Opportunity. First you have to recognize it before you can capitalize on it. I believe that in a sport, that is why there is always an emotional response after losing; because you realize the opportunity was there and you or your team could not capitalize on it. And it means you have not one less that year but one less in life. For the Bengals, Eagles, Packers and Chiefs, it's over. For the Colts, Saints, Chargers and 49ers the next opportunity is next week. It is so true, the statement that losing hurts more than winning feels good because when you win you have another chance but when you lose in the playoffs, it's like someone has taken away a moment in time you will never get back. An opportunity.
In San Francisco, my number one observation was how well Colin Kaepernick handled the cold. The atmosphere that he performed in was brutal but he grew up in Wisconsin and was why he played so well in that weather. There he was in his sleeveless shirt running with conviction and gazelle speed. His greatest moment? After he almost lost the game by throwing right at Micah Hyde for an interception he stayed mentally tough, dismissed it and moved on to the next one when he hit Michael Crabtree changing third down to first down. That was Payton Manning/Tom Brady maturity under pressure.
My second observation came from Green Bay and Eddie Lacy . Like Kaepernick, Lacy played a physical game in -18 Celsius weather. Lacy is from the University of Alabama, where I doubt it has ever been -18 in a football game. Extreme heat takes away your energy and second effort because of internal fatigue. It takes away your will to do extra because you sub-consciously pace yourself. Extreme cold is different; its limiting because it is so uncomfortable and painful too hit and be hit. I saw now hesitation from Lacy due to the cold, which is remarkable considering how hard and constant he dealt and receive punishment.
In Cincinnati, the loss to San Diego has ruined Andy Dalton's next six months. Five overthrows, two interceptions and one contact fumble he will think about day after day, month after month. And there is nothing he can do to rectify it until the season starts again. You can tell that Dalton is mentally tough but to keep it in perspective and move on is a mental mind set only developed when created in the first place. You can't prepare; only react and accept.
In Indianapolis, I thought it was over but after the first comeback touchdown by Andrew Luck and how fast it happened I realized it wasn't. The Chiefs lost six players to injury in one game, quarter-by-quarter, and the biggest was Jamaal Charles on the sixth play. That was devastating because as good as the back-up Nail Davis was (lost him too), he is not Jamaal Charles. Full credit to the Colts but I am sure Bill Belichick in New England is not anticipating losing Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Donald Jones, Aqib Talib and Rob Ninkovich. That would be the equivalent. I will say this, though; if you can put the negative behind you and truly only concentrate on the present, given talent, you can overcome just about anything. Andrew Luck is an athlete that is way up there – bright, intelligent and a product of Stanford. I remember playing Stanford every year in college football. It was always an unusual game and almost different than any game that year. When you played Stanford, you (for lack of a better term) you played brains as much as bodies. They were always under control and focused; like robots. Andrew Lucks greatest asset is the emotional self-control he assimilated at Stanford; staying in the present to create the future.
With New Orleans, I though one of the best football analytical moments was when Mike Mayock (who is very good) pointed out how Keenan Lewis was shutting down DeSean Jackson and then receives a neck stinger or concussion and Jackson then - and only then with Lewis out - becames effective. It just showed that it is 11-on-11 but if you have players who can dominate 1-on-1, it directly effects the other 10. Great moment From Mayock.
Finally, the best week of the year may be this week because the questions have so many layered answers and speculation. New Orleans at Seattle; the environment is a big challenge for the Saints but this is the second time in a month and it just may be more manageable than ever before. In Carolina, the 49ers and Panthers are identical in so many ways. Carolina defended the 49ers to nine points in the first game but can they do it for a second time? That is a challenge. In Denver, you would have to think that the Chargers were the last team they wanted to play compared to others out of division. San Diego knows Payton Manning, having beaten Denver in Denver and the head coach, Mike McCoy, was the former offensive coordinator of the Broncos. Payton Manning destroys teams that are not familiar with him, those that have a chance. San Diego has a chance.
In New England, with two weeks to prepare, I have to lean to the Patriots. After what we saw in the second half, the preparation video for New England is gold. The last one for the Colts was against the Bills in a cold monsoon. Aqib Talib on T.Y. Hilton; that could determine that game.