The NFL’s post season is in full stride this week with the Divisional Round of the playoffs taking place the weekend of January 13 and 14 on CBS, Fox and NBC networks. Perhaps some of the best football of the season will be played over the course of that weekend with the winners moving on to next Sunday’s conference championships.
Many feel that the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots are on a crash course for the AFC Championship. Perhaps the same theory applies to the Minnesota Vikings and even the Philadelphia Eagles, who are now without second-year quarterback Carson Wentz, in the NFC. There’s still talk about an all-Pennsylvania Super Bowl LII.
But any sports fan with a memory knows that anything can happen in the playoffs. The NFL has as much nostalgia as any sport, and part of that nostalgia is teams rising to the occasion in the playoffs, overcoming the odds, the experts predictions and even winning championships.
There’s been some of that in recent history. During in the 2013-14 season we knew the Seattle Seahawks, led by Russell Wilson were good. They proved it in the playoffs, especially when they man-handled Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos by a score of 43-8 in Super Bowl XLVIII.
Manning was the victim of a surprise team a year earlier. The Broncos were the top seed in the AFC and had the Baltimore Ravens all but put away in a Divisional Round playoff game when Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco orchestrated a comeback, overtime win and Baltimore went on to win in all.
Peyton’s brother, Eli Manning was on the winning end of two New York Giants teams who overcame adversity in the playoffs and beat the Patriots not once, but twice in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI in 2007 and 2011.
There are numerous similar stories throughout the history of football. Look up the 2005-06 Steelers team, or the 2000-01 Ravens. A year later, in 2001-02, it was Tom Brady and the Patriots who seemingly came out of nowhere and began a stretch of success that obviously continues to this day.
On the nostalgic side, go back to the 1975-76 Dallas Cowboys who snuck into the playoffs as the Wild Card team (there was only one back then). They came up to Minnesota to face a Vikings team many expected to win the Super Bowl. Then Roger Staubach hit Drew Pearson with a 50-yard touchdown pass in the final seconds and the “Hail Mary” was born. The Cowboys destroyed the Los Angles Rams in the NFC Championship, but lost to Pittsburgh in Super Bowl X, a game that is still considered one of the best Super Bowls of all time.
Bet on the favorites if you like, but don’t be surprised if they get knocked off in the Divisional rounds.