It’s expensive to go to bars and watch football games. It’s not expensive to simulate the games on Whatifsports.com, read the box scores, and pretend that’s what actually happened. And if you’re a Seahawks fan, that might actually be better than watching your team’s game this week.
For my 2010 NFL playoff preview, I’ll be doing something a little different.* I’m not going to give you some half-hearted X’s and O’s analysis from someone who learned everything he knows from Madden video games. I won’t be comparing each playoff team to a 90210 character and failing to disguise my serious gambling addiction. I’m going to predict the NFL playoff results using only results from WhatIfSports.com.
*By different I mean shamelessy borrowed from Carson Cistulli of fangraphs.com.
WhatIfSports.com is basically the Large Hadron Collider for sports nerds. You enter two teams from any season, edit the depth charts, playbooks, and weather to your heart’s content, and blammo:
wormhole statistically-determined realistic results! In order to predict the 2010 postseason, I have randomly chosen a historical team for each of our championship contenders to play, and by comparing results against the common opponent we can determine with 100% accuracy and foresight who will win each game. It’s every bit as amazing as it sounds.
Okay, so I lied. I did not choose our common opponent randomly. These teams will play the 1944 incarnation of the Brooklyn Tigers. The franchise was mildly successful in the ’30s (when they were known as the Dodgers), but then they were hammered worse than Pearl Harbor during World War II, as they cratered to an 0-10 record in 1944 and then merged with the Boston Yanks. The Tigers somehow managed to run through three coaches in the ‘44 season, Frank Bridges, Pete Cawthon, and Ed Kubale; this anecdote is shocking for two reasons. Firstly, all three coaches have fairly normal-sounding names, which is stunning in an era when men were named things like Y.A. or Red; secondly, one can only assume from this fact that Al Davis was the owner of the Brooklyn Tigers.
On the field, the Tigers were led by fullback Pug Manders, who led the team in rushing attempts despite a 3.4 yards-per-carry average and a long run of 13 yards. He was clearly a real bruiser. This leads me to question the team’s ability to give out nicknames, since their left tackle was known as "Bruiser" Kinard. Some guy named Charlie McGibbony was the team’s leading passer; he attempted 48 passes on the season and threw 1 touchdown and 10 interceptions. There were no typos in the previous sentence. Bob Masterson is the guy you wanted to grab if you played in a PPR fantasy league in 1944; he hauled in 24 passes, good for sixth in the NFL.
So now that you’ve learned more than you ever wanted to know about the 1944 Brooklyn Tigers, it’s time simulate some NFL playoffs! But first, a quick note: I’ve determined from the results that WhatIfSports.com does not believe in the “time machine” brand of hypothetical cross-decade sports matchups. This is unfortunate, as I find the idea of 6’1” 216 lb Bruiser Kinard trying to block Tamba Hali hilariously appealing. Anyway, on with it…
Baltimore Ravens 17, Brooklyn Tigers 7 (+10)
Kansas City Chiefs 20, Brooklyn Tigers 0 (+20)
The Chiefs advance to the divisonal weekend on the strength of Jamaal Charles, who ripped off a 52-yard scoring run in the third quarter to put this one out of reach for Kansas City. Do you know how you came back from a 20-0 deficit in 1944? You didn’t. The Ravens fought valiantly but their pass protection was troublesome; how do you let a bunch of 6’0 white guys who ate meatloaf and gin for a pregame meal get 3 sacks on Joe Flacco? For shame.
New York Jets 17, Brooklyn Tigers 0 (+17)
Indianapolis Colts 20, Brooklyn Tigers 7 (+13)
The Jets move on, despite a performance by Mark Sanchez that can only be described as “pre-war” (8 of 14, 105 yards). Bob Masterson definitely did not enjoy his stay on Revis Island (4 catches, 33 yards), although he did contribute 5 solo tackles while playing both ways in the inter-borough matchup. The Colts had a much rougher go of it, they might have lost to the Tigers if it weren’t for five missed field goals by our old buddy Bruiser Kinard. I guess he had trouble adjusting to the fact that the goalposts were in the back of the end zone?
Bruiser Kinard scouting report:
Strengths: run blocking, awesome nickname, wind-swept hair
Must Improve: place-kicking, not being racist
Green Bay Packers 10, Brooklyn Tigers 7 (+3)
Philadelphia Eagles 29, Brooklyn Tigers 0 (+29)
The Tigers were able to bottle up Michael Vick on the ground; this was about the only thing they did well in a blowout loss that allowed the Eagles to eliminate the Packers. John Kuhn really enjoyed playing in this game, and he requested a trade to Brooklyn almost immediately after the game ended.
This is how John Kuhn of the Brooklyn Tigers gets to Ebbets Field on gamedays.
New Orleans Saints 38, Brooklyn Tigers 7(+31)
Brooklyn Tigers 14, Seattle Seahawks 10 (-4)
An upset! New Orleans advances as Brooklyn overcomes the raucous Seattle crowd to knock off the Seahawks. Brooklyn couldn’t handle the downfield passing attack of Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints; they thought all that throwing stuff was against the rules but it wasn’t (the NFL in 1944: passing = legal; black guys = not legal). Brees tossed four TDs, although I personally thought it was kind of a dick move by Sean Payton to kick a field goal with 1:56 left in the game while leading 35-7. Also, Bruiser Kinard missed 6 more field goals; seriously Brooklyn, you don’t want to give Shaun Suisham a call at this point?
The Seahawks/Tigers gets a paragraph of its own; this game was a real thriller. The Tigers shut down the Seahawks’ run game and also picked off two Charlie Whitehurst passes (is Whitehurst the Bruiser Kinard of quarterbacks, or is Bruiser Kinard the Charlie Whitehurst of kickers?). The Tigers started Johnny Butler at quarterback, but head coach Kubale/Cawthon/Bridges replaced him with Kenny Fryer midway through the second quarter, after Butler completed only 3 of 10 passes. The gamble paid off, as Fryer hit Ray Hare for a 64-yard game-winning touchdown with 1:20 left in the game. Kenny Fryer was later fined $75,000 by Roger Goodell for smoking a cigarette while leading the final drive.
So there you have it. New Orleans and Philadelphia will advance in the NFC, Kansas City and New York in the AFC. Empty your Bodog accounts on these picks, kids, and stay tuned for next week, when Tom Brady goes up against Y.A. Tittle in the gunslinger matchup we’ve all been waiting for!
Special thanks on this piece to Carson Cistulli, for his awesome NLCS “preemptive review” that inspired this one (it’s also WAY better, so go read it); to WhatifSports.com for the incredible site; and for Bruiser Kinard, for being you.