Divisional Playoff Weekend Wrap-Up:
New Orleans used the same strategy they used in weeks 1-7 (but then seemed to completely forget) where they just get so far ahead of you that if you come back, it’s too late and it doesn’t matter. Their offense may end up being unstoppable and it would not surprise me one bit to see them in the Super Bowl in Miami. They have home field and a ton of weapons at receiver. Reggie Bush had a career defining game and he gets a lot of good blocking to help him out. You can always expect big numbers from the Saints offensively especially when it comes to total points scored. All of the games where they looked their best they were in the 35-50 pt. range, most notably this one and the Dolphins game to name a couple.
The Arizona Cardinals defense gave up 90 points in their two-week playoff life. I kind of had an idea that they might have some serious defensive problems, as I never really thought their defensive unit was that strong even during last year’s Super Bowl run. To make matters worse, DRC and Rolle were injured at the beginning of this game. Kurt Warner also got roughed up early and effectively passed the torch on to Matt Leinart. And it’s not a bad situation to be in as that’s a horrible division and I can see him winning it 5 or 6 times with minimal effort. They’re still a good football team and they’ll be around next playoff season. In the end, although statistically they were able to hang in this game, the two turnovers proved to be very costly and it was hard for them to get into the red zone all night.
The Colts continue to be the Colts, and Peyton Manning was challenged against Baltimore but they are going to be hard to beat at home. I think Austin Collie is being groomed into a short play receiver much in the same way they have designed plays for Dallas Clark. Defensively, they really pulled it together for a solid performance. They held to a field goal on the first drive and didn’t give up another point the rest of the game. And I was one of those people who had tweeted repeatedly (at the beginning of the season) that their window was closing with the loss of Tony Dungy and an aging (and beat-up) secondary. Bob Sanders always seems to be hurt and I just wasn’t sure they’d be able to remain competitive, but they’ve got probably one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the NFL in charge of that locker room and he doesn’t allow a lot of room for errors. It’s really difficult for me to badmouth Peyton Manning for any intensive purposes, as he’s a true leader and a master of his craft. Reggie Wayne also made some great catches in this one. I expect the Colts to believe they can represent the AFC in XLIV.
Baltimore couldn’t do a damn thing offensively, and very few playoff teams (if any) have ever won a game with 3 points. I think once they finally had to trust Joe Flacco, he was able to get the easy completions but not the yardage necessary to convert key 3rd and 4th down situations. If you watched this game, you saw that there were some bizarre mistakes the Ravens made in the 3rd quarter. Ed Reed literally had two interceptions in four minutes and one was stripped from him by Garcon (who made an extremely mature play for a rookie) and the other was negated by a penalty. In BOTH instances, Reed had sufficient runbacks that easily would have given them momentum and field position to score. And to make matters worse, when Ray Rice finally was able to see that open field he’d been looking for all night, he fumbled at the end of the play and gave the ball right back.
The Vikings took it to the Cowboys and they took it to them hard. I don’t think anyone expected them to be as prepared as they were on the defensive side of the football. Jared Allen has a little more experience than Romo and it showed in a frightful way. Sydney Rice is making me talk a lot less about Percy Harvin as of late. The kid runs his routes perfectly and GOES UP AND GETS THE BALL. He’s been the difference maker in my opinion. Favre (4 TDs) is obviously throwing the ball well but his guys are getting to where he can see them and that’s the key. O-line is solid and giving him plenty of time.
Dallas’ offensive line looked so good last week it’s hard to believe that they only scored 3 points, but at the same time if you consider the turnovers they had and the fact that Minnesota continually gave Brett Favre enough time to do what he does best. I know I picked Dallas to take this, they’re a flat football team that has had a lot of really great performances that are only considered to be great because of who they are and what playing for the Cowboys entails. In games other than those, they are a three point blowout. Easy. And Brooking is SUCH a tool. It’s not Favre’s fault the Cowboys gave up like that. Brooking should have been yelling his secondary. Dallas was a flat, weak team and now has a lot of time to think things over.
The New York Jets are the most unlikely team in the past few years to get into the Championship Game. They have a guy in Shonn Greene that likely earned himself at least a million dollars in payroll for his work in an eight day stretch. The Pats don’t necessarily own that division anymore because of age so NYJ could really get up there with a young team and continue to do what they’ve done so far this postseason. In other words, the Jets have given us a reason to discuss a team that we usually wouldn’t spend print space on. They are a brutal defensive and grind squad and coach Ryan has instilled a sense of preciseness to that defensive attack. Mark Sanchez does just enough to keep the ball rolling and he’s already done more than expected of a rookie. And Braylon Edwards is contributing to all of this? Hard to believe…and certainly wouldn’t be a coach’s first blueprint for success.
The San Diego Chargers really disappointed me by losing at this point. They are a fun playoff team to watch and they just didn’t bring it today. I’d like to talk for a second about the 3 field goals Nate Kaeding missed. If you’re at home in the playoffs you should hit all three of those kicks. It’s just like when you were kicking it over the shed behind your house at a kid. That stadium was supposed to be Nate Kaeding’s parents house, and he brought nothing to the table in his own backyard when they needed it most. If you lose by 3 and your kicker missed 9 points, it’s his fault and has to fall squarely on his shoulders. This might have been LT’s last game as a Charger. I’m hearing San Francisco or Tampa Bay may be interested in spending the scratch but it’s way too early to tell. Otherwise, overall I was very unimpressed by their lack of explosiveness and Rivers’ two picks.
Bonus stat from Divisional Playoff Weekend:
First erectile dysfunction advertisement: 7:50 PM CST
Conference Championship Matchups:
The New Orleans Saints have a lot of things going in their favor. They will have home field in this game and the energy of the most explosive stadium in the country. Then they will have to get out there and try to put up some serious points again. They won’t score 45 like they’ve averaged the past two weeks. The Vikings I can only assume will try and air the ball out to match Brees’ high speed pace of game. The matchup I am most interested in would be between Favre and Darren Sharper as those two have faced each other plenty of times but this game is most likely their last in their illustrious careers.
New Orleans Saints 34, Minnesota Vikings 28
The Indianapolis Colts will have their hands full with the New York Jets who I (still) believe they are better than. I can’t imagine this game getting to be very high scoring at any point so don’t write home about it. I expect a significant portion of this game to be slow moving in much of the same fashion that the first half of the Jets-Chargers game was. The Jets just keep buying themselves another week after week but it ends here. In the end, I look for Peyton Manning to earn another shot at the trophy. Indy’s D had stepped up and they look to be for real.
Indianapolis Colts 22, New York Jets 17
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