Josh Levin and Nate Jackson take your questions about the NFL postseason

The stadium scene.
Jan. 5 2012 5:37 PM

Playoff Permutations

Josh Levin and Nate Jackson take your questions about the NFL postseason.

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Nate Jackson: I think you're right. It always helps to have ball-hawks on defense. But it’s rare to have defensive players who attack the ball in the air with skill and timing. If they developed that skill early on, their coach usually put them on offense. That’s why having one on defense is so valuable to a team.

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Bennett Schwartz: Josh, do you think it’s a valid argument to say that Aaron Rodgers should be MVP because he played a significant number more games outside than Brees?

Josh Levin: Haven't heard that one before! And no, I don't think that's a valid argument. There are plenty of other pro-Rodgers cases to be made, though. He threw a lot fewer interceptions, they beat the Saints head to head, and Brees had (relatively) bad games when the Saints lost to the 2-14 Rams and 4-12 Bucs.

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Jason Goldsmith: Is the Patriots D really as bad as advertised? Is bouncing between 4-3 and 3-4 and always trying different things with the linebackers a good call? Does that variability give them an edge over time and in the playoffs, even if they lose a few playoff games because of it?

Nate Jackson: No, they're not as bad as people say they are. They get a bad rap, in my opinion, for a combination of reasons. First off, they are 13-3. They can’t be that bad. But they may suffer a bit from knowing that they have one of the greatest QBs ever playing for them, and not saddling up. In Denver, they know their offense isn't going to score, so they have to prevent points from being scored at all costs.

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Josh Levin: My theory about the Patriots D is that Belichick (rightly) believes that he's a defensive mastermind and that he can plug anybody into his scheme and get great results. He cut a bunch of corners and safeties this year and replaced them with wide receivers who'd never even practiced in the defensive backfield! That's ballsy. And it didn't really work, considering that the Pats gave up the most passing yards in NFL history.

Nate Jackson: Belichick's genius doesn't travel much further than Tom Brady.

Nate Jackson: I don't think football strategy is for geniuses.

Nate Jackson: Maybe a bit vague, but I think we make too much out of schematic geniuses.

Pätrick Russell: A little vague :). So the Pats D is suspect and gave up the most passing yards, but the Packers D has given up more yards than their O gained ... that is just crazy to me. Teams get a high powered passing game and bend, bend and bend some more on defense. Pats and Packers will set the record for highest scoring Super Bowl should they both get there.

Nate Jackson: I think that their defenses get so used to getting ripped in practice by their awesome offenses that it carries over to the games and they almost expect it to happen on game day.

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Ryan Miksch: Nate, if you are the 49ers (which I hear you were once) how and who do you prepare for the divisional playoff game on the 14th?

Nate Jackson: Well Mister M-i-k-s-c-h Coach. I'd say that you watch film on all of your potential opponents, but look hard at the Saints because they present the most problems for the Niners. Other than that, rest the body a bit. Eat well. Get some sleep, and stay hungry. The Niners will benefit from continuing to view themselves as underdogs. Harbaugh has it dialed in.

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Josh Levin: Do players get more nervous before playoff games? Here's an equation: If five players throw up on account of nerves before a regular season, then X players throw up before a playoff game.

Nate Jackson: Pre-game puking is a rarity. I saw it maybe twice in my career. But the nervous feelings in general increase with the hype and the intensity of the crowd. But that feeling makes it more exciting, and after the first few plays, after you get popped a couple of time, there are no nerves. It’s back to survival mode.

Nate Jackson: And after you take a look around and take in the spectacle of it, you sink into your own little football world in your head and everything else fades away. I never really noticed the crowd after the first few minutes of the game.

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Josh Levin: I'm going to sign off now. Thanks everyone for all the questions, and thanks to Nate for letting me know that pre-game puking is not a regular thing. The more you know! Enjoy the games, everybody.

Nate Jackson: All right guys, this was fun. Thanks for the questions. See you next time!

Nate Jackson is the author of Slow Getting Up: A Story of NFL Survival from the Bottom of the Pile. He played in the NFL for six seasons.

Josh Levin is Slate's executive editor.

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