Column: Back on the NFL wagon

After the first five weeks of the NFL season, Sports Editor Mike Smith was all but through with football for the year. But, as always, wildcard weekend pulled him back in. Photo courtesy NFL.com

After the first five weeks of the NFL season, Sports Editor Mike Smith was all but through with football for the year. But, as always, wildcard weekend pulled him back in. Photo courtesy NFL.com

It’s been a while, football. Nice to have you back.

I’ve often written about my love of professional football in this column. From following the Giants with a zealot’s fervor to obsessively micro-managing my fantasy football team, I have lost many a weekend to the allure of the NFL Sunday Ticket.

Until this year.

After Big Blue’s disastrous
0-6 start and my fantasy squad’s Hindenburg-level implosion
—thanks, in part to Colin Kaepernick’s unwillingness to throw a touchdown pass until about week 10—it felt like I had nothing invested in the NFL season this year. Sure, I’d get excited about the occasional Jets debacle or the Cowboys’ inevitable collapse, but, without the likelihood of a Giant postseason run—or the chance to crush my friends in a battle of football minds—it just didn’t feel the same.

Thankfully, my football malaise was cured this weekend by what is traditionally one of the most entertaining two days of the year; wildcard weekend.

Once the football playoffs roll around, it doesn’t matter who is still left alive. It’s do or die, pedal-to-the-metal football for four weeks—nirvana for a football fan. Of course, it helped that we had some interesting games on the docket this week.

I found myself in a bad way on Saturday, laid up with something that was a cross between the common flu and whatever Gwyneth Paltrow brought back from Hong Kong in “Contagion.” But, battling through the Dayquil and Sudafed to watch the wildcard slate, it felt almost as if it was the early 2000s again. Was that Andy Reid mismanaging the clock as his team lost a seemingly insurmountable lead? Was that the Eagles offering up another stinker in a big spot?

Wait, these two incidents weren’t related at all?

I had to lie down again, overcome with excitement and a medicine-clouded mind.

I felt better—and more clear-headed—for Sunday’s games, which were no less entertaining. We saw the Chargers travel to Cincinnati and trounce the Bengals—a team it had no business beating on paper—thanks to a dismal day by Cincy quarterback Andy Dalton, who has gone from the potential savior of the Bengals’ franchise to a January goat in little more than a calendar year.

The night game was even more entertaining as the 49ers and Packers—two of the NFL’s flagship franchises—battled it
out on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. The game was a throwback in every sense of the word. Below zero temperatures, two stout defenses and some tough inside running were on display, but it was the play of third-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick—the very man who submarined my fantasy campaign—and a nearly-blocked 33-yard field goal from Phil Dawson that sealed the deal for San Fran in a game that might not carry the same drama as the snowy “Tuck-rule” game of 2001, but will certainly be remembered for years to come.

So yeah, I’m on board now. The fact I don’t have a rooting interest doesn’t matter anymore. This is playoff football, where every possession and every down matters.

With the Eagles out of contention, though, I just need to find someone to root against.

Here’s looking at you, Kaepernick.

 

Follow Mike on Twitter, 

@LiveMike_Sports

 
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About Mike Smith

Mike Smith has been with Hometown Media Group since 2007, serving as the company’s Sports Editor. Mike has been commended for his work by the New York Press Association, winning awards in 2008 for “Best Sports Feature” and again in 2009 as part of a team that put together “The Game,” a breakdown of the Harrison-Rye football rivalry, which won for “Best Special Section.” His weekly column, “Live Mike,” offers his unique insights into a broad range of topics in the sports world. He resides in Eastchester, N.Y. and spends most of his free time serving as the player-manager for a competitive men’s baseball team in New York City. Reach Mike at 914-653-1000 x22 or sports@hometwn.com; follow him on Twitter @LiveMike_Sports.