I’m back! Well, sort of. This past year has been a whirlwind ride to say the least. First, let me get the cat out of the bag. I know, this is the first post on this website of any kind since August 4, 2016. For those of you counting at home that was 162 days ago – or essentially an entire baseball season ago if the games were played daily. So what have I been up to? The long short of it is I went to law school. Which basically means I’ve sold my soul to the devil, cut my sports consumption off by 75 percent, have my nose buried in a book for approximately 80 percent of my waking hours while the other 20 percent is spent questioning my sanity. But it’s all for the cause, right? So now that I’ve shaken off the cobwebs of a 5-month hibernation, did I miss anything?
The Cubs won the World Series!
This is the biggest sports moment of my life, and I am so mad at myself I chose now to go to law school so I couldn’t document every minute of it. Yes, I watched every inning of every playoff game. Yes, I watched more Cubs baseball in 2016 than any other sport. But it still felt like something was missing because I wasn’t able to sit behind a microphone after every game and blow my sports load over Joe Maddon’s managerial decisions that ultimately culminated in the greatest sports moment in Chicago history.
This was the moment I looked forward to my entire life. Seriously. 12-year-old Marco would’ve put the list of “Greatest Moments Ever” like so: 1 – Cubs win World Series, 2 – First child born, 3 – Cubs win the pennant, 4 – Wedding Day. And it was glorious. I cried. You cried. We all cried. Game 7 might have been the greatest baseball game played in the last two decades, hell, even Rajai Davis’ two-run blast to tie the game was magical and I wanted to off myself the minute that ball left Progressive Field. Ben Zobrist came through in the clutch in extra innings and Mike Montgomery of all people records the final out to end a 108-year drought. Magic. Simply magic.
The Cubs can (and might) win the World Series three more times and it won’t compare to that one single moment. What a ride. Thank you, Cubbies!
The Bears were horrible!
Not surprised. There are areas of optimism, however. Chicago looked like they had acquired some young talent that could blossom, and for better or worse the Jay Cutler era effectively ended in 2016. I’m not sure what they’re going to do at the #3 spot in the draft but my spidey senses tell me they’re targeting a QB. Secretly, I hope Deshaun Watson falls to the Bears as I think he shows massive potential after the performance he put on in the National Championship, but, he’s likely to go #1 overall to Cleveland where his career will end by November 2018. The Bears can also go defense and take the reincarnation of Reggie White in Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett – again, if he’s still there. San Fran picks #2 and their two biggest needs are the same needs as Chicago’s – defensive end and QB. But these are the Bears and they’re clearly going to pick someone we haven’t heard of and go 6-10 next year, fire head coach John Fox, and be stinky for the next year before turning into an overnight powerhouse in 2018. Calling it.
“Did the Bulls really think Rajon Rondo was going to work?” – Alan
Did the Bulls think Rajon Rondo would work? Probably. Because they’re the Bulls. Did I think Rondo, an 84-year-old Dwyane Wade and the wrong Lopez brother was going to work? Absolutely not. The Bulls will probably slip into the playoffs at 41-41 because the Eastern Conference sucks. Then they’ll steal a game from the Cavs in Round 1, sending Bulls fans, the most irrational people on the planet, into a frenzy before losing the series 4-1. The Bulls are stuck in perpetual basketball purgatory. Each year for the last half decade they’re just good enough to stay in the top half of the league, but not good enough to even look like they play in the same league as the Clevelands and the Golden States of the NBA. They’ll continue this trend until they finally declare a total rebuild (which they won’t), which has to come in the same year as a stocked draft (which it won’t), and eventually have to convince a top-tier free agent to join the fun (which, in the entire half-century history of the franchise, they have NEVER been able to do).
It’s a shame because the Bulls have one of the most loyal fan bases in the association and post-Jordan have been able to get some really good talent over the years (Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, LaMarcus Aldridge (side-side note: yup. Chicago drafted LaMarcus before shipping him to Portland for Tyrus Thomas, some other dude, and a 2nd-round pick!! Way to go, idiots!) Joakim Noah, and Tyson Chandler (another what-if situation as the Bulls traded him to New Orleans for !JR Smith!). The Bulls just manage to mismanage all the talent they have consistently.
Who you got in the NFL Divisional playoff round?
I begrudgingly went 2-2 in the Wild Card round. I completely overvalued the Giants, took them +4, and watched them get smoked by my arch nemesis Aaron Rodgers. I also should’ve completely avoided Texans-Raiders but couldn’t resists taking Oakland with points. I went against the cardinal rule of playoff football gambling: never take the underdog unless you believe they’re going to win outright.
This week we get four games that are even harder to manage than last week. Let’s quickly dive in:
Seattle at Atlanta (-4)
This is my favorite game of the weekend for totally personal reasons. It’s no secret Russell Wilson is my favorite player in the NFL today and it’s been quite some time since I’ve been able to write “Russellmania” in all caps on my Facebook timeline. This feels like another Atlanta meltdown waiting to happen. Just ask Bomani Jones who, on the TV show Highly Questionable last month, went through 50 years of Falcons failure in about 120 seconds.
The last playoff win for Atlanta came at home against Seattle in 2012. Remember, this is pre-Super Bowl Seahawks we’re talking about here. Prior to that you have to go back to the Mike Vick era in 2004 when they blew out the Rams at home before getting crushed by Philadelphia the next week. My whole point is Atlanta chokes during playoff time. And this game has choke written all over it. Atlanta has the best offense in football but offense in January almost never translates to wins in January. Seattle is coming off of a win over Detroit where they felt like they didn’t win by enough. Which is true, because anytime a playoff team goes into Round 2 with a win over Detroit – they should beat them by double digits.
Here’s the bottom line: Atlanta is going to need a pass rush because Seattle’s offensive line is depleted. They haven’t had one almost all year. And we expect the perennial playoff choke artists to come up with one now? No, thanks. I like Seattle. And you’re giving me points?! Yes, please.
Pick: Seattle +4.
Houston at New England (-16)
What is the number of points you would need Houston to get before you’d entertain betting on them? Because I think New England can win by 20 with Jimmy G at QB. Look, the only chance Houston has is their defense needs to pitch a Denver Super Bowl-like game, and that’s not happening. I know 16 is hard to swallow but take the points and run.
Pick: New England -16.
Pittsburgh at Kansas City (-1)
The hardest game to call; which is why Vegas is essentially making this a pick’em. But here is something to consider: Andy Reid is 16-2 in his career after bye weeks. 16-2! And he’s essentially had TWO bye weeks to prepare for the Steelers because we all knew Pittsburgh would blast Miami in the Wild Card round.
No one can make a better case than that for taking KC because this really is a game where you can convince me either way but, in the words of law school, Andy Reid’s near-spotless post bye-week record is, as they say, “the best argument.”
Pick: Kansas City -1
Green Bay at Dallas (-4)
Ahhhhhhh. The clash of two teams I wish would’ve fallen off of a cliff years ago. I hate both of these teams so I’m going to be happy when the game is over so I can laugh at the loser. And then wipe my tears because the winner is going to the NFC Championship. Sigh.
I don’t like Dallas. Never bought them all year and I’m not about to now. Aaron Rodgers is a god damn football messiah. He’s the only QB in history to make the Hail Mary just a regular play in the playbook. I hate him. But the football purist in me loves watching him. Do I care that he’ll be without Jordy Nelson this week? Not really. Because Rodgers in the pocket with time will make me, a one-legged 290-pound 5’6″ slow ass be a 2-TD/game receiver.
Green Bay’s defense isn’t going to be able to stop Zeke Elliot. But it won’t matter to Rodgers. Dallas can put up 40 in this game and I like Rodgers to heave a Hail Mary at the buzzer because that’s just what he does. Dak Prescott is playing in his first playoff game – it gets different this time of year. I don’t trust rookie QB’s in January. Period.
Pick: Green Bay +4.
What is going to happen with The Game with Marco Scola podcast?
The simple answer is I’m not sure. After four seasons and over 100 episodes, I feel like the podcast ran its course.
What I would like to do (time permitting) is start a new show that allows me to diverge from sports and dip into pop culture, music, entertainment, and politics. I’d like to have a “Marco at the Movies” segment every week, or a “my favorite album” segment every week. Hell, I’d like to sit back and spend 10 minutes every show complaining about politics. You can’t do that on a sports-only show.
The idea I have in the works is launching the Marco Scola Show, a two-to-three episode per week podcast that lasts only 30-45 minutes and covers mostly sports but also dips into other things. Stay tuned!