NFL playoffs: contenders, pretenders and return to senders
Carolina Panthers defensive end Thomas Keiser (98) chases Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. AP Photo/The Detroit News, Daniel Mears
When the NFL season regular stops and the playoffs begin, the remaining teams are all moved back to square one and are presumed to have an equal chance of being crowned Super Bowl champions.
It’s just that if the past few months are any guide, some will undoubtedly have a more equal chance than others.
For while the post season may consist of twelve teams, in reality some of these sides are the proverbial third string quarterbacks and will soon be faking injuries to get out of the Pro Bowl.
Hence, the teams can be grouped into the five following categories.
The Tourists: Bengals, Colts, Vikings, Redskins
The tourists are the teams who like the bloke on annual leave are ‘just happy to be there’, if only to break a long play-off drought and stop their lunatic fan element from burning effigies outside of the team headquarters on New Years Eve.
The Contiki caravan includes the rookie quarterback led Colts and Redskins, as well as Minnesota, who thanks to running back Adrian Peterson rank as the biggest one-man band since Bon Jovi.
Rounding out the wannabes is the Bengals. Despite making the playoffs last year, unfortunately for the Bengals, they are still the Bengals.
Verdict: First week
The Downhill flyers: Falcons, Texans
The Texans and Falcons racked up enough Ws in 2012 to be more than competitive in a game of scrabble, however you just don’t know when they’re about to go all Tony Romo on you.
Both teams were patchy in the final quarter of the season, ended on a bum note last week and look like they might have peaked a bit early.
Verdict: Second week
The flawed geniuses: Ravens, Packers
In a game that takes a serious approach to protective equipment, the flawed geniuses have a telling chink in their armour.
For the Ravens it’s the fact that their offensive team led by enigmatic quarterback Joe Flacco are just starting to learn their now offensive coordinators first name, having dumped their incumbent midway through the season.
The Pac-men have the opposite problem, in that while they may score points like Brett Favre does endorsement deals, at times their defence is patchier than Aaron Rodgers occasional moustache.
Verdict: Second week
The mystery bags: Seahawks, Broncos
The NFL is analysed more than the shroud of Turin. It should really hold very few secrets, yet the mystery bags have still got the punters guessing after all this time.
While Peyton Manning at Mile High is as sure footed as a mountain goat, it’s probably a stretch to extend the compliment to his teammates, especially with the holes in their backfield.
On the other end of the superstar spectrum there’s rookie Russell Wilson and the Seahawks who have scored 170 odd points in their last four games, which sounds impressive.
But, considering whizz kid Wilson was picked in the draft after the one-legged fat bloke with glasses, one must think that sooner or later him and the Hawks are going to find themselves eating the astro.
Verdict: Week 3
The money men: Patriots, 49ers
Are you the sort of person who only lays your money on the Melbourne Cup favourite? A big Man Utd, Federer and Tiger Woods fan? Then say hello to the money men.
While they may have faulted at various times throughout the season, both New England and San Francisco have shown themselves to be the complete package against quality opposition.
Anything less than a Super Bowl appearance for these sides will have them being heavily accosted by their super model spouses and making apologetic TV appearances.
Verdict: Super Bowl bound
As for the overall winner?
Why, football of course.
Follow Chris on Twitter @Vic_Arious
Chris Chard is a sports humour writer commenting on the often absurd nature of professional sport. A rugby league fan boy with a good blend of youth and experience taking things one week at a time, Chris has written for The Roar, Rugby League Player Magazine, US Sports Downunder, the QRL and People. Tweet him @Vic_Arious