Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Best Weekend Of The Year

The soap opera that was the Divisional round left us with four teams this weekend. We'll quickly discuss each game that went on and look ahead to the interesting matchups for what surely will be an exciting Conference Championship Sunday.

Ravens 38 at Broncos 35 (2OT)
Rarely do we find ourselves talking about multiple overtimes outside of the hockey playoffs, but that is exactly what we had here. We were given this gift of attrition that ended in another game for the great Ray Lewis to play in. Peyton Manning's nerves were surely an issue in this game, and we're not talking about a case of the jitters. The quarterback who will surely be nominated for comeback player of the year (AP locked this one up) ends another season in a literal cold defeat as he falls to 0-4 in playoff games below 40 degrees. Why did he go to Denver if he's going to get number one or two seed every year and home field advantage?

Texans 28 at Patriots 41
We all know the path to the Super Bowl for AFC teams goes through New England.  The Texans appeared to have it together, they just could not do anything over a dominating performance by the Patriots.  It seemed as if Tom Brady was out to show the world they are the team to beat. Does anyone else notice the Patriots defense gets meaner come playoff time? They came out and smacked the Texans right from the get go and established themselves. Now meaner does not necessarily mean better because I'm still not sure how they allowed 28 points.  I understand it was a lot of garbage time, but still. I expected Houston to keep this game closer but they carried little momentum from their win against the Bengals, let alone from losing their way into the playoffs. Notch another victory for Brady and Company as they look forward to a huge rematch against possibly the only team that can beat them.

Preview: BAL at NE
Player(s)to watch: Flacco, Lewis, Brady, NE defense.
Here we are again. Two teams enter and only one team will get the right to get to go to New Orleans for the Super Bowl.  These teams are no strangers to each other as they met in the same game last year with New England advancing by the drop of a pass and the miss of a field goal. I've never been a fan of Brady but I have always respected his game. The man is a general on the field and is leading his offense with a tactical execution that we only get the pleasure of seeing once a decade at times. Remember the greatest show on turf, those Rams led by Kurt Warner? Yeah, Brady and the Pats beat them in a Super Bowl, took that shiny Lombardi Trophy and haven't conceded having the best offense in what feels like forever at this point.
But all this talk about the Pats ridiculous offense isn't going to help them against the storyline Ravens. It seems they are a team of destiny in Lewis' last run. Flacco is due for his ticket to the big show as he's led this franchise to five straight playoffs and three AFC Championship games.
Sorry Nick but I'm going with the Ravens on this one.

Packers 31 at 49ers 45
This kid can play. Colin Kaepernick, not only had the spotlight, but grabbed it's neck, smirked and said, "Watch this!" then he ran for 181 rushing yards, the most ever by a quarterback in a playoff game, an had two touchdowns. He also threw for 263 yards in his playoff debut. This performance was needed in order to keep Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense in their shadow. Looking frustrated at times, Rodgers was doing all he could to put points on the board but could not keep up in this shootout. Sure will be exciting to see if this dynamic 49ers team can get past the Falcons next week.

Seahawks 28 at Falcons 30
The battle of the birds ended in dramatic fashion as the Falcons won in the last few seconds of the game. Matt Bryant's game winning field goal helped to give a playoff win this franchise has desperately needed. After going up early, the Seahawks climbed back into this game with 21 points in the fourth quarter. With the Falcons defense sitting back playing coverage, Russell Wilson and the offense were able to march down the field and right back into the game. The stunned Falcons didn't recover until the final seconds. Don't buy into the theory that it's Carroll's fault for icing the kicker on an attempt that was missed. It's better to ice the kicker than it is to let him be mentally prepared for a kick in a big game that will not be iced. As per ESPN Stats and Information: "Since 2001 (including the playoffs), kickers have successfully hit field goals at an 81 percent rate when no timeout was called prior to the snap, and 76 percent when a timeout was called.  However, it’s worth noting that the average distance on “iced” kicks is 39 yards, compared to 36 yards on kicks on which timeout was not called.  Also interesting: In overtime, the average distance of kicks after timeouts and kicks with no timeouts called is about the same (37 yards).
In that instance, “icing the kicker” by calling timeout works. Kickers hit only 69 percent when “iced”, 87 percent when they are not."  Now that Atlanta got the monkey off their back in winning their first game, they will have their hands full with the 49ers coming to town. Lucky for them, their in the Georgia Dome once again.

Preview: SF at ATL
Player(s) to watch: Kaepernick, ATL pass rush.
Two teams, two memories of collapses last year. Both these teams are due for a trip to New Orleans but only one of them will earn it. The Falcons haven't been to the Super Bowl since John Elway's Broncos stomped them out in 1998. The 49ers haven't been there since. We're talking about two teams who used to be divisional rivals before realignment. Now all the chips are on the table and the pressure is on both teams to see who can win to get to the next step.
John Abraham is saying he will be back for this game and that could be huge for a Falcons team that just sat back and let Seattle get right back into the game. A legitimate pass rush and containing Kaepernick to the pocket can be a recipe for success for Atlanta. The 49ers have the advantage on defense though. We've seen Matt Ryan go cold before, and we're not talking clutch temperatures. Ryan's offense has come a long way from putting up zero points in last years playoff beating (the defense actually put the only points on the board, a safety) and I'm expecting them to fight back.
This should be a close one, possible another episode of the dramatics with these Falcons, but my pick is with the 49ers for this game.

Enjoy the back to back games everyone!

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