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Monday, January 12, 2004
 



HAS THE NFL POSTSEASON BEEN MORE EXCITING THAN BASEBALL'S?


We've had a double-overtime game and two other overtime games. We've had a team win on a 69-yard touchdown pass and another team win on a 52-yard interception return. We've seen Peyton Manning carve up two defenses, a game with no punts and a duel in the cold.

And the conference title games and Super Bowl haven't even been played yet. It got us to thinking: Have the NFL playoffs already exceeded the excitement level of last fall's MLB postseason? As usual, the WB had some opinions ...


Dan Shanoff
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: NFL playoffs vs. MLB playoffs

Baseball's epic postseason lugged an uprecedented weight of baggage; the NFL has enjoyed a fun weekend trip with a couple of carry-ons.

Aaron Boone
Aaron Boone was the Game 7 hero when the Yankees stunned the Red Sox.

What do we have in the NFL? Big plays, definitely. But its best ever? Please. We've got the same old successful team of recent seasons, like the Pats and Eagles. Don't even try to argue that the Colts' recent playoff choking is on par with the Red Sox. Or that the Panthers are the NFL's "lovable losers made good," like the Cubs were in baseball last fall.

And, by the way, the NFL hasn't even gotten to the conference title games yet. How many NFL postseasons have been defined by dramatics in the wild card and division rounds?

I'm the first to practice "instant history" and proclaim something to be "best ever." The NFL might be heading that way, but it's too early to tell; next week's games could still be snoozers. And it's certainly too early to trump baseball's best fall ever.


Eric Neel
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: NFL playoffs vs. MLB playoffs

I'm with D, not enough history and longing in the NFL mix. Plus, let's not confuse close with great. The Panthers blow the win early in the first OT with a bonehead delay of game penalty. The Titans fall thanks to intentional grounding and a very dropped, very catchable ball. The Chiefs play D like they might be allergic to the whole premise. And the Packers fail to hold on fourth-and-26. This stuff puts the ugh in ugly.


Ralph Wiley
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: NFL playoffs vs. MLB playoffs

But football, like war, is ugly, grasshopper. This past weekend was absurdly great. Unless you want to call what Peyton Manning and Donovan McNabb did "ugly." I didn't think so.


Melanie Jackson
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: NFL playoffs vs. MLB playoffs

Sorry, Dan and Eric. But baseball's "epic" postseason? Only thing truly epic about it was the huge anticipation that both the Red Sox and Cubs might finally make it to the World Series -- which didn't happen. Oh, and the fact that someone besides the Yankees won it all.

Donovan McNabb
Donovan McNabb's sterling effort -- over 100 yards and 240 yards passing -- led the Eagles to an OT win over the Packers.

The NFL playoffs so far might not have been pretty, but even with dropped passes, untimely penalties and nearly blown leads, those overtimes and hold-your-breath drama have kept you on the edge of your seat. And did you catch how quiet the dome was after Steve Smith's 69-yard touchdown grab handed St. Louis its first playoff loss there in the fifth-longest game in NFL history in one of the most wildest endings?

While the 2003 baseball postseason will be remembered for the dream matchup that almost was -- and that poor, sorry sap Steve Bartman who is still probably in hiding somewhere in the Windy City -- I'll look back on this NFL postseason and remember the dreadlocked guy screeching down the sideline on his way to scoring the first defensive touchdown to win an overtime playoff game in NFL history. I'll remember Peyton Manning proving his detractors wrong -- for at least two weeks -- and Brett Favre and Donovan McNabb, two of the game's top quarterbacks, trading jabs. Sure, Philadelphia, the higher seed, won, but you didn't dare turn off the game until the final play.

I doubt this will evolve into the best NFL postseason ever. It's too soon to take that stance. But so far, I'd take football in freezing weather over October baseball.

And I'll add this: I hadn't seen Milli Vanilli in at least a decade. Yet there they were in Green Bay's secondary getting nearly as much TV time as Favre and McNabb.


Alan Grant
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: NFL playoffs vs. MLB playoffs

Oh, this NFL postseason is certainly on par with baseball in terms of at least one central plotline: Amid chaotic chatter of teams and individuals of "destiny," the Carolina Panthers, like their baseball counterparts, the Florida Marlins, are systematically kicking ass.


Steve Wulf
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: NFL playoffs vs. MLB playoffs

I was there for both Game 7 of the ALCS in Yankee Stadium and the NFC Divisional Playoff in Philadelphia, rooting for the visiting teams in both cases, so I can tell you this: The similarity between Grady Little and Mike Sherman is astonishing. I can just see Sherman sitting at home on a Thursday night in October, turning to his son and saying, "I would not take Pedro out at this point." And I just know Grady was watching last Sunday afternoon, and turned to his son and said, "The Packers have to go for the touchdown on fourth and inches."

When I got into the office this morning, I pulled out the 2003 media guides for the Red Sox and Packers, looking for common ground between these Real Men of Genius. Grady grew up in North Carolina, Mike in Massachusetts. Had they not become coaches, Grady would've been a cotton farmer, Mike a teacher orworsea sportswriter. Mike enjoys water sports, Grady likes to entertain friends with his Forrest Gump imitation. (I just made that upthe Red Sox official bio is a little light on personal info.) Nowhere did I see a crossed path, a chance at an encounter. No mention of MENSA for either one. But wait& In the '70s, Grady played and coached in West Haven, Conn., and Mike coached and taught just down I-95 in Stamford!

So there it was. I may have found the origins of Mad Coach Disease. After all, Grady and Mike were living among the herd that elected John Rowland as its governor.


Jim Caple
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: NFL playoffs vs. MLB playoffs

I'm sorry, but I must have missed something. Are the Buffalo Bills and the Minnesota Vikings, or at least one star-crossed team, about to play in the Super Bowl? Did a fan run onto the field and break up a touchdown pass? Did 68-year-old Dick Vermeil charge across the field and attack Peyton Manning?

And anyway, determining the "NFL's best postseason ever'' is like arguing over "Pete Rose's most natural hair color" or "Michael Jackson's most normal behavior" or "Britney Spears' best CD." We all know that no matter how dramatic the playoff games are, the title game is going to be a miserable rout that sends fans into the streets by the third quarter.


David Schoenfield
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: NFL playoffs vs. MLB playoffs

I was trying to think of the "NFL's best postseason ever" this morning: You ask a baseball fan and they will immediately reel off 1986 or 1975 or, now, 2003. But ask a football fan the same question and they'll sputter ... uhh, well, you know, maybe the year the Fridge scored in the Super Bowl. So, what IS the NFL's best postseason ever? The 1981 postseason featured two of the best three playoff games ever -- Chargers over Dolphins (41-38 in OT) and 49ers over Cowboys (The Catch) -- plus a decent Super Bowl (49ers over Bengals). 1972 featured the Immaculate Reception, Dallas scoring 17 points in the 4th quarter to beat San Francisco and the unbeaten/overrated Dolphins winning three games by a combined 17 points. This postseason has a chance to jump to No. 1, but it needs a great conference title, a good or great Super Bowl and at least one moment that fans will actually remember two months from now.