Friday, January 19, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tom Jones' Two Cents: What we learned from this weekend's NFL playoffs

Peyton Manning is human. Colin Kaepernick may not be. The Patriots keep on rolling. The Falcons finally got off the ground. And Ray Lewis' career just will not end.

Here's what the division round of the NFL playoffs taught us and what it all means heading into this weekend's conference championship games.

The NFL's best young QB

The 2012 NFL playoffs featured six quarterbacks who were in either their first or second season in the league.

Who was the best of the lot? Most would have picked Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III or Russell Wilson, and all three, especially Wilson, performed admirably in the playoffs. But San Francisco's Kaepernick not only played the best of the youngsters, he had one of the best playoff games ever.

He used his arm to throw for 263 yards and two touchdowns, and his legs to smash the playoff record for rushing yards by a quarterback. Kaepernick raced for 181 yards and two more scores. (Yes, the Packers defense is wobbly, but still.)

None of that should be a surprise. While at Nevada, Kaepernick was the only quarterback in Division I history to throw for more than 10,000 yards while rushing for more than 4,000.

The Falcons have troubles

Despite winning their first playoff game with coach Mike Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan, the Falcons have some issues going into Sunday's NFC title game against the 49ers. Defensive end John Abraham aggravated his sprained ankle early in Sunday's game against the Seattle and did not return.

Even if he plays, it's hard to imagine he can be effective — a real problem when you consider he plays on the side where Kaepernick tends to roll out and run.

Scary news for a team that allowed nearly 500 yards of offense to the Seahawks.

The Ravens can win in New England

Going to New England this time of year can be a nasty trip. The weather is lousy, the fans are riled up and you have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick waiting for you. Most teams are beat before they even get off the plane. Since the Patriots started this decade of dominance, they are 11-2 at home in the playoffs.

But the Ravens are one of the two teams that have won in New England in the postseason during the Belichick-Brady era, knocking off the Pats two years ago. Quarterback Joe Flacco believes he can go into the New England in January and win because he has done it before.

Last season, the Ravens would have gone to overtime in the AFC Championship in New England had it not been for a missed chip-shot field goal in the waning seconds. The Ravens beat the Pats this season — 31-30 at Baltimore in Week 3 — and Flacco has been better statistically than Brady in the past three meetings.

The point is the Ravens are not going to be intimidated by the Patriots, especially after going into Denver and beating the top-seeded Broncos.

Pats offense won't miss Gronkowski

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski might be the best in football, but he will miss the rest of the postseason after re-breaking his left arm Sunday. Certainly, the Pats would rather be with him than without, but his absence might not be a big deal.

"Gronk'' missed five games and the Patriots averaged 34 points and 417 yards in offense in those games. That's only one fewer point and 16 fewer yards than the 11 games they played with him.

Manning's postseason reputation took a hit

If it's a playoff game, I'm not sure if I want Peyton Manning as my quarterback.

His return from neck surgeries to lead the Broncos to the top seed in the AFC was impressive, but that's what makes this year's postseason failure all the more troubling if you're evaluating Manning's postseason career.

He has won a Super Bowl, but he's now 9-11 in the postseason. Toss out his 2006 Super Bowl run and Manning is 5-11 in the playoffs. Manning's teams have made the playoffs 12 times and have been bounced in their first game eight times. He has averaged more than an interception per game in the postseason, far worse than his regular-season interception rate.

More? He's a mediocre 6-5 in home playoff games. Unlike many of the all-time great postseason QBs (Brady and Terry Bradshaw, for instance), Manning isn't good in poor conditions — 0-4 when temperatures are below 40 degrees.

Manning's across-the-field, against-his-body, weak-armed interception that led to the Ravens' winning score in overtime was one of the most ill-advised postseason throws you will ever see. I haven't seen a postseason pass that bad since Manning's horrendous interception that helped the Saints beat his Colts in Super Bowl XLIV.

Some will point out that Manning has been on teams with poor defenses, and the Broncos' lack of defense yielded 38 points Saturday. But don't truly elite QBs find ways to win games like that?

It's what Brady does. It's what Flacco is starting to do. Maybe that's why they are still playing.

tom jones' two cents

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