NFL Wild Card Weekend 2011: What Have We Learned?
Chris Trotman/Getty Images
Well, Wild Card Weekend in the NFL has come to a close and we have experienced some shocking upsets, nail-biting game, and of course, the stereotypical game where a team finds out they are simply in over their heads. As with any weekend of football, we become more enlightened about things that we may have not previously understood.
In this slideshow, I will present a few things that we have learned in Wild Card Weekend and how it could effect this weekend's Divisional Playoffs.
No Matter Who They Play, The Seattle Seahawks Are Not an Easy Win
Marshawn Lynch breaks a 63-yard TD run and puts a dagger in the New Orleans Saints.
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
Laugh, say what you might, invoke that 7-9 record as much as you like. Before Wild Card Weekend, I did as well, and so did most of the professional analysts in the NFL. No one gave the Seattle Seahawks a shot at all. And they proved every single one of us wrong. In a convincing fashion, Matt Hasselbeck and the Seattle Seahawks defeated the New Orleans Saints 41-36.
This Sunday, the Seattle Seahawks will play the Chicago Bears, who they already defeated in a 26-23 regular season contest. Of course, that was a different Chicago Bears team from the one we see now. With a stronger defense and the occasional appearance of an improved Jay Cutler, the Bears have the tools they need to beat the Seahawks this time around. There's only one thing I know for sure right now, I will not count the Seahawks out this Sunday.
The Young Chiefs Have Talent, But Were Not Ready For The Playoffs
A Kansas City fan watching the 30-7 defeat of the Chiefs at Arrowhead.
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
The fourth seed that was brutally outmatched this weekend turned out to be the Kansas City Chiefs. Three interceptions by Matt Cassel and a lost fumble by both Jamaal Charles and Dexter McCluster made this an easy win for the Baltimore Ravens, who have been to the playoffs three years in a row since the start of the Harbaugh/Flacco Era.
The teams they've beaten include SD, CLE, SF, JAC, BUF, ARI, SEA, DEN, STL, and TEN. None of these teams are playoff teams, and only one of these teams had a winning record (two with 8-8 or better). Combine this with the lack of playoff experience, and this young talented team falls hard and early. The Chiefs have rebuilt their team around an improved Matt Cassel and look to be quite dangerous in the future. This year just wasn't their year.
Peyton Manning Can Be Stopped at Home
Peyton Manning, under pressure, struggling to get out a pass against the Jets on Saturday
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
If I told you on Friday before the games that Peyton Manning would be held to 225 yards passing and 1 TD by the New York Jets defense, what would you say to me? Probably something along the lines of "The Jets Defense is good, but Peyton Manning is better." It is true enough that the Jets defense was unable to stop Peyton Manning from breaking a few big plays, but most elite quarterbacks will get at least a few per game. However, the Jets kept Peyton out of the endzone and most importantly, kept the ball out of his hands.
Brilliant! If Peyton Manning doesn't have the ball, he can't pass it! If he can't pass it, he can't score! And if he can't score, he can't win! The Jets executed this strategy beautifully, and scored just enough points with their offense to win. No more excuses for the rest of the NFL, Peyton can be beaten in the dome so just get it done.
Apparently, Rex Ryan Has a Grudge Against Everybody
Perhaps the most outspoken coach in the NFL, Rex Ryan of the New York Jets.
Al Bello/Getty Images
Before this weekend's game, the soundbite we heard the most from the pundits on NFL Network was Rex Ryan describing his feelings about beating Peyton Manning. "It's personal." Apparently the desire to beat Manning had escalated into a grudge that Ryan held against the Colts QB. Manning shrugged this off when asked about it. So after beating Peyton, Ryan speaks about his next opponents, the New England Patriots. Ryan said that it was personal between him and Bill Belichick.
Why in the world does this guy hate everybody!? I mean, the Pats beat them 45-3 and that's irritating, but how is it personal?
The Packers Have A Running Game: Look Out
James Starks, avoiding a tackle.
Chris Trotman/Getty Images
Who knew? James Starks, the rookie running back of the Green Bay Packers was a surprise star on Sunday, and was an integral part of the Packers' game plan for victory. Mike McCarthy practiced conservative play calling and called 32 run plays and only 27 pass plays on the day. Starks ran for 123 yards on 23 attempts and made up over a third of the team's total offensive yardage (309).
The sudden appearance of the Packers' running game has caused Steve Wyche of NFL.com to deem the Packers "The Team Nobody Wants to Play." And this is well-deserved, if the Packers can maintain their power defense and powerful and newly balanced offense, there may be no team in the NFC that can stop them.
With Wild Card Weekend in the books, we look forward to the Divisional round where we will see the #1 and #2 seeds return from their bye week. With the teams that emerged from the Wild Card battle, these teams have their work cut out for them.
Also, I feel I should note, this is my first slideshow, so if you have any constructive criticism, I'd be happy to take it. Just don't be a jerk. Thanks!