NFL Divisional Playoffs Preview: The Agony of De-Feet

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NFL Divisional Playoffs Preview: The Agony of De-Feet
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Will Tony Gonzalez Finally Get His First Playoff Win?

Welcome to the best weekend of quality NFL football!

To paraphrase Wes Welker, you have to be on your toes and put your best foot forward in the one loss/you’re done NFL post season tournament.

Each divisional round matchup is a rematch of a regular season game.

The AFC has two trilogies, as the Steelers-Ravens and Jets-Patriots play for the third time.

In the NFC, the Falcons-Packers and Bears-Seahawks will play for a second time.

This weekend’s NFL playoffs offer a menu of intriguing matchups.  For me, the best two matchups are the Saturday Games. They are both tossups, so flip the coin!

 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The NFC North Trilogy: Defense Rules – 4:30 P.M., CBS

The Ravens-Steelers rivalry is without a doubt the best matchup in the NFL because of the frequent, hard, physical hits on the field and the animosity between the two teams.

Based on the number of wins, Pittsburgh appears to have “dominated” the series with Baltimore.  However, in 17 meetings since 2003, the teams have each scored 302 points.

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
Hines Ward, Mr. Clutch in the Post Season

They split this season series, with each road team winning. Now game three to complete the trilogy.

If quarterback play will decide today’s game, then this factor tilts towards Ben Roethlisberger and his Pittsburgh Steelers.

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has a short history of having playoff jitters when facing a top NFL defense in the postseason.

However, in addition to his solid running attack, Flacco’s wide receiver group was upgraded this season, with Anquan Boldin as the major force.

This postseason may one of  Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis’  final opportunities to win another Super Bowl.

My logic says that the Ravens are overdue to defeat the Steelers in the playoffs.  My logic is not always correct.

Big Ben is a Super Bowl ring collector.

The playoff game is being played in Pittsburgh, where the Ravens are 2-9, including the 2009 AFC title game.

Pittsburgh 17, Baltimore 16

 

The NFC Rematch: The Best Game of the Weekend – 8:00 P.M., Fox

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Atlanta Has Home-Dome, Prime Time Advantage

The winner of this game probably goes to the Super Bowl, with all due respect to the Chicago Bears.

This is the most difficult game of the weekend for me to pick.  The Green Bay Packers are the trendy pick.

A meaningless statistic: Falcons have beaten the Packers in four of six previous meanings.

A meaningful play: A big kickoff return by Eric Weems helped set the Falcons up for the winning field goal in a 20-17 Week 12 victory.

Special teams may develop to become the difference in the outcome again today.

Did you know that both quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan, ended the season tied in the number of touchdown passes at 28?

I give the Packers the edge in passing offense but the Falcons have the advantage in a rushing offense and therefore, a balanced attack.

Green Bay also has the edge in terms of defensive statistics.

The Packers arrive in Atlanta with a lot of confidence after a dominating victory in Philadelphia over the Eagles.

The Falcons are healthy, rested after a bye week, and have a home-dome advantage, especially for a night-time playoff game.

Nick Laham/Getty Images
Green Bay Is the Trendy NFC Pick to Get to Super Bowl

If Jon Abraham can knock Rodgers early and often and if the Falcons start off with a big, early lead, Atlanta will win.

If the Packers defense forces the Falcons offense into one-dimensional passing, to match the Rodgers highlights, then Green Bay will taste victory.

I think that turnovers, referee calls and ball spots, perhaps even the lucky bounce of the ball, but most of all—special teams—will tilt this tight contest towards the Falcons way.

The Packers are more talented, but the Falcons are a lucky team this season and are talented enough to win, especially at home.

But Atlanta does not depend on luck—they are a team of poise and resourcefulness.

And with almost the entire world of prognosticators picking the Packers, the Falcons will show up Saturday night with a chip on their shoulders, feeling disrespected as a number one seed.

Tony Gonzalez finally gets his first postseason win.

Like the Arizona Cardinals two years ago and the New Orleans Saints one season ago, I believe that this is simply Atlanta’s time to make it to the Super Bowl, for their second visit in franchise history.

Atlanta 27, Green Bay 24

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Julius Peppers Is A Beast Who Can Take Over A Game

 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Another NFC Rematch: A Lock for the Bears? – 1:00 P.M., Fox

Is any real pregame analysis needed for the Bears-Seahawks matchup?

Will the NFC’s  number two seed, at home, be defeated by a squad that won it’s weak division with a 7-9 record?

Isn’t this game the lock and guarantee of the weekend?

Whoa!

Isn’t this Jay Cutler’s first playoff game since high school?

Why do they play the game?

Didn’t the underdog Seattle Seahawks soundly defeate, if not dominate, the defending Super Bowl Champions, the New Orleans Saints?

Does a previous regular season matchup in Chicago, won 23-20 by Seattle by the way, have any bearing on today’s game?

Yes, this 7-9 team is 1-0 versus the Bears this season and more importantly, 1-0 in this postseason.

However,  Chicago knows Seattle’s capabilities of pulling off another upset.

Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Is This Cutler's First Playoff Game Since High School?

Besides, Seattle’s win over Chicago was in week six, in October.

Championships are won in January and in recent seasons—February in the Super Bowl.

The Bears defense knows about and respects running back Marshawn Lynch.

Matt Hasslebeck will early and often see the face of and feel pain from the hits of a rested Julius Peppers.

Chicago defense dominates and Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz will call a brilliant, high percentage pass/rushing balanced attack game, limiting Cutler’s possible turnovers.

Seattle has not won a road playoff game in 27 years. Seattle has lost all seven of its road playoff games since winning its first one, 27-20 over Miami on Dec. 31, 1983.

If you like games that are clinics and controlled scrimmages, then this game is for you.

Chicago 30, Seattle 13.

 

The AFC East Trilogy: The Agony of De-Feet – 4:30 P.M., CBS

I vow to put my best foot forward as I analyze this matchup.

Yes, this game is personal—for both teams and for both lovers of football and feet.

Jim Rogash/Getty Images
The Patriots Will Do Their "Talking" on the Football Field

It is also an opportunity for the NFL speech-police to—“ka-ching!”—assert fines and collect more revenue during post-season before a potential lockout in 2011.

In a different story and development this week—but it relates to this game because of the trash talking primarily from the New York Jets—the NFL has told multiple teams the trash talk and bravado that surfaced this week was expected to stay off the field.

Thus, as a result, players’ controversial comments could be taken into account in evaluating any potential disciplinary action that results from illegal hits or other banned physical acts in this weekend’s playoff games.

Despite their silly football pregame theatrics, usually predictable, repeated episodes and reruns by New York Jets Coach Rex Ryan and some of his players, the Jets usually get dominated by New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (who has excellent footwork mechanics by the way) and his “good little foot soldiers” when this matchup is played in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

Patriots’ Coach Bill Belichick (known for his hoodie, not for feet, thank God), Brady, and company, could care less about any pregame so-called trash talk a.k.a. b.s.—because the real talking begins on the field at 4:30 Sunday afternoon.

Despite Ryan’s foot-in-mouth disease, the Jets often do more than talk-the-talk, at least on defense.

Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Welker Demonstrates His Foot Speed

However, on Sunday, New England’s performance on the field will speak in very loud volumes, as they step on the Jets’ feet on the road to victory.

All the Jets want to do Sunday is win, even if it is only by a foot.

I know, any more Rex Ryan/foot fetish metaphors and references, you will click the dislike button.

However, I can’t outdo Pats’ wide receiver, Wes Welker’s 11 clichéd references to Ryan’s foot fetish reports.

To pull off a second straight upset, Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez will need to perform much better than in his previous two trips to Gillette Stadium, where he has one touchdown, seven interceptions, and a 30.4 passer rating

Winning in New England will be a tough task for New York.

Brady, the league MVP this season, has won 28 consecutive regular-season home starts since a loss to the Jets in 2006, and had been 8-0 at home in his postseason career before last season, when the Patriots lost 33-14 in a wild-card matchup against the Ravens.

The Patriots will de-feet the Jets, 30-24.

Oops! Click that dislike button, Jets fans.

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