It’s been my experience that the early rounds of the NFL playoffs lead to dead sports bars. Fans of the participating teams generally stay home, where they can hear better and won’t be bothered by people with only moderate interest in the game. And on top of that, it’s not like there are a ton of Texans or Bengals fans roaming around in their non-native habitats. I’m anticipating a non-raucous crowd today.


Just to get it on record before we start here, I’ll take the Bengals +4 (I’d take them to win outright, in fact), and the Packers to cover the 8.


In the first five minutes of the game, the Bengals defensive line is having their way. Running between the tackles is playing to the strength of the Bengals defense. It’s not really the Texans strong suit, either, so I don’t know why they spent their first drive doing it.


It’s even grimmer than I thought in here today. There are three people to my right, all at the bar by themselves, all looking miserable. I’m certainly not Captain Exuberance, either. The four of us look like test subjects made to sit and watch a series of puppy executions.


Houston starts to get it together on their next few drives. They’re throwing it around, running outside and mixing in some draws. The Bengals defense is on roller skates.


When is Mike Zimmer going to get a chance to be a head coach in the National Football League? Not that I have any sort of opinion on Mike Zimmer, but I feel like I’m obligated to say that any time I see the Bengals on television.


The Texans end up stalling out again. They’ve got a massive advantage in yardage, but they only lead 6-0. Doom has been foreshadowed.


On another TV, there’s a commercial for something called “The WaxVac.” It’s apparently this tool that you jam into your ear canal, and it sucks the wax out. Sounds safe to me! I had no idea this existed ‒ I don’t even know how this is legal. You can just sell a fucking vacuum cleaner you stick inside your ear?


Here comes the “BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!” portion of the commercial. I can’t wait to see this. The Belly Button Steam Cleaner? The Anus Mop? Bummer. It’s just another WaxVac. You get two of them for $10, so you know they’re a quality item with absolutely no safety risks.


I’m still reeling from the WaxVac when Matt Schaub drops back and throws a pick-six to Leon Hall. The quarterback looks like a chump on any outside throw that’s picked and housed, but I’m gonna go easy on Schaub here. Is it a throw Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers makes? Probably not, but it wasn’t some ridiculous Sanchezian mistake either. The throw was maybe a hair late, but credit Leon Hall for making a nice play there.


A dude at the bar, who I’m going to guess is in his 50s, gives a couple of packages of Skittles to the bartender, who looks maybe 20. This is one of those exchanges that’s fine if done at a bar, but suspicious if done in a windowless van.


And again, the Texans trip over their own dongs in the red zone. Their third field goal of the day makes it 9-7, which is not the lead you want to have when you’re outgaining your opponent 202-29. The Bengals offense has looked awful so far, but they didn’t get to the playoffs by kissing ass. They have occasionally shown glimpses of competence this season. This is a perfect recipe for a crushing Texans loss.


That said, it would probably help the Bengals cause if they remembered they had AJ Green, but hey, why make use of your best/only offensive weapon in a playoff game?


I’ve seen Brian Leonard get the ball five or six times this season, but every time I do, I still think, “Wow, Brian Leonard is still in the league.” I don’t know why this continues to surprise me.


At halftime, I start talking to the couple to my left, who are the only other two people in here paying attention to the game. She tells me that he and her gentleman companion have a bet on the game, but seems hesitant to tell me what’s on the line. You know what that means. Rimjobs.


The Bengals will start the second half with the ball, and come on, ‘Gals. Gimme a reason to believe here. Give me some indication that you can score a touchdown or two.


Three and out. Andy Dalton was running for his life on every play. This doesn’t look promising.


There’s a sign in the crowd that reads, “I LOVE SGT. (A soldier’s name) IN AFGHANISTAN (AND JJ WATT)”. I appreciate the spirit of the sign ‒ you support your man who’s serving overseas, and you also support the JJ Watt and the Texans. Terrific. I’m not suggesting anything untoward. But your man is in Afhganistan, sweetheart. In the desert, probably surrounded by dudes, with a dick drier than a bucket of sand. Maybe until he’s home, you could refrain from holding up signs indicating that you find some other dude attractive. It just seems the decent thing to do.


Andre Johnson finally beats Pacman Jones, getting the Texans a first down inside the five. This should set them up well for another field goal.


Houston momentarily forgets where they are on the field, and Arian Foster inadvertently stumbles across the goal line. We have our first offensive touchdown of the playoffs. It’s 16-7. The way things have gone, I’m gonna guess that that will be enough points for the Texans.


Breaking News: Christian Ponder can’t play. This evening in Lambeau, it’ll be Aaron Rodgers against Joe Webb. This doesn’t actually change my opinion of the game much. Joe Webb can hand off, right?


On the next Bengals drive, they remember they have AJ Green. He gets four targets this drive (he had zero previously), and what do you know, it worked. The Bengals get into field goal range for their first offensive points of the day.


An older fellow sits down next to me, picks up a menu and asks me, “What’s good here?” I don’t know, man. Try the roast duck with the roasted red rosemary potatoes. You’re at a Buffalo Wild Wings, sir. Nothing here is very good.


I’m repeating myself, and I will keep doing so until it’s rectified: JJ Watt’s finger wag is taunting. I’m not saying I want it to be taunting, but if a wide receiver scores a touchdown and shoots an awkward glance at someone, he’s called for taunting. By those standards, there’s no way a finger wag isn’t a taunt. Now, if I had my way, there’d be no limits on taunting ‒ I think you should be able to score, pull a cell phone out, call the beaten defender’s mother and accuse her of turning tricks for Big Macs, all played over the stadium PA system ‒ but if you’re going to call it, it should apply to everyone.


Andy Dalton is intercepted with 3:00 to play in the third. With 70% of the precincts reporting, MJD is calling this one for the Texans.


Apropos of nothing, Bruce Gradkowski grows an excellent beard.


The Texans turn the Andy Dalton interception into their customary field goal, pushing the lead to an insurmountable nine. And Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden is getting head coaching interviews?


The Bengals try a deep ball to AJ Green in the middle of the endzone, and he almost came up with it. In fact, the argument can be made that he should have come up with it. That would’ve turned this into a suddenly interesting game. Alas, it is not.


Say, you know who doesn’t have the look of an eventual Super Bowl Champion? Wade Phillips. So I’m kind of rooting for it to happen. Also, instead of a ring, I’d like him to have a championship belt. And a flamboyant, feathered, sequined robe. And he should wear both at all times.


CBS stat: Andy Dalton is currently 0-for-5 on third downs. There are some who say that quarterbacks earn their paychecks on third down. There are some who say that quarterbacks earn their paychecks in the playoffs. If you say either of those things, Andy Dalton owes you money.


With 4:17 to play, the Bengals are dead if they don’t convert this 3rd and 6. Make that 3rd and 11 ‒ Kevin Zeitler false started. No worries, though ‒ the Texans bail them out with a pass interference. This is championship football, right here.


A couple of minutes later, the Bengals again find themselves needing to convert a crucial 3rd and 11. They throw short to Marvin Jones. Short to Marvin Jones, as in, not deep to AJ Green.


Now, I know it’s not as simple as, “Hey, just throw the ball to AJ Green more!” I’m sure the Texans are making that difficult. But, you know … anything good that’s happened or come close to happening for the Bengals offense in this game has been because they’ve thrown to AJ Green. I’d rather die while forcing the ball to AJ Green than die while taking a safe, short completion to Marvin Jones.


So our first game has come to a close, with the Texans getting the win by virtue of death by field goals. I’m of the opinion that if you settle for a field goal four times in a playoff game, you should lose. And had the Texans been playing anyone other than the Bengals today, I believe they would have.


There’s about a half hour break between games, which is fine with me, because the NBC football crew is so dynamic and insightful. Hines Ward is every bit as good as Jerome Bettis was.


The atmosphere has picked up for the second game. This is a very, very pro-Faith Hill crowd. A couple of the gentlemen at the bar are fighting the urge to excuse themselves to the men’s room.


Again, it’s a more festive atmosphere for the late game. One guy yelled “GET HIS ASS!” ‒ twice ‒ on an opening kickoff return that lasted all of 27 yards. That’s too much ass-getting for 27 yards.


This game will start with a field goal, too, but it came on a fun drive. With Joe Webb under center, Leslie Frazier has gone full Rich Rodriguez. Option reads for the quarterback, where Adrian Peterson either gets extra room to run, or they swarm on AD, and Joe Webb gets to run. That first drive was 53 yards of pure college stuff. That was like watching the Fiesta or Cotton Bowl.


My highest compliments to Leslie Frazier and/or Bill Musgrave for working that out. That was good stuff.


The next time Joe Webb gets the ball, however, it’s not so pretty. On a 3rd and 2, he drops back (and there’s no way 3rd and 2 should be a passing down for this version of the Minnesota Vikings) and gets hemmed in, wrapped up, and then Jake Plummers a two-yard heave that, by all rights, should have been intercepted by a defensive lineman. Let’s not do that anymore, Joe Webb. In fact, let’s stop calling passing plays all together.


WooHoo! We have our second offensive touchdown of the day. This one comes on an impressive DuJuan Harris nine-yard run, but there’s a catch ‒ it made the last 28 seconds of the first quarter last six to eight minutes. Here’s the play-by-play: The original call said Harris was down short of the goal line. The clock ran down to zero. End of quarter. But no! Green Bay challenged the call. We go to commercial break. We come back and get the TD ruling and the extra point. Then another commercial break. Twenty-eight seconds are put back on the clock. Then the kickoff (mercifully, we skip the commercial break here), and a Vikings run to end the quarter.


A couple of super bubbly young girls take the two vacant seats next to me. The girl closest to me tells the bartender that she’s three days sober. Good for her! He inquires as to why, and she says she was blackout drunk three days in a row last week, and on two of those days, she woke up in a stranger’s house with no recollection of how she got there.


I’m happy. I also get caught blatantly eavesdropping ‒ she turns to me and says, “Yeah, you heard right.” I apologize to her, but what am I supposed to do, not listen to a girl telling that story? She assures me it’s fine, which is nice of her. I like this girl. I’m hoping to see her fall off that three-day wagon.


Twenty-one minutes into the game, the Vikings have five passing yards, and way, way, way, way, way too many passing attempts. I’m not sure how many passing attempts, but whatever that number is, it’s also the number of passing attempts that are too many. Third and 8 is a running down today for the Vikings. I am not kidding.


My new alcoholic friend has a giant margarita in front of her. Well, it was a good three days, honey. You gave it a shot.


This game is moving along similarly to the last one. The Packers are clearly the better squad here, but they’re letting Minnesota hang around. It’s way easier to have faith in Aaron Rodgers than it is to have faith in Matt Schaub, though.


Jerome Simpson lays out and dives for a Joe Webb pass that was over his head by about eight yards. It seems like a silly thing to do, but I guess that’s the difference between me and Jerome Simpson. If I dive to the ground like that, it’s going to result in major trauma for me. He can do it, no big deal. No one can accuse him of loafing. That’s Chanticleer-style.


And now Drunky has a shot in front of her, with the margarita still pending. Oh, man. This is starting to feel like the ominous first twenty minutes of an After School Special.


Oh, and that “Letting Minnesota Hang Around” phase of the game is quickly coming to an end. Aaron Rodgers heats up in a drive that ends in a John Kuhn TD. 17-3, Green Bay. Now Minnesota’s going to have to throw (before now, they didn’t need to, but they did so voluntarily for reasons that escape me), which means we’re not far away from 31-3.


The next drive sees the Packers settling for a field goal attempt after a six minute drive, until the Vikings get caught with 12 men on their field goal block team. Oops. Forget those nice things I said earlier about Leslie Frazier. Aaron Rodgers has a fresh set of downs, and the Packers score on the next play. Get out the WaxVac, because the Packers are blowing a load in Ragnar’s ear.


Drunky and her friend are absolute dude magnets. They’re attractive girls, but I wouldn’t call them 10s (I intend no disrespect), and they’re not dressed particularly provocatively  I don’t know. I believe today’s 20-something male has evolved a sixth sense for finding girls with lowered defenses. Maybe I’m just old, but I sort of hate what’s happening here. I feel like I’m watching a pack of rabid, bloodthirsty wolves circling a shitfaced Clifford the Big Red Dog.


Drunky gets up to go to the bathroom and is gone for about 20 minutes. I’m thinking the worst. I just want to call her father.


At the 38, Green Bay forces Minnesota into a 4th and 3 that they’ve got to have, if there’s any hope of this game becoming competitive. Joe Webb drops back (four words you never want to hear if you’re a Vikings fan), and it goes predictably awry. Clay Matthews gets the sack/fumble/recovery.


“1600 Penn” looks like a great show if you wanted to like The West Wing, but found it too difficult to follow after two decades of huffing paint thinner.


I overhear someone nearby refer to Matt Hasselback as “Matt Hasselfuck.” I don’t know what this guy has against Matt Hasselbeck, and I don’t know why that makes me laugh. It does, though.


Before she leaves, Drunky and I actually have a pleasant little conversation. She’s a nice person with a real name and now I feel bad for calling her “Drunky.” I’m sorry, ma’am.


With the score 24-3 in the fourth quarter, I’m going to call it a night. I’ll be back with you tomorrow, and hopefully, Sunday yields some better football.