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NFL Unfiltered Divisional Playoff Edition: Statistical lies; Mariota no surprise

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With all due respect to Pro Football Focus, fantasy football players and those who form opinions based on box scores: Regular season NFL statistics mean nothing in the postseason.  

Stats are why most people list Denver’s Peyton Manning as one of the top five quarterbacks of all time, a notion that borders on the laughable.  It is why the Baltimore Ravens scored 30+ points in two playoff games, but only managed that feat four times in the regular season. And it is why the Indianapolis Colts allowed twice as many points per game (23.1) through their first 16 then they have in their last two.Peyton Manning photo: USAToday.com

At this stage, what matters most is who teams play and when they play them.  Just like in the NBA.  

To wit, the Colts benefited from playing the overrated and underwhelming Cincinnati Bengals, led by lovable losers Marvin Lewis and quarterback Andy Dalton. And of course, they caught the Broncos, who counted on an old, injured quarterback in Manning, who isn’t known for elevating his game in the postseason anyway.  

Consider, the 7-8-1 Carolina Panthers, the team many used to make the case the NFL must overhaul the rules that govern playoff seeding.  They beat the Arizona Cardinals pretty easily while scoring 28 points, despite the Cardinals’ fifth ranked defense. Why? Because Ryan Lindley can’t play and Cam Newton can.  

Statistics matter in that it provides a link to the game most fans wouldn’t have without it.  And it gives guys something to talk about when they’re hanging out with friends, because watching an NFL game without any emotional connection is boring for many.  

To give any real credence to NFL statistics is pure fallacy because the game hasn’t changed.  

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THINGS THE PUNDITS CAN’T OR WON’T SAY: Divisional Playoff Edition

…Which brings me to Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who statistically made his case for being a first round draft choice.  In fact, the talk around here is the Philadelphia Eagles should trade for him by any means necessary. That only makes sense if you think he is an all-time prospect, ready to perform in any offense. Or, you believe head coach Chip Kelly stays in Philly for several more years. If you’re honest and paying attention, you couldn’t feel confident about the former or the latter.    Photo: CBSSports.com

Again, I pay attention to statistics only so I know what people mean when a sports debate breaks out.  However, my opinions come by way of simply watching the games.  For example, Dalton does not look like a top-15 NFL quarterback to me and Mariota looks like a another college system guy, who takes advantage of that level’s larger hash marks and weaker athletes.  

-Joe Flacco’s decision to force that throw in the 4th quarter was every bit as poor as Colin Kaepernick’s in last year’s NFC Championship Game. Neither were necessary at the times in the game they made them.  

-Newton actually played pretty well against the Seahawks. He deserves criticism for what seems like a lackadaisical attitude toward the mental part of quarterbacking, despite Mike Shula’s average teachings.  But when he performs, he deserves praise.  

-The number of things that break Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson’s way during a football game are uncanny, dare I say, mythical. And his teammates know it.     

-The officials didn’t help, but the Dallas Cowboys’ made a mess at the end of the 1st half.  That, along with DeMarco Murray’s 3rd quarter fumble, did far more harm than referee Gene Steratore did. Frankly, Murray is a liability no matter how many yards he gains.  

-Torn quadriceps aside, are you really surprised Manning performed poorly in a playoff game?  And while I’m at it, why wasn’t his injury factored in during the 14-day lead up to the game?  All these NFL insiders and experts providing all this analysis, and nobody suggested Manning might struggle in another cold weather game because of his health and age?  

-Manning is in the very back-end of my top-10 all-time quarterbacks, maybe even just outside it.  But for me, his legacy is one of spectacular regular seasons, stupefying postseasons and selfishness.  Don’t let them fool you either, he played with some special players throughout his career, but his incessant need to control everything on offense prevented him from achieving more.  At times, particularly in the playoffs, he needed a head coach to tell him “no” for his own good.      

-It bears repeating, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck receives praise for many things about his game, but his best attribute is his physical toughness. The guy takes an absolute beating and still performs at a high level.  

-The NFL’s annual coaching carousel is as unimaginative as always. Bill Walsh is dead. And Bill Parcells, Joe Gibbs, Jimmy Johnson and Don Shula aren’t walking through anyone’s doors.  Pick a retread, a lifelong assistant, or the supposed, next 30-something wannabe, and get on with other business, because it won’t really matter.

 

Earl Myers is a freelance writer from the Philadelphia area.  He closely follows North America's four major sports leagues but just about any sporting event gets his attention.  His goal is to provoke a little thought in his readers.

Contact Earl at emyersiii@hotmail.com

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Manning photo: USAToday.com

 

Mariota photo: CBSSports.com