Friday, January 13, 2012

1/13 (NFL Divisional) Quickie

I actually try pretty hard to limit my Tebow talk here to just the big national storylines that everyone is talking about (For more on Tebow, try

But what happens when the Tebow story overwhelms everything else? From that dumb "St. Elmo's Fire" remake ("Tim Tebow's Fire") to the "Most Popular Athlete" poll to the talk about the "3:16" coincidences in the game to same-old stories about the Tebow story -- as if fans (even non-fans) don't already know all about him. And yet... people can't get enough.

I'm entirely ready to focus on tomorrow's game, and I'm left feeling pretty similar to last week: A win, of course, would be great. But Tebow's validation as an NFL player was in leading the Broncos (projected to 3 or 4 wins this season) to the playoffs. Last week's win was obviously a bonus -- it is Tebow's new legacy, from the great stats to the crystallizing final play ("The Pass") to the record-shattering TV audience numbers.

If the Broncos lose tomorrow, it doesn't mean anything about Tim Tebow. It doesn't mean he sucks, it doesn't mean he isn't an NFL QB and it doesn't take away from what happened last week and all season -- it means the Broncos lost on the road to the bye-week-rested No. 1 seed in the AFC. Yeah, losing under those conditions would be humiliating. Come on.

Here's what last week did for me -- and, without projecting too much, probably did for a lot of fans: It made me believe that the Broncos can beat the Patriots. That's not saying they will -- I'm just saying I believe it can happen, even more than I believed the Broncos had a puncher's chance at beating the Steelers.

Belief is a powerful thing. It is a huge part of what has driven the Broncos -- and the Tebow phenomenon -- all season long. The story of Tebow throughout his young NFL career comes down to disbelief ("Tim Tebow can't...") and belief, with the result largely trending toward: "I cannot believe that just happened."

If it ends tomorrow night, it doesn't take away from last week's career-defining win. It doesn't take away from a magic ride this season. It doesn't erode Tebow's position as the incumbent should-be-starting QB of the Broncos next season.

Maybe -- just maybe -- it means a little less Tebow hysteria, which has nothing to do with Tebow himself and everything to do with everyone else. Tebow's biggest fans and his biggest haters can all agree that's a welcome finish.


*NFL Picks: 49ers over Saints... Packers over Giants... Ravens over Texans.

*Dwight Howard: 39 free throw attempts last night, an NBA record. He also had 40+ points and 20+ rebounds in a win over Golden State. He only made half of the FTs, There's some pretty good analysis that the number of free throw attempts correlates to winning much more closely than free throw percentage.

*NFL Draft: A few of Alabama's junior stars are going pro early, including Trent Richardson -- who has impressed me more than any RB in the NFL since Adrian Peterson. Richardson is going to do extremely well in the NFL (although he will end up on a team with a worse offensive line -- relative to competition -- than he had at Alabama).

*The NCAA president can get behind a 4-team playoff: That's fine. It's an improvement on the current system. But let's please not suggest that picking a 4-team group will be any less contentious than picking a 2-team pairing. In fact, I predict it will be a LOT more contentious. (For example, let's say that picking LSU, Alabama and Oklahoma State would have been relatively easy this season for a 4-team field. Who is the fourth? Stanford? Why? They lost to Oregon -- decisively, actually -- and Oregon won the conference title. Why isn't Arkansas in the mix -- is it unreasonable that three teams from one league take four spots, particularly from a league like the SEC? I'm pretty sure that the reason pro-playoff folks like the move to a 4-team playoff is that the resulting controversies will amp pressure to increase it to 8.)

Enjoy your weekend -- it is arguably the best NFL weekend of the season.

-- D.S.

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