Posts Tagged ‘colts ravens’

Prior to the Snap, the Divisional Playoffs: Let the Wild Rumpus Begin!

There was a time when a second-round upset was a huge deal. They didn’t happen too often, so when Lin Elliott cost the 13-3 Chiefs a game against Jim Harbaugh and the Comeback Colts in 1995, it resonated throughout the league. Even though the AFC’s top seed would lose each of the next two seasons (Denver, and then Kansas City again to Denver in 1997), I remember these upsets being shocking on the same level of a 1-8 upset in the NCAA Tournament. The team that dominated the regular season was gone, just like that.

We’ve kind of changed that perspective the last few years, haven’t we? A second-round upset is now kind of like a 5-12 game; it isn’t a matter of if it’s going to happen, but rather to whom. Home teams are just 5-7 the last three years in the second round, with three of the four falling a season ago. Prior to 2007, the NFC’s top seed had won 17 straight in the divisional round. It’s now on a two-game slide.

It’s in this second round that the NFL has more closely resembled Major League Baseball’s playoffs, with freakish upsets happening seemingly out of the blue. On paper, the Panthers were better than the Cardinals last year, the Cowboys better than the Giants before that, the Chargers better than the Patriots before that, the Colts better than the Steelers before that. But it’s been working out less and less frequently on the field, which is what has definitively made this the most intriguing weekend of the NFL season year in and year out these days. You have all the best teams playing in four games spread across two days.

The only hard thing about it is trying to predict what’s going to happen. Continue reading

Unabated to the QB, Wild Card Weekend: In 1-D!

“It’s not so easy to become what one is, to rediscover one’s deepest measure.”

—Albert Camus

In his playoff preview column last week, ESPN’s Bill Simmons talked about how the rules for playoff football had changed: Running the ball and stopping the run were no longer prerequisites for playoff success. Simmons pointed out all the crazy quarterbacking statistics this year—with 11 guys throwing for over 4000 yards and all—and how last year’s Super Bowl became a back-and-forth aerial assault between Roethlisberger/Holmes and Warner/Fitzgerald. Teams that didn’t excel in, or even especially try, running the ball could still win in the playoffs.

You might remember that way back in Week 1 I mentioned the downfall of the running game in American football. In that post, I said, among other things, that there was a lack of correlation between having a star running back and having postseason success (see: Chris Johnson this year). I also asked whether a team that passes the ball 60-70% of the time be successful in the NFL.

What neither Simmons nor I could have predicted was the efficacy of a one-dimensional rushing attack. It used to be that, in order to stop an offense, you made them one-dimensional. Take away the run and make the quarterback beat you, or vice versa. But throughout this NFL season, some of the league’s best offenses were so good in one area that it didn’t matter what they did in the other. And the success of a one-dimensional offense was reiterated and furthered on Wild Card Weekend, when three of the four winners won with unbalanced offensive performances.

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