The folks at CBS, NBC and FOX all have something in common:
They like their playoff teams old-school.
They love big quarterbacks.
And they really love rivalries…particularly the sibling kind.
In the case of this season, that means saying an early goodbye to the following nondescript teams:
The pom-poms will be out for:
Matt Ryan and Matt Schaub are fine quarterbacks (this weekend's wipeout in Carolina and New England notwithstanding), but lack the national appeal of a Brady, Roethlisberger, Manning(s), or even of the young guns Kaepernick, Luck and RG3.
Chicago is the exception due to being the second-largest TV market in the country—Jay Cutler and the periodically blah-Bears be damned.
So how will it play out in the network-executive dream sequence?
Wild Card Weekend:
Brady and Ben trade touchdowns in a battle of average defenses. But the Pats have too many weapons for the Steelers to overcome (shootouts just ain’t their thing), and Pittsburgh is out in the Wild Card round for the second straight year.
The sight of the Colts coming back to Baltimore for a playoff game brings back horrible memories of (A) When the Colts left the city in the middle of the night for Indy and (B) Peyton Manning beating the favored Ravens without the Colts having to score a touchdown (a strange 15-6 final).
The pain continues for John Harbaugh’s crew, as Andrew Luck pulls out a last-second victory after Joe Flacco throws a crippling interception the series prior when Baltimore has a chance to ice the game.
RG3 and the 'skins keep this one close, but bone-chilling temperatures and slippery conditions help contain the rookie sensation (all thanks to the NFL choosing this one to be the Saturday night game without any regard for frostbitten fans or player safety).
In the process, Aaron Rodgers continues to make Randall Cobb this year’s Jordy Nelson, finding him three times for touchdowns as the Pack pulls away late.
Since this is the networks’ perfect playoff scenario, the Seahawks implode without explanation and allow the Cowboys to steal the final playoff spot in the NFC (suspending reality is key here since the Seahawks own the head-to-head tiebreaker with Dallas).
Tony Romo continues his impressive season and throws for four touchdowns against the Giants' cheese secondary, but poor clock management leads to Jason Garrett going to a knee twice to set up a 52-yard field goal by Dan Bailey at the Meadowlands in January into a 20 MPH wind. The kick is straight, but hits the crossbar. Jon Gruden is hired as Cowboys coach 17 minutes after the game…
Reality suspension continues as the two-wins-just-last-season Indy goes into top-seeded Houston and shocks the glass-jaw Texans (hey, if Tebow and the 8-8 Broncos could beat the defending AFC Champion Steelers on the first play of overtime, anything is possible).
Construction of a statue of Andrew Luck begins in earnest outside of Lucas Oil Stadium.
In what becomes the most hyped division series game in NFL history, the Peyton-Brady shootout lives up to its billing at Mile High. Tom throws for four touchdowns, Manning five, with the team that has the ball last (in this case, Denver) winning it. While Brady-Eli III is a tempting scenario for CBS network execs, Peyton-Eli wins out in utopia…hence the choice to advance the Broncos.
In what ends up being an identical score to Atlanta’s playoff loss last year to the Giants, network execs throw away any drama here to ensure the Falcons are nowhere near a threat to appear in the conference championship games.
The Giants defense pitches another shutout (See: reality, suspend) and Matty Ice (a nickname clearly earned in high school while playing baseball, true story) matches his performance against the Packers the last time the Birds were a #1 seed (20/29, 186 yards, 2 picks, 6.4 yards per completion).
A 49ers-Giants NFC Championship rematch wouldn’t be horrible, but there’s something about the Pack hosting a 5:30 PM snow game in late January that is simply too good to pass up. The Kaepernick magic runs out in Lambeau as Aaron Rodgers – who is more overexposed than Kanye West’s girlfriend – puts the Pack back in the NFL semifinals despite again not having any running game whatsoever since taking over for Brett Favre four years ago.
The old man versus his heir apparent? The kid taking on the legend he replaced with the AFC pennant on the line? You couldn’t make this stuff up (OK, so I just did).
After outdueling Luck, Peyton puts to rest any doubts around winning both league MVP and NFL Comeback Player of the Year awards by putting the Broncos back in the Super Bowl for the first time since the 20th Century.
The game goes down as the highest-rated AFC Championship game ever.
For the third time in five years, the Giants walk onto the frozen tundra and send the Packers packing. Tom Coughlin once again refuses to wear anything to prevent his face from becoming Joan Rivers, and is unable to speak until Austin Powers-esque dethaw process is complete the following Thursday.
Super Bowl XLVII: Broncos vs. Giants
The Manning brothers reunite in the city where their Dad got the crap beaten out of him on a weekly basis! The revenue from 30-second ads for this Super Bowl alone could eliminate the national debt. And the stakes couldn’t be higher: If Peyton wins, he ties Eli in the rings category. If Eli comes out on top, he creates an insurmountable two-ring lead over his decidedly-more talented brother.
CBS execs will already be counting their money by the time the coin toss goes down.
Coming up next week: The worst-case playoff scenario! Get ready Seahawk and Raven fans…this one’s for you!
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