Hello! Welcome back to the Bootleg! It's been awhile! Again!
I'm Aaron. I started this lightly-read blog way back in December 2006 after writing a weekly music column for three years and picking up two writer-of-the-year awards. Shameless? Hells yeah! Seriously, though...one of my favorite takeaways from that time was meeting the ridiculously talented Joe Reid. We started writing on the same website, then Joe went on to write for The Atlantic, Grantland and a bazillion other sites. You can also find him on Twitter and Tumblr.
Wait, back to Joe. He's a dear friend and a wonderful writer and I'm grateful he can turn away from journalistic fame and fortune to (occasionally) remember where he came from. These football playoff picks are the closest thing we have to an annual tradition around here. Try not to focus on the picks -- especially MINE, you jerks -- and, instead, enjoy the snark, sarcasm and timeless Simpsons references.
Arizona at Carolina (-5.5)
Joe: Man, I hate picking playoff games for teams with losing records. History already seems to be waving its middle finger at all of us with this thing. It stands to reason that any and all prediction attempts will be met with a similar response. The inclination not to want to underestimate Carolina (they managed to win at the end of the season when it counted, after all, including a road thrashing of Atlanta; plus they have Cam Newton, played this season by Bruce Willis from Unbreakable) may well lead to underestimating the Cardinals even more. The state of Arizona hasn't seen the kind of carnage this injured Cardinals team has gone through since Kurt Russell mowed down all the scenery in Tombstone ... but they still managed to win a few games. And honestly? At least the Cardinals' season made sense. There was no rhyme or reason to the Panthers' playoff push. I'll take the points and avert my eyes. Cardinals 19, Panthers 17
Aaron: It could be argued that TWO professional football teams desperately missed aging, peg leg QB Carson Palmer -- the *2002* Heisman Trophy winner -- during the 2014 season. While the Raiders continue to limp along with their inconsistent lottery ticket behind center, the Cardinals were forced to turn to San Diego State alum Ryan Lindley -- who, later today, will make history as the worst QB to ever start a playoff game. How bad is Ryan Lindley? His career QB rating is 50.3 -- three-tenths of a point better than Ryan Leaf. How bad was Ryan Leaf? Historically terrible! Some people -- like the affable bearded guy in the paragraph above -- are gonna overthink this a wee bit. Sometimes, in fact, NFL games simply play out like an episode of The Simpsons -- specifically, this episode. Panthers 33, Cardinals 3
Baltimore at Pittsburgh (-3.5)
Aaron: Hee! One of my favorite running jokes from when Joe and I used to pick games and write up to 32 paragraphs EVERY SINGLE WEEK was that it seemed the Ravens and Steelers played each other eight times per season with an average final score of 14-12. (Oh, shut up...not EVERY running joke is going to be gold.) Anyways...are we sure Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin is a good coach? He's racked up the regular season wins (.641 career winning percentage) but has some embarrassing January losses on his resume -- including Tim Tebow's only playoff win! Remember Tim Tebow? He was your rebuttal when I called Ryan Lindley the worst QB to ever start a playoff game. I stand by my earlier assertion! Steelers 14, Ravens 12
Cincinnati at Indianapolis (-4.5)
Aaron: Joe is not wrong. Although, I would argue that WKRP wins if the category is "most memorable post-show career by an alumnus". Howard Hesseman seamlessly transitioned from DJ Doctor Johnny Fever to schoolteacher Charlie Moore on ABC's Head of the Class, while Valerie Bertinelli's run as overwrought thin-lipped imp-in-peril in those Lifetime TV movies drags down her current work on Hot in Cleveland. So, clearly, that..wait a minute. WAIT A MINUTE. From Howard Hesseman's Wikipedia page: "[Hesseman] also played Sam Royer, the man who married Ann Romano (Bonnie Franklin) on One Day at a Time. *mind blown**BLOWN* Colts 27, Bengals 13
Detroit at Dallas (-7.5)
Joe: I think these are probably the two best teams playing on Wild Card weekend. One of them will have to lose so that the Carolina Panthers might advance. That is super fucked up. Regardless, I think everybody's been waiting for the other shoe to drop with this Cowboys team, but they kind of seem incredibly solid and put-together. Even scarier? If I can forget that Jerry Jones is the team owner, I ... kind of like these Cowboys? I know. I feel alone in a cold and unfeeling universe too. Cowboys 27, Lions 24