Now that the NFL playoffs are almost upon us, it’s time to reflect not only on what may happen but on what probably will. For instance:
1. Two teams will struggle for 58 minutes to a 10-7 score featured by a rock-ribbed pass rush, but in the last two minutes, resorting to exotic defenses, each team will be scored on twice. The coaches will see no correlation between the scoring and defense but will hail instead the “two-minute drill” of the victors, ignoring the fact the Mack Sennett Cops Drill defense will have far more to do with it.
2. The NFC will win the Super Bowl, 40-10.
3. Fans who stood in the snow or sleet all night to get tickets will be treated to two to four minutes of a quarterback falling on the football or kneeling out the clock, causing old-timers to mutter darkly, “Johnny Unitas never fell on a football in his life.”
4. A team with five 9.4 sprinters at the flanks and a 62% passer at the wheel will get to the five-yard line and send a 180-pound running back hurtling into the middle of two tons of massed mastodonic defense three times and have to settle for a humiliating field goal.
5. If the run-and-shoot offense gets to the finals or even close to it, 21 of the 28 teams will go to it next year.
6. The best quarterback will win the Super Bowl, not necessarily the best team. See about Warren Moon because all his team has to do is hold the opposition under 21 points. But if Joe Montana gets the ball in the last 30 seconds needing only a field goal to win, go home and beat the traffic. It’s over.
7. Two coaching staffs will work around the clock for a week, designing offensive or defensive schemes and elaborate zones and confusing splits, but three or more games will be decided because nobody can fall on a fumble.
8. Hope that the Philadelphia Eagles somehow find a way into the playoffs because Randall Cunningham with the football is Magic Johnson bringing the ball upcourt, Gene Kelly dancing in the rain or Willie Mays with a 3-and-2 count. What you came to see.
9. Three out of five overtime games--make that five out of five--will be decided by a field goal, which means that the game will be decided by the coin flip because defending teams will forget that the goal line in that situation is their 35 and not the one.
10. The Buffalo Bills, everyone’s favorite to go to the Super Bowl, won’t.
11. The crowd will be a factor in at least three games, which means the visiting quarterback has to face not only 11 hostile players but 70,000 full-throated fans, but the officials who would penalize a player who roughed up a quarterback for unsportsmanlike conduct lets the customers rough the quarterback all they want.
12. The New York Giants won’t lose to the 49ers again.
13. With six wild-card teams, the chances are good one of them will be a Super Bowl contender, and maybe both will. The statistic that the Raiders are the only wild-card team ever to win the Super Bowl will be brought up 711 times Super Bowl week.
14. If Seattle gets in the playoffs, it will win or lose at least one game with only two seconds remaining on the clock.
15. If Washington gets in the playoffs, Joe Gibbs will outcoach the guy across the field from him--unless that guy is Don Shula.
16. Mike Ditka will blame the media if his quarterback throws five interceptions.
17. Mike Ditka’s quarterback will throw five interceptions. Mike Ditka will throw a tantrum. 18. There will be a lot of red faces around the league if the Dallas Cowboys find their way into the playoffs.
19. Games won against New England should not count in computing eligibility for the playoffs. Games won against Atlanta should count only half. Beating Denver at sea level should count as a tie.
20. Kansas City will surprise a lot of people. But then, it already has.
21. If Bo Jackson gets in a Super Bowl, the other 21 players might as well play with a bag over their heads.
22. If Cincinnati falls by the wayside again, shouldn’t Boomer Esiason be called Buster Esiason?
23. If the Pittsburgh Steelers get in the playoffs, shouldn’t Chuck Noll at least smile once in a while? He always looks as if he just heard his house was on fire.
24. When the Buffalo Bills are in the game, the best player on the field will be a defensive end. Bruce Smith thinks he’s the best player in the game, and I agree with him. He has moves we haven’t seen since Deacon Jones. If the head slap were still legal, he’d make every tackle. He almost does anyway.
25. If Joe Montana completes a bomb to Jerry Rice, look for the announcers to talk learnedly about how he “read the defensive set” when the truth of the matter is, Joe just said in the huddle, “OK, everybody out for a long one.”
26. Another announcer will say a cornerback “blew the coverage” when the truth is, no one running backward can run as fast as Jerry Rice running forward.
27. At least one game will be played in life-threatening weather. Not threatening to the players, to the fans.
28. The Super Bowl, which has been won 17 of the 24 times by “grandfather” franchises, i.e. teams existing before the formation of the American Football League (the figure is 20 out of 24 if you throw out three of the Minnesota Vikings’ losses to the upstarts), will lose its mystique if the “other” league doesn’t get more competitive. The facts of the matter are that, of the truly old-line football families, only the Washington Redskins, Rams and Philadelphia Eagles have ever lost in the Super Bowl. In the last six Super Bowls, the count has been: the Establishment (NFC) 240, the New Kids on the Block (AFC) 82. If that’s a contest, so was Germany against the Low Countries.