The League

Doug Farrar
Writer

Doug Farrar

A FootballOutsiders.com staff writer

Momentum Beats Location

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I don't think it's as much about home field becoming meaningless as it is momentum becoming far more meaningful. For whatever reason, the game of football has come to penalize teams that either rest their starters late in the season, having wrapped up their divisions and/or a specific seed, or teams that have that bye week in the Wild-Card round and try to get it going again in the Divisional frame.

Momentum is a cruel and fickle mistress. Who would have thought that the Arizona Cardinals -- a team that looked completely hopeless through December -- would not only put it together at the right time, but discover a running game and run defense they hadn't had all season? The Eagles were 5-5-1 at one point this year, they had to get lucky just to get into the playoffs.

And it's that desperation that seems to make the best playoff teams these days. I don't know if it's that the physical and mental demands of postseason football prevent a team from being able to turn it back on after a week off, but it's certainly been that way since last season. When the Giants went on their improbable run, it started with the decision to play all their starters in the regular season finale against the Patriots despite having a playoff game guaranteed. They then decimated a Tampa Bay squad that had rested its starters for several weeks and a Cowboys team that had started to trend downward at the wrong time.

When you look at the final four teams, only the Steelers haven't changed their approach in some decisive fashion over the last month. The Cardinals and Eagles have learned to feature their run games more often, and have benefited from better defense. The Ravens, who might be playing the best defense of all the remaining teams, have used much more of the unbalanced offensive line that has powered their ground game. It appears that some coaches are looking at the regular season as a laboratory for the postseason, which is fine as long as you know when to turn the switch and let the monster loose!

By Doug Farrar  |  January 12, 2009; 8:26 AM ET  | Category:  Arizona Cardinals , Carolina Panthers , Doug Farrar , New York Giants , Philadelphia Eagles , Pittsburgh Steelers , San Diego Chargers , Tennessee Titans Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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