Throughout the 35-year Super Bowl era, the NFL playoff season has, for the most part, been free of high winter winds, blinding snowstorms and blizzards--but the lucky streak could end anytime.
With El Nino's departure, all bets on football weather this winter are off.
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Saints Lead NFL in Injuries
One Super Bowl truism is that the good team with the fewest injuries always wins.
Thinking back, you can't recall any contenders who claimed the championship after losing key personnel to injury for any substantial part of the regular season or the playoff season.
Entering this year's playoffs, the Rams and New Orleans Saints both had a chance to change all that, though it was a dubious honor, requiring both to be hit harder by injury during the fall months than the other contenders:
For seven weeks, Ram quarterback Kurt Warner was either missing or severely handicapped because of a broken finger, and, during much of that time, running back Marshall Faulk was largely incapacitated by a shoulder injury.
Season-ending injuries cost the Saints both their quarterback, Jeff Blake, and running back Ricky Williams.
Somewhat mysteriously, the Saints have run the ball as well as ever with Williams down.
And, after promoting rookie quarterback Aaron Brooks, they've passed the ball better than ever.
The Rams, meanwhile, when nursing their wounded, won just often enough.
Of the other contenders, all, to remain in the Super Bowl race, must still play without serious injury on the frozen fields of January .
In a league that hits this hard, that won't be simple.
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Give Philadelphia a Chance
Tampa Bay is much the better of the two teams in Sunday's playoff nightcap, but the Philadelphia Eagles, even so, have a shot.
For one thing, Philadelphia has the better offense, even if quarterback Donovan McNabb's status is that of a virtual rookie.
For another, the Buccaneers don't play creatively on offense except when there's no other way.