Story lines

The Baltimore Sun

It doesn't get any better than this. The second round of the NFL playoffs has more subplots than Pulp Fiction, and all of them are going to play out right in front of our La-Z-Boys over the next couple of days.

The star quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys is taking heat for spending a weekend in Mexico with his celebrity babe girlfriend.

The star quarterback of the Green Bay Packers is already pondering nonretirement after keeping everyone in suspense about his future the past couple of seasons.

The star receiver of the Cowboys returned to the practice field Thursday in hopes of limping through tomorrow night's game against the New York Giants.

That's just a sampling of the interesting story lines that have developed around a postseason that could produce the first 19-0 Super Bowl champion. Here's a closer look at some of them:

Wherefore art thou, Romo?

Dallas fans might never forgive Tony Romo for his little Mexico getaway if the New York Giants find a way to beat the Cowboys at Texas Stadium. Some have already begun to refer to girlfriend Jessica Simpson as, get this, Yoko Romo.

Personally, I don't care what he does with his time off, but I'll defer to former Super Bowl quarterback and football commentator Terry Bradshaw on whether it would have been more prudent to hold off on Margaritaville until after one of the biggest games of his young career.

"For an athlete, there's no time off ... until it's over," Bradshaw told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "You don't take a mental break. ... No way that I would ever, ever do what Tony did. Everybody in Dallas knows you played horribly when Jessica showed up [against the Philadelphia Eagles]. OK, now what if you play poorly [against the Giants]? You haven't exactly lit up the place lately. I don't understand. Why set yourself up?"

Obviously, Bradshaw has never seen Jessica fill out those short shorts in The Dukes of Hazzard. It was a no-brainer.

Strahan agrees with me

Giants defensive end Michael Strahan also has come to Romo's defense, though I'm not sure I'd want him in my corner if my love life were in the spotlight. He recently had to pay his ex-wife $15.3 million in a messy divorce.

"Heck, if Jessica Simpson wanted to date me, I may give her a shot," Strahan told the Daily News on Thursday. "So I can't blame the guy."

Brett might do Packers a Favre

Packers quarterback Brett Favre has kept Green Bay fans hanging the past few years as he agonized over whether to retire from the NFL. His current situation is just as tenuous, but at least he's presenting in the context of coming back instead of heading off into the sunset.

"For the first time in three years, I haven't thought this could be my last game," he told the Biloxi (Miss.) SunHerald. "I would like to continue longer."

The Packers will settle for him continuing past today's game against the Seattle Seahawks at Lambeau Field.

Don't underestimate Owens

Terrell Owens returned to the field Thursday and limped through practice, so you can bet he'll be ready to go in tomorrow night's game.

If you have any doubt about that, you might want to refer to the 2005 Super Bowl, when he came back too early from ankle surgery and still caught nine passes for 122 yards. This time, he's only trying to come back from an ankle sprain.

Hmmm. I wonder if he still has that hyperbaric chamber.

If he does ...

Owens might want to lend it to San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, who remains a game-time decision with a toe injury but appears unlikely to play against the Colts tomorrow.

If he can't play, I don't see how the Chargers can stay in the game.

Batteries included

Seattle kicker Josh Brown revealed this week that he wears heated pants on the sidelines when the Seahawks play in cold weather. His warm-up pants are actually battery-powered.

Given the choice, I'd rather see Jessica in hot pants, if you don't mind.

My picks

Since I wowed everyone last week by picking the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, I'm sure you're clamoring to hear my picks for this weekend's action:

Straight up: Seahawks, Patriots, Colts, Cowboys.

Against the spread: Seahawks, Jaguars, Colts, Giants.

Of course, those picks are for recreational purposes only and should not be construed as an encouragement to wager on the games. I won't be.

Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon most Saturdays and Sundays.

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