NFL Always Good for Surprises

The great thing about the NFL playoffs is that there are a one-and-done affair and unlike the other sports that are series based, there can be high drama.  Yesterday, both Divisional Playoffs were just that as the Chargers and Giants surprised the Colts and Cowboys respectively. 

The Chargers beating of the Colts was more surprising than the Giants game because the San Diego did it with backup QB Billy Volek at the helm.  Starter Philip Rivers played well, but wrenched his knee throwing a 56 touchdown pass to Darren Sproles.  After Indianapolis took a 24-21 lead, the Chargers got the ball at their own 22 yard line with Volek and backup running backs in the game.  All Volek did was complete 3 of 3 passes for 48 yards and then snuck in from the one to give the Chargers the four point win.

The Giants were outgained by Dallas but not outplayed.  Tony Romo threw for more yards than Eli Manning, but the suddenly coming of age Manning was better.  The key was the 71 yard touchdown drive at the end of the first half.  The Cowboys had just taken a 14-7 lead after a 20 play 10:28 drive, and with Dallas to get the ball to start the second half, the game might have been on the line right there.  Instead of being conservative, the Giants took their shots and went into the lockerroom tied and with tons of momentum.

As good as the NFL playoffs can be, the surprising results can often lead to bad and boring Super Bowls.  The Chargers are very good, but can they match up against New England in the AFC Championship Game as well as Indianapolis could have?  Yes, the Chargers deserve their AFC title game spot, but the NFL is a game of matchups, and San Diego should have their problems next Sunday. 

The Colts are a puzzling team.  They won their Super Bowl last year, but they still seem to come up small in playoff games.  Manning is great, but in his ten terrific seasons, he has only played in two AFC Championship Games.  And, Marvin Harrison, despite his Hall of Fame numbers tends to come up small in the really big games.  He gets a pass for yesterday because he missed three months, but he has not been great in playoff games.

The NFC Championship Game should be an evenly matched game between a Green Bay team that is better than most think, and a Giant team that is playing its best football of the year, but the winner will certainly be a huge underdog against New England and even a slight dog versus San Diego.   The potential Super Bowl game is already calling out “non-competitive.” 

The great thing about the NFL is the playoffs; the worst thing is the one sided Super Bowls, but sports isn’t American Idol or House or The Sopranos, where everything is scripted.  Reailty is not always dramatic.

The 2007 NBA Finals was a sweep; the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals went five games; the 2007 World Series was a sweep; the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final was over at halftime.  The only competitive 2007 final was the Major League Soccer Cup, which was won in dramatic fashion with Houston beating New England 2-1.  The next question:  did anybody watch it? 

This Sunday is the unofficial end of the NFL season with the AFC and NFC Championship Games, the last pure weekend of football.  The Super Bowl is the ultimate game, yes, but the Super Bowl is not for the real football fan.  It’s for my wife, my mother, my in-laws, and all the other people who only watch one or so football games per year.  The two week break still doesn’t make sense because nothing happens the first week.  The celebrities and all the talkies don’t descend upon the Super Bowl site until the Monday before the game anyway.  Oh, I forgot, the Super Bowl is for the masses.

So, enjoy the AFC Championship Game, enjoy the NFC Championship Game.  Then, spend two weeks creating scenarios as to how the Big Game will end.  By time the game comes, you’ll be worn out.

John Furgele

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