Thursday, January 20, 2011

Truth And Heresy, But Mostly Heresy

Since I have been flamingly wrong with my playoff predictions in a manner not seen since last Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards, and since I can disarmingly offend with at least as much panache as Ricky Gervais, I herewith present my AFC and NFC championship picks.

To dispense with the undercard, Pittsburgh will beat the Jets because Pittsburgh can shut down the run like nobody’s business, and the Steelers’ success is even less predicated on offensive prowess than the Jets’. The Steelers are perfectly comfortable winning a game 9-7, and feel no compunction to push that nine to a 12 or a 16. The Steelers will simply not care what the Jets do defensively, and if there’s one thing the Jets can’t handle, it’s the guys on the other side of the ball shrugging their shoulders.

In their sloth-like fashion Pittsburgh will catapult the Jets into that dark night of the soul they so richly deserve. Ever see a 58-minute 78-yard drive? You might Sunday.

Now, onto the main event. The Packers-Bears game is creating a furor in these parts that has never been seen since the Creation (or, if you prefer, since unicellular organisms became so last epoch). The early line is that it will be the most-watched non-Super Bowl game since the infamous Heidi game, which was witnessed by all of North America south of the Arctic Circle, including an estimated 9.8 million fans who would not be born for another six years.

The Packers are favored, largely on the strength of running around and over a collection of cardboard cutouts wearing Atlanta Falcons uniforms. The problem for the Packers is the Bears are not the Falcons, Soldier Field is not the Georgia Dome, 18 degrees on the Chicago lakefront is cold, and no one on the other side is going to be made of wood pulp.

Now you could argue convincingly that the Bears are highly illusory as well. Their offensive line is a work in progress the same way that the reconstruction of Chernobyl is a work in progress. Jay Cutler is the spiritual descendant of James Thurber’s anti-hero Pal Smurch (from “The Greatest Man In The World”). Brian Urlacher is in line to be the most undeserving Hall of Famer since Lynn Swann, and Mike Martz hasn’t found a big game yet he can’t screw up.

But assuming that both teams have their reality goggles on, who will win?

The Bears.

Here’s why: There are three basic situations any football team eventually faces in the course winning or losing a game: way ahead, way behind, or late-and-close.

The Packers are adept at winning one of those three: way ahead.

Coming back from a significant deficit has not been the Packers’ forte in 2010. The deficits they erased (including one against the Bears) have been small and early. Get ahead of the Packers two touchdowns and their defense, which functions like a sheaf of swords stabbed into a magic box, ceases to frighten.

Failure to finish in late-and-close situations cost the Packers almost every one of their losses in 2010 – New England, Washington, Miami, Detroit, and yes, Chicago.

Figure that because this is an evenly matched game there’s a 30 percent chance the Packers will be way behind. There’s a 30 percent chance the game will be late-and-close. And because the Packers are favored, there’s a 40 percent chance they will be way ahead.

60 percent of the scenarios have the Packers losing. 40 percent of the scenarios have them winning.

60 percent beats 40 percent. The Packers lose.

I realize this is about as scientific as your shoe and as simplistic as a CCR song. But sometimes we make football into something that’s equal parts Machiavelli and motherboard repair. It’s a game, and in more than half the ways the game can play out the Packers lose. So what do you want me to say?
All right, I’ll say it: Pittsburgh-Chicago Super Bowl. Bank it.

1 comment:

  1. Way to root for the home team, dad.