Well, you could choose to look at the NFL divisional playoff weekend we just had in one of two ways.
You can take the view that I’m sure most people will, that what’s usually a terrific, close, competitive quartet of games was mostly a dud, as the Rams, Patriots and Chiefs had easy wins, and only the Saints-Eagles game Sunday was exciting. So you could conclude that it was a boring weekend.
Or, you can take an optimistic view, and say we’ve got two massively great games scheduled for the AFC and NFC championship games next Sunday, thanks to the teams who won.
Kansas City vs. New England at Arrowhead Stadium. New Orleans vs. the L.A. Rams down in Louisiana. Should be a whole lot of fun. Both games ought to be high-scoring and down to the wire. They’ve gotta be better than what we just saw, right?
See, I’m an optimist.
Some quick-hit thoughts on the weekend’s games…
— Let’s start with the only really good game. The Eagles pounced on the Saints, 14-0 in the first quarter and damned if I didn’t start thinking, “Is Nick Foles really going to do this again, get incredibly hot and lead his team back to the Super Bowl?”
Then, New Orleans woke up, and squeaked out a 20-14 win with just enough offense. If I’m the Saints, I’m not feeling that confident these days. Drew Brees and Co. have not looked nearly as explosive the last several weeks as they had prior, and they’ve got a huge test in the Rams next week.
— The Patriots looked scary, scary good on Sunday. That was a good Chargers team they walloped, and like everyone else, I’ve run out of ways to praise the dominance of New England. Do you realize they’re about to play in the their eighth straight AFC title game? That is insane.
— The Rams didn’t quite look as impossible-to-stop Saturday night as they did earlier in the season, but man it is fun to watch them on offense. So many weapons, so smooth, and Todd Gurley in the backfield is special.
— Why oh why do instant replays in football take forever? I particularly love when the “rules analyst” every network has in the booth definitely tells us the call should go one way, then the referee on the field goes the opposite way. As Al Michaels said a few weeks ago on a telecast, the refs really are just making it up as they go along.
— I’m picking with my heart and my head for the title games. Give me the Chiefs, with home-field being a big help, and the Rams, getting it done in New Orleans. That would give us one hell of a fun Super Bowl.
**Next up today, I’m starting to get sucked back into “America’s Got Talent” again, now that they’ve got this “Champions” season going on. And so the other night I watched in amazement this act called “The Clairvoyants,” two people named Tommy and Amelie who are pretty incredible at predicting the future.
This is beyond the usual “psychic down at the corner store” kind of stuff. I’m kind of blown away by this. Watch and then pick your jaw up off the floor.
** Finally today, it’s a wonderful time of year for tennis fans like me, because after an offseason that felt like it lasted forever (OK it was only two months), pro tennis is back and more specifically, the Australian Open is here.
It began Sunday night, and the Aussie Open is notoriously hard to predict, since it’s the first Slam of the year, everyone’s healthy and fired up, and so anything can happen.
A ton of great storylines as usual this year in Melbourne, including: Can two-time defending champ Roger Federer win again, or is age finally catching up to him? Novak Djokovic dominated the second half of last season and already has won six Aussie Open titles, can anything stop him? Is Nadal healthy?
On the women’s side, things are wide open as usual. Can Naomi Osaka follow up her amazing U.S. Open title and win again? Is Serena ready to win again after losing two Slam finals last year? And is it time for Sloane Stephens or Madison Keys to triumph in Melbourne?
Nobody knows the answers. Which is why I love tennis so much.
We saw a huge upset that I was personally invested in Sunday night, as Reilly Opelka, a kid from Palm Coast, Fla., I wrote about when he was 11 and used to be taller than (he’s now a 7-footer), scored a huge upset and beat No. 9 seed John Isner.
Great kid from a great family. Very happy for him.
In my younger days I’d stay up most of the night during the Aussie Open, sacrificing sleep for tennis. Can’t do that anymore, but I’ll still love watching what I can see.
ESPN or ESPN 2, every night starting at 7. Can’t wait.