Saturday, January 8, 8:00pm: New York Jets vs. Indianapolis Colts
The Jets started the year by inviting HBO's cameras to make a documentary series out of their training camp, and the drama has continued through the season. The most interesting person on the team is their coach, the delightfully named Rex Ryan. His latest mini-scandal involves a YouTube clip apparently featuring Rex and his wife, which plays like the (SFW) first act of a foot-fetish-meets-naughty-traffic-cop amateur porno. Win or lose, this game will be a referendum on the coach's personality. If they lose, everyone will talk about the “distractions” that the coach let into the locker room. If they win, it'll prove that Rex's peccadilloes are just the flip side of the outsize charisma that has inspired a lot of loyalty from his players.What To Know About Foot Fetishes
The Colts beat the Jets in the playoffs last year to make the Super Bowl—but they're not nearly as good a team this year, since practically half their roster is out with concussions and broken bones. Lucky for Indy they have Peyton Manning, one of the best quarterbacks ever to play the game and also one of the nerdiest. He studies video footage of himself and his opponents more than anyone else. As a result, even before a play begins, he can recognize weaknesses in the other team's defensive formation that are invisible to others. During the week he leads his teammates in classroom video lectures, and sometimes on TV you'll see a shot of him giving a short lesson on the sidelines. Root for Peyton and the Colts if you're a Type A overachiever who likes to see hard work pay off, no matter how much your lesser colleagues hold you back.
Sunday, January 9, 1:00pm: Baltimore Ravens vs. Kansas City Chiefs
The Ravens' team color is purple and they are the only NFL franchise named after a poem (“The Raven,” by Edgar Allen Poe, who lived in Baltimore), but those are by far the least intimidating things about this team. The most intimidating are two players named Ray. On defense, Ray Lewis is one of the hardest-hitting tacklers in the game and is also a rehabilitated murder suspect. On offense, Baltimore's main guy is Ray Rice, a running back who likes to score touchdowns by running through people rather than around or away from them. Some football teams try to win with elegance or cleverness; the Ravens try to make the game, as much as possible, about violence. There's a kind of blue-collar honesty about this approach that seems to fit the city of Baltimore. To a casual spectator, however, Ravens games tend to look—even more so than most football games—like huge men trying to hurt one another.
The girly colors and poetry of the Ravens' curious branding decisions would be a better fit for the Chiefs and their baby-faced goofball of a quarterback, Matt Cassel. This is not your typical tough-guy jock. He's a family man who married his college sweetheart, herself a former USC volleyball player, and recently had a daughter. He's also unafraid to embarrass himself with a little karaoke or dancing. Cassel is not the Chiefs' best player by a long shot—that would be Jamaal Charles, the running back—but Ray Lewis and the Ravens are really good at stopping running backs, so the Chiefs will need to pass the ball in order to win, which means the team's fortunes are likely riding on Cassel. Thankfully for Kansas City the game will not be decided by a dance-off.