NFL playoffs: Final Four set! It's BAL-NE, ATL-SF in title games; plus Heat win a road game, Cats, UM, Tuna/Sapp, Bacon Bar, Oscars & more
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Cats on ice: Florida Panthers to open their truncated 48-game NHL season next Saturday the 19th at home vs. Carolina.
UM 2013 ACC football schedule: Home games vs. Georgia Tech, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest. Roadies at Duke, Florida State, North Carolina and Pittsburgh.
Sapp, Parcells make Hall cut: Ex-Cane Warren Sapp among four first-time eligibles to make cut to 15 finalists for Hall of Fame induction, with Michael Strahan, Jonathan Ogden and Larry Allen. Ex-Dolphins exec Bill Parcells also still in it. So, too, briefly-a-Dolphin Cris Carter.
NFL PLAYOFF PREDIX: WILD SATURDAY; CAN SUNDAY LIVE UP?: OK, college season is done. Time for King Sport to rise up like the Loch Ness monster and take over America. Round 2 of the NFL playoffs: The Final Eight. Borderline teams gone, only serious contenders left. Now the Final Six, with favored Denver and Green Bay put to bed yesterday. Our four picks for this weekend are synopsized here. I found the two AFC games easy calls, the two NFC games thornier. Click on NFL Playoff Round 2 Gems for the full picks. And click Looking Ahead is OK for my predix-page column on the delightful anticipation of the inevitable likely Denver-New England/Manning-Brady AFC title game. One word: Oops. The thumbnails, chronologically:
FINAL: RAVENS 38, BRONCOS 35 (2OT) -- I was right on the close game/tough fight for Denver and right on Manning tending to struggle in freezing temps. It was the collapse of Denver's defense that stunned me. Original post: Many fans and prognosticating brethren expect a rout by Denver. I don't. Peyton Manning's playoff record when the kickoff temp is below 40 -- 0-3, one TD, seven picks -- could make this interesting if Ray Lewis' D can get into his pocket at all. [My pick was: Broncos (-9), 27-21. My record: Week, 0-1 overall and 1-0 vs. spread. Playoffs, 4-1 and 1-4].
FINAL: 49ERS 45, PACKERS 31 -- I had it way wrong on the QB contrast. Colin Kaepernick's 263 yards throwing and 181 running, wow. I could not have underestimated him more. Original post: Upset. Heavyweight duel is teams' first playoff meeting since 2001. See why Niners are favored but give me Aaron Rodgers, one of the all-time great postseason passers, to out-pitch an inexperienced-on-this-stage Colin Kaepernick. [My pick was: Packers (+3), 28-27. My record: Week, 0-2 overall and 1-1 vs. spread. Playoffs, 4-2 and 1-5].
FINAL: FALCONS 30, SEAHAWKS 28 -- Insanity! Falcons blow 20-0 lead, fall behind late, and win on 49-yard FG in closing seconds. They were Chokelanta, but then Matt Ryan came through and the ATL is at san Fran in next week's NFC title game. Original post: Folks wring hands over the Falcs' 0-3 playoff mark under Mike Smith/Matt Ryan, but ATL is a very good home team (7-1). And wrap the mind around this: No West Coast team since the 1989 L.A. Rams has won two playoff games in a row in the East. [My pick was: Falcons (-2 1/2), 24-20. My record: Week, 1-2 overall and 1-2 vs spread. Playoffs, 5-2 and 1-6].
FINAL: PATRIOTS 41, TEXANS 28 -- In many ways the most expected of the four weekend results. There were 276 points in these four divisional games including 154 by the winners. Did somebody tell the defenses to stay home? Original post: For me this is the biggest certainty of the four games. Pats are 13-3 all-time at home in the postseason. Tom Brady, at The Razor Blade, in deep winter, is money. He just is. And Houston, especially Matt Schaub's offense, does not seem in synch. [My pick was: Patriots (-9 1/2), 34-20. My record: Week, 2-2 overall and 2-2 vs. spread. Playoffs, 6-2 and 2-6].
ROAD WORRIERS?: HEAT TURN WARRIORS LAST NIGHT: Update: Miami wins at Sacramento last night. Original post: The 92-90 loss at Portland Thursday hurt for two reasons. First, the Heat led all the way until allowing a late 24-10 Blazers run that collapsed the night for Miami. Second, you could see real effort from the Heat in terms of defense and rebounding (which was tied 45-45). Palpably, this was a game they wanted. Instead the road record slips to 7-8 including losses in four of the past five away. Another downer: LeBron James' mortal 15 points ended his streak of 20-plus points at 33 games, longest in the NBA since 1981-82. (Love ya anyway, 'Bron). It isn't time to panic. The No. 1 East seed still is likely. But in terms of repeating as champions? That bandwagon has plenty of good seats available.
GOBLETS OF BACON ON THE BAR!: Wife had a business dinner at Prime 112 on South Beach the other night, and noticed over pregame drinks that the bar offered up goblets of bacon as a gratis snack. Sort of like a bowl of nuts on steroids. See the photo for proof. I find this funny because a goblet 'o bacon sounds like something a barbecue joint would serve, or something the Clampetts would have on the table when Mr. Drysdale came for dinner. The opposite of chic, in other words. But because Prime 112 does it? Uber trendy! Forgot to ask my wife if the restaurant bar had a cardiologist standing by.
OSCAR BEST-PICTURE ANALYSIS: The upcoming 85th Academy Awards will select a Best Picture from among nine newly announced finalist films: Amour, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook and Zero Dark Thirty. I am canceling my analysis in protest because they should go back to five finalists; nine is way too many. Also, because I happened to not see any of the nine films mentioned. (I did see Ted, which recklessly was not nominated). Two of the nine films I may yet see -- Zero Dark Thirty, about the Bin Laden raid, and Lincoln, about the vampire hunter who went on to become 16th president -- therefore I hope those movies win everything.
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