With the rest of this off week between the Conference Championships and the Super Bowl, I'll be taking a look back at the playoffs (today) and the season at large (Thursday and Friday) before diving back into Super Bowl coverage next Monday. Today, I want to take a step back and look at how the reputation and perception of playoff participants have changed over the course of these past three weeks. That's right: It's time for a Playoff Stock Watch. Let's start with the players who have seen their stock skyrocket during January and work our way down to the players who've crashed and burned.
Now is right around the time when NFL teams are supposed to be getting hot for the postseason. If there's any narrative about the postseason taken more seriously than the power of having nobody believe in you, it's the power of peaking at the right time. It's an argument that's easy to understand and ingrained in the culture of the game. Players believe it. Media members believe it. Fans believe it.
All that belief leaves just one problem: There's scant evidence that any late-season peaking effect actually exists.
In truth, there are a lot of problems with nailing down the actual argument itself. The gist of it is clear — teams who get hot at the end of the regular season do well in the postseason — but the specifics can be gerrymandered to fit just about any situation you'd like. Are teams supposed to start getting hot in Week 14? Week 16? Week 17? In a way, the narrative can become a tautology if you suggest that teams who raise their game and get hot at the right time actually do so when the postseason begins, since one team inevitably has to win the Super Bowl each year. Say that the Super Bowl winner got hot at the right time and it's going to be hard to argue against it.