- - Sunday, January 8, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Roger Goodell — you know, the NFL commissioner who appears to have gone into his Fortress of Solitude — has Aaron Rodgers to thank for salvaging a bad hand for the league on wild card weekend.

After three games with lopsided scores, lack of drama and the continuous story that has plagued the NFL of poor officiating, the Green Bay Packers‘ future Hall of Fame quarterback reminded everyone that the playoffs are supposed to feature the best the league has to offer by leading his team to an impressive 38-13 win over the New York Giants in the final wild card game of the weekend Sunday.

Though the final score was the most lopsided of the four games over the weekend, the Packers-Giants game was the only one with any juice or drama, perhaps turning on the final play of the first half.

After being outplayed by the Giants for nearly the entire first half, the Packers came back to score two touchdowns with 2:20 left in the half — including the remarkable 42-yard touchdown Hail Mary pass from Rodgers to Randall Cobb in the end zone with six seconds left to give Green Bay a 14-6 lead.

When they came out for the second half, it was the Aaron Rodgers show. The future Hall of Fame quarterback, who led the league with 40 touchdown passes and just seven interceptions, finished a maestro performance by completing 25 out of 40 passes for 362 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. His counterpart, Eli Manning, struggled, completing just 23 of 44 passes for 290 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Several of those incomplete passes were drops from the great O’Dell Beckham, whose boat trip to Miami Monday following the Giants’ 19-10 win over a pathetic Washington Redskins team the day before will now become the most famous boat trip since Gilligan went on a three-hour cruise. After posting photos of himself and teammates enjoying the Miami sunshine, Beckham will now be vilified for partying his way to a poor performance against the Packers — no matter how ridiculous the notion may be that a boat trip seven days earlier would have an impact on his performance in a playoff game.

Even Fox announcers Joe Buck and Troy Aikman took him to task for the sea excursion after he failed to bring in an errant pass from Manning — even though it was a terrible throw.

No, this game will forever be known as the one the Giants lost at sea.

The rest of wild card weekend was all wet.

You had the Houston Texans playing with their high-priced benched quarterback, Brock Osweiler, instead of the backup they would have preferred to play, Tom Savage, who was sidelined with a concussion. Then you had the Oakland Raiders, who not only had lost their starting quarterback, MVP candidate Derek Carr, to a season-ending broken leg two weeks ago, but also their backup, Matt McGloin, to a shoulder injury in the season finale. They started their third-string quarterback, rookie Connor Cook, and, based on the conservative game plan against Houston, the only one more scared than Cook about playing Saturday was his head coach, Jack Del Rio. Houston dominated in an unwatchable 27-14 win.

The second Saturday game was nearly as unwatchable, as the Seattle Seahawks easily disposed of the Detroit Lions 26-6, in a game where Lions coach Jim Caldwell spent much of the post-game listening to officials apologizing for the wrong penalty calls they made — all of them against Detroit. Not that Seattle needed much help against the Lions, who, despite making the playoffs, had not beaten a playoff team all year — 0-5 against teams that had made the NFL postseason.

The Sunday opener featured another team, the Miami Dolphins, playing without their starting quarterback, as Ryan Tannehill has been out with an injured left knee. His backup, Matt Moore, wasn’t up to task, and appeared to be nearly killed by a hit to the head from Pittsburgh linebacker Bud DuPree. Yet he missed just one play, coming back to preside over the Dolphins 30-13 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

So much for Goodell’s concussion protocol.

This coming weekend should be more worthy of playoff football. We get a Dallas Cowboys-Packers rematch Sunday afternoon, always worthy of the price of a ticket. We get Seattle facing the high-powered Atlanta Falcons and Kyle Shanahan’s offense on Saturday afternoon.

We get the Steelers facing the Kansas City Chiefs early Sunday afternoon, which should be a bruising affair. And we get the New England Patriots Saturday night as they march through the Texans, perhaps on their way another Super Bowl championship.

Then Roger Goodell will have to resurface to present the Lombardi trophy to the team he declared war on in Deflategate.

Who doesn’t want to see that?

⦁ Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes and Google Play.

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