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For the Love of the Story (and the Game)

At least FIVE whole people asked if I was writing about the games this weekend.

I have a delightful friend who supports my sports addiction but doesn't quite understand WHY I love it so. Yes I love athletes doing their thing and all the strategy involved. I am competitive and love winning but being a Philly fan I’ve become very familiar with losing.

So I tried to explain to her that one of my favorite things about sports is the story. ALL of the stories behind the people who touch the game. The athletes with grit, heart, drive and what’s made them the players they are today. The successes, failures, unexpected but overcoming injuries, the ends of eras. Everything that is relevant in all good stories, movies, books, and history exist front and center in sports. This is why so many great sports movies and books exist (if you have an hour to burn I'll do a post on this someday).

Games are unscripted (just like reality TV, right?) and can have surprise endings and a twist you never see coming.

With 3 straight days of football starting Saturday with the NFL and finishing Monday with the College National Championship game, this weekend is full of stories:

Can Kirk Cousins shine again in a big game to score enough and will the Vikings fab defense show up again?

How will the former Brady heir apparent Jimmy G perform in his first playoff game?

Will Ryan Tannehill and the Titans be able to make a showing against the most (deservedly) hyped team in the NFL?

Are the Ravens a team of destiny?

Will Andy Reid learn from his past coaching mistakes in the playoffs?

Will Clowney try to kill someone else this week (yes still bitter but mostly about people saying this is Wentz's issue)?

Can we still rely on Aaron Rodgers to make the big plays when needed?

Will Russell Wilson put his team on his back again and the rookie Monster Metcalf ball out?

Is Beastmode going to run through motherf…..

You get it. For me, it’s about the stories behind the game and watching them play out in real time. And hopefully winning some 💵 along the way.

Here is a brief-ish look at each game:

Vikings @ 49ers Saturday 4:35PM

Spotty Kirk Cousins against the powerhouse 49ers? Not so fast.

Cousins is riding that momentum wave right into San Francisco. He looked relaxed and in command (in the second half) last week against a New Orleans team that everyone picked to win. Dalvin Cook showed no signs of rust as he ran through the Saints line. Thielen, even with stitches, should be able to produce since it looks like his hammy isn’t hamstringing him anymore. They have a good chance to put up 18-24 pts against this very good San Fran defense. If the Vikings defense can show up like they did last week, even against the run, they might be able to hold off the 49ers offense. It is Garoppolo’s first playoff game and he’ll likely make some mistakes based on historical play. 49ers will definitely make their way down the field and score with their strong run game, big play WRs, and beastly tight end, but will it be enough and will the mistakes be too costly? I said earlier today I’m not putting money on this game because Cousins scares me, but I have since changed my mind.

SF -7, O/U 44

I’m taking the Vikings +7! I hope Cousins spent some time with his therapist this week!

My prediction: 21-17 Vikings win

Titans @ Ravens Saturday 8:15PM

Woohoo 🙌!!! I can not WAIT to see Lamar back in action. I’m betting - without money - this will be the best weekend game. Very interested to see Baltimore after some rest (will it put a dent in their momentum?) and the Titans coming off a huge win in Foxborough and looking solid. Tannehill marched his Titans into Boston and led them to a surprising but not entirely unexpected victory over New England.

Baltimore will be a different story and some things will have to change for the Titans to be successful. The Ravens have the ability to slow down Derrick Henry a little more than the Pats did. Titans will need to get AJ Brown more involved this week or it’s gonna get rough. Titans defense is better against the run than the pass but that’s against normal running backs. That’s not against RBs (especially a healthy Ingram, and the Gus Bus 🚌 ) + a Lamar Jackson. All those Mark-sounding playmakers (ok ok Marquise is a stretch) on Baltimore’s offense are going to be hard to contain if they are all playing and healthy. Many of them other than Hollywood and Gus have had almost 3 weeks of rest! Baltimore can beat you in the air, on the ground, in your face, or with fancy video-game spin moves. Tennessee needs to be able to adjust on the fly, game plan against Lamar (hahahahahahaha) and score points on their side. I’m excited to watch but not with any $$ on the line. So I'm not betting this one.

Bal -10, O/U 46.5

My prediction: Ravens by two scores… 31-20 Ravens.

Texans @ Chiefs Sunday 3:05PM

I don’t know why, but Houston feels like a fraud to me. I don’t like their play calling or how they use their big play makers. Without knowing if Will Fuller is playing in this game (AGAIN!), who knows which Texans offense shows up? He swings their performance. Watson is outstanding and once he gets his head in the game can turn it on. But I don’t think it will be enough considering their defense likely gives up at least 4 scores to the Chiefs. Mahomes has been looking like that phenom of last year and they are a well-balanced offense and fairly healthy. Houston’s defense should not be able to stop them. As long as Andy Reid doesn’t help out Houston’s defense, KC should handily win this game. But since I’ve been on that end of Andy’s playoff decisions before, I’m not betting on this game either.

KC -10, O/U 46.5

My prediction: 24-17 Kansas City Wins!

Seahawks @ Packers Sunday 6:40PM

Yuck. Two teams that have won and ugly and marginally all season. If anyone has watched Green Bay this season as much as I have (for some reason they were always on TV here) you’d see they didn’t dominate and never looked crisp. They won with a few big plays in the game. And usually in the last 3 mins. Wait – sounds just like the Seahawks amiright? Seattle is banged up and Green Bay always looks like they are. Both teams play at the level of their competition. Both are inconsistent. Both QBs can make magic happen when you least expect it (although Wilson more this year than Rodgers). Both teams have great wide receivers. Green Bay has the edge on the run with Seattle injuries at RB but the Seahawks have good ol’ reliable Beast Mode. Green Bay’s defense is better and healthier right now. Seattle’s o-line is banged up and have some question marks coming into the game. Maybe this will be the difference?

Lambeau is a tough place to play but Seattle has been playing well on the road this season. The snow ❄️ may not make an appearance at game time and it will be a balmy 22 degrees. That’s nothing for the Packers and their cheeseheads. If there’s no snow, the receiving game may suffer – you try catching hard-as-rocks cold, dry balls. They are my least favorite 😉 This may favor Green Bay’s running game.

Not touching this line, this score, nothing. We won’t have any idea who will survive this game until the very end. Hey Clowney – helmet up… k?

GB -4.5, O/U 46.5

My prediction – someone wins 🤷🏻‍♀️ … 20-17. Green Bay??? Those poor kicker’s feet ☹

College Football National Championship Game

Clemson vs. LSU (neutral field … ok 👌)

Alll the Tigers

I picked LSU +130 money line bet to win it all before the playoffs started. Line is now LSU -225. Call me Nostradamus. After watching LSU unapologetically beat up Oklahoma and Clemson’s hard fought battle against a great Ohio State team (that’s painful to write) I’m glad I picked when I did.

Over/Under is 70!!! There will be a LOT of scoring. Just like everyone likes on a Monday night in January.

There is no question the two best teams are in. Two electric QBs and NFL-caliber players will be on the field for both teams in this game. But LSU has the better defense. Can’t wait to watch this game and get no sleep Monday night. Why the hell is this game still on Monday night after 8? How about 7 next year? Huh? The West Coast doesn’t even care about College Football.

All of this makes for exciting football but this game has some of the best stories I can remember in a championship game.

- Two of the best QBs in college football history: Trevor Lawrence has NEVER lost. Last year at this time people weren’t even thinking about Joe Burrow for Heisman and at the end of this season no one else had a chance.

- The Dabo Swinney and Nolan Turner story is heart-wrenching (not just the interception… go look up their history).

- The bond between Coach O and Joe Burreaux and the state of Louisiana is unbreakable.

Alas, all stories come to an end and these thankfully all culminate in what’s going to be an amazing Monday night matchup. I can’t wait to see the sequels for all the main players in this story but I doubt they’ll ever measure up to the original on Monday night.

LSU -6

My prediction: LSU wins 41-27 in a fitting end to this story

So where are you putting your heart and money this weekend?

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