It's almost time for the divisional round of the 2010-11 NFL playoffs and I am certainly excited. The AFC is hosting two great divisional rivalries and the NFC has very interesting games as well. Each of these teams has at least one issue that could end up being their downfall. No team is perfect. So, without further ado, here is the list of one thing that could doom all remaining playoff teams!
The Ravens are a very solid team and have no gaping holes at any particular position. During the regular season they gave up around 225 yards per game in the air, which was good for twenty-first in the league. Ed Reed is always someone that needs to be accounted for, but the Ravens' cornerbacks can be subject at times. If they want to beat the Steelers, the secondary will have to hold back the very speedy and elusive Mike Wallace.
The Chicago Bears have been a pleasant surprise this season. They won the NFC North and earned a first-round bye. This is their first playoff game since the loss to the Colts in Super Bowl XLI. Jay Cutler has been erratic at times this season. They were 28th in the league in passing yards per game, and the rushing attack wasn't much better. They have rode their defense, but when they play high-octane offense the lack of passing game may hurt them.
The Atlanta Falcons are a great team. The best in the NFC, in my opinion, and many other people's opinions too. They have a great pass rush, running game and special teams. Matt Ryan has been spectacular this season, but he could be a liability in the playoffs. Matt's only playoff game was two years ago, at home to the Arizona Cardinals during Wild Card Weekend. His Falcons lost to the underdog Cardinals, when the Falcons were considered a dark horse to win the Super Bowl. With little postseason experience, will the pressure get to him and force him to make mistakes? We'll have to wait and see.
The running back position has been a serious issue all season long for the Green Bay Packers. They need somebody to step up and rush the ball if they want to have any chance of winning the Super Bowl. I don't care how good your passing game is, if your running game isn't good it balances out. The other team only plays the pass. It's like that stretch Peyton Manning had earlier this year where he threw around 12 interceptions in 3 or 4 games. Then they started to run the ball and his stats went up AND they began to win again.
Bottom line: A running back needs to get more than 10 yards in a game.
The Patriots had the 30th best pass defense in the regular season. Their run defense wasn't much better. Although they have had two bright, young spots in the secondary (Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty) these are both very young players and not too much can be expected of them. The rest of the secondary has been basically non-existent. The Patriots were great in the regular season, but they may have a more blatant Achilles heel than any other playoff team.
Mark Sanchez. A tale of two quarterbacks. One minute he's literally handing the ball off to the other team for defensive touchdowns, the other minute he's throwing 70 yard passes for touchdowns to win the game.
The formula for the Jets success this weekend is pretty simple: Run the ball. Help Mark Sanchez so he doesn't throw interceptions. If Mark has a bad game, the Jets have no chance.
The Steelers, the number two seed in the AFC, also have a pretty blatant Achilles heel. The offensive line. For years the Steelers refused to draft offensive lineman, until this year, when they drafted Maurkice Pouncey out of Florida, who for the most part has played well. All in all, the offensive line has been weak and Big Ben is taking alot of hits. In a way, this can be a good thing from an optimist's point of view because Ben arguably makes his best plays when he's on the run after the pocket has collapsed. Seriously though, I'm a pessimist. Fix the offensive line, Steelers.
As a side note, the Steelers need to take care of this issue in the draft again. If Big Ben keeps getting hit, the wear and tear will add up and shorten his career.
The 7-9 Seahawks had the league's 30th rushing attack this past regular season. Of course. Marshawn Lynch pulled off one of the greatest postseason runs you'll ever see in the thrilling upset over the Seahawks. It will be critical that he has a big game against the Bears or the Seahawks will lose. The cold environment and expected wind will make it much tougher to pass the ball.