Seattle for Sure, Or Are My (NFL) Eyes Deceiving Me Yet Again?
Did My Eyes Deceive Me?
This past Monday night the Green Bay Packers met the Atlanta Falcons and cruised to a 31-7 halftime lead. I believe it is important for teams with championship aspirations to play at least average defense (if they have a great offense like Green Bay) or better yet, great defense (Seattle, Arizona or Detroit) heading into the playoffs. At halftime, Green Bay looked like the team to beat in the NFC with all the answers. HOWEVER, after halftime it was a different story as the Packers’ defense looked like the Swiss Cheese Defense they had in 2011 which lead to a 15-1 team flopping in the playoffs. ALL offenses are slowed down for long stretches or even stopped in the playoffs for a game or two so a team’s D better be up to the challenge of winning a 21-17 or 17-14 game in the playoffs. After that 43-37 “win” by Green Bay on Monday the Packers looked like a team that could miss the playoffs or be dismissed easily by Seattle, Arizona, or Detroit. Or did my eyes deceive me…once again?
Dead On (Playoff) Arrival
Starting December 3, 2006, the Indianapolis Colts stumbled to a 2-3 finish. During that 5 game stretch, the Colts’ D gave up an astounding 1,815 yards (over 200 yards a game in rushing) and almost 26 points a game! It was punctuated by a 44-17 loss to Jacksonville where the Jaguars ran for an unheard of 375 yards. The Colts would have been better off not sending any defense on the field. I declared them DOA come playoff time. Of course, their defense led the way to a Super Bowl victory while Peyton Manning was horrible along the way (3 TDS, 7 INTS).
Brothers can be so competitive – Eli and Peyton Manning are no different. Eli’s Giants did their best to top the Colts’ defensive follies of the season before…only they did the Colts one better and were horrible AT HOME. The Giants finished 3-5 at home and gave up over 26 points a game AT HOME! Eli Manning did his best to drive the Giants’ fans completely insane (23 TDS, 20 INTS). The Giants finished the regular season by giving up 38 points to the Patriots (at Giants’ Stadium, of course). I said there was no way the Giants were going to win A playoff game…let alone do anything else. Naturally, Eli looked like a Hall of Famer (6 TDS, 1 INT) in the post season, the Giants’ D suffocated every offense it played and the Giants defeated the offensive juggernaut that was the 2007 New England Patriots 17-14 in the Super Bowl.
Out of Gas
The 2009 New Orleans Saints blazed their way to a 13-0 start. They crashed to earth with a 24-17 home loss to the Dallas Cowboys. The Saints wheezed to a 2-3 finish, seemed to be out of gas, and mailed in the last game of the season. The Saints looked finished to me and ready to go home. The playoff bye served the Saints well as they reignited their offense (100 points in 3 games). Their D withstood the Murder’s Row of three future Hall of Fame Quarterbacks (Warner, Favre, and Peyton Manning) and the party was on in New Orleans.
Still Can’t Figure Out How…
The 2011 Giants roared to a 6-2 start. Injuries and poor play lead to a stumbling, bumbling 9-7 finish punctuated by a 49-24 thrashing at the hands of the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football. They won the “win and in” game against the Cowboys, but once again, I was deceived by appearances and by statistics. The 2011 Super Bowl Champion Giants allowed more points than they scored in the regular season. That is the recipe for a top 5 pick in the NFL Draft…not a championship. Once again Eli did his best Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde impression by chasing a shaky regular season (29 TDS, 16 INTS) with a sterling postseason (9 TDS, 1 INT). The Giants’ defense which had given up about 25 points a game in the regular season clamped down on offenses such as Green Bay, Atlanta, and New England in route to another trophy. I still can’t figure out how a team that finished NEGATIVE in points won the Super Bowl.
Finally, there are the 2012 Baltimore Ravens which finished 2012 with ONE win and FOUR losses. They turned over the ball 7 times and just looked incompetent on defense…giving up 25 points a game down the stretch as they crashed to a certain one and done playoff appearance. Joe Flacco followed a tepid regular season (22 TDs, 10 INTS) with an amazing playoffs (11 TDS, 0 INTS). 1-4 finish and win the Super Bowl…really Baltimore???
Awesome all Year or Just in Time
Once the playoffs begin the slate for all defenses is wiped clean. Over the last 10 seasons I have only seen two Super Bowl winning defenses essentially show greatness from beginning of the season to the end - 2010 Packers and 2013 Seahawks. In the NFC my eyes and football knowledge tell me Seattle, Detroit or Arizona will dispatch teams with weak (regular season) defenses like Philadelphia, Dallas, Green Bay and Atlanta no matter where they play. Seattle has beaten the current top three seeds (as of December 11, 2014), is playing HISTORICALLY great defense (again), has a smart QB that doesn’t turn the ball over, vicious running game, great head coach…how can the Seahawks NOT win the NFC and repeat as Super Bowl champions? The Seahawks are a lock…or are my eyes deceiving me again?