Football is relatively easy when you compare it to the other major North American sports in terms of how playoffs go. No best of seven series, no grinding it out for well over a week to see who goes to the next round and who goes home. You have your wild card round, divisional, conference and, if a team can make it that far, the Super Bowl. As long as actual NFL games take to get played, the four (five if you’re including the off-week gap leading up to the big game) weeks of football to get to that final game are actually a nice relief from what can feel like an eternity when watching the NBA, MLB or NHL playoffs.
The other great thing about that system is the momentum factor it creates. Momentum is big in any sport; you move forward and you’re hard to slow down, simple physics. But the football momentum factor, with the way the playoffs are designed, is unquestionably one of the most important things if you’re looking to win the Super Bowl, you need to have it. No franchise in the last decade knows about that quite like the New York Giants. Momentum, almost inexplicably, helped the Big Blue upset the New England Patriots not just once, but that David vs. Goliath setup where the undefeated Pats were favored by 12 points in Super Bowl XLII to beat the wild-card Giants. New York got hot and pulled off what has to be considered one of the, if not the biggest upset in Super Bowl history, and all thanks to their old friend momentum.
This year, the Giants are a better regular season team than those two Super Bowl winners. They’ve been playing good football, and yesterday’s huge win over the Dallas Cowboys, with Odell Beckham Jr. playing the way you wish he’d always play and the defense making Dak Prescott’s life miserable, could be the push that gets this team going. With the remaining three games against the Lions, and old rivals Philadelphia and Washington to close things out, New York could run into the wild card round and never look back, taking the Super Bowl title with them. It has happened before, and this team is talented enough to do it again.
And then you have the Green Bay Packers. Remember them? Weren’t we looking at an entire team makeover after the season ended? That was just one of the many depressing stories out of the NFL garbage fire that the NFC North has been this year, except we were talking about the Packers, not Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears or the Minnesota Vikings with their really great defense but a dose of really bad luck on offense. You could usually count on the Packers to be a threat until this year you couldn’t. Now with wins against the Eagles, Texans and Sunday’s blowout against a very good Seattle Seahawks team that many expect to represent the NFC Houston come February, suddenly the Packers are alive again.
Sure, it will take a lot of winning. They will have to nail the next three games in a row, all against division rivals Chicago, Minnesota and then the Lions. It will also take losing: Detroit will have to lose one of their next two games against the Giants or the Cowboys, then lose that last game of the season at home against the Packers for Green Bay to somehow come back for one of the team’s worst seasons in recent memory.
And if they do? All of a sudden the Green Bay Packers are a big boulder just rolling down a hill. That’s the kind of momentum that every other team in the NFL should be very afraid of because it could be more than enough to get this team that most fans counted out a month ago all the way to the finish line.