Wildcard Weekend Results: 3-1
Wildcard Weekend was anything but, the Texans game was a sleeper that led me to try my new WiiU during the second half; Joe Webb threw unfathomably worse than Christian Ponder; Ray Ray danced twice (once to Nelly?) and RGIII and Russell Wilson faced off in a playoff game that we can only hope was not their last. This week it would be difficult to find few who argue that these are not the best eight teams remaining, with a looming Peyton/Brady matchup and potential Packers/Seahawks rematch from the infamous Monday Nighter, let’s get to it!
How far will “emotion” take you through the NFL playoffs?
Last week, this writer came to the conclusion that Ray Lewis’ retirement announcement came with great timing form-fitted for motivational encouragement for his struggling squad. The emotion that Ray Lewis invoked from the conference, (I’m sure) through practice, his traditional intro dance and his 12 tackles, all transpired to get the Ravens to the AFC Division match-up versus Denver. How far will this emotion carry the Ravens is still up in the air, but let’s remember that his nemesis this week is a quarterback who never shows fear or panic. Some could say he’s “emotionless”.
Now we all know that the passion of winning burns inside of Peyton Manning. He just plays it cool and never looks rattled. He’s had a few epic games against Baltimore while quarterbacking his former Colts and I don’t expect any of that to change for either athlete this weekend. Ray Lewis has always been able to pick up Peyton’s reads and Peyton in turn, has fooled Lewis on many occasions.
I don’t believe the running game will determine this week’s winner. Knowshon Moreno has been well rested all season and is probably hitting his stride now since the injury to Willis McGahee in Week 11. Recent reports also have McGahee returning this weekend, so definitely keep a lookout for that. Ray Rice has been solid all season, however Denver finished the 2012 regular season 3rd in defensive rushing yards (1,458) and tied for 1st in rushing TDs allowed. The defenses on both squads are stout; expect a grinder for all RBs in this game.
Joe Flacco was my sacrificed goat for last week versus Indianapolis and he’ll be the focal point again as to why Baltimore loses. I can’t expect “Eyeliner Joe” to overcome this aggressive Denver defense. Plain and simple, the Broncos are just better at home. Peyton will have a few issues at the beginning of the game with Lewis and Baltimore will keep the score tight for 3 quarters. Ultimately Denver prevails in a low scoring, hard-nosed football game.
The AFC Divisional Playoff will be a true clash of the titans and perhaps the leader who brings the most emotion will rally his troops to the win. The guy who plays “Mr. Cool” will get them through this.
Denver 16 – Baltimore 10
How the Packers will win
Coming off another MVP worthy season, Aaron Rodgers will be the reason why the Packers will come out on top. The Packers defense will have to contain both Kaepernick and Gore. One HUGE advantage for the Packers is the injury to Justin Smith, in my opinion one of the most underrated DE in football (yeah he’s getting love now, but where was all the love prior to last season). Smith has the potential to affect a game similar to JJ Watt with the Texans. To put this loss into perspective, Aldon Smith hasn’t recorded a sack since Justin Smith has been out. Again, the one reason why the Packers will come out on top…Aaron Rodgers.
How the 49ers will win
It’s safe to predict the 49ers will come out conservative with Kaepernick to keep Aaron Rodgers and the offense on the sidelines as much as they can. Kaepernick will be the x-factor in this series, a lot of hype coming off a couple huge games…but let’s not forget he looked completely below average against the Seahawks and Rams. It will all be up to Gore to keep the chains moving on the ground. But with the Packers and Aaron Rodgers, a 49ers win depends heavily on stopping Aaron Rodgers, the first meeting Rodgers completed 30-44, 2 TD’s and >300 yards. With the return of Justin Smith expect the Smith tandem to put pressure on Rodgers hopefully causing some mistakes. The Defense stepping up and making plays is essential for a 49ers win, as well as keeping Rodgers on the sidelines.
I’m going to have to give the Nod to SF in this one. Losing at home to the Giants the way they did last year, the 49ers have something to prove. Home field advantage can turn out to be huge…… for fun I’m going to say the game comes down to the kickers who have been the most inconsistent all year.
Green Bay 21 – San Francisco 24
No question Seattle has put together an impressive season, they play a physical brand of football for an entire 60 minutes that eventually break teams down. It was evident last week in the passing game, how ineffective Garcon was against big physical corners. I would expect Seattle to continue that brand of football this week against Atlanta. There is one problem though; Roddy White and Julio Jones are not Garcon and Morgan. As we’ve seen this year, Richard Sherman is most effective when he can use his size to physically disrupt receivers off the line and throw off timing routes. Between Gonzalez, White and Jones, the Seattle defense is going to have their hands full. I think Julio especially is going to have a big game if he draws Brandon Browner who may have big time size as a CB, but he can’t match up with Julio’s speed. Although Michael Turner is obviously slowing down, the fact remains he is a 250lb back who can carry the load 25+ times if need be. Atlanta’s Defense although not really stout on the line, has linebackers who can fly. Sean Weatherspoon is an absolute monster who has the range to play sideline to sideline and contain Russell Wilson if he leaves the pocket. This will be a close game, but Atlanta’s o-line will be able to neutralize Seattle’s front 7 and give Matt Ryan the time he needs to pick Seattle apart secondary.
Atlanta 21- Seattle 17
As previously mentioned in the introduction, the Bengals/Texans game last week was a stinker. It was shocking how Cincy’s game plan of not involving AJ Green in the first half didn’t work. With that said, Houston couldn’t capitalize on good field advantage, only scoring one TD on an Arian Foster run. The debacle in Massachusetts week 14 must still be fresh in Houston’s mind, and I don’t see much of a different outcome this weekend.
Whether they are 100% healthy or not, having both Hernandez and Gronkowski make a world of difference for the Pats, who have also been sneakily good against the run this year. The Texans don’t do any one thing spectacularly well, and can’t pose any type of deep ball threat except for maybe sending Andre Johnson down field once a half. When he does however, QB Matt Shaubb seems reluctant to throw a ball further than twelve yards.
The AFC is much more lob sided than the NFC, where both should be amazing games. So the question boils down to if NE covers the spread, which they will, 100%. Last game at home unless Flacco (the curveball of the weekend) decides to play more like Aaron Rodgers, and not like Kevin Kolb (with no in between). On a personal note, NE/DEN and GB/SEA would be my ideal final four, and NE/GB in the Superbowl! My preseason pick from the start ….
New England 31 – Texans 13
Only 7 more games left in the season, enjoy!