When it comes to Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, you can make the case that he's overrated or underrated. You'll hear people praise him for his ability to win games and others chide him for being obscenely overpaid. You either consider him Joe Cool or Joe Fluke-o.
But here is a statement that can't be contradicted: Flacco has been elite in the playoffs. The passing numbers, the clutch performances and the wins back this up.
Since he entered the NFL in 2008, Flacco has nine wins in the postseason, four more than any other quarterback over that span. Over the last four postseasons, he has more touchdown passes (18) than any other quarterback. In his last two playoff seasons, Flacco carried the Ravens to a Super Bowl in 2012 and came within one failed catch of leading the Ravens to another Super Bowl in 2011.
When Flacco plays at Pittsburgh in AFC wild-card game Saturday night, it's another opportunity to build upon his postseason success. His ability to get the Ravens to the playoffs and excel in the postseason is the major reason the Ravens signed him to a six-year, $120.6 million contract two years ago.
For all of his inconsistencies in the regular season -- like struggling to complete three passes in the first half two weeks ago -- he has been extraordinarily consistent when it's mattered the most in the playoffs. Flacco has outplayed Tom Brady (twice), Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck and Colin Kaepernick in the postseason. He has won six games on the road, including at New England and Denver.
Asked about the increased intensity level in the postseason, Flacco said, "It’s probably more mental and you understand the importance of right now and being in the moment, so it probably makes the games feel a little bit different in that sense.”
Perhaps the biggest black mark on Flacco's postseason résumé is his play at Heinz Field. He's 0-2 with a 38.6 passer rating, throwing one touchdown and four interceptions. Flacco failed to complete half of his passes (29-of-60) in those two playoff meetings against the Steelers and didn't pass for more than 150 yards in either game.
The postseason struggles against the Steelers haven't been talked about this week, Flacco said. The Ravens haven't faced the Steelers in the playoffs since January 2011, and Flacco believes a lot of time has passed since T.J. Houshmandzadeh dropped that fourth-down pass in a 31-24 loss.
"It’s not really of any importance at this point," Flacco said. "We just have to go up there, and we’ve played there a bunch. We’ve won there before, and I think that’s probably more important is the fact that we have gone up there and won before and we just have to look into that a little bit and go up there and play with confidence.”
Playing with confidence won't be a problem for Flacco in the postseason. In his last eight playoff games, he has completed 59 percent of his passes for 2,012 yards with 18 touchdowns and two interceptions. Since 2010, his passer rating in the postseason (105.0) is better than Aaron Rodgers (100.3), Drew Brees (97.8), Manning (94.8) and Brady (91.5).
"You’re going to find most of the teams that get to this level are going to have quarterbacks who can play under pressure and can make plays when it matters," coach John Harbaugh said. "Yes, it’s a great asset, it’s a necessary asset at this stage of the game and, like I’ve said many times, I love Joe. I think he’s the best quarterback in football and I’m glad he’s our guy.”