Easy Answer

by Ryan

No matter what you write or how well you write it, there are always people who get the wrong message out of it all. It’s no one’s fault, really, there are just so many elements of human communication that sometimes a signal gets crossed and the wrong impression is left. For example, here is what Bill Simmons had to say about the Cardinals/Panthers game that took place tonight:

Something wacky is happening with these Saturday night playoff games. The NFL didn’t start having them until January 2002, the month when the Raiders traveled to New England for the “Snow Game” (what Pats fans call it) or “Tuck Rule Game” (what Oakland fans call it). Either way, it was one of the 10 most memorable playoff games ever played and the most famous “push” of the Double-Ohs. We’ve seen at least one memorable Saturday nighter every January since; the underdogs covered the past five in a row; and 10 of those 17 Saturday nighters were memorable in some way. Here’s the complete list:

2002, Round 2 (N.E. by 3 at home): Pats 16, Raiders 13. The Snow Game. (Hah!)

2003, Round 1 (G.B. by 6.5 at home): Falcons 27, Packers 7. Vick rolls through Lambeau and murders everyone’s two-team Packers-Jets tease; everyone finally sees through the “Favre is a big-game QB” myth.

2004, Round 2 (N.E. by 6 at home): Pats 17, Titans 14. Two degrees, minus-11 wind chill. Brrrrrrr. Adam Vinatieri somehow kicks a rock of a football 46 yards for the winning points (his greatest non-“Snow Game” kick).

2005, Round 1 (S.D. by 6 at home): Jets 20, Bolts 17 A classic Schottenheimer playoff collapse. Just classic. Can’t somebody hire him again? Please?

2006, Round 2 (Denver by 3 at home): Broncos 27, Pats 13. An atypical Brady stinker combined with Champ Bailey’s bizarre 99-yard interception TD in which Ben Watson stripped him at the goal line but the refs ruled it a score. I’m still bitter.

2007, Round 1 (Seattle by 2 at home): Seahawks 21, Cowboys 20. The Romo Game (if you’re from Dallas) and the Babineaux Game (if you’re from Seattle). Regardless, this was a Pancreas Punch Game for Cowboys fans.

2007, Round 2 (N.O. by 5 at home): Saints 27, Eagles 24. A rollicking semi-shootout with a fantastic post-Katrina Superdome crowd.

2008, Round 1 (Jax by 2.5 on road): Jaguars 31, Steelers 29. The game that earned David Garrard $60 million.

2008, Round 2 (N.E. by 13.5 at home): Pats 31, Jaguars 20. 19-0 was in secret jeopardy for a while. Surprisingly tense.

2009, Round 1 (Indy by 1.5 on road): Chargers 23, Colts 17. The Mike Scifres Clinic, as well as the game that probably will get the OT rules (thankfully) overturned in some way.

So that’s 10 memorable Saturday night playoff games. What’s the reason? I couldn’t possibly tell you. You got me. I’m stumped. Now throw this in …

Thanks to a tip from Mike Wilkening (an editor at Pro Football Weekly), we’re also working on a streak in which three straight double-digit Round 2 favorites failed to cover: the ’05 Colts (gave 10 to Pittsburgh, lost by three); ’07 Colts (gave 10.5 to San Diego, lost by four) and ’07 Patriots (gave 13.5 to Jacksonville, won by 11). Since 1990, double-digit favorites in Round 2 are 9-7-1 against the spread and 12-5 straight up. Of those nine covers, the favorite won by 17-plus in every game. Of the six favorites favored by between 10 and 11 points since 1990, four of them (’95 Niners, ’95 Chiefs, ’05 Colts, ’07 Colts) lost outright; the other two (’91 Bills, ’01 Rams) won by a combined 62 points.

Here’s why I’m telling you all of this: If you like the Panthers, you’d better really like them.

Before I read this I believed tonight’s game would be competitive. The deep threat of Fitzgerald and Bolden was for real, and at the very least this game could develop into a bit of a shootout if things go right. After having all that laid out for me, I only believed this more. I suppose that’s my initial feelings being positively reinforced, who knows.

Either way, after all that reasoning and hard work he goes and picks the Panthers.

Well, I really like them. The weekend couldn’t have worked out better, actually: A limited Arizona team broke two big plays, got a fluke fumble-return TD and took advantage of a deafening home crowd to overachieve against a young team that never caught a break. Now the Cardinals are on the road — where they went 3-5 this season and got blown out by the Jets, Pats and Eagles by the combined score of 151-62 — and playing 2008’s best home team (8-0), a well-balanced, well-coached team that will run it down their throats. What am I missing?

A lot, I guess. This is in no way a “I’m smarter than Bill Simmons” post, in fact it’s quite the opposite. I just think it’s interesting that the exact same information laid out and interpreted by two different people could come to two completely different conclusions. Based on our preconceived notions I suppose this shouldn’t be shocking, but I find it really interesting that he did all that and still couldn’t convince himself to change his pick.

Did he really “miss” something, or is there something more to it? Is the NFL at a point where anyone can beat anyone anywhere, or is there something about a time slot that changes how games are played? All I thought was that the game would be entertainingly close, and I was dead wrong. There was never any doubt, but for the other team. Everyone loves to say they are right, but can anyone really say they expected “Arizona 33, Panthers 13”?

If not, then I think there’s plenty to talk about here. Does anyone have any ideas about… any of that before I start talking about hockey again? Just with expectations and playoff football, I suppose. Feel free, that’s all I’m watching all day.