By Aaron Jackson,
There are four teams left in the NFL playoffs, and there were some shockers over the weekend that have left people shaking their heads. Luckily, I’m here for you on your Monday to use logic and reasoning to sort through the craziness and break down the five storylines of interest as we approach conference championships.
1.“Pittsburgh was so focused on the Patriots that they forgot to gameplan for the Jaguars”: Listen, I’m sure there’s a tiny bit of truth there, but that isn’t the reason they lost. They lost because Jacksonville was obviously a matchup nightmare for the Steelers. I fell into this trap like everyone else did, but NOTHING about their early season matchup suggested Pittsburgh matched up well with the Jaguars. Jacksonville destroyed them the first time around, so it’s not surprising they were able to win again. People have become conditioned to decide games based on who plays quarterback, which is not the way the league is trending. Which brings me to my next point….
2. You don’t have to have an elite quarterback to win in the NFL anymore. I made the case for this around week seven, and was called crazy on The Drive, but look who’s laughing now. The fact is that the league is going through a change in which defense and a good run game is becoming prominent again. An elite quarterback and receivers, while still important, are not the end all be all they once were. Teams can find ways to win with Blake Bortles (no, he is not a good quarterback), Case Keenum and Nick Foles (career journeymen) if they have the other components to win, which their teams do.
3. “Tom Coughlin has the blueprint to beat Tom Brady”: I’ve seen this headline a dozen times in the last 2 hours, and to me it’s laughable. First thing’s first; Coughlin isn’t even the coach of the Jaguars, which some people don’t seem to realize. Yes, he’s with the organization, and yes, he’ll provide some insights to the coaching staff that may make a difference. But he’s not going to be on the field making in-game adjustments, and he won’t be in the locker room at halftime adjusting either. The makeup of this Jaguars team is different than either of those Giants teams, and the makeup of this Patriots team is different than either of those Patriots teams. Also, Rob Gronkowski wasn’t on the first team that lost in the Super Bowl, and was injured on the second one. I’m not saying the Jaguars won’t be able to compete with the Patriots, I’m just saying if they do it’s not because Tom Coughlin is some ancient magical Brady/Belichick beating wizard.
4. Speaking of the Giants, remember when Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia was headed there to be the next head coach? That didn’t last long. Now he’s headed to the Detroit Lions according to numerous reports. Regardless of where he ends up, this could very well be the “end of the party” so to speak. If Patricia and Josh McDaniels both leave, the Patriots will be hard up to find someone to replace what they do. Something else to consider is how much longer Dante Scarnecchia, the teams offensive line coach (he IS a wizard), will stick around. The 69-year-old retired in 2014, leading to a collapse of the offensive line, and then returned to promptly make them a solid unit once again. The Pats made some personnel moves that made a difference as well, but if he decides to retire again that could be an even bigger loss than either coordinator.
5. What does Drew Brees decide to do? We marvel constantly at what Tom Brady has done over the years as he gets older, but don’t really talk enough about what Brees has done in New Orleans. His numbers are incredible, and at 39 years old he’s shown remarkable resilience only surpassed by the G.O.A.T. (Brady). He’s a free agent, and has said he wants to go back to New Orleans, but you must wonder if other teams come calling if he’d change his mind. A young team like Jacksonville could be tempting if they decide in the offseason to finally bench Bortles. New Orleans was a very good team this year, but they’ve had some bad years leading up to it, and I’m not convinced the team we saw this year will be the team we see next year. Brees could decide to go elsewhere, or even retire, in the offseason.
Aaron Jackson (@AaronRJackson on Twitter) is a co-host on The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.