It’s always about momentum. San Diego and Indianapolis are undisputedly the hottest teams going into the playoffs. Indy brings a 9-game winning streak with their probably MVP quarterback Older-Usually-Wiser Manning to San Diego where they will face a team that had written itself off as early as Week 2 after they lost one game in the last minute to Carolina and Denver was given the gift of officiating so bad we haven’t seen Ed Hochuli since.
Miami won 5 straight, albeit against bad teams, to end the season and went 9-1 in their final 10 games could be considered a hot team going into the playoffs, but is instead filed into the category of “Best Turnaround Team,” winning the “Most Improved” praises with subtle hints of “we’re impressed but don’t think you can win a playoff game.”
Atlanta falls into the same category, they won their final 3 games but are not branded as a team to watch for in the playoffs, but as a team who went beyond the overwhelming zero expectations and impressed in ways that can be written off as “rookie luck” and “a team to look out for in the future.”
Philadelphia gets momentum credibility by winning the final game, a game that required a victory for a ticket to the playoffs. At home, the Eagles made the Cowboys look like the cocky over-rated chums that they are. Unfortunately, T.O. had texted Romo in the morning promising not to turn on him if they lost, leading to a tearless press conference. The Cowboys must’ve learned from last year’s playoff loss to the Giants that crying like a baby makes the other team’s victory 3,458 times sweeter.
The truth is, the only good way to end the season is either on an impressive winning streak or in a “win and in” game. Miami’s victory doesn’t fall in “win and in” because it is overwhelmed by the impressive turnaround and talks of angry Patriots fans wishing the tie-break was in their favor. Nevertheless, no one gushes about a team who has already clinched a high seed cruising into their already deserved playoff spot because that team doesn’t have the all-mighty “rhythm” and “momentum” going for them.
The argument can be made that even the elite teams, like the Titans and Giants, should play Week 17 as if it was imperative to their standings because ending the season without proving again how tough the team is will certainly come back to haunt these arrogant, boastful teams. But then you have Big Ben, laying face up on the turf staring at the stars swirling around his head for a quarter of an hour while every Pittsburgh fan reminded themselves that he cannot possibly be seriously injured because this guy’s head is so thick it bounced right off the pavement when he crashed his motorcycle without a helmet, so this can’t possibly be more than a medical formality, right?
You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. You either risk hurting your starters or you sacrifice the treasured significance of momentum. Or, you can prove it all wrong by winning your final game with your B team to prove that even your backups are the cream of the crop and that, yes, the Giants are the team to beat in the NFC if the kicker wasn’t 62 years old.
Originally published on January 7th in Citizen News (Sherman, New Fairfield Edition)