Shanoff's WUC: Brees, Warner, Romo, Favre

Today's Calls: Saints vs. Cards, Cowboys vs. Vikings, Colts vs. Ravens, Chargers vs. Jets, David Cutcliffe vs. Phil Fulmer, Gilbert Arenas vs. Sundiata Gaines, Josh Johnson vs. Payroll, Jimmy Clausen vs. Tim Tebow, Notre Dame vs. UConn, Arne Duncan vs. Orrin Hatch and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: Brees. Warner. Romo. Favre. ↵

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↵If the NFL could design a perfect final four in the NFC for the Divisionals, this would be it. ↵

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↵Saturday's lead-off is Saints-Cardinals: New Orleans is the team you root for when your own team isn't in the playoffs -- the Saints making (let alone winning) the Super Bowl would be one of the great all-time stories in NFL history. ↵

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↵Hmm ... sort of like the way the perennially hapless Cardinals made the Super Bowl a year ago. Now, they simply feature Kurt Warner -- arguably the best individual player story in NFL history -- potentially playing in his final game. ↵

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↵The big question: Have the Saints lost their midseason mojo? (And does it even matter if their defense is up for it, given the way Warner carved up the Packers ... or the way Brees could do the same to the Cards' D?) ↵

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↵Sunday's lead-off is a monster: Brett Favre, the league's most-watched player, going up against the Cowboys, the league's most-watched team. The TV audience for this game will be massive, perhaps the most-watched 1 p.m. Sunday game ever. ↵

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↵The big question: Will the Cowboys realize where they are? Is finally getting over that "win in playoffs" hump going to release them from pressure ... or compound it? Meanwhile, Favre came back precisely for this game -- but he's blown 'em before. ↵

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↵What's crazy is that it is hard to go wrong, no matter what the outcome. For maximum story line value, I think a Saints-Favre NFC Championship is ideal (sorry, Kurt), but there are millions of Cowboys fans out there who would disagree. ↵

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↵Saints 45, Cardinals 34 ↵
↵Vikings 24, Cowboys 10 ↵

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↵AFC Divisionals: For better or worse, the AFC pairings simply aren't as interesting. Oh, sure, if MVP Peyton Manning and the Colts lose at home to the Ravens, it would be fascinating -- but even if Baltimore holds onto the ball for 45 minutes, we have seen that Manning needs only a few plays to put up enough TDs to win. Colts 28, Baltimore 17. ↵

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↵Meanwhile, it is very easy to like Rex Ryan and the Jets -- who, more than any other team left in the playoffs, can play loose. But it feels like the Chargers have been playing loose for about three months now. (Meanwhile, if you want to see the Colts fail, the rolling Chargers are the team to root for here.) Chargers 23, Jets 20 ↵

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↵Arenas charged with a felony: He has 80 million nuggets of motivation to make sure that his legal team negotiates that down to a misdemeanor, so that the Wizards won't/can't void his huge contract. Prediction: He pleads guilty to a misdemeanor, and the Wiz can't cancel his deal (although they will still want to try). Awkward! ↵

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↵NBA Talking Points: Sundiata Gaines! What a moment for the Jazz rookie. One week, he's playing in a D-League showcase; the next, he's nailing game-winning 3-pointers to lead Utah past LeBron's Cavs. (Makes the Jazz look a little smarter for telling him earlier in the day that he had earned another 10-day contract. Now: He's earned "legend" status with Jazz fans.) ↵

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↵NFL Draft: SN's latest mock still has Suh at the top, going to the Rams. Does the War Room buy into the talk that the Jaguars will draft Tim Tebow? Well, they have the Jags drafting a QB, all right ... but not Tebow? Hmm ... (If the Jaguars are taking a QB, there's no way they aren't taking Tebow.) ↵

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↵MLB Hot Stove: Josh Johnson gets paid. What was that about the Marlins not spending? I was sure they would leverage their ace for a trading-deadline deal for young/cheap talent -- which is hardly a bad strategy -- but it looks like they want to keep him as the foundation. Undoubtedly, a crippling injury will soon follow. ↵

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↵Tennesee Coaching Search: David Cutcliffe appears to be the uninspiring leftover candidate, after the Vols were rejected by a Top 10 coach (Gary Patterson), a strong mid-major (Troy Calhoun) and the nation's top assistant (Will Muschamp). ↵

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↵This much is clear: Tennessee is not considered even close to a top-tier job. That said, even USC had to go deep down its depth chart to find a coach. So maybe the reality is that if the "Boise State" thing has proven anything, it's that coaches don't need to find a "name" to find BCS-level success. If they're happy at a program, that's good enough. ↵

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↵(But here's what I don't get: How much money is Tennessee throwing at these guys? Whatever it is, it's not enough. Why wouldn't they offer something seemingly outrageous -- say, $5M a year. In college football, a great coach is absolutely worth it.) ↵

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↵CFB Coaching Carousel: Skip Holtz in at South Florida. As Jim Leavitt was always the coach, we have never seen what some fresh enthusiasm could do with that job. Not unlike Howard Schnellengberger's strategy at Miami in the early 1980s, the fact is that if all Holtz does is recruit the heck out of -- go figure -- south Florida, he will have a team loaded with enough talent to win the Big East. ↵

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↵CBB Games of the Weekend: ↵

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↵Nat'l: ND at UConn (Women) ↵
↵Big East: Cuse at WVU, G'town at Nova ↵
↵ACC: GA Tech at UNC ↵
↵Big Ten: Wisconsin at Ohio St ↵
↵Big 12: Texas A&M at Texas ↵
↵SEC: Ole Miss at Tennessee ↵

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↵Sec'y of Ed Arne Duncan is right to ask the NBA to get rid of the "one-and-done" rule, but not because it makes a farce of academics -- it's a joke that the NBA arbitrarily and artificially restrains players who otherwise are talented enough to be in the league, if that's what those players want to do. ↵

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↵Senator Orrin Hatch is wrong to ask Barack Obama to invite Boise State to the White House. This isn't the same as Utah a year ago; Boise didn't even finish in the Top 2 -- or Top 3, for that matter. (And I say this as someone who voted for Boise at No. 2. They are not "co-champion," just because they finished undefeated.) ↵

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↵"Scandals": It's hard to know what's less of a shock -- that McGwire admitted to taking steroids or that the Cavs tanked to get LeBron. ↵

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↵Must-Read: Jason Fagone's GQ feature about Marvin Harrison. You'll never think of the Hall of Fame WR in the same way again. ↵

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↵The Last Word: We breathlessly talk about a lot of stuff that seems important -- McGwire's confessional, Lane Kiffin's job-jumping, NFL playoff match-ups -- but it is all utterly irrelevant when compared to the devastation in Haiti. If you haven't done it yet, please donate money for relief efforts -- and take a moment to consider how lucky you are. Thanks. ↵

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↵Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/danshanoff. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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