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Quick – check your Super Bowl bracket

Just think, if the NFL allowed 56 more teams in the playoffs, we would all be comparing our Super Bowl brackets right now.

Why don’t we have more office Super Bowl brackets?

With only 12 teams, you would immediately have a better chance of winning than you do in March when everybody – even the president – fills out a bracket. If you were in a Super Bowl pool this year, would anyone pick the Bengals to win it all?

Would anyone have picked the New York Giants when the Super Bowl tournament started last season?

There’s a science to picking NFL games as any devoted reader of the Friday Forecast understands. It involves extensive research, film study and sometimes as much as 45 minutes to put all of this together.

Without a tournament bracket to go through, let’s just look at the wildcard weekend.

CINCINNATI at HOUSTON: Is it me or does this sound more like a Tuesday night baseball game in June than an NFL playoff game?

This is Cincinnati’s second straight playoff appearance, which might pale next to New England’s resume but it looks pretty good from here, where the Panthers are still trying to put together consecutive winning seasons for the first time.

The Bengals used to be the punch line to every NFL joke. Now it’s the Jets.

Houston, meanwhile, has gone flat. The Texans looked virtually unbeatable for a while. Now they don’t look much different from the Bengals, except they have better uniforms. I’m not giving up on the Texans … yet. Houston 31, Bengals 21.

INDIANAPOLIS at BALTIMORE: It’s easy – and sometimes wise – to be cynical about sports. The NFL, as everyone in it knows, is a business. Win and you keep your job. Lose and you’re treated like old sneakers. Ask Ken Whisenhunt, Romeo Crennell, Pat Shurmur … shall I continue?

Then Chuck Pagano, Bruce Arians and Andrew Luck come along with a story that’s fresh out of the Disney writers’ compound.

It would be the definition of cheesy were it not so real – head coach faces a life-threatening illness, his assistant steps in and with a remarkable rookie quarterback leads the team that had the worst record in the NFL a year ago into the playoffs.

Head coach returns just in time for the playoffs, winning his own game, and there are more tears than at a Friday night showing of “Les Miserables.”

The next chapter is facing the Ravens on the road.

Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, the Dick Butkus of his era, announced this week that he will retire at the end of this, his 17th, season. This has become the spaghetti junction of story lines. Sorry to give away the ending but … Ravens 21, Colts 18.

SEATTLE at WASHINGTON: Here’s how good Robert Griffin III is – a friend of mine who disavowed his lifetime allegiance to the Redskins when Daniel Snyder bought the franchise has been pulled back into Redskins nation because of their new quarterback.

Winning – and a nearly impossible to tackle, dreadlocked quarterback with a smile as bright as a Times Square billboard – is chicken soup for the football fan’s soul apparently.

One problem for the Redskins this weekend: The Seahawks are pretty good.

In most seasons, Russell Wilson would be rookie of the year. But this isn’t most seasons.

RG III is flash and dazzle. Wilson is jeans and a sweatshirt. Both work. This weekend, the casual look works better. Seahawks 23, Redskins 17.

MINNESOTA at GREEN BAY: Football as it should be – a frosty 20 degrees or so at kickoff in a Packers/Lambeau Field playoff game against one of their biggest rivals. Of course, I don’t have to sit outside in the arctic chill to watch.

The Vikings’ Adrian Peterson is a wonder but so is Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. The Packers went flat in the playoffs last season and they lost to Minnesota on Sunday, which is why they don’t have this weekend off. Hey Rodgers, discount double check. Packers 27, Vikings 13.

Last week: 12-4

Season: 152-84

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