This is extraordinary.
Fitting, seeing as how Belichick is often compared to Satan.
It has been an extremely long time since I was this excited for a weekend of NFL action. Normally the divisional round of the playoffs features one, if not three games where there is never a doubt about the outcome. I think it’s pretty obvious by now that literally anything could happen in any one of the four games this weekend. It’s exactly why it’s going to make for the highest rated weekend of football in NFL history, most especially if Timmy Tebow can keep the game close against the Patriots. And let’s say he dares win that game on Saturday, well, let’s just say records are not only going to be broken, but obliterated.
I don’t pretend to have any secret knowledge about how all of this is going to play out, but what I can tell you is that history does tend to indicate that the only teams that have a shot at a championship are those with a future hall of famer at quarterback. Consider that in the last twenty years, only three of the twenty different Super Bowl champions featured a QB that isn’t a sure thing hall of famer (the 1991-1992 Redskins had Mark Rypien, the 2000-2001 Ravens had Trent Dilfer, the 2002-2003 Buccaneers had Brad Johnson). Obviously some people might have disagreements with two other winners in Kurt Warner and Eli Manning, but in my mind both are going to the Hall one day, just likely not on their first try.
Check out the rest of the list though, keeping in mind it’s for the last twenty years only: Aikman (x3), Young, Favre, Elway (x2), Brady (x3), Roethlisberger (x2), P. Manning, Brees, and Rodgers. All of those guys are first ballot HOFers. A pattern starts to emerge and it is not a mere coincidence that championship squads tend to have great quarterbacks.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the eight remaining QBs to see if we can’t get an idea of how this might play out in the coming weeks. The QBs who are still alive this year are the following: Yates, Flacco, Tebow, Brady, E. Manning, Rodgers, Smith, and Brees. Half those guys are former Super Bowl champions AND former Super Bowl MVPs (Brady, E. Manning, Rodgers, and Brees).
The trait they all have in common though is that they largely didn’t turn the ball over this year. Seven of the eight quarterbacks left finished in the top 11 of interception percentage (Yates doesn’t technically qualify because he didn’t start very long but his 2.2% ties him with Flacco for 11th), a stat which measures the number of interceptions thrown divided by the number of pass attempts a QB took. Only Eli finished worse than that and he came in ranked 19th. This makes it damn near impossible to distinguish anything between the remaining teams, and thus we’re left to merely speculate, with only the potential Super Bowl pedigree factor making a huge difference. The problem is that three of those four QBs left are in the NFC.
What this basically translates to is that this is going to be the most wide open weekend of playoff football we’ve ever seen. The past does indicate that a team has never really outscored its way to a Lombardi trophy, meaning that defense will play some factor in all of this, and thus it makes me a bit nervous to go all in on the Saints, Packers, or Patriots. At the same time though, do we really foresee a team led by Alex Smith, Joe Flacco, or TJ Yates winning a Super Bowl, just because they have a great defense? I don’t think so.
There’s also the two wildcards in the Giants and Broncos, both of whom are just as liable to being blown out this week as they are to pull off the highly improbable road upset.
My predictions, presented in order of my confidence, from highest to lowest:
Saints over 49ers
Drew Brees has the Saints playing at the highest level of any team in the NFL right now. Do you remember last year how the Packers went on their playoff run because they started to actually run the football pretty effectively? Remember how it then opened up the passing game for Rodgers? The Saints are the only team running and passing incredibly well right now and they’re my pick for Super Bowl champions this year. It was a great first year for Jim Harbaugh and this Niners squad, but they’re just not talented enough on offense to keep up with New Orleans, no matter how awesome that defense might be this year.
Texans over Ravens
I make this pick because I hate, hate, hate Joe Flacco and think he’s one of the most overrated quarterbacks in the NFL. If I’m Wade Phillips, I’m putting eight guys in the box all day to stop Ray Rice and making Joe Flacco beat me through the air. The Texans have one of the best, if not the best, secondary in the NFL. The Ravens have a tendancy to panic when Rice can’t get it going and it usually leads to the inevitable “Flacco-throwing-50-passes-and-losing” game. Also, I happen to think the Ravens defense isn’t as strong as you might think, most especially if Ray Lewis is on the field. He’s lost a step or twelve this season. I predict the Texans head to the AFC title game.
Giants over Packers
Of the four teams with elite quarterbacks, only the Giants can boast to having an elite defense as well. They’re perfectly built to beat this Packers team, having one of the best defensive lines ever assembled. There’s also no team in the NFL that plays with a bigger chip on its shoulder than the G-Men. Tom Coughlin is anything but a “player’s coach.” He’s notoriously very strict and very tough on his guys, but I happen to think he’s onto something. While it might not translate into a trip to the postseason every year, when his team makes it they respond in a way no other squad in the NFL does, knowing that no one has put up with as much s— as they have to get there. They’re basically the anti-Cowboys. Look for them to come out inspired, cocky, and talking a ton of crap to Aaron Rodgers. If the Packers don’t deflate their egos early in the first quarter with a couple of quick scores, watch out. There’s no way the Giants are going to lose a close game, even if it is in Lambeau.
Broncos over Patriots
I’m the first to admit that I know the Broncos could very easily get blown out in this game just like what happened about a month ago when these teams first met up in Denver. However, stay with me on this one. In the first game, the Patriots defense was helpless to stop the Broncos offense when Tim Tebow didn’t turn the ball over. In fact, Denver actually dominated the game until a bizarre series of fumbles led to New England having the ball for what felt like 30 consecutive minutes in the second and then third quarters. If Tebow can hang onto the ball this time, the Broncos will score, and often. Furthermore, if the Broncos defense sees Tebow out there playing his guts out, they’re going to come up big for him. I heard a number of Broncos players admit they had an epiphany last week about how much this team means to the city of Denver. Until then they were merely just players getting played to pay football in a city that just so happened to be Denver. There’s an emotional tie existant between players and city now. They’re going to come up with their biggest game of the season and they’re going against a team and a city that they no doubt feel is severely underestimating them. We also know that Tebow comes up big in pressure situations as he’s demonstrated throughout his entire football life. Finally, as Bill Simmons said last week, this is a total Disney sports movie script. Disney movies don’t end in the divisional round.
And don’t bet against God and puppies.
Don’t be a doubting Thomas.
We’re going to be Broncos heavy today, this being my site and all. Here’s a great nugget from a column in bean town today. From the Boston Herald:
When the two quarterbacks met at midfield on Dec. 18, the embrace came quickly. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady pulled Tim Tebow close, with cameras and microphones poking at them, and offered encouraging words to help his counterpart deal with the disappointment.
“We’ll see you again,” Brady whispered.
How about Saturday at 8 p.m. at Gillette Stadium? Unbelievable but true.
Yesterday, Tebow played coy, acting like he didn’t remember. Perhaps the electric atmosphere got to him, one he created by finding receiver Demaryius Thomas for an 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play of overtime to secure a stunning 29-23 win over the Steelers in an AFC wild card playoff game.
But Tebow knew. That was clear when he was reminded of Brady’s words — and broke into an embarrassed smile.
“I guess he’s a prophet,” Tebow quipped. “What an honor it is to play them again.”
Brady recognizes the talent! When will the rest of America?
I still can’t believe this story isn’t picking up any steam nationally. You know if this was anyone but Tom Brady, or God forbid a black man, the media would be all over his ass. From WEEI in Boston, where he was interviewed yesterday on the radio:
You looked like you had red, watery eyes, dressed to the max, and you were seen sniffing an ammonia capsule. If you had the flu, would you say?
I didn’t have the flu. I felt fine. I’ve been dressing warmer as the season’s gone on. I felt fine.
What about the ammonia?
We all do it. It’s kind of a receiver and quarterback thing.
Maybe I’m the only one, but this seems like kind of a big deal to me. Baseball players were unanimously ripped for taking amphetamines or “uppers” or “greenies” to get themselves pumped up and ready for baseball games. How is this any different? It’s a player taking a substance that is in no way good for his health and abusing it to get jacked up for a game.
Come on ESPN (and the NFL, for that matter). Do the right thing here.
Here’s the video again in case you missed it.
I have no words. From the NY 1 website:
A Staten Island Jets fan was struck and killed by an oncoming car as he celebrated the team’s stunning win Sunday wi