The reason I love football so much is simple: I never know how a game is going to play out. But when the number of teams dwindles in the playoffs, it’s easier for me to predict the possible outcomes, because I can spend more time studying each team. How do their styles match up? How many times have they played each other?

I picked the Ravens and Giants to match up in the Super Bowl and even though I split on my picks, both games could have gone either way.

The Patriots won when Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff missed a routine field goal to send the game into overtime. Who knows how it would have played out in OT?

The Niners and Giants fought hard for four quarters and needed extra time to decide the game. Again, once the game hit overtime, it was anyone’s guess who would pull it out. And again, it was a special teams play that decided the outcome.

As everyone knows, there are three phases to the game: offense, defense and special teams. If a team can win two of the three, it should win the game. The one aspect of a football game that is so often overlooked or under-valued is that lonely third phase of the game, special teams. I think it’s safe to say we are much clearer today about why they’re called “special teams.” It was three special teams plays that directly affected the outcomes of both games.

I already mentioned the missed field goal at the end of the Ravens game that would have sent it into overtime. In the Giants game it was the fumbled punt that put the Giants in position to execute the third special teams play: the field goal that won the game.

Special teams matter, and because of them the Giants and Patriots will square off in the Super Bowl two weeks from now.

I love the playoffs.

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