NFL Playoffs: Snap Judgements, Anyone?

Dave StanleyCorrespondent IJanuary 11, 2010

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 10:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots takes off his helmet as he walks to the sideline against the Baltimore Ravens during the 2010 AFC wild-card playoff game at Gillette Stadium on January 10, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images


So, let me get this straight.  

Aaron Rodgers is the next Tom BradyKurt Warner is the new Brett Favre, the New York Jets are this year's Arizona Cardinals, the Baltimore Ravens are back to their 2000 championship form, and the real Tom Brady is about as relevant as Elvis Grbac.  

Sound crazy? Not if you spent so much as a minute reading the analyses or listening to the experts this past Wild Card Weekend.  

Don't get me wrong, I'm not here to belittle the accomplishments of the teams that won or the players who excelled.  

It is, however, too early make large scale, snap judgments based on one game in one tournament. But most journalists and fans alike fall prey to the temptation, given the grandiose pomp and circumstance that is the NFL Playoffs.

Here is a look at a few of the myths currently being peddled as hard news truth after the first weekend, and the reality behind the smoke and mirrors.  


"Tom Brady and the Patriots are Done"

First and foremost, I am somewhat of a Patriots hater.  

Tom Brady's not too cool in my book, either.

The reason?  

During their dynasty, they weren't that impressive, in my opinion. They seemed gimmick-y to me. The short passing game that they rode to success was migraine-inducing.  

In fact, watching the early aughts Patriots play was like playing the guy in Madden who uses the same play over and over.

And the kicker of it all was that after winning three out of four Super Bowls, they still played the "no respect" card.  


But the aim of this section of the article is to defend, not bash them. The previous sentences were merely outlining why my next point is pure and unbiased.

Here goes...

This is hard to say, but they've earned my begrudging respect over the years.

And frankly, I don't understand why a team with a Tom Brady still in his prime gets all of the "the dynasty's OVER!" press.  

The man had a career year. If not for Peyton Manning's heroics, he probably would have come close to garnering the MVP.

Yes, there is some serious retooling that needs to transpire up in Foxboro, Mass. But, the nucleus for a championship is still there, at least on offense, anyways.  

Throw in the fact that Bill Belichick is a master at making his schemes work, no matter who the players are, and the defensive rebuilding job doesn't seem as daunting, either.

Plus, it's not unusual for a great quarterback who starts fast to have a mid-career lag. Early in his career, John Elway was going to Super Bowls with the help of the "Three Amigos" (Ricky Nattiel, Vance Johnson, and Mark Jackson).  

After some early to mid-90's mediocrity, he was tossing the ball to Shannon Sharpe and Rod Smith in the big game.  

Basically, don't count out Tom Brady and the Patriots. As long as he's under center and Belichick is at the helm, they will always be relevant.


"The Ravens are Back"  

Just about every January over the past decade, the Baltimore Ravens find a way to play inspired football.  

Even if they've had a mediocre year, they find ways to play better than they are to earn their way into the Super Bowl discussion.  

Fair enough, but folks, these are not the 2000 Ravens.  

Their heightened emotion, coupled with a few stolen wins from teams not ready for their intensity, always seems to breed the "just like 2000!" dialogue.

But every year, they face a better team with more emotional stability that exposes them and sends them back to the drawing board.    

Ray Lewis has said that this year's squad is "the most complete team I've been on."  

Complete? Really? Is that why they went a pedestrian 9-7 with a lousy record against quality competition?  

Hey, they'll probably eke out another win or so in these playoffs, and I'm sure I'll hear about it in the comments section of this article.  

But there's simply too much talent in the rest of the field, and there's only so far they can go on pure emotion. There's a ceiling there that most don't seem to be acknowledging.   


"The Jets' Curse is Over"

On the surface, the New York Jets appear to be in good shape. Having the No. 1 rushing attack and the No. 1 defense will definitely put your team in a position to make some playoff noise.  

However, there's the pesky issue of consistency. Just because quarterback Mark Sanchez excelled against a non-existent Cincinnati pass rush doesn't mean that he'll be able to repeat the same feat in San Diego.  

Plus, the Jets will presumably have to score more points to keep up with the high octane Chargers offense.  

Simply put, Sanchez will crack. He is no doubt a very talented young man who will lead the Jets to day. But neither he nor the rest of his team can keep pace in a shootout that will render their vaunted running attack moot.  

Bottom line? They beat a flat, underachieving Bengals squad, and somehow, that made them the darlings of the playoffs.  

Obviously, coach Rex Ryan's asinine proclamation that his team should be favored to win it all helped fuel the media hype surrounding them.   

Like the Ravens, these Cinderella's will be exposed at one point or another.


Duel in the Desert (Honorable Mention)

Aaron Rodgers

He has definitely proved that he can play, but he can't seem to, well, you know, win when it matters.   

He will eventually, no doubt.  

But it's foolish to crown him based on yesterday's game alone.   


Kurt Warner  

When his timing is on, no one looks better.  

But, that's a huge "when." If he's having a bad day, he's sad to watch. One great game does not extend a career.

If anything, he himself backed up my point by saying that he didn't want to base his retirement decision on the emotions of a very good or very bad game.

Big picture, people, big picture.

This weekend, the Divisional Playoffs will kill some of these ridiculous story lines and it will perpetuate others.

At any rate, January in the NFL is long, dramatic and rife with bold proclamations and predictions (see: everything I just wrote).  

However, all that really matters is who's still playing in February.   





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