Wild Card Recap:
Slightly anti-climactic week, especially when the “Wild” in Wild Card normally comes into play. The fact that 80% of this section will talk about one game kind of sums up the weekend.
Cardinals at Panthers:
You have to be a true fan to like low scoring affairs, but even this one got a little brutal. The Cardinals couldn’t do anything on offense, and the only time they scored was when Carolina made mistakes. The goal line fumble by Arizona, which turned into a TD was about the only exciting part of the game. Cardinals set the record for the lowest offensive yards in playoff history with 78. To be fair, this was after a 19 yard loss due to a lateral fest. I feel bad for the Cardinals, they started 9-1 and seemed to be cruising to the Super Bowl in their home stadium, but my how fast things change.
Ravens at Steelers:
This game was closer than the final score eluded to. The Steelers kept showing life, but then the Ravens D would step up with a crucial sack or the crazy Suggs INT catch between the legs. I’ll admit I was proved wrong in thinking they could still run the ball without Bell. But I think Chris Collinsworth put it best in saying “as a defense the first thing you want to do in a playoff game is take away the run, and it’s almost like the Steelers have done that to themselves for the Ravens.” At the end Baltimore pulled away and scored the only road win of the weekend.
Bengals at Colts:
This one wasn’t a slam dunk for Indy, but they methodically dominated the Bengals on both sides of the ball. Dalton just couldn’t move the offense anywhere, and they seemed to punt on every 4th and short opportunity they had. The Colts held them scoreless in the 2nd half, and the play of the game was Luck running around the pocket, getting tackled by the shoelaces, but firing a strike to Dante Moncrief in the endzone as he was falling. Their running back Herron also looked very sharp.
Lions at Cowboys:
This was definitely the game of the week, even if for the wrong reasons. Let’s look at the good part first. The Lions took a 14-0 lead and looked to be cruising to their first playoff victory since 1993. But then Dallas had 4 game defining plays. First, a 73 yard pass to Terrence Williams that immediately got them back in the game. Second, a 4th and 1 gamble on the 1 yard line down 20-7 late in the 3rd quarter, Murray TD. Third, a 4th and 6 late in the 4th and down by 3. Romo throws a crucial pass to Jason Witten, which was actually an option route that Witten gets to choose. I always find this amazing because the QB has no idea what the route is and has to react quickly. And finally, the defense creating 2 fumbles on the final Lions drive. If even one of those plays don’t go the Cowboys’ way, they lose the game. But the football gods, or some head of officiating had a different idea in mind…
I will start out by saying that I was rooting for the Cowboys, just to cover any bias. But if you’re a Lions fan, you have a legitimate beef with 2 horrible non-calls. First, the 4th and 6 conversion had a blatant hold by the center on Suh, which would have made it a 4th and 16. The NFL even came out and admitted they missed that call early in the week. But the doozy was the pass interference call in the 4th quarter. To be fair, it was a tough call. The ref that was 50 yards away shouldn’t have thrown the flag, because even in slow motion it’s hard to tell if it’s a foul. My personal opinion, it was pass interference. Mainly because it was an underthrown ball and the defender ran through the tight end while making contact. But I also can see the refs point, saying it was face guarding with minimal contact. Long story short, here’s my problem with the whole thing. I thought about it, and I have NEVER seen a play announced, first down sticks moved, and then had them un-announce it. That alone is complete BS, even Cowboys fans should agree. In fact, after the replays and us seeing 4th and 1, we had to rewind it to figure out what happened. The refs always need to confirm to get the call right before making the call (a la Fail Mary), which is probably a case against the All Star crews, but that’s a whole other blog.
I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a quicker turnaround for redemption than what happened to rookie linebacker DeMarcus Lawrence. The Lions had to march 77 yards for a TD, and on the 2nd play of the drive, Stafford gets sacked and fumbles the ball. Lawrence picks it up, makes it a half step before fumbling the ball back to the Lions. The sentiment in our household was “What the heck was he thinking?!?!” Apparently he said his only thought was to score, even though falling on the ball wins the game for his team. Dumb football play, and I’m sure he knew it could cost his team the game. But eight plays later, he got his shot at redemption. On 4th and 3 with the game on the line, Lawrence sacked Stafford and recovered the fumble to win the game for his team. He could have easily been the goat of the game, but stepped up big.
For the Record:
FMQB went 3-1 last week, but in realizing that I picked all home teams, I put a post out there saying if I had to pick an upset, it would be Ravens over Steelers.
Stat of the Week #1:
Marvin Lewis is 0-6 in playoff games, Andy Dalton is 0-4
Stat of the Week #2:
The Bengals have scored 10, 13, 10 and 10 in their last 4 playoff games
Stat of the Week #3:
Carolina is on a 5-0 streak. This is after starting 3-8-1
Stat of the Week #4:
This is the first time that 2 sons of NFL quarterbacks have met in the playoffs (Manning, Luck).
I’m crediting TMQB for this analysis, but home teams in the Divisional round of the playoffs tend to almost be a sure thing. Home teams in the regular season this year won 57% of the time, but home teams in the Divisional rounds of the playoffs have won 73% of the time since 1990. This is mainly due to the fact that they are the top 4 teams in the league and have the advantage of a Bye week. Typically upsets occur in the Wild Card round, but I think the potential of them occurring in the Divisional Round this year is high. Not saying it’ll happen, but the chances are much higher than normal.
Baltimore at New England:
In my opinion, the most likely upset this week. Jim Harbaugh is 2-1 against Bill Belichick in the playoffs, and that “1” was a ball that went through Lee Evan’s hands in the endzone, and then a missed chip-shot FG by the Ravens. I think New England has a much superior team, in fact I have them making it to the Super Bowl, but playing tough against a team means a lot. Still, I’m picking a final score of Patriots 35, Ravens 27.
Carolina at Seattle:
I don’t know why, but I’m holding out hope for this game. Maybe because the Seahawks barely beat the Panthers 13-9 in Week 8, and this was amid the Panthers rough streak. Sure, the Seahawks are the team to beat this year in the NFC (if not the whole NFL), but the Panthers have the playoff winning formula: Running the Ball and a staunch defense. Despite the anemic Cardinals offense, it was as much of the Panthers strong Defense who are playing hot right now. If they can contain Russell Wilson from running on 3rd down, then I would actually pick the Panthers to win. If he rips off 3 of these, then I’m going with this final score of Panthers 13, Seahawks 17.
Dallas at Green Bay:
A Paradox as old as time, what happens when an Unstoppable Force meets an Immovable Object? It physically can’t happen. We are seeing this happen this weekend in probably the best game, where Dallas who is 8-0 on the road takes on Green Bay who is 8-0 at home. It’s an Ice Bowl Rematch, the first time Dallas has travelled to Green Bay in the playoffs in 47 years. Luckily it’ll be a balmy 15 degrees on kickoff. I’m very torn with this game. I have the Cowboys winning the Super Bowl, but it’ll be a very tough matchup against a top offense. That being said, I’m concerned with Aaron Rodgers calf injury, and am thus picking my only actual upset this week: Dallas 35, Green Bay 31
Colts at Broncos:
Another game with story-lines like crazy. Peyton Manning on one of his final runs, versus his old team and an up-and-comer Andrew Luck. The Broncos practically shifted offenses mid-season to a much more balanced attack. They played an awesome game in Week 1, which is a long time ago at this point. But the Colts had a furious comeback fall just short. They’ve proven they can hang with that team, but a strong TE group and new running offense should harrass the Colts defense. I’m dang close to picking upset on this one, but going Broncos 27, Colts 24.
Looking at the lineup, this weekend is an absolute jackpot for the NFL. We have probably 5 of the top 6 fan-bases represented (Denver, New England, Dallas, Green Bay, and Seattle), if only Pittsburgh could have won last weekend. It’s Manning vs. his old team and heir to the throne. Two of the best and most popular QB’s of all time in Brady and Manning. Three #1 overall draft picks in Luck, Newton, and Manning. (Stolen Stat) and the 8 starting quarterbacks have combined for 53 career playoff wins and 7 Super Bowl Championships.