The NFL playoffs is down to its final four teams, and by Sunday night, we’ll know whether Baltimore or New England will be facing Atlanta or San Francisco in the Super Bowl in New Orleans.
These playoffs have been a Rusty’s Last Call ride for Ray Lewis, whose Ravens somewhat improbably have advanced to the AFC championship game. While their opponent, the Patriots, is a perennial postseason favorite, the Ravens (and not, any longer, the Seahawks) are the hot team of this postseason, and it’s becoming difficult to bet against them– ESPN certainly isn’t. Lewis’ last dance may come Saturday. If not, it will come on Super Bowl Sunday.
If it does, Lewis will share the setting sun’s spotlight with one other notable retiree. If the NFC championship game goes according to the seeding, it will be longtime Chief and current Falcon Tony Gonzalez. The tight end, probably best known for popularizing the crossbar dunk TD celebration, says he’s 95% certain he’ll retire after this season, and while his final act has received markedly less than the gyrating, bionic-armed one of Lewis, the attention he has received has taken care to note just how impressive of a career he’s had.
If the NFC championship game follows the hot hand, as it sure seems like it may, Lewis’ possibly outgoing opponent will one whose superstardom has long since burned low. Randy Moss’ days as the league’s most dominant wide receiver are long gone. His days as an albatross– i.e., his days in Oakland and Nashville– seem to be in the past as well. He’s retired once, and he’s rapidly approaching the end of his one-year contract with San Francisco. There hasn’t been any retirement discussion from Moss (this ambiguous retweet aside), or really much discussion of him in the media at all. Moss’ numbers are way down from his peak-production years, though they’re up over his recent disaster years. It’s tough to know whether the 49ers or Moss will want to sign a new contract for next year– he started only two games this year, the fewest of any season in his career– or if this is it. The only sure bet looks to be that, if this Sunday or Super Bowl Sunday really is Moss’ last game, he’ll treat it a little differently than Lewis will handle his.