One thing is for certain — it’ll be hard to match an NFL Divisional Round quite as exciting as the one we saw this past weekend.
Apart from referees defeating the Tennessee Titans 35-14 on Saturday night, the weekend was filled with exhilarating action.
The most surprising nugget is the quarterbacks who will now headline the two conference championship games. The greatest of the greats — Tom Brady — and his Patriots will battle the Jacksonville Jaguars and their young, athletic stud… Blake Bortles?
In the NFC Championship, two back-up signal callers who were both on the same terrible St. Louis Rams squad in 2015 will meet as the Philadelphia Eagles take on the Minnesota Vikings.
While it’s a great storyline, it has also deterred attention away from the real reason all these teams have made it this far into the postseason.
The defenses are filled with young and potentially generational talents.
The team that immediately comes to mind is Jacksonville. Although Pittsburgh scored 42 points against the Jaguars, they stilled started the game on sleep mode. Jacksonville forced them to play catch-up for the entire game.
Cornerback Jalen Ramsey continues to evolve into an elite defender and ball hawk, as well as make waves on social media with his outgoing and sassy personality.
And he’s not the only one. Second-year linebacker Myles Jack tripled his combined tackle total from last season. His linebacker counterpart, Telvin Smith, corralled three picks this year and took a fumble recovery to the house against Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon.
Malik Jackson, Calais Campbell, Barry Church, A.J. Bouye. A few of those names fly under the radar, but they’re still incredibly crucial to Jacksonville’s trip to Foxborough next week.
Bortles and the offense stepped up. But they’re still nothing special.
The tired phrase continues to prove itself time and time again. ‘Defense wins championships.’
All four of the remaining playoff teams were top-10 defenses throughout the regular season.
Philadelphia allowed 10 points to a top-tier Atlanta offense that many predicted would blow the Eagles out the water.
A New Orleans team that averaged 28.9 points per game in the regular season failed to put up a single point until the end of the third quarter when facing a stout Minnesota defense.
The point is, we’ve heard time and time again that this is a quarterback’s league. They make the most money, sell the most jerseys and earn the most praise and scrutiny.
What this season has shown us is how that may not be true. Finding a cannon-armed, deadly accurate prodigy doesn’t matter if your defenses leave gaps as wide as the Red Sea.
Maybe that’s why the Browns haven’t found their guy under center. They know what’s really important.