We’re about to enter the post-season period of the current American Football season right about now which means there’s no better time to examine the teams who’ve made it through to the knockout phases.
NFC – Seattle Seahawks
It’s always a tough season when you have to play San Francisco and Arizona twice so hearty congratulations to the Seahawks of Seattle for earning top spot this year. Head coach Mike Holmgren’s decision-making on the field has been more-or-less eclipsed by his sellout Broadway revue as one half of The Amazing Walrus Twins with fellow coach Andy Reid but with several suspicious fires destroying their venue over Christmas he’ll be free to concentrate on the important games to come.
- Key To Winning: Holmgren has reportedly wrestled a magic challenge flag from the grasp of a leprechaun this week granting him the power to overturn one field decision. Use it wisely Mike.
NFC – Dallas Cowboys
It’s been a season of soap opera-proportions for the Cowboys with all the newsworthy team changes – Romo for Bledsoe, Gramatica for Vanderjagt – and the awful cheerleader combustion incident in week three but veteran coach Bill Parcells has maintained a cool head throughout thanks to the ultra-high reflective hair he sports these days. In a tough division, that may have proved the key factor in their success.
- Key To Winning: There is no specific rule limiting the size of gloves so Terrell Owens will need to sport giant foam hands in a bid to improve his catching rate. Watch out other teams!
NFC – Chicago Bears
The Bears were the first team to qualify for post-season thanks largely to playing in the same division as Detroit and Green Bay and in no way at all thanks to superior offense at the hands of Rex Grossman. If their pattern of luck continues through to the NFC playoff final Chicago will tie a 60-year NFL record for non-mountain-based teams undeservedly winning games with a quarterback whose first name is a latin word, without the use of a machete, not dressed in a mauve uniform, who don’t play on concrete, having less than a thousand team mascots, on home field, in a planetary system with a yellow dwarf sun.
- Key To Winning: Lovie Smith will need to counteract the anti-Bears gypsy curse that my girlfriend found in her Christmas cracker this year. Good luck with your five-legged cat hunt Lovie!
NFC – New Orleans Saints
Nobody was more surprised than me to see New Orleans have such a successful season because I was brainwashed into believing the city had been scooped off the surface of the Earth by a giant flock of herons and had lost their franchise to Boise. I escaped from my cruel kidnappers and I’m fine now, thanks for asking. Reggie Bush was the big name on everyone’s minds at the start of the year but Drew Brees’ spring-loaded arm grabbed most of the headlines.
- Key To Winning: Offer free ‘I Heart Bush’ shirts to any women turning up to the game and relax as the collective terror generated by over 20,000 lesbians renders opponents useless.
NFC – Philadelphia Eagles
When Eagles’ quarterback Donovan McNabb limped out of the season following an innocuous yet hurtful comment aimed at his manliness most of Philadelphia switched to watching re-runs of The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air in a bid to hold on to their civic pride. Who could have foreseen that a long winning streak at the reins of comeback kid Jeff Garcia would save the year and propel the Eagles into position as genuine Superbowl contenders? Besides Nostradamus. Yeah, we all know he predicted it. Has he ever guested alongside Maddens and Michaels in the booth? No? Then he doesn’t count.
- Key To Winning: It’s easy to let moustaches become bushy and unkempt during the cold months of winter and that lack of care can be picked up by the whole team, subduing them considerably. I sent you the TidyTash 3000 Deluxe for Christmas, Andy, so make use of it.
NFC – New York Giants
The Giants just about made it into the playoffs with the help of retiring running back Tiki Barber’s franchise-record rushing performance and three touchdowns in their victory over the mighty and fearsome Redskins in the final week of play. Friendly, ever-smiling head coach Tom Coughlin plans to forcibly hang the promise of early retirement over Eli Manning next year in a bid to improve his game during the second half of the season too.
- Key To Winning: The project to clone Tiki during the 1980s – which saw the creation of "twin brother" Ronde but was then deemed a failure – must be reinstated, pronto!
AFC – New England Patriots
The Dolphins were expected to perform better this season but fortunately they still remained the Dolphins and didn’t magically transform into an American Football team during the Summer break allowing a Patriots team beset by injuries yet again to take the title in the East. Tom Brady was further hampered by the new rule instigated at the behest of the Indianapolis Colts that forces "all owners of Superbowl Rings to wear them at all times, all of their rings, on their throwing hand, especially that Brady chap" making their success all the more impressive.
- Key To Winning: Chaos theory is the New England Patriots’ friend and careful tearing of his poncho during the post-season should allow Bill Belichick to positively influence events on the field at the quantum level.
AFC – Indianapolis Colts
It’s been another terrific year for Peyton Manning’s agent who can retire a billionaire after taking his percentage from the muffle-mouthed quarterback’s advertising rampage. On the field – or rather, just to one side of it – Tony Dungy has overseen just how far a team with no run defence can get you without breaking out into maniacal laughter. No mean feat there.
- Key To Winning: Peyton Manning needs to practice his standing at the line, looking off the defence, pointing at the invisible pixies downfield, and snapping the ball when he thinks the other team aren’t ready in order to win penalties; the Colts simply don’t do that enough.
AFC – San Diego Chargers
The Chargers are hot favourites to lift this year’s Superbowl and with good reason too: they’ve installed snipers in each of the remaining teams’ stadia and will kill anyone who plays too well. The masterstroke behind quarterback Philip Rivers’ success this year has been the subliminal messages piped into his helmet from coach Schottenheimer during each game: "you’re not Eli … you’re not Eli … you don’t croak … you don’t know the meaning of croak …"
- Key To Winning: San Diego must avoid the mistakes of week four when they lost to the Ravens after just fielding Bolt Man. Marty: the squad list is on the white sheet. The yellow sheet is entitled "Mascots That Scare The Bejeesus Outta Me".
AFC – Baltimore Ravens
Along with the Eagles and Seahawks, the Ravens make up the third of the three bird-named teams to qualify for post-season action this year but in an aerial battle you’d have to favour one of the other two unless the raven had a cudgel. Even then it would need its reactions honed to optimum efficiency; I think we’re talking about some good quality drugs here. Of course, the NFL’s substance abuse policy would then render the raven incapable of fighting for three weeks.
- Key To Winning: Baltimore must ignore the fact they are birds – something I can’t let go of – and remember that they are – first and foremost – American footballers. No flapping, no crapping, no pecking at the penalty flags.
AFC – Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas are incredibly lucky to get to the playoffs and they’re well aware of it but that’s the reward you get for avoiding walking under ladders all year and sporting underwear made from four-leaf clovers. Congratulations Herm! All the pundits said you were insane in the membrane for your luck-enhancing eccentricities but you showed them. And my doctor says that clover rot – while itchy – is generally harmless and only leads to testicular collapse in less than 5% of people.
- Key To Winning: Two letters: L.J. No, not Larry Johnson, but Licentious Jigging. No team can hope to beat an on-form, erotic dance from Tony Gonzalez and Jared Allen.
AFC – New York Jets
Eric Mangini has managed to prove that there is life after working with Bill Belichick and the Patriots by successfully coaxing New Jersey’s second team to the playoffs in his first season as a head coach. The rivalry between Mangini and Romeo Crennel reached a peak at Christmas when the Jets’ coach sent his Browns’ counterpart the severed head of a tortoise. In NFL circles there’s no more damning way to say "Loser" without going through Interflora.
- Key To Winning: Chad Pennington has defied the odds by remaining injury-free this year but his planned visits to The Massachusetts’ Museum Of Slippery Stairs and The Great Boston Dodge-A-Spork Experience before the trip to Foxboro is just asking for trouble.