Pregame Ritual is feeling wild
Welcome back to the Pregame Ritual. Just like the NFL, we've wiped the slate clean and are bringing you plenty of new features this week. Proponents of the BCS will tell you that all of our regular-season columns are now rendered meaningless. Joke's on you, suckas, they were meaningless before! Bwawawawa!
After victories by the New York Jets and the Dallas Cowboys, here's a look at Sunday's action.
Baltimore at New England (Sunday, 1 p.m.)
Leave it to Bill Belichick to subjugate a tremendous scientific achievement and use it secretly for his evil football purposes. We don't know how he knew Wes Welker would be unavailable for the postseason, but the fact that he had the foresight to create an exact clone really cements his legacy as a genius. Not sure why he named him Julian Edelman, though. He'd inspire much more confidence if he was named something like Mac Speedie (a name that's too good to make up).
Let's hope Belichick doesn't use this new technology to clone Tom Brady. Without enough time to gather proper data, we can't be sure these clones don't turn bad eventually, and Evil Tom Brady could probably conquer the earth in a matter of days.
Green Bay at Arizona (Sunday, 4:40 p.m.)
There seem to be only two certainties among football fans going into this weekend: Everyone loves the Packers, and after their run last year no one is willing to bet against the Cardinals. If this was an early episode of "Lost," those who pick the Pack would be followers of Jack (man of science) and those who think the Cardinals will be victorious would be part of Locke's camp (man of faith). It's a tough call. After all, Jack is younger, healthier and capable of handling tough choices (like sacrificing Brett Favre to save a new franchise QB, Aaron Rodgers). But Locke can summon the smoke monster to come in and wreck shop at any time (vintage Kurt Warner in this tortured analogy). In the end, we don't think it matters, because wild-man Sawyer (the Saints) will cause problems for either of them next week.
Fine, I'll ask
Three questions entering Sunday:
• Should we root for Arizona so there's no chance of a Green Bay-Minnesota matchup, the hype of which would become so expansive it could threaten to swallow us all?
• Do you think Ray Rice will dress up as Chris Johnson next Halloween?
• Will Joe Flacco be punished for failing to mention Brady's beautiful smile and dazzling personality as well?
Best Topic for Discussion at Halftime
Is the bad economy saving NFL coaching jobs?
Heads traditionally roll immediately after the regular season concludes, but this year Jim Zorn was the only head coach given his permanent walking papers. While that number could grow if Al Davis decides Tom Cable is not his guy (or if Davis has a senior moment and confuses Cable for Art Shell), it still seems as if the number of coaches relieved of their duties this season will be abnormally low for the modern age.
The question is, why? Are owners growing more patient? Or is the down economy and the possibility of a lockout making them suddenly hesitant to let go of a guy who is still owed guaranteed money? In many recent decisions, the latter factor certainly seems to have come into play. Does that mean NFL head coaching is actually the one profession benefiting from the recession? It may not be fun for the rest of us, but for this elite fraternity, it's suddenly "No money, no problems."
Top trash talker goes to Ray Lewis for openly questioning the severity of Brady's injuries, complete with mocking voice. It's not surprising that the brash Lewis made these comments. It is surprising that they drew multiple flags from the referees and pushed the Ravens' initial kickoff back to the goal line.
Pump-Up Video of the Week
These are for players and fans alike. It might be unnecessary for the playoffs, but if you want a boost, check this video out. Holy moly. After watching this, you're liable to run straight through your garage door because you're too fired up to wait for it to open. Try not to be distracted by the wild variety of hair each poet possesses. It's somehow comforting to know that inspiration can flow equally from a Jheri curl, a bowl cut or the smooth skin of a baby whale.
Enjoy the playoffs, as this time is precious. On Monday, there will be only seven games left until September. Single tear.
Toby Mergler is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C., who has previously written for MLB.com, Fanball and the Virginia Law Weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.