Schrager’s Cheat Sheet: Why Packers and Patriots will be playing in Super Bowl
Reggie Wayne won’t like this column.
If the receiver sees this one float across his locker, he’ll shove it aside and likely ask for it to be removed. I know this because I know Reggie Wayne. And he’s not into these types of things.
Not yet, at least.
The 36-year-old wide receiver wasn’t ready to talk about his legacy before the season started, or during the season, and he certainly isn’t ready to talk about it now, just one game from his third Super Bowl in 14 years. This week is not about him. Truthfully, it never has been.
A few days after the Colts’ embarrassing 42-7 loss to the Cowboys on national television in Week 16, Wayne called a players-only meeting. Usually the details of such gatherings are leaked to the media and the guts spilled out in the following days.
Not this one.
Wayne spoke his piece, the young Colts listened intently, and Indianapolis rattled off victories in Week 17 versus the Titans and in the wild-card round against the Bengals, then shocked the world in Denver last Sunday. Maybe the meeting has spurred the team, but we’ll never know since the details and how the message was delivered remains unknown.
At 36, Wayne isn’t the player he once was. His wheels aren’t the same, as evidenced on a play in Week 17 when he was tracked down on what would have been a sure-fire touchdown in years prior. Wayne suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament last year, made it back for the start of training camp and has played in all 19 games this season despite battling a groin injury that has slowed him down considerably.
He is no longer the focal point of an offense that led the league in passing yards, but that’s fine. He’s a realist. He knows the deal, and whatever the Colts have needed him to be — fourth option, locker room leader, run game blocker — he’s been.
"I’m just doing my job, waiting on my number to be called, and between there I’m still doing all the blocking, I’m still being that leader as much as I possibly can," Wayne said Sunday night, after recording no receptions on just one target.
"I felt like I was coaching [Sunday] more than I was playing," Wayne told the reporters after the win, with a chuckle. "But you know, it’s just part of it, man. This is a team game. I just want to do everything I possibly can to help this team win."
Though Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison and Jeff Saturday may be the names most associated with last decade’s Colts, Wayne on Sunday will have played in more Indy postseason games (21) than Manning.
And though Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Michael Irvin and Lynn Swann were all considered big-game performers, it’s Wayne who’s second on the all-time list of postseason receptions (93) to Jerry Rice. Wayne is not only the bridge connecting two distinct Indianapolis Colts eras but also the bridge from the old guard of star wideouts (Harrison, Moss, Owens, etc.) to the new studs (Dez Bryant, Odell Beckham Jr., T.Y. Hilton).
Wayne is in the final year of his contract with Indianapolis but won’t talk retirement or even let the word be uttered.
He has an AFC championship game on Sunday versus the Patriots. Just like old times. Reggie Wayne is ready to do whatever is asked of him.
Cheat Sheet Trivia Question of the Week No. 1
Prior to Julian Edelman’s last Saturday night, who was the last wide receiver to throw a touchdown pass in a postseason game?
Cheat Sheet Trivia Question of the Week No. 2
Including postseason games, Richard Sherman has 25 interceptions since entering the league in 2011. The players tied for the second-most interceptions since 2011 have intercepted 15 passes apiece. Who are the two players?
Cheat Sheet Throwback Jersey of the Week
I always love an excuse to talk about Bert Jones, the most underrated quarterback of his generation. Here’s a classic Bert Jones Baltimore Colts throwback.
And now, on to the games.
2015 playoffs record: 5-3
NFC championship game
Green Bay at Seattle: I went back and watched the Week 1 game, and the Packers actually played the Seahawks a lot closer than the final score indicated. Both offenses are drastically different now from then, too. Seattle appeared to be invested heavily, if not fixated, in getting Percy Harvin the ball on a series of jet sweeps and quick hitters throughout the game. This seemed to be Darrell Bevell’s main objective, with Harvin often being the first look throughout the game.
Meanwhile, Green Bay’s offensive line didn’t have nearly the same chemistry that it has now, and that’s understandable considering a rookie center was playing in his first career game on the same night tackle Bryan Bulaga left with an injury. Seattle vs. Green Bay has quietly become one of the league’s better intra-division rivalries. There’s good history there, from the Mike Holmgren ties to Matt Hasselbeck’s "we’ll take the ball and we’re going to score" in the 2003 wild-card round to the "Fail Mary" from a few years back. If this is the next chapter, I’m pretty fired up for what’s in store. I’m envisioning a classic, with the best players on the field — Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Julius Peppers and Earl Thomas — all making big plays. I also sense an upset. Fully healthy or not, Rodgers can still sling it. He’s also rarely the underdog. Remember, the last two times Green Bay was on the road — in Buffalo and Tampa Bay — Rodgers struggled mightily.
He’s heard the whispers that won’t fly in the postseason. I think he saves his best for last. I may be on an island with this one, but I picked the Packers to represent the NFC back in August, and I’m not backing away now. I think they put up enough points and the defense does enough to stop the Seattle run game. Packers win and are Arizona bound.
The pick: Packers 24, Seahawks 19
Jonas Gray aside, this is a battle between two of the game’s best quarterbacks and coaches. I love what Indianapolis has done this season up front, with an undermanned offensive line that nobody outside the locker room has had much faith in.
Guys like Lance Louis, Joe Reitz, and Jack Mewhort are by no means household names, but perhaps they should be. All three have stepped up and joined Khaled Holmes and Anthony Castonzo in forming one of the better front fives of the postseason. All those high-priced free-agent acquisitions the Broncos signed to get Peyton Manning over the hump? They were silenced by this cast of castaways and young guns on Sunday. I don’t expect that to stop.
But I also don’t expect Tom Brady to suddenly slow down. Indianapolis is on the cusp of greatness, and I won’t be the least bit surprised if the Colts leave Foxborough with a win on Sunday night. I just don’t see it happening. Not this year. And, oh yeah, I had the Patriots winning the AFC back in August, too. Not turning away now.
The pick: Patriots 33, Colts 21
Reader Email of the Week
I saw you made a classless joke on Twitter about the Nationwide jingle advertisement that’s running ("What tune is Peyton Manning humming now?"). Totally classless. I like your Twitter feed, most days, but you stooped to a lower level for a few cheap, classless laughs on that one. It was classless. I wish, at times, you’d remember it’s better to be classy than clever. That tweet was a classless one. Peyton deserves a bit more respect than your pot shots.
You’re probably right, but I don’t know, your email rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe because you used the words "classless" or “classy” five times in six sentences. Didn’t love that. Mix it up next time.
Cheat Sheet Trivia Answer of the Week No. 1
The last wide receiver to throw a touchdown pass was Pittsburgh Steeler Antwaan Randle El in Super Bowl XL.
Cheat Sheet Trivia Answer of the Week No. 2
Tim Jennings (Bears) and Patrick Peterson (Cardinals) have each intercepted 15 passes since the start of the 2011 season.