Monday, December 20, 2004

One of these teams is not like the others

And, yes, one of these teams just doesn't belong--in the playoffs, that is.

This is what I saw in NFL action yesterday:

One team, who hasn't played particularly consistently this year, was going on the road against one of the "hotter" teams in the NFL, into conditions that were not only challenging but totally unfamiliar. All this against one of the league's best magicians, who had a record of consistent brilliance in the early-winter weather that was a part of every December in this particular place.

The result? The Jags put up 28 points and force 3 Brett Favre turnovers--two of them in the Jags' endzone--en route to a stunning upset in Green Bay.

Another team also went on the road, albeit to external conditions (i.e. weather) that was not unusual for this team to be playing in. Their competition was, however, also a play-off caliber team--in fact, the home team HAD to win to keep whatever playoff hopes they had alive.

The result? The Bills dominated the Bengals, continuing their superb play of late.

ANOTHER team went on the road into totally familiar surroundings--as in, every other year it seems these two teams play a game in this stadium at this time of the year. The road team had EVERYTHING to gain--and lose--riding on this game; the home team was just playing for pride, with their best running back and wide receiver out of the lineup due to injury.

The result? The Broncos, for the third time this year on a nationally-televised game, stink up the joint!

All 3 teams are now at 8-6. The Jags have the easiest road to go to reach 10-6; the Bills have a good chance (especially the way they've been playing lately) to get to 10-6 also; and then there's the B-men. With a road game against Tennessee (which put up a lot of points yesterday vs. the Raiders) and a home game against Indianapolis to go, they don't have an easy path to get to 10-6.

Looks like they won't wait 'til the playoffs to break our hearts this year.

Riddle me this: how can a team consistently in the top 8 in both total offense AND total defense end up year after year looking at the playoffs from the spectator's couch?

At some point in time, it's gotta come down to Shanny. Yes, he's a marvelous player-getter--but his major free-agent pick-ups of the last two seasons (Jake Plummer and the Champ) have been less than consistent. And one of our most pressing needs--the ability to get pressure on the QB with just a 4-man rush--has gone unanswered for 2 WHOLE YEARS now! (Not to mention: I thought one of the reasons we got Champ was so that we didn't have to rely on a 4-man rush? Hmmm. . .) And I still haven't seen him out-coach anybody in the latter part of a game in a looooong time.

At some point, that's got to be less about the players than it is about the system. . .


So as the AFC playoff race heads down the wire, one great truth emerges: if any of the teams currently at 8-6 want to make it to 10-6, they're going to have to earn it.

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