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Recent posts by Ron Borges
There is really only one thing you can say about wild-card weekend, and you didn't have to wait until Sunday night to say it.
"That's why they play the games,'' David once announced after dropping Goliath with a slingshot to the eye. His point was never made clearer than during Saturday's playoff win by the Seahawks.
The Seahawks staggered into the postseason with a 7-9 record, making them the first team to reach the playoffs with a losing record in a non-strike year since the advent of the Super Bowl. They lost seven of their final 10 games, yet rang up 41 points on the defending Super Bowl champions, knocking the 11-5 Saints out of the postseason.
How did the Seahawks smoke the Saints' defense and, to a lesser extent, how did this year's more vulnerable version of the Jets' defense shut down Peyton Manning in the midst of a month of on-field struggles and seemingly endless off-the-field theater?
Call it parity if you want. That's what the NFL would like you to do. Repeat the "On Any Given Sunday'' mantra that dates back to Bert Bell and the 1940s and then go out and buy some merchandise and a Sunday Ticket package and don't ask too many questions.
While you're gone, though, I'll call it something else. I'll call it parody. A parody of what once made the NFL the greatest team sport America ever came up with. A parody of that greatness.
There are no great teams this season, and that includes the ones that went 14-2 or 13-3. All are seriously flawed, although the one with Tom Brady in charge is less flawed than the rest because he is The Great Equalizer. Like a parish priest, he can absolve his team of its many sins.
That's why the Patriots have the best chance to go all the way to Dallas even though their defense is one of the shakiest in the NFL, which is not the traditional formula for playoff success.
So what happened that first day of the playoffs, and what does it say about the NFL? What happened was two flawed teams beat two nearly equally flawed teams. The Seahawks did it in a way that was a tad embarrassing, staggering to a division title and hosting a game when most believed they didn't deserve to be in the playoffs. But they got the "W" and move on.
The Jets did it by returning to their roots, which head coach Rex Ryan always has claimed was ground-and-pound football. After falling behind in the first half, that's what he demanded of his players in the second half, pounding the Colts' defense down with a hard-headed running game and pounding down the Colts' offense with a defense that dared them to run the ball.
Manning took the dare and lost the bet. That was Ryan's plan, and it worked.
But just as last week was Wild-Card Weekend, this is usually Reality Check Weekend. In recent years, the wild-card games have offered an upset or two, but the following weekend midnight usually strikes down Cinderella. Is that where the Seahawks and Jets are headed when they face the Bears and Patriots?
We don't know, of course. That's why they play the games. Just ask the heavily favored Saints.
But the NFL should hope so, because if the 7-9 Seahawks reach the Super Bowl, these playoffs will have become more than a parody. They will have become a farce.
Ron Borges is a columnist for the Boston Herald.
This column was first published in the Jan. 16, 2011, print edition of Pro Football Weekly, which also contains features on Bears QB Jay Cutler, the Patriots' unsung RB duo, Falcons head coach Mike Smith, and rehired interim coaches Leslie Frazier and Jason Garrett, as well as previews of all four divisional playoff games and an early fantasy draft board for 2011. The PFW print edition is on sale at retail outlets across the country and also online at PFWstore.com, where both print and electronic (PDF) versions can be purchased.