NFL Playoffs – Wildcard Weekend


Since I haven’t made a post about the NFL in a while, I figure I may as well start writing about the Playoffs!

With the first week of the playoffs underway, a few teams earned themselves a bye. I’m currently watching the very first Wildcard game. I’ll be updating this post as the games are played!

By the way, unlike the NHL and the NBA, the NFL plays a sudden death style of playoff format. You only get one game during each round. If you lose, you’re going home. If you win, you move on to play another game.

Houston Texans VS. Cincinnati Bengals
GAME NOTES
– This match-up is interesting. It is the first playoff game ever in the NFL where both teams are starting rookie quarterbacks. T.J. Yates (QB, HOU) and Andy Dalton (QB, CIN) are both talented although Yates is probably the one at a disadvantage. In the first quarter,
both passers have gotten themselves to quick three-and-outs, so we have yet to see who
is going to get over their butterflies first. Did I also mention that this is the first time ever
that the Houston Texans (and all their other previous incarnations) have made it into the
playoffs?
– I expect both defenses to play hard. They were both ranked in the top-5 defenses over the regular season, so we’ll see how it goes.
– Andy Dalton is leaning hard on A.J. Green. The two rookies are trying hard to find a
connection in their first post-season appearance together. I expect them to find their
rhythm quickly.
– T.J. Yates is going to need loads of help from Andre Johnson (who is playing with more
or less one leg…he injured both hamstrings throughout the duration of the season. One
required surgery and luckily happened early on in the season. The second injury came
more recently), Arian Foster, Ben Tate and both their O-line and defense. Hell, their
whole team needs to play hard.
– J.J. Watt (DE, HOU) was a brilliant choice in the draft. After being selected 11th overall, he has definitely delivered in terms of the promise of his abilities. He returned an interception for a huge score and that’ll hurt the Bengals.

FINAL SCORE
Houston Texans – 31
Cincinnatti Bengals – 10

The Texans, for the first time in franchise history, have made it into the playoffs and won. They are moving on into the Divisional bracket against the Baltimore Ravens and their tough defense. Not like the Texans won’t be able to handle it, but the Ravens have tasted playoff success before (they won a Super Bowl in 2000) and are a team chock full of experienced veterans. We’ll see how the inexperienced Texans handle themselves.

Detroit Lions VS. New Orleans Saints
GAME NOTES
– Yeah, it’s a great story and all, but I think people should focus less on how the Lions got back into the playoffs (their first appearance in the post-season since 1999) and more on the actual game ahead of them. They’re going to be playing the New Orleans Saints who have won a Super Bowl and have a bevy of offensive weapons.
– Realistically, I think that the Lions have a chance at downing the Saints. This will definitely be a game where defense is going to be optional. Look for a shootout and for both Matthew Stafford (QB, DET) and Mr. Record Holder (Drew Brees – QB, NO – broke the single-season passing yards record set by Dan Marino 27 years ago. He finished the season with 5476 total passing yards to become the new single-season passing yard record holder. Try saying that quickly three times) to throw for at least 400 yards and two touchdowns each.
– Luckily for the Saints, the Lions offensive game is very one-dimensional. The Lions are essentially a pass-only team. They have no real running game whatsoever (RB Jahvid Best was placed on IR before the regular season ended and they signed a training camp cut [RB Kevin Smith] to fill his role). If the Saints can play enough defense to keep WR Calvin Johnson out of the end zone, they might be able to come out on top.
– Lastly, the Saints were embarrassed by the Seattle Seahawks in last years Wildcard Weekend. Marshawn Lynch (RB – SEA) ripped off a huge run that has become a viral video and buried the Saints. Look for New Orleans to make sure that they beat the Lions today because their pride will not allow them to lose.
– This has been a pretty dull game thus far…just saying. Like most people have predicted, this has been a high scoring game.

FINAL SCORE
New Orleans Saints – 45
Detroit Lions – 29

The Saints offense proved to be too much for the Lions defense. As I said earlier, the Saints just have too many weapons for most teams to be able to contain. When you have a team with four speedy, starter-worthy running backs (Mark Ingram, Darren Sproles, Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas), speedy wide receivers and a monstrous tight end (WR Marques Colston, WR Robert Meachem, WR Devery Henderson and 6″6 TE Jimmy Graham) that are all interchangeable on the field, how do you defend each and every single one? The Saints use a substitution/confusion technique to keep team defenses guessing each time their offense takes the field. Unfortunately for the Lions, they have suffered a quick first-round exit after years of waiting to get back to the post-season. They have a few issues to address (discipline in terms of behaviour on the field, acquiring a better receiver corps for Matt Stafford) and should be given a bit of wiggle room. They are an inexperienced team, so the city of Detroit should not give them a hard time for losing to the Saints. I mean, sure, they had some hope of winning against them…but it’s the Saints. The Saints will move on to play the #2 seed, the San Francisco 49ers and their study and stingy defense. If I could speak to Anne, I know that she would love this upcoming match-up.

Side Note:
I thought that I should post the video of Marshawn Lynch’s huge run against the Saints last year. It makes for some great entertainment! He broke about seven tackles to make it into the end zone and I think his talent deserves some recognition.

Denver Broncos VS. Pittsburgh Steelers
GAME NOTES
– Big Ben Roethlisberger still has his wonky ankle. As everybody could see towards the end of the season, he has trouble moving around in the pocket and his throwing power has seriously been decreased. He holds a 10-3 post-season record including two Super Bowl wins. RB Rashard Mendenhall was placed on IR after the last game of the season. He tore both his MCL and ACL in one knee, I believe. This is unfortunate, but he was not very productive this season. Second-string RB Issac Redman will be starting the game in his place.
– The Steelers RB coach, Kirby Wilson, is not with the team. He is currently in a coma after a fire broke out in his home. From what I know, he suffered serious burns to at least 50% of his body and has been hospitalized. Although this game is important, I’m sure that the Steelers organization is more concerned about his health at the moment. Wilson has been integral in the growth of both Mendenhall and Redman as awesome running backs. If I were a praying man, I’d be praying for him and his family. The news is extremely unfortunate, so I send him and his family my best wishes.
– The Broncos are coming into this game with a quarterback that can’t play quarterback. If you don’t know who I’m talking about, then I salute you for being able to avoid all forms of media for the duration of the whole season. QB Tim Tebow is a running back playing quarterback. Sure, he can throw maybe two or three key balls in a game, but he almost never throws. I see him completing no more than 10 passes in today’s game.
– Realistically, the Broncos can win this game. I know it seems seriously far-fetched, but hear me out. With Big Ben playing on a wonky ankle, he won’t be able to play his mobile game. This is what he is best at and the fact that his ankle renders him immobile deals a huge blow to the Steelers offense. Secondly, the offensive line of the Steelers has been a revolving door. None of them seem to be able to stay healthy, so this is a huge concern for Big Ben. Nobody is sure about how much protection he’s going to get from this o-line, so it all really boils down to whether or not they can give him the time he need to throw.
– If the league’s #1 rushing offense (Denver) can beat the league’s #1 rushing defense (Pittsburgh), I will seriously be surprised.
– FS Ryan Clark has been told to sit out this game. He suffers from a sickle cell trait and head coach Mike Tomlin told him to stay home. I like that. That shows that the coach is more concerned for the health of the player above the fate of this game. Clark once played a game in Denver back in 2007 and had to be rushed to the hospital in the middle of the contest. He developed complications in terms of his blood and had to have both his gallbladder and spleen removed. Ever since, Mike Tomlin has never allowed him to play games at Denver even though he has been cleared by doctors to be able to play without any difficulty. Don’t get me wrong, he does not complain about this. He understands why and I’m sure that he appreciates it.

New York Giants VS. Atlanta Falcons
GAME NOTES
– I’m a bit nervous for the Giants, seriously. Maybe I shouldn’t be, but I feel like they might choke. I’m a bad fan, I know. The Falcons finished off the season on a hot streak and Matt Ryan (QB, ATL) seems poised to prove all the nay-sayers wrong. After years of taking the blame for the lack of success in Atlanta, Matt Ryan is ready to prove why the Falcons deserve more recognition than they get.
– The Giants are definitely the more complete team here. Their receiving corps has legitimate threats (WR Hakeem Nicks, second-year WR Victor Cruz, WR Mario Manningham, TE Jake Ballard) and their running game is always solid with a backfield combo of the gigantic RB Brandon Jacobs and the agile RB Ahmad Bradshaw. The Falcons do have three awesome receivers in Roddy White, rookie Julio Jones and a future Hall of Fame TE Tony Gonzalez, but it should be difficult to get past an inspired Giants defense.
– Atlanta’s hopes rest on both Matt Ryan and RB Michael “The Burner” Turner’s performances. I expect Turner to have a tough time today against the front five of the Giants. The Giants front five features DE Jason Pierre-Paul, DE Justin Tuck and DE Osi Umenyiora who are all nightmares in the pass rush and in creating QB pressures.
– Hey, hey, get a load of this. WR Roddy White is getting pretty angry with CB Corey Webster. These two have been butting heads the whole game and I find it pretty entertaining. Webster has been stuck to White like…well, white on rice all afternoon long. Talk about great coverage.
– As expected, Atlanta’s running game has been shut down by the Giants defense. Another rough year for the Falcons as the Giants are letting the clock run down with a 24-2 lead.

FINAL SCORE
New York Giants – 24
Atlanta Falcons – 2

The Falcons failed to score a single touchdown in the game. Fingers will definitely be pointed at “Matty Ice” which I find to be an appropriate nickname for the Atlanta QB seeing as he was absolutely unable to get it going throughout the whole game. I feel bad for the guy because he is a great QB. It just baffles me because I can’t really tell if he needs help in terms of his receivers or if it’s just him being unable to get the Falcons playing at a higher level. The urgency and intensity just never seemed to be there all afternoon for the Falcons. Once the Giants scored their last touchdown to gain the 24-2 lead, the Falcons looked like a dejected, desperate and angry team. The Giants will move on to play in the Divisional round against the 2010 champions, the Green Bay Packers.

Side Note: This is the first post-season win for the Giants at home since they beat the Minnesota Vikings 41-0 in 2000. A sign of good things to come?

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