think I'm saying this just because I'm a Vikings fan, but, Packers by seven? Really? These teams played twice during the season, and the Packers won both on last-second field goals. I know the Vikings backed into the playoffs and looked listless the last few weeks, but, they almost always play the Packers tough. And, in those rare years when the Vikings are better, the Packers always play them tough; it's one of those "throw out the records" matchups.

The Randy Moss faux-mooning incident will be analyzed (anal-yzed; ha!) to death, but let me just say this: on "NFL Primetime," Chris Berman said something to the effect that class and respect matter sometimes; then, we cut to Peyton Manning, and Berman says, "and here's someone who has class and respect..."

What Berman might not remember, but what I do (and have written about), is that Manning got in trouble in college for ACTUALLY mooning somebody! Come on!

Look, I'm not trying to say that Randy Moss is classier than Peyton Manning. I like Peyton Manning a lot, and I wish Randy Moss would grow up (I also wish I was nine feet tall; that's not going to happen either). But, when you're trying to make a point, it's not a great idea to blast a guy who pretended to drop his pants and moon somebody, then put forth as the antithesis -- the role model, the class act -- a guy who actually dropped his pants and mooned somebody.

What can we take away from Round 1 of the playoffs? Well, Colts fans can take away the fact that their team is a legitimate title contender. a good bet (though not a sure thing, by any means) to knock off the Patriots and advance to a second straight AFC title game. For Rams, Jets and Vikings fans, you've got a relatively surprising playoff win and another week to talk yourself into thinking your team has a chance.

You know, like, if the Vikings could just knock off the Eagles, which might happen (since T.O. is out and the Eagles haven't played a meaningful game since Thanksgiving) and if they do, then they'll face the Rams or the Falcons in the NFC title game, which will be in a dome no matter what, and the Vikings always win in domes, and maybe Moss isn't as hurt as he looked, and if they can get to the Super Bowl, who's to say they can't win it, and...

No! Stop! It was only a Wild Card win. There's three more games to go.

Can't wait.
Joe Mulder
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