Each year the NFL playoffs have heroes and goats. The goats then spend the offseason facing criticism and wondering what could have been. Nobody wants to earn the title of goat, but each year someone finds a way to screw up.
Often times, the goat is someone who is considered one of the team's best players. He typically gets the ball in a pressure situation, and this time he fails to convert. It is difficult to predict who will end their team's playoff run, but some players are just prone to mistakes.
The San Francisco 49ers and Alex Smith have been one of the biggest surprises of the season. However, Smith hasn't always found success. He was actually considered a major bust until his success this season.
Throughout his career, Smith has been plagued by turnovers and poor decisions. He has shaken a lot of those problems, but it only takes one interception to lose a football game. The 49ers style of play also sets Smith up to be the goat.
San Francisco continuously wins games by very slim margins, meaning just one interception would be a costly mistake. An early exit from the playoffs would be a major disappointment for this franchise.
The Baltimore Ravens expect to make a strong push for a Super Bowl berth. However, that run depends on the play of Joe Flacco. He needs to find a way to get over the hump and take his game to the next level.
Baltimore has the defense and running game needed to win the title, but at some point Flacco will be forced to make a play. In the past, he has failed to take control and play like an elite quarterback.
The biggest worry with Flacco is his ability to sustain drives. This season, he has only completed 56 percent of this passes; that won't be enough to earn playoff success.
Expect to see a situation where Flacco has to lead his team on a late-game drive; he will either be the hero or the goat.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have set themselves up for another strong run at the Super Bowl title. However, this team is a little different than last year's group.
Pittsburgh is usually known for their strong defense and power running game. This year, the offense is lacking a top-notch rushing attack.
At times, Rashard Mendenhall and the rushing attack has been nonexistent. The Steelers cannot afford to have Mendenhall disappear during their playoff run.
Throughout his career, Mendenhall has also struggled with fumbles. We could potentially see him rush for under 50 yards in a game and have a costly fumble.
Chad Ochocinco's season has been a complete disaster. He hasn't been able to work his way into the game plan, and he has struggled when actually on the field. His highlights this season consist of more mistakes than touchdowns.
Ochocinco won't get many snaps this postseason, but when he does it he will command little attention. This will provide him with an opportunity to make a play, which will result in a costly drop.
The New England Patriots need their offense to carry them through the playoffs. Most of their games will be shootouts, and one dropped pass by Ochocinco could be the difference between a win or a loss.