NFL Playoff Preview: Falcons, Cardinals (with 30% More Jeff Blake!)

Lions Falcons Football

The last time the Arizona Cardinals were in the postseason, I was going into the last 6 months of my senior year in high school. I’ll be attending my 10-year reunion in June.

For the Atlanta Falcons, things haven’t been much more productive. While they were guests at the playoff party in ’02 and ’04, they’ve never quite felt like a team with the power to win anything.

Welcome to 2009, where the Bizzaro NFL sees both of these teams matched up in the first round of the playoffs. Holy crap. There’s only one way to tackle this unbelievable occurance… by previewing this game via 2003, when both teams were at their absolute worst.

jeffblakeisawesomesortaQBs: To the table, the Cardinals bring, one, Jeff Blake. Back when I used to play Madden 2000–I’ve since upgraded to Madden 2001–I brought the Bengals to the Super Bowl with Jeff Blake. I can’t explain why the hell I was using the Bengals, or why I hadn’t made a ridiculously lop-sided trade to get Peyton Manning, but Jeff Blake was my stud QB. He had no problem throwing for over 400 yards a game, breaking every one of Dan Marino’s records and would’ve easily been a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

If only non-pixelated Blake didn’t suck beyond belief. That version couldn’t beat out Akili Smith in Cincinnati, floundered in New Orleans, and took his act to Baltimore, Arizona and Philly before finally calling it quits in Chicago.

In ’03, with ‘Zona, he was particularly awful. Just over 2200 yards and more INTs than TDs does not a good season make. Unless you’re Jeff Blake. Then it becomes the fourth best season of your career.

The Falcons, that year, chose to go with Doug Johnson. Ok, maybe they didn’t choose to, per se, but with Michael Vick out for the season, he was their only choice. Probably not a good backup plan for a team with a QB who loved to run and get hit, but whatever. Johnson, whose first name honestly escaped me when I started writing this, won a total of 2 games in his career; one of those actually coming in that ’03 season. According to Wikipedia, he was drafted by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1996. I don’t even know where to go with this.

Advantage: Arizona

esmithcardinalsRB: One of the awesome things about the ’03 Cardinals was Emmitt Smith. It was the season after he broke the all-time rushing record with Dallas, so there was really no reason for him to keep playing. For some inexplicable reason, though, he chose to grind out the rest of his anticlimactic career in the hell hole that was Tempe, Arizona. He, and Marcel Shipp, rushed for a combined 1086 yards and 2 touchdowns. Unfortunately, 830 of those yards came by the legs of Shipp, though Smith did contribute both touchdowns and two fumbles to those stats.

The Falcons rushing game, on the other hand, was a dominant force. T.J. Duckett(!) rushed for 779 yards and 11 touchdowns and FSU’s favorite midget rushed for almost 700 more, with 3 touchdowns of his own. Of course, that’s what happens when you don’t have a quarterback. Or receivers.

Advantage: Atlanta

vickignoresreeveshelliwouldtooCoaching: The most frustrated I’ve ever been, watching a football game, was toward the end of the 2001 regular season. The Falcons entire year went to crap on Jamal Anderson’s shoddy tendons, and the only thing left to cure my depression was a win over the Dolphins in a meaningless week 16 game. With nothing to play for, Atlanta let a rookie Vick run loose against the Fins, and in the waning moments, found themselves at the goalline with very little time on the clock. Possessing the ultimate bootleg weapon, in their dog-loving quarterback, what was Dan Reeves method of attack? Run up the middle with the Bob Chrisitan. Run up the middle. With the fullback. God, I hated Dan Reeves’ 1943, completely vanilla style of coaching.

Of course, I’d take him over the Cardinals’ 17-40 Dave McGinnis. From Wikipedia, and I could not make this up:
As head coach, he befriended Comet the Wonder Dog, from Prescott, Arizona. Comet attended Cardinals camp each year. Coach McGinnis could be seen driving his cart with Comet in the passenger seat and Comet wearing a personalized Cardinals football jersey. McGinnis also enjoyed showing off the talents of Comet to his players and the media covering training.
The true mark of a winner.

Advantage: Atlanta

Statistics would show that Arizona scored the fewest points and also gave up the most points in the league in ’03. But statistical analysis is not the kind of thing that determines a winner. No, that sort of thing is determined by which team had the better white receiver.

The Falcons had a pretty good receiving option in Brian Finneran. In ’03, he had 26 catches for 368 yards and a pair of touchdowns, making him the 3rd best receiver on the team. But that doesn’t compare to the 1 catch for 23 yards posted by Arizona’s pigment-deficient wideout, Kevin Kasper. While the stats don’t make the argument for Kasper a particularly compelling one, consider these two things:

1. He’s white.
2. His fucking name is Kasper.


Final Thoughts:
The idea of Jeff Blake in a shootout with Doug Johnson is laughable at best. It would more likely be Atlanta’s two-headed running game versus Marcel Shipp and Emmitt Smith’s wheelchair. In ’03, the Cardinals might’ve been able to win that crapfest. Luckily, it’s 2009 and none of those situations are in any danger of appearing on your television. Instead you’ll get a rejuvenated Kurt Wanrer, and a juvenated Matt Ryan, young enough to be Kurt’s grandson. By the way, I completely expect Warner to take off his helmet after the game, walk to the sideline and, in a raspy voice, say to Ryan, “Matt… I am… your… father.” Or, “May the Lord be with you.” Either, or.

’09 Prediction: Atlanta 21, Arizona 13


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