Monthly Archives: January 2011

My 10 Favorite Awkward Moments From The Office

10 — Michael’s Diary Is Revealed During A Deposition
During Jan’s lawsuit against Dunder-Mifflin, she enters into evidence, Michael’s personal diary. Copies are made for everyone involved in the case and passed out to be thoroughly examined during the deposition. Michael’s in-office nemesis and Scranton’s human resources rep Toby also gets his hands on one.

9 — Jim’s New Boss Is Not Amused
When Dwight sends out a memo that office workers are dressing too informally, Jim shows up the next day in a full tuxedo. Unfortunately for him, that day is also the day their new boss drops by to observe the office and he is not humored by Jim’s prank.

Ryan Takes The Lead8 — Ryan Asks to Take the Lead
Ryan and Stanley are sent on a sales call together and on the way, an over-zealous Ryan asks to take the lead during the presentation to one of Stanley’s regular clients. Stanley humorously agrees and enjoys himself perhaps a bit too much as Ryan makes the pitch to a group comprised completely of distinguished black businessmen.

7 — Michael Presses Send All
Michael went on a tropical getaway with his boss/girlfriend, which resulted in Michael gaining possession of erotic pictures of his partner. When attempting to email the pictures to a longtime frat-buddy friend, Michael accidentally hits “send all” and emails the entire company list serve.

Kevin is very special

6 — Dwight Tells Holly that Kevin is Mentally Challenged
When the office gets a new human resources representative following Toby’s departure for Costa Rica, Dwight informs Holly that Kevin is mentally challenged. She goes to bat for Kevin several times, criticizing the other office workers for berating him and helping him with simple tasks until Kevin reveals to her that he is not mentally challenged.

5 — Michael Enjoys a Picture of Stanley’s Daughter
While lecturing the office about what is and is not appropriate in the workplace, he references the photo of an attractive young black girl in a Catholic schoolgirl that Stanley keeps at his desk. The girl is, in fact, Stanley’s underage daughter that attends Catholic girls school.

Michael's Premature "Come In"

4 — Pam Walks In on Michael Changing
Michael calls Pam into his office to discuss something reception-related, but she arrives quicker than he anticipated. When she knocks on the door, Michael ushers her in while still pulling up his pants and underwear. He loses his balance as she comes in and his drawers fall down, leaving Michael quite exposed and bottomless.

3 — Pam breast-feeds the wrong baby
After Pam gives birth to CeCe, she struggles to breastfeed her firstborn. The newborn does not seem anxious to latch on and Jim and Pam spend several awkward sessions with a breast-feeding instructor. A few nights after the birth, Pam successfully feeds their baby, only to realize after the feeding that the baby that just chowed down belonged to the couple sharing their room.

2 — Michael kisses Oscar
Oscar is unintentionally outed by Michael and Dwight which leaves Michael attempting to prove he is completely accepting of Oscar’s lifestyle. By the end of the episode and after several offensive shenanigans, Michael calls a staff meeting in the conference room which culminates in Michael kissing a very disturbed Oscar on the mouth.

1 — Michael reneges on a promise
Ten years previously, Michael had made an arrangement with 20 young children. He promised that if they graduated from high school, then he would pay for their college education. Scott’s Tots approach their graduation day and throw a celebratory party to thank Michael. But Michael’s knack for exaggeration forces him renege on his promise. He sits through the entire performance and accepts their gratitudes before telling them he can’t afford to put them all through school. He does however, buy all of them batteries for a laptop.

Five Toy Story Must-Haves

I love all three Toy Story movies, and it’s remarkable how similar they all really are. It takes really good play-up writing to be able to take the same overall story arc and make it into three separate movies that are all huge box office successes.

1. The Toys Must Escape
In each Toy Story movie, the featured playthings must get themselves into some hairy predicament from which they must stage an elaborate escape. In the first one, Woody and Buzz had to figure out how to escape the grasp of the sadistic Sid. In the second one, Woody and his new friends were held captive by an overweight toy collector and a gassy control-freak prospector. And in the third installment, the entire lineup of toys found themselves literally imprisoned by a mafia of daycare toys. If the box says Toy Story, you can be certain that there will be a jailbreak sometime during the next 90 minutes.

2. Getting Thrown Out
Andy’s mom doesn’t seem like the brightest bulb in the box. She is throwing out Andy’s beloved childhood toys with a frightening consistency throughout the series. In the original Toy Story, she leaves Woody and Buzz behind at a gas station. In the next one, she chucks Wheezy into a garage sale, which ends up getting Woody swiped by the toy collector. In the third one, Andy’s mom reaches new heights and throws out the whole bag of toys Andy was taking to the attic. Someone has to get thrown out and given away for it to be a true Toy Story movie.

3. Owner Forgetfulness
Toy Story 1 is all about how upset Woody gets because Andy has a new, cooler toy to play with. In the second one, we meet Jessie – the yodeling cowgirl whose owner outgrew her during a Sarah McLaughlin musical montage. In Toy Story 3, not only has Andy been ignoring his toys in favor or college prep, but some small girl left her Lotso Huggy Bear behind one day and had her parents replace him. Can’t release a Toy Story movie without at least one toy’s feelings getting hurt due to being overlooked or ignored.

4. Buzz Lightyear Thinks He’s A Real Spaceman
Buzz Lightyear gets introduced early on in Toy Story 1 as a space ranger toy who thinks that all his features are truly operational and he’s on a mission from Star Command. The entire first movie is basically spent convincing him he’s A TOY! In Toy Story 2, the real Buzz accidentally sets loose a new Buzz (with utility belt!) who thinks he’s a spaceman just like Andy’s Buzz did in the first movie. Toy Story 3 did not disappoint, bringing back Buzz’s naivete with the flick of a switch. Granted, it reverts him to Spanish Mode and is belly-laugh hilarious, but since it is a Toy Story movie, Buzz is going to believe himself to be a real Spaceman.

"Abierto!"

5. Nobody trusts Woody
Despite his standing as the apparent leader of Andy’s toys, Woody has one helluva time maintaining the trust of his fellow toys from film to film. In Toy Story 1, the toys believe that Woody is responsible for trying to off Buzz. The refuse to help him and openly sabotage his attempts to help Buzz. These trust issues resurface in Toy Story 2 when Woody refuses to accept the other toys’ help in leaving the toy collector and returning to Andy. In Toy Story 3, they still haven’t learned that Woody is the consummate toy and refuse to believe him when he tells them that it was Andy’s mother who was responsible for them being thrown out rather than Andy himself. Although they always get over it by the end of the movie, the toys will always assume Woody is lying for selfish reasons rather than remember all the heroic actions he’s taken on their behalf.

6. Freakish Looking Baby Toys

This is really more of five and a half because off the top of my head I can’t recall a freaky baby toy in the second Toy Story movie. In Toy Story 1, we encounter a variety of freaky-looking toys at neighbor kid Sid’s house. One of the more memorable scary toys is an innocent-appearing baby doll head attached to a metallic toy spider body. Toy Story 3 brings scary baby back, this time in the form of the Gestapo-like lazy-eyed big baby. If it’s Toy Story, there’s gonna be a freaky baby somewhere in the movie.

Where Do The Jets Go From Here?

For the second consecutive season, the Jets were ousted from the playoffs in the AFC Championship game. For a franchise mired in mediocrity and disappointment for so long, their current two year run has been whole-heartedly rewarding for fans, but ultimately still somewhat disappointing.

With labor issues still at hand between players and owners and a lot of pending free agents, the Jets have a lot of work to do this offseason. But for once, they’ve got an excellent foundation to build on. Say what you will about Rex Ryan’s antics and motivation methods, but the man is an excellent football coach. He’s won four road playoff games in his first two seasons as a head coach, and has done it with a rookie and subsequently second-year quarterback in Mark Sanchez. There are not many coaches I’d rather have right now than Rex Ryan.

The Jets are also set long-term at quarterback, the league’s most important position. Sanchez has had some struggles in his first two seasons, but in six playoff games (all on the road) he has a 9:3 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He’s a good quarterback that has continued to develop throughout his time in the league.

As good as the defense was the past two years, I think it is clear that needs to be the path the Jets take in the draft. The desperately need a pass rusher, and they should take the best one available when their first round draft selection comes along. They need to find a guy who will be what they thought Vernon Gholston would be. The Jets needed pass rush help in 2008 and Gholston was the best available in a class very weak on pass rush. The 2011 draft should be deeper in pass rushers, so the Jets may see a player they value fall to them at 28.

But before I get into the Jets draft needs, here’s a recap of their key impending free agents.

Antonio Cromartie, CB
Cromartie ultimately cost the Jets their second round pick, but solidified the Jets secondary as expected. Playing across from a healthy Darrelle Revis, the Jets defensive backs were beyond solid all year and their frustration of MVP Tom Brady in the divisional round of the playoffs was perhaps their brightest moment. The Jets should definitely look into keeping Cromartie, but only if the price is reasonable. He’ll probably be looking for big money coming off a very impressive year, and another team may very well give it to him. But if the price is right, Cromartie absolutely has a place in New York next season.

Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards, WR
The Jets’ top two wide receivers hit the market this year and the Jets should look to bring back both but there may only be room in the budget for one. If that’s the case, then Holmes is the clear choice to return. Edwards really cleaned up his act in New York and will be rewarded accordingly, but if the Jets can only keep one of them, Holmes is the superior talent.

David Harris, LB
Harris will definitely be back. The Jets have made it very clear that they will pay Harris, and they’d be foolish not to. He’s developed into a very good linebacker and is a clubhouse leader. They wanted to extend him last year along with Revis, Mangold and Ferguson, but didn’t have the money. They’ll have it this year.

Jason Taylor and LaDainian Tomlinson
Both veterans played an integral role in winning 13 games this season, but both are aging and expensive. Taylor might be back, but at a lower salary. Tomlinson also may return, but if he does it should be in a more limited capacity. Shonn Greene is a better option at this point and should collect a lion’s share of the carries next season for the Jets run game.

Shaun Ellis, DE
Ellis has been with the Jets for as long as I can remember and is still a very productive player. The Jets defensive line is questionable going into next season with Kris Jenkins a complete unknown and Trevor Pryce mulling retirement. Ellis would help solidify the line and deserves a new deal.

Brad Smith, WR/QB/KR
Smith has been indispensable for the Jets as an everything man the past four years and keeping him would enable the Jets to continue the use of their very effective Wildcat formation as well as solidify their kick return unit. But I would think that the Jets chances of keeping Smith decrease dramatically under two circumstances – a team is willing to guarantee starter-level money to Smith that would be hard for the Jets to match, or if a team is willing to take a chance on Smith as a QB.

Today’s Idiot: Cathy Cruz Marrero

Today’s Idiot returns with a bloomin’ idiot! Cathy Cruz Marrero, a 49-year old Pennsylvania woman recently walked herself into a mall fountain. She had her nose buried in her cell phone texting a friend and walked straight into the water fountain in the middle of a shopping mall.

Surveillance footage of her short swim quickly made its way onto the internet and blew up YouTube. Despite being highly embarrassed and unidentifiable on the video, Ms. Cruz Marrero went on Good Morning America to complain about her accident and explain that she’s preparing a lawsuit, but she’s not sure who it will be against – and neither is her attorney.

Cruz Marrero complained to GMA that “Nobody [from the mall] called to see if I was okay.” I can only guess that is because people at the mall had to assume based on past experiences that Marrero is incapable of safely operating a telephone and did not want to risk any further injury or humiliation for the woman.

And while she and her legal team were more than happy to discuss Marrero’s poor treatment in regards to her mall fall, they would not comment on felony charges pending against her for credit card fraud.

Deathly Hallows Part I Review

I’m not one to critique movies too often, but I do have my own personal way of judging how much I like them. I give each movie two different scores – an Expected Score and an Actual Score. The expected score takes into account how much I’m looking forward to the movie, whether or not I expect to enjoy it and what I’ve seen or read about it in the preceding months. The actual score is how much I ended up enjoying the movie. Factors for this could include the performance of individual actors, the special effects, the writing or the score to to the movie.

Having read all seven books countless times and having seen the six previous movies, my anticipation for The Deathly Hallows: Part I was extreme. This movie was to be the beginning of the culmination of a phenomenon that for me, started in the sixth grade. There are a lot of things that I loved when I was 11 that I don’t love anymore, but Harry Potter is not one of them. In fact, the series has grown on me tremendously.

However, while the books remain some of my favorite of all time, the movies have been rather hit-and-miss. It’s fun to see the characters come to life on the big screen, but movies have time limitations that books do not. Because of this, the movies have seriously condensed some of the books clever storylines and the films have moved along at a rapid pace that leaves little time for the character development that JK Rowling was so good at. I watched the first six movies simply because they were Harry Potter, not because of any superb writing.

The seventh book was by far my favorite, as it tied up every loose end imaginable and continued to build upon relationships and stories that began in the first chapter of the first book. Surprisingly, I find myself in a small minority when I mention that Deathly Hallows was my favorite book, as it’s more of a middling book for most Potter fans. I was pleased to hear that the filmmakers were planning on splitting Deathly Hallows into two separate movies because I didn’t believe it could properly be done in one. There was too much information contained in the book that needed to be included and still some information from other books that needed to be introduced.

So my expected score for the penultimate Potter film was an easy five. I was very much looking forward to the movie, and expected it to be well done and accurate.

As for the movie itself I was pleased. Fortunately, the filmmakers decided to split the story into two parts, which greatly benefits the pacing of Deathly Hallows. The director was able to slow things down, provide more character development, and include some nice filler scenes. I felt that the filmmakers took some calculated liberties interpreting the book, but for the most part, they worked. The most noticeable difference to me was how the movie cut back on the violence of the seventh book and replaced it with a higher sex factor. There were several scenes that were sexed up, while the dark overtones were less pronounced. Sure, the movie had intimidating tasks and formidable foes, but not to the extent that the book did.

I heard several reviews complaining that the movie was too dark and close to being inappropriate for children. My retort is that it’s not supposed to be a G-rated adaptation. The seventh book is by far the darkest and most imposing, the movie managed to reflect that and I am glad that it did. JK Rowling’s original audience grew up with Harry and if the last installment is too dark for your kid, wait a few years between each book like I did.

Harry & Hermione Dance

There were several places in the movie that I felt the filmmakers had adequate room for interpretation. The Harry/Hermione dance scene was improvised for the movie, and some people did not care for it – I did. I felt that it adequately summed up the overarching feeling at the time and did so in a way that way fun and light. One of my favorite parts of the movies was the animated storytelling of the Tale of the Three Brothers. The entire story needed to be in the movie, and I can’t think of a better way that could have been accomplished.

The movie was very long, but so well produced that it didn’t feel that long. You really were taken through a film that transitioned seamlessly from one scene to the next. There was a lot of information that needed to be included in the movie I for the most part, everything was. However, the one thing I did not care for was the way that the split was handled. Going into the production everyone knew that the story would be split into two parts and that Part I would end with a huge “To Be Continued…” but I thought it could have been done better.

Films that are a preceding part need to both leave the audience hanging for the sequel, but also still provide a satisfying watching experience all on their own. And I think Deathly Hallows didn’t do as a good job at tying up their first part as movies like The Empire Strikes Back and Back To The Future did in their time.

At Malfoy Manor

One of the most impressive things about the entire Potter series is the casting. Each time the credits roll, it’s like reading a who’s who of the best talent Britain has to offer. But more amazing than the all-star lineup of adult cast is the job that Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson have done. The three child stars were thrust into the spotlight before they were teenagers, and each one has matured wonderfully over the past decade and have completely embraced their roles in the movies. Some casting director somewhere deserves a huge raise for pegging those three for the very first movie. Not only have the developed into excellent actors, but they’ve handled themselves with maturity beyond their years.

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part I definitely surpassed my expectations for a Potter movie, and did an excellent job adapting the book its’ based on. I saw it three times and of course, can not wait until Part II drops into theaters this coming summer.

Possible Super Bowl Matchups

We’re down to four teams left standing in the NFL playoffs. Both conference championship games will feature the second seeded team against the sixth seeded team. After the AFC featured division rival matchups last week, the NFC gets one for its’ conference championship. Green Bay and Chicago split two games in the regular season, with each team winning low-scoring and close games at home. The AFC championship game gets a rematch from Week 15 when the Jets won for the first time ever in Pittsburgh 22-17.

JETS VS PACKERS
This is the matchup I’d personally want to watch the most. Not only because I am a Jets fan, but because after seeing the way Rex Ryan fleeced Tom Brady, I would love to see what kind of defensive schemes he comes up with to deal with Aaron Rodgers and all those Green Bay receivers. The Jets were shut out at home when they played Green Bay on Halloween, but the held Rodgers out of the end zone and to his lowest passing total of the season. With the Jets offense together and clicking, this could be a very exciting Super Bowl.

PACKERS VS STEELERS
This is probably the best matchup that we could still see in the Super Bowl. A high-octane offense that is firing on all cylinders against a brutally tough defense. What Pittsburgh does best is stop the run, but the Packers don’t necessarily need a running game to win. They’ve won seven games this year when their leading rusher gained less than 60 yards on the ground. Aaron Rodgers is good enough and mobile enough that he can march the Packers up and down the field without a viable run option. I think the Jets secondary is better equipped to handle the Packers tremendous receiving corp and that’s why the Packers should be rooting to see Big Ben in the Super Bowl.

BEARS VS JETS
Another regular season re-match under this scenario. The Bears won a shootout at home, but I seriously doubt that Rex Ryan allows that to happen twice in a season, especially with extra time to prepare. Chances are also good that Matt Forte doesn’t rush for 100 yards again, as Rex Ryan defenses have allowed that to happen only twice in the past two years. I’d expect a Bears-Jets Super Bowl to be significantly more defensive than their first meeting was.

STEELERS VS BEARS
A Pittsburgh-Chicago Super Bowl would be an intense and hard-hitting affair between two teams that would be more comfortable on a frozen tundra than in Jerry Jones’ phenomenal palace. Still while past sense would tell us to expect run-heavy approaches by both teams, recent transpiring would tell us to watch for a whole lot of Big Ben and Jay Cutler. Both QBs have big arms and a lot of targets.

Top 10 Plays from Jets/Pats

JETS 28, PATRIOTS 21
The Jets did most of the talking leading up to the weekend finale and then brought all the talk to a stop and punched the NFL’s best team in the gut. Repeatedly. Apart from a brutal play-calling sequence and a missed chip-shot field goal in the first quarter, the Jets played nearly flawless football and executed their gameplan to perfection. The got significant pressure without having to overload blitz and played blanket coverage all night long on every Patriot receiver. The Jets front seven delivered four of the Jets five sacks and hit Brady again and again. They had the surefire MVP flustered, scared and making mistakes. Brady would scan through his progressions and nothing would be there. Nothing. The Jets ended Tom Brady’s 360 pass streak without an interception and constantly forced him to check down and throw the ball away or into the turf.

Even with Randy Moss earlier this season, the Patriots never really possessed a true deep threat that could effectively stretch the field. However, because of Tom Brady’s accuracy and the Patriot’s route-running, the offense exploded after Moss was traded. The offense was built upon underneath routes and the after-the-catch ability of guys like Deion Branch, Wes Welker and the young tight ends. The Jets took all of that away with superb coverage and open-field tackling. The limited the Patriots big plays and flustered Brady into a decidedly un-MVP type of performance. Of Tom Brady’s 45 pass attempts, only two went for more than 20 yards. Three, if you count David Harris’ 58-yard interception return. The Jets effectively shut down the running game, holding New England running backs to 89 yards on 23 carries (3.86 yards per carry), allowing them to focus on stifling Brady. The Jets defense said Brady looked scared, but I’d probably label it indecisive and confused. He was hit exponentially more times than he is used to and things that typically open up in that offense were slammed shut for him.

The Jets offense was sporadic on Sunday afternoon, alternating brutal series with beautiful ones. Tomlinson looked fresh for a second straight week and averaged 4.3 yards per carry and made an acrobatic catch on a pass behind him and over his head which he took in for a 7 yard score to get the Jets on the board. Shonn Greene averaged 4.5 yards on his 17 carries and is running hard and downhill for a second consecutive postseason. Running a more traditional offense with their Wildcat option inactive with a groin injury, the Jets moved the ball when they needed to and in a very satisfying turn of events, cashed in five red zone opportunities with four touchdowns. They didn’t turn the ball over and although they held the ball for 10 minutes less than the Patriots, it was the Jets who always seemed calm and in control.

They played smart, hard and disciplined. They racked up only 3 penalties (35 yards) and converted 6 of 13 third down attempts and held New England to 5 of 18 on third and fourth down tries. They knocked off the 14-2 number one overall seed in the playoffs in their own house where the Patriots were 8-0 this year.

1. David Harris’ interception and 58-yard return
After the Jets punted on their first possession, Brady led the Patriots deep into Jets territory. On 1st-and-10 from the 28, Brady overthrew his running back coming out of the backfield and David Harris became the first person to intercept Brady since Week 5 and returned it inside the Patriots 15. The Jets offense ended up going backwards and Nick Folk missed a gimme field-goal, but the interception changed the tone of the game, showing that the Patriots were not going to walk all over the Jets two games in a row.

Edwards' 37-yard reception

2. Braylon Edwards’ 37-yard reception
Trailing 3-0 with 12 minutes left in the half, and facing 3rd-and-6 around midfield, Mark Sanchez’s usually clean pocket collapsed and two Patriots got in his face. Sanchez avoided both pass-rushers and rolled out to his left. He saw Braylon Edwards and pointed towards the sideline before lobbing a throw over the NE defender and into Edwards’ hands for a 37 yard gain and a huge first down. Two plays later, Sanchez hit Tomlinson on a swing pass for a touchdown and a 7-3 lead.

3. New England botches a fake punt
On 4th-and-4 from their own 38, New England tried a direct snap to safety Pat Chung, who muffed it and by the time he recovered it, his lanes had closed and the Jets had taken over in New England territory with just over a minute left in the half. With the Patriots due to get the ball to start the second half, and the Jets moving the ball somewhat sporadically, the decision was a strange one.

Edwards' 15-yard TD catch

4. Braylon Edwards (and two NE defenders) score a 15-yard TD
After LT gained 22 yards on two carries, Edwards pulled in a pass around the seven yard line and dragged two defenders into the end zone for a touchdown just before halftime which gave the Jets a 14-3 lead going into the break. They capitalized on the Patriots special teams gaffe and gave themselves some breathing room.

5. Calvin Pace strip-sacks Brady
Pace’s strip sack set the Patriots back into a third-and-forever type of play and forced another punt after yet another short possession.

Cotchery's 58 yard catch-and-run

6. Jerricho Cotchery’s 58-yard catch and scamper
One play after New England drew within 14-11 with a touchdown and two-point conversion, Jerricho Cotchery took a short pass and raced 58 yards deep into New England territory to take back some of the momentum the Patriots turned with their score. Cotchery is not one of the Jets flashy offseason additions, but has been their consistent veteran that does everything that’s asked of him and does it perfectly and 100%.

7. Santonio Holmes tapdance touchdown
Facing third and four on the New England 7, Mark Sanchez threw a pass up and out of the back left corner of the end zone. But Santonio Holmes went up and his toes came down in the endzone with a TD catch eerily reminiscent of his Super Bowl MVP catch a couple of years ago. A bullet throw from Mark Sanchez just stuck to his hands and both feet came down in bounds and the Jets had a 21-11 lead and seemingly all of the momentum.

Santonio Holmes celebrates his diving TD catch

8. Fourth down stop
After the Holmes touchdown, the Patriots marched down the field, eating clock and churning out first downs. They seemed to lack the urgency a team down two scores in the fourth quarter usually has. They found themselves facing a 52-yard field goal attempt or a fourth-and-13. They went for it and Brady threw slightly behind Branch who couldn’t pull in the pass and the Jets got the ball back on downs.

9. Antonio Cromartie & Shonn Greene put the game away (temporarily)
After the Patriots had managed a field goal to pull to within 21-14, Antonio Cromartie returned an onside-kick attempt to the New England 23 and Shonn Green took it to the house two plays later to give the Jets a 28-14 lead, but also gave the Pats one last chance. A first down would have ended the game as the Patriots were out of timeouts, but the score gave them the ball back for another shot at a miracle.

10. Eric Smith covers it up
Sure enough, the Patriots marched down the field and scored to make it a one possession game again and lined up for their second on-side kick in two minutes. This one bounced right into the hands of safety Eric Smith who fell on it and the Patriots season was over when Mark Sanchez took a knee on the ensuing play.

2010 NFL Divisional Playoffs

RAVENS (13-4) AT STEELERS (12-4)
Both AFC playoff games this weekend are the third meeting between bitter division rivals. As good as Jets/Pats has been of late, Baltimore/Pittsburgh has been better. Seven of the last eight games between these teams have been decided by 7 points or less and this year’s playoff installment shouldn’t be much difference. The Ravens manhandled an upstart Kansas City team in the wild card matchup, while the Steelers are coming off a bye and welcoming back a healthy and rested Troy Polamalu. The teams split their regular season games, but the Steelers won the game in which they had Ben Roethlisberger. I like both teams a lot, but trust Big Ben more to extend plays and make big throws than Joe Flacco.

Steelers 27, Ravens 24

PACKERS (11-6) AT FALCONS (13-3)
The Packers and Falcons have already played once this year in Atlanta while both teams were mostly healthy. And the Falcons won. But in the rematch I like Green Bay. The Falcons winning formula all year was to play 60 full minutes of smart, disciplined football and catch a few breaks. They followed that plan perfectly in their matchup against Green Bay in November and pulled off a last-minute victory. Unfortunately, I don’t think that they can count on a goal-line fumble and 344 passing yards accounting for just one solitary touchdown the second time around. The Packers are a better offensive a defensive team than the Falcons, but the Falcons have stayed far more healthier this season. Nobody is playing better than Aaron Rodgers and the Packers will ride his arm to the NFC Championship game and perhaps further.

Packers 38, Falcons 20

SEAHAWKS (8-9) AT BEARS (12-4)
Nobody in the country truly believed that Seattle would miraculously upend the defending champs last week, but a smidgen of me isn’t too surprised that Seattle proved to be a tough environment for the Saints. This week, the worst NFC playoff team ever has to go on the road – where they were 2-6 this year but one of the wins was at Soldier Field in Chicago. The Bears however are far more developed offensively than they were when Seattle first came to call. Mike Martz has crafted the offense into a unit that plays to its strengths and I’m picking convincingly against the Seahawks for a second consecutive week.

Bears 31, Seahawks 14

JETS (12-5) AT PATRIOTS (14-2)
While comparisons to the 16-0 2007 Patriots are obviously unfounded, this is still a very talented New England club that embarrassed the Jets 45-3 on Monday Night Football just over a month ago. Sanchez has played poorly in Gillette Stadium, throwing seven picks in two games whereas Tom Brady is on an incredible 12 game run. The Patriots dominance has always been directly tied to turnover success, and I believe if the Jets can win that battle, they have a very good chance at pulling off a huge upset. Unfortunately, Tom Brady has completely stopped turning the ball over and has received superb protection since Pro Bowl lineman Logan Mankins returned from a holdout.

Patriots 27, Jets 21

2010 NFL Wild Card Weekend

SAINTS (11-5) AT SEAHAWKS (7-9)
Flying across the country to play the Seahawks in Seattle has always been fairly daunting, but this is a Seahawks team that lost at home this year by 16, 18 and 34 points to teams that finished 10-6 or better. The Saints may be the second best team in the NFC bracket and I don’t foresee the Seahawks giving them too much trouble. It’s a quarterback-driven league and Drew Brees brings his Super Bowl ring out west, Pete Carrol has to decide whether to start an injured Matt Hasselbeck or a timid Charlie Whitehurst who had trouble against a 7-9 Rams team last week.

Saints 28, Seahawks 13

JETS (11-5) AT COLTS (10-6)
A rematch of 2009’s AFC championship, but nothing is really the same. The Jets had a dominant defense and run game with little passing prowess last year, and now their defense and running game are less intimidating, but they’ve added more outside weapons and Mark Sanchez has shown improvement in ball security and decision making. They will still need to get pressure on Manning, something I think might be hard for the Jets to execute. Indianapolis still has Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne, but are missing a lot of pieces that killed the Jets last year. Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon will be blanketed by Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, so for the Colts to win, guys like Jacob Tamme and Blair White need to have big games. With Peyton Manning throwing to them, it’s distinctly possible.

Jets 23, Colts 21

RAVENS (12-4) AT CHIEFS (10-6)
The Ravens are a better team, but it’s hard not to like the Chiefs playing at home in January. Their only home loss this year came against the Raiders in Week 17, after Kansas City had already clinched the AFC West. Matt Cassel has been one of the league’s most improved players, and if he continues to take care of the ball and feed the running game, they’ve got a great chance. But the Ravens have played a much harder gauntlet than KC, and looked better doing it. If Baltimore can get Ray Rice heavily involved in both the running and passing games, they should open things up for Flacco when KC keys on stopping Rice.

Ravens 20, Chiefs 10

PACKERS (10-6) AT EAGLES (10-6)
If the NFL seeded playoff teams according to record, every Wild Card game would change location. That the Packers made it this far with no running game and devastating injuries along the way is a testament to how good Aaron Rodgers is. The Eagles feature one of the most exciting offenses in the league, but the defense is young, undisciplined and frankly, not very good. Mike Vick is going to have to outgun Rodgers and the Pack to win this game, and I think Green Bay does enough to limit him and his playmakers. While I’d love to see the Eagles win this week and next to set up a potential trip to Atlanta, I think the Packers offense will overwhelm and underwhelming Philadelphia defense.

Packers 34, Eagles 24