Speaking of The Madness, as I was reflecting upon the last year and contemplating the next one earlier this week, I saw a clip of 1983's sixth seeded North Carolina State's historic upset over the number one seeded Houston Cougars led by Hall of Famer's Akeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, and of course who could forget freshman guard Renaldo Thomas. The answer to that question is: everyone. But somewhere, somehow, if not today then tomorrow or on Sunday, a 48 year-old Mr. Thomas is performing the daily ritual of Googling his name, and...your welcome Renaldo.
The coach of the North Carolina State Wolfpack at the time was the legendary Jim Valvano who delivered one of the most memorable speeches in ESPYs history while he was fighting for his life against cancer. The take home message to the audience, to his family, to his former players, colleagues, and anyone else listening was this:
"To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special."
I thought about this and decided it was a good, albeit lofty New Year's Resolutions. Although it is difficult and a little depressing to think of every day as possibly our last, it certainly ups the ante as far as appreciating life. Therefore, in a less morbid way, I am resolving to appreciate as many moments as possible this year through the joys of laughter, thought, and tears.
Hopefully, if you follow Marco's Wild Card Weekend Recipe precisely, you too will laugh and think and cry your way to the cashier/bookie/bank as you collect on your four team parlay. Now enough of this mushy sentimentalism, let's get down to some gambling. I have no idea why Valvano left that off his list. Seriously.
Coffee Thank You's: Just a quick shout out and then I promise our picks will follow, but I would be remiss if I didn't say cheers to Matty S. and Vianet. Thanks for the pick-me-ups, guys.
Wild Card Weekend: Home Cookin'
HOUSTON TEXANS -4.5 over Cincinnati Bengals: With BJGE battling a hamstring injury and Houston's excellent run defense, Cincinnati will have to compete through the air. Andy Dalton's biggest flaw is getting rid of the ball too early leading to bad decisions and interceptions. You have to think this will be the case with JJ Watt breathing down his neck. Texans CB Jonathan Joseph is healthier and will help slow down AJ Green. Meanwhile, Arian Foster will dictate the pace of the game with his ability to pick up key first downs and set up the passing attack. Texans by at least a touchdown. Plus, with a face like this one how could Matt Schaub lose his playoff debut. He totally gets it.
BALTIMORE RAVENS -6.5 over Indianapolis Colts: Sorry, Colts - coach is all better now, so I'm afraid the mojo is in remission, too. Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, retirement is practically like death to football players, and we all saw how that panned out for Kansas City and Dallas.
Don't expect the Ravens to advance in the next round, but for now, they know how to win playoff games- Ray Rice and defense. The Colts will not be able to contain Rice rushing or catching the ball out of the backfield. Quarterback Joe Flacco - playing in his tenth playoff game already - will benefit from Rice's success by making big passing plays off play action. It really was a genius move by Ray Lewis to announce his retirement now to motivate his teammates for a Super Bowl run. You know Lewis, Ed Reed, and Terrell Suggs will leave it all on the field. I see Luck being over-matched by the aggressive, opportunistic Baltimore defense who are excited they have the band back together. Ravens in a blowout.
GREEN BAY PACKERS -8.5 over Minnesota Vikings: The bold and beautiful Clay Matthews, muscles bulging, long, sweaty hair flowing behind his helmet made the fierce and intimidating proclamation that Adrian Peterson would not rush for 200 yards on the Packers...this time. Bold move, Clay.
Not 200, again, Adrian. Not in our house, bitch.
Nonetheless, the Packers who started slow last week against the Vikings, will not make that mistake again. A frenzied home crowd of cheese heads, led of course by their Fireman Ed - Beer and Brats for Breakfast - will inspire the Packers to jump out to an early lead and avoid re-living their 2012 division game against the Giants. Randall Cobb in the slot will put up big numbers against the out-matched Minnesota secondary. Green Bay will also see the return of Charles Woodson who is back after breaking his collarbone back in week seven. Woodson adds a dynamic weapon to the league's eleventh ranked defense. He can shutdown a receiver, contain the run, and blitz Ponder- he is their leader and play maker on defense. The Vikings don't play as well outside the dome especially in cold weather on grass. Green Bay has all the advantages and will quickly make this game a landslide.
WASHINGTON REDSKINS +2.5 over Seattle Seahawks: In an exciting, dramatic showdown of two of the best rookie quarterbacks in recent history, both teams, their fans, and analysts are always looking for an edge. Here at The Spread Zone, we found the weakest link - and it's Russell Wilson's middle name. That's right, if this were Days of Our Lives, Dynasty, or All My Children - yes I can rattle those off without Google - then RCW1 Russell Carringtion Wilson would be a shoe-in winner. But this is the NFL. This drama is real and unforgiving. This drama calls for a simple plan of attack and a simpler "Lee" sandwiched between the R, G, and the 3.
Plot twist: She's his sister and his wide receiver.
Like Minnesota, Seattle doesn't play well outside of the dome. The Seahawks were 3-5 on the road this season with Russell Wilson throwing 9 TDs and 8 INTs in those eight games. The Redskins come into this game as the hottest team in the NFC and have one of the best home crowds in football. RGIII won't let his fans or his teammates down as he finds a way to beat the favored Seahawks. Griffin will test the secondary away from CB Sherman, so look for WR Joshua Morgan to make some impact plays. We love taking home dogs in the playoffs.
So there you have it TSZ readers. Our inaugural Wild Card Weekend Picks. Sorry they were so late, but nevertheless may you all laugh, think, and cry this weekend - hopefully not at the same time because let's face it that looks like a crazy person.
Peace out, home fries.
Vinny and Marco