Wednesday, November 9, 2011

its over when its over, part dos

“It’s the first snap,
Of the last straw,
Where regrets outlast
The alcohol.

It’s a cold sweat,
In an empty bed,
And your dreams are like a knife
When you’re hanging by a thread.

And know maybe we can make it,
If we just play the right cards …”

-- “It’s Over When It’s Over” by Eric Church, part dos …


And now, Part II of the “Wait, Stevo Just Sucker Punched Me?!?!” Post of the Year … and let me open it with one small (ok, possibly “mid”) sized commentary, and it is this:

It’s over when it’s over.

And this season?  Of promise, of hope, of a lifetime?

It’s over when it’s over.

So let me conclude said opening thoughts with this.  And back the iPod back two tracks.

“To this day? 
When I hear that song?
I see you standing there
On that lawn.

Discount shades,
Store bought tan.
Flip flops and
Cutoff jeans.

Somewhere between
That setting sun?
“I’m On Fire” and
“Born to Run”,

You looked at me?
And I was done.
Thought …
Just gettin’ started …

When I think about you?
I think about seventeen!
I think my old Jeep!
I think about the stars in the sky!

Funny how a memory,
Sounds like a melody,
Like a soundtrack to a
July Saturday Night …

Springsteen …”

I love this game, this week, more than any non-breathing part of my life.  (Yes, there are people I love more than donkeys week.  Shocking, I know, but still …)

“When you think about me?
Do you think about seventeen?
Do you think about my old Jeep?
Do you think about the stars in the sky?

Funny how a memory,
Sounds like a melody!
Like a soundtrack,
To a (November Thursday) night …

Springsteen …
Oh Sprinsteen …”

Coming below?  My AFC Midseason Predictions.  Coming Manana?  My Week Ten Predictions, with thoughts on Sunday’s Chiefs / broncos game as always.  Just know this:

When I think about this game?  When I think about how much this game, this moment in time means to me?

I don’t think about the game.  I think about the people I share it with. 

And if that means the unthinkable going forward?  That a donkeys fan(s) is in our midst?  That we accept the enemy into our group as anything BUT the enemy?

(wait for it …)


(yes, the awful, offkey male is me.  DEAL WITH IT!  if you'd been there for this concert, you'd have the same one word reaction i have.  (wait for it ...)  springsteen.  having said that ...)

(yeah, no CLUE how I’m topping THIS tomorrow … but tune in to find out …  (quaqmire voice) giggity giggity ... giggity goo.)


Last night, I started to look at just how wretchedly awful the AFC is, and what the contenders (all 13 of them!!!  OK, ok, Cleveland is barely hanging on ...) have left.  And man, is it ugly for just about all of them.

Still, barring an outbreak of ties that would make the 1990s NHL jealous, someone has to win these games.  Someone has to make the playoffs.  Someone has to be offered up as the sacrificial lamb to whoever emerges from the NFC*.  So let's take a gander at how I see the AFC standing come late January.

(*: of course, any team can win, on any given Sunday.  But having said that, the ONLY AFC team I'd even contemplate taking against a NFC squad on the neutral Lucas Oil Field right now is Baltimore, and possibly Houston if someone other than Green Bay wins the NFC.)

AFC East:

Current Situation: a three team tie at 5-3.  Each contender is currently 1-1 against the other.  Each still has one game left against the other two, starting this Sunday night at the Fake Meadowlands, when the Patriots and Jets square off.

In the Division's Favor: all three teams appear to be solidly constructed teams capable of winning on any given Sunday.

Against the Division's Favor: the Pats and Jets still have roadies to Philly coming up.  The Bills still have a roadie to Dallas (this week).  The Jets and Giants square off on Christmas Eve. 

Wildcard Factor: the division might come down to whether the Pats and Jets can handle the Redskins in Washington in mid-December.  The Bills already took care of business against the Skins (and the Eagles).  Pats and Jets have to split their NFC East roadies to get the upper hand over Buffalo.

Stevo's Pick to Win the Division: the New York Jets, at 10-6.  Their four toughest games left are all at home (albeit a split crowd for the Giants).  If they can take 3 of 4 (with one being New England), and beat Miami and Washington on the road, they should survive on tiebreakers.

Stevo's Pick to Just Miss the Playoffs: the New England Patriots, at 10-6.  That loss at Pittsburgh will prove fatal.

Stevo's Pick to Collapse: the Buffalo Bills.  They have to win one of the four tough roadies (at Patriots, at Jets, at Chargers, at Cowboys) just to get to ten wins.  And that presumes they take care of business against Miami, Tennessee, and a surging broncos team.  Smells like a 5-2 fade to 8-8 to me.

AFC North:

Current Situation: even though the Bengals technically are in first place, the Ravens hold the upper hand, in that they've already swept the Steelers, and still have two left against the Bengals, including in Cincy to close the regular season.  The Steelers are essentially playing for a wildcard berth, and the Browns are hanging on by the barest of margins.

In the Division's Favor: they play the NFC West and AFC South, the two worst divisions top to bottom in the NFL.

Against the Division's Favor: Houston and San Francisco are both rock solid teams that will give the North contenders fits down the stretch, starting Thanksgiving Night in the Harbaugh Bowl.

Wildcard Factor: the Sunday nighters on the road against the AFC West might determine the division.  Pittsburgh is at Kansas City in three weeks; Baltimore is at San Diego in six weeks.  I

Stevo's Pick to Win the Division: the Baltimore Ravens at 12-4.  They're by far and away the class of the AFC at this point, and nobody else is even close.

Stevo's Pick to Make the Playoffs: the Cincinnati Bengals at 11-5.  Split with Baltimore and Pittsburgh, and every other game is extremely winnable.

Stevo's Pick to Make the Playoffs II: the Pittsburgh Steelers at 10-6.  Solely and completely because they held on at home against the Patriots two weeks ago.  Sometimes, one game in November makes all the difference in the world.  (And man, will it this year ...)

Stevo's Pick to Collapse: the Cleveland Browns.  They're done.  I know their next two are at home against the Rams and Jags.  I don't care.  They're done. 

AFC South:

Current Situation: if the Houston Texans don't have this division clinched by December 11th, Gary Kubiak should be fired on the spot.  They're essentially 2 1/2 up with 7 to go.  Even the Chiefs held on in that spot last year.

In the Division's Favor: nothing.  They play the AFC North and NFC South, two divisions loaded with seven current playoff contenders (six if you dismiss Cleveland), and a "capable of beating anyone" Cam Newton led Panthers team.

Against the Division's Favor: everything.  The Titans haven't won in a month, the Colts haven't won in a year, and the Jaguars have embraced the youth movement (as well they should).  Again, if the Houston Texans have not clinched first place by December 11th, and a bye by December 19th, Gary Kubiak should be fired on the spot.

Stevo's Pick to Win the Division: the Houston Texans, at 11-5.  I project a shocking upset loss at Jacksonville keeps the Texans from getting the one seed (they hold tiebreaker over the Ravens due to head-to-head victory).  Because if anyone can piss away home field advantage to a team that hasn't played a meaningful game since 2007, its the Gary Kubiak led Houston Texans.

Stevo's Pick to Collapse: every other team in the division.  The Titans have lost three straight, the Colts haven't won since the calendar turned, and while I think the Jags have two massive upsets left in them, one of which will destroy the hopes of an AFC West team, they won't do better than 7-9 at best.

AFC West:

Current Situation: for the first time in NFL history, a three way tie for first exists at 4-4 ... and denver is surging fast at 3-5.  The Chiefs currently have the upper hand because ... well, only God knows why, but somehow, a team with the third worst point differential in the league would HOST the Ravens if the playoffs started today.  AFC FEVER BABY!!!

In the Division's Favor: in the words of Sunny Ledfurd, "not a god d*mned thing".  All four teams have a brutal late November / early December coming up, starting this week, with all divisional games that see rematches to end the season.

Against the Division's Favor: They face the NFC North and AFC East.  To say nothing of beating each other senseless inside the division (everyone still has three divisional games left).

Stevo's Pick to Win the Division: the Kansas City Chiefs, at 9-7.  What, you'd expect anything else?  I honestly think this division hinges on five outcomes, and my predicted outcome to each:

1. denver at Kansas City, week 11: this is denver's season, for all intents and purposes.  They lose this one, they cannot finish better than 3-3 in the division (and they'd likely have to run the table to close at 10-6 to have any postseason shot.  With a trip to Lambeau, a visit from the Patriots, and a trip to the Q still to come, good luck with that.)  For the Chiefs though, this one is almost as important, because they need to keep pace with the Chargers in the divisional column (Chiefs have tiebreaker, temporarily, due to conference schedule, provided they keep pace with the Norv's in the divisional column.)  Let's just say, this "Day I Live For" is bigger than most in recent years.

2. San Diego at Chicago, week 12 / Kansas City at Chicago, week 14.  Both teams will be underdogs, but both are more than capable of winning this game.  The teams are so close that if Chicago were hitting the road?  You'd probably make both KC and San Diego slight favorites, and lay the points.  I'm glad San Diego goes first -- it lets us know what we have to do.  I'm guessing we will have a GOLDEN opportunity in three weeks to gain a game on San Diego.

3. San Diego at oakland, week 17.  This week's game really is meaningless, because both teams have already beaten the Chiefs once, and have already won in denver.  The finale though?  Could be for all the marbles.  Would not surprise me at all if this winds up your week seventeen flexer.

4. Pittsburgh at Kansas City week 13 / Baltimore at San Diego week 15.  Once again, both favorites face the same exact position, two weeks apart -- Sunday nighters against the powerhouse teams of the AFC Central.  Gun to my head?  Both teams spring the upset -- the Chiefs usually play the Steelers tough, the Chargers season is likely on the line.  But I wouldn't bet the family farm on those outcomes.

But the reason I think the Chiefs steal the division at 9-7 on tiebreakers with the Chargers?  The game I've had circled for two months as the decider:

5. San Diego at Jacksonville, week 14.  Why, I can hear you asking, does THIS game matter?  Ask the Ravens what playing at Alltel in prime time is like.  The Jaguars demolished them on Monday night three weeks ago, and right now, as noted yesterday, the Ravens are the only AFC team I'd give a snowballs chance in you-know-where of staying within three of Green Bay or San Fran.  This is the upset that springs the Chiefs to the tiebreaker -- both KC and San Diego will finish 9-7, both will finish 5-1 in the division ... but KC gets to 8-4 in the conference, while San Diego finishes 7-5.  Sorry Norv.  Enjoy unemployment.

Stevo's Pick to Collapse: nobody.  If anyone will, its oakland ... but I honestly think all four teams will finish in the 9-7 to 7-9 range.  And I think we're looking at all four teams being packed together for a few seasons to come.  Just like the AFC West used to be.

So ...

Final Predicted AFC Field (and initial projections based on predicted AFC Field):

1. Baltimore Ravens 12-4.
2. Houston Texans 11-5.
3. New York Jets 10-6.
4. Kansas City Chiefs 9-7.
5. Cincinnati Bengals 11-5.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers 10-6.

AFC Postseason:

6 Steelers 28, at 3 Jets 10.  We've seen this scenario before ... Pittsburgh sneaks in on final day of the season, faces shakily quarterbacked team in divisional round ...
at 3 Chiefs 20, Bengals 13.  The best possible matchup for KC to draw.  Seriously.  Arrowhead will RATTLE Andy Dalton.

6 Steelers 17, at 1 Ravens 10.  We've seen this scenario before ... the last three years and counting in fact.  Steelers and Ravens in the playoffs.  Steelers move to 3-0 against these guys when it counts.
3 Chiefs 28, at 2 Texans 20.  Let me put it this way -- winnable road game, against shaky coaching, shaky quarterback play, and if you don't get why I predicted a Chiefs team to win in Houston in January 28-20, well, Google search January 16, 1994.  Let's just say, shakier Chiefs teams than this one have stunned the world down there when it counts.

Setting up:

6 Steelers at 3 Chiefs, AFC Championship, 2:30pm CT Sunday January 22, 2012.  Re-read every scenario just laid out above.  Re-run the schedules.  For those of you who think one ridiculous defeat in November to an awful Dolphins team (that I take FULL and COMPLETE blame for*) roo-eens the season?  Re-read every scenario just laid out above.  Re-run the schedules.

(*: The first three weeks of the season, I wore (in order) my Jamaal Charles Pro Bowl t-shirt (L vs Bills), my long-sleeved yellow Chiefs t-shirt (L at Lions), and my Puma Chiefs sweatshirt (now in it's 14th year of usage!) that saw the Chiefs lose late at San Diego.  For the Vikings game?  I changed to my grey Chiefs t-shirt I had never worn for a game before.  The Chiefs won.  I wore it again for Indy.  The Chiefs won.  Again for oakland, again for victory.  Then the ultimate gamble -- the Monday nighter against San Diego.  Believing in the "Power of the Grey", I absolutely wore it ... but because the game was at night, I had a dilemma: risk mixing it with proven "lovable loser" Puma Chiefs sweatshirt ... or break in the DT hoodie my mommy bought me a few weeks ago?  I broke in the DT hoodie ... and believe me, with :54 to go in that game, NOBODY blamed themselves more for the inevitable defeat to come, than me.  NOBODY.  Then ... FUMBLE!  RECOVERY!  And finally, VICTORY!

I left the hotel for the airport at 6:50am Sunday morning ... in my yellow Chiefs t-shirt.  I'd forgotten to pack the "Power of the Grey".  Chiefs fans, it is my fault, and my fault alone, that we lost that game.  I PROMISE you, come high noon on Sunday, I will be in the "Power of the Grey" ... and the DT hoodie if it's a little bit Nipsey Russell at kickoff.)

Again, call me crazy, call me what you will ...

(eric church voice) Springsteen ...

(stevo voice) Springsteen!

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