10 Things We Learned From Divisional Round Weekend
NFL Play-off football is usually when we see the most exciting games and highly debated officiating and play calling. This year’s Divisional Round did not disappoint.
Now let’s get to the 10 things that we learned from this weekend:
1) Officiating crews should not be broken up into “All-Star” crews. The best teams should remain as teams
We have seen too many questionable calls and inconsistent officiating this post-season. The referees work as a team all season, improving chemistry and learning each other’s tendencies. Shuffling the deck at the most important time not only seems like a bad idea, but we are watching just how bad of an idea it is. Too many flags are picked up without explanation and poor calls are made that would happen at a far lesser rate if these officiating teams were kept intact.
2) Joe Flacco is an elite Post-Season quarterback
Joe Flacco did everything he could to win that game in New England this weekend. He led The Ravens to two 14-point leads that his defense could not hold. Flacco threw a costly interception to seal the loss for Baltimore, but 31 points, 292 passing yard and 4 touchdowns with 136 rushing yards from his team should be enough to win a game. Joe Flacco is a quarterback you do not want to face in the play-offs.
3) Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and The New England Patriots may be more resilient than normal this season
Tom Brady has had some great post-seasons and some that were not so great. After falling behind 14-0, he mounted a comeback and tied the game at 14. Once again, he found himself down 28-14 and mounted another comeback to tie the game at 28. This season the New England Patriots have experienced everything from looking unbeatable to some people calling for the benching of Tom Brady. However, this post-season they look like a team that knows they can overcome any odds and are the odds on favorite to represent the AFC in The Super Bowl this season.
4) The Seattle Seahawks’ offense may be the most patient offense in the NFL
The Seattle Seahawks’ defense gives the most valuable present to their offense, the ability to be patient and not panic. Seattle can go several drives with their offense stalling out and they know that their defense will keep them in it and that eventually their offense will work. Most teams - even teams with elite quarterbacks - get frustrated when something isn’t working and go away from their strengths. Not Russell Wilson, he knows that he can keep feeding Marshawn Lynch because eventually he is going to break off a long run. He knows that as long as he stays patient, his receivers are going to find a way to get open. Wilson even manages to keep his patience and composure when being chased out of the pocket. The Seahawks’ offense is not a prolific one, but the patience Wilson has and the way he guides that offense makes it a difficult one to defend for an entire game.
5) The Super Bowl favorite right now are The Seattle Seahawks
Last season Seattle won with a physical defense and patient offense. In the off-season, the NFL changed some of the defensive rules and made it harder for Seattle to play their brand of defense. For many defenses, this would have been their undoing. However, Seattle adjusted and actually got better. Seattle dominated in 2014, they got better in 2015 and are the hottest team in the NFL. They have twice defeated a healthy Aaron Rodgers and now they face him when he is dealing with an injury that limits his mobility
6) 60% of Aaron Rodgers is still very, very good
Speaking of Aaron Rodgers and his injury, even with an ailing calf and the inability to move around, he was excellent today. Rodgers took sometime to warm up and get comfortable on the calf, but he still managed to throw for 316 yards and 3 touchdowns. If Aaron Rodgers can do this on one leg, the league needs to be very worried about him going forward when he gets healthy.
7) Tony Romo deserves to be considered a clutch quarterback when the game is on the line
For years Tony Romo has lived under this dark cloud of failures and struggles when the game was on the line. Throughout this year (and it continued in the play-offs), when Romo needed to pull out a big play, he did. This Sunday, with a critical 4th down needing a touchdown to put Dallas back in the lead, he threw a perfect pass to Dez Bryant that was caught inside the 5-yard line. The rulebook defines the Dez Bryant catch as not a catch, but Romo did what he needed to do to put his team in position to win. Now that he proved that he is clutch this season, he needs to do it again next season to prove that it wasn’t a one-year thing.
8) There is something wrong with Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, but he is either more injured than we know or father time finally caught up with him. Manning was not the same quarterback in December and he faired no better in January. Manning seemed a step slow, unable to show the precision that he needed to lead Denver to the AFC Championship game. Indianapolis planned very well for this game, but there were many plays that a healthy (and younger) Manning makes with ease and this game would have been a lot closer than it was. The NFL is a better league when players like Peyton Manning are at their best, let’s hope that Manning can get healthy and provide us with another season or two of high-level football.
9) Andrew Luck is a better quarterback than Peyton Manning is right now
A lot has been said that Andrew Luck is great, but he is still a year or two away, that this is still Peyton Manning and Tom Brady’s AFC. Andrew Luck showed us all on Sunday that he is a better quarterback then Peyton Manning is right now and that he does not need to wait for Brady or Manning to retire to rule the AFC. After a win in Denver Sunday, Luck has the opportunity to bear Manning and Brady on their home fields in the play-offs. The world knows that Andrew Luck is the next great quarterback; they’re finding out that it’s happening sooner than they expected.
10) The conference finals are going to be incredible to watch and contain four truly elite quarterbacks.
The NFC and AFC Championship games will feature Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Andrew Luck. Are there any doubts that having an elite quarterback is key to winning a Super Bowl? These conference finals should be amazing to watch. Aaron Rodgers gets yet another chance to beat Seattle and their top tier defense while Seattle is on a mission to prove that they have the makings of a dynasty. So either Seattle will dominate Green Bay again and show the world that they will not be denied another Super Bowl appearance or Aaron Rodgers will finally get the monkey off his back and go into the Super Bowl beating the best team in the NFL on one leg. In the AFC, we have a hall of fame quarterback (Brady) against the rising star (Luck). Neither one knows how to take the foot off of the accelerator and will do anything to win. This game features two defenses that have shown signs of dominance and signs of futility, so the AFC Championship could either be a shootout or a 17-14 physical battle. No matter what the outcome of the games this coming weekend, we are going to have a great Super Bowl match-up!