* The NFC Final Field:
1. 12-4 Chicago Bears (best overall record)
2. 10-6 Seattle Seahawks (win tiebreaker with Cowboys via head-to-head, with Bucs via record vs common opponents)
3. 10-6 Dallas Cowboys (win tiebreaker with Bucs via head-to-head)
4. 10-6 Tampa Bay Bucs (best remaining division champion's record)
5. 11-5 Green Bay Packers (best non-division winning record)
6. 10-6 Philadelphia Eagles (win tiebreaker vs Panthers via head-to-head)
7. 10-6 Carolina Panthers (win tiebreaker vs Saints via strength of victory)
8. 10-6 New Orleans Saints (best remaining record)
9. 9-7 New York Giants (best remaining record)
10. 8-8 San Francisco 49ers (win tiebreaker vs Redskins via ... honestly, who cares)
11. 8-8 Washington Redskins (best remaining record)
12. 7-9 Detroit Lions (best remaining record
13. 6-10 Minnesota Vikings (best remaining record)
14. 5-11 Atlanta Falcons (win tiebreaker vs Cardinals via head-to-head)
15. 5-11 Arizona "Super" Cardinals (best remaining record)
16. 2-14 St. Louis Rams (giving Cleveland one helluva run for "worst franchise of the year" ...)
* The Wildcard Round:
Mixology 2012 Song to Describe Said Round: "Party In the USA" by Miley Cyrus. Cue Stevo imitating the worst dance moves in recorded human history, to celebrate the arrival of the playoffs ...
(6) Eagles 34, at (3) Cowboys 31. I guarantee you NBC is salivating over putting this into the pimp Saturday night time slot. As well they should be. This game would be epically awesome.
at (4) Bucs 27, (5) Packers 24. I debated for fifteen minutes over who would win this matchup. If it was at Lambeau, there'd be no doubt who would win, and it ain't the Bucs. (Cue Ol' Pete King b*tching about the team with a better record having to play a road game. Seriously, let. it. go. Ol' Pete. Let. It. Go. The Bucs actually WON something -- their division. The Pack merely won the title of "best runner up". They don't deserve to host a thing.
* The Divisional Round:
Mixology 2012 Song to Describe Said Round: "Start a Fire" by Ryan Star. Also, cue me watching nothing but football for two straight days, up to and including "NFL Edge Matchup" that ESPN has sadly -- tragically -- dumped to like 4:30am on ESPNU. Really, ESPN -- the Matchup show, with Jaws and Merril Hoge breaking down the biggest game of the day? Is THE single best show you have on your entire family of networks. "The Voice of Reason" and I used to wake up at 5:55am for a noon kickoff to simply spend 30 minutes watch two fellow football geeks break down game film to see which team was better coached, better prepared, for the day's biggest matchup. (Note: we also may have watched for gambling purposes. Your call as to which factor weighed more heavily. And I'd bet on "gambling" if I was you, the random reader.) Put "NFL Edge Matchup" back in a more sleep-in friendly time slot guys. I don't ask much. I'm begging you for this.
(6) Eagles 20, at (1) Bears 10. Whoa, the Bears crap out at home in the divisional round. Stunning! What's next, your going to tell me the Colts beat the Chiefs every damned time they play in January? Oh. Uum, let's move on.
(4) Bucs 13, at (2) Seahawks 10. I know -- this has to be, five months out, THE most unlikely divisional round matchup imaginable, involving divisional champions to boot. But look at the rosters, and it's not as far-fetched or ridiculous of a possibility as it seems. Also, this matchup would be damned FUN to watch. Two tremendous college coaches trying to take the next step at the pro level. Two tremendous young quarterbacks (Jawsh Freeman and Russell Wilson) trying to make the leap to "franchise guy" level. Two tremendous defenses throwing down, ideally in a light falling mist on a 55 degree day in the Pacific Northwest. (Pause.) OK, fine, maybe I'm the only one excited by this matchup, but color this kid excited by how this worked out.
* The Conference Championship:
Mixology 2012 Song that Describes Said Round: "Shout" by the Isley Brothers. No explanation needed.
(4) Bucs 24, (6) Eagles 13. I don't believe in a lot in life. I believe in my amazing ability to shove my foot into my mouth at the most inopportune of moments. I believe in Kennedy family sex scandals, topped only by the inevitable alleged family man far-right-wing pastor sex scandal(s), that almost always are of a homosexual nature. And I believe in Greg Schiano. I'm telling you, this guy is going to take the league like gangbusters. I might be a year or two premature in saying this is Tampa's year ... but it's not like an underrated, rock solid hard ass has taken over this team before, and won a Lombardi in his first try. Oh wait, he did -- Jon Gruden. And I'd argue Jawsh Freeman is better than Brad Johnson ever was under center. Ten years ago, these two squads met in Philly for the NFC Championship. I'm staging the rematch in Tampa ... with the same outcome.
NFC Champions: Your Tampa Bay Buccaneers!
Upcoming: the AFC divisional and postseason picks ...