Feed on
Posts

This is Part 4 of an ongoing series ranking every NFL playoffs I've ever seen. Check out No. 31-26, No. 25-21, and No. 20-16

Also, don't forget to vote for this year's Goldie Awards! There have been twice as many Goldie Awards than there were Packers starters that played all 16 games!

 

15. 2009
Super Bowl: New Orleans 31 Indianapolis 17
Avg Margin of Victory: 15.18
Close Games: 3
Blowouts: 5
Upsets: 5
Best Game: Arizona 51 Green Bay 45 - NFC Wildcard Round
Worst Game: Minnesota 34 Dallas 3 - NFC Divisional Round
Eric’s Strongest Memory: Brett Favre throws the game away in New Orleans (MIN at NO – NFC Championship)

With :25 remaining in the NFC Championship Game, this Packers fan was sure this was the worst NFL season I’d ever see. Brett Favre was going to take the Vikings to the Super Bowl to play the Indianapolis Colts. While it had the potential to be a good game, I was tired of the Colts, and I sure as hell didn’t want Brett Favre taking the Vikings to the big dance. Then Brett did what he always did and injected a ton of drama into a playoff season by throwing the ball to the other team at the worst possible time. The Saints ended up winning, and the NFC Championship Game became one of my favorite games ever. It’s hard for me to objectively look at this season, with the Favre stuff and one of the most painful losses in Packers history occurring, but when I do, I see a mixed year. The Saints/Vikings game and Cardinals/Packers game are each one of the best games in NFL history. The Saints win over the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV is very good. The rest? Yikes. Outside of the Jets and Chargers playing a competitive game, the rest of the tournament is a wasteland of blowouts. Some are fun, like the Ravens shellacking the Patriots in Foxboro, but most are just boring. I could be convinced to move this further down the list, but I’ll leave it here. The AFC Title Game is competitive, the Super Bowl is good, and there are two of the greatest games I’ve ever seen. That’s about all you can hope for in an average playoff season.

 

14. 2013
Super Bowl: Seattle 43 Denver 8
Avg Margin of Victory: 11.18
Close Games: 6
Blowouts: 3
Upsets: 4
Best Game: Seattle 23 San Francisco 17 – NFC Championship Game
Worst Game: New England 43 Indianapolis 22 – AFC Divisional Round
Eric’s Strongest Memory: Malcolm Smith interception in End Zone off a Richard Sherman Tip to clinch the NFC Championship (SF at SEA)

2013 has two of my favorite recent playoff games. Both are fantastic and entirely different. The first was the opening contest of the 2013 playoffs. The Kansas City Chiefs raced out to a 38-10 lead over the Colts. Andrew Luck responded with the finest moment of his career, rallying the Colts to a 45-44 win. He does so in the most Andrew Luck fashion. The Colts score a touchdown on 5 of their 6 drives after falling down by 28. The only drive they don’t score on, Luck throws an interception. He also scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery near the goal line that he dove into the end zone. It was Andrew Luck’s play-style in a nutshell: beautiful chaos. The other favorite game is the San Francisco vs. Seattle NFC Championship game. In an era of empty yards and frequent comebacks from huge deficits, it was refreshing to see an old-school dog fight between two bitter rivals for the right to go to the Super Bowl. While the offenses were still quite good, the defenses felt like they were equally good. In the modern NFL, defenses often seem like a nuisance for the offense to avoid rather than an equal participant in the game. It ended when Richard Sherman tipped Colin Kaepernick’s last-ditch pass to the end zone, and Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith intercepted it. Seattle won 23-17. The rest of the playoffs had some other excellent games as well. Two other Wildcard games were won on Field Goals as time expired: the Saints over Eagles and 49ers over the Packers. Despite several great games, 2013 is dropped down a notch by its awful Super Bowl. Seattle and their number one defense were matched up against the Denver Broncos – who arguably had the best offense in NFL history. It was a great style matchup on paper, but it followed the same script as nearly all of these matchups – Seattle’s defense destroyed Denver’s offense and won 43-8. Not only is that a disgusting score for Super Bowl trivia nerds like me, Seattle led the game for all but the first seven seconds of play. This game was a colossal letdown. Overall, 2013 has some outstanding highlights but doesn’t have quite the balance through the rest of the games to make this more than just an average playoff season.

 

13. 1995
Super Bowl: Dallas 27 Pittsburgh 17
Avg Margin of Victory: 13.09
Close Games: 2
Blowouts: 4
Upsets: 4
Best Game: Dallas 38 Green Bay 27 – NFC Championship Game
Worst Game: Dallas 30 Philadelphia 11 – NFC Divisional Round
Eric’s Strongest Memory: Craig Newsome recovering Derrick Lovelle’s fumble and returning it for a touchdown to start the route (GB at SF – NFC Divisional Round)

The 1995 playoffs began with one of the worst weekends of football in NFL playoff history. All four games were decided by at least 15 points, with three of the four basically decided by halftime. While the games were not competitive, they did retain the key hallmark of the historic 1995 regular season – lots and lots of scoring. No team scored fewer than 20 points, and the winning teams all scored at least 35. The games would get more competitive in the second weekend. The two AFC games were tightly contested into the fourth quarter and included the 9-7 Colts upset of the top-seeded 13-3 Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium 10-7. In the NFC, Dallas rolled as usual, but Green Bay did the unthinkable and broke through the NFC’s glass ceiling by smashing the 49ers in Candlestick Park 27-17. The Packers dominated from the get-go and would become the only NFC team to win a road Divisional Round game in the 1990s. What set 1995 apart was the terrific Conference Championship Games. The Colts and Steelers play a thriller at Three Rivers Stadium that sees the game end with Jim Harbaugh throwing a Hail Mary that briefly rests on the abdomen of the prone Aaron Bailey before being knocked to the turf and giving Pittsburgh the 20-16 win. Down south, the Packers and Cowboys played a classic worthy of their historic playoff rivalry. The shootout saw six lead changes before Dallas took the lead for good with 10 minutes left and holding on to win 38-27. I’ve grown to appreciate this game over the years. At the time, the 8-year-old me was devastated the Packers lost and spent the postgame show crying on my grandpa’s lap as he assured me Green Bay would win the Super Bowl next year. If only he had made an official wager on that prediction. The Super Bowl we got this year was also excellent. Pittsburgh duked it out in a well-played balanced game that turned in the 4th quarter when Neil O’Donnell threw a gift interception to Cowboys CB Larry Brown. Dallas won 27-17, but this game was far closer. Part of my affinity for 1995 might be due to nostalgia, as it was the first playoffs where I watched every game in its entirety. But I’d argue it’s also a very entertaining year. While the start was rocky, the finish was spectacular, and there were enough upsets and well-played games to make this one of the best seasons of the decade.

 

12. 2001
Super Bowl: New England 20 St. Louis 17
Avg Margin of Victory: 12.73
Close Games: 4
Blowouts: 4
Upsets: 4
Best Game: New England 20 St. Louis 17 – Super Bowl XXXVI
Worst Game: Baltimore 20 Miami 3 – AFC Wildcard Round
Eric’s Strongest Memory: The Tuck Rule and Adam Vinatieri kicking a 48-yard field goal in a blizzard (OAK at NE– AFC Divisional Round)

It’s hard to believe that the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady New England Patriots were once plucky underdogs that were nearly universally loved by the sports fan public. What a difference five championships (and about as many scandals) can make. The 2001 playoffs are all about the Pats’ rages to riches run. All three of their playoff games were tightly contested, but the two that went down in NFL history are the Tuck Rule and the Super Bowl. Their Divisional Round win over the Raiders provided some of the best images I’ve ever seen. I remember being in awe of each team’s ability to do anything at all in the blizzard conditions. It looked like there was a foot of snow of the ground throughout the game. As far as the Tuck Rule? Hell, I still don’t know. At the time, I thought it was a fumble. I believed that Brady had completed the pump fake and his arm was now still and waiting to throw again. I was shocked when it was overturned, but I had been on the Pats bandwagon all year, so I was happy. The Super Bowl was amazing. Not only did the Pats pull off the giant upset against the mighty St. Louis Rams juggernaut (that whole sentence looks like it came out of an alternate universe with all that has transpired in the years since), but it was also a great cultural moment for America. I’m not one to get hung up on the rah-rah Patriotism the NFL forces upon us these days, but in the wake of 9/11, all of these moments felt right and helped in the nation’s healing. Seeing the Superdome decked out in red, white, and blue while U2 played tribute to the victims of the attacks remains one of the best Super Bowl moments. The fact that the game turned out to be a classic was a bonus. The rest of 2001 is pretty average. The Eagles go on a nice run from the Wildcard round and notch what would be their first of four straight NFC Championship Game appearances. They play the Rams tough too in the NFC Title Game. I also can’t think of this year without imagining a blurry montage of Brett Favre throwing interceptions superimposed over Rams defenders running for touchdowns. Can’t win them all I guess. 2001 was a special year, given the cultural environment. New England distracted us from everything going on and gave us a magical run to a championship. I hope someday when their reign is over, 2001 will be my lasting memory of their dynasty. It was the one time we all wanted the Patriots to be champions.

 

11. 2006
Super Bowl: Indianapolis 29 Chicago 17
Avg Margin of Victory: 9.00
Close Games: 6
Blowouts: 2
Upsets: 2
Best Game: Indianapolis 38 New England 34 – AFC Championship Game
Worst Game: Indianapolis 23 Kansas City 8 – AFC Wildcard Game
Eric’s Strongest Memory: Marlin Jackson picks off Tom Brady - Peyton finally beats Tom (NE at IND – AFC Championship Game)

If I was listing great playoff seasons off the top of my head, I would never mention 2006. All I can think of is Rex Grossman and the Colts repeatedly kicking field goals. But when you dig a little deeper, this year is a hidden gem. The 9.0 point average margin of victory is tied for the narrowest of any playoff year on this 31-year list. 6 of the 11 contests are decided by 4 points or less. Two games ended with walkoff field goals. A third would have if Tony Romo could have fielded a snap on a field goal attempt. It’s just a damn good playoff year. The best game was the greatest ever matchup in the league’s greatest quarterback rivalry. In the AFC Championship Game, Peyton Manning brings his Colts back from 18 points down to beat Tom Brady’s Patriots 38-34 and go to his first Super Bowl. There are a couple of things that knock 2006 down a peg for me. One is the lousy NFC. Much like the AFC in 1989, it seemed like the NFC produced so many close games because none of the teams were very good. The Bears appeared like they might be the real deal, but the Super Bowl and subsequent seasons showed them to be pretenders. The other reason this year isn’t higher is due to the lackluster play of the Colts on their way to the Super Bowl. Despite possessing an array of offensive talent that would be envied by most teams in NFL history, they never clicked. They turned the ball over 9 times and kicked 14 field goals in their four playoff games. Yuck. Also, the Super Bowl is just ok. However, it still had some positives. The Bears lost, it was the first game I ever watched on an HD TV, and Prince’s halftime performance, including Purple Rain in the pouring rain, is a legendary moment in music history. Not much more to say about 2006. It’s a weird season and a weird playoffs, but it's chock full of outstanding, yet forgotten, games.

 

Next time, we look at the Top 10 Playoff Years!

Check out the rest of the series:

No. 31-26

No. 25-21

No. 20-16

No. 10-6 

 

Eric Drews 
Host 
Green and Gold Forever 
@GreenGold4Ever

Share
Podbean App

Play this podcast on Podbean App