When not making the playoffs has you posting a week later

So, the playoffs start tomorrow, and Big Blue is not in the picture. They just didn't make the cut. I let my brother-in-law make the preceding post, and I can't say I disagree with him in that I don't blame the schedule makers. I don't even blame their bad luck in playing east of the Mississippi River. See, 7-9 records only work out west. But, regardless of any Tweet or Facebook post I may have made, that's not to blame.

The schedule is what it is. I actually like its formulaic design, as it promotes great rotation. You know your team will get to play against every team at least every four years. That only two games (you know, the two games you have a tough time explaining to others when asked how the NFL comes up with each team's opponents) are specifically scheduled against teams with a similar division ranking is not remarkably conducive to parity, but it's a fine way to complete a 16-game schedule. If parity were the objective, maybe the schedule could be altered so that, instead of playing a complete division in the opposing conference, the team would play four games against similarly ranked division teams in that conference. But, I like the idea of playing every team in the NFL on a somewhat steady rotation.

I believe momentum is more at play in determining a team's fate. Since the preceding post brings up the 2007 Giants, I will happily recount my thoughts of that team. Into the second half, the Giants did not give the appearance of being glory bound. A four-interception game against the Vikings in late November stands out. But, they started to turn things around after that. Against the Bills, Bradshaw had a breakout game, and suddenly, the Giants had another real threat in the backfield to go with the bruising Jacobs. With Ward, Earth, Wind & Fire was born. Further, Steve Smith emerged as a third receiver, big on third downs and playing the middle of the field, pulling coverage from established threats Burress and Toomer. Meanwhile, the Patriots, who had been destroying opponents, had tough games against the Ravens and Eagles. They won, but they were suddenly playing closer games, and some of the older players on defense didn't play as sharply.

When the playoffs rolled around that year, I was not surprised that the Giants beat Tampa Bay--momentum was with the Giants, and TB didn't didn't seem like a far superior opponent. Ditto against the Cowboys the next week: A division opponent led by a QB who had failed in the playoffs the year before, it just felt like a toss up. Then the Giants entered the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. I did not think the Giants had a chance in that game. But, Manning and Burress had great games, Tynes got enough chances, and Favre threw a late INT. After that game, their momentum was strengthened. Throw away their record, throw away the Patriot's perfect record, and go. I would not have been surprised if the Pats won. But I wasn't shocked that Big Blue won.

Go forward three years. Yes, the Giants play in a tough division. Yes, they only beat one team with a winning record. But, I have little doubt that, had there not been a careless fumble along the sideline in the third quarter against the Eagles, the Giants would have won that game. Had that game unfolded with a Giants victory, well, an 11-win season gets them in the playoffs. But, that fumble happened. And with that fumble lost, momentum was lost. That, more than the schedule, more than any single play, more than anything borne out by analyzing records, is why the Giants are watching at home. Sorry, #82, I blame you.

At least three Wild Card teams have won the Super Bowl, so the idea that the team with the best record deserves to win is shot. A corollary may be that the teams with the best records don't necessarily deserve to make the playoffs. Momentum and finishing strong is how teams win. Will 7-9 Seattle topple the 11-win Saints? The 13-win Falcons? Who knows? That is why they play the game...

Comments

  1. Thanks for visiting my little nature blog! My second blog tend more to book and movie reviews. A one time pro football fan I was pretty soured on it all due to the Vikings track record of criminal behavior and "love boating." Last year I was temporarily inspired to watch Brett and this year got the full disillusionment as hi self centered prima donna side was fully revealed. Particularly enjoyed you BBC book post and the one about leaves. Eclectic indeed blog which is really neat. Thanks again.

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