With the AFC Championship settled, what did we learn from the AFC side of the NFL Playoffs?
There's still a place for defense in the NFL.
Both Baltimore and the New York Jets advanced through the playoffs, beating some strong offensive-minded teams in doing so.
They both also gave a very balanced and loaded Colts team some tough going as well.
For all the talk about how the NFL has turned to a pass-happy, offense-favored league, you can still succeed and get quite a ways with a sound defensive foundation.
The Jets belonged in the playoffs.
For all the talk from Steelers fans about how they were robbed by the Bengals and Colts laying down for the Jets the last two weeks of the season; after the Jets run through the playoffs, there can't be any more doubt that New York deserved to be there.
With a traditional, time tested method, stout defense and a strong running game, they locked down and defeated two division champions, and actually went into the locker room at halftime leading the eventual conference champion.
If they continue to build on this foundation, they could be the next top contender in the conference for a good long time.
Turns out the Colts made the right move.
Guess there really wasn't any harm in tanking the last two games of the regular season. The Colts contended their only goal was the Super Bowl, and not 16-0, and they delivered on this score.
And to be fair, Indy fans would have been completely up in arms and ready to rip down Lucas Oil Stadium with their bare hands had Manning tore his ACL playing in a "meaningless" game in Week 17.
Was treating the last two weeks of the season like a playoff pre-season the most prudent or fan-friendly move? Probably not, but you can't argue with the results. The Colts are going to Miami, and I think most Indianapolis fans have forgotten all about Weeks 16 and 17 now.
The Chargers still made the wrong move and made it worse.
I understand the sentiment that Marty Schottenheimer wasn't a "playoff" coach, and that he got too painfully conservative and slowed down his team almost as much as opposing defenses did.
But Norv Turner wasn't the answer, isn't the answer, and never will be the answer. This was like trading in your Dodge Dart for a Chevy Nova.
Congratulations, San Diego! You've wasted LaDainian Tomlinson's career! Where are you going to go next!
We're going nowhere fast!
It might be time for the Patriots to rebuild.
I never want to totally count out any team with Tom Brady or Bill Bellichek, but it's looking like they are fading fast from the field of AFC contenders.
The defense especially needs to find some new, young blood. At times, especially in the playoffs, the D looked slow and tired.
Perhaps it's time to start actually... you know... using all those draft picks you've been accumulating for the last twenty years.
Can we find someone who can kick field goals? Please?
These playoffs were not kind to the kickers of the NFL.
From Kaeding chunking three more than makeable kicks to the normally sound Jay Feeley shanking two that might have put a bit more padding on the Jets lead in the AFC championship, the uprights were not the friend for the placekickers among us.
The kickers in the AFC were 11 for 19 in these playoffs, a dismal 58% rate. It's not like all of them were in their first post-season either.
Maybe a malicious, unemployed equipment manager got his revenge by sewing lead into the tips of all the kicker's pigskins. I dunno.