NFC Entertainment Guaranteed?
January 19th, 2014. “Don’t try me with a sorry receiver like Michael Crabtree”, exclaimed a hyper Richard Sherman, as the Seattle Seahawks intercepted Colin Kaepernick’s late attempt at a fade to win the NFC Championship. We may remember this game for Sherman’s outburst after the game, but it should also be remembered as the year of the NFC Superbowl.
The Seahawks would go on to dismantle the Denver Broncos, in one of the more lopsided Superbowls of all time. It didn’t make for great viewing, unlike the NFC Championship game that preceded it. While we should see a competitive Superbowl in 2018, I do feel like the Saints trip to Minnesota is the unofficial NFC Championship in the making this Sunday. That’s not to say the alternative game isn’t alluring though.
Atlanta surprised some (although not this smug writer) on Sunday when they won in LA. Over the course of the second half of the regular season, the Falcons actually had a better record than Los Angeles. They’re a more experienced team than LA, and it showed. Dan Quinn deserves immense kudos for their turnaround this season, and now, they may well get their Superbowl rematch.
Of course, beating the Wentz-less Eagles wouldn’t be any surprise, and it does seem amazing that they’ll (likely) get back to the NFC Championship again, given their patchy form at the start of the season. On the other side of the NFC Divisional round, we have – what I believe to be – the unofficial NFC Championship. Indeed, it reminds me of the 49ers – Seahawks game of 2014, and how that spoilt us ahead of the grand finale.
Like then, we have two potentially great matchups on the horizon in the NFC. This Sunday, New Orleans travel to Minnesota to take them on in their dome. On the back of this season and the Saints’ recent road record (lost their past three), Minnesota are sure to be favourites. But what about LA last week? Weren’t they in a similar position? Yes, they very much were. Experience counts a lot in the playoffs, and it’s the reason LA lost out to Atlanta, and it’s the reason this Sunday should be a corker.
For you see, while Minnesota are the better team with home advantage, they don’t come close to Sean Payton and Drew Brees’ playoff record. We know that the Saints have a vast amount of experience in the playoffs, and we know how well they play in a dome by comparison to outdoors. This promises to be a tasty affair, and trumps the other NFC Divisional game on paper (sorry, Eagles).
It doesn’t stop there either. For the neutral, it doesn’t matter who wins this game. Because, if Atlanta take care of business (as we expect they will), then we will get one of two outcomes:
Atlanta @ New Orleans
Two division rivals with fan bases who hate each other more than most. They’ve played each other twice this season, with each team winning their home tie. To that point, you would give New Orleans the advantage. It’s a mouth-watering prospect with two great quarterbacks on show. Maybe this would be more like the 49ers – Seahawks game than any other.
Atlanta @ Minnesota
By the end of this game, we will see a team return to the Superbowl, one year on from total embarrassment and one of the biggest cock-ups of all time. Or, we will see a team play the Superbowl in their home stadium. They’ve never won one, and what a way to do it, this would be.
Indeed, the NFC has great promise for the remainder of the playoffs. While we can all look forward to the Steelers trip to New England (probably), the NFC Championship game has such great potential that one can’t help but be enticed by that side of the conferences. I think the playoffs so far have thrown up a mix of good experience, defensive play and quarterback play. It’s hard to pick between the Saints, Vikings and Falcons right now to represent the NFC, but one thing is for sure – they’ll all entertain.
This OTI piece was written by Matt Carolan. Matt is a New York Football Giants fan from Co Wicklow, and is currently working in marketing. Matt can be found on twitter at