THEY GET TOO much protection from the NFL but, in the playoffs, quarterbacks show their true value to their team.
During the course of the regular season, I received an email from someone asking a very simple question: “Who was the last average/bad quarterback to win a Super Bowl?”
As an Oakland Raiders sufferer, the answer wasn’t hard. It was Brad Johnson in 2002 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Picked up in the ninth round of the 1992 Draft by the Minnesota Vikings, Johnson had a less than stellar career. In 125 games, he threw 166 touchdowns and 122 interceptions, finishing with a record of 72 wins to 53 losses.
However, in 2002, Johnson had an extra special season setting team records for touchdowns (22) and completion percentage (62.3) and helped his team to victory in Super Bowl XXXVII over the Raiders.
Since then, the quarterbacks who have lifted the Vince Lombardi trophy are Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Peyton and Eli Manning.
That’s six probable future Hall of Fame quarterbacks. Now consider Joe Flacco, Andy Dalton, Matt Ryan, Christian Ponder and Matt Schaub. Do you really think any of them are likely to end up in Canton?
Cincinnati Bengals @ Houston Texans
Since 1990, when the NFL introduced the current 12-team format, home teams have won almost 66% of playoff games. The Texans are at home.
In the history of the league, teams have met at the Wild-Card stage in consecutive years just three times. On each occasion, the team that won the first encounter has repeated that success the following year. The Texans beat the Bengals 31-10 at this stage last year.
Despite that, it is worth noting that Houston have fallen into the playoffs, losing three of their last four, while the Bengals finished the regular season with seven wins from their last eight games.
Verdict: Neither of these teams will win the AFC Championship, let alone the Vince Lombardi trophy, but the Texans should have enough to get through to the next round. Houston by 5.
Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers
(Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers pitches the ball during the second half of an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday – Genevieve Ross/AP/Press Association Images)
This will be the 18th time that teams who met in the final week of the regular season will meet in the first round of the playoffs. Given the nature of week 17 encounters – teams already qualified for the playoffs resting starters, etc – it should come as no surprise that just eight of those who’ve won in the regular season have also won the postseason encounter.
Aaron Rodgers comes into this game as the only NFC quarterback to make the postseason who has actually won a playoff game before and his experience in the sub-zero conditions expected in Lambeau Field could prove invaluable.
However, Adrian Peterson already has 409 rushing yards against the Packers this year and the freezing conditions could suit the Vikings’ ground-and-pound style.
Verdict: The Packers will be worried by the fact they’ve lost three of their last four home playoff games but should still have enough to beat their divisional rivals. Green Bay by 7.
Indianapolis Colts @ Baltimore Ravens
Those of you, like me, who were sure Ray Lewis would announce his retirement with his usual modesty and understatement must have been shocked that he chose the Wednesday before a key playoff game to make the story all about him.
Sarcasm aside, Lewis has been the Ravens franchise for more than a decade and he will be sorely missed in Baltimore where he became one of just eight defensive players to ever win MVP in the Super Bowl.
For the Colts, Andrew Luck will become the first quarterback picked number one overall to start a postseason game in his rookie season and has helped Indy turn from hopeless to hopefuls in little over a year. He will, however, have to take better care of the football than he has at times this season.
Verdict: Upset alert. The Ravens have lost four of their last five, haven’t played well since mid-November and, well, Joe Flacco is their quarterback. Indianapolis by 3.
Seattle Seahawks @ Washington Redskins
This will be the second time in two seasons that rookie quarterbacks face off in the first round of the playoffs but, unlike TJ Yates last season, both Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson are their respective team’s starting quarterbacks.
This will be just the third appearance in the playoffs by the Redskins since 1999 and they won’t take much solace from the fact that both those experiences ended with a loss to the Seattle Seahawks in 2005 and 2007.
The Seahawks enter the game with a lot of hype surrounding their defence and with some tipping them to be the surprise package of this year’s playoffs. However, while they were 8-0 at home this season, they have stuttered to a 3-5 record on the road.
Verdict: This will undoubtedly be the game of the weekend and could easily require overtime to separate the two teams. A tough one to call, but Seattle by 3.