By David Fleming
Page 2

For the last couple of weeks I've been on vacation studying the NFC playoffs, I mean, really breaking a serious sweat cleaning up after the lab pup with atomic diarrhea I got for Christmas all the film down and I've got to be perfectly honest like, say, Nick Saban: I haven't seen this much football talent bunched together since the Lions' first-round draft picks got caught in an elevator at Ford Field in a long, long time.

It's baffling and embarrassing exciting for the NFL. Because all of my time spent watching "Rob & Big" reruns years of experience tell me this is going to be, without a doubt, the best excuse for human hibernation NFC playoffs in years.

Jeff Garcia
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Only in the NFC can the career of Jeff Garcia continue to shine.

Through the magic of parity, every playoff team in this conference would be a 7-point dog to Boise State has a real shot at the Super Bowl. And I'm as happy as Wilma McNabb catching Jeff Garcia eating Progresso soup as can be about watching these games in person.

Because you know what they say this time of year: "You are banned for life from my New Year's Eve party, Flem." "Defense puts people to sleep wins championships." Now I know some sane, intelligent, well-informed people who are in love with stats will tell you that Philadelphia, Seattle, Dallas and the New York Giants are all ranked in the lower half of the league when it comes to scoring defense. But what is that number, other than a time-proven and accurate barometer of postseason success, I mean, really?

And after Chicago and New Orleans, this conference is utterly devoid of loaded with great defenses. I saw how the Chicago Bears experienced a complete gag job slight bump in the road in their season finale against the franchise Brett Favre selfishly holds hostage every offseason, which we excuse as "down-home moxie and a true love of the sport" while chastising T.O. for everything short of global warming Green Bay Packers.

But the Bears will tell you, a great defense and a pregame roofie for Rex Grossman can solve a lot problems. Chicago is loaded with weapons and by that I mean to embarrass defensive tackle Tank Johnson who police say had six guns and 550 rounds of ammo in the home near Chicago that he shares with two small children guys like return man Devin Hester who has six touchdowns.

Hollis Thomas
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The clean and svelte Hollis Thomas is ready for some playoff action.

The Bears, Saints and Eagles technically belong in the AFC really have a chance to go far this January. A lot of writers are secretly cheering for New Orleans to advance because it's the town where they have drive-through daiquiris such a sentimental story the way that town has rallied around its football team. A big factor for New Orleans will be defensive tackle Hollis Thomas who returns after serving a four-game suspension for violating the league's laughable steroid policy. In an odd quirk, the 350 306-pound Thomas will actually be rested, healthy and fresh for the playoffs as a result of his league-mandated working vacation punishment.

I like the Eagles, too. They probably have the second most anemic run defense in the playoffs the most momentum of any NFC team heading into the postseason. One of the best things about Philadelphia are the bridges to New Jersey is that massive, nasty and vastly underrated offensive line that has protected Jeff Garcia, who excels at looking like a contestant on "Beauty and the Geek" making hyperfast read progressions in four-man receiver sets.

I'm also impressed with how Andy Reid survived the Freddie Mitchell era recognized his own unnatural addiction to the pass shortcomings as a play-caller and turned over the offense to former Lions head coach Marty Mornhinweg.

The same goes for the Cowboys. Sure, in Week 17 they got spanked nipped by Detroit. But at least they showed they've begun to tune out the Tuna battled right down to the wire against an organization with its priorities more out of whack than the University of Alabama nothing to lose. So I bet the folks in Dallas the ones who didn't move to Eastern Illinois and join that Tony Romo cult in December are feeling a newfound respect for Barry Switzer pretty confident right now. When you compare it to the collapse of their running game and the disappearance of their defense think about it, the loss to the Lions wasn't too bad.

Besides, this time of year in the NFL it's all about blowing your postseason bonus on bail getting on a roll and riding it all the way to Miami. Thanks to Tiki Barber, who is as focused, hungry and excited to begin his television career as anyone I've ever seen, New York won two of its final eight games. Not bad. If you work for Al Davis. Not bad at all. The Giants are just one of many teams in the NFC playoffs who would have finished fourth in the AFC West have been decimated by injuries.

Matt Hasselbeck
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With Matt under center, well ... the Seahawks can't do worse.

Besides New York, Seattle is another NFC team that can thank the league's ridiculously long season for injuring nearly everyone on the roster has a chance to do some serious damage to the credibility of the league. The Seahawks are really humming along like the Bengals' special teams units nicely right now. Sure, the Seahawks lost three of their final four but they've got Matt Hasselbeck under center and he's one of the few quarterbacks to have actually played worse than Ben Roethlisberger in the Super Bowl in the NFC with any postseason experience.

In the end, we end up asleep on the couch the winners in all of this.

With these kinds of teams competing in the NFC, I can't wait to get to Miami. This is going to be the worst blowout since 49ers-Chargers best Super Bowl ever. It's laughable intriguing, isn't it? I think any truly comatose dedicated football fan knows we're all in for a real snoozer treat on South Beach.

I just hope the commercials aren't as lame as the NFC it gets here soon.

Because, as they say, I'm ready for the NCAA hoops tourney for some football.

David Fleming is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. His first book was "Noah's Rainbow: a Father's Emotional Journey from the Death of his Son to the Birth of his Daughter." His next book, based on the controversial 1925 NFL Pottsville Maroons (ESPN Books 2007) has been optioned as a movie by Sentinel Entertainment. Contact him at Dave.Fleming@espn3.com.




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