With the NFL playoffs on the horizon, coaches are preparing Xs and Os, motivating their clubs and creating the mindset of one play at time, while dealing with the pressures of the playoffs and pushing players to gear them towards winning at all cost. There are a lot of philosophies and proven coaching directives when preparing a team to succeed no matter the situation or scenario that may arise. After all, it’s the playoffs; win or go home. But winning on the road will be the key.
The true test for road teams has been shown by history. Teams that travel away from their home turf must have two main ingredients: 1. An offense that must have a high-powered passing game and the ability to score in the red zone, but the key is the ability to run the ball, shorten the game and control time of possession and not turn the ball over. 2. A defense that has the ability to pressure the opponent’s offense with blitz packages, coverage ability against multiple receiver sets, stop the run and win the takeaway battle.
The x-factor as teams approach the playoffs and within the playoffs as they make their run for the Lombardi Trophy, is who has the healthiest roster from top to bottom. Injuries are a part of the game and come at the most inopportune times. They will play a vital part in a team’s overall performance in all three phases: offense, defense and special teams. This is not the time to be limping into the final quarter of the season, and staring at the playoff bracket without your key playmakers and difference-makers that have gotten you to this point of the season. The team with the healthiest roster generally wins most of the close battles. Despite outstanding schemes, this is why the good teams continue to build the back end of their roster throughout the season.
When I look at the NFC, Green Bay is the reigning world champions and they were favorites to win their second consecutive title. Despite having the best quarterback in the league in Aaron Rogers, the Packers find themselves playing musical chairs with their offensive line due to massive injuries to their starting tackles and a defense that is yielding almost 400 yards a game. They still manage to win games, but for how long? The offense is scoring points and the defense is winning the turnover battle, but that may change.
Teams like the New Orleans Saints that are clicking on all cylinders on offense and playing scrappy defense are healthy and finishing the season strong. The other team that is hot and playing well, while having been healthy all of season, and has a quarterback that has been rejuvenated, is the San Francisco 49ers.
The AFC is jumbled up and has several Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde performances. It is really hard to see a clear-cut favorite approaching the finish line of a season that started with a lockout that lasted several months.
NFL fans hang onto your seats. It’s coming down to a very interesting and exciting finish and the playoffs will be crazy as the odds-on favorites tag has been thrown out the window. Anything can happen on any given day when two teams face off for the run at the ring.