“The most exciting weekend of the NFL season” is in the books, and 4 teams remain in the chase to the Lombardi trophy. This past weekend we witnessed a shootout for the ages in Foxborough, a one legged quarterback lead his team to victory, another controversial call that had a huge impact on the outcome of a playoff game and the successor outplaying the predecessor. Yes, the NFL Divisional round was amazing yet again. Let’s take a look back and recap all this past weekend’s NFL action. (I went 2/4 on my picks; 2/2 on Saturday and striking out on Sunday, going 0/2.)
Photo credit: usatoday.com and bostonglobe.com
The Patriots defeated the Ravens 35-31 in a game that saw both offenses lay it all out on the line, scoring a combined 9 touchdowns. The Ravens jumped out to an early 14-0 lead, and had 2 touchdown leads on 2 separate occasions in this game. Joe Flacco threw for 292 yards and 4 touchdowns (espn.go.com). Justin Forsett rushed for 129 yards. However, Flacco threw 2 interceptions in the second half and the Ravens depleted secondary collapsed and led to their demise. The Patriots did not even have to run the ball to torch the Ravens defense, as Tom Brady threw for 367 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Patriots only ran the ball for 13 times for 14 yards and a score. All it took for the Patriots to beat the Ravens was Tom Brady, Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots got their fifth touchdown late in the game and led by 4 points with about 3 minutes left. The Ravens got the ball back and were putting together a nice drive, when Joe Flacco went for it all with 1:42 left and threw an interception, leading to the Patriots victory. Statistically, Flacco did not outplay Brady again, but this loss is not on him. The Ravens defense did not do their job, especially the secondary. Now the Patriots will host the AFC Championship game next week and are in the AFC Championship game for the fourth year in a row.
Photo credit: eurosport.com and newstribune.com
-The Seahawks defeated the Panthers 31-17 in what was actually a close game up until the 4th quarter. The Seahawks struck first on a 16 yard touchdown pass from Russel Wilson to Doug Baldwin (espn.go.com). The Seahawks got another touchdown in the first half on a 63 yard strike from Russel WIlson to Jermaine Kearse, and the Panthers got 10 points in the first half, making the score 14-10 at halftime. In the 2nd half, both teams waited until the 4th quarter to score. The Seahawks got a field goal early, Russel Wilson threw another touchdown pass to Luke Wilson and Cam Newton was intercepted by Kam Chancellor, who ran it back for a 90 yard pick 6. The Panthers would score again, but the turnover made it impossible for them to come back with the amount of time remaining. They go home and the Seahawks will host the NFC Championship next week, making this their 2nd NFC Championship game in a row. On a quick note, the Seahawks did lose rookie wide receiver Paul Richardson to a torn ACL during this game.
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-The Packers defeated the Cowboys 26-21, led by the one legged Aaron Rodgers who was nursing a slightly torn calf but played the entire game despite the injury. Rodgers appeared immobile outside of the pocket and was unable to scramble, something he does often. It would have been nice for him to scramble, considering he was pressured multiple times. He was hit only twice and sacked once (espn.go.com). Rodgers also struggled with accuracy at times but made the key throws when it counted, including the game winning 13 yard TD pass to Richard Rodgers. Aaron Rodgers finished the day 24/35 for 316 yards and 3 TD’s. Eddie Lacy had a good game, rushing 19 times for 101 yards. For the Cowboys, they had the 14-10 lead at halftime and scored another touchdown in the 3rd quarter, but did not score at all in the fourth quarter. Tony Romo performed well, going 15/19 for 191 yards and 2 touchdowns. He was constantly pressured, getting sacked 4 times and was hit 8 other times. He had assistance from Demarco Murray, who rushed 25 times for 123 yards and a touchdown. After Aaron Rodgers threw what would be the game winning touchdown for the Packers, Tony Romo was leading the Cowboys down the field. On another 4th down play much like the Cowboys faced last week, Romo went for it all and Dez Bryant appeared to make an amazing catch at the goal line. However, Green Bay challenged whether or not the catch was completed, and after the refs took a look a the play the call was overturned to an incomplete pass. The Cowboys had no timeouts left, and the Packers took the field to close out the game. After a valient effort by Romo, Murray, Bryant among others, the Cowboys are done, and the Packers will travel to Seattle next weekend for the NFC Championship game.
Photo Credit: newsday.com
-The Colts were the only road team playing without a bye that won a game this weekend as they beat the Broncos 24-13. Peyton Manning struggled to make plays the entire game. He would finish 26/46 for 211 yards and 1 touchdown (espn.go.com). Those are not Peyton Manning-like numbers. The Broncos running game also struggled, as RJ Anderson and Ronnie Hillman combined for 88 yards total. The Colts defense played great, holding the Broncos to under 300 yards of offense. The Broncos scored a touchdown in the first quarter but were held to only 2 field goals for the remainder of the game. The Colts offense, led by Andrew Luck, did not panic after the Broncos scored first. Andrew Luck went 27/43 for 265 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. The Colts also rushed for 99 yards, led by Daniel Herron’s 63 yards. The Colts will need solid performances from both their offense and defense next week as they travel to New England to face the Patriots in the AFC Championship game. The Broncos will once again go home disappointed for the 3rd year in a row and face serious questions regarding Peyton Manning and their coaching staff. On Monday Broncos head of football operations John Elway and head coach John Fox mutually agreed to part ways. Other questions about offensive coordinator Adam Gase are being asked. Gase is expected to land a head coaching job somewhere (although he could take over as the Broncos head coach) and everyone will be waiting to see if Peyton Manning will be healthy enough to play another season. It was announced that Manning played this game and the last few weeks of the regular season with a torn quad, explaining why he missed practice time and looked beat up in games. You have to wonder if we have seen the last of Peyton Manning on the field. If so, he will go down at one of the greatest of all time to play the game, and the best regular season quarterback in history.
As previously mentioned, 4 teams are left standing and will fight for a trip to SuperBowl 49 in Arizona. Next Sunday, the best of the AFC and NFC will clash, and we will find out who will represent each conference in the SuperBowl. Let’s take a few moments to analyze the matchups. Both games are this Sunday, January 18.
Packers @ Seahawks, 3:05 PM – CenturyLink Field, FOX
The top two seeded NFC teams will meet in a week 1 rematch on Sunday. In the season opener the Seahawks defeated the Packers 36-16. While these two teams have undergone numerous changes throughout the season, it is hard to imagine a different result this Sunday. As I mentioned earlier, Aaron Rodgers was not himself last Sunday. Although he made adjustments at halftime and looked better in the 2nd half (thanks to a few medications) he still lacked mobility and could not move outside the pocket when pressured. Rodgers will be forced to make quick decisions this Sunday with the likes of Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Bruce Irvin coming after him. Did I mention that Seattle also has the best pass defense in the NFL? Richard Sherman, Byron Maxwell, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas (“The Legion of Boom”) present one of the best secondaries in NFL History. Rodgers hesitated to throw in Sherman’s direction in week 1, and Sherman will likely be matched up against Jordy Neson, Rodgers’s #1 target for much of the game. Look for Randell Cobb and rookie Davante Adams to lead the team in targets. Running back Eddie Lacy rushed for over 1000 yards this season and ran for 101 yards last week against Dallas (espn.go.com). Going against the #3 rushing defense in the league, look for Lacy to have a decent day, but not a great one. I can see the Packers giving Lacy the ball more than they would normally because of Rodgers’s calf injury, so look for a relatively balanced attack although if Green Bay is down late in the game they will have to force Rodgers to throw the ball on one leg.
The other matchup in this game is the Seattle offense against Green Bay’s defense. Although they have performed better in recent weeks, Green Bay still has the #23 rushing defense in the NFL (espn.go.com). That does not bode well for them, as Marshawn Lynch has led Seattle’s rushing attack to the top run offense in the NFL. Including the postseason, Lynch has rushed for 1,365 yards and 13 touchdowns. Look for him to have a great day. Aside from Julius Peppers, Green Bay lacks a significant pass rusher. Russell Wilson should have plenty of time to throw the ball. Seattle’s passing attack, featuring Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse among others will battle with Tramon Williams, Sam Shields and the Packers secondary. I think Seattle will win this matchup, but it will be competitive the whole game. I think Green Bay will struggle to move the ball and that will set up Seattle with great field position. Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and Seattle’s offense will capitalize on these opportunities, and score often. I do feel sorry for Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, because with a healthy Rodgers this would be a close game. I just do not see a banged up Rodgers playing great in the toughest place to play in the NFL against one of the best defenses in NFL history. Seattle will win and will go to the SuperBowl for the second year in a row.
PICK: Seahawks 34, Packers 17
Colts @ Patriots, 6:40 PM – Gillette Stadium, CBS
The torch was passed last Sunday in Denver, and now Andrew Luck stares at another one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, Tom Brady. The Colts have put together a very impressive playoff run, beating the Bengals at home and then going on the road and beating Denver. If I were a Patriots fan, I would be more concerned with my teams chances of winning Sunday than a lot of people are letting on. First off, Andrew Luck may not have Bill Belichick, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman or a great defense around him (although the Colts defense has played better since their loss to Dallas), but Andrew Luck may be the only weapon the Colts need in this game. He is younger than Tom Brady, more athletic than Tom Brady, and has a lot less pressure on him than Tom Brady to win this game. Tom Brady, although younger than Peyton Manning, has a window that is very close to being shut. He can still make all the big time throws and has the best coaching staff around him, but one has to wonder if the pressure will become too much for even him to handle.
Tom Brady has one of the best teams he has ever played with this year. He has had a running game at times, has the best tight end in the NFL, Rob Gronkowski, and several other wide receivers who are always open due to the attention defenses give to Gronk. Those receivers include Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and Brandon Lafell. No matter who’s catching the ball, someone is always bound to be open and available for a big play. The Patriots have used many running backs this year, from Shane Vereen, Lagarrette Blount, Jonas Grey and Brandon Bolden. Look for the Patriots to use Bolden on first and second down runs, Blount on third and short runs, and Vereen in the screen game. Jonas Grey has been in the dog house for a while, so I can’t see the Patriots using him much. I think the Patriots will throw the ball well due to them having many weapons and the Colts having the lack of a pass rusher. The Patriots ran the ball only 13 times for 14 yards last week against the Ravens, but look for them to run more this week. I think Belichick will want to fix this issue if they have to play in the SuperBowl. I think the Colts have done a great job of defending the run and pass as of late, but all of Brady’s weapons are too much to handle. This should be another great day for Tom Brady and the New England offense.
Andrew Luck leads the Colts offense in their pursuit for a trip to SuperBowl 49. This offense has been pass heavy all season, and look for that again on Sunday. Luck will be asked to go into Revis island, as his number 1 target T.Y. Hilton matches up against Darelle Revis. Reggie Wayne will likely line up against the Patriots Brandon Browner. The key for the Patriots is to stop T.Y. Hilton. This is very likely to happen. I think Revis will rebound after a rough performance against the Ravens last week. I know Andrew Luck has been phenominal this postseason, but I think this secondary is going to shut down the Colts passing attack. The Colts might run the ball more than they do normally, considering the Patriots gave up over 100 yards rushing to Justin Forsett and the Ravens last week. Still, do not look for the Colts to have a big day running the ball. I really would like to see the Colts win this game, but there are too many matchup problems here. Another matchup could come from the sidelines, as Bill Belichick often pulls out the tricks he keeps in that hoodie all year. He confused the Ravens last week, and is sure to try more of the same this week against Indy. The Colts have many bright years ahead of them and I can see them making the SuperBowl within the next three years, but the Patriots are the better team this year and will go to Arizona for SuperBowl 49.
PICK: Patriots 35, Colts 24
With my picks, SuperBowl 49 in Glendale, Arizona at the University of Phoenix Stadium will be:
The New England Patriots v. The Seattle Seahawks
What do you think is going to happen this Sunday? Who do you see going to the SuperBowl? Leave a comment and give me your thoughts, or tweet me @WBUQMLBNFLat5
Other News and Notes:
-Ex-Jets head coach Rex Ryan has been hired by the Buffalo Bills as their new head coach. Rex will stay in the AFC East and will play the Jets twice every year.
-Rams owner Stan Kroenke announced that he will move the team to Los Angeles (probably within the next 3 years) regardless on if the NFL gives him permission or not.
-77 year old Dick LeBeau resigned from his position as the Steelers defensive coordinator and is now looking for another job.
-As I am typing this, Jerry Jones and Jason Garret are working out a contract extension for Garrett to remain the head coach of the Cowboys.
-NFL teams still without head coaches: Jets, Raiders, Broncos, Bears, Falcons, 49ers
That about sums it up for this week. I am heading back to school Saturday, so although I will be posting less frequently on here, I will still have a Championship weekend review up here next week and a SuperBowl preview the week after. I will also announce the latest on my radio show’s return on here as well, so be on the lookout for that. Enjoy the games this weekend!