The 2018 season has proven to be a success story for the NFL, a result that probably came as a complete surprise to many prognosticators. The NFL's marketing department was faced with a dilemma. After decades of utilizing highlight reels of knockout collisions to advertise their product, they were no longer able to capitalize on the raw brutality of the professional game because of pending lawsuits pertaining to CTE claims and their corresponding commitment to the Heads Up program. The league quickly implemented a new gameplan to entertain the masses, because that is what the NFL is at it's core. A multi-billion dollar entertainment entity.
So the rules committee created new rules designed to not only improve player safety but increase the level of difficulty for defenses all across the league. If you are no longer able to pull them in with the promise of cringe worthy violence, offer them the opportunity to witness mind blowing statistics and near constant scoring. That should be enough to keep the casual fan entertained and all the fantasy football crowd glued to their devices. At first glance, you would have to say "Mission accomplished" .
Anytime the top four seeds are getting ready to duke it out in the conference championship games, it legitimizes the importance of the regular season. When the four remaining teams just so happen to be the top four scoring teams during the regular season, it confirms the leagues commitment to increase scoring and their belief that increased scoring would equate to winning for the franchises able and willing to adapt.
Now your final four contenders are a deserving and diversified group. All four franchises have lifted the Lombardi Trophy at some point in their history and each team is being lead by a innovative HC and a franchise QB. The quarterbacks are particularly interesting.
On one hand you have the old GOAT, Patriots QB Tom Brady. A proven champion on multiple occasions, he is the alpha dog of the group. Nobody beats Father Time, but Brady seems to be giving him a pretty good run for his money. Every team in the league is waiting not so patiently for the inevitable decline in his game or for a chink to show in his armour. While Brady failed to have one of his MVP type seasons, he has had his usual moments of brilliance and was spectacular last week against the still shell shocked Chargers. Brady reminded me of Lebron James this season. Kinda bored with the grind of the regular season at this point of his career, but now energized since the post season is upon us. He seems recommitted to winning another Super Bowl, and while I sure hope he doesn't, I wouldn't bet against the man.
The other old dog of this group is everybody's favorite, Saints QB Drew Brees. Brees might just be the nicest guy in the league and is impossible not to like. The only time you can feel ok rooting against the man is when he is playing against your favorite team. I think it would fall outside the bounds of common human decency any other time. The Saints were the odds on preseason favorite to reach the conference championship game and they haven't disappointed. Brees is one of two individuals with a legitimate shot to take home NFL MVP honors this season, and it would be well deserved. He is still playing at the top of a Hall of Fame career and the all time passing yardage leader wants desperately to add a second Super Bowl title to his already impressive resume. He is surrounded by the best collection of talent he has ever had at his disposal, on both sides of the ball, and must be considered the favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Brees has never lost a home playoff game to my knowledge, but he will have to overcome a rash of injuries to his offensive line to keep that streak alive.
That leaves us with two young pups trying to earn their place in the pack. Los Angeles Rams QB Jerad Goff and Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes have both taken the first stepping stone necessary to become a championship QB, winning your first playoff game. You can never win the whole shebang till you win that first playoff game. That proves to be the most difficult step for many young QBs, and their confidence will often skyrocket after achieving the milestone.
That confidence should serve Goff well as he leads his Rams into hostile territory to attempt to knockoff the team with the best record in the NFL this season. Goff enjoyed a breakout season last year, his sophomore campaign in the league, but he took his game to another level this season. Goff appears to have a very calm demeanor and remains cool under pressure, reminiscent of Hall of Fame great QB Joe Montana. That is truly high praise indeed, but that is who he reminds me of. Not a bad guy to pattern your game after.
That leaves us with likely 2018 NFL MVP Mahomes, who has enjoyed a truly magical season in his first season as a starting QB. He put up numbers not seen since a young Dan Marino tore through the NFL during his second season, and Mahomes lead the league in touchdown passes by a wide margin. He displayed a midus touch, in that everything he touched turned to gold. He is absolutely fearless, whether it is throwing no look passes or throwing with his left hand after escaping the sack. For Mahomes magical season to have a Cinderella ending he will have to first knock Brady out of the playoffs and off his throne. No small task indeed, but at least the game is in Kansas City.
No matter what happens in the games this weekend, this season has been a rousing success for the NFL and their future looks bright. It really couldn't have worked out much better if they would have planned it this way. Wait a second...you don't think?