NFL Playoffs – Divisional Round


This is the first Divisional weekend that will feature four Super Bowl MVP quarterbacks. That is ridiculous. In alphabetical order: Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Eli Manning and the reigning Super Bowl MVP, Aaron Rodgers. If Eli is able to push the Giants over the top against the Packers today, I think he definitely deserves to be spoken of in the same breath as the other elite quarterbacks of the league (see the aforementioned list).

Am I excited? Hell yeah, I am. Am I worried? Hell yeah, I am. How? Well, guess you’re gonna have to read through my game notes to find out, haha.

Games in the AFC (Atlantic Football Conference)

New England Patriots VS. Denver Broncos
GAME NOTES
– What happens when you have the league’s best rushing offense and the league’s worst defense playing against each other? You would anticipate that the offense would run wild. But I’m not totally sure. I think that the Patriots will adjust after having played the Broncos once during the regular season.
– I’m looking for Tim Tebow (QB, DEN) to try throwing the ball more today. He found success with his arm last week against the Steelers (and we all know how that ended…). I think that the Broncos are going to go with their usual run-heavy offense and fit in a few key throws here and there. That’s how they got rid of the Steelers and they had the best rushing defense in the league…go figure.
– While the Broncos have a chance of winning this game, I don’t think Tom Brady (QB, NE) and his ego will allow it. After going one-and-done two years in a row, I’m looking for Brady and the Patriots to play full throttle and never let up. Their running game is more or less non-existant, so I expect the Pats to stay in the game via their superstar QB and their awesome receiving corps. WR Wes Welker (who I think is the best receiver in the league – sorry, Megatron, but you’re a close second) and the dynamic TE duo of Rob Gronkowski (this man is huge, fast and physical…try stopping him once he hits his stride) and Aaron Hernandez (although he isn’t a big as the Gronk, he is speedy, tall and has awesome catching skills) will all get their fair share of targets today.
– I expect Welker to be his usual self, but it’s a bit of a toss-up when it comes to the duo of Gronkowski and Hernandez. Both will be targeted, but both never have monster games at the same time. We’ll see which of the two tight ends is more effective today.

FINAL SCORE
New England Patriots – 45
Denver Broncos – 10

As expected, the Patriots offense – specifically Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Wes Welker – was too much for the Broncos defense. Brady had five touchdowns in the first half alone. Although their defense was the worst in the league during the regular season, the Pats’ D stepped it up to stop the run-heavy offense of the Broncos. They caused many QB pressures and registered quite a few sacks on the young Tim Tebow. It’s safe to say that the Broncos had a chance at winning, but they never took it. Looks like Tebow Time is now over and Denver has to figure out whether or not they still want Tebow running their offense or if they would prefer to bring somebody else in. The Patriots will move on to the AFC Championship game and they will be waiting for either the Ravens or the Texans at home.

Baltimore Ravens VS. Houston Texans
GAME NOTES
– This is another story of two great defenses, but one team is far more experienced than the other. The Ravens are looking for their second Super Bowl and they seem very determined to not let a team like the Texans stop them.
– I honestly expect Ray Rice (RB, BAL) to be bottled up today. The Texans have been playing inspired defense and they have a great front four. If Rice is going to have any impact today, I think it will be in blocks and in catching. If his teammates are able to put pressure on the Texans secondary, Rice should be able to run a bit more than expected.
Joe Flacco (QB, BAL) is looking to take his team to the AFC Championships and to the Super Bowl. But Flacco has his fair share of chokes, even in pointless games. I don’t question his abilities though…today is more or less up to his receivers. WR Anquan Boldin and WR Torrey Smith will most likely be targeted the most and if they are able to consistently achieve separation and make their catches, the Texans will have a hard time.
T.J. Yates (QB, HOU) survived his first playoff game against a very young and inexperienced Bengals team. The Ravens defense is hungry and ferocious. Linebackers Terrell Suggs and the Master of Disaster Ray Lewis are definitely going to register some sacks and a whole lot of QB pressures. We’ll see how Yates plays against an awesome and playoff-experienced defense.
Arian Foster (RB, HOU) might have some trouble today. Against great run defenses, Foster has struggled mightily. Andre Johnson (WR, HOU) might have a greater impact against the Ravens today, but he is, once again, hobbled with his two bum hamstrings. Today might be Ben Tate‘s (RB, HOU) day. He is a strong and powerful runner in comparison to the agile and finesse-style running of Foster. Tate may be able to power his way through the Ravens’ front four.
– In the end, this game will come down to – you guessed it – defense and experience. Expect the Texans D to keep the score low, but expect the Ravens’ D and their experience to win the game. It killed me to write that, but that’s what I think is the truth.

Games in the NFC (National Football Conference)

San Francisco 49ers VS. New Orleans Saints
GAME NOTES
– Holy shit, I just saw the 49ers cheerleaders practicing for the game today. I think I’m in love. ❤ California sun and pretty girls…San Fran sounds like a sweet place to be.
– This game might be a blowout…the Saints have such a potent offense and have a pretty complete game. Their passing game is solid with Drew Brees (QB, NO) and their running game is pretty sweet too. They have four running backs that are all capable of wreaking havoc in Chris Ivory, Mark Ingram, Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas.
– Although the 49ers defense is awesome, this is essentially a game in which they will be forced to pick their poison. If their defensive linesmen, Patrick Willis (LB, SF) specifically, can cause QB pressures and make the pocket collapse for Brees, they might have a shot.
– Luckily for the 49ers, Frank Gore (RB, SF) might have a monster game against the Saints and their run defense. When they played the Lions, the Saints enjoyed facing a one-dimensional offense in Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson.

FINAL SCORE
San Francisco 49ers – 36
New Orleans Saints – 32

To be truthful, I thought the Saints juggernaut offense would post points all throughout this game. I also thought that the 49ers defense would chip and prevent a few TDs, but boy was I wrong. A fumble here and there and now the Saints are going home without a Super Bowl for the second season in a row. The run game of the Saints seemed flat and largely ineffective. Jimmy Graham was one of the few receivers that was able to put in work on the daunting 49ers defense. How did the Saints lose the game? Their defense gave up too many big plays. Alex Smith (QB, SF) was able to run in for a 22-yard TD…that`s how you know that a defense is giving up big plays. I don`t say this to discredit Alex Smith or any quarterback that rushes in for a TD, but the man ran for 22-yards. I`m used to QBs rushing from the 1-yard or 3-yard line, but 22-yards? Well, then…

The Saints are going home once again, but their core seems very solid. The only changes I really expect are to come on their defensive roster. The 49ers will be waiting to play either the defending champions Green Bay Packers or the New York Giants.

UPDATE: The Giants have taken down the defending champion Packers and will play against the 49ers next weekend in the NFC Championship game.

Green Bay Packers VS. New York Giants
GAME NOTES
– Let me put something out there: I was never a Giants fan. Over the course of two years and many games later, I have to say that I am now a fan. I’m not entirely sure why, but there’s something about them that makes you want to like them. Maybe it’s the fact that they’re usually the underdogs…or maybe it’s the fact that everybody hates them, haha. All I know now is that I like the Giants. They’ve got a defense that I would love to play for. Their offense is one that goes on hot and cold streaks, but when they’re hot, they’re hot. As a team, they are one of the most complete teams around. A close second would be the Saints, but their defense is just not as good as NYG’s.
– The Giants are coming to Labeau Field and it will be cold. As somebody that has never played in the winter or even in any cold situations, I can imagine that it will be tough. With that said, the Giants defense should be able to cause lots of problems for Aaron Rodgers. During their last match-up, it was a very close game that came down to the last 0:51 seconds. Seriously. The Giants’ pass rush is one of the best in the league. Probably only second to the 49ers pass rush.
– The Packers have Aaron Rodgers. Nothing more needs to be said. So long as his offensive line can hold off the big Giants defensive ends and their edge rushers, he should be able to make all the necessary passes.
– The Packers need to be able to keep their defense off of the field. If Eli Manning (QB, NYG) can keep posting points on the scoreboard, the Giants might be able to pull off an upset. The Packers are much like the Saints and Patriots – their offenses are powerful and near unstoppable, but their defenses all rank among the worst in the league.
– Look for this game to be a shootout if the Giants can play well in the cold tundra of Lambeau Field. I would love to see the Giants advance to take on the 49ers, but we’ll have to see how everything shakes out today.

FINAL SCORE
New York Giants – 37
Green Bay Packers – 20

The Packers receivers were far from their usual selves today. They were dropping passes and being lazy while running routes. Although some may blame Aaron Rodgers, he was putting the ball in the right spots (other than one interception) and he was even the rushing leader of the Packers today. In the playoffs, the true nature of every team is shown. The Packers biggest weaknesses were exposed: Their lack of a running game and defense cost them the game today. Eli Manning and Hakeem Nicks were both brilliant tonight and the Giants definitely deserved the win tonight. They will advance to the NFC Championship game to play against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park.

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