From Henry Jordan to Lawrence Taylor, Shaun Gayle to Todd Kelly, Antoine Bethea to Mike Tomlin, Peninsula athletes have collected a fair share of Super Bowl rings.
As the NFL playoffs kick off Saturday, the question becomes whether that collection will grow come Feb. 6.
The least likely is Bethea, an Indianapolis Colts free safety from Denbigh High. No offense to Bethea, by far the team's leading tackler, but injuries have ravaged the Colts.
Staples such as cornerback Bob Sanders, tight end Dallas Clark, running back Joseph Addai and receiver Austin Collie missed significant time, heaping more pressure on incomparable quarterback Peyton Manning. The AFC South champs (10-6) won their last four regular-season games to make the playoffs for a record-tying ninth consecutive year, but rarely have they entered postseason so vulnerable.
A wild-card date Saturday with the New York Jets, a rematch of last year's AFC championship encounter, is daunting enough. And if Indy prevails, it's off to Pittsburgh for the divisional round and, potentially, New England for the AFC title game.
Manning has a better chance of beating Michael Vick — contrived segue alert — in a footrace than he does of quarterbacking the Colts through that gauntlet.
Speaking of Vick: The Pro Bowler and presumptive Comeback Player of the Year committed no turnovers in his first six games for the Philadelphia Eagles this season, nine (six interceptions and three lost fumbles) in his last six, prompting chatter that defenses have figured him out.
Uh, don't think so. During his "down" stretch, Vick threw 10 touchdown passes, ran for five scores and led the Eagles to four victories, including the Miracle at the New Meadowlands.
A Warwick High graduate, Vick was 2-2 as a playoff quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, and both losses came at Philadelphia, most recently six years ago in the NFC title game. The NFC East champion Eagles host the Green Bay Packers on Sunday and would head to Chicago for the divisional round if they won.
An irresistible matchup with the Falcons — Vick's return to the Georgia Dome — could follow, but as with Manning and the Colts, it's difficult to envision Vick and the Eagles winning three games to reach the Super Bowl.
As the top two AFC seeds, the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers need win "only" twice to reach the big stage in Jerry Jones' suburban Dallas playpen. And there rests the Peninsula's best chance of a Super Bowl champion.
The Steelers won it all two seasons ago in Tomlin's sophomore year as coach, but this was his finest regular season. After failing to make the playoffs in 2009 and an offseason steamier than "The Real Housewives of New Jersey," Pittsburgh captured the AFC North at 12-4.
This the Steelers did despite quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's four-game, season-opening suspension and with the same orneriness that fueled 2008's Super Bowl run. Pittsburgh leads the NFL in scoring defense and rushing defense and ranks 11th in rushing offense.
Is Tomlin, a Denbigh and William and Mary graduate, the NFL Coach of the Year? Doubtful. Atlanta's Mike Smith, Chicago's Lovie Smith, Tampa Bay's Raheem Morris and Kansas City's Todd Haley figure to lead that pack.
Should the Steelers win their playoff opener — Indianapolis or the Baltimore-Kansas City survivor are the possible opponents — they're likely bound for New England, where Tom Brady and Bill Belichick appear poised to claim their fourth Lombardi Trophy.
The Patriots lead the league in scoring and are an outrageous plus-28 in turnover margin — No. 2 Pittsburgh is plus-17. Brady and his 36 touchdown passes and four interceptions are the primary reasons, but not to be dismissed is a defense captained by inside linebacker Jerod Mayo from Kecoughtan High.
Fans and peers voted Mayo, the 2008 Defensive Rookie of the Year, to his first Pro Bowl this season and rightfully so. He leads the NFL in tackles by a wide margin and in only his third year has become a locker room presence.
Best guess: A Steelers-Patriots rematch — New England won at Pittsburgh in November — for the AFC title with the Pats prevailing there and in the Super Bowl, making Mayo the seventh Peninsula athlete to wear football's ultimate ring.
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime, and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP
Super Bowl champions from the Peninsula
Henry Jordan, Warwick High: Hall of Fame defensive lineman for the legendary Green Bay Packers, winners of the first two Super Bowls.
Shaun Gayle, Bethel High: Defensive back for Chicago Bears team that went 15-1 in 1985 and routed New England in Super Bowl.
Lawrence Taylor, Lafayette High: Hall of Fame outside linebacker for champion New York Giants in 1986 and '90.
Todd Kelly, Bethel High: Reserve defensive lineman who played 11 regular-season games for San Francisco 49ers in 1994 but not in subsequent Super Bowl demolition of San Diego Chargers.
Antoine Bethea, Denbigh High: Became a starting safety for Indianapolis Colts in 2006 and helped them win their first championship with conquest of Bears.
Mike Tomlin, Denbigh High: Coached Pittsburgh Steelers to last-second Super Bowl victory over Arizona Cardinals two years ago.
New England's Jerod Mayo leads strong Peninsula presence in NFL postseason