NFL Hall of Famer and New York Jets legend Joe Namath is contributing to Yahoo! Sports and the Shutdown Corner Blog during the playoffs to break down the key games, players and moments each weekend. Make sure you like the Official Joe Namath page on Facebook and visit the Broadway Joe site for plenty of other insight and gear from Namath, including video commentary from the legend.
There has been some crazy weather this week that will affect Sunday's playoff games. San Francisco? Well, let's just say that city looks like the animals are lining up two by two, waiting to get on the ark. Noah himself might need to get the two teams to the stadium with all the rain they're having. I know the 49ers and New York Giants have been talking about it and are aware that this could be a Mud Bowl.
And Chad Ochocinco tweeted this morning that he had to shovel out his driveway, which means that the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens will have to cope with cold and possibly snow, always a threat in the Northeast.
We've heard how the offense may have an advantage over the defense because they know where they're going — where the play is designed to take them on the field. Take a receiver for instance: he knows where he's going to take a break and that can make a backpedaling defender uneasy and likely to slip if the conditions are poor.
From my experience, footing is easier for the offense. But how often have we seen a receiver trip and fall and a defensive back says "Thank you very much" and runs into the end zone for a pick-six? It happens all the time, and there is no worse feeling in the world for the quarterback and receiver than when that happens.
For both sides of the ball, when there is bad weather, it is about the footing. People spend too much time talking about how weather impacts passing and getting a good grip on the ball. If you can plant your foot, you at least have a shot at a good throw.
These quarterbacks that are playing this weekend are all big guys; they should be able to get a good grip on the ball. Slips happen but it shouldn't be a deciding factor. One time in a game, I literally cut thumb tacks down — filed them down - and had them taped to my fingers. I went out to warm up and I got a better grip on the ball but a lot of time the ball stuck to my hand. So that ended that idea.
If it is real cold, like in New England, you have to wear a passing glove. The only way to throw well with those conditions is to pass and get ready to throw with the glove on in preparation leading up to the game. It is different and you have to get used to it.
But too much fuss is made about all this weather. You don't change your game plan, but you quickly learn what you can and can't do efficiently. The wind is the major factor, more than the cold and more than rain or snow.
We played a game in Buffalo -- Joe Ferguson was the quarterback for the Bills, and I was quarterback for the Jets. That game still makes me cold with the freezing rain and swirling 40 M.P.H. wind. Get this: no team completed a forward pass until the fourth quarter and we lost 9-6. It was all about the cross wind, as the wind was never at your back. It just kept sweeping across the field.
That hopefully won't be the case this weekend, and I think Joe Ferguson would agree with me on that one.
The X Factor: This weekend comes down to great quarterback play. The trigger guys, if they're sharp, well let's just say they're going to have to be sharp. Those four guys — Tom Brady, Joe Flacco, Eli Manning and Alex Smith — will have to be making smart throws and know when to throw it away. But one player I am watching is this Torrey Smith kid from Baltimore. He has the potential to really, really make a difference for the Ravens offense on the outside. He's the one big knockout guy the Ravens have and the reason for that is his speed. He hasn't caught as many balls this year as some of their other receivers but he does have speed that the Patriots have to pay attention to. That can change the game in a hurry.
Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots: I know everyone isn't on board with the Patriots defense but it has been shaping up the past few weeks. Brady knows where to go with the ball each and every time and they have those weapons, so many of them. I will tell you that is a quarterback's dream. With their receivers, they have the edge. The Ravens will have to score early to set the tone, but even then, I like this New England team.
New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers: What must the football gods be thinking about a first-year coach perhaps taking his team to the Super Bowl? I like this Jim Harbaugh guy, always have from his days coaching in college. But you ask me, a first-year head coach turning around a team and getting them to the Super Bowl? I wouldn't see it happening except for the fact that this Giants team has both Eli Manning and lineman David Baas battling illness. I think the 49ers capitalize on this and are Super Bowl bound.
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