Monday, January 6, 2014

Playoff Football, Baby

Since the NFL realignment of 2002 (12 seasons and counting), there have been 114 home playoff games played. Eight of the NFL’s 32 teams (one-quarter) have hosted five or more playoff games, and of those eight teams the Seattle Seahawks have the best record: five of six (.833) with the single loss coming in 2004, their first playoff game in their current (then new) stadium.

This year, the Seahawks’ record ensures that all their playoff games will be played in Seattle. The teams that remain alive in the NFC play-offs – the Panthers, the Niners, the Saints – have all been beaten by the ‘Hawks this season. New Orleans, the team they play this weekend, was blown out in Seattle just last month…and while Drew Brees and the Saints have proven they can win on the road in the playoffs, they face a rested Seattle team after an emotional, physical road win in Philadelphia.

Now this doesn’t mean the Seahawks’s path to the Super Bowl is clear, nor easy. Brees and the Saints have won in Seattle in the past…in October of 2007, in fact, on the Seahawks’ road to their fourth straight division title (since the realignment gave the NFL its current structure and roster of teams, only three teams have seen more post-seasons than Seattle: the Colts, the Patriots, and the Packers...just FYI). Brees and head coach Sean Payton are no strangers to the Seattle waaagh both in and out of the playoff setting…a difficult challenge, certainly, but not a surprising one for a veteran team.

Can the orks once more pummel the Nurgle team into a gooey pulp?

We’ll see. Marshawn Lynch can trigger “Beast Quakes,” but Jimmy Graham IS a beast…a Beast of Nurgle in Blood Bowl terms, though an extremely fast and agile one that few players can bring themselves to guard or tackle. In the December game, he was excellently shadowed by dauntless lineork KJ Wright…but Wright broke his foot in the ‘Hawks December battle versus the Niners and will be unavailable till the NFC championship round at the earliest…assuming the Seahawks can get past New Orleans.

If I was a betting man, I’d still put my money on the orks, because A) I’m a huge-ass homer (duh), and B) because it’s the smart money. Brees is a Hall of Famer, but the Seahawks are the better team.

I know, I know…few enough of my readers care about football at all, fewer still are still watching with any interest (perhaps because they still have a team left in the race to root for), and even fewer dig the Blood Bowl. Sorry, folks...I’ll talk about the nuttiness of the latest Hobbit movie in another post.

Playoff football, baby. When your team’s in the mix, it’s just about the best time of year.

Up until you lose, of course. My wife reminded me the other day (in conversation, with other people) of my general demeanor after the Super Bowl loss of 2005. That year, we felt like Seattle was a dominant, can’t-lose team…and then we lost to a sixth seed wild card team and a second year QB who appears descended from the mercenary Swiss pikemen of two hundred years ago.

It hurts to lose. It hurts to lose most everything…though the degree of hurt is generally commensurate with the thing lost. With regard to the entertaining pastime of football, losing a game in the regular season is disappointing, losing at home is rough, and losing one’s chance to advance to (or through) the playoffs can be devastating….assuming the rest of your life is in order. I’m sure there are Bengals fans that were immensely disappointed after their team’s loss to the “barely in” Chargers…and yet even the most diehard fan would be terribly disinterested in the game result if they were facing the loss of their home to an unpaid mortgage, or the tragedy of a loved one dying from cancer before their time.

I myself am in a fortunate position of “things are going well at the moment” so I can spare the emotional energy to get worked up about the home team. And I want to win…a lot. I want to win a lot more than I want to lose. I want to win convincingly. I want to win easily.

I’m as superstitious as any other sports fan. Superstition would generally say keep your expectations low, approach the game with humility, hope for the best, don’t “tempt the football gods.” But I know there are fans on both sides of the fence that shoot their mouths off, just begging for negative (football-related) karma…and we can’t both lose the match. So I’m done worrying about it. I want to kick some ass. And I think the circumstances are good enough that the better team (i.e. the Seahawks) should kick asses of the Saints, on both sides of the ball.

Here come the Rotters.
How do orks generally fare against Nurgle teams? Pretty good, usually. Like all Chaos teams, the mutations available to a Nurgle team can make them versatile and specialized with the right combos, but the right combos (like NFL wins) are never guaranteed. Without those advantages, the default is a slow, stompy team that infects injured opponents with The Rot, bringing other team’s players into the warm, slimy embrace of Grandfather Nurgle.

However, the orks are some serious tough buggers, making them less likely to be injured than most other teams (except with a string of bad luck, which sometimes happens). Because of this toughness and their natural versatility (they can acquire a wider range of skills than the Nurgle team) they tend to be more balanced than Nurgle and thus able to out-play plague teams.  Plus, depending on which version of Nurgle you’re using (there have been several different ones over the years), the players tend to be slower and weaker than a “normal” Chaos team, making them a team the orks can rough up pretty good.

People may think I’m disrespecting the Saints by comparing them to or by representing them with a Nurgle team, but the truth is I’m a HUGE fan of Chaos teams, especially Nurgle. My collection of Warhammer 40K minis is far more extensive than my Blood Bowl collection, and my Nurgle army is second only to my Khorne dedicated army in number, including some of my most expensive pieces (including a 4th edition Chaos dreadnought and Chaos landraider)...and almost all have been customized/modified with extensive putty-work (“greenstuff”). My Nurgle BB team is unfinished only because…well, mainly because my painting/modeling hobby has been put on indefinite hiatus (probably till my children are teenagers and/or older). I like teams that stomp the hell out of opponents and convert them to their own, and who aren’t as fragile around the edges as skeletons and the undead…and Nurgle’s “fluff” is some of the best GW has to offer.

Sean Payton: Offensive Guru, Sorcerer
The Saints are a good team…that’s why they’re Nurgle and not, say, halflings or hobgoblins (that’s the Jets and the Browns respectively…*ahem*). They take prime players from other teams…like Brees and Darren Sproles…and make them starters on their own. Stylistically, they’ve got that bayou swamp-voodoo-thang going on (which totally shrieks ‘Nurgle cultist hideout’) and I usually equate “dome teams” with the darker, Chaos-oriented teams in BB (Skaven, Dark Elf, etc.). And Mardi Gras is, of course, an annual Chaos ritual of epic proportions.

But being a “good” team isn’t going to be enough to knock the Seahawks out of the playoffs in their own stadium. Good enough to beat the high elves, sure (i.e. the Philly Eagles…you have to know the BB fluff regarding high elves to see the parallels with the “City of Brotherly Love”) but not nearly what they’ll need to stop the Seahawks, especially with second-string beastmen in the backfield. It isn’t like the ‘Hawks forced three or four interceptions when they hosted New Orleans in December; the Saints coughed up the ball exactly once. Instead, they were simply manhandled by Seattle for the majority of the game…both offensively and defensively. I’m hoping to see something similar when the two teams play again this Saturday.

If only so I can continue the dream another weekend of playoff football.
; )
Who Dat? Not as scary in our neck o the woods.