Namath in Super Bowl III, perhaps the most important postseason game in NFL history. (Getty Images)
As he did last year for the playoffs, NFL Hall of Famer and New York Jets legend Joe Namath will join 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 the iconic Namath, one of the best ever to play the game.
We’ve heard a lot this week about playing with emotion and how the Indianapolis Colts, playing for head coach Chuck Pagano in his valiant struggle, will have a special edge. There will also be a lot of emotion on the other sideline in that AFC Wild Card game with the Baltimore Ravens playing for their heart and soul, linebacker Ray Lewis, who announced he will retire at the end of the season.
Well, here’s something we all need to understand: The NFL playoffs are about emotion, and nerves are part of that equation. How you handle and approach the game is a big part of teams that go far in the playoffs.
You’ve got three rookie quarterbacks this week making their first playoff appearance. Don’t tell me that they won’t be nervous. They will be and I was before my first playoff appearance. You know what? It’s a good thing.
I always was nervous before a game, but it is the kind of nervous energy that if you’re prepared, you utilize it. I tried to look calm like a Lenny Dawson. That wasn’t natural for me. I would always get nervous for a big game and I finally learned to embrace it.
I remember my first playoff game with the Jets – I had better, I didn’t have that many of them! But you’re going to be nervous and I remember being in that locker room and being nervous as a young player and a veteran alike. As a competitor, you don’t want to feel that way but the faster you learn it is normal, the faster you can start winning some games.
Some players look at the nerves and think it isn’t cool, that something is wrong or they shouldn’t be that way.
Namath in 2008, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Jets' Super Bowl team. (Getty Images)
The adrenaline, the heartbeat, the nerves – enjoy it. Don’t put it down, don’t suppress it.
Prepare and convince yourself that you’re ready. Yeah, enjoy it. I don’t think these players should downplay the nerves. It is something that should happen; after all, you’re on a big stage.
Nerves also show that you’re not overly confident, but you’re ready and you realize what a challenge your opponent presents.
It’s an individual thing. Look at the Colts with their special feelings and special concern for their head coach and his health battle. The human animal is different – each one is focusing on his game and his responsibility and his jobs. The “win this one for the Gipper” – it can only go so far.
It went far for Indianapolis, they showed no quit. But there’s the flip side to all that.
Too much emotion, you can hurt yourself, not be focused enough. Over-aggressive, too hot in pursuit. You can overplay, exhaust yourself, not focus. That’s not good either.
You try to be calm and cool and that can hurt you as well. A team can be too flat in the first half and then run out of time in the second half. You just have to be yourself and process it. Don’t try to be someone else. Be nervous but play ready.
In a playoff game, if you’re taking this team for granted because you’ve beaten them in the past or you don’t think they’re that good, you can get your bottom beaten. Look at last year’s Super Bowl winner, a 9-7 team winning the Super Bowl! Who would have thought that? You need the urgency, if you don’t have that you can sure as hell fall flat on your face.
Looking at the playoffs, I have teams that I think could and should win, but if they look past an opponent, might as well chalk that up as an “L.” At this level, any team can win on any given Sunday.
We’re going to see some great football and effort.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Houston Texans – Right away I say that teams that get hot, keep improving as they play through the season -- those are the teams to watch out for – but that may not be the case here! These are two different teams coming into the playoffs as the Bengals are hot, the Texans – well they aren’t. The Texans have been solid all year so you can’t sleep on them. I like the Bengals but I don’t think they can go into Houston and come out with a win, not against a team this strong and balanced. I like the Texans at home for at least this game. They’re the better of the two teams and Arian Foster will have a big game running the ball.
Joe’s Pick: Texans
Indianapolis Colts vs. Baltimore Ravens – The Ravens have a great track record and I don’t see the Colts going into that stadium and being able to hold up. The Colts are an indoor team and that will factor in, especially in a place with the wind and cold and winter weather like Baltimore. If the Ravens rush the ball and Ray Rice gets going – woo, boy – I like the Ravens in this one no matter what. That Rice kid is a special player.
Joe’s Pick: Ravens
Seattle Seahawks vs. Washington Redskins – To me, it is amazing how much of a mystery the Seahawks remain. Maybe it is that they’re in the Pacific Northwest that no one is talking about them, but I am impressed with this team. I can’t accept that Russell Wilson is so damn consistent and poised as a rookie! He puts the ball where he wants and plays smart and has won big games already in the NFL. If there’s going to be one visitor to pick this weekend to win, well, I think it is the Seahawks. The Redskins have been hot, but their dream season ends. I just think the Seahawks have the running game and the defense to win.
Joe’s Pick: Seahawks
Minnesota Vikings vs. Green Bay Packers – As good as the Vikings story is, the Packers are due. I read somewhere that they’ve lost four of their last six playoff games at home but I think they understand that and want to get over the urgency and get over that hump. I’m still concerned about Christian Ponder being as pinpoint as needed from a quarterback in the playoffs. If the Packers can pass protect a little better – and even if they don’t – I think the Packers score 30+.
Joe’s Pick: Packers
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