Elite 8 storylines (cont.)
5. Two rings are better than one. Three of the eight remaining quarterbacks in the divisional round are on a quest to win their second Super Bowl ring: Favre, Warner and Manning. For quarterbacks, a second Super Bowl ring puts you in a different class and almost assures your Hall of Fame induction at career's end.
Ten QBs have started and won at least two Super Bowls: Bart Starr, Bob Griese, Roger Staubach, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, Jim Plunkett, John Elway, Troy Aikman, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger. Plunkett is the only retired quarterback not yet enshrined, and Brady and Roethlisberger are well on their way to Canton.
I'm pretty sure Favre, Manning and even Warner are all going into the Hall at this point, without or without a second piece of shiny jewelry. But it would represent a career-capping accomplishment for Favre and Warner, and further cement Manning's legacy as one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.
6. The Mojo readings. You can consider this a version of my up-to-the-minute elite eight power rankings, as we attempt to divine the all-important momentum factor heading into the divisional round:
1) San Diego -- By the time the Chargers take the field Sunday afternoon against the Jets, it'll be two days shy of three months since their most recent loss. That says it all.
7. Oh, those kickers. We've got a little bit of everything to choose from when it comes to the sub-plots involving the kickers who are left in the NFL playoffs. The Colts' Matt Stover has already beaten the Ravens once this season, but now he gets to drive the ultimate stake through his old team's heart, making it live all offseason with its regret of letting him go.
Jets' ironman Jay Feely looks like he'll only have to kick this Sunday at San Diego, rather than handle Steve Weatherford's punting duties as well, as he did last week in Cincy when his teammate had an irregular heart beat. Cardinals fans were the ones with heart problems after Neil Rackers missed that 34-yard field goal attempt late in regulation, nearly costly Arizona its season. Better get that case of the yips looked at, Neil.
Two other playoff kickers remain firmly under the gun as well. The Saints switched from John Carney to Garrett Hartley in Week 16, and Hartley promptly lost a game for New Orleans when his 37-yarder with five seconds remaining sailed wide left at home against Tampa Bay. In Dallas, Shaun Suisham has made four of five field goals since joining the Cowboys in Week 16, but we all know he's capable of missing a chippie at any moment, just like his predecessor, Nick Folk, did in Week 15 at the Saints. Suisham missed his own chip-shot against the Saints, in Week 13, for Washington.
8. Fresh legs. With all those prolific passers at work this weekend, will those youngster-led running games have any chance to show up like they did last weekend? Baltimore's a safe bet to give the ball to Ray Rice and Willis McGahee. The Ravens hung 234 rushing yards on the Patriots, and I don't believe Baltimore wants to get into a shootout with the Colts and Manning. They'll try to shorten the game by running left, right and up the middle.
Minnesota has been heavily reliant on Favre and the passing game late in the season, making Adrian Peterson seem like something of an afterthought. And the Cowboys winning formula right now is to mix in a big dose of the running game, so look for Dallas to run it with Felix Jones and Tashard Choice (who helped lead the Cowboys to 198 yards on the ground last week), even against Minnesota's No. 2 ranked run defense (87.1).
The Jets have the best ground game in the NFL, and rookie Shonn Greene had a breakout performance last week at Cincinnati, producing 135 of New York's 171 running yards. He and Thomas Jones figure to pound away at a Chargers defense that has surrendered a troubling 4.5 yards per carry.
Even Arizona got in on the act last week on the rushing front, finding time to churn out 156 yards on just 23 carries (a gaudy 6.8 average), while Warner was completing 29 of 33 passes for 379 yards and five touchdowns. Rookie Beanie Wells had 91 yards on 14 carries for the Cardinals, and keeping the ball on the ground might be the best way to keep it away from Brees and the Saints' high-powered offense.
NFL Truth & Rumors