Wednesday, January 26, 2011
There is one thing that is bugging me since Sunday. Not the fact that former and current NFL players have been criticizing Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler's toughness or lack there of in the NFC Championship game. Rather, that some are beginning to back track from their comments or tweets in some cases.
I will first preface by saying that I don't care if Jay Cutler could have played or not. That was the team's decision and they have to live with it. Cutler didn't do himself any favors with his posture on the sidelines as every player should know that TV cameras will be rolling and you have to be careful. Just ask Arizona Cardinals quarterback Derek Anderson about the cameras always rolling.
With that said what's troubling me is what was said by some players during the game. Not what they said so much, but rather that they didn't mean it.
Twitter has its upsides and its downsides. Fans can communicate with people they adore, idolize or respect on a daily basis. The one downside of course is that what you say on twitter goes viral in an instant and it can't be taken back. Sure you can delete it, but it's already there. Plus with the limit of 140 characters, it's hard to get your full point across in the context it was intended to be in.
Maurice Jones-Drew, running back for the Jacksonville Jaguars, tweeted; "Hey I think the urban meyer rule is effect right now... When the going gets tough........QUIT.."
He then followed that tweet with this one; "All I'm saying is that he can finish the game on a hurt knee... I played the whole season on one..."
Maurice clarified the following days that the tweet about Urban Meyer was a joke directed at Florida fans and it was taken out of context. Now I'm willing to hear his explanation to which he said it was never meant to demean Jay Cutler in anyway. That's fine. It sure didn't sound that way with the second tweet. By the way. In reference to that knee injury of Maurice's, he didn't play the whole season. He missed the final two games due to said knee injury.
Darnell Dockett, defensive tackle for the Arizona Cardinals, also opined on twitter. Here's what he tweeted; "If I'm on chicago team jay cutler has to wait till me and the team shower get dressed and leave before he comes in the locker room!#FACT"
Now Darnell's is a little different. He responded a couple times on twitter saying he never was questioning Jay Cutler's knee injury. In essence he was saying what we were all thinking. In a big game like that where a spot in the Super Bowl is on the line, you don't want to be taken out no matter what.
Credit to Darnell and Maurice for not deleting those tweets like so many others have done before when they tweeted something that drew a negative light on them. It's troubling that in this day and age someone can be scrutinized for simply speaking their mind.
Now I will say that anyone inciting violence or anything to that nature is just plain stupid and has no part of the discussion. Freedom to speak is the first amendment of the United States Constitution. Continue to use it and by all means back it up. If you do retract from it, don't say someone took it out of context. I'm sick and tired of being told that. If you didn't mean for it to be said than say you're sorry and lets move on.
We know there are two sides to every story. Just as there are two sides to this one. We can decide for ourselves what is right and what is wrong. Don't say something you mean one day only to say it wasn't what I meant it to be the next. The sooner we can do that, the sooner we can stop blaming others for what we meant to say. Only you can make that call.
Sunday, January 23, 2011
So close and yet so far
I know Jay Cutler was hurt and his toughness has come into question in the aftermath, but the Bears were almost crowned NFC Champions today. That's a testament to Chicago's defense. They were outplayed in all aspects of the game in the first half and yet they were only down 14-0. The second half was a brilliant bit of gameplanning by the Chicago coaching staff. Aaron Rodgers was forcing throws and Green Bay couldn't get anything going on the ground. Chicago also got another bit of luck with their third string quarterback Caleb Hanie leading the way at the end of the 3rd and the entire 4th quarter. Not only did he wake the Bears offense, but the defense started to play even better down the stretch. The passing game was awoken and it resulted in two 4th quarter touchdowns. Unfortunately for two moments Hanie realized that he was a third string quarterback. Throwing a game winning interception that resulted in a touchdown to Packers defensive tackle B.J. Raji (pictured above) and another to end the game to Sam Shields. Green Bay should count their blessings and thank their defense for getting them to their 5th Super Bowl in franchise history. Aaron Rodgers can get flustered from time to time like any quarterback who is under pressure and faces good coverage. He won't always win it for them and they will need the entire team to play their 'A' game if they want to beat their next opponent.
Complacency nearly cost them
When you out gaining the other team by nearly 200 yards going into halftime, you might start thinking you can play it safe in the second half. That's what happened to Pittsburgh. They were up 24-3 and played it safe for the second half. The result? Pittsburgh was out gained 231 to 75 by New York. Pittsburgh scored just enough in the first half to end up with the win. The Jets scored 16 points in the second half and probably would've won had Mark Sanchez not fumbled before halftime that resulted in the Steelers last touchdown. New York should be proud of their effort. It shows that there is no quit in them no matter what. Almost everyone had them being tapped out for the rest of the game. To me they were gassed and needed the rest at halftime to re-charge themselves. Did I think they would win? Not necessarily. I figured they would make it close and they did. What I didn't expect was the lack of urgency out of Pittsburgh's offense. They had them where they wanted them and they did one thing I didn't think they would. They stopped running the ball. Rashard Mendenhall ran for 27 of his 121 yards in the second half. That's unacceptable for Pittsburgh going forward. If they have an advantage, especially on the ground, they should continue with it until the other team stops it. Two of their four second half drives ended with Roethlisberger throwing an interception and fumbling the football that resulted in a safety. Pittsburgh is by no means perfect and their next opponent should capitalize on that from the start of the game.
Saturday, January 22, 2011
Green Bay Packers (10-6) vs. Chicago Bears (11-5)
Packers - 9th
Bears - 30th
Packers - 5th
Bears - 9th
The NFL's most storied rivalry will be on stage for only the second time in the playoffs. The last was 70 years ago in a similar fashion. They played each other for the last spot in the championship game. Now it's for the Super Bowl, different name, same concept. The hottest team and really the hottest player in these playoffs is Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. It's a testament to his work ethic and commitment to his craft. He has played with a lot of his receivers since he was drafted and they have worked well together for most of the year. With the recent discovery of a running game in rookie James Starks, the Packers have balance that the opposition must adhere to. The Packers defense has tremendous speed and a knack for the ball that I haven't seen for some time. The last defense I can remember that had this kind of tenacity for the ball was Tampa Bay's defense from 2002. Green Bay will have their hands full with a familiar opponent in Chicago, but the Packers defense should be up to the challenge.
Not surprisingly the Bears feel this is the biggest game next to the Super Bowl for them. It should be for all teams, but for Chicago this is against their hated rivals. This is also quarterback Jay Cutler's biggest game of his career. If he can repeat what he did against the Seahawks last week, Chicago will forever see him as 'The' quarterback for them. The Bears one problem that I've seen is that they aren't establishing the run enough. Matt Forte has been involved in the passing game, but he should be better utilized in the ground game. The Bears defense will be given a daunting task of slowing down Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense. They have the know how, but the Bears will need their not so secret weapon, Devin Hester to make a difference in field position. Chicago fans have been expecting a big play from him and they know it's only a matter of time.
Matchup to watch for: Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers vs. Chicago Bears DE Julius Peppers
New York Jets (11-5) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)
Jets - 11th
Steelers - 14th
Jets - 3rd
Steelers - 2nd
Rex Ryan has the New York Jets in the Championship game once again. He hopes this time that their fortunes will turn out differently. They didn't have Santonio Holmes on offense last year for one. That might help and hurt them at the same time. Holmes has a knack for making big catches at big moments. His former team Pittsburgh knows this all too well. He was the Super Bowl XLIII MVP for Pittsburgh. The Steelers know that they will have to neutralize him and force Mark Sanchez into making mistakes. The Jets will have to continue with what has worked in the playoffs. Establish the run first and when needed, Sanchez can find an open man down the field for a big play. Defensively it will be more difficult as Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger isn't libel to go down as easily as Peyton Manning or Tom Brady under their pass rush. The Jets figure to blitz more against the Steelers than against the Colts and Patriots. Pittsburgh has a better rushing attack than the Jets two previous opponents. New York will have to force Big Ben to throw to his check down receivers more than down the field for big gains. Just ask Baltimore how that worked for them.
Pittsburgh's defense should be on their 'A' game against the Jets. Not just Holmes, but Braylon Edwards and LaDainian Tomlinson can beat them for big plays. New York has balance on offense and it came at the perfect time. The Steelers will put constant pressure on Sanchez. The ground game is the one place where the Steelers might have trouble, but they aren't named the "Steel Curtain" defense because they can rush the passer. If Mark Sanchez is forced to throw the ball more than 25 times, the Steelers will be on their way to another Super Bowl title. Their offense has a steady and methodical pace to it. If they can establish the run with Rashard Mendenhall, it will go a long way in opening up the passing game for gains of 25 yards or more. Roethlisberger can run as well, but it would be better if the Steelers avoid having Ben getting flushed out of the pocket for most of the game. The offensive line has been criticized all year long and this game will go a long way in helping them debunk their reputation of being a called porous line. New York and Pittsburgh aren't making this game personal. They both respect one another. That is until the game starts.
Matchup to watch for: New York Jets Defense vs. Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger
Packers over Bears
Jets over Steelers
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
You must play for 60 minutes
They had a picture perfect plan for the first 30 minutes. Unfortunately for Baltimore, the Pittsburgh Steelers had a backup plan for the last 30 minutes. The Ravens were leading 21-7 at halftime. They were playing great defense. Joe Flacco was making plays. Pittsburgh made their move when Baltimore was getting complacent. Soon the game was tied at 21 and the Ravens were in panic mode. Yes you could make the argument that the referees were not helping the Ravens cause, but you have to expect that they won't help. Pittsburgh was playing at home and their crowd gave them the extra boost they needed. Flacco didn't get any help from his receivers and the Ravens defense, especially the pass, was getting beat on almost every play. Baltimore will be thinking 'what if' the entire offseason, but they should know that they gave their division rivals everything they had. This was the only game that was split right down the middle as far as who you thought would win. Next year shouldn't be any different.
Someone wants it more
Atlanta had two weeks to be ready for this playoff game. They had one week to prepare for the Green Bay Packers specifically, but the way they played it was apparent they were lost. Now all the credit does go to Aaron Rodgers and the entire Green Bay defense for the way they prepared for the Falcons. They did play earlier in the season which resulted in a Falcons victory. Green Bay learned from that game and it was evident in the way they played the final three quarters. The Packers forced turnovers at key points in the game. Atlanta couldn't run the ball at all. Matt Ryan seemed to be an average quarterback at best for the game. Green Bay didn't have to establish the run as much as I expected. Rodgers was on target for the entire game. The Packers have a formidable offense and their defense is at their best when they're perceived vulnerable. They are the scary team right now and yet most didn't seem them because of their lack of experience. Someday that cliche will be overlooked and it might start with the Green Bay Packers.
Chicago played their game
From start to finish Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was on fire. The snow was melting away for the Bears to take control of the game. Seattle had no answer for Cutler and were lost for all four quarters on offense. Yes, Seattle scored 21 of their 24 points in the fourth quarter, but by that time Chicago was already thinking about hosting Green Bay next week. It was strange though at certain points in the second half offensive coordinator Mike Martz was calling wildcat plays that resulted in no gains and one interception thrown by running back Matt Forte. That will have to stop from this point on. If Seattle isn't going to fall for those plays, what's to say Green Bay will? The Windy City has breathed a sigh of relief with the great performance of Jay Cutler. Now they just hope it will continue for what is perhaps the biggest game for the Bears since Super Bowl XX.
They talked the talked and backed it up
Well, the Jets have put themselves back into the Super Bowl conversation. I will say right now that I'm not and never have been actively rooting against the Jets to lose. I'm not a Jets fan, but I believe that have a pretty talented team. Just laying that out right now for Jets linebacker Bart Scott. That guy was intense after the victory over the hated New England Patriots. You can't tell me that the Jets didn't think that was their own personal Super Bowl. Once again it was a perfect gameplan in all three phases by Rex Ryan and his coaching staff. Mark Sanchez was even better than during the Wild Card game against Indianapolis. Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes and LaDainian Tomlinson each proved their value for a formidable offense. They even beat the Bill Belichick led Patriots in the psychological aspect of the game. All that trash talking was to the Jets benefit. They wanted to prove not only to the football world, but to themselves that they can beat New England at Foxboro. New England was stunned at their ferocity and it shook every player, including Tom Brady, to their core. I believe the Jets haven't reached their peak yet, but they probably have their work cut out for them against Pittsburgh. The Steelers are a different animal from New England. Either way it was going to be a good AFC Championship game, but for most of us we secretly wanted the Jets and Rex Ryan to be there.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
Baltimore Ravens (12-4) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)
Ravens - 22nd
Steelers - 14th
Ravens - 10th
Steelers - 2nd
Remember when I asked after Week 13, "was that a season defining play" by Steelers safety Troy Polamalu against the same Baltimore Ravens. Well, Baltimore now has a chance to right that play and continue their run at another Super Bowl title. The most glaring problem the Ravens have had with Pittsburgh is their lack of a running game. It's really every teams problem when they play Pittsburgh. Baltimore did a great job of getting Ray Rice involved early and often against Kansas City last week and they will need to do that again this week. Joe Flacco probably won't have as much success passing this week. Especially to his tight end Todd Heap. The Ravens will have to adjust and find Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason for the passing game to be effective.
The Steelers one flaw is with their offense and the lack of scoring. Even with the return to form of their quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, they've had some difficulty scoring against good defenses. They will have to do what Kansas City couldn't do and that's run the ball for a full 60 minutes not 30. Rashard Mendenhall hasn't had tremendous success against Baltimore in his young career. Pittsburgh does have a deep threat in Mike Wallace who will help open up the ground game, but the Steelers will have their work cut out for them. They won't admit it to anyone, but they probably do wish their opponent had been someone else. Every time these two get together it wears both the players and coaches out. This is sure to be the biggest chess game of the weekend.
Matchup to watch for: Terrell Suggs vs. Pittsburgh offensive line
Green Bay Packers (10-6) vs. Atlanta Falcons (13-3)
Packers - 9th
Falcons - 16th
Packers - 5th
Falcons - 16th
Easily the matchup that everyone is looking forward to in the NFC. Many would've liked to have seen them face off in the NFC Championship game, but the time is now. Aaron Rodgers didn't have to prove anything to me last week, but did to others who said who couldn't win a playoff game. A ludicrous thought, but he proved all those naysayers wrong. He got a tremendous lift from the running game and rookie James Starks. Fresh legs really do mean something this time of year. Rodgers had favorable coverage almost the entire game and was picking apart the Philadelphia defense. Green Bay will need to establish a similar gameplan if they are to upset the heavily favored Atlanta Falcons.
Matt Ryan just doesn't lose in Atlanta. He's only lost two games at the Georgia Dome and you can credit a lot of that success to the Falcons running game. Michael Turner has been a big help in Matt Ryan's development. With less pressure on the passing game, it's been overlooked a lot of the time. Now it won't thanks to the big play ability of Roddy White and the sure hands of tight end Tony Gonzalez. The Falcons have a dynamic ball control offense that helps keep their defense fresh and tenacious when they take the field. The Falcons might find it harder this time around as the Packers are sure to use that kind of gameplan to expose the Falcons defense and keep Matt Ryan off the field.
Matchup to watch for: James Starks vs. Atlanta Falcons defense
Seattle Seahawks (7-9) vs. Chicago Bears (11-5)
Seahawks - 28th
Bears - 30th
Seahawks - 27th
Bears - 9th
Seattle stunned everyone except myself by advancing. I didn't think they would win the way they did against the New Orleans Saints, but they are a NFL team with NFL players. When you play at home, you're supposed to win. They did and now they have an even bigger hurdle, playing on the road. The plan is simple if you're head coach Pete Carroll. Run the ball. It worked against the Saints, why wouldn't it work again? Yes, Chicago is a better defensive team than the Saints, but they were exposed in a number of games this season. Rest assured that Seattle will use a lot of play-action type plays as well to take advantage of single coverage. Chicago will probably force Matt Hasselbeck to throw it down the field and there is a good chance it could back fire on them. Seattle did beat the Bears earlier in the season in Chicago.
The Bears and this playoff run rests on the right arm of Jay Cutler. Like with Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassell, Cutler hasn't played in a playoff game before. This is a lot to ask of Cutler, but I'm sure that head coach Lovie Smith and his offensive coordinator Mike Martz know they have to run the ball more at this point in the season, right? Chicago barely averaged over 100 yards rushing per game during the regular season and they have two running backs capable of taking over the game in Matt Forte and Chester Taylor. I just don't know if Chicago's coaching staff knows that. Now I will say that they've gotten this far thanks in large part to Jay Cutler. He will have to remain consistent and not get happy feet against the Seahawks.
Matchup to watch for: Seattle Seahawks defense vs. Jay Cutler
New York Jets (11-5) vs. New England Patriots (14-2)
Jets - 11th
Patriots - 8th
Jets - 3rd
Patriots - 25th
Put all the trash talk aside and the weird front page covers of the New York Post, you have a pretty compelling matchup. The Jets will have to commit to running the ball to repeat the success of their win over Indianapolis. Mark Sanchez will have to be just as good if not better than he was at the most crucial point in the game last week. New York figures that New England will be putting seven to nine players in the box to stop the ground game and dare Sanchez to throw it. The Jets will need Mark Sanchez to make the right decision in those situations and their defense will have to do pretty much exactly what they did last week against the Colts. Although New England is far more capable of running the ball on a consistent basis than the Colts were. To the Jets this is their season in a nutshell and they will be looking to put themselves back in the conversation for the Super Bowl.
The Patriots have been waiting patiently like they always have under Bill Belichick. The opponent makes the first move and the Patriots wait idly by for the game to start. It's a strategy that has work time after time. You would think the opponents would just stop doing it at some point. The Jets are looking for revenge for their 45-3 Monday night beatdown at the hands of the Patriots towards the end of the season. New England is just looking to prove that what they did wasn't a fluke. Tom Brady has been nearly perfect all year and the Patriots defense was getting better towards the end of the year. Everyone is expecting a trash talking brawl, but I'm expecting someone to go home empty handed.
Matchup to watch for: NY Jets defense vs. Tom Brady
Ravens over Steelers
Falcons over Packers
Bears over Seahawks
Patriots over Jets
Monday, January 10, 2011
The comeback story ends
Everyone expected the Packers to send anyone and everyone on defense after Michael Vick. It worked for the most part. Vick still had a good game nearly throwing for 300 yards and a score. The problem with Philadelphia, as it is most of the time with them, they couldn't run the ball. As a team they averaged just under 4 yards a rush. Green Bay was not going to let the Eagles use the screen game to their advantage either. Philadelphia was still in position to win the game. Unfortunately the one flaw with Michael Vick reared its ugly head at the end. The last throw from Vick was an unnecessary one on 1st down. Throwing for the endzone with just over 30 seconds left resulted in an interception to end the game. Experience Vick has, but he hadn't played in a playoff game in six years. That to me had a factor in some of his decision making. Head coach Andy Reid didn't have any plan it seemed to stifle the Packers pass rush. Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews Jr. was causing so much trouble that the Eagles pulled their starting right tackle in the 4th quarter. It just wasn't Philadelphia's day. Their kicker David Akers missed two field goals that would've given the Eagles the lead. Alas, the Packers were the better team and Aaron Rodgers might have a running game to complement him in the name of James Starks. The rookie made a name for himself on the biggest stage and that will be a key for Green Bay going forward.
Baltimore played their game
Going into halftime it seemed that Baltimore was going to have their hands full with the rushing attack of the Kansas City Chiefs. Jamaal Charles had rushed for a long touchdown run in the first half and the Ravens seemed to have no answer for one of the best rushing attacks in the league. Baltimore had a trick up their sleeve though. They stacked the box early and often in Kansas City's second half possessions. Taking away the run. Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassell was then put in a situation to make something happen, but couldn't do it. His three interceptions came at crucial times in the game. Two fumbles by Charles and Dexter McCluster didn't help either. Cassell was out matched by a great defense and Joe Flacco was superb in his sixth playoff start in just his third season. What's also amazing is that all of Flacco's playoff starts have been on the road. His playoff record is now 4-2. Going forward the Ravens should not be overlooked. They weren't with this favorable matchup, but they made an adjustment at halftime that led to the only blowout of the weekend.
They really do want to win
I kept thinking all week that the Jets were going to find some way to lose to the Indianapolis Colts. All the talk was about Rex Ryan coached teams were 1-5 against Peyton Manning. With the way the Jets have been playing all year, I wasn't sure which team was going to show up. Not surprisingly the Jets defense had held Peyton in check for most of the game. Peyton was held to just 225 yards passing and one touchdown. What was surprising is the Jets had at least five defensive backs against the Colts on almost every play. The strategy worked and the Colts passing game was held in check. What was surprising was the Mark Sanchez led game winning drive at the end. All of New York could be heard taking a deep breath with every pass. The good Sanchez had arrived and was converting on every key throw to lead the Jets within field goal range of their kicker Nick Folk. Again New York was on pins and needles with Folk promptly nailing it right down Broadway. Just when you think you know how it will end, Mark Sanchez shows how great he can be on the most important drive of the game. The Colts had a Hall of Fame kicker in Adam Vinatieri nail the go ahead field goal, but left too much time on the clock for the Jets to go right down the field and win it with time expired. The "team to beat" still has a rough road ahead, but they feel more at home being the underdogs.
Not really an upset
I said last week, "don't expect a blowout" and what happened? A high scoring close game. New Orleans was within striking distance for most of the game, but when you have eight players on defense that can't tackle one guy, you've already lost the game. All the credit in the world goes to the Seattle Seahawks. Yes, everyone outside of Seattle had New Orleans winning this game, but don't start calling it an upset. Last I checked the Seahawks are a NFL team and they did win their division. Granted it's the worst in the league, but they still won it fair and square. The New Orleans Saints didn't have the same fire on defense as they had last year. Drew Brees did all he could to get them points, but the Saints defense was awful. Marshawn Lynch's 67 yard touchdown run was both amazing and comical. It is the iconic moment of Wild Card Weekend and it also signified that there will be a new champion this year. New Orleans was playing like they were last year, but it was for not as Seattle wanted to prove to everyone that they belonged. Seattle should be considered a good team the rest of the way. They beat an offensive juggernaut and had a perfect gameplan to score 41 points on the defending champs. There's only one explanation for this game. Seattle was just better.
Saturday, January 8, 2011
New Orleans Saints (11-5) vs. Seattle Seahawks (7-9)
Saints - 6th
Seahawks - 28th
Saints - 4th
Seahawks - 27th
With the way those rankings look, you would think this will be a one sided affair. It never is in the NFL. 8-8 teams have made it to the Super Bowl and it does seem impossible that a 7-9 team will do that. I'm not here to say Seattle will run the table, but there are players on their roster that were on that 2005 team. First and foremost is their starting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. If his game is up to par, the Seahawks might have a chance in this game. Their defense plays at another level at Qwest Field. A lot of folks say that is one of the toughest places to play in the NFL.
Now a lot will have to happen for Seattle to have an edge in this game. New Orleans is the defending champions and last I checked they still have a healthy quarterback in Drew Brees. If he is the Drew Brees of last postseason, and not the turnover prone quarterback of the regular season, the Saints will be in good hands. The Saints rushing attack will take a hit with Pierre Thomas and Christopher Ivory both out for the rest of the playoffs. Reggie Bush will get an extra load of work the rest of the way which could be good and bad at the same time. The Saints should be the favorites, but don't expect a blowout.
Matchup to watch for: New Orleans Saints D vs. Matt Hasselbeck
New York Jets (11-5) vs. Indianapolis Colts (10-6)
Jets - 11th
Colts - 4th
Jets - 3rd
Colts - 20th
The talk all week has been what Jets head coach Rex Ryan's defensive scheme will be against Peyton Manning the 7th time around. In case you don't know, Peyton is 6-1 all-time against a Rex Ryan coached defense. Not many coaches can say they have a winning record against him. The Jets do have additional weapons at their disposal this year. Antonio Cromartie will help opposite Darrelle Revis and Jason Taylor will be a big help rushing the edge. It all comes down to the offense for the Jets. Which Mark Sanchez will show up? The one who was 30 minutes away from beating Peyton a year ago or the one who was nearly benched a few times in the regular season?
Not has Peyton shaken the rust from mid-season, he has a running game to help take the pressure off his arm. Is it just me or should the Colts have never let Dominic Rhodes go after winning Super 41? He was a big help while Joseph Addai was out and with Addai back, the Colts have a two-headed attack in the ground game. The Colts still have a shaky defense, but they have overcome that fact before and this is a relatively easy task for them. Make Mark Sanchez beat you. That will be their gameplan going into Sunday night.
Matchup to watch for: NY Jets D vs. Peyton Manning
Baltimore Ravens (12-4) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)
Ravens - 22nd
Chiefs - 12th
Ravens - 10th
Chiefs - 14th
This is a trap game for both teams. The Baltimore Ravens have an impressive 6-3 road playoff record since they drafted their defensive captain Ray Lewis. They weren't spectacular on the road overall this year (5-3), but they finished the season winning 7 of their last 9 (3-1 on the road). Joe Flacco has more experience in the playoffs than most quarterbacks at his age. That bodes well for the Ravens stagnant offense overall, but Flacco has more weapons at his disposal this time around (Boldin, Houshmandzadeh, Stallworth).
Matt Cassell hasn't started a playoff game nor appeared in one. He's watched playoff games with New England, but it's hard to see him step into the ring firing on all cylinders. Kansas City was 7-1 at home this year, but their last home was a debacle against division rival Oakland. That was a troubling sign that should bode well for the Ravens. However, the Chiefs have bounced back from tough stretches this year. They have to establish the run early and often to open up their passing attack. Baltimore's defense isn't an elite defense and has their flaws in the passing game. The Chiefs should be favored, but Baltimore has the experience and the attitude to win on the road.
Matchup to watch for: Ray Lewis vs. Thomas Jones & Jamaal Charles
Green Bay Packers (10-6) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)
Packers - 9th
Eagles - 2nd
Packers - 5th
Eagles - 12th
I like seeing rematches in the playoffs. Green Bay squeaked out a victory in Week 1 against the same Philadelphia Eagles, but it was with Kevin Kolb as the starting quarterback for the Eagles. Green Bay has been consistently good when Aaron Rodgers is on his game or in the lineup. He has recovered from his late season concussion and will be looking to get out of the Wild Card this time around. He couldn't defeat the Arizona Cardinals in a overtime shootout last year, but this matchup is sure to be a defensive stalwart. The Packers want to control the ball more, but it will be difficult without a sure fire back to hand it off to.
The Eagles had their season's fortune change thanks to the Green Bay Packers after the first game. With Kevin Kolb concussed Michael Vick stepped into the starting role and the Eagles never looked back. Now it's no coincidence that having DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy have made Vick's transition to becoming the starting quarterback so much easier. Those three will have to be involved early and often for the Eagles to keep Rodgers and his weapons off the field. The other problem has been the Eagles lack of pass protection against the blitz. That bodes well for the Packers blitz happy attack which is sure to exploit it and force the Eagles into long conversion opportunities.
Matchup to watch for: Green Bay Packers D vs. Michael Vick
Saints over Seahawks
Colts over Jets
Ravens over Chiefs
Packers over Eagles
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
It's been a pretty tumultuous year in the NFL. Only two teams won 13 or more games (New England & Atlanta). A sub .500 team (Seattle) made the playoffs. All in all there are five new teams that are in the playoffs this year. Each one, even Seattle, has a legitimate shot at winning the Super Bowl. Instead of looking back at what happened in Week 17, I'm going to look back at the entire season. It's a mix of the good, the bad and the ugly moments of the 2010 NFL season.
The catch that never was will define the Detroit Lions 2010 season. Calvin Johnson to everyone, but the rulebook of the NFL, caught the go-ahead touchdown against the Chicago Bears. The rule is stupid, but the rule was correct. Memo to the competition committee: we don't need stupid rules.
A quarterback controversy turned into a blessing for the Philadelphia Eagles. Michael Vick replaced an injured Kevin Kolb. Since then the Eagles clinched the division and Vick seems to be a different man on and off the field. Comeback player of the year and possibly the MVP award are his this season.
The Dallas Cowboys showed who they actually were in the beginning of the season. A flawed team. Having talent on paper doesn't translate to the field of play. It seemed to be a matter of time before the Cowboys would implode, but no one expected it in the first game.
The Minnesota Vikings were beginning to show signs that they were going to have a rougher ride in 2010. They were outplayed in their home opener against Miami and everyone began to whisper if it was such a good idea for Brett Favre to come back. Those whispers became very loud by mid-season.
A lot of folks including myself had the Houston Texans as an up and coming team. I didn't have them making the playoffs, but I did see them being contenders for most of the season. After the way they started with an impressive home opening win against Indianapolis and a come from behind victory at Washington, who thought they would self-destruct?
Two teams that weren't in the playoffs last year, Kansas City and Pittsburgh had started out 3-0. Pittsburgh didn't have Ben Roethlisberger for their first four games and Kansas City was essentially the same team from a year ago. Both are in the playoffs this year and at this point we were wondering just how good they could be.
Donovan McNabb returned to Philadelphia and beat his former team in Redskins red. Granted Michael Vick was out for most of the game, but McNabb had taken to his former team and won the game. I, like everyone else was wondering why San Francisco was playing so badly. I still haven't figured it out at this point, but they are starting over, so I guess there were a lot of problems.
The New York Giants defense had returned to their old form. They were sacking opposing quarterbacks left and right. We thought they would take that momentum all the way to the playoffs. Sad to say they faltered again in December. Brett Favre had a new teammate (Randy Moss) and a new problem. Come to find out that not cooperating with the NFL will only cost you 50,000 dollars. That's all I have to say about that.
The NFC was mired in mediocrity at this point in the season. Ben Roethlisberger returned and had the ideal opponent for his first game. Cleveland didn't lie down, but Big Ben couldn't have asked for an easier transition. The NFL was starting to fine players left and right for what they saw as "dirty" hits. As of now they still haven't clarified enough as to what is and isn't a "dirty" hit.
We started to think the defending champion New Orleans Saints were going to falter. Pittsburgh gets a break thanks to inconclusive evidence playing in Miami. The Oakland Raider impressed a lot of people with their blowout victory in Denver. Everyone except Al Davis who is looking for another head coach.
I had the Chicago Bears in my "ugly" section for the half-way point in the season. That was a mistake. Tennessee and Miami were in my "good" section. An even bigger mistake.
The only highlight for the Vikings and really Brett Favre's season was seeing the "old gunslinger" lead the Vikings to a come from behind victory over the Arizona Cardinals. Oakland was near the top of the division with a victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. Jerry Jones fired Wade Phillips after saying he wasn't just a few weeks before.
The best hail-mary pass in recent memory happened in Jacksonville. If you don't remember, youtube it. Washington made another in a long line of stupid moves this year by giving Donovan McNabb a contract extension when they clearly didn't want him. I had no idea who was the best team and still don't. I have to wait til February.
Vince Young had an injury on the field, but let his emotions get the best of him off the field and it could cost him his position in Tennessee going forward. Brad Childress was fired and thus ended one of the weirdest coaching tenures in recent memory.
I thought the San Diego Chargers would make a late season push and be tied with the Kansas City Chiefs when they met again. It didn't happen. The Atlanta Falcons and Chicago Bears were positioning themselves for a playoff push.
Troy Polamalu cemented himself as the most disruptive defensive player in the NFL with what he did at the end of the road win against Baltimore. I answered the question of what was wrong with Peyton Manning. I think it worked. Denver fired Josh McDaniels and now John Elway might be walking through that door. Actually it's as an executive not a quarterback.
I argued why the NFC West deserved a playoff team, but now I can't defend it. The New York Jets have a flaw, but it only shows every once in a while. Brett Favre's streak ended and the world didn't seem to care. Nah, unfortunately they did, but I still opined briefly about it.
Tim Tebow debuted and it wasn't as bad as what most had expected. I highlighted nine games that would have major playoff implications or were really good games to watch.
New Orleans returned to form and are ready to defend their title. I lay out what the 49ers gameplan is for the next season. Tom Brady will be the MVP this season. Put his name on the trophy, it's over.
Thank you for checking in during the season. There will be more for the playoffs and Super Bowl.