What We Learned From The First Round Of The 2010-2011 NFL Playoffs
The first weekend of this season’s NFL Playoffs are in the bag and—the Baltimore Ravens/Kansas City Chiefs game aside—it gave us just about all the drama and action we could handle. From the Seattle Seahawks shocking upset of the New Orleans Saints on Saturday afternoon to the New York Jets last-second win over the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday night to the Green Bay Packers slight upset of the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday afternoon, this weekend showcased everything that’s great about playoff football in the NFL.
Now that it’s over, though, it’s time to set our sights on the second weekend of the playoffs, which will see the Jets taking on the New England Patriots and the Ravens battling the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC, while the Seahawks travel to take on the Chicago Bears and the Packers play the Atlanta Falcons. But before we look ahead to that, we want to dwell on a few of the things that the first weekend of playoff action revealed to us:
1. Once you make the NFL Playoffs, anyone has a shot to win.
Raise your hand if you seriously believed the Seahawks had a chance to beat the Saints. Now keep your hand up if you’re a liar. It looks like a rap concert in here. Seriously though, no one gave Seattle much of a chance to knock off the defending Super Bowl champs, yet they managed to beat them pretty decisively despite entering the playoffs with a putrid—absolutely putrid—7-9 record. To fans of the Carolina Panthers, Buffalo Bills, and Denver Broncos: Have hope! Your team could be in the same position next year.
2. The best team in the NFC might also have the lowest seed.
The Packers thoroughly mopped the floor with the Eagles on Sunday afternoon in Philly. Sure, the Eagles had a shot at the end to win, but they didn’t deserve to win that game after playing as poorly as they did throughout most of the game. That said, the Packers aren’t just a good team—they’re quite possibly the best team in the NFC right now. And it’s only fitting that they get a chance to prove it next weekend against the Falcons.
3. Having home field isn’t much of an “advantage” anymore.
Three out of the four teams that won this weekend did so on the road. So, still think your team should fight as hard as it can for a playoff game at home? It’s always nice to play in your own stadium, but home-field advantage is becoming less and less of an issue in the NFL. Well, unless you’re the Seahawks playing in Seattle. Ha!
4. The Steelers will have their hands full on Sunday.
Mark my words: The Steelers/Ravens matchup on Saturday afternoon will be the game of the weekend. Baltimore went into an extremely hostile stadium in Kansas City, started off slow and still rebounded to crush the Chiefs. They’ll carry that momentum into the Steel City on Saturday to face a team that they’ve gone 8-9 against in a very evenly-matched rivalry over the course of the last seven years. All signs point to this being an instant classic.
5. Whoever the NFC sends to the Super Bowl will be a surprise to us.
So, the Falcons, Bears, Seahawks and Packers remain. If you’d told us that back in August, we probably would have laughed and given you an entirely new lineup of teams that’d make up the NFC’s final four. In a wide open conference this season, these four teams have shocked and awed a lot of people and no matter which of them makes it to the big game, we’ll be surprised.
6. The build-up to the Jets/Patriots game will be better than the actual game.
Here we go again. Already, Jets coach Rex Ryan is taking shots at Patriots coach Bill Belichick and saying that this game is personal. He also slandered Pats QB Tom Brady last week when he suggested that Colts QB Peyton Manning was better than him. That’ll lead to some verbal sparring this week and a fun atmosphere before the game. But we still have that 45-3 Pats romping from a few weeks ago stuck in our minds and we’re not sure the Jets can mentally recover from it. This one could get ugly.
7. Michael Vick’s comeback story isn’t any less impressive because the Eagles got knocked out in the first round.
Now that the Eagles have been eliminated from the playoffs, the Michael Vick story will probably fade into the distance until training camp comes around late next summer. Don’t forget about it anytime soon, though. In a league that’s filled with great stories, Vick made an improbable comeback that we shouldn’t soon forget. It didn’t have the happy ending that Vick probably wanted but, as football fans, we got to see history be made this season because of Vick. Keep that in mind as we move forward to Week 2 of the NFL Playoffs where—hopefully—we’ll see more made as well. See you on Saturday.