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NFL Quick Hits

December 29, 2012

Title of Best Team: The NFL is a league filled with parity. Everyone knows that but it was even more obvious the past few weeks as the media has been trying to crown the “best team in the NFL” going into the playoffs and it just can’t be done. 3 weeks ago the Patriots owned that title after they dismantled the Houston Texans 42-14. That title was quickly stripped away by the 49ers one week later when they went into Foxboro and beat those same Patriots 41-34 yet then they lost their title one week later as last night they were obliterated 42-13 by the Seattle Seahawks. What does this all mean? It means that the title of “best team in the NFL” is a hollow one and it also means we as fans should be expecting an epic set of playoff games this year. There can be a case made that the Falcons, Patriots, Packers, Broncos, Seahawks, 49ers, or Texans all are “favorites” to win their conference and make it to the Super Bowl which really means that there’s no true favorite and each playoff game will be an evenly matched affair. I’m extremely excited to watch NFL this January as this is a year with quite a few great teams.

Andrew Luck: Luck might not win the rookie of the year award and might not have the charisma or sponsorship of Robert Griffin III but his rookie season has cemented his status as a winner. This season he inherited a team that went 2-14 the year before yet has them in the playoffs at 10-5. It’s not a new phenomenon as he did the same thing in college at Stanford as he inherited a team that went 10-26 the previous 3 years yet turned them around to get them to a 31-8 record in his 3 year stay at the university. Combined it means that in his last 4 years he has a record of 41-13 despite taking over two teams that in the previous 4 years had a record of 12-40! It often takes a special kind of talent to turn around a college program or franchise and it’s become very obvious that Andrew Luck has that gift. He’s already won more games as a rookie than any other quarterback taken 1st Overall and with his amazing heroics in the 4th quarter I wouldn’t be surprised if Luck engineered a 1st round upset and took down a superior team in these upcoming playoffs. The Colts talent base is still extremely weak in quite a few positions but with a winner like Andrew Luck to build around it won’t be long before they are in the mix as a Super Bowl contender.

Eli Manning: About a month ago there was a lot of talk around the NFL about Phil Simms’ remark that he didn’t consider Eli Manning an elite quarterback. Defenders of him pointed out his 2 Super Bowl rings yet I defended Simms’ as the numbers don’t measure up to the elites at that position (Brady, Manning, Rodgers, Brees) and he has failed the “eyeball test” throughout this season with numerous atrocious performances. That continued Sunday as Manning completed only 50% of his passes in a 33-14 blowout that wasn’t even as close as the score would indicate. In the past 2 weeks the Giants have scored 14 points despite their playoff lives being on the line and them facing two defenses ranked outside the Top 20 when facing them (the Ravens jumped to #20 after their dominant win). I know a lot of fans like to make simplistic arguments like “Eli has 2 Super Bowl wins therefore he’s elite,” but the reality is that the Giants have won only win their defensive line has been dominant and with this season their DL having a subpar year they once again struggled. An elite quarterback is one that can win games single-handedly on their own and Eli just can’t do that. I said it a few weeks ago when arguing against him being elite but I’ll do it again: He’s only been in the Top 10 in QB Rating once in the last 8 years (2011), he’s led the NFL in interceptions two different seasons (and finished 2nd a third season), and in the playoffs he rarely leads his team to a high scoring output. In all of his biggest playoff wins they’ve been defensive games in which his defense made key sacks and turnovers to allow him to win despite marginal offensive output. The Giants appear destined to miss the playoffs this year and it will be the 3rd time in the past 4 seasons. It’s a stat never mentioned by Eli’s supporters as it makes him look inferior to the elites like Brady (made the playoffs each of the past 9 seasons-not counting the ’08 season in which he missed all but 1 game due to injury), Manning (made playoffs 11 of the past 12 seasons-not counting the ’11 season in which he missed the entire season due to injury), and even the young Aaron Rodgers (made the playoffs 4th straight season) all of whom are expected to make the playoffs each and every year. Eli Manning is not an elite quarterback and it’s quite obvious when you compare him to the true elite quarterbacks. 

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