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Cover 3: Contenders share common traits

Posted Jan 14, 2018

Three Giants writers discuss what the NFL's playoff teams have in common:   




What is one common trait of this year’s playoff field that the rest of the teams did not have?

JOHN SCHMEELK

I’m not sure you can pinpoint one characteristic that is consistent team to team. There are some teams that play well offensively and others that play well defensively. In general, the teams in the playoffs are well coached and disciplined. However, I’m going to go with something far harder to lock down: luck. Sports is determined by luck far more than people would like to admit.

Luck can include anything from injuries to takeaways, to guys making miracle plays at the right time, to catching teams on the schedule at the right time, or even opposing coaches or players making boneheaded decisions to help you win games. All those things can have a huge impact on a team throughout a season and can turn playoff teams into observers come January. Luck can swing a team from 6-10 to 10-6 very easily. That’s not to say that all these playoff teams had to be lucky, but they almost certainly haven’t been very unlucky to get as far as they have.

DAN SALOMONE

Bill Belichick must have the largest rabbit’s foot in the world if sports comes down to luck. Could it just be that his team plays situational football better than anyone else in the league? His players don’t drop six-yard passes on a critical third-and-five. They don’t turn the ball over in the red zone. They put points on the board right before half. They get the “hidden yards.” And the list goes on. If this season taught us anything across the league, it’s the importance of situational football. Too many teams, like the Giants this year, defeat themselves. The ones that don’t are the ones playing into January.

LANCE MEDOW

When you look over the major statistical categories in the NFL, one that is noticeable among the playoff field is the rushing attack. Eleven of the 12 playoff teams ranked in the top half of the league in rushing yards per game, with the exception being the Pittsburgh Steelers, who finished 20th despite the presence of one of the most dynamic and versatile running backs in Le’Veon Bell. If you look even closer at the numbers, the NFL playoffs showcased nine of the top 10 teams in the league in rushing. No surprise, seven of the 12 playoff teams also ranked in the top 10 in the NFL in time of possession, which is synonymous with running the ball effectively, and eight of the 12 teams ranked in the top 10 in the league in points per game.

A strong running game is still dependent on other factors, such as a healthy and reliable offensive line. That was a consistent theme across the board when you look at all the playoff teams. Case in point, the Vikings and Rams both made changes to their offensive lines last offseason, and it’s no coincidence they went from teams outside the playoff picture in 2016 to very much in the mix in 2017.