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Where the Buck Stops...By Buck Churchill

.What a weekend for football. Chief Bet Manager of

You brought the New Year in with a bang, celebrating with friends and family members, toasting to prosperity, health and happiness for the year to come. made your resolution and now what can you look forward to but one of the best weekends of football games in recent memory.

It all starts Friday night with the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl between Miami and Ohio State to determine the new national champion. Will Miami repeat as undefeated national champions or will Ohio State pull off the upset and bring the Sears Trophy home to the Buckeye State? Whatever the outcome of the game is, one thing for sure is that there will be an undisputed BCS champion and postpone any discussion about the system.s faults until next fall. At, we had the opening line on the game with Miami as a 13 point favorite, but since then the line has moved and Ohio State enters the game as a decisive 12 point underdog. It should be an entertaining contest and like past national championship games, this year.s game will feature some of the best players in college football in Ken Dorsey, Willis McGahee, Maurice Clarett and Chris Gamble. Two undefeated national powerhouses battling for 60 minutes, this national championship game should be a good one.

So Friday is over and the national championship has been played, but there is no rest for any true football fan because the NFL playoffs are kicking off. Wild card weekend should be just that, wild. Of the four games, two involve traditional division rivals (Steelers vs. Browns and the Jets vs. Colts), one includes two teams with a playoff history (49ers vs. Giants) and the other features two of the best quarterbacks in the game (Packers vs. Falcons). Familiarity should play a big role this weekend and we could see a lot of close games . three of the games are meetings of teams that faced each other in the regular season and the fourth is a game between two teams that met twice a season until realignment this season.

One thing that is certain, the four teams with byes this week will be watching the games very closely. Oakland, Tennessee, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia will host the divisional playoff games next weekend after clinching the best records in their conferences in the final weekend of the season, with Oakland and Philadelphia clinching home field advantage throughout the playoffs. At, we listed those two teams as co-favorites to win this year.s Super Bowl at 5/2 odds with Tampa Bay and Tennessee closely behind them at 5/1 and 6/1 odds respectively. Some interesting historical facts about home field advantage have come to our attention however; it seems that in the NFC, being at home in the playoffs means everything while in the AFC home field means nothing. Since 1990, only four teams that had home field advantage in the AFC even made it to the Super Bowl (Denver in 1998, Buffalo in 1993, 1991 and 1990) and only one of those four won the championship (Denver in 1998 over Atlanta). On the flip side, eight teams with home field advantage in the NFC have made it to the Super Bowl in that same time period including the last three participants from the conference.

Another interesting trend of late involves wild card teams emerging as world champions. The old clichélways seemed to be that wild card teams would be around for a weekend or two, but could never overcome playing on the road in January, but now wild card teams seem to have as much chance as any to win the Super Bowl. Two of the last four champions have been wild card teams from the AFC . Denver in Super Bowl XXXII and Baltimore in Super Bowl XXXV . and another wild card team from the AFC played in one of the most memorable Super Bowls in history (Tennessee in Super Bowl XXXIV vs. St. Louis). Parity in the NFL has never been more prevalent than this season when entering the final week of the season more teams than ever were still in contention for a spot in the playoffs.

It wouldn.t be too big of a surprise if one of the wild card teams made it all the way to San Diego and one wild card team that immediately comes to mind is the New York Giants. Arguably playing the best football of any team in the NFC, the Giants completely dominated a Donovan McNabb-less Eagles team that has wrapped up home field advantage throughout before winning in overtime last week. The only team in the playoffs playing better football than the Giants is that other team from New York, the Jets. The J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets, are coming off of wins over the defending Super Bowl champs on the road and the Brett Favre-led Packers at home in which they outscored their opponents 72-34. But fans of the teams from the Big Apple shouldn.t get too excited about a .New York, New York. Super Bowl; the odds on the Jets and Giants meeting in the Super Bowl are 70/1 here at

The weekend will only be the beginning of exciting action and terrific storylines for football fans to follow. In Green Bay you have one of the best quarterback in league history in Brett Favre facing the quarterback that may change the position for ever in Michael Vick. Looking ahead, you could potentially have Jon Gruden facing his former team, the Raiders, in the Super Bowl. Imagine two unlikely starting quarterbacks, Tommy Maddox and Chad Pennington, facing off in the AFC championship game or seeing Jerry Rice burning the 49ers secondary for touchdowns in San Diego while leading the Raiders to a Super Bowl victory. The playoffs are a time of unlikely heroes and memorable plays and this weekend is set to be the perfect beginning of unforgettable football in January. Enjoy the action this weekend and Happy New Year.

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