If politics were the NFL, then the upcoming Republican primaries would be the playoffs. So, let's take a look at the top remaining GOP presidential contenders through the lens of NFL teams and players.
1. Rick Santorum is Tim Tebow
Much like Denver Broncos QB Tim Tebow, Rick Santorum's primary chances have come alive in the fourth quarter. Furthermore, they have been ignited to a large extent by his Christian conservatism. Sound familiar? One man in Iowa told ABC News Monday that Santorum "is basically a Christ follower and that is important to me." Similarly, an Iowan woman attributed her support for Santorum Monday to the fact that "he is clearly a moral man with high integrity." So, if you see any Santorum supporters around Iowa or New Hampshire down on their knees with their foreheads pressed to their fists in the upcoming days, don't be surprised. They're just Tebowing.
2. Ron Paul is the Cincinnati Bengals
Yes, Texas Rep. Ron Paul has been around as a Republican presidential hopeful for years, but this time something is different. Much like the Bengals, Paul now has a young offensive line, and he has enjoyed late-surging success in Iowa because of it. It's called Youth for Ron Paul, and it's taking Iowa, Facebook and college campuses across the country by storm. It seems many of Paul's libertarian ideas appeal to members of the millennial generation, who are anti-war, noninterventionist and believe marriage rights should be decided by the states. So, many college kids descended upon Iowa this winter, opting for a winter break of politics over skiing and bar hopping, as part of an initiative called Christmas Break with Ron Paul. A December Fox News Poll found that Paul had twice as much support in voters under 50 than over.
3. Rick Perry is the Philadelphia Eagles
Here, the comparison is about hype. At the start of the 2011 season, Eagles players began heavily hyping their team and its playoff chances. Backup quarterback Vince Young hailed Philadelphia's 2011 squad as the "dream team." Then, come January, the Eagles did not even make the playoffs. Hype can be a curse, if it attracts exaggerated expectations and an unapologetic spotlight; something the Rick Perry campaign knows a thing or two about. And there is only one word to describe Rick Perry's debate performances under that intense spotlight: "oops."
4. Newt Gingrich is the New York Jets
If Rick Perry is the Eagles, then Newt Gingrich is the Jets. His is also a story about the curse of hype. In December, a confident Newt Gingrich told ABC's Jon Karl, "I'm going to be the nominee. It's very hard not to look at the recent polls and think that the odds are very high I'm going to be the nominee." Does that premature boasting sound a little bit like Rex Ryan? Like Mark Sanchez? Since then, Gingrich has fallen steadily in the polls and the Jets will not be repeating its stint in the playoffs.
5. Mitt Romney is Aaron Rodgers
Much like Aaron Rodgers, who sat behind Brett Favre in Green Bay for years waiting for his turn in the big seat, Mitt Romney had to sit on the bench and watch Sen. John McCain clinch the nomination in 2008. Now, of all the quarterbacks in the league, Rodgers has the fewest interceptions and the most touchdowns. His Green Bay Packers, then, are akin to Romney's 2012 campaign this primary season: steady and still with a good chance to win this thing.
6. Romney PAC, on the other hand, is the New England Patriots
While Mitt Romney gets to remain the smiling, steady face of a largely positive official campaign (the Aaron Rodgers of the NFL), there is a strong force behind him with the ability to carry out his dirty work and demolish his opponents. (Full disclosure: This article was not written by a Patriots fan.) Like the Patriots, Romney's super PAC Restore Our Future has the money, the talent and the ability to effectively defeat foes. Take, for example, Newt Gingrich's fleeting lead in the polls. The solution was simple: Romney's super PAC quietly went to work and, in no time at all, nearly half of the political ads on Iowa television were anti-Newt.