Sterling quarterback crop lead way into the playoffs
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[January 03, 2017]
By Larry Fine
(Reuters) - An evergreen crop of elite
quarterbacks featuring Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Ben
Roethlisberger, offer the promise of a dazzling Super Bowl
tournament with the playoffs getting underway this weekend.
Joining that trio is twice Super Bowl most valuable player Eli
Manning of the New York Giants, former Super Bowl champion Russell
Wilson of Seattle Seahawks and league MVP candidate Matt Ryan of the
Atlanta Falcons, underlining the importance of the quarterback in
the gridiron game.
Oddsmakers installed AFC top seeds New England Patriots, who have
won four Super Bowls with Brady at the helm, as 2-1 favorites to win
the title, followed by the NFC top-seeded Dallas Cowboys at 4-1.
“I thought the players and the coaching staff have both done a great
job this year of being focused and looking just at what’s in front
of us ... not getting caught up in other distractions," said
Patriots coach Bill Belichick, whose team finished with seven
The Patriots made their way despite missing Brady, 39, for the first
four games due to a suspension stemming back to the Deflategate
controversy in the playoffs two years ago.
Brady, a three-time Super Bowl MVP, and the Patriots (14-2) enjoy a
first-round bye along with the Kansas City Chiefs (12-4), who are
led by quarterback and former first overall draft pick Alex Smith.
Rodgers, a Super Bowl MVP, led the Green Bay Packers (10-6) on a
rousing charge into the postseason finishing with six straight
victories, while two-time Super Bowl winner Roethlisberger steered
the Pittsburgh Steelers through an 11-5 campaign.
The Green Bay quarterback predicted the Packers could sweep the rest
of their games after struggling to a 4-6 start.
“That’s what you have to do sometimes as a leader,” Rodgers said
after Sunday's victory over the Detroit Lions to clinch the NFC
North title. “Exude confidence even when it seems to the outside
world confidence shouldn’t exist.”
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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) throws a pass during the first
quarter of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard
Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
the trend favoring experience at quarterback were the young Dallas
Cowboys (13-3), who were led by rookie quarterback Dak Prescott and
first-year running back Ezekiel Elliott, the NFL rushing leader.
Atlanta (11-5) are the NFC second seeds, and will take the week off
along with Dallas.
The Wild Card round opens on Saturday with the Oakland Raiders
(12-4), devastated by the loss of starting quarterback Derek Carr to
injury, taking on the Houston Texans (9-7), who are also playing a
back-up signal caller.
The defensive-minded Seahawks (10-5-1), who have been to two of the
last three Super Bowls, host the Lions (9-7) and their strong-armed
quarterback Matthew Stafford.
On Sunday, Roethlisberger and the Steelers host the Miami Dolphins
(10-6), followed by a frigid meeting at Lambeau Field between the
Giants (11-5) and the Packers (10-6).
(Writing by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Steve Keating)
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