Divisional Round picks: Wanna get away?

Jim Vallet and Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter

We’ve all been there. 

You just did or said something that immediately went bad, and made you look like a fool. And now, it’s too late to take back.

Southwest Airlines made this into an advertising campaign a few years ago by portraying someone doing or saying something he immediately regretted, and an off camera voice asks, “Wanna get away?”


I still remember when I was 5 years old, and my cousin was getting married. The night before, my parents and their friends were laughingly asking each other how long it would be until she had a baby. They were all laughing so hard I thought it would be funny to ask my cousin that question as she was getting dressed to be married. Since she didn’t reply when I asked the first time, I thought she hadn’t heard me (it was SO funny the night before) so I repeated the question. Even though I didn’t know why, I knew from everyone’s reaction that I had just had my first “Wanna get away” moment.

Thirteen years later, I got a job as a car parker at a popular restaurant, a job I would prove to be incredibly unsuited for. Twice, I smashed customers’ cars into other customers’ cars with the customers watching. I didn’t last long at that job, but I couldn’t (and didn’t) get away fast enough.

I am sure President Bush felt that way when the door he went to exit turned out to be a fake door, or while ducking when an Iraqi reporter threw a shoe at him. President Ford no doubt had similar feelings when he fell down the stairs of Air Force One or when he shanked a golf ball off a female spectator’s head. And, I have no doubt many of today’s politicians can’t wait to exit from embarrassing questions from the press.

How about when you rear end another car, or stall the manual transmission vehicle on a hill at a light, or fail to parallel park with a line of waiting cars behind you? In one way or another, we’ve all had those moments.

For most of us, these moments did not happen on national TV. Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers was not so lucky.

Last Monday night, Akers had a ferocious helmet to helmet contact with Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker. Akers immediately jumped up from the contact, but Baker did not. As he was walking over the prone player, Akers motioned for Baker to stay lying down. To me, although not good sportsmanship, it was done in the heat of the moment in the middle of what was a very chippy game, with several unsportsmanlike conduct and unnecessary roughness penalties called on both teams.

The problem is, Baker did not get up because he couldn’t. He was hurt, and, at that point, no one knew how badly. As Baker remained prone, several Cardinals vociferously voiced their displeasure to Akers, who was obviously upset about the injury and, I hope, his “stay down” gestures. I did not see any of Akers’ teammates coming to his defense, and I would not have, either. Baker left the field on a stretcher and an ambulance immediately took him to a hospital. 

After spending the night in the hospital, Budda Baker was released on Tuesday morning and doctors determined that he was well enough to be allowed to fly back to Arizona. 

All’s well that ends well? Maybe. But how long is it until one of the stupid celebrations over a fallen opponent in the NFL these days turns out to be over someone who is seriously hurt? Cam Akers appeared to be remorseful, Buddha Baker was a willing participant in his injury, and I could not find any record of misdeeds on Akers’ part, but what he did immediately afterward could have turned him into an all-time sports villain had Baker’s injury been more serious. 

What would you do if Budda Baker was your high school son and an opponent did what Cam Akers did? Please NFL players, control your emotions, because unlike most of us, your “wanna get away” moments are on national TV. If the players won’t control themselves, the NFL will have to go further to control its players, because impressionable eyes are watching.

I guess maybe I’m asking for too much from NFL players. They are from a society that elects leaders that build themselves up by putting others down. But then again, maybe sports can lead the way to a better society.

Last week was good for me, with my picks going 5-1. Before you bet the house on one of my picks, though, realize that the one game I picked wrong was New England over Buffalo. There’s just no excuse.

The NFL has to be concerned over what happened during “Super Wildcard Weekend”. Four of the six games had teams that looked like they wanted to get away and were totally noncompetitive by the second quarter. I’ll bet advertising executives were hearing TVs being turned off all across the country. Last weekend really put a dent into the NFL’s “parity” claim, and I wonder if some of the regular season game results were more because of scheduling than because of parity. Or, maybe too many teams were let into the playoffs.

Whatever, most of the riff-raff should be in the same spot as me next weekend, on the couch, with drinks and snacks at the ready. Because of the uncertain status of so many key players in the San Francisco-Green Bay game as of when I’m writing this, I cannot make a pick in that one. Here are my picks against the spread. Lines are from on Tuesday, Jan 18.

Tennessee Titans (-3 ½) vs. Cincinnati Bengals: The Titans play a lot of big games close, so giving the extra ½ point worries me.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3) vs Los Angeles Rams: The Rams won Monday night, but I think they won because of the total ineptitude of the Cardinals. To me, the Rams have not yet proved they can win a tough one. The team they are playing, though, has.

Buffalo Bills (+2 ½) at Kansas City Chiefs: The NFL is certainly saving its best for last. The Chiefs have proved that they know how to win, but the Bills seem to be ready to take the next step towards a championship.

Robert’s picks

Titans (-3 1/2) over Bengals: Hooray for the Bengals for getting their first playoff win in 31 years. They’re a fun, entertaining team to watch, with Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase reliving their LSU days. But their defense is decimated by injuries, and now here comes the most physical team in the AFC, plus Derrick Henry is returning, to boot. The Titans aren’t flashy, so they don’t get the hype, but they’re solid across the board, and still managed to go 6-3 without Henry, even while missing their top two wide receivers for much of that time. A workmanlike team picks up a workman like win.

49ers (+6) over Packers: So much going on with this one. Can the 49ers win their third straight game on the road against teams that won at least 12 regular season games? Is Jimmy Garoppolo’s arm going to fall off. Will the 49ers need to bring in Trey Lance? Can their secondary hold up against Rodgers and Davante Adams? Is this going to be Rodgers’ last game with the Packers if they lose? And the big question. Who is going to win? I don’t have a clue, and when that’s the case, I’ll take plus six.

Buccaneers (-3) over Rams: When it boils right down to it, I don’t trust Matthew Stafford enough to bet on him against Tom Brady in a playoff game. But one thing really bothers me about this line. The first books that opened this up made it Buccs -2 ½, surely knowing all the early bettors would take the Buccs and move the line to 3. I think 3 is the right line, but it seems like the bookmakers intentionally set it low to get a deluge of Buccs money in hand. That has me thinking Rams, except I’d never forgive myself for losing on Stafford against Brady.

Bills (-2) over Chiefs: It’s too bad this game isn’t next week for the AFC Championship, because these are the two best teams in the AFC. After their little lull late in the season, the Bills are on a serious roll, and the main reason is they started running the ball effectively with their running backs, and not just relying on Josh Allen. That, of course, has made Allen even more effective. The Bills have been on the verge before, and I think they’re a more complete team than the Chiefs and will find a way to break through this time.

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