NFC Playoff Team Descriptors
If ever there was a blog that I didn't want to write, its this one....you'll see why once you near the end.
I've been asked numerous times in the last couple days who I believe the toughest out in the NFC playoffs will be. I've also had people ask me who the most dangerous team is. For whatever reason, the "most dangerous" monacre is usually reserved for teams seeded 3-6. Rarely would you say that a team with a first round bye is most dangerous. I believe that Dallas, Philly and Green Bay can each make a strong case to lay claim to that title.
I decided to play a game of word (or phrase) association with each NFC playoff team. I thought of a team, then unconsciously typed out the first thing that came to my mind. Below are the results of this highly scientific experiment:
PRETENDER: The Arizona Cardinals. If they were in any other NFC division, their record wouldn't have been good enough to make the playoffs. They were an underwhelming 4-4 at home this season...they have the worst total defense of NFC playoff teams...they are beat up...their QB is a statue. The Cardinals have "one-and-done" written all over them.
EMPTY TANK: New Orleans Saints. They are 13-3 but havent played a solid game of football in almost 50 days. Never has their been so many ?'s about a 13-3 team, and after consecutive losses at home to the Cowboys and Buccaneers, their home field swagger has gone missing. Teams are no longer skiddish about going to the Bayou for a playoff game.
HOT AT THE RIGHT TIME: Dallas Cowboys. Their resume down the stretch has earned them this title. Tony Romo is playing as well as he ever has, the pass rush is a menace, they have no significant injuries, and in the last three weeks, they beat unbeaten (at the time) New Orleans on the road and shut out a hot Eagles team.
DONT BE FOOLED: It's amazing how quickly people forgot about the Eagles' last month of play following their shut out loss to the Cowboys. Similar to the Packers, the Eagles will have to win three road games to reach the Super Bowl, but I guarantee they will not go quietly and will look like a different team against the Cowboys this weekend.
NUMBERS DONT LIE: The Packers have put up some crazy numbers this season. From their well documented complete explosiveness on offense, to their mind boggling positive turnover ratio, to a defense that has improved nearly 20 positions from 2008 to 2009. These numbers indicate a team that is complete and can beat you in a variety of ways. But the other numbers that don't lie are the number of penalties this team has incurred throughout the season and the erratic (to put it kindly) kicking game. For the Packers to advance in the playoffs, they must get consistent pressure on the QB, keep the laundry off the field, and limit their special teams gaffs. Three numbers that make me nervous (in order): #24, #7, #2.
BEST COMBO PLATTER: Minnesota Vikings (dammit!). Once the Eagles lost to the Cowboys, the Vikings became the team to beat in the NFC. The Vikings are tickled pink not to go on the road and outdoors for the playoffs. Imagine this team playing at Philly...now imagine the same team at New Orleans...totally different images I bet. I realize they nearly squandered their #2 seed with sloppy play down the stretch, but that was all outdoors and on the road. The Vikings are the only NFC playoff team to have won all of their home games. Worst thing that could happen is they head to New Orleans...a place they should feel very comfortable...they are a team that thrives in controlled elements and on a fast surface. We all tried to make a big deal out of the Favre/Childress deal, but things were never out of control, we just wanted to think it was in an attempt to sink the ship. This team can beat the opposition in each phase of the game.