Hines Ward: Beware of the bubble teams as NFL playoffs loom
Two-time Super Bowl champion and CNN Sport contributor Hines Ward shares his Week 12 takeaways with CNN’s Perry Kostidakis.
In the month of December, any one of these bubble teams can get hot, make a run, hit the playoffs and play their way into a Super Bowl. A lot of teams are starting to make that final postseason push, and you want to be playing your best football. We’re still a few weeks away from the end of the season, but for a good number of teams, the playoffs start now.
Philadelphia was written off as dead as recently as last week, but suddenly, its favors look a little brighter. What’s the outlook for the Eagles?
It’s really all about Carson Wentz. I think he’s starting to regain confidence in his knee. Sometimes, when you’re defending your Super Bowl title, you’ve got a huge target on your chest. Everybody is going to play you hard and give you their best shot. That whole thing, “The Super Bowl hangover,” trust me, I know all about it. When you win, you start feeling yourself, and you can lose a little bit of that hunger and fire.
Luckily for the Eagles, they’re in a division that’s struggling right now, and they’re only one game out of first place. They’ve got some key games left on their schedule, so they still have a huge chance of making it back to the postseason to defend their title.
After losing four of their past five games, are the Packers dead in the water?
No, they’ve still got a chance. I know first hand (from losing to the Packers in Super Bowl XLV) — you can’t count out Aaron Rodgers. It’s all about getting hot when it matters the most, and we’ve seen Green Bay do that with Rodgers. Anytime you’ve got him on the field, you’ve got the chance to win games. He’s been in these situations before.
Now for the Pack, it’s more about attention to detail and taking the rest of the season one game at a time. They need to go on a win streak, and they need a little bit of help along the way.
Considering the talent that surrounds other quarterbacks, does Aaron Rodgers have the least amount to work with?
I think historically, maybe Tom Brady has won more with less talent. But really, at a certain point, it does start to come down to more than the quarterbacks. It’s a matter of playing good team football, and executing on all sides of the ball.
The Seattle Seahawks got a big win Sunday and suddenly look like they can be a contender in the NFC. Have people been overlooking the Seahawks?
Oh, yeah. Considering what Seattle has lost, especially the whole “Legion of Boom,” the Seahawks have put together a good season, a lot of it thanks to quarterback Russell Wilson. They got a huge road win against Carolina, which was important in the race for the NFC’s wild card spot.
Four of Seattle’s next five games are at home, in front of the 12th Man, and that makes a huge difference. I’ve played in front of them before, and I know how passionate and loud those fans can get. They’ve got a great chance, so watch out for Seattle. They can be one of those teams that can get hot moving forward.
Who else should we be keeping an eye on moving forward?
I think Denver, definitely. In the last two weeks, they’ve beaten the Chargers, who were on a six-game winning streak, and the Steelers, who were also on a six-game streak. Those are the kind of games that build confidence, because you know those two teams are ones that are supposed to make the playoffs and you held your own against them.
Any time you can beat playoff-caliber teams, it just gives you a little bit of a boost, and so for Denver to be rolling into the last part of the season having beaten two playoff teams, it puts them in a good position to make a run. They’re playing good football right now. They’re creating turnovers. They’ve got everything you want to see in a team that can make a run.