Pregame Ritual is ready for you
Welcome back to the Pregame Ritual. Last weekend's games were largely anticlimactic and lame, but it's a brand new week and we are due for at least one classic. Besides, it wasn't all bad. Wade Phillips and Norv Turner became inspirations for underachieving workers everywhere. They proved that even if you come up woefully short when the stakes are the highest, you may be rewarded with more money and increased job security anyway. Let's hope our bosses take the exact same attitude when review season rolls around again. I might even litter my Super Bowl column with typos to see if it somehow improves my stock.
Here is a look at this week's action.
New York Jets at Indianapolis (3 p.m. ET)
Joe Namath resurfaced this week to discuss how much the current Jets remind him of the team he led to victory in Super Bowl III. He mentioned the swagger, the odds being stacked against them and the fact that they have to go through the Colts, but he missed the main similarity between the two teams: the quarterbacks. Specifically, how both versions of the Jets featured signal-callers who finished the regular season with more interceptions than touchdowns and completion percentages hovering around 50 percent. Strange that he would leave that out.
Peyton Manning is also seeing something that he's already seen before, and according to Tony Dungy, such repetition will end the Jets' upset hopes. If true, this ability would make Manning really annoying to watch "24" with. Four hours into Season 8, he probably has the whole thing figured out and wouldn't be able to resist showing off how smart he is by telling you every one of Jack Bauer's moves in advance. "Here's where he tells someone they have to trust him. In six weeks he'll tell someone else they are the only one who can help. In Episode 18, someone will betray Jack, but Jack will get his revenge. The end."
Minnesota at New Orleans (6:40 p.m. ET)
A new detail came out this week that almost makes it worth rooting for the Vikings. In addition to game film, Jared Allen plans on watching "Road House" to get fired up. "I mean, if you can't get inspired by Patrick Swayze, then you just better give it up." Amen, brother! It can be a slippery slope, though. If Allen gives up football to become a dance instructor/bank robber who later comes back as a ghost to single-handedly defend America against a Russian invasion, at least now we'll know why.
On the other side of the ball, Reggie Bush has his own inspiration. According to Kim Kardashian, Bush has promised to propose if the Saints win the Super Bowl. If his awesome performance last week is any indication, no one has wanted to get hitched this bad since Pauly D's stalker on the "Jersey Shore." I wonder if he's in as big a rush to have kids, though. If he wants to hold off, he should make a new deal agreeing that they'll start trying as soon as Kim wins an Emmy for best actress.
Fine, I'll ask
Five questions entering the championship round:
• Would the movie production begin immediately if Manning was forced out of the game and Curtis Painter came off the bench to lead the Colts to the Super Bowl? Would the film be called "Huffing Painter" or "The Least Likely Hero"?
• Greater motivating factor this weekend: Super Bowl ring or not having to play in the Pro Bowl?
• Is Brett Favre's performance of "Pants on the Ground" a preview of his future plans to remain in the spotlight by becoming a contestant on "American Idol"?
• Will Favre pay tribute to his boyhood heroes by playing Sunday's game with a bag over his helmet?
• New York mayor Michael Bloomberg renamed Manhattan as Revis Island on Thursday. Did he think about renaming it after Braylon Edwards or was he afraid that might cause the stock market to drop?
Best Bandwagon to Join
There is a compelling case to be made for all four remaining teams. The Jets have actually backed up their talk, a rarity in sports and Rex Ryan will certainly continue to make things interesting. The Colts are the favorites and feature one of the best players of all-time at his apex. The Vikings were the original Bills, losing four Super Bowls in the 1970s, and a title would finally bring some joy to a devout, long-suffering fanbase.
But does anyone else have a music video featuring an actual bandwagon, encouraging everyone to get on board? Nope. I'm powerless against a song this catchy. I once walked 500 miles because of that stupid Proclaimers' ditty. Then I walked 500 more. Saints it is.
Most Likely Hero
Darren Sharper: With so much attention being given to the other three offensive and defensive units, it seems fated that the Saints' D will step up and be the difference in this game. Sharper is like every 5-year-old who plays soccer; he always seems to be around the ball. If Favre throws one too many passes up for grabs, the veteran safety will be there to make him pay.
Most Likely Goat
Rex Ryan: He's run almost too hot the last few weeks; he's got to make a crucial mistake at some point, right? If he does, let's hope he's not a shame eater. If his daily 7,000 caloric intake doubles, we might have a Stay Puft Marshmallow Man situation on our hands and the Ghostbusters aren't around anymore to save New York.
Best Topic for Discussion at Halftime
What happens if football disappears? Forget the post-apocalypse movies that are all the rage right now, they should make one about a world in which NFL football no longer exists. The trailer could feature desolate, burned-out sports bars intercut with shots of smiling wives looking on as their husbands clean out the gutters. The horror.
If all the reports are to be believed this week, the above scenario is far closer to becoming fact than fiction. All the talk about the league shutting down in 2011 is even more depressing than being a Lions fan. The only thing worse than having to cheer for a bad team is having no team to root for at all. And won't someone please think of the fantasy players? America does not want to see the depths office workers will sink to in order to avoid working if their favorite distraction is taken away from them. We could turn into a whole nation of Liam Neesons. Players, owners, please get a deal done.
Top Trash Talker This Week
The Jets: So many guys on the Jets are talking trash that they've earned this award as a team. Most of the talk centers on New York previously defeating Indianapolis in Week 16 and how it wasn't purely a fluke. Perhaps they feel confident in running their mouths because they are sure their quotes won't be posted in their opponent's locker room. Everyone knows the Colts don't even own a bulletin board. Manning calls out their motivation at the line of scrimmage.
Pump-Up Video of the Week
Last week, a video featuring tons of hard hits delivered by the legends of the game ran in this space. Now, we jump into recent times, as this clip splices together the top plays from the past couple seasons in a super extreme manner. If you spent the 72 hours before kickoff mainlining Red Bull, this is probably what football would look like to you.
Enjoy this weekend, as come Monday, they'll be as many new reasons on YouTube to make fun of Yale as games left in the NFL season.
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 email@example.com.