Snap Judgments: New blood in Super Bowl; dismal year for kickers
Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we contemplate the final three games of the NFL's postseason and dissect news from around the league.....
• One way or another, there figures to be a healthy dose of new blood in this year's Super Bowl. Sure, the Colts are the exception to the rule, having won the Super Bowl just three years ago, the last time the game was played in South Florida. But the Saints, in their 43rd season, are one of just five teams to never play in a Super Bowl (along with the Browns, Texans, Jaguars and Lions); the Jets haven't gone to the league's biggest game in 41 years; and the Vikings are trying to return to the Super stage after an absence of 33 years.
On an individual basis,
Even the playoff-tested Colts have a rookie head coach in
• Here's our up-to-minute ranking of the four potential Super Bowl matchups, in terms of juiciest storylines:
• What a dark and unexpectedly dismal year it has been for some kickers in the NFL this season. And the carnage just keeps right on coming in this year's playoffs. San Diego's
Kaeding is a sad story unto himself. The Chargers kicker was named All-Pro this season, and in his six years in the NFL, his field goal percentage is a sterling .872 (150 of 172) in the regular season. But with three misses on Sunday in San Diego's three-point loss to the Jets, Kaeding is now just 8 of 15 (.533) on field goals in the playoffs.
He missed from 36, 57 and 40 yards against New York despite entering the game with 20 consecutive field goals made, and an NFL record 69 in a row from inside of 40 yards (dating from December 2006). He missed as many kicks in one day as he had all season, given that he was 32 of 35 this year before facing New York.
• Can't remember an offseason where we ever had as much potential news on the retirement front. We're now waiting to hear if we've seen the last of
• Anyone else sensing something of a trend here? The 2005 Steelers were a defensively-led No. 6 seed that went on the road to win the Super Bowl, having knocked off the No. 1 seeded Colts in the divisional round. The 2007 Giants were a defensively-led No. 5 seed that went on the road to win the Super Bowl, having knocked off the No. 1 seeded Cowboys in the divisional round.
And under the heading of so far, so good, the 2009 Jets are a defensively-led No. 5 seed that is just one more road win away from the Super Bowl, having knocked off the No. 2 seeded Chargers in the divisional round. (Anybody else pick up on the Colts, Cowboys and Chargers all starting with a C? No, I didn't think so.)
If the Jets beat the Colts, it'll mark the fifth consecutive season a team that played in the first round went on to reach the Super Bowl (Steelers in 2005, Colts in 2006, Giants in 2007, Cardinals in 2008).
• Defensive coordinator
Nolan is reportedly about to join Miami as the Dolphins defensive coordinator, replacing the fired
• Nothing against
Gailey hasn't been in Pittsburgh since serving as
• How is it that
• So much for the need for momentum heading into the playoffs. In the last three weeks of the regular season, the four remaining teams in the postseason went a combined 4-8. In Week 15, the Jets, Saints and Vikings lost. In Week 16, the Colts, Vikings and Saints lost. And in Week 17, the Saints and Colts lost.
New Orleans went 0-3 in that span, and is trying to become the first team in league history to advance to a Super Bowl after losing its last three games in the regular season.
• The Jets are the only team in the final four with two playoff wins, and the last time New York put together consecutive wins in the postseason was 1982, when the league went with a 16-team Super Bowl tournament in response to a two-month players strike that reduced the regular season to nine games.
The Jets were coached by
Ah, symmetry. Or thereabouts.
• If you're into playoff history as an indicator of what will unfold this weekend, get ready for a Jets-Vikings Super Bowl. Not only did the Jets hand the Colts the most legendary upset in Super Bowl history -- see
The Saints and Vikings, fresh off twin 31-point blowout wins last weekend, have also met twice in the postseason. Both times Minnesota triumphed in grand fashion. In 1987, which was New Orleans' first winning season ever, the 12-3 Saints were dismantled 44-10 by the 8-7 Vikings in a first-round game at the Superdome. In 2000, the Saints were coming off their first playoff win ever -- against St. Louis in the first round -- when they traveled to Minnesota for a divisional round game. The Vikings rolled 34-16 to earn their second NFC title game berth in three years.
All that said, I like the Colts and Saints this weekend.
Three times in the past six seasons the Chargers have now ended the year by losing a three-point game at home to a sizable underdog in their playoff opener: 20-17 to the Jets in overtime in 2004; 24-21 to the Patriots in 2006, and 17-14 to the Jets on Sunday. Those losses ruined glorious regular seasons of 12-4, 14-2, and 13-3 for San Diego, which was seeded second, first and fourth in those AFC playoff fields.
• Despite their glaring playoff failures over the weekend, Turner got his three-year contract extension from the Chargers on Monday night, and
Maybe Norv and Wade can commiserate a bit and celebrate a bit at the Pro Bowl, which is not the trip to Miami they were seeking. Turner and Phillips will coach this year's Pro Bowl teams, because in this year's revamped format, those jobs fall to the coaches of the higher-seeded divisional-round loser in each conference.
• Speaking of the Pro Bowl, with cornerback
Pro Bowl Fever. Catch it.