Last Saturday night after watching Andrew Luck lead the Indianapolis Colts back from a 28-point deficit (The second largest comeback in NFL playoff history), The Informer tweeted out that the smart money was going to be on the Cincinnati Bengals winning on Sunday against the San Diego Chargers because the “Sports-Tebows” would want to see Peyton Manning versus his former team in the playoffs.
I mean talk about a match made in heaven if ever there was a match made in heaven.
Of course, The Informer forgot one very important aspect of the story –Andy Dalton was going to be prominently involved. Sure enough, Dalton laid an egg and the “Manning vs. His Old Team” storyline took a back seat to the “Resurgence of the Bolo Tie”.
The change from “Manning-Colts” to “Manning-Bolo Tie” got The Informer thinking about the rest of the “Juicy” storylines going on in the NFL right now.
With that in mind, here are The Informer’s Top 5 2014 NFL Playoff Storylines.
5. The Philip Rivers Resurgence.
In the 2008 NFL Playoffs the Chargers, led by their young upcoming “gunslinger” quarterback Philip Rivers, lost the AFC Championship Game 21-12 against the then undefeated New England Patriots.
While no one really gave the Chargers a chance in the game (Due to the fact that the Patriots were 18-0 and one of the best teams ever) one of the things that people tend to forget is that Rivers played, and almost won that game, on a torn ACL.
The guy’s gutty performance proved that he was one of the game’s best and toughest young quarterbacks.
Unfortunately, since that game the Chargers have only made the playoffs once (2009) and many people, The Informer included, will argue that the “Bolo Tie wearing gunslinger” hasn’t been the same caliber QB since.
But now, after upsetting the Bengals on Sunday, Rivers is one win away from returning to the AFC Championship (With a high possibility that it would be a rematch with New England) and one win away from re-joining the discussion as one of the game’s elite quarterbacks.
The Informer, like everyone else, loves a good comeback story; which is why “Rivers Resurgence” is one of the most compelling storylines of the playoffs.
4. Can Andrew Luck Do What Peyton Manning Couldn’t?
To be fair, “MVP Manning” did beat Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the playoffs one time (2006 playoffs). With that said, “MVP Manning’s” kryptonite has always been Bill Belichick and Brady.
Enter Andrew Luck; the guy who has thrown for the most yards ever after two seasons, has the most come from behind victories after two seasons and who just threw for the fifth most passing yards in a playoff game while leading his team to victory after trailing by 28 points.
The thing is Indy fans have seen the gaudy stats before, they are not interested in gaudy stats –all they want are wins. Heck even their owner said as much earlier in the season.
So putting Luck’s awesome early career and “Manning-like” resume aside (Should have been the 2012 NFL Rookie of the Year) there is one question that remains: Can he beat Tom Brady and the Patriots in the playoffs?
The good news, we don’t have to wait long to find out as Luck will get his chance Saturday night in Foxborough.
3. Who is better: Duel Threat or Traditional Quarterbacks?
In the NFC three of the four teams remaining have dual-threat running quarterbacks. You have Russell Wilson in Seattle, Cam Newton in Carolina and Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco.
These three young quarterbacks are the cream of the crop when it comes to the new generation signal-caller.
In the AFC; Manning, Brady, Rivers and Luck are all considered traditional drop-back quarterbacks that will beat you with their laser-rocket arms.
Now unless Drew Brees gets hot and leads the Saints to some upset victories (Very possible) we will be seeing a new school vs. old school quarterback match-up for the second straight Super Bowl.
So it has to be asked: Which style of QB is better? Does it even matter? Can we live in a world where half of our great quarterbacks are new school and half are old school?
Personally speaking, The Informer would rather have a more traditional drop back passer. But watch this weekend when Kaepernick, Wilson and Newton are making plays quarterbacks have never made before and you will see why many coaches are starting to consider the duel-threat the only way to go.
Whether it is new school or old school, one thing is pretty obvious from these NFL playoffs; you can’t be a championship contender without an elite quarterback.
(Cut to Bengals fans nodding their heads while crying into their A.J. “The Sickness” Green #18 jerseys.)
2. Can Peyton Manning Exercise His Playoff Demons?
NFL MVP Peyton Manning is the greatest regular season quarterback to ever play the game, but let’s be fair, he has had his fare share of playoff letdowns.
This year however, the 38-year old MVP can quiet all the critics by beating Rivers this Sunday, then beating either Brady or his former team the Colts in the AFC Championship game before winning the Super Bowl in the cold of Giants Stadium.
Even better, with some breaks here and there, Manning has a chance to beat Brees and the New Orleans Saints on February 2nd (If you remember, the last time Manning played in the Super Bowl, Sean Payton and the Saints pulled out all the tricks to upset the heavily favored Colts).
Even though Manning silencing all of his critics is a great storyline, it does not trump a guy who is trying to surpass Joe Montana and John Elway as the greatest winner in the history of the NFL.
1. Can Tom Brady Become the Greatest Winner in NFL History?
Did you know Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw (Four apiece) are the only quarterbacks with more Super Bowl rings than Tom Brady?
Did you also know that if Brady get his fourth Super Bowl ring this season, tying Bradshaw and Montana, that would mean he played in his eighth AFC Championship game (Would break a tie with Montana for most ever) and that he would have played in his sixth Super Bowl (Breaking a tie with John Elway for the most ever).
Furthermore, if Brady gets three more victories he would become the first NFL quarterback to ever win 20 playoff games. In fact, Brady already holds the NFL record with 17 postseason victories.
What The Informer is trying to say is with one more Super Bowl ring Brady will become the greatest winner in the history of the NFL.
A former sixth round pick turning into the greatest winner in the history of the National Football League? Not even the people in Hollywood could make up a storyline that improbable.
The Informer Final Note – On top of his playoff success, Brady also has a .775 regular season winning percentage (148-43) which is the best ever for a quarterback with at least 50 starts. Long story short, the guy is really freaking good at the game of football.