If there is already one story line I’m already sick of in the 2010-2011 season playoffs, it’s that the 7-9 regular season record — yet NFC West champs — Seattle Seahawks don’t deserve to be in the postseason, much less upsetting the Saints in the Wild Card. It has been suggested in many quarters that perhaps the NFL should look to Canadian Football League playoffs and their system of “crossing-over” teams with winning records from the East to the West divisions for a balanced and fair postseason, or more accurately, usually a team from the West ends up in the East. Or perhaps the teams should be re-seeded in the postseason.
The Seahawks now travel to Chicago in the divisional round to face a Bears team they beat on the road in Week 6. And here’s a scary thought for the rest of the NFL, especially the ones who believe that no 7-9 team should have made the playoffs in the first place: If the Seahawks beat the Bears again, and the Green Bay Packers defeat the Atlanta Falcons in the Georgia Dome on Saturday night, the road to the Super Bowl would go through Qwest Field, as the four-seed Seahawks would host the six-seed Packers in the NFC championship game.
Is there a better argument for re-seeding than this? Probably not, but Seahawks fans don’t seem to care.
Poppycock. To take away the advantage of winning a division, no matter how weak, makes divisional games less meaningful. Not only that, it also takes away the importance of a good road game. Green Bay’s 10-6 overall record and 4-2 divisional record looks impressive, but when you look a little deeper at their 7-1 home record, you see some very tight wins over teams like the Lions (28-26, who they would later lose to in Detroit in a 7-3 final) and an anemic 3-5 road record with additional losses to Washington, Chicago, New England and Atlanta.
What sticks out from that road loss record? Losing to Chicago in September, 20-17. Win that game on the road, tie with the Bears and go by strength of schedule. Win against the Lions on the road. Win both those games and don’t have this conversation. Colts won their division 4-2, as did the Eagles and the Chiefs. The Ravens, Saints and Jets earned Wild Card spots with a 4-2 divisional records. If any team was going to make the argument for postseason crossovers, it would have been Kansas City, who took the AFC West with a sad 6-6 conference record and a pathetic 2-4 divisional showing, and, like the Packers, a tough 3-5 road record hidden deep underneath their shiny 10-6 overall regular season finish. Fortunately for all of us, they did the world a favor and remembered they haven’t won squat since the Montana-Clinton era.
So with all apologies to the cranky Giants and Bucs fans out there, I find it hard to hear the argument that Seattle — a team I still loathe after the Super Bowl XL — doesn’t belong in the playoffs without undermining the importance of divisional play. Divisional games that give the fans some of the best rivalries in the NFL, which have already turned the heat up in the AFC race and has everyone in the Midwest holding their brat hoping for a Packers-Bears NFC final.
There is nothing to be gained by taking away divisional play or “crossing over” teams with better records, it just sanitizes the excitement and unpredictability further out of the league, the some of the worst hallmarks of the Goodell era.
Cheddar Herb Potato Chips
Over the summer, I inherited a couple of my grandmother’s old cookbooks. Like most cooks from her generation, her cookbook collection wasn’t based around celebrity chefs and famous restaurants, it mostly consisted of regional self-published works from area women’s groups, horticultural societies and civic associations, with maybe one kitchen bible tossed in for reference. The majority of these community cookbooks share a light conversational style, rarely feature ingredients that cost more than $10 other than meat, poultry or fish, and teach you everything you ever wanted to know about aspics but were afraid to ask.
They are also good for recipes for cocktail parties, card games, or as this cookbook from the Western Reserve Herb Society of Cleveland, Ohio calls it in their 1969 cookbook Savory Seasonings, The Living Room Course.
Savory Seasonings reminded of an old appetizer trick I learned while working in a restaurant one summer during college; doll up your potato chips.
Obviously both me and my grandmother had some problems with how this recipe as it was printed. She wanted to make sure the chips went into the oven. I don’t believe in burying the lead, if there is cheese in the dish you smack that information right up there in the headline.
Regardless of how the recipe is printed, once you start making your own seasoned chips, you’ll never want to buy a bag of over-salted Ranch Cheddar Chipotle Sour Cream Dill BBQ Midnight Snackers ever again.
You will need…
One large bag of plain potato chips, preferably kettle style.
2-3 teaspoons of fresh herbs, finely chopped. I’ve had the best success with chives and thyme. Rosemary tends to overpower everything and not everyone likes sage.
A scant 1-2 tablespoons of finely grated sharp cheddar. This trick also works very nicely with crumbled blue cheese, or if you happen to be adverse to cheese or dairy, leave off completely.
Preheat your oven to 325º.
On a lined cookie sheet, spread out the chips and with a light hand, top with the cheese and herbs. Do not worry about hit every chip, do not worry that you haven’t put enough toppings on. Less is more here.
Bake until the cheese just starts to melt, about 3-5 minutes. Toss to coat the chips underneath the top layer and serve.
The chips get extra crunchy in the oven, the very light amount of cheese and herbs brighten the crispy potato flavor that is buried under in pre-seasoned mass market chips.
Sure, you could make your chips by hand. But with all the slicing and the peeling and the washing and the soaking in cold water and the flash frying in all that oil or baking — and usually when I try to bake chips, I burn them, why bother? (Unless you are already frying something else, but really, you have to make the chips first so they have the cleanest oil.) I say, take this shortcut on game day. There is football to watch.