Thursday, January 7, 2010
Contributed by Auggie
We are fast approaching one of the most enjoyable football weekends of the season – wildcard weekend. Four enjoyable playoff games spread out over Saturday and Sunday. No matter where you live, January is not the ideal month to be outside so there’s no guilt in sitting inside watching football the entire weekend. With a cooler and a package of Depends you don’t even need to leave the couch.
In addition to the pure enjoyment of watching playoff football, there are always subplots that add intrigue to the NFL’s second season. Following are some interesting storylines this year:
• If New Orleans makes it to the big game and they face San Diego there would be added intrigue. The quarterback matchup would be Drew Brees vs. Philip Rivers who were once teammates at San Diego. At a time when so many teams are looking for one good quarterback, it’s hard to believe that San Diego had these two on the roster at the same time – today they are two of the best in the NFL. At the time, San Diego basically had to make a choice of which one they would build around and would be hard to argue today with either choice.
• It’s odd that three of the wildcard weekend matchups (NYJ/Cincy, Phil/Dallas, and Green Bay/Ariz) are rematches from the final weekend of the season.
• Half the playoff field has won a past Super Bowl while the other half is still looking for its first. The six teams looking for their first Super Bowl victory are New Orleans, Philadelphia, Minnesota, Arizona, San Diego and Cincinnati.
• New Orleans is the only team in the field that has never appeared in a Super Bowl. If they make it to the dance, that would leave Cleveland, Detroit, Houston and Jacksonville as the only NFL franchises yet to appear in a Super Bowl.
• It’s hard to believe that three weeks ago we were talking about Indy going 19-0. They finished the regular season 14-2 after taking the last two weeks off. Throw in a first round bye and the team will go three weeks without playing a meaningful game. Will they be able to go right back to the high level they played for the first 14 games? If not, expect them to be soundly ripped by fans and media alike for their strategy to ease up and rest the key players. A first round loss especially would lend credence to the philosophy that it’s better to keep the ‘high-level’ momentum going.
• The cards would need to fall right, but should Green Bay and Minnesota meet it would be the most hyped postseason game outside the Super Bowl. I am rooting for the scenario more than any other with the hope that Green Bay would throttle the Vikes. A quick side blog in this topic:
[Two of the most hyped games of the regular season were the GB/Minn games (aka Favre Bowls) and Minnesota won both of them handily. If Green Bay were to knock them off when it really counts it would be poetic justice (at least in my mind). Why were these games so hyped? It’s because the media worships Brett Favre. I for one have been officially tired of the Favre gushing for about five years now. There are members of the media who act like high school girls at a Jonas Brothers concert whenever the talk about Favre – and they talk about him often. I can’t take it anymore. Regardless of Favre’s role (or lack thereof) in this, I just can’t root for the guy anymore. Can’t do it. The sooner they lose the better but preferably they would meet Green Bay and Favre would throw six picks while Aaron Rodgers throws for 380 and 5 TD’s.
Speaking of Rodgers, I think that he has handled the whole Favre/Green Bay situation and his succession of Favre with as much class and professionalism as you could imagine. And his performance has been even better than expected. I believe he is well on his way to being a top five quarterback (at least) in the NFL and he will someday be the proud owner of a Super Bowl ring. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s this year – and if they destroy Minnesota on the way then even better.
In addition to the situation Rodgers was thrust into at Green Bay, there are a couple independent, minor incidents that contribute to my desire to see him succeed. These are so minor as to be meaningless, but they contribute nonetheless (I never said I was rational in why I root for someone). Case 1: Draft day 2005, Rodgers was one of the NFL’s invitees to sit in the “green” room during the draft. The green-room invitees consist of 4 or 5 players who are expected to go in the first 5-10 picks. The routine is that after the player is selected, he proceeds to the stage where he meets the GM for his new team while donning a team cap and holding a jersey (with a #1) in front of him while everyone take pictures. In this particular draft Rodgers was the last one of the invitees to be drafted. Everyone else went in the top ten but he lasted until Green Bay took him with the 24th pick. This may not sound like a big deal but the actual time between say pick 8 and pick 24 is about 4 hours. In that 4 hour period, the camera’s must have shown Rodgers about 2000 times as he sat there in his new suit and tie anxiously waiting for his name to be called, only to be disappointed time and time again. It was heart breaking. (The NFL has since changed the way they choose the invitees). Case 2: I was watching a pro-am golf tournament a couple years ago and Rodgers was teamed up the Ben Roethlisberger of the Steelers. As they were heading down the fairway after their tee shots, a group of young fans approached them with pen and paper in hand. As Rodgers turned to one of the kids to grant his autograph request, the punk shook him off and went straight to Roethlisberger. He shook him off - I couldn’t believe it. I don’t know if the kid simply didn’t know who Rodgers was (possible) or if Rodgers just wasn’t a big enough name, but in either case the brat will rue the day he passed up the autograph of a future great quarterback. Ok, back to the main blog.]
• Many rookie quarterbacks have thrown over 20 interceptions in their first season (e.g. Peyton Manning), but only one led his team to the playoffs – Mark Sanchez. The Jets benefited greatly from their last two opponents tanking (Indy and Cincy) but they made the playoffs nonetheless. How will Sanchez perform in the playoffs? In some ways he is not a rookie anymore because he has a full season under his belt. The Jets have a championship caliber defense and running game, and if Sanchez performs reasonably well they could be a surprise team. I hate the Jets.
• In contrast to Sanchez, a couple of old guys are still getting it done. Kurt Warner (38) for Arizona and the old guy (40) in Minnesota.
• How will the Patriots recover from the loss of Welker? One of the most painful things about Welker’s injury is that he is such a good, hard working and classy player. Hate to see his season end that way.
• Can Dallas win their first playoff game since 96? For such a popular and celebrated team it’s hard to believe they haven’t won a playoff game in 14 years. They are playing as well as anyone right now and could be the team to beat in the NFC.
Can’t wait to get started.