In this space, we look at a handful of upcoming NFL match-ups and identify the good guys and bad guys, old school WWF-style. You are likely to disagree with many of them. And yes, that is a picture of William "The Refrigerator" Perry punching Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart next to a guy with a hairy back and thighs. You're welcome. Home teams in CAPS. (All times ET.)
The Preliminary Bouts
This week, Seattle plays the rare role of seven-point underdog Bad Guy. How'd that happen? Well, if Seattle conquers as an underdog this week, it helps to foil two other underdog stories: The Rams as a division champion and the Falcons as the NFC's top seed. A random, out-of-nowhere beating of the Falcons seems like just the kind of thing this inconsistent Seahawks team might do. Don't let it happen, Falcons. If the NFC West selfishly insists on crowning a champion, everyone wants it to be the Rams.
The AFC North's orange-clad bottom feeders renew their rivalry this week in a battle for, well, not much. The Browns do have a chance to sweep the season series against the Bengals, which probably qualifies as a point of pride in post-LeBron Cleveland. Anyway, I'd like to see them do it. There's something far more charming about Cleveland's no-name up-and-comers than there is about Cincinnati's overpaid underachievers like Carson Palmer(notes) and Chad Ochocinco(notes).
When the NFL released the schedule this summer, some CBS executive looked at this game, snickered and said to himself, "Hey Don Criqui and Steve Beuerlein, hope you like St. Louis in December." I'm not saying it's the Jim Nantz game now, but ... you might get Ian Eagle. How about that, Missourians? Both participants in The Governor's Cup are good guys, for managing to turn this thing into an important, highly watchable game. The NFL fans of the world owe you.
We won't know about Aaron Rodgers'(notes) availability until Saturday, but it's kind of irrelevant for Good Guy/Bad Guy purposes. The Patriots are 100 percent back into the mode of "Evil and Highly Efficient Killing Machine," aren't they? Fans of other contending AFC teams might not admit it, but they know, deep down in places they don't talk about at parties, that they've thought, "I like our team and we're playing well, but with what the Patriots are doing, it might not matter." Everyone's praying that at some point between now and the end of the regular season, they'll at least show some glimpses of vulnerability.
The Main Events
If either of the NFC East leaders are legitimate Super Bowl contenders, it's the Eagles. For whatever the reason, Eli Manning(notes) just isn't taking care of the ball this year. He's been intercepted 19 times, which is more than anyone, even Brett Favre(notes), and I'm just having a hard time picturing him holding up through the playoff grind. I'm also still clinging to Michael Vick(notes) as a good guy, I don't care what anyone says. In fact, the closer we get to the Super Bowl, with Michael Vick remaining in the picture as the possible MVP of a Super Bowl-winning team, the more I love the idea.
The Colts have won six of the last seven AFC South titles -- injury troubles or not, they're that division's imperial overlord. And this week, it's the Jaguars, of all teams, that can stand up and deliver the death knell to their postseason hopes. The scrappy little Jaguars, who no one picked to make the playoffs, mainly because everyone keeps forgetting that they exist. Make people notice you, Jaguars. Don't just overcome -- do it by putting your foot on the throat of Peyton Manning(notes).