Mediocre quarterbacks take center stage during NFL playoffs

There are now four teams left in the NFL playoffs. While many thought the New England Patriots and Minnesota Vikings would make it this far, few would have predicted the Jacksonville Jaguars or the Philadelphia Eagles being one win away from the Super Bowl. The Observer’s sports reporters discussed the playoffs on Friday, Jan. 12 before the Divisional Round and then on Monday, Jan. 15 after the games. The transcript below has been lightly edited.

Eddie Kerekes, Director of Web & Multimedia: Will anyone be able to take down the Patriots? Will the Vikings be the first team to ever host the Super Bowl? How is Blake Bortles still a thing?

Ben Resnick, Staff Reporter: The Patriots will be able to defend home field and will make it to the Super Bowl. The Vikings are strong enough on both sides of the ball to make it to the Super Bowl, where they will be the away team The NFC team will be the “road team” this year, so does this mean they will have to use their visitors’ locker room? This could lead to some interesting stories, but I would be most interested in seeing Tom Brady go up against the Vikings defense.

Jacob Rayyan, Staff Reporter: I know I am certainly excited for a Patriots-Pittsburgh Steelers matchup again. While the last game they played was a thriller, I look forward to seeing what’s in store.

(The Steelers lost to the Jaguars and were eliminated from the playoffs in the Divisional Round)

Overall, I am excited to see the Atlanta Falcons making an impact after what was a tumultuous season for the defending NFC champions.

Andrew Ford, Staff Reporter: Case Western Reserve University fourth-year Rob Cuda might be as good of a quarterback as Blake Bortles. Okay, obviously I’m kidding, but it’s still shocking to see Bortles playing like an NFL quarterback. It’ll be interesting to see what the Jaguars do in the offseason. Do they stick with Bortles, or do they trade for a game manager like Alex Smith who isn’t going to win any games on his own but likewise won’t lose any games with costly mistakes? I really hope the Falcons and Patriots both don’t make it to the Super Bowl; I hate the Patriots, and I’d rather see somebody else come out of the NFC.

Niko Kamlet, Staff Reporter: The Patriots are the best team, and there is no doubt about it. Brady is going to have his sixth ring come season’s end. It’s just impossible to imagine anybody beating them. Love them or hate them, you have to respect them. Also Ben’s point with the Patriots being home and Vikings being away is pretty interesting. How would that all work out? (And yes, Cuda for NFL, Andrew.)

Sanjay Annigeri, Staff Reporter: I think the New Orleans Saints are also quite an intriguing team, with Drew Brees on fire and the Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram backfield. I know the Patriots have been dominant, but it would be fun to see someone else challenge them and ultimately win a championship. The Vikings are quite nice behind former University of Houston quarterback Case Keenum and a stout defense. Only four teams have made it past the Wild Card round on the road to the Super Bowl being hosted in their respective city. The Vikings making the Super Bowl would be impressive, and they have the tools to do so.

Kamlet: In disagreement, the Vikings really don’t have any chance. They might get to the Super Bowl, but they won’t win it, in large part, due to Case Keenum. Good quarterbacks win Super Bowls, and Keenum is having a good season, but he’s not a good quarterback. If you look back, quarterbacks who have won have included players like Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Joe Flacco and Brees. You aren’t winning the Super Bowl if you don’t have an elite quarterback.

The following conversation takes place after the Divisional Round games.

Kerekes: What are everyone’s reactions to the games this past weekend?

Annigeri: Let’s go Vikings! Haha. That was an amazing game with the comeback by the Saints and almost another playoff disappointment for the Vikings, but Stefon Diggs made sure that didn’t happen. The Jaguars once again manhandled the Steelers, and the Eagles proved the haters wrong. The most disappointing game was the Patriots versus the Tennessee Titans. Marcus Mariota ended up getting injured in the first quarter and many calls seemed to go the Patriots’ way, which I’m sure annoyed tons of viewers. However, the AFC and NFC championship games are going to be impressive, with the Patriots offense against a strong Jaguars defense and two surprising quarterbacks in Keenum and Nick Foles, who played last year for Jeff Fisher’s 7-9 Los Angeles Rams. The Vikings made history making the championship game with the Super Bowl in their city, but now can they make it to the Super Bowl in Minneapolis?

Kamlet: If anything, this weekend’s games further prove that the Patriots are on their way to another Super Bowl victory. The other competition? Bortles (bad), Keenum (average) and Foles (awful). Tom Brady is the last elite quarterback standing, and with the experience he has, should coast to his sixth ring.

Ford: On the contrary to Niko’s absurd claims about the Patriots, this weekend proved that elite defenses can be just as important as elite quarterbacks. All of the final four teams have either an elite defense (Vikings, Jaguars and Eagles) or an elite quarterback (Patriots). We are stuck in this mindset of “the quarterback is all that matters” when these other three teams are proving the contrary. So let’s not automatically assume the Patriots are going to win it all again. If the officials don’t give the Patriots phantom calls like in the previous game, the Jaguars have a legitimate chance to upset the Patriots.