Winter, and our thoughts turn to the NFL playoffs. Who can understand them? The division winners go. They go, don’t they? Yeah. I think . . . wait. Yeah. They go. But then come the dreaded wild-card spots. Four in all. Four wild cards? When we used to play poker as kids, we didn’t have that many wild cards. How are the wild-card berths determined? Is it most victories, or most points, or most head-to-head victories, or most head-to-head victories with points against common opponents within the conference on artificial turf against the spread, or what?

Wanna hear a secret? I don’t think anybody really knows. But since the Lions are involved in a possible playoff scenario, maybe we could suggest new criteria.

How about only teams with first-year coaches? This way the Lions could go.

Or how about only teams that play in domed stadiums? This way, no one would worry about snow in the playoffs. And the Lions could go.

How about only teams whose fans have suffered and agonized and pulled their hair out and occasionally kicked the dog while watching them? This would return something to the long-suffering fan. And, of course, the Lions could go.

Or how about only teams with blond-haired quarterbacks? Only teams within 25 miles of a Coney Island hot dog? Only teams whose mascots sang about courage in “The Wizard of Oz”?

Any of these would be good, and certainly easier to remember than the current system. And the Lions could go.

I will write Pete Rozelle tomorrow.

But for now, here are this week’s picks:

LIONS 56: Since the Lions already played this week, I am only picking a partial score.

RAMS 31, SAINTS 7: Son Of Bum go boom.

GIANTS 27, BROWNS 19: Bernie’s team go boom.

RAIDERS 24, FALCONS 14: I saw Lyle Alzado last week on Johnny Carson. He had a cast on his leg, and he was smiling. Smiling? Lyle Alzado? What’s going on? Smiling?

PATRIOTS 21, COLTS 17: Now, I’m picking New England to win, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Patriots lost. It would be just like them to lose. In fact, last week I picked them to win, because a fellow sports writer named Gene (Mean) Guidi told me they’d win, and they lost. I promised to publish Guidi’s home phone number if he were wrong, which he was, so I will. Dial 1-555-1212, ask for the French Foreign Legion. That’s where he was headed last.

PACKERS 20, BUCCANEERS 6: Battle of the Bays. Bays-icly boring.

EAGLES 26, VIKINGS 10: If I were a receiver, you know what name I’d want? Mike Quick. Who is that guy? Quick. No, I mean, what’s his name? Quick. I know he’s quick. Yes he is. But what’s his name? You said you knew it. What? Quick. But I can’t go any faster. Huh?

CHARGERS 34, BILLS 6: The Buffalo guys should ask whether they could just stay on in San Diego. It’s warm there, and only three weeks are left in the season.

BENGALS 21, OILERS 10: These teams are tied at 5-7 and both may stand a better chance of making the playoffs than the Lions. Figure that out.

STEELERS 10, BRONCOS 9: Elway on one side, Loou-ie on the other. Teeth vs. Lipps.

SEAHAWKS 23, CHIEFS 3: Thunder Dome.

49ERS 28, REDSKINS 10: Everybody says this will be a great game. A close game. A tight game. What do they know?

BEARS 28, DOLPHINS 17: Everybody says this will be a great game. A close game. A tight game. I say Jim McMahon is ready, just watch.

BEST PICK LAST WEEK: Raiders 17, Broncos 16. Raiders won, 31-28 in overtime.

WORST PICK LAST WEEK: Chargers 35, Oilers 7. Oilers won, 37-35.

RECORD LAST WEEK: 9-5. But, hey, I picked the Lions and Cowboys to win on Thanksgiving. So check out next week’s record.

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