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Pro picks

So few games, so many compelling stories

Email|Print| Text size + By Jim McCabe
Globe Staff / January 4, 2008

With only four games, and not the usual complement of 16, on tap this weekend, one might wonder how the networks will keep their 937 analysts, studio hosts, and former coaches busy. After all, it's not like they'll cut down on the pre-pregame, pregame, in-game, postgame, and post-postgame shows. To the contrary, the networks are beefing up their pre-pregame, pregame, in-game, postgame, and post-postgame shows, because this is the playoffs.

"Playoffs? Don't talk about . . . playoffs? You kidding me? Playoffs?"

Well, yeah, Jim Mora, we have reached the playoffs and while the NFL pool has been trimmed from 32 teams to 12, the story lines remain endless for the networks, which is a good thing because their roster of analysts, studio hosts, and former coaches hasn't been diminished. Thus they can tackle these compelling subplots:

Just how will the Steelers manage? After all, they're missing the Smiths - Aaron and Marvel - and while they're not related, nor do they have anything to do with the famous cough drops, they are standout performers at defensive end and left tackle, respectively. Their talents will not be of any help to Pittsburgh, which is also missing right tackle Max Starks and linebacker Clint Kriewaldt, while a handful of other players, including Troy Polamalu (knee), Hines Ward (knee), and Allen Rossum (hamstring) are hobbled. Meanwhile, Franco Harris and Lynn Swann are still retired, Bobby Layne remains dead, and Anthony Smith has left the team to consult for Las Vegas betting parlors.

If you combined the famed "Cover 2" with the famed "Tampa 2" and the famed "2 Gap," you would have six, but would you have egg roll? Former receivers debate the issue.

Should the winner of the NFC South get an invitation to the playoffs? Former running backs will argue both sides of the case.

Visit the world of Mercury Morris and discover how very little he has to do except appear on radio and TV talk shows.

Andrea Kremer will discuss her new book, "I Was Interviewing Tom Brady, It Only Looks Like I Was Flirting - And Other Sideline Tales."

Other sideline reporters (Pam Oliver, Bonnie Bernstein, Michele Tafoya, and Armen Keteyian) will take viewers on a shopping trip, showing them how they select wardrobes on budgets that must be kept within $25,000.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank will talk about candidates 17 through 23 for his team's head coaching job, one of whom is a 15-year-old master champion in a friend's fantasy league. Blank tells a network reporter: "He has an uncanny ability to judge talent."

The picks
Washington at Seattle (-3 1/2)
- When the Redskins defend the pass, they rely a lot on Fred Smoot and often I've wondered about him. Mostly, is he a real "smoot," meaning 5 feet 7 inches? That is the standard measure of a "smoot" as established by MIT students in 1958. By using classmate Oliver Smoot's 5-7 frame, they determined that the Harvard Bridge is 364.4 "smoots." Just as 12 inches equal 1 foot and 3 feet equal 1 yard, 1 smoot equals 5 feet 7 inches. It's been accepted for nearly 50 years now, so where do the Redskins come off pushing their 5-11 cornerback as something he's not. He's not a smoot. Pick: Seahawks.

Jacksonville (-2 1/2) at Pittsburgh - The Steelers have signed Jeremy Bloom to their practice squad. Just in case the turf at Heinz Field develops treacherous moguls. Pick: Steelers.

NY Giants at Tampa Bay (-3) - It's rare for an NFL playoff game to struggle for a sellout, but here's one. There is, however, a logical explanation. At 1 p.m., it comes just as the breakfast crowd from the Waffle House is spilling into Hooters for lunch. Football's the last thing on their mind. Pick: Giants.

Tennessee at San Diego (-9 1/2) - Just a few weeks ago these teams met in Nashville and what chaos. San Diego's Shawne Merriman made questionable contact with Tennessee quarterback Vince Young, which prompted two Titans - Kevin Mawae and David Stewart - to take runs at Merriman. LaDainian Tomlinson got flagged for a personal foul, teammate Shaun Phillips got fined for a horse-collar tackle, and civility didn't come into view until Vince McMahon, Chief Jay Strongbow, Haystacks Calhoun, Killer Kowalski, Professor Toru Tanaka, the Iron Sheik, and Ivan Putski took over the officiating duties. Pick: Chargers.

Last week: 9-7.

Season: 109-131-8.

Jim McCabe can be reached at jmccabe@globe.com.

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