Why is the NFL so exciting, despite its problems?
This past Sunday’s games and the prospects for next Sunday emphatically answers the question.
As we all have seen for years, it’s that one play or development in the waning moments of a close game that turn the tide.
In the Packers 34-31 victory over the Cowboys, it was that incredible pass by Aaron Rodgers to Jared Cook who dragged his toes to stay in bounds on a 36-yard play that set up the game winning field goal by Mason Crosby. Remember the play came on 3d and 20 with 12 seconds on the clock.
Later, the Chiefs appeared to come back and tie the Steelers with a 2-point conversion following a touchdown, but a holding penalty on tackle Eric Fisher took the two points off the board and the next attempt failed. Instead of a 18-18 score with a couple of minutes remaining, the Steelers retained the lead and when Ben Roethlisberger converted a third down pass it was all over.
Keep in mind two things. It is likely that had Fisher not held James Harrison, the Chiefs might not have gotten off that pass to convert. More important, with so much time left,the Steelers had a big opportunity, especially with Roethlisberger, to get a possible game-winning field goal or even a touchdown.
But it seemed the penalty took the wind out of the Chiefs’ sails.
Also keep in mind my record for picks on the weekend was 2-2. That makes me 5-3 for my selections for the first two weeks of the playoffs and my General Manager may be scouring the waiver wire for my replacement. I hope not.
Now we get to potentially two sensational match-ups for the Conference Championships. Is the NFL all about the quarterback position?
Consider this: In Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers we have three potential Hall of Fame quarterbacks. The other QB, Matt Ryan could easily be this year’s MVP and could ultimately be a Hall of Famer himself.
The NFC game between the Packers and the Falcons will feature two offenses which have averaged over 33 points per game since week 11. In a total of 16 games, Rodgers and Ryan have combined for a total of 41 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions.
He Packers have won their last 8 games. The Falcons have captured their last 5 as well as 8 of their last 10 which began with a 33-32 triumph October 30th against the Green Bay at the Georgia Dome, the scene of the game coming up and the final one to played there with the new stadium in Atlanta to be launched next season.
With the game indoors, the scoreboard will be worn out with points from both teams.
And both teams are vulnerable enough on defense to make it a shoot-out.
Over on the AFC side, the Steelers-Patriots duel will feature historically championship clubs in which one or the other , have been in this title contest 12 of the past 13 years.
So its Ben Roethlisberger against Tom Brady. That’s six Super Bowls between them.
This season, the Patriots defense has been their mantra. When the Pats lose in post season, it usually is because of critical turnovers or being overpowered at a particular position. Last year, the Broncos vaunted defense was too much for New England’s offensive line and Brady had no chance.
That won’t be the case this time. We all know that turnovers at a crucial time usually determine the winner and there’s no way to predict those.Beyond that, I believe the game will come down to who can make the other quarterback more uncomfortable.
I say the Patriots will get the job done there and advance to the Super Bowl.
But I save the best for last. It seems Aaron Rodgers can do no wrong and the Packers are on a phenomenal roll that can only result in his second Super Bowl victory.
Who would argue that? I will. My thinking is, that despite the Falcons inability to have success in the playoffs in past seasons, there is something about them this time that has something undeniable. An unmistakable feel of determination and ability to outscore any team with so many weapons for Matt Ryan to employ.
It is difficult to imagine the Packers shutting down or slowing down every threat the Falcons have.
Barring the unforeseen, this game should be a classic offensive war.
So there you have it, from somebody who says who can possibly predict the unknown, Atlanta and New England to make the journey to Houston in February.
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