12 Jan 2009
This week’s article for ESPN has a sort of mini-AGS about all three upsets. (The thinking went: we just did Arizona, the most surprising game, last week. The Baltimore upset was almost entirely turnovers so not warranting a full look. Finally, does anyone really want to read an FO writer write another article about how good Philadelphia is?) The downside of this was that I did not get a chance to really address what held back the three teams that lost.
Tennessee: The Titans were great at ball security all season, so this one loss is hardly an indictment of their overall system. Still, you could not help but think that this team was eking out every last bit of talent that it had. Justin Gage as your # 1 receiver? Really? They start Nick Harper, a Colts cast-off, at cornerback and still have one of the top defenses in the league. Of course, the counter-argument is that because most of their talent is along their offensive and defensive fronts, it just is more difficult to see. Still, few thought they would return to the playoffs, and one razor-thin loss to an extremely talented team is hardly a reason to question the results of this season.
Carolina: Jake Delhomme and remember to cover Larry Fitzgerald. (The Panthers, of course, beat a Bears team in the playoffs with massive quarterback questions that forgot to cover Steve Smith. That team ended up in the Super Bowl the next year.)
New York: Once Aaron Schatz runs the numbers on Tuesday, you will see that this game was closer than the score. The Giants missed on converting short yardage where they normally excel. The Eagles set up their first touchdown after a lengthy interception return. Given the windy conditions, it is hard to read too much into their inability to throw the ball. The numbers say they did not miss Plaxico Burress too much, although his absence obviously changes the way the team is defended. Manning’s bad game should not obscure the leap in performance he took this year, and the Giants need to realize that post-season results are at least a little fluky. This year’s team was better than last year’s, and panicking would be an enormous mistake.
10 comments, Last at 13 Jan 2009, 6:26pm by Alvin Mullins
Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?