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Championship weekend has to be better than the divisional round ... right?

January 16, 2014
By SHAUNNA DUNDER HERSHBERGER - Lifestyles Editor , Times Leader

Omaha! Omaha!"

No, he wasn't ordering steaks. And no, he wasn't telling the whole world his next vacation destination. Instead, Denver quarterback He-who-must-not-be-named was simply calling plays at the line of scrimmage. At extremely high decibels. Like, jet engine in your backyard high decibels.

Seriously, this game bordered on unwatchable, simply because He-who-must-not-be-named has such a big mouth. Yes, Denver's stadium is loud. Loud for the opposing team - they quiet down when the Broncos are on offense. So there's no need to shout, He-who-must-not-be-named. You could hear a pin drop in that place when he's cluck-a-doodle-dooing at the line of scrimmage, calling his fake/real plays. Doesn't he have a sore throat when the game is over?

And not only was this marketing genius toting Omaha all over the place, but he also plugged a popular beer in his press conference, saying his first priority was to get a Bud Light in his mouth. Does He-who-must-not-be-named have no boundaries? Buick, DirecTV, Papa John's, the list goes on endlessly... And now with Omaha and Bud Light. Many, many, MANY franchises and businesses will drop to their knees and beg He-who-must-not-be-named to stay in the game long after the retirement pony has trotted up to take him away.

And so, with Denver's victory, the AFC Championship Game sets up as the storybook He-who-must-not-be-named vs. Tom Brady (thanks to New England's thrashing of Indianapolis). This marks the 15th meeting between two of the best quarterbacks in the game and the third time they've met in the AFC Championship game. Brady leads the series 10-4, but the championship game record is split at 1-1.

I think some of the NFL marketing gurus fainted when this matchup became a reality. Although they don't have to work very hard to market either one of these guys. Brady has Uggs, and He-who-must-not-be-named... he pretty much rules the universe now, doesn't he?

Also this weekend:

- I have no horses left in this race, but still....

I find myself secretly pulling for the 49ers to get to the Super Bowl simply because I would love for former Browns now 49ers kicker Phil Dawson to make the big game. He's clutch and he's genuinely appreciative and grateful to the people of Cleveland for their continued support. He deserves the opportunity to experience a Super Bowl. Plus, he will always hold a special place in my heart - he sent me an autographed football and photo after my stem cell transplant in 2008. My next door neighbor in the hospital was the brother of a doctor who worked at the Cleveland Clinic. His wife noticed all the Browns decorations in my room, and evidently passed the word along to her brother-in-law, who just happened to be the pediatrician for Dawson's kids. The football and photo came a few days after I was home from the hospital, complete with a handwritten card telling me how they heard about me and wishing me well from Phil and his wife Shannon. Yes, I will forever heart Phil Dawson.

- I thought it was understood that my wish for competitive games was all-encompassing for every round of the playoffs.

After a spectacular weekend of wild card games, the divisional round served us a huge, bitter lemon. What a clunker! Not one of these games was enough to make me sit up and say, "Wow!" However, if we must sacrifice the divisional round for top notch championship games, so be it. And nobody is happier than the NFL with the way the pieces of the puzzle fit into place: a battle of quarterback greats in the AFC and a battle of the upcoming quarterback studs in the NFC. And of course, any resulting combination of matchups for the Super Bowl should be quite interesting.

- This will be waaaaay better than a ComiCon.

And so, we have the comic book rivalry of He-who-must-not-be-named vs. Brady (aka, Doctor Offense vs. Captain Uggs in "Return from the Underworld") in the first game (kickoff at 3 p.m. on CBS). Broncos receiver Wes Welker gets another crack at his former team. This is also his opportunity to amend for his "oopsie" in the first meeting between these teams this season (a 34-31 Pats win in OT) - he chose not to catch a punt, which consequently bounced off of a teammate and was recovered by the Patriots. That led to New England's game-winning field goal. Tough break. The field (and officials) in Denver may be a little friendlier to Welker and his Broncos on Sunday.

Divisional rivals Seattle and San Francisco square off for the third time in the NFC (6:30 p.m. kickoff on FOX), and these teams do not like each other. The sweat wasn't even dry on the 49ers after the divisional game when they were all, "The Seahawks are big doodie heads!" at the press conference. OK, nobody called anyone names, but you know they were thinking it. Maybe. Colin Kaepernick has rekindled a bit of his playoff magic of last year, but look for a very physical battle with the Seahawks' great defense. I would like to see the 49ers win for Phil, but I wouldn't be upset if the Seahawks pulled out a victory. This is the third NFC title game in a row for San Francisco.

Well, I'm not much on predictions, but here goes: I predict more American Idol commercials on FOX and more NCIS commercials on CBS. Harry Connick Jr. is now a judge on American Idol! Unless every moment features HCJ pounding on his piano and singing his Creole-style jazz, he isn't enough to get me to watch that dumb show. Give me more NCIS and Mark Harmon please.... Oh, you wanted football predictions? Bill Belichick will wear a sweatshirt. Jim Harbaugh will yell a lot.

Until next week, enjoy the games, my friends!

Hershberger can be reached at sdunder@timesleaderonline.com

 
 

 

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