NFL Playoffs 2012: 5 Best Stories After Wild Card Weekend

Andrew McCluskeyCorrespondent IJanuary 9, 2012

NFL Playoffs 2012: 5 Best Stories After Wild Card Weekend

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    It was an amazing weekend of football that had both blowouts and dramatic finishes.

    We saw heroes emerge and old faces take over games just like they have in the past. With next weekend's games already set, many are looking ahead, but this weekend provided us with some great stories to follow as the playoffs progress.

    The NFL always provides unpredictability, but it is still surprising to see some of the stories that emerge week to week. The postseason only makes these stories that much more significant because they are taking place on the big stage. 

    Here are my five stories to follow, post-wild card edition.

Tebowmaina Continues

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    It is really hard to dislike Tim Tebow at this point.

    Since taking over as the starting quarterback of the Denver Broncos, Tim Tebow has been unable to do anything right in his critic's eyes regardless of how many games he won. The critics always turned back to his inaccuracy as a passer and his long throwing motion. They always claimed his success would only last so long.

    Heading in to their wild-card matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers, everyone was assuming that the Steelers' top-level defense would dismantle Tebow. There were rumors that Brady Quinn was taking first-string snaps at practice and that coach John Fox had prepared some packages in the playbook for him specifically. Everything pointed to Tebow being pulled at the first sign of trouble.

    The only signs of trouble that appeared were for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    Tebow took advantage of the Steelers' lack of respect for his passing ability and torched them for 316 yards through the air and two touchdowns along with one on the ground. This includes his game-winning 80-yard pass on the first play of overtime to Demaryius Thomas.

    Denver heads to New England next week to take on Tom Brady and the Patriots, who blew them out Week 15 41-23.

    It'll be a tough matchup for the Broncos, but with Tim Tebow under center it appears anything is possible.

Can Anyone Stop Drew Brees?

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    What is next for Drew Brees?

    Six touchdowns? 500-plus passing yards?

    It appears that Drew Brees can do just about anything he wants against any defense he faces. He will be leading his New Orleans Saints to San Francisco to take on the 49ers and one of the best young defenses in the league. 

    Brees is coming off an MVP-caliber season where he shattered Dan Marino's single-season passing yards record. He followed that up with a wild-card round performance of 466 passing yards and three touchdowns against a tough Detroit Lions team.

    He is currently the hottest quarterback in the league and there is no way I would want my favorite team to be matched up against him at this point. 

    The 49ers may have the toughest defense left in the NFC, but I'm not sure they have the offense to keep up with the Saints if Brees starts hot again. 

    If no one can find away to slow him down, it could be an easy road to the Super Bowl for the New Orleans Saints.

Is Eli Elite?

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    Eli Manning took quite a bit of criticism earlier in the year when he claimed that he was in the same category as Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers with the elite quarterbacks in the league. 

    After his first-round performance against the Atlanta Falcons, he is making a pretty strong case for himself. 

    Manning went 23-for-32 passing with 277 passing yards and three touchdowns, leading the Giants to a dominating 24-2 victory. He looked incredibly sharp against the Falcons, spreading the ball around to eight different receivers. 

    Eli can be incredibly frustrating for Giants' fans.

    There are times where he appears as if he is one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Then there are times where his turnovers and poor decisions make you want to tear your hair out. 

    The Giants head to Green Bay for a rematch against the Packers. They'll certainly be the underdogs and Manning will have a chance to go head to head with one of the elite quarterbacks in the league. 

    If Eli and company can knock off the Packers, it'll be hard to dispute that he is one of the best quarterbacks in the league.

Defense Still Wins Championships, Right?

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    Defense wins championships has become an old adage in the NFL.

    We have seen time and time again throughout NFL history that an elite defense is what tends to prevail in the postseason. This was put on full display this past weekend when the Houston Texans were able to use their elite defense to shut down the Cincinnati Bengals.

    The Texans are currently starting their third-string quarterback T.J. Yates, who gave them only 158 yards passing and one touchdown against the Bengals. Yet, it was still enough for Houston to pull off a 31-10 domination. 

    The highlight play was rookie defensive end J.J. Watt intercepting a Andy Dalton pass and returning it 29 yards for a touchdown.

    The Texans have one of the best defenses in the league since Wade Phillips took over as defensive coordinator and instituted a 3-4 defense. Houston will take on another dominating defense in Baltimore next weekend.

    Three elite offenses still remain in the playoffs that also have three of the worst passing defenses in the league. Two of them are the No. 1 seeds in their respective conferences. 

    With a varying styles of play left in the postseason, it'll be interesting to see if that old adage still holds any truth.

Are the Top Seeds Still the Favorites?

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    The Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots came in to the postseason as the top seeds and the favorites to make the Super Bowl.

    Both teams feature elite quarterbacks and high-powered offenses that have driven them this season. They also share questionable secondaries as they are the two worst passing defenses in the league. Still, that hasn't stopped them from blowing out opponents and appearing championship ready. 

    However, after the first round of the playoffs, a series of new challenges have arisen for each team.

    The Patriots have to go head on with "Tebowmania" again next weekend. They were able to handle him in their first meeting this year, but he is coming in to this matchup with even more momentum than before. It'll be interesting to see how each team approaches this game the second time around.

    Even if the Patriots get past Tebow, they will be facing an incredibly tough defense regardless of whether it is Houston or Baltimore. We've seen tough defenses slow the Patriots down in the past, so it could be a very long road to the Super Bowl for New England.

    The Packers face just as many obstacles in the NFC.

    They take on the New York Giants in a rematch of a closely contested battle from Week 13. The Giants were one stop away from giving the Packers their first loss. New York is playing its best football of the year and will be a tough challenge for Green Bay. 

    If the Packers get through the Giants, they'll either face a brutal defense in the San Francisco 49ers or the hottest quarterback in the league in Drew Brees. Each opponent brings their own challenges, but both will make for tough contests.

    They may still be the No. 1 seeds and still have home-field advantage, but they may no longer be the runaway favorites.