Nick – A couple things we learned this weekend: The Giants can run the football. Andre Johnson is back. Drew Brees was the best player on the field in New Orleans, but Calvin Johnson was a close second. Megatron is the perfect blend of Randy Moss and Terrell Owens. Demaryius Thomas is one of the biggest playmakers left in the playoffs. And lastly, the new overtime rules are still sudden death. What was supposed to be the first non-sudden death overtime playoff game, turned into the most sudden of deaths for the Steelers – the quickest overtime game in playoff history.
Paul – Who is your team’s designated “cutaway”? You know, the character not centrally involved with the action of the previous play, whom the network broadcasters use as a visual pivot point to the next down, distance and snap. In Steelers-Broncos, in order from most frequently used to least, it was the aged Lebeau, the ambivalent Elway and – inexplicably – an icy cold looking Hines Ward. And Tebow, of course. Giants-Falcons stuck pretty closely to the head coaches, sandwich promoter Justin Tuck, and whatever quarterback was on the bench. The occasional Kevin Gilbride shot was used as general cover for something not going Eli Manning’s way, which tells you how much emotion Eli tends to demonstrate on the field. In Saints-Lions there was lots of Gregg Williams, while Texans-Bengals featured both Wade Phillips and his father, Bum. Oh, and the group shot of wounded Texans quarterbacks. Each game director’s choices were few, apparently, but that will change as the playoffs go on and the previous weekend’s stars return to our living rooms. Next week you’ll see plenty of Arian Foster and JJ Watt, Perry Fewell and JPP. Demaryius Thomas and, of course, Tebow. Lots and lots of Tebow. Making a big-play yesterday propels once-unknowns toward their “15 minutes.” They’ll be featured in next spring’s ad campaigns, on the covers of next fall’s preview issues and for some, as a host of Saturday Night Live in 2013. This is the modern version of character building, accomplished one cut at a time. So if you’re lucky enough to watch an NFL Playoff game from the sideline in the weeks ahead, keep smiling no matter what’s happening on the field. Your star-turn as a toothpaste spokesman may depend upon it.
Tiff – R.I.P. 2011 Pittsburgh Steelers. Had injuries not plagued you, today would be a different day. The only good thing to come out of yesterday: I received a ukelele as a late Christmas gift.