This column appeared in the Arizona Daily Sun on Jan. 8, 2005.

Two old pals analyze NFL playoff matchups

By Ed Odeven

“Wake up, knucklehead,” Frankie Luigi shouts as I picked up the telephone yesterday.

“Yeah, right,” I say. “It’s too early, man.”

“Do you know what time it is?”

“Time to talk some football, wise guy,” I say, reluctantly. “Well, let me pretend that I’m awake, buddy. It’s 7:23 a.m. You know darn well I’m a night owl.”

“Stop whining, man.”

“Yeah, whatever,” I blurt out, insisting he holds on for a minute while I pour a cup of coffee.

Two cups later, I begin to feel that my brain will allow me to carry on a normal conversation — and to chastise him for forgetting about the two-hour time difference between Hoboken, N.J., to Flagstaff.

“Hey, Frankie, do you think the Jets have a chance against the Chargers?”

“Uh, yeah,” he decides. “Everyone knows Marty Schottenheimer’s clubs have found the most notorious ways to lose games in the past. ‘The Drive’ and ‘The Fumble’ are unforgettable chapters in the annals of the NFL.”

“Maybe Schotty is jinxed. Maybe he’s predestined to be the Gene Mauch of the NFL.”

“Who’ll win the Rams-Seahawks contest?” he asks.

“Man, that’s a tough one. Neither team is that impressive. But I will say this: Shaun Alexander is the X-factor. If he runs wild, Seattle wins big.”

“I’m picking the Rams to win, but it’ll be close,” Frankie informs me. “Call it Shaun McDonald’s breakout game as a pro. Why? Well, the Seattle secondary will focus all its time and energy on stopping Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, leaving the ex-Sun Devil wide open.”

“Does Denver have any chance against Indy?” I wonder.

“No way, Einstein, unless Peyton Manning decides to do his best Ryan Leaf impersonation.”

“I agree. The Colts will coast to victory. It’s one and done for Plummer and Co.”

“In Sunday’s late game, Randy Moss will swallow his pride and atone for his utterly stupid action — walking off the field in the closing seconds of last week’s road loss against the Redskins — and lead the Vikings past Green Bay,” Frankie opines. “He’ll finish with 200 or so yards receiving and three touchdowns.”

“Are you crazy?!” I say. “The Vikes are 2-20 in outdoor stadiums since 2000. And they are playing at Lambeau Field tomorrow. What makes you so sure they’ll beat the Pack?

“Call it a hunch,” he offers. “Daunte Culpepper plays awfully well against the Packers. I looked it up. He’s thrown for 2,100-plus yards and 21 TDs against seven interceptions in nine career games against Green Bay.”

“Here’s my take: The Vikings are one of the league’s worst defenses, ranked 28th overall to be precise. They cant stop anybody. That means Ahman Green will run through, over and around the Vikings D. That means Brett Favre will have time to make big plays. That means the Green Bay offense will control the clock. That means the Minnesota defense will be on the field for a long, long time.”

“But it’ll be a close game, right?” Frankie inquires.

“Absolutely. Both games this year were decided by three points, on Ryan Longwell field goals, as time expired. … But I guess we’ll agree to disagree on the outcome.”

This conversation could go on all day. But we’ve both got things to do, so we quickly switch to another one of our favorite topics — restaurants.

“So, Frankie, what’re you havin’ for lunch?”

“Take a wild guess, Inspector Clouseau. I’m headed to Vitamia & Sons Ravioli Co. — you know, the place in Lodi.”

“And you?” he wonders

“Chicken tacos, rice and black beans from Burritos Fiesta, and a large strawberry horchata. If you ever visit Flagstaff. … I’ll treat you to lunch there. Everything on the menu is delicious.”

“I’ll take that as a hint,” he chimes in. “By the way, I’m headed out west on a road trip in May.”

“You’re not so dumb after all,” I tell him, laughing.

“Just don’t call me at 7:23 a.m.”