Tuesday, January 11, 2011

First Round Recap and Divisional Round Preview

Seattle 41, New Orleans 36.
We just witnessed one of the great upsets in NFL playoff history, but that fact has been forgotten. Why? Everyone is still talking about Marshawn Lynch's now legendary 67-yard TD run that effectively won the game for the Hawks. In fact, the run was so epic that it made the Earth shake. Literally. And if you did not jump up and down in euphoria after that stiff arm of Tracy Porter, you are NOT, repeat, NOT a true football fan. That is included with eight, EIGHT broken tackles. It will be on highlight reels for years to come.

NY Jets 17, Indianapolis 16.
No surprise here, honestly. The Colts simply had to deal with too many injuries this year, and the Jets are simply the better team. Mark Sanchez grew up as an NFL quarterback in this game, although he did recieve a little help on the Jets' final drive from the Colts' Jim Caldwell, who will be on the hot seat next season. One immortal quarterback down for Rex Ryan, another one on deck next week.

Baltimore 30, Kansas City 7.
Again, no real surprise in terms of the victor here, but it's surprising how Kansas City unraveled so quickly. Rumors indicate that Head Coach Todd Haley stripped now-former offensive coordinator Charlie Weis of his play-calling duties. The truth is, the entire team, players and coaches, forgot how to play the game Sunday. That all being said, this Chiefs team took a huge step forward this season, and is far ahead of schedule in terms of reaching their ultimate goal: a Patriots-esque dynasty. As for the Ravens, this is their billionth postseason road win in the last couple of years, and it especially felt good for them to do it for the troubled Ed Reed.

Green Bay 21, Philadelphia 16.
It's easy to blame David Akers for this loss, missing two makable field goals that turned out to be the difference in the score. But in all honesty, the entire Eagles team fell apart after the Miracle in the New Meadowlands, losing their last three games. Michael Vick was no longer his electric self, the running game was non-existent, and the defense couldn't make the big stop when necessary. Now, my original NFC favorite is out, and a new one is in: the Green Bay Packers. This team is deep enough and talented enough despite a laundry list of injuries to make it to Dallas. If they beat Atlanta next week, bet on them heading there.

Divisional Round Picks (2-2 last week; won with NYJ and BAL, lost with NO and PHI; 23-25 overall)

Pittsburgh 20, Baltimore 16. (PIT -3)
The best rivalry in the NFL, hands down. No arguments. When these two get together, you will see the most physical, bruising football possible, and this is the way the game is meant to be played. Every single game between these two is a thriller, and this one should be no exception. Both meetings in the regular season were decided by three points, both road wins. Does this bode well for the Ravens? Probably. But if Ed Reed's family problems prevent him from playing, a bigger edge goes to the rested, presumably healthy Steelers. For now, based on the big play abilities of Big Ben and Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh gets a slight edge.

Green Bay 27, Atlanta 21. (GB +2)
As stated before, the Packers are my new NFC favorite, and they will show why against Atlanta. If the physical defense of Green Bay can stop Atlanta's running game and put the game in Matty Ice's hands, they have an excellent chance of winning. The key here will be if Ryan can make one big play through the air to either Roddy White or Tony Gonzalez. If so, it will give the Atlanta offense confidence it can compete with Aaron Rodgers in a potential shootout. Atlanta's time will come in the Mike Smith-Matt Ryan era, but right now the Pack seem to be on a magic carpet ride.

Chicago 23, Seattle 17. (SEA +10)
A 7-9 team can't possibly make a conference championship game, can it? Well, if you watched the Seahawks last week, they looked like a completely different team than the one that played in the regular season, beating the defending champs. If they can beat New Orleans, they should have the confidence to beat anybody. But this one will not be easy. If a transformed Jay Cutler can shred apart the Seattle defense early, which may be simple for him, is it fair to expect Matt Hasselbeck to duplicate by far the best performance of his career again in this one? This one will be closer than you think, but I believe Seattle's magic runs out at Soldier Field, setting up the oldest rivarly in the NFL for the NFC title game.

New England 31, NY Jets 18. (NE -8 1/2)
Let Rex Ryan do all the smack talking he wants. His Jets are still not any better than the team he brought to Foxboro a few Monday nights ago, only to promptly get embarrassed 45-3. That won't happen again this time, but the Jets simply don't have the firepower to compete with a Tom Brady-led offense. Effectively, the Jets will have to play a game similar to what Seattle played against New Orleans last weekend. If that happens, the Jets can pull off their greatest upset since Super Bowl III. But come on, it's almost impossible to bet against Brady and Belichick in January.

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