Thursday, January 20, 2011

Those Bastards At Sports Illustrated Have Done It Again

Well, I'm sorry, Jets fans. Just when you thought your team was cresting at the right time and finally going to break through in their third AFC Championship Game appearance in the last 13 years, Sports Illustrated, for the second straight year, decided to take a big ol' cutlass and slice your dreams to pieces. How'd they pull that off, you say? Well, my worries regarding the Sports Illustrated Cover Jinx are well documented in multiple posts on this here blog, and like any smart, rational person, I immediately assume that must be the reason things have not gone according to plan. If any of you remember, last year's Divisional playoffs spawned two regional covers, which featured both the Jets and the Vikings. In the case of Minnesota, the cover even proclaimed "Favre on Fire" just days before his foolish across the body pass would be intercepted by Terry Porter when the Vikes were driving for a game-winning field goal against New Orleans.

While the Jets also lost, one could easily argue that this was due not just to the editorial decisions in the Time Inc. offices, but also because they tried as hard as possible to jinx themselves. But that doesn't leave much of an excuse for what happened this time around. After publishing regional covers last year that resulted in both cover teams losing their respective conference championship games, you'd think the brilliant minds at SI would remember that unless we're entering a bizarre period of gonzo journalism, they're supposed to stay out of the way and leave the outcome unaffected by their presence.

Well they didn't learn their goddamn lesson.

Much as America must love seeing Tom Brady look like a five-year-old who just saw his prized blankey and teddy bear make like Steve Buscemi in Fargo, and as awesome a photograph as that picture of Jay Cutler approaching the line in snowy Chicago is, something about this just seems plain wrong -- as if Sports Illustrated, knowing its curse-wreaking power, has consciously selected whom it wants to play in Super Bowl XLV. It just ain't right, or at least it won't be if the anticipated effect takes place.

Granted, with four classic franchises like Green Bay, Chicago, New York and Pittsburgh making up the Final Four, we're pretty much guaranteed a great, traditional matchup no matter what happens. And more over, with Green Bay title-less for 14 years now, Chicago in the midst of a 25-year drought and the Jets now a stunning 42 years removed from their last Super Bowl appearance, we've got a 75% chance of seeing a Champion we haven't seen an a long while. All of these things bode well for an end to the season that will seem both classic and refreshing all at once.

But given Sports Illustrated's dirty tricks, we're pretty much guaranteed a Packers-Steelers matchup in Super Bowl XLV, right?


Yes, the Sports Illustrated curse may be accurate roughly a third of the time, but there is another powerful sports trend that in the last half decade has had a startling 100% accuracy rate, and like the answers to most things, this lies, draped in purple, on the shores of Lake Michigan at Northwestern University. The city of Chicago will be having a particularly big sports day this Sunday, as the Blackhawks will host the Flyers in a rematch of last year's Stanley Cup Final before the major event of the day when the Bears and Packers face off in the postseason for the first time in seven decades and then, of course, Northwestern's men's hoops game against Wisconsin -- a double dip of Chicago-Wisconsin blood feuding. But Chicago's greatest influence in sports may come from its Big Ten team, which has recently provided us with the anticurse of professional football: The Power of Willie.

The Power of Willie

Unbeknownst to most of you, Northwestern has a decent number of players in the NFL, but the quantity is hardly remarkable. What is remarkable, however, is that the last five teams to win the Super Bowl have all had a Northwestern grad on their roster. To wit:

Super Bowl XL: Trai Essex, Pittsburgh Steelers
Super Bowl XLI: Matt Ulrich, Indianapolis Colts
Super Bowl XLII: Barry Coefield, New York Giants
Super Bowl XLIII: Trai Essex, Pittsburgh Steelers
Super Bowl XLIV: Zach Strief, New Orleans Saints

So, obviously, you're thinking, "Gee Dave, since this is clearly an irrefutable rule, who still stands a chance this season?" Well, I'll tell you. Just about everyone. Except for one awfully big green and gold outlier.

Trai Essex

New York
Marquice Cole

Nick Roach
Corey Wootton

Green Bay

So there you have it. The Green Bay Packers, who just might look the best of any of the remaining four teams right now, have virtually no shot to take home their fourth Lombardi Trophy this season. Willie has decreed it.

But don't worry, Packer Backers. While this means you won't win the Super Bowl, it doesn't mean you won't win this week. And frankly, I think you will. So let's get to these picks here.

NFC Championship
(6) Green Bay over (2) Chicago
Yes, the Bears are certainly playing much better right now than I would have anticipated, and of course they are the home team in what will certainly be frigid weather and crummy footing, but frankly, I have a hard time imagining anything cooling down Aaron Rodgers right now. Much as I'd like to see the chance of two Wildcats taking home hardware, I just can't see the Packers, at the level they're currently playing at, not pulling this out either by blowout or nailbiter. But then again, I've been wrong before.

AFC Championship
(6) NY Jets over (2) Pittsburgh
What? Again? I'm taking the Jets again? Well, yeah, I am. I think. I have no real rational reason to believe the Jets are going to beat the Steelers this weekend -- frankly, I'm pretty certain Pittsburgh is the better team -- but there just looks to be something about this team and how it's playing now that makes me think they're going to accomplish some bigger things, particularly with last year's conference title game experience in their memory bank. Besides, I'm still flying high after correctly calling their upset last week, even if some people are too petty to let it go. Why not see the ride continue?

So yes, I know this seems unusual, after all, pitting two six seeds against each other in a Super Bowl is an odd choice considering only one six seed has ever appeared in the NFL's title game, but this doesn't seem like your typical playoff tournament, and these don't seem like your typical six seeds. I feel like I'm on pretty steady ground. And given the Power of Willie and perhaps some additional inspiration, does this mean I think when all is said and done on February 6th that the Jets will have won the Super Bowl?

Well, yes it does. But don't get too excited just yet, Jets nation. I have been wrong before. But hey, my picks are 6-2 so far this postseason. Let's just say I like my chances.

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