Walking the line
Commonly held NFL wisdom states that a team will only go as far in the playoffs as its quarterback takes it. This theory isn't necessarily true. No one would argue the Chargers'
The offensive lines for the Chargers and Giants clearly outplayed their counterparts on the Colts and Cowboys. The blocking units of the Patriots and Packers showed how vital the play of the most overlooked men on the field can be.
The best lines in the playoffs are those that possess the greatest mental and physical toughness. Ill-timed false starts and holding penalties can be the difference between wins and losses. With that in mind, I've ranked the four remaining offensive lines based on which group I think will play best under the intense pressure of the remaining games.
The most playoff-tested group remaining, the Patriots have a host of advantages over the other offensive lines. They have played at least two playoff games every year since 2002 and know this situation well.
Even more important, they have maintained the same starting lineup, excluding injuries, for the past three seasons. Contrary to what some GMs and head coaches believe, continuity is integral to the success of the offensive line. The Patriots clearly realize that. All five starters are home-grown products.
Mankins is the clear-cut star of this group and is already challenging
The two most experienced and well-paid members of the unit, Light and Koppen get by primarily on quickness, technique and intelligence. Light does not have the prototypical body for an elite left tackle, but plays with a low center of gravity that allows him to play light on his feet yet maintain his power. Koppen is the brains of the unit but is fortunate to play in a system that does not lean heavily on line calls made from the center position.
The right side of the line is clearly the less-accomplished side of the Patriots unit. At times, right guard Neal suffers from poor technique, but is able to utilize his amazing recovery skills to get the job done even if he gets off balance during the course of the play. The weak link for the Pats, which the Chargers will attempt to expose, is right tackle Kaczur. He struggles against elite pass rushers without help.
Veteran offensive line coach
The Chargers line had been criticized by some for underachieving earlier in the year. The fact they won a playoff game in Indianapolis with Rivers and
Their exploits were highlighted by their outstanding downfield blocking on a number of screens throughout the game, and by their ability to maintain focus despite the raucous crowd in the RCA Dome. The Chargers rose to the challenge in a hostile environment because of the time Rivers and
Much like the Patriots, the Chargers greatest area of concern is at right tackle. First-year man
The best player at his respective position for the Giants is right guard
Snee is a powerful sparkplug who is considered to be among the top guards in the NFL. Left guard
Steady and heady center
This is a
This unit went from being roundly criticized earlier in the season for an inability to open holes in the running game to a well-respected zone-blocking squad that created big openings for running back
Clifton, the left tackle, is the most accomplished of the bunch, and for good reason. Never mentioned in the same breath as
His fellow bookend, Tauscher, is perhaps best known for his doughy physique and poor technique. Tauscher somehow finds a way to utilize his body positioning and good feet into a productive performance. In a result-oriented business, Tauscher gets the job done. He will have a very difficult match-up with
Wells is similar to Koppen of the Patriots and uses his initial quickness off the snap to be effective. Colledge and Spitz are improving but still represent a problem for the Packers. Spitz has been more consistent on the right side than Colledge has been on the left side. The Packers had high hopes for Colledge when they drafted him, yet the second-rounder was benched at one point this season in favor of