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Panthers Hall Pass (Part 2)

By Chris Johnson
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Earlier this week I talked about how disappointed I was with the Panthers, and how I thought it was time that we took some time apart, thus resulting in a hall pass from my favorite team.  I have already eliminated sixteen of the teams on my way to picking a new team to cheer for this week.  Today I am going to break down the final sixteen teams bracket-style just like March Madness.

I split up the final sixteen into two divisions. We will call them the Jason division and the Owen division after the two actors who play the main characters in Hall Pass.  In the Jason division I have number one ranked Green Bay going against the eighth-ranked Bills, the fourth-ranked Jets against the fifth-ranked Titans, the third-ranked Giants versus the sixth-ranked Bengals, and the number two Patriots going against the number seven Chargers.  In the Owen division it’s the top-ranked Ravens versus the eight-ranked Cardinals, the number four Lions versus the number five Raiders, the third-ranked Broncos against the sixth-ranked Bears, and the second-ranked 49ers versus the seventh-ranked Seahawks.  I ranked the teams by how they are doing so far this season in terms of record and chances of making the playoffs.

To choose the team I am going to root for this week I am going to have them go head-to-head in terms of breakout players, big play ability, how fun they are to watch, and all-around likeability.  So without any more explaining how this works, let’s get to it.

Starting in the Jason division with the Packers versus Bills, this is an easy one.  The Pack has been nothing short of amazing this season.  16-0 seems inevitable and nobody does it better than Aaron Rodgers when it comes to big plays.  The Packers advance to the second round.

The second matchup is the Jets and Titans.  The Jets were a preseason darling to go far in the playoffs but have been a bit of a disappointment so far. The Titans, on the other hand, have been a little surprising.  After the Texans jumped out to an early lead in the division, the Titans have refused to go away.  When it comes to stories, the Cinderella one is way better than the underachiever one, so I’m taking the Titans.

The next matchup is the Giants versus the Bengals.  I have to be honest here: pre-Panthers I was a Giants fan.  The Giants always have a place in my heart, but when it comes down to it I take the Panthers first.  But since the Panthers are out this week I have to go with the Giants advancing in the first round.  As great of a story as the Bengals have been, I have to go with Eli and the boys.

In the final exhibition it’s the Pats and the Chargers.  Had this of been last year I might have liked the Chargers, but let’s be honest: Rivers has been dismal all season and the Bolts haven’t been all that fun to watch.  The Patriots, on the other hand, have been pretty awesome – I could watch highlights of Gronkowski alone and be happy.  This is an easy one, it’s the Patriots advancing.

In the second round in the Green Bay versus Tennessee match up I had a tough time.  While the Packers on paper look good in all categories, I have to admit that would kind of be just jumping on the undefeated band wagon.  I have never been much of one for pulling for front runners, so I am advancing the Titans here.  The second matchup is the Giants and Patriots.  I have to admit the Giants have been unbelievable to watch this year, but I feel like it would be a cop out to pick the G-men in my little experiment here.  Also as I am writing this my girlfriend said I should pick the Patriots because Tom Brady is cuter than Eli Manning, so there is always that.

That leaves us with the fifth-ranked Titans and second-ranked Patriots in the division championship.  The Titans are a great story. They are still fighting for one of the wild card spots, and even banged up they still continue to deliver week after week.  The Patriots, on the other hand, have great big play ability and they are like watching yourself play a game of Madden: score as much as you can and don’t worry about what happens on defense.  In the end it was a tough one, but I have to go with the underdog story here, and I am taking the Titans.

In the Owen division I have the Ravens and Cardinals to start things off.  This one wasn’t very hard for me: I like the Ravens.  Ray Lewis is back and I could root for his pre-game get-you-pumped-up speeches alone.  Plus, who really wants to pull for the Cardinals?

The next one is the Lions and Raiders.  This one was a little bit tougher for me since both teams play a smash-mouth type of football that everybody loves to watch.  In the end, though, it came down to Ndamukong Suh – I can’t really cheer for a guy like that.  It’s one thing to play hard, it’s another thing to play dirty.

The next matchup is the Broncos and Bears. In this one I was choosing the Bears easily for the first three quarters of my hypothetical who do I want to cheer for game, but in the fourth quarter the Broncos somehow found a way to turn it around and pull through.

In the final team-off it was the Niners and Seahawks.  In an upset I went with the Seahawks here – the 49ers are good, but they really aren’t very fun to watch.  I am enthralled with Marshawn Lynch and his resurgence – it’s hard to go against beast-mode.

The second round starts off with the Ravens and Raiders.  The Raiders are getting it done despite the fact that they have been without their starting quarterback and running back for much of the season. It’s a great story even after losing Al Davis.  The Ravens, on the other hand, play an exceptional style of football.  Great defense, big play ability on offense – I have to go with the Ravens.

The next one is the Broncos versus the Seahawks.  While the Seahawks were able to pull off the upset versus the Niners, the Broncos proved to be too much for them.  It is simply too hard to go against the power of the Tebow.  As inconceivable as it all seems, Tebow and the Broncos continue to win.  Who doesn’t like Tebowing, either?  Not to mention that Marshawn Lynching just doesn’t sound right.  The Broncos advance to the divisional finals.

In the finals of the Owen division, that gives us the Ravens versus the Broncos.  Flacco versus Tebow, Rice versus McGahee, Ray Lewis versus Von Miller – it’s a matchup for the ages.  As good of a run as it was for the Broncos, their streak ends here, just like I think their real-life streak ends on Sunday.  You never know what kind of style you are going to get with the Ravens – Ray Rice could rush it thirty times a game or they could have Flacco coming out throwing like he’s worried about getting Heisman votes.

So after it’s all said and done, we have the Ravens and the Titans.  The Titans are the perennial underdog fighting for their playoff lives.  The Ravens are an AFC power house fighting for home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The matchup is a close one, and it doesn’t hurt that the star running back for the Titans shares my name, Chris Johnson.  After all is said and done, the Ravens were the complete package, they have the big play ability with Torrey Smith, the game-changing defense, and the phenomenal running back Ray Rice.  So for Sunday only, I am switching my allegiance to the Ravens.  Panthers, I’ll see you Christmas Eve.

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