Pocket Change – The Weekend in Football


All right, it’s the last week of the season already and the playoff picture is really taking shape.  It’s about as crazy a finish as we could’ve asked for, and one of the most interesting seasons in recent memory.  We’ve had so many twists and turns this year that at this point we can’t even be sure what two teams will be meeting in Indianapolis in early February – and that’s just the way we like it…

How could we have asked for anything better than the “win and you’re in” scenarios we get this week?  For 15 weeks these teams have slugged it out and struggled to make their way through to the post-season, only to find themselves in the playoffs a week before everyone else.  In New York, the Giants host the Cowboys where the NFC East and a home playoff game await the victor.  In Denver, a similar situation exists where the Broncos host the Chiefs where a win will give the home team the division.  If they falter, the game in Oakland could determine the division winner.  Say what you will about the teams that have already locked up playoff positions, but I don’t think we’ll have any games more hotly contested than these.

Who could’ve guessed at the start of the season we’d be looking at a Tim Tebow versus Kyle Orton final game for the AFC West?  If Denver wins that game they host a playoff game next week.  WHAT?!?  Couldn’t see that coming.  Maybe we could’ve seen Tebow starting, maybe we could’ve seen Orton starting (he started the season for the team anyway), maybe in the wildest dreams of a fan the Broncos would’ve been in this position, but in reality?  Hard to figure this magic carpet ride, and the idea of the FORMER starting quarterback standing between the NEW starting quarterback and the playoffs is too much to ask for.  Hollywood couldn’t have come up with a better script.

What about the “Dream Team”?  OK, I got this one…I suppose most of the non-Eagle fans around the league were glad to see this train-wreck, and aren’t really surprised that in the end Philly wouldn’t have anything to say about who would be competing in the playoffs.  Can’t say I’m in that group, but it’s ALWAYS going to make you a target when you start spouting off about the apparent “dominance” of your team before the season even starts.  Just don’t do it.

In the past 5,000 yards passing was something to behold.  These days it seems like 5,000 is the new 4,000.  We could have two or even three 5,000-yard seasons this year.  This isn’t really a surprise, and after the first week of the season it became apparent that this was a possibility.  Drew Brees in New Orleans has already broken Dan Marino’s record of 5,084 yards, and now becomes the first player to hit the 5,000-yard mark multiple times, as he did it just a few years ago.  The way the league is now he won’t be the only one for long.

One word of warning to those teams that throw all over the place without actually playing defense or running the ball: don’t assume your regular season is going to carry over to the post-season.  On the surface the Packers and Patriots have the look of champions, but dig a little deeper and it’s clear both teams have issues in critical areas that could come into play in the weeks to come – and derail any chance they have of reaching Super Sunday.  Some of the defensive deficiencies can be attributed to being ahead in a game and the other team being desperate to catch up, thus skewing the defensive statistics.  I can buy that, but only somewhat.  Great passing offenses, lousy defenses.  Not a good combination for the playoffs.  History has shown that in the end a team built in that way will eventually run into problems.

In some places around the league it seems like it’s a forgone conclusion that Super Sunday will feature Green Bay and whatever “lowly” AFC team makes it there.  In every season we see teams get knocked off just when everyone thinks they’re invincible, and the way this season has taken shape I can’t believe the playoffs will hold to form.  Don’t be shocked if some of the favorites go down on the way to Indy.  Every NFL season features some upstart taking down a supposed “elite” team, and I can’t believe it’s over just yet.

“Pro Football is a game, not a war.  It’s for win or lose, not life or death…but say that in the summer, for winter brings the playoffs and a season is at stake…” – John Facenda, NFL Films

With the playoffs now visible on the horizon, I can’t think of a better way to put it.