As far as the product on the field, the state of the NFL has never been better. That is something we witnessed throughout Wildcard Weekend and the Divisional Playoffs games the last couple of weeks. But there are five things that stood over this past weekend. The Dallas Cowboys felt the karma of the flag in their 26-21 defeat to the Green Bay Packers.
Carolina quarterback Cam Newton stood tall like Superman against the Northwest force called the Seattle Seahawks in the Panthers’ 31-17 road loss. Tom Brady and the New England Patriots played like Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to upend Joe Flacco’s and the Baltimore Ravens’ postseason run. And it was proven on the field that Andrew Luck is the future after the Indianapolis Colts handled their business in upsetting Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in a controlled-fashion win at Mile High Stadium.
And with both the NFC (Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks) and AFC (New England Patriots) title games and the Super Bowl remaining, the best is yet to come for NFL fans. One of the five revealing things about the postseason so far is that the quarterback position has changed by leaps and bounds. Three of the four quarters remaining in the Super Bowl hunt are extremely athletic and can do things with their legs as well as their arms.
The Seahawks’ Russell Wilson took the mantle from the likes of Randall Cunningham, Michael Vick, an early Donovan McNabb and made the Super Bowl his playground last year in bringing Seattle its first championship. Today, the NFL is brewing with athletic, mobile quarterbacks who are accurate with their arms as well as being dangerous if they have to tuck the ball and run.
Wilson, Luck and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, all have wheels that defenses have to contain and deal with. The year before Wilson and the Seahawks claimed the title, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick scared the daylights out of the Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII with his dual-threat abilities. Even elderly statesman Brady can’t get his running swerve on every now and then.
Brady showed some moxie after he scooted for a short touchdown run in leading the Patriots to a 35-31 win against the Ravens this past Saturday. But you still have to be able to throw the football down the field. No one playing can do that better than Brady. There’s a reason why Brady and the Patriots are knocking on the door of another Super Bowl berth, which brings me to my second point.
It’s a very difficult path to get to the Super Bowl, but Brady and the Patriots are a reckoned dynasty playing with the same zeal, consistency and methodology that have already earned them three Super Bowl wins. That’s not too bad for a guy drafted in the sixth round of the of the 2000 NFL Draft. On the flip side, while Brady is gearing up for another possible Super Bowl appearance, his counterpart and longtime on-field adversary Peyton Manning may be looking at the cold hard fact that Father Time may have caught up to him.
Manning, who has just one Super Bowl win in a Hall of Fame career, may be thinking it’s time to step away from the playing field on a permanent basis after his Broncos came up short against the Colts and Luck, the quarterback drafted to replace him.
Manning has been worth every penny the Broncos signed him up for after his departure from Indianapolis, taking Denver to the Super Bowl last year, and the AFC title game the season before.
This time around, Manning didn’t look right against the Colts. His passes were flat and off-target all game as Colts’ defenders blanketed and frustrated his receivers all game. Now comes questions that will linger throughout the offseason: Is Peyton Manning through? Was that the last game for the former Tennessee star?
The Broncos game against the Colts was the essentially the old guard going head-to-toe with the new era. Luck and the new prevailed rather handily.
The new was also in the house in Seattle as Cam Newton and his alter ego Superman persona, took on the reigning NFL champs with the 12th Man solidly in their team’s corner. The Seahawks defeated Carolina because they were simply the better team. But Newton put on his Superman cape and tried valiantly to rally his troops to victory with the type of stellar performance to let everyone else know who sat around watching the game on their television sets and at local bars, that he is next great star in the NFL.
In defeat, Newton shined. Yes, Newton threw two picks against the NFL’s best defense. Yes, that pick-six he threw that Seattle’s Kam Chancellor took to the house was the dagger in the Panthers’ heart. But Newton showed plenty of guts, poise, resiliency, and more importantly, he showed can play with the big boys. So all the haters that have been jumping on Newton for the past three years received some smush on their faces because the former Auburn star didn’t fold.
Like Superman, Newton will be back. And he’ll be better than ever. So get ready, NFL.