Six of the eight quarterbacks still in business this season were drafted in the first round.
The two who weren't -- Arizona's Kurt Warner and Carolina's Jake Delhomme -- have a combined three Super Bowl appearances. And Warner has two league MVP titles.
In a blue-collar postseason, it's five offensive linemen and three running backs that make the reigning Super Bowl champion Giants the team to beat heading into this weekend's NFL divisional playoff games.
The running backs are a straightforward trio called "Earth, Wind & Fire." Brandon Jacobs is "Earth," Derrick Ward is "Wind" and Ahmad Bradshaw is "Fire." Together, they rushed for all but 49 of the Giants' franchise-record 2,518 rushing yards this season.
"Unstoppable," Ward said when asked to describe the trio. "A lot of teams have two backs. We have three. And when the three of us are healthy and get on a roll, I truly feel that's what we are. Unstoppable."
Of the remaining playoff teams, Baltimore, Tennessee and Carolina run the ball very well. San Diego, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have their moments. Even Arizona, which finished last in the league in rushing, showed some ground muscle with a determined Edgerrin James during last week's wild-card upset over Atlanta.
But only the Giants can be, as Wind says, "unstoppable" when they set their minds and big bodies to it.
Jacobs is a 6-4, 264-pound pile-mover with quick feet for a guy nicknamed "Earth." He ran for a team-high 1,089 yards and has had three weeks to rest a troublesome knee heading into Sunday's game against the Eagles at Giants Stadium.
Ward is a 5-11, 228-pounder who would be the "big" back in any other backfield. He ran for 1,025 yards, making the Giants just the fifth team in NFL history to have two players rush for 1,000 yards in the same season.
Bradshaw is a 5-9, 198-pounder who's hard to see and harder to catch. He ran for 355 yards this season.
All three backs averaged at least 5.0 yards per carry as the Giants led the league in rushing yards per game (157.4) and per carry (5.0). Ward's average of 5.6 yards per carry led the league this year and is tied for fourth-best among 1,000-yard rushers since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. Not bad for a former seventh-round draft pick (2004, Jets).
The only guys ahead of him are Hall of Famers Barry Sanders (6.1 in 1997 and 5.7 in 1994) and O.J. Simpson (6.0 in 1973). Among those tied with Ward are Hall of Famers Franco Harris (1972) and Eric Dickerson (1984). The Vikings' Adrian Peterson also averaged 5.6 per carry in 2007.
"I couldn't even believe it when I saw that list," Ward told the Newark Star-Ledger recently. "Almost all of them are Hall of Famers. And Adrian will be a Hall of Famer, too, if he plays long enough."
As is the case in a here-today-gone-tomorrow league, this postseason run likely will be the last ride for "Earth, Wind & Fire." Jacobs and Ward become unrestricted free agents after the season. Jacobs probably will be the team's first priority and could command in the ballpark of $7 million a season. That probably won't leave enough money for the 28-year-old Ward, especially with Bradshaw only in his second season.
"I can't think about that stuff right now," Ward said. "Right now, this is a dream come true. We're together. We're going to be healthy for the playoff game. I can't wait."
When Ward enters Sunday's game against an Eagles defense that ranks fourth against the run, it will be his first postseason appearance. The Giants, Panthers, Titans and Steelers all had byes in the first round.
"Yeah, I've had some bad luck in the past," said Ward, who missed the team's past three playoff appearances because of season-ending injuries in December. "That's why I'm not looking forward to the money and free agency and all that. That stuff will take care of itself. I just want to be part of the playoffs."
Mark Craig • firstname.lastname@example.org
BALTIMORE PLUS-3 AT TENNESSEE
Titans by 6.
• I like the Ravens, but I just can't pick a rookie QB on the road against a No. 1 seed.
ARIZONA PLUS-10 AT CAROLINA
Panthers by 7.
• Arizona is terrible on the road, but I wouldn't give 10 points in a playoff game.
PHILADELPHIA PLUS-4 AT GIANTS
Giants by 7.
• Philly is hot, but the Giants should control the game with their running attack.
SAN DIEGO PLUS-6 AT PITTSBURGH
Steelers by 10.
• The Chargers won last week, but now they get to play the big-boy defense.