Sometimes I'm wrong on purpose, like when people rudely ask me for directions and I give them a false route, just to be a jerk. Other times, I'm wrong because I guessed wrong, like when I grab an awesome shirt and tie combination in the morning, only to be informed by my wonderful bride-to-be that they are a horrific mismatch.
Yet, other times I'm wrong because the whole universe has transpired against me. That is what happened on Sunday evening at Gillette Stadium.
Now, I'm not one to say that I'm always right, as any reader of this picks column can attest to. I make a weekly habit of making fun of myself for ridiculous lines from the previous week's picks because hey, nobody's perfect. But including just one line from last week's write-up of the Patriots-Jets game won't do it justice. Let's take a quick look at what went wrong before moving on to this week's picks.
- Mark Sanchez had been a 46 percent passer at Gillette, averaging 150 yards, one-half of a touchdown and three-and-a-half interceptions per game. All he did Sunday was go all palindrome on me, completing 64 percent of his passes for nearly 200 yards, three touchdowns and no picks. Not only that, but he didn't even really come close to throwing a pick.
- On a much more surprising level, Tom Brady played like Sanchez had in the New York quarterback's previous appearances in New England. It was so puzzling that I got home at 1:30 in the morning and scrapped together 887 words on my iPod before going to sleep. Do you know how hard it can be to type on those things?
- The last time the Patriots ran a fake punt was … I don't know. Your guess is as good as mine. I've watched every Patriots game for the past 15 years, and I'm sure I saw one at some point, but if I did, I don't remember it. What better time to dust off the old trick play sheet than the closing minutes of the first half when you're about to get the ball back anyway and even if you do convert the first down you still have to drive more than half of a football field to make the risk worthwhile?
- Santonio Holmes caught that ball, and every person in attendance and everyone watching on TV said, simultaneously, "Nice catch but no way was he in." He was, and that's the type of play that often makes the difference between winning and losing in the playoffs. It's the reason Mike Tannenbaum took a risk on a guy with a history of throwing drinks at women, drug use, disorderly conduct and refusal to turn off an iPod on a plane. On Holmes' way to the Jets' locker room, a confident-looking Holmes was shouting, to nobody in particular, "That's how you take care of business, man. Business trip. Business is done."
- The Drive to Nowhere — one of the most befuddling moments of any Bill Belichick-coached team. That includes the signings of Monty Beisel and Chad Brown.
- Brady's interception-free streak ending on, of all throws, a screen pass. If you had gone to Vegas and put money on David Harris to be the one to break the streak, then you'd probably be buying some real estate by now.
In short, just about everything that seemed impossible to happen did in fact happened. One could respond to this in several ways. An asinine way would be to claim you picked the Jets to fire them up (I won't name any names, but it rhymes with Tom Jackson). You could pack it up and quit making picks, which is rather tempting. Or you could plug along, trying to guide loyal football fans in an always-exciting championship weekend.
That's what I'll do, but remember — I'm the same guy who gives out wrong directions on purpose.
(Home team in caps.)
Green Bay (-3.5) over CHICAGO
- The reasoning: Aaron Rodgers is at least a touch better than Jay Cutler. The Bears have lost three times on their home field this year, twice to the less-than-stellar Seahawks and Redskins, and once by 29 points to the Patriots. Plus, the Week 17 matchup in Green Bay was basically a playoff game, and the Bears already lost. That helps.
- The concerns: Anybody who's had the misfortune of being within earshot of me over the past few days knows that I'm deeply disappointed that the NFC representative in the Super Bowl may very well be determined by the crappiness of the Soldier Field turf. It is, in every way, shape and form, an absolute atrocity. I've played flag football in snowy parking lots that have better footing. The turf is a true X-factor, and while both teams have to play on it, the Beats do have the benefit of about five game's worth of experience on the muck (I'll give the Chicago crew credit for having decent grass in September, but even that may be a leap of faith).
- Another concern is that Green Bay did lose in Chicago earlier in the year, but that was a game littered with dozens and dozens of Packer penalties (18 for 152 yards, to be exact). While it'd be hard to repeat that performance, this is the same team that stupidly stepped on a punt in the first quarter of its first playoff game, so the mistake-prone nature of the Packers will always frighten me.
- The score: Green Bay 21, Chicago 9
Ridiculous Quote From Last Week's Picks: Down the stretch, the Packers struggled to put together strong efforts in consecutive weeks. … I'm thinking that trend continues."
Note: All the Packers did last Saturday night was play a nearly perfect football game, on the road, in a dome, in the playoffs, against a team coming off a bye. And you thought I was wrong about the Patriots game?
New York Jets (+3.5) over PITTSBURGH
- The reasoning: I was impressed (obviously) with the way the Jets played, but I was equally unimpressed with the Steelers' play against the Ravens. They drove down the field with ease to go up 7-0, but their next five drives ended fumble, punt, fumble, missed field goal, punt, with the Steelers gaining an average of 13.4 yards per drive. It was, really, one of the ugliest things you can see in a playoff football game, but from a Steelers-Ravens playoff game, we shouldn't have expected anything more.
- The concerns: Rex Ryan told his players last week that they'd be playing in the second-biggest game in franchise history. So what does he tell them this week? "This one's not as big as last week's game, because we don't have any personal vendettas against the Steelers, but it's even bigger than last week's game because it actually means more! This is the one-and-a-halfth-most important game in franchise history!!"
- With a team that was incredibly motivated to beat New England and had extra incentive after an emotional pep talk from Dennis Byrd, and with a team that isn't exactly devoid of distractions, I'm concerned that there may be a letdown. Football's about emotion as much as any scheming, and we all witnessed its power on Sunday night.
- The score: Jets 27, Steelers 20
RQFLWP: "And then I realized the Jets don't have a chance."
Note: I was just trying to fire up ol' Rexy! I swear!
Last week: 2-2
Regular Season: 131-120-5