Focused vs. Loose: NFL Conference Championship Study of Winning Styles

Dave StanleyCorrespondent IJanuary 22, 2010

We all know about the Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre's ugly—yet oddly endearing—rendition of Pants on the Ground.

We are also aware of New York Jets coach Rex Ryan's bold itinerary for his team, the one that has them winning the Super Bowl, with every detail of the parade route planned.

Heck, even Prince has gotten in on the act, writing a fight song for the Vikings after last Sunday's inspired victory over the Dallas Cowboys. Trouble is, the song is not quite as inspiring. (He does know that the Vikings are a football team, right?)

Anyhow, both teams' respective opponents have been relatively quiet this week, letting their opponents garner most of the attention.

Granted, the stories have been there. But Petyon Manning and Drew Brees, the quarterbacks of the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints, respectively, have been almost eerily silent.

It kind of reminds one of Rocky III. In the first fight, Rocky is relishing the limelight, while his all-too-hungry challenger, Clubber Lang, quietly trains with a seething anger that ultimately propels him to upset Rocky.

So, it begs the question: Are the Vikings and the Jets too loose? Or are the Saints and Colts too uptight?

Normally, a relaxed team is a good thing. But Super Bowl Shuffle-esque hoopla does indeed raise some eyebrows. As does being so tense they psyche themselves out.

Every situation is different. For the Colts, being too uptight might be a bad thing, given their dubious history of choking in the playoffs (2006 Super Bowl notwithstanding).

Every year, they rack up the wins. Every year, Manning dazzles and wins the individual awards. Yet nearly every year, they go home early.

They're essentially the Utah Jazz or the Atlanta Braves of the NFL. That said, it just might behoove them to loosen up a bit.

The Jets, on the other hand, do find ways to deliver with a steely determination once on the field, sound bites be damned. So, they very well may have tapped just the right balance between fun and focused.

As far as New Orleans is concerned, most folks think that they're right where they need to be. Thanks in no small part to their post-Katrina story, they're usually the ones who get most of the attention, as they are connected to their city in a way that few sports franchises are.

The Vikings, coming in with an unabashed swagger, are probably a welcome sight for the Saints; a chance for them to fly just under the radar as the Brett Favre circus comes to town.

That said, what a difference a week makes. Last Sunday, the Vikings were the forgotten ones, as most people around the league were in awe of the "resurgent" Cowboys.

As evidenced by coach Brad Childress' bitter postgame comments, Minnesota used it as bulletin board material. They not only defeated the Cowboys, they tried to embarrass them.

Is New Orleans going to do the same thing this week? 

Time will tell.

But the Jets seem to exhibit a good kind of looseness, while the Vikings, on the other hand, look a little too cocky.

The Saints' silence is downright spooky, but the Colts could very well be destined for the dreaded "same old, same old."

Of course, this is all opinion based on intangible perceptions. That is, as ESPN's Chris Berman says, "why they play the game."

Perhaps Prince was just getting warmed up.