Lead football analyst and former New York Giants
quarterback Phil Simms shares his thoughts on the playoffs.

1.  Out of the four teams that earned a first-round bye, which do you think is built best to go the distance and why?
Before the season started, I picked Seattle to win the championship and I’m staying with that pick—not because I said that before the season started. At this point, I think they’re the best team in football. Here’s why: Overpowering offensive line, arguably the best pass-rushing group in the league on the defensive side and a quarterback who makes big plays in the passing game. When they pass the football, they look for big plays. In my eyes, that’s a top reason why teams win in the playoffs.
2. How have the Patriots maintained so much success this year with so many key offensive players gone and all of the defensive injuries they’ve suffered?

Well, now we don’t have to hear from the Bill Belichick doubters, “Oh, he only wins because he has Tom Brady at quarterback.” What the Patriots have done over the course of Belichick’s tenure is nothing short of amazing. They have shown through the years that they can adapt to injuries by changing their offensive philosophy as well as the scheme of their defense. They started the system where players are taught to be versatile and play more than one position. Many teams in the league tell me privately that they want their offense to be like that. Why? Because you can overcome injuries and still be productive.

3.  Which two teams left have the best home field advantage? What was the toughest stadium that you played in during your playoff years?
That’s easy. Seattle and Denver. Their crowds are loud, they know when to cheer to help their team and they have really good players. Home field advantage is talked about a lot, but it really is amazing what an advantage it can be when you have the best players on the field. And there could be three or four plays where the crowd can distract an opponent just enough to allow their team to make a play. That’s a big deal in a league when all games are close.

The Superdome in New Orleans was the toughest stadium I played in because there was no communication in your helmet then. In fact, it was so loud, you couldn’t even talk to the person standing next to you.

4.  Luke Kuechly has had a monster year for the Panthers. Who does he remind you of from the era you played in?
Football has changed on the defensive side over the years, but off the top of my head, the one guy I think of is Mike Singletary of the Chicago Bears. Kuechly is able to run sideline-to-sideline and is also strong enough to run straight ahead and make tackles. He’s turned out to be a better professional football player than I thought he would be.
5.  Explain the difference in intensity level and preparation for a playoff game versus a regular season game. 
Yes, there is a difference in playoff football. You’re going against one of the best teams in the league and everybody knows, all the coaches and players, that it’s win and advance or lose and go home. That fear of the season ending is a tremendous driving force.

6.  Who are some of the “under the radar” players that you expect big contributions from in the upcoming games?
I’m keeping my eye on one guy, Percy Harvin of the Seattle Seahawks. I’m not even sure if he’ll play, but he is such a dynamic player. If Harvin is able to get on the field, he could be the difference for the Seahawks between going home and going all the way.

7.  Aside from your SB winning performance, what is your greatest playoff memory?
My greatest playoff memory took place in 1985. I was running onto the field at Giants Stadium for my first home playoff game. As soon as I ran out of the tunnel and hit the field, I could feel how different the environment felt from a regular season game. It was so exciting and so different, and probably for the first time, it hit me what a home field advantage was—being so excited and having fans so into it, that you knew it was going to be hard for the opponents that day.