By Danny Cox
After 18 years in the NFL, you learn a thing or two about the game. Former NFL quarterback Rich Gannon not only spent almost two decades under center, but he has been an analyst for CBS Sports ever since retiring in 2005, and his knowledge of the game has only continued to grow.
With the 2015 playoffs approaching, Gannon took some time to speak on three big games taking place this weekend and what some teams need to do to stay in it. Others? Well, there are some teams that are very young and need to simply look ahead to next year and beyond.
Kansas City Chiefs at Baltimore Ravens – CBS, Dec. 20 at 1p ET
Where has this new Chiefs team come from in the last seven weeks?
Rich Gannon: “It starts with the head coach, Andy Reid. He’s been through a lot of fires as head coach and had to work through them in different places. For the Chiefs, it goes into consistency, being better, getting better at their craft, and the players have bought into it all. They’ve gotten behind Reid’s leadership along with the veterans in the locker room, and it helped them never lose confidence.
Second, you have a quarterback that is so good at taking care of the football. He has just one interception in the last six or seven starts, something crazy like that. They also have had the ability to replace Jamaal Charles with Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware very nicely.
Finally, the play of their defense has been outstanding. They’ve been able to force turnovers and get great field position for their offense, which helps tremendously.”
Injuries have decimated the Ravens this season, but have their failures been due to anything else?
RG: “There is more to it. Sure, injuries are a big part of it though. Losing big parts of your offense such as Joe Flacco and Justin Forsett and Steve Smith. The offensive line has been beat up and the tight end position too.
A number of other things have led to it though. They changed the playcaller and it takes time for the team to get up to speed. They can’t finish late in games, even when Flacco was still out there. It’s just been one of those years.”
Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots – CBS, Dec. 20 at 1p ET
Is it possible for Marcus Mariota to have the Titans keep up with Tom Brady and the Patriots?
RG: “I really don’t think so. Last week against the New York Jets, the Titans had a very difficult time keeping up with them. Dexter McCluster was the only one who gave them a little bit of speed, but he’s hurt. They are young at wide receiver, young at quarterback; they’re even young at running back with a rookie and a first-year player.
[Mariota] is the best thing they have going for them, but they have a difficult time on third down and with so much youth, it’s a struggle. The Titans need to be in a game where they can run the ball and keep it close, but that won’t happen against the Patriots. It will be a snowball effect against New England and just get worse.”
Denver Broncos at Pittsburgh Steelers – CBS, Dec. 20 at 4:25p ET
Should the Broncos truly consider putting Peyton Manning back in before the playoffs?
RG: “The Broncos should put him in when he’s 100 percent healthy. The challenge is, can he go out there and make plays, protect himself and the ball, and be efficient?
I talked to Gary Kubiak a while back and he said that it wasn’t just the foot with Peyton, but his shoulder and other things. Brock Osweiler has done a decent job, but for getting where they want to go, they have to have a healthy Peyton Manning.”
Mike Tomlin has these Steelers looking like the hard-nosed teams of the ’70s, what must they do to beat the Broncos?
RG: “They’re playing complimentary football. The Steelers are able to score a lot with Ben (Roethlisberger), Antonio Brown and this high-powered offense. They’re healthy at just the right time and doing a better job at protecting the quarterback. For them to keep winning, Mike Tomlin has a simple formula: stay true to who they are and be a well-balanced team.
Pittsburgh is good enough with the way Ben has been playing as he is going to go anywhere and win. Right now, other teams do not want to play the Steelers in the playoffs.”
Danny Cox knows a little something about the NFL, whether it means letting you know what penalty will come from the flag just thrown on the field or quickly spouting off who the Chicago Bears drafted in the first round of the 1987 draft (Jim Harbaugh). He plans on bringing you the best news, previews, recaps, and anything else that may come along with the exciting world of the National Football League. Danny is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.