The culmination of each football season is the Super Bowl. The atmosphere is electric. The hype builds by the minute as players prepare for media day, fans get exposed to a ridiculous number of super bowl week activities, and every aspect of the game gets scrutinized for 14 straight days. Somewhere along the way, every year, somebody decides to claim that this year was the “greatest playoffs ever”. They reference a couple of thrilling games, the legacy of a certain player, and the cinderella story of some underdog team that made a run. Well, we aren’t hearing any of those claims this season.
The NFL playoffs is a thrilling month of high stakes games with so much on the line. We are used to seeing division rivals meeting up for bloodbaths and all-time greats cementing their hall of fame credentials. So we expect to see close games. These are the 12 best teams in the NFL and the distance between them is pretty small, excluding perhaps 2-3 elite teams that win their first games with ease.
Then what happened in 2017? Over the 10 playoff games played so far, the average margin of victory of the winning team has been 15.7 ppg, the largest since 2001, when the NFC Central was still around! In other words, it has been a playoffs of blowouts. There have only been 2 games that have been decided by one possession: the divisional round matchups of Packers v. Cowboys and Chiefs v. Steelers. Packers v. Cowboys was a game for the ages, but really? 2 games? Let’s take a look at last year. The Steelers took down the Bengals on Cincinnati’s epic collapse, Seahawks edged the Vikings on Blair Walsh’s choke, Larry Fitzgerald carried the Cardinals past the Packers in OT despite a Rodgers hail mary, the Panthers held off Seattle’s furious rally after a 31-0 halftime deficit, and Peyton Manning beat Tom Brady in his “last rodeo” as the Denver defense knocked Brady to the turf 20 times!!! That is what the playoffs is all about. Collapses, a hail mary, comebacks, rivalries, and legacy games.
2017 could have been different. Looking back on the games, some teams clearly didn’t deserve to be there. Wouldn’t we have loved to have seen a healthy Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota lead their teams to the playoffs? We could have gotten Chiefs v. Titans in the first round, a rematch of potentially the game of the year in week 15, or Raiders v. Steelers, a shootout between two of the league’s best offenses. What if the Redskins had beaten the Giants in week 17 and we saw their high flying offense test the Seahawks’ defense? The Football Gods said no. We got Brock Osweiler vs. Connor Cook. Lions v. Seahawks was like watching paint dry and Giants v. Packers turned into a more of a discussion about Justin Bieber’s boat than a football game.
But hey, what’s done is done. If one thing is clear, there really were only 2 elite teams in the playoffs this year: Falcons and Patriots. The Patriots played a subpar game by their standards against the Texans and won by 18. Then they embarrassed the overconfident Steelers. The Falcons took one look at the Packers defense and laughed. Rodgers didn’t have a chance. So let’s offer up one more prayer to the Football Gods. Salvage this playoffs. Give us one more good game. Super Bowl 51 has everything you could hope for: a quarterback who is widely considered the GOAT going for his record 5th ring. A challenger in Matt Ryan who many consider unproven, despite putting up all-time numbers this season and in the playoffs. #1 offense vs. #1 defense. All the storylines are there.
Dear Football Gods,
Give us a Super Bowl Classic.
All NFL fans everywhere.