Over the past 17 weeks The National Football League has played a total of 512 games on Thursdays, Sundays and Mondays. Some teams won more often than others and when the three yards and a cloud of dust finally settled last Sunday night, there were 12 teams left standing to compete in the National Football League Playoffs. Those 12 teams all have one goal in mind, they all want to make it to New York in the first weekend of February for Super Bowl XLVIII and I am here to tell you each week who is going to win & why. But this is a food website and not a sports website so that means that we need to put a foodie spin on pigskin prognostications so without further ado, let’s get right to the 2014 National Food-Ball League Playoffs.
THE AMERICAN FOOD-BALL CONFERENCE WILD CARD ROUND
The Denver Broncos, led by Peyton Manning, his record breaking golden arm & a squadron of receivers more lethal than the Red Baron, and the New England Patriots, led by their Walking Talking Touchdown Tossing Ken Doll, both have the week off this week due to their superior play during the regular season. This leaves Seeds #3-6 to do battle.
(Notice of Full Disclosure – I am a Denver Broncos fanatic and HATE all the other teams in the AFC West)
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS at CINCINNATI BENGALS
To me, the San Diego Chargers are nothing more than a bad tasting fish taco. In fact, a bad tasting Tilapia fish taco is more like it. (If you read my predictions & follow up blog a few seasons ago you would know how I feel Tilapia and it’s not good). They did finish the season on a roll winning their final 4 games and they did get lucky when the refs blew the call in overtime in the final week and they snuck in with some help from some big time chokers. Looking right at the Ravens & the Dolphins with that comment but we will leave that for next September. Quarterback Philip Rivers does have a new toy to play with in rookie WR Keenan Allen but I do think that this week, their luck runs out. The Cincinnati Bengals have been a quiet surprise in the AFC North all season. Quarterback Andy Dalton has had the finest season since Carson Palmer knew how to play and AJ Green is a legitimate threat to score every time they touch the ball. Of course when I think of Cincinnati in a culinary way, I can only think of Cincinnati Chili. I have to admit I have never had Cincinnati Chili not have any idea what makes it different than any other regional chili, I just remember that there was a Cincinnati-style Chili Restaurant in Denver back in the late 80’s that I drove by over a hundred times but never stopped in to try it. If I still lived in Denver, this would be the week for me to stop in since I am definitely taking The Bengals & the Chili over the chargers & their nasty tasting tilapia taco.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS at INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
There is only one team in professional football that I hate more than the Kansas City Chiefs and they haven’t made the playoffs in years so we don’t even need to mention their name due to how terrible they are. Oakland Raiders. That being said, the Chiefs were the darlings of the first half of the season as they ran off 9 straight wins over a schedule of teams no tougher than a bowl of overcooked limp noodles. New quarterback Alex Smith utilized the spectacular feet of Jamaal Charles & the hands of Dwayne Bowe to rack up points on offense while the defense beat people up. The second half of the schedule did show some weaknesses. They remind me a bit of the BBQ that Kansas City is famous for. Looks good and starts strong but really is a a bit overrated. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, they are playing the Colts and a quarterback named Luck who seems to be able to pull off game winning drives like his name has nothing to do with it. The Colts have been inconsistent but have played well on the bigger stage. Familiarity within the league can sometimes cause a 2nd year player to suffer a Sophomore Jinx but that wasn’t the case with Andrew Luck as a lot of teams still couldn’t quite figure him out. The same can be said about me with the food of Indiana. In years past I have had people suggest Milk Pie and a Wild Rice dishes but to be honest, my only real experience with the food of Indiana goes back to 1981 when I spent the night in South Bend and ate dinner at a Godfather’s Pizza across the street from the Best Western. A year later Godfather’s Pizza went public and I bought some stock because I thought the pizza was good. The stock went through the roof a year later in a takeover bidding war and I wound up with enough money to buy a Subaru Station Wagon and that is a good enough reason for me to pick the Colts over the chiefs despite the fact I am sucker for good barbecue.
THE NATIONAL FOOD-BALL CONFERENCE WILD CARD ROUND
The Seattle Seahawks led by a smothering defense, a too small quarterback and bruising running back who almost set off an earthquake himself a few years back absolutely ran away with the NFC this season. The other 5 teams are going to really have to step up their games to take away the Seahawks expected February jaunt to New York. One team that could step up that challenge has done so all year in a very surprising fashion. I don’t think anyone is going to sleep on the Carolina Panthers now like they did during the season. Next week will be a big tell as to how serious a threat this team really is to the Seahawks.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS at PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
There is nothing about Cajun food that I don’t like and on the surface, there is nothing about the New Orleans Saints on the surface that you can’t not like either. Drew Brees is a master at tossing the ball to his catch happy receivers & running backs. The defense, such a sore spot last year, has come back with a vengeance under Rob (get a haircut already, you look ridiculous) Ryan. Unfortunately for the Saints, there won’t be any home cooking on their menu as they have to go on the road to Philadelphia and the Saints have been less than good away from home. Kind of like a day old Po’ Boy. The fried fish is cold & greasy, the fixin’s are limp and the bread is soggy. The ingredients are all there, they just don’t come together. Can’t put that kind of sandwich up against a Philly Cheesesteak and expect to come away victorious. Under first year coach Chip Kelly and reserve no name quarterback Nick Foles, the Eagles have ridden the Shady McCoy hard & fast all the way the top of the NFC Least, one of the two divisions nobody wanted to win. They play an exciting brand of football and they play better away from home. This could be a case where the fans in Philly get to boo like Santa is wearing a Cowboys jersey. A hot Po’Boy beats a Philly Cheesesteak in my book (mainly because I am a New Yorker at heart and hate everything about Philadelphia) so I am hoping that the Saints can keep this one warm enough to get the job done.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers at GREEN BAY PACKERS
The Niners have owned the Packers of late but when you are playing playoff football on the Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field at the base of Mount Lombardi, home of the Football Gods, nothing is safe bet. San Francisco went to the Super Bowl last year on the arm & legs of Colin Kapernick and they will need him to respond under the bright icy lights in order to keep them on the road north to Seattle. The Niners do remind me a bit of a tray of wine & cheese – everyone’s fallback for cocktails with nothing really memorable about them. The Green Bay Packers won the other division, the NFC North, that no else seemed to want to win this season. It wasn’t until their injured photobombing discount doublecheck quarterback came back that the Packers snuck a receiver behind the should have been suspecting Bears secondary for a last minute expected victory. Much like I expected the Packers to win that game, I expect their fans to tout their brats & beer cheese soup. Give me the choice between wine & cheese and brats & cheese and I am going to take the Wisco food every time. I haven’t had a drink in 25 years.
So in conclusion, the picks are as follows:
Bengals over Chargers (Chili over tilapia fish tacos)
Colts over Chiefs (Pizza memories over my love of BBQ)
Saints over Eagles (Po’Boys beat cheesesteaks)
*Upset Special* Packers over Niners (Brats & Cheese over Wine & Cheese)
Now tell me what you think – football or food-ball.