Coach's Corner

He may not be smart enough to put up shutters, but Coach offers his NFL divisional playoff picks nonetheless.

The project to put up new shutters is now well into its third month. This was, according to the man at the hardware store, an "easy, anyone can do it" project. The "anyone can do it" should have been all the warning necessary. My greatest household disasters begin this way. I'm pushed over the precipice when, while looking at shutters at Home Depot, I run into Jim Harter, a guy who can fix anything. Jim shows me these cool plastic shutters I must have. "Sure you can do it," Mr. Home Improvement says, "anyone can." Three months later, six painted and one unpainted shutter lean against the garage. I knew I was in trouble early when the easiest task, pulling off the old shutters, proved irksome. I began prying them off with my little hammer. That cost me a piece of skin from my hand. Undeterred, I ventured to the hardware store to buy a crowbar. I felt pretty manly about that, and didn't I look fine and masculine up there teetering on my ladder with my new crowbar. The shutters gave way -- one damn shingle at a time -- but not the nails, stuck in concrete since 1984. This discovery cost me more skin and a fingernail.

I gave up on the second floor and hired someone to clean up my mess and put up the shutters. But dammit, I'm going to do the ground floor. Jim Harter said it's easy. This was before Thanksgiving. Jim just called. He's on his way over (thank God) to hang the shutters, pull out the rest of the nails, fix the gutters I broke pulling nails out of concrete, and paint the last shutter I never did do.

So typical is this of my "easy" household projects, an outsider looking in might conclude there just might be smarter bears in the woods than me. Not a quick study, I listen to and believe experts who tell me it's "just a little pipe." But in things I know about, like football, I know better.

All the experts bitch about parity, and what a shitty year it's been in the old NFL, don't you know? I've seen something else: the most entertaining football year I can remember. The death of the great dynasties has hurt Monday Night Football -- which really needs some flexibility in its schedule -- but it has made for many great Sundays. Wild Card Weekend was typical: Of the four games, only one was a dog, and two were outstanding. Here's a preview of next Sunday's divisional contests.

First a digression: You whiners in Buffalo ... shut up. I figured you people (what with being buried under 20 feet of snow and ice for six months a year) for a stoic sort of folk. Instead, Buffalo turns out to be the whimper capital of the world, a big statement considering our proximity to Dallas. First it was the skate in the crease thing you bitched about all spring, summer, and fall. Now I'm supposed to care because someone's hand may have been across some invisible line, costing poor Buffalo another game. You guys, wanting games to be overturned on technicalities, are a city of defense lawyers. If your goalie makes the save or your coverage team isn't -- what, I guess "fooled" is the kindest way to put it -- by a playground deal drawn up on the sideline, your teams would've found some other way to lose. Okay, anyway ...

I've been rooting for Jeff George all season just so an unfairly maligned player could give the finger to all the media experts who've branded him a "loser." It's hard for me to really believe in St. Louis. How does one of the worst teams of the last 20 years -- maybe the worst -- suddenly get so great? Then I remember Atlanta. Sorry Jeff, but next week your Vikings get a dose of your own obnoxious indoor music at the TWA Dome. You lose, but you go down with all guns blazing, 35-31.

It's difficult to accept that a team with no offense to speak of, Tampa Bay, can win a divisional playoff game with nothing but defense. Then I consider Dallas beat Washington twice ... soundly. The 'Skins' pathetic defense might make TB's offense look decent. Oy. Well, let's say the Bucs score twice on turnovers and once with a legit TD. That equals Bucs 21-7.

Since Dallas is nothing more than a nasty wiff of odor seeping from a septic tank overflow, my new favorite team is whoever's playing Jimmy Johnson. But emotion creates problems. What's real? What's not? Are the Dolphins just a slightly jazzed-up Tampa Bay, or am I trying to avoid thinking the unthinkable: Miami, despite five more losses, despite playing again on the road, despite going against a well-rested Jacksonville team, despite all this, has a chance -- a good chance? Or am I just trying to act rational, covering up how desperately I want -- need!-- Miami to lose? Hate's better. Jaguars 21-17.

I don't care that the Colts were, like the Rams, 3-13 last year. I don't care about all that inexperience I keep reading about. Indianapolis, unlike St. Louis, played in and dominated the toughest division in football. They're the best team, today, in the league. The old Oilers, who canceled an ancient debt against Buffalo last week -- with interest -- are out of luck. The Colts, in the only sided game of the weekend, 35-7.Books business

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