Belfast Telegraph

Billy on the Box: Play-off time in the NFL

NFL - that's American Football to the uninitiated. And wildcard weekend meant four live games over two nights on Sky Sports.

But if you couldn't spare the time or feared the looming menace that is presenter Kevin Cadle, there was a more bite-size alternative on offer on the BBC, albeit 24 hours after huge wobbly men had stopped sweating (no, not the darts) and at the primetime slot of twenty to one in the morning.

You have to feel sorry for Five, they sit up late all year and no-one cares and suddenly you get to the important bit of the season and the BBC rampage in like William Perry getting ripped into a Smeg.

Normally I baulk at the Beeb's efforts to embrace US sports as there's still the tendency to present it in a Blue Peter kind of way that treats everyone like a brain-damaged whelk.

Of course this is a British trait, remember ITV had Martin Johnson as a pundit on the Superbowl one year.

No, the Beeb went for a natural choice of presenter in Matt Roberts, the bloke who does the post-race interviews on MotoGP, or in other words the bits you don't watch because Suzi Perry isn't flouncing about looking lovely.

His sidekick though is no new skid on the block, it was Mike Carlson, Five's resident analyst and now doing more than the channel is and making it into post-season with the Beeb.

The first thing to notice was that Matt had gone down the Jamie Redknapp route with a pair of fine shiny trousers that may not have had a tight end but they certainly were straining at the front.

Mike, to his credit, kept his eyes on the ball games, all four of them, and first up was the visit of Green Bay Packers to Arizona Cardinals, and what an epic it proved to be.

Having leapt into a huge early lead, thanks to a touchdown from Hightower — good to see his career has flourished post-Police Academy — there was a real danger of a Cardinal collapse we haven't seen the like of since the Pope's recent dander at the Vatican.

This time, though, the ones in red were the winners and now take on the Saints in the next stage, no doubt for the right to face the Acts of the Apostles in the NFC decider.

Next up we had the Baltimore Ravens (who comes up with these daft names?) who travelled to face the New England Patriots in temperatures as frosty as the Robinsons breakfast bar and that would have had penguins reaching for a pair of slippers.

Despite the fact that it was played in minus several and there were mounds of ice stacked up around the stadium that would have had Kate Winslet panicking, the game went ahead, as they always seem to do in countries that don't grind to a halt when white stuff appears.

Clearly though Mike had been standing outside the Five

studio for too long and the cold had nibbled at his extremities as we came back from the game to hear the worst impression since Les Dennis on the Russ Abbott's Madhouse.

“Football is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get,” he said in his best Forrest Gump accent.

Yes you do, you'll get a hard centre. By the way, that's an American Football position.

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