EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


January 4, 2013

A dozen sights to behold come playoff time

Key things to be on lookout for from NFL's contenders

1. Falcons home cooking

I have never seen a team more under the radar than the 13-3 Atlanta Falcons. I understand the sentiment — their schedule was semi-weak and they are the Falcons — but they do well in a few key categories. They rank fifth in the NFL allowing only 18.7 points per game. They have a franchise quarterback in Matt Ryan, fifth in QB rating (99.1), just ahead of Tom Brady (98.7). They have homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. And if they make the Super Bowl, they will play in another dome (New Orleans Super Dome) which they play in every season ... I’m just sayin’.

2. Robert Griffin’s leg

He is a legitimate MVP candidate, right there with Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson and our very own Tommy Brady. But the key to his success is his mobility, particularly his passing outside the pocket. Without this weapon, the Redskins are probably doomed this weekend against a pursuit-based Seattle defense. I love this guy. But I believe his injured knee will catch up with him. One lesson he will have learned this season is that the bye week can be a precious commodity.

3. Carroll’s decision-making

Pete Carroll can’t control his emotions sometimes. He literally hyperventilates on the sidelines. That’s semi-acceptable on Sundays, September through December. It will be the death of the Seahawks probably the week after this one. Carroll has a lot to prove, that he is a “great” coach and not just a great college recruiter/coach. I have doubted his ability to lead a contender and he has proven me wrong thus far. I believe he will eventually blow it when a Green Bay or Atlanta team are on the January agenda. Just my opinion.

4. Gronk’s arm

The New England Patriots are like a machine and they need all systems working together. And a key component of that system is Rob Gronkowski. When he is 100 percent, the Patriots’ offense is nearly impossible to slow down. He can’t be covered by one person, which means everybody else enjoys 20 percent more success. While Gronk played the last regular season game, he did everything he could to avoid having his “healed” arm go near contact. If that arm is still not healed or he is fearful of injury, beating Denver in Denver or an NFC power in New Orleans might be too much to ask.

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