by Mario "Game" Granata
Too many times the West has not come out on top when the cards were down. Take a look as this season in the NFL might be different with the teams left vying for the Lombardi Trophy, and ultimately how the west will be won.
As we progress through the NFL Playoffs, there are many storylines that are being talked about. Can Manning win another Super Bowl? How will Luck fair against the Patriots? Will Brees avenge his loss at Seattle? Can the Cinderella Chargers make a run? Will Kaepernick return to the Bowl? Can Cam complete this run?
While these are very interesting stories to say the least, there is very little being made of the actual ‘teams’ that are still vying for the Lombardi Trophy. More importantly, where the teams are from, is being ignored. Of the 8 remaining teams that are in the NFL Playoffs, 4 of them are from West Divisions (Seahawks, 49ers, Broncos, Chargers), 3 from the South (Colts, Saints, Panthers), and only one (Patriots) is from the East, respectively.
You would have to go back to John Elway to find a team that has won the Super Bowl (1998) when he took the Broncos to their second consecutive title, and, pardon the pun, rode off into the sunset.
So why were there such dominance from teams from the North, East, and South? Why is it that there hasn’t been teams that have been able to close games out West? The answer is defense. The last two teams to make a run at the Super Bowl (2008 Cardinals and 2005 Seahawks) were predicated on offense. The 2005 Seahawks were ranked in the top of the league in Offense, and the 2008 Cardinals, with Kurt Warner at the helm survived on Fitzgerald and Boldin doing the heavy lifting. This is probably why both of these teams lost to a defensive based team (Steelers both times) and why ultimately the MVP in those Super Bowls was a wide receiver (Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes).
That doesn’t seem to be the case this year. In a pass happy league, Carolina, San Francisco, Seattle and recently the Saints are stepping up and making crucial stops on defense, and in the Saints case, along with the Panthers and the 49ers, are utilizing the run to close games. Unless the Patriots can make a stand, we may see a shifting of the guard for the West teams, and they may pull it out this year. The sexy pick would be Seattle, but only if they stick to what got them there: Solid running game, and making teams one-dimensional.
As fans, people like to see points scored, and scored in bunches, but for the players, especially on defense, stepping up and making crucial stops to prevent scoring is the key to the title…and eventually how the West will be won.