The bad news is, at least one contender is a threat to public safety (the Cowboys) and several others are part of a conspiracy to diminish the quality of life in Baltimore (the evil expansion twins and Indianapolis head the list).
With that, we present the Official Baltimoron's Guide to the Playoffs, an indispensable psychological tool that is not -- repeat, NOT -- to be consulted for truly meaningful decisions, like deciding if Buffalo will cover.
No true Baltimoron, however, will allow his or her rooting interests to be clouded by mere conference loyalty, especially when the Ravens might not make the playoffs until the 22nd century.
It's payback time, and what better way to exercise the frustrations of a 4-12 season than to wish ill upon our many enemies?
A game-by-game preview:
Jacksonville at Buffalo: This one's easy. The Bills have a 'N Baltimore connection, and a true Baltimoron refuses to even acknowledge the existence of Jacksonville in the NFL -- or the United States, for that matter.
Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda devised the K-Gun offense when he was offensive coordinator in Buffalo. And if that's not reason enough to root for the Bills, their stars are so old, they lined up against Donovan and Braase.
The Jaguars, meanwhile, only qualified for the playoffs because Morten Andersen missed a chip-shot field goal. Jacksonville got into the league because Paul Tagliabue rigged expansion. They got into the playoffs because
Oh, never mind.
Bills 41, Jaguars 14.
Minnesota at Dallas: Here's one reason to root for the Cowboys -- owner Jerry Jones got a favorable settlement in his dueling lawsuits with the NFL, providing yet another legal embarrassment for Tagliabue and Co.
But here's an even better reason: the Vikings.
They're 0-3 in the first round under Dennis Green, and even if they end that streak today, Green Bay will destroy them at home bTC next week. Besides, no team with former Raven Leroy Hoard should be permitted to get even this far.
If you hate the Cowboys -- as any true Baltimoron and law-abiding American should -- you want to see them beat Minnesota convincingly, so they can take a bigger fall later in the playoffs.
Cowboys 31, Vikings 10.
Indianapolis at Pittsburgh: Another no-brainer for Baltimore. The Colts must be eliminated as quickly as possible, and the further the Steelers advance, the more Baltimorons can brag about the Ravens beating them.
Here's the problem: As was the case last season, the Colts are an immensely appealing team, an overachieving bunch led by Captain Comeback, Jim Harbaugh.
Then again, imagine all the sympathetic "Inspired Team Wins for Ailing Irsay" stories that will appear if Indianapolis again gets hot in the playoffs.
Uh, no thank you.
Pittsburgh's punter is former Baltimore Stallion Josh Miller, the free spirit who posed the immortal question, "Does anybody want a champion?" after the soon-to-be-homeless Stallions won the Grey Cup.
Do it for your old homies, Josh.
Steelers 21, Colts 17.
Philadelphia at San Francisco: A seemingly innocent matchup, but no self-respecting Baltimoron can root for the Niners. They ran up the score on the Ravens.
On Nov. 17, the Niners called timeout with an 11-point lead, the ball on the Ravens' 4-yard line and just over a minute remaining. Coach George Seifert said his team needed the "tonic" that another touchdown would provide.
This will not stand.
Alas, Steve Young vs. Ty Detmer doesn't figure to be much of a contest. Look at it this way: Maybe the Niners will soften up the Eagles for their big showdown with the Ravens at Memorial Stadium next season.
Niners 35, Eagles 10.
That takes care of this weekend.
The rest of the playoffs, you ask?
Go, Green Bay and Denver.
The Packers have former Poly star Antonio Freeman, but they've also got former Raven Andre Rison -- the two cancel each other out. The big appeal is Green Bay itself, a town that, like Baltimore, still wishes it was 1956.
The difference is, in Green Bay, it still is.
As for Denver, well, John Elway must be held partly responsible for the Colts leaving -- history might have turned out different if he would have agreed to play for Frank Kush and Robert Irsay.
Then again, who could blame Elway?
He fulfilled every Baltimoron's fantasy.
He stuck it to Irsay.
Seriously, a Denver-Green Bay Super Bowl would provide a refreshing matchup of the two best teams and two best quarterbacks, Elway and Brett Favre.
If it's good for Baltimore, it's good for America.
Didn't former Governor Schaefer once say that?
Or was it Spiro Agnew?
Pub Date: 12/28/96