Dr. Z, You Damned Dirty Ape!

The last piece of the 2005-06 Frank the Tank Trifecta is almost in place – the Illini Final Four, the White Sox World Series, and now, just two victories to a Super Bears Super Bowl.  So, enough with Dr. Z’s preseason predictions (Bears ranked #32 out of 32?  Oops!).  I’ve been waiting for this weekend for four years!  Here are my NFL divisional playoff picks in order of confidence but not against the spread (home teams in CAPS):

1) New England Patriots over DENVER BRONCOS – I’ll repeat what I said on Monday: if you had to bet your life savings on either a team led by Tom Brady or a club commanded by Jake “The Snake” Plummer, who would you pick?  This is pretty easy.

2) CHICAGO BEARS over Carolina Panthers – How could this Super Fan put Da Bears at #2 in the confidence rankings?  We still have a QB that has played in 1 ½ games this season and has never been in the playoffs – that’s not cool considering how Carolina battered Eli Manning last week.  However, the Chicago Bears defense is rested, healthy, and ready to attack.  The Bears don’t need to stop Steve Smith (who had 169 receiving yards on November 20th against us) as much as they need to halt DeShaun Foster and the Panthers’ running game.  This is going to be a close game, but I believe the Bears will dominate on defense and create just enough offense (and, most importantly, avoid turnovers) to advance to the NFC Championship Game.

3) INDIANAPOLIS COLTS over Pittsburgh Steelers – The Colts are going to pull this one out only because they can take advantage of the carpet at the RCA/Hoosier/firemikedavis.com Dome.  The current 9 ½-point spread in favor of Indy is way too large; they’ll win but the Steelers will cover.  As I alluded to on Monday, I believe that the Pittsburgh power running game is going to give the speed-oriented Colts defense fits for most of the game.  However, in a flip-flop of the Bears’ situation, the Colts will probably make just enough stops on the defensive side of the ball to allow their offense to win this game in the end.

4) Washington Redskins over SEATTLE SEAHAWKS – This one really defies any logic.  On the Seattle side, Shaun Alexander is the NFL Offensive Player of the Year, Matt Hasselback is an accomplished quarterback with playoff experience, and Mike Holmgren is one of only a handful of coaches that has a postseason pedigree that can compete with Joe Gibbs.  The Redskins also were fortunate come out with a win last week after an abysmal game on offense.  Not surprisingly, the Seahawks are huge 9-point favorites.  However, I just have a gut feeling on this one.  I feel like Clinton Portis is going to be able to run well against the Seahawks defense, and when the Redskins are able to run the ball, they can beat anyone.  Plus, even though I’d like to see the Bears punish Mike Holmgren for all of the pain he inflicted on us as the Packers coach in 1990s, the first two times I was ever scarred as a sports fan in my life were when I witnessed, as a young child, the Redskins come into Solider Field and stun the Bears in consecutive playoff games in 1986 and 1987 (the latter of which was Walter Payton’s last game).  It’s time for the Bears to avenge the first sports scars of Frank the Tank, so it’s going to be Chicago vs. Washington for the NFC Championship next week.

Have a great weekend, Go Illini, Muck Fichigan, and GO BEARS!


Land-o-Links – 1/13/2006

DePaul played a spirited game against Pittsburgh last night in their first “true” Big East game (the first two conference games were against long-time rivals Cincinnati and Notre Dame), but a fast start for the Blue Demons petered out in the second half and they ended up losing 73-65.  Still, DePaul actually looked pretty good on the road against one of the last three unbeaten teams in college basketball.

Also, Kobe Bryant ended up on the winning end in his matchup against LeBron James last night, but LeBron showed me why he gets paid $100 million by Nike.  With 5 seconds to go in the first half, Drew Gooden of the Cavs stole the ball from the Lakers and dribbled down the court to his own baseline.  At the last moment, he passed the ball back to LeBron, who seriously launched himself from the free throw line and posterized my poor fellow Illini brother Brian Cook with such a powerful tomahawk slam that I, at home in my pajamas beginning to doze off while channel surfing as my wife and cat were sleeping next to me on the couch, jumped out of my seat and yelled, “Wow!”  What makes LeBron special is that when Gooden stole that ball with 5 seconds left (remember, LeBron didn’t even have the ball in his hands at that point), everyone watching was anticipating something spectacular and Lebron subsequently delivered it on demand.  There’s only one other athlete I’ve ever seen deliver such combination of brilliance, tenacity, and power on demand every single day – Michael Jordan.

Anyway, here are the links for today:

1) Blackhawks Have Rare Televised Home Game – Unfrozen Caveman Hockey Team Owner: “I know nothing of your ‘television’ or the ‘fan base’ that you speak of.”

2) The Wu is BackFollowing on the heels of the launch of his doll announced in Land-o-Links on Monday, Ghostface is now “smoke free” (just in time for Chicago’s new smoking ban), plus has a new album and a Wu-Tang Clan reunion tour lined up.

3) White Like Larry – Spin/Esquire/ESPN.com writer Chuck Klosterman writes a fantastic piece that brings up unique points on racial stereotyping of athletes, including the revealing of Malcom Gladwell’s (author of “The Tipping Point” and “Blink”) “White Gunner Theory.”  How many times do we all think the way that Klosterman and Gladwell describe here?

4) Maryland Senate Overrides Veto on ‘Wal-Mart Bill’ – I know a lot of my readership doesn’t have much love for Wal-Mart, but this is populism run amok.

And finally…

5) New Jersey Selects New Slogan (submitted by Matt) – In honor of my sister who’s attending grad school at Montclair State University.  Matt’s comment is appropriate: “Story is – eh, whatever.  Subhead is outstanding.”