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News » The Miami Herald Greg Cote column: NFL playoffs offer some refreshing storylines

The Miami Herald Greg Cote column: NFL playoffs offer some refreshing storylines

The Miami Herald Greg Cote column: NFL playoffs offer some refreshing storylines
Jan. 2--It's as if the NFL has this refresh button that it keeps punching, renewing itself. How can a league that is 89 years old feel so fresh? It's like watching great-granpappy bopping with his iPod on.

The playoffs commencing this weekend are full of fresh on several fronts, all of them involving Miami.

(Still getting used to the idea of writing "playoffs" and "Miami" in the same sentence. Been awhile).

Fresh! All four lower-seeded road teams are betting favorites this weekend. That's a first, and another reminder that in parity-drenched King Sport, a 1-15 team can rise like magic and anybody can beat anybody. (Well, Detroit can't, but you get the point).

Fresh! Seven of the 12 teams in the Super Bowl tournament were watching the playoffs on TV last year (including the Dolphins, in case you hadn't heard). Those seven teams had been a combined 25 seasons removed from the postseason. And four of the seven rebounded from last-place division finishes a year ago.

Fresh! This marks the first time in the Super Bowl era (since 1966) that two rookie quarterbacks (Ravens' Joe Flacco, facing Miami, and Falcons' Matt Ryan) have started in the playoffs. The only other rookie arms to start in the playoffs since then were Dan Marino (1983 Dolphins), Bernie Kosar ('85 Browns), Jim Everett ('86 Rams), Todd Marinovich ('91 Raiders), Shaun King ('99 Buccaneers) and Ben Roethlisberger ('04 Steelers).

Fresh! Dolphins vs. Ravens will mark only the third time ever that rookie head coaches (Tony Sparano, John Harbaugh) have faced each other in the playoffs. The other times were Paul Brown (Browns) vs. Joe Stydahar (Rams) in 1945, and Jim Haslett (Saints) vs. Mike Martz (Rams) in 2000. Three rookie coaches in one postseason (add Atlanta's Mike Smith) are the most since Bill Cowher, Dennis Green and Bobby Ross in 1992.


You know what else would be fresh and different?

Me being right on my picks.

One man's ranking of the 12 playoff teams based on their likelihood of ending up as Super Bowl champion:

1. Steelers -- Pittsburgh's awesome defense is champion quality. Top-slotting the Steelers assumes Ben Roethlisberger's noggin is OK following a concussion, of course.

2. Giants -- Better today than they were as champions last season. Two 1,000-yard rushers and home-field advantage throughout is a load to overcome.

3. Panthers -- Need a very hot Jake Delhomme to overcome defensive inconsistencies.

4. Colts -- Indy has won nine in a row and Peyton Manning is as hot as any quarterback in the league. That kind of mo' and that kind of Manning could be enough to carry you into February.

5. Titans -- Best record in the league, but still not sold on Tennessee as top-tier.

6. Eagles -- Any team that beats Dallas 44-6 has my attention. Brian Westbrook, a hot Donovan McNabb and a disrupting defense make a nice package for January.

7. Chargers -- Phillip Rivers and LaDainian Tomlinson give Bolts a shot, but too many fissures in pass defense.

8. Dolphins -- Still being disrespected, underrated and taken lightly, but Miami has as much confidence as anybody, and that counts for something.

9. Ravens -- Common thinking has me ranking Baltimore much too low here, but I don't even see the Crows getting past Miami.

10. Cardinals -- Shaky late in season and worst defense (by far) of any playoff team, but Kurt Warner and that huge air attack should get 'em past this week, anyway.

11. Falcons -- Atlanta had only a 4-4 road record, and rookie QB Matt Ryan had some interception issues late in season.

12. Vikings -- Well, there's Adrian Peterson and, and -- and not enough help.


Of course that's just my ranking. The dozen are arranged this way based on betting odds, courtesy of Bodog, against each team winning the Super Bowl:

Giants 3-1; Steelers 5-1; Panthers 6-1; Titans 7-1; Colts 8-1; Eagles and Chargers 11-1; Ravens 14-1; Falcons 20-1; Dolphins 25-1; Vikings 28-1; and Cardinals 40-1.

Betting favorites for likeliest Super Bowl matchup are Giants-Steelers and Giants-Titans, both 5-1; Panthers-Steelers and Panthers-Titans, both 7-1; and Giants-Colts, 8-1.

To see more of The Miami Herald or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.herald.com. Copyright (c) 2009, The Miami Herald Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For reprints, email tmsreprints@permissionsgroup.com, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: January 3, 2009

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