Is this the season where we return to sanity?
The traditional rules to winning a Superbowl are the following:
1. Have a smart, accurate quarterback who performs under pressure. Quarterbacks who double as running backs need not apply.
2. Have a featured running back who rushed for over 1,000 yards but did not lead the league or even the conference in rushing. Teams that are mostly about the running game don't belong here.
3. Have a strong defense.
For decades, having all three of the above has been the formula. There have been a few exceptions, such as the 2000 Ravens, but year by year, this has been almost always the case.
However, each of the last two years has featured teams that don't quite fit this formula. Two years ago, the New Orleans Saints won with hardly any running game to speak of. They, in fact, barely beat the Indianapolis Colts, another team without a strong running game or even that good of a defense. Both these teams featured complex, dynamic passing games that seemed to overcome their other deficiencies. Then last year, it happened again with the Green Bay Packers. This leads to the question - has the formula been changed?
This year, the Packers went 15-1 with a weak running game and a suspect defense. They seemed to be on a collision course with the Saints, who had similar strengths and weaknesses. This weekend was supposed to be the big shootout between these two pass-happy teams. As we know now, it wasn't to be. In fact, the two teams in the NFC that won last week follow the traditional formula.
Now, of the four teams left, only the Patriots depend almost solely on their passing game with their weak running game and suspect defense. However, I'm not sure if the Ravens fit the formula either as we'll see if Joe Flacco is poised and accurate enough.
The way I see it, this is a very good thing. Just like the steroid-era of baseball showed, too much offense is not necessarily a good thing. In baseball, home runs were supposed to be special and exciting. When there's 10 home runs in a game, the luster wears off and it just becomes expected. In football, stuffed runs, quarterback sacks, and knocked-down passes are as exciting as touchdowns. A 10-3 game can be as entertaining as a 35-31 game.
Here I go:
Giants over 49ers
Ravens over Patriots