Down to crunch time

Don’t wake me from this dream.
When I started my NFL playoff predictions two weeks ago, I figured being at the .500 mark at this point would qualify as a major success.
My current 6-2 record has me thinking if this journalism thing doesn’t work out, I’ve got the chance to make it as a bookie in Las Vegas.
Okay, so it’s not like my wins haven’t been gift-wrapped. All but one favourite has come out victorious so far. But don’t rain on my parade, even if it is a one-man procession.
It was another good weekend, even with the Niners getting demolished (check that: especially with the Niners getting demolished—with apologies to former Times sports deity and unabashed San Fran fan Reuben Villagracia).
These championship finals are tough picks. But then, have I steered you wrong yet?
AFC
Tennessee (12-5) at Oakland (12-5)
The Titans and the Raiders meet in the insane asylum that is the L.A. Coliseum in what should be a monumental struggle between two teams at the top of their game.
The Titans benefited from some more shenanigans from the men in stripes.
Forget the running into the kicker penalty in overtime, which was touch-and-go. The fact the Steelers tried to call time out before the game-winning kick when they had two left, but were told by the official they didn’t have any, was preposterous.
Good for my predictions record, but preposterous, nonetheless.
The Music City magicians have won 11 of their last 12 games. Their offence is moving almost at will and their defence can play better than it did last Sunday against Pittsburgh.
But Oakland’s just got this look right now. “Just win, baby” isn’t just a catch phrase for them anymore, it’s a mindset. The silver and black took a supposed team of destiny in the New York Jets and made them look more like Destiny’s Child in football cleats.
Nobody’s walking over anybody in this one. But while the Titans haven’t been to the Big Game in three years, the Raiders have been absent for 20.
When it comes to who has the hunger, Tennessee’s peckish. Oakland’s downright starving.
Raiders 28, Titans 24
NFC
Tampa Bay (13-4) at Philadelphia (13-4)
Do not be fooled by the cover of those playoff books you saw last weekend.
Yes, Philly struggled before thwarting the plucky Falcons. Yes, the Bucs stampeded the Niners (I love saying that) into oblivion. No, Tampa does not have the momentum heading into this weekend.
Why? One game is not a trend. Four games are. As in, the Bucs are 0-4 in their last four meetings with the Eagles, including two of the last three playoff seasons, with both those games also at Veterans Stadium.
To go back further, Tampa Bay is 0-6 in road playoff games in their history.
To go back even further, the swashbucklers from the south are 1-21 all-time in games played in weather below four Celsius (39 F). And if it’s four in Philly this Sunday, I’ll go body surfing on Rainy Lake.
Tampa’s defence is better than it’s ever been. Their offence finally has a pulse. And I want the Eagles to plummet to earth in the worst way. But until the Bucs prove the doubters wrong, history dictates it will be the Eagles flying to San Diego for Super Sunday.
Eagles 17, Buccaneers 13
• • •
In exhibition hockey action last Monday (Jan. 6), the Fort Frances Tagg’s Bantam ‘AA’ squad fell 4-3 to International Falls.
The Falls had beaten Tagg’s the day before in the ‘B’ final of a tournament in Baudette—and continued to have the local team’s number on home ice in their rematch.
Mike Wilson scored twice for the Falls while Riley Burnell and Nick Scholler added singles. Brian White netted a pair of markers for Fort Frances, with Josh Sigurdson adding the other one.
Maybe the third time’s the charm.
• • •
In more on-ice news, a field of roughly 30 teams is expected for the Fort Frances girls’ hockey invitational tournament Feb. 14-16, which also will feature a skills competition on Feb. 15 beginning at noon.
Tournament organizer Tim Fowler reportedly puts on one fine event. And while the boys still might dominate the sport numbers-wise, the girls are making a bigger mark every year—and worth your time to come out and watch.
If you don’t believe me, go ask Hayley Wickenheiser, who proved Saturday with her Finnish Division II team that if a woman player is good enough, she deserves a chance alongside the guys.
If she responds by drilling you into the boards, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
• • •
The women also be taking over the local high school gym Feb. 8 as the Fort Frances Women’s League volleyball tournament hits the floor at “The Fish Tank.”
The registration fee is $150 per team, with a maximum of 16 teams being accepted. If the field reaches its limit, first-place prize money will be $700, with second place receiving $400 and third place winning back their entry fee.
A social at Warp 9, with tickets going for $5 in advance and $6 at the door, will take place that evening, beginning at 8 p.m.
For more information, call Candy at 483-1252 or contact her by e-mail at teeple@jam21.net
If you are planning any sporting events, or have some sports-related information or scores, feel free to call me at 274-5373 ext. 237 or by e-mail at jpayeur@fortfrances.com

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