For me, this is the best time of the year when it comes to the National Football League. Of course, I love the NCAA March Madness. For the teams that make it to the NFL tournament, it is a special time for the players, coaches, organizations and their fan bases. Each team took a different road to reach the same path. The journey for each team was much different: injuries, personal tragedy, the inconsistent rookies that hit the wall and bounced back just in time to contribute down the stretch and much more.
When I look back and remember the experience that I enjoyed on the divisional playoff weekend, a few words popped in my head: extremely stressful, exuberating, powerful, and downright moving when you have a chance to advance one step closer to the ring.
Let’s take a look at some NFL playoff history statistics and what history might take place this weekend:
The Green Bay Packers have won 13 NFL championships, more than any other team in the NFL and their .644 postseason winning percentage (29-16) is the best in NFL history. With a win on Sunday against the New York Giants, the Packers can reach 30 post-season wins, joining only the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys with 33 each that have 30 or more.
Teams with the most playoff victories in NFL history:
Teams with the most playoff wins include the Dallas Cowboys (33), Pittsburgh Steelers (33), Green Bay Packers (29), Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders (25), San Francisco 49ers (25).
As I mentioned several times, the NFL has turned into a pass-happy or pass-first league, with two quarterbacks surpassing 5,000 yards in a season, but let’s look at those that have made the 400 club in the post-season. The high-octane offense of the New Orleans Saints, run by quarterback Drew Brees who passed for 466 yards in last weekend’s 45-28 win over the Detroit Lions during wild-card weekend. Brees, who passed for 404 yards in a 2010 wild-card loss to Seattle, became the third player in NFL history to pass for at least 400 yards in multiple postseason games, joining Hall of Famer Dan Marino and Peyton Manning. Brees is the first to do so in consecutive games.
Brees can again make history with 400 passing yards this weekend against a tannish San Francisco defense that brings pressure on every play. He would become the first player in NFL history to pass for 400-plus yards in three postseason games. He also holds the NFL-record streak of 215 consecutive post-season passes without an interception, and can add to that total as well.
Manning had his 400-yard games against San Diego (402, Jan. 13, 2008) and Denver (458, Jan. 9, 2005). Marino’s were against Buffalo (422, Dec. 30, 1995) and Pittsburgh (421 (Jan. 6, 1985).
Injuries play a huge part in the game of football. When I take a look at this week’s games there are some key injuries that may affect the outcome.
Denver Broncos vs. New England Patriots
Denver: Safety Brian Dawkins (neck), wide receiver Eric Decker (knee), safety David Bruton (Achilles), defensive end Elvis Dumervil (ankle), tight end Daniel Fells (ankle). Despite full participation, linebacker Von Miller (thumb) is playing with a cast on his surgical thumb.
New England: Cornerback Kyle Arrington (foot), safety Patrick Chung (foot), guard Dan Connolly (groin), wide receiver Julian Edelman (back), linebacker Dane Fletcher (thumb), safety James Ihedigbo (shoulder), tackle Matt Light (ankle), guard Logan Mankins (knee), cornerback Devin McCourty (shoulder), linebacker Rob Ninkovich (hip), wide receiver Matt Slater (shoulder), linebacker Brandon Spikes (knee), tackle Sebastian Vollmer (back, foot), wide receiver Wes Welker (knee), linebacker Tracy White (abdomen).
New York Giants vs. Green Bay Packers
New York Giants: Running back Ahmad Bradshaw (foot, back), linebacker Mark Herzlich (ankle), running back D.J. Ware (concussion), cornerback Aaron Ross (concussion), defensive end Osi Umenyiora (ankle, knee).
Green Bay: Tackle Chad Clifton (hamstring, back), wide receiver Randall Cobb (groin), linebacker Rob Francois (hamstring).
While I had a winning percentage for the 2011 NFL regular season, the playoffs are a different monster. There are turnovers, injuries, big plays and it really boils down to which coaching staff puts their playmakers and difference-makers in position to make the big play. Here are my picks:
New Orleans @ San Francisco = 49ers
Denver @ New England = Broncos
Houston @ Baltimore = Ravens
New York Giants @ Green Bay = Packers