New York Giants vs. San Francisco 49ers: NFC Championship Playoff Post-Game Analysis

This NFC Championship game between the New York Giants and the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park should be determined by their defenses.  However, we have the Giants second-ranked quarterback in rating in the post-season, Eli Manning, with 121.8 against the San Francisco 49ers fourth-ranked Alex Smith 103.2.  On the Giants red-hot defense, defensive end Osi Umeniyora and linebacker Michael Boley have five sacks combined in the post-season.  However, Eli Manning is facing the fourth-ranked defense overall during the regular season.  Who will win out in the end?  Will 49ers tight end Vernon Davis pull Alex Smith out of the fire and into Indianapolis for the Super Bowl?  Or will the Giants talented wide receiver corps overpower the 49ers defense?  Super Bowl or bust…

Now to the post-game analysis:

  • With a 73-yard touchdown reception by 49ers tight end Vernon Davis from quarterback Alex Smith, the San Francisco 49ers put the first touchdown on the board with 7:21 in the first quarter.  Smith’s clutch tight end performed his magic again. Simply amazing catch and run!
  • On 4th and 1, New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs was stuffed on the 49ers 34-yard line.  The 49ers defense proved their mettle against the run.
  • After a 36-yard pass to wide receiver Victor Cruz, the Giants finally score a touchdown to tie the game with a 6-yard pass to tight end Bear Pascoe with 11:21 in the second quarter.
  • After several receptions by wideout Victor Cruz, Lawrence Tynes booted an easy 31-yard field goal with 5 seconds until halftime.  The Giants take the lead 10-7.
  • After a 24-yard reception by running back Frank Gore, 49ers Alex Smith threw a beautiful 28-yard touchdown reception to his tight end Vernon Davis to bring the score 14-10 with 5:26 left in the third.
  • After a Frank Gore 10-yard rush and an unnecessary roughness 15-yard penalty by Giants defensive tackle Chris Canty, the 49ers drive stalled on the Giants 46 yard line as 49ers running back Anthony Dixon could not break the first-down line on a 3rd and 1.
  • After a loose punt hit wide receiver Kyle Williams, New York Giants wide receiver Devin Thomas recovered the football on the 49ers 29-yard line. With this turnover, Eli Manning threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Mario Manningham to a Giants three-point lead of 17-14 with 8:41 left in the game.
  • After a 17-yard rush by Alex Smith and a 18-yard rush by running back Kendall Hunter, 49ers kicker David Akers boots a 25-yard field goal to tie the game 17-17 with 5:43 in the fourth quarter.
  • In overtime, 49ers wide receiver Kyle Williams fumbled on a kickoff with Devin Thomas recovering the ball on 49ers 24-yard line with 9:42 left.  Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes kicked the 31-yard field goal with 7:10 in OT.

The first half was a battle of defenses, as expected.  Although the Giants defense broke down initially with the 72-yard touchdown reception by 49ers tight end Vernon Davis,  the Giants defense clenched down afterward.  On the other side of the ball, however, San Francisco 49ers linebacker NaVarro Bowman was in Eli Manning’s grill constantly and a factor in almost every 49ers defensive play. Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz made his impact felt as he had 125 receiving yards into the half.

The second half was one of receivers and defenses once again.  For the New York Giants, wide receiver Victor Cruz made his mark, and for the San Francisco 49ers, tight end Vernon Davis made his impact once again.  The New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers defenses were stalwart when it counted.  In this half, 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith was consistently in Eli Manning’s grill.

This game was not quite as action-packed as when New England Patriots Tom Brady was against the Baltimore Ravens or the Denver Broncos.  However, Brady and his Patriots are going into the Super Bowl to face Eli Manning and his  New York Giants.  This is going to be one of the better Super Bowls as Brady’s offense will have overcome this red-hot Giants defense.  Patriots Tom Brady avoided Peyton Manning this season, but he got his younger brother instead — again.  A rematch of Super Bowl XLII from 2008 coming soon to a television near you…

Baltimore Ravens vs. New England Patriots: AFC Championship Playoff Post-Game Analysis

After the snow that cruised through the Northeast yesterday, New England Patriots Gillette Stadium finally got cleared as they host the Baltimore Ravens.  The Baltimore Ravens defense has their work cut for them as they are facing the first-ranked post-season quarterback in rating with 137.6, New England Patriots Tom Brady. Can the third-ranked Ravens defense during the regular season stem the second-ranked offensive juggernaut?  Can we have a post-drug-filled rock star in Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler not sing the national anthem in a post-season game?

Now to the post-game analysis:

  • With receptions to his wideout Julian Edelman, establishing the run with running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis and an unfortunate penalty for the Baltimore Ravens, Tom Brady’s drive stalled on the Ravens 11-yard line, and kicker Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 29-yard field goal to bring the score 3-0 at 5:52 in the first quarter.
  • After an interception of Tom Brady by Ravens cornerback Ladarius Webb and a hearty 40-yard pass to his wideout Torrey Smith, Joe Flacco‘s drive stalled on the Patriots 3-yard line.  Their kicker Billy Cundiff booted an easy 2o-yard field goal to tie the game 3-3 with 14:23 in the second quarter.
  • After a 20-yard pass to his tight end Rob Gronkowski and a facemask penalty on the Baltimore Ravens, BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran in for a 7-yard touchdown to bring the score 10-3 with 10:40 in the second quarter.
  • After a 20-yard pass to Lee Evans and a 37-yard pass to Anquan Boldin, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco established rhythm against the Patriots defense and threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to his tight end Dennis Pitta to tie the score 10-10 with 6:11 until halftime.
  • With yet another drive stalled for the New England Patriots, Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 35-yard field goal to bring the score 13-10 with 3:04 left in the second quarter.
  • Continuing the same theme from the second quarter and much of the game, Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 24-yard field goal to bring the score 16-10 with 9:09 in the third quarter.
  • With a quick 29-yard touchdown reception from wideout Torrey Smith, the Baltimore Ravens took a one-point lead 17-16 with 3:48 in the third.
  • With a fumble by running back Danny Woodhead on a run-back from the Ravens kickoff that is recovered on the Patriots 28-yard line, kicker Billy Cundiff kicked a 39-yard field goal to bring the score 20-16 with 55 seconds left in the third quarter.
  • After a slow and steady drive to the Baltimore 1/2-yard line, Tom Brady finally got into the endzone with a rushing touchdown to bring the score 23-20 with 11:33 in the last quarter.
  • With the interception by linebacker Brandon Spikes and a 19-yard return and tip-interception to Ravens rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith in the endzone, these two interceptions were a show of defenses with eight minutes left in the game.
  • With a 4th and 6 at the Patriots 33-yard line, Patriots nosetackle Vince Wilfork snagged Joe Flacco and forced him to throw the ball away with 2:53 left in the game.  What a gamechanger!
  • With the clock ticking away and Joe Flacco at the helm, the drive led by the 29-yard reception by Anquan Boldin stalled at the New England’s 14-yard line, and surprisingly, Billy Cundiff missed the 32-yard field goal with 15 seconds left in the game.

With the first half in tow, the Baltimore Ravens were seemingly ready for New England Patriots Tom Brady had an interception.  Baltimore Ravens Joe Flacco demonstrated that he can throw against the porous Patriots defense and keep up with Tom Brady.  It was a great first half as both teams traded blows without letting up. Surprisingly though, Joe Flacco outperformed Tom Brady as Flacco had a 122.4 quarterback versus Brady’s 58.7 into the half.  The Patriots had the lead 13-10 at halftime, but the Patriots could not dominate the Ravens like they did with the Denver Broncos previously.

The stiff Baltimore Ravens defense imposing itself on New England Patriots potent quarterback Tom Brady and their offense in the second half.  Despite the tide turning in the Ravens favor several times, the New England Patriots kept it close, and the defense clinched down when it counted most with 2:53 left in the game on Ravens 4th and 6 on their 33-yard line.  Tom Brady and his New England Patriots squeaked this one out past the Baltimore Ravens 23-20.  However, Brady’s difficulties with the Ravens defense won’t go any easier with the San Francisco 49ers or the New York Giants.

The next game is already up as the New York Giants face the San Francisco 49ers for the NFC Championship game.  Tom Brady will have will the Super Bowl win past either defense in Indianapolis.  With 49ers quarterback Alex Smith and his clutch tight end Vernon Davis on one end and the Giants quarterback Eli Manning and his talented wide reciever corps on the other, this upcoming Super Bowl will be one to watch.

AFC Divisional Playoffs: Top 10 Things We Learned

With the New England Patriots squashing the Tim Tebow miracle out of the Denver Broncos with their 45-10 rout, Tom Brady and his Patriots accomplished in destroying the Broncos morale in the postseason. Denver Broncos coach John Fox was simply out-coached. The Houston Texans and the Baltimore Ravens fought each other tooth-and-nail, but the Baltimore Ravens defense stepped up when it counted to win 20-13. Now the Patriots will host the Ravens in the AFC Championship game, and this Ravens defense will be put to their ultimate test against the offensive firepower of Tom Brady at Gillette Stadium nonetheless. It doesn’t look pretty for the Baltimore Ravens, but there’s a glimmer a hope.  If the 49ers can topple the offensive powerhouse of the New Orleans Saints, anything can happen.

Now to the top 10 list of the things we learned in the AFC Divisional playoffs:

  1. New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady is a Beast.  With six touchdowns against the Denver Broncos, he broke a previous postseason record, and he came out a 136.1 quarterback rating on that game.
  2. Denver Broncos Tim Tebow Was Out of His Element.  With the Denver Broncos going to the Patriots home, Gillette Stadium, you knew from the outset that it was going to be bad. How bad…how about 136 yards, no touchdowns and a pitiful 55.7 quarterback rating bad.
  3. Denver Broncos Head Coach John Fox Was Outfoxed. Continuing from the previous, facing Patriots head coach Bill Belichick alongside  the offensive coordinator-in-training Josh McDaniels, Denver Broncos head coach John Fox had too many chess pieces to contend with, no matter how prepared he was or how much he thought of Tim Tebow.
  4. Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens Are Fumble-Prone. Given that the Houston Texans and the Baltimore Ravens both had three fumbles each, I would say ball security should be a focus in the postseason.
  5. Houston Texans Quarterback T.J. Yates Needs Some Work…A Lot of Work.  Replacing Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart was difficult enough, but dealing with the Ravens defense was beyond this rookie quarterback.  Ending the day with 184 yards, 3 interceptions and a pitiful 28.8 quarterback rating won’t earn him a bonus this next season.
  6. Houston Texans Running Back Arian Foster is a Beast. Considering he dealt with the third-ranked defense overall during the regular season, he produced well with 132 yards rushing and a touchdown.
  7. Baltimore Ravens Quarterback Joe Flacco Will Never Be Elite. Although he’s been at the helm of the playoff-driven Baltimore Ravens over the past four seasons, he has never developed into an elite quarterback.  Considering he had 176 passing yards and 2 touchdowns, he’ll never reach the elite status of either Tom Brady or Drew Brees.
  8. New England Patriots Tight End Aaron Hernandez is Versatile.  Considering he produced 61 yards on the ground and 55 yards and a touchdown through the air, Aaron Hernandez is definitely the iron-man of the New England Patriots.  His 61 yards surpassed both BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead with their 28 and 25 rushing yards in their game against the Denver Broncos.
  9.  New England Patriots Tight End Rob Gronkowski is a Beast.  With his 145 receiving yards, he has shown he is one of the better tight ends in the league, if not one of the best.
  10. Defense Wins Games.  Again, like with the NFC Divisional playoffs, it’s the defense that ultimately wins games.  The Ravens capitalized on turnovers when it counted.

NFC Divisional Playoffs: Top 10 Things We Learned

After the New York Giants impressive 37-20 win over the Green Bay Packers and the stunning 36-32 win by the San Francisco 49ers over the explosive offense of the New Orleans Saints, the NFC Divisional playoffs was where it was at.  The New York Giants are going to face the San Francisco 49ers at the NFC Championship game at Candlestick Park.  It will be a battle of defenses as the Giants are simply red-hot and the 49ers are simply consistent.  Both Tom Coughlin and Jim Harbaugh are conservative-minded coaches, and this next game will quite possibly be decided in the trenches.

Enough about that…now to the top 10 things that we learned:

  1. San Francisco 49ers Tight End Vernon Davis is Clutch.  He caught the touchdown passes from his quarterback Alex Smith when the team needed it the most.
  2. New Orleans Saints Drew Brees is Still Awesome (Despite the Loss). Let’s see…462 passing yards, 4 touchdowns and a 93.5 quarterback rating is impressive in their playoff game against the 49ers.
  3. New York Giants Eli Manning is Awesome.  He ended the game with 330 passing yards, 3 touchdowns, an interception and an impressive 114.5 quarterback rating.
  4. Green Bay Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is One Dangerous Running Threat.  Even against the Giants defense,  he accumulated 66 yards on the ground.  In fact, he more than the Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw with 63 rushing yards.
  5. San Francisco Giants 49ers Running Back Frank Gore is a Beast. His 89 rushing yards marks him currently as fourth in the postseason.
  6. New Orleans Saints Wide Receiver Marques Colston is a Beast.  He ended the postseason as second in receiving yards with 256.  He is one dangerous wide receiver.
  7. San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Alex Smith is Impressive.  He had 299 passing yards, 3 touchdowns and a 103.2 quarterback rating in the game against the New Orleans Saints.
  8. Slow and Steady Wins the Game. Conservative-minded coaches in Giants Tom Coughlin and San Francisco 49ers Jim Harbaugh ultimately won with their slow-and-steady gameplay.
  9. Top-Ranked Offenses Count for Nothing. Despite having the New Orleans first-ranked offense and Green Bay Packers third-ranked offense during the regular season, they tanked when it counted.  Not good at all.
  10. Defense Wins Games. Despite all these broken offensive records in the postseason, the San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants defense stepped up when it counted.  It’s all a matter of timing…

Top Ten Lessons of the 2011-12 NFL Regular Season (With a Bonus!)

Collective Bargaining Agreement and Collateral Damage.  After months of deliberation and stall tactics on the collective bargaining agreement on both sides, finally, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the team owners and the players settled on a collective bargaining agreement.  It gave some of the owners more of a salary cap, and the players more leniency when it came to practicing and injuries. The collateral damage was that there was less time to practice before the regular season, and team “leaders” leading their own practices were insufficient and laughable.  Other collateral damages included more injuries to key players this season and porous and unprepared defenses.

Jim Harbaugh + Alex Smith = San Francisco 49ers Gold. San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith finally gets a  proper coach who is more than willing to prepare him after going through several previous coaches.  Alex Smith is not an elite quarterback, but he’s far better now.  From 2010, he improved from a 82.1 quarterback rating to a 90.1 quarterback rating in 2011. Under former Stanford Cardinals head coach Jim Harbaugh, Alex Smith reduced his number of interceptions by half to five this season.

The Philadelphia Eagles and Their Dream Team. A whole lot of talent that went nowhere fast.  This Philadelphia Eagles team was supposed to easily get into the playoffs and a strong contender for the Super Bowl this season. The Eagles are still one of the top three offenses with over 6,000 total yards, but their potency couldn’t overcome their turnover deficiency and porous wide 9 defense with vulnerability against the run.

A Season Without Indianapolis Colts Quarterback Peyton Manning. The Indianapolis Colts team sorely missed their great quarterback Peyton Manning this season as their team has been in last place in their division.  Without Peyton Manning and the Colts standing in the way, the Houston Texans have finally gotten first place and clinched the AFC South.  The media and the Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, Saints quarterback Drew Brees or even Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers did not have a yardstick to compare themselves this season.

The Best of the Best: New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady, Green Bay Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees. Even with this strange season, some things always remain consistent — the best remained the best.  The Patriots Tom Brady, Packers Aaron Roders and Saints Drew Brees are among the top three in quarterback rating to date.  As of this week, Aaron Rodgers remains the top dog with a 122.5 quarterback rating followed by Drew Brees and Tom Brady.

Pittsburgh Steelers Defense Dominates Again.  After the fallout last year with Commissioner Roger Goodell, the Steelers defense rose to the occasion this season.  They are first in total defense.

Quarterback Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. I mentioned the Carolina Panthers as a team to watch out for defensively, but their defense is still going through some growing pains. The acquisition of Cam Newton over the pre-season has changed the team for the better offensively. Cam Newton has a solid 85.0 quarterback rating for a rookie quarterback.  Like Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, Newton has mobility but needs improvement on his passing skills.

Cleveland Browns Running Back Peyton Hillis and the Madden Curse. The Madden Curse has been persistent this season as Peyton Hillis continues to battle injuries.  Marshall Faulk had to contend with the same thing until the Curse finally took its toll.

Coaches on the Hot Seat…Again. San Diego head coach Norv Turner and Miami Dolphins head coach Tony Sporano are now former head coaches.  With the looks of it, St. Louis Rams head coach Steve Spagnulo is gone as well, and one of his potential new positions next season  might be the defensive coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles with Juan Castillo given another job (hopefully on the offensive side).

Wildcats No More.  After last season or two, the wildcat formation has all but disappeared this season.  True, there are running options with the quarterback on some teams, but it is no longer an established wildcat formation per se.

Bonus: Illegitimacy of College Bowls. The chant has long and been hard about the illegitimacy of the college bowls, but this season perhaps made the issue very apparent — not only to the teams playing but to the media and the general public as well. With Alabama Crimson Tide and LSU Tigers facing each other again, the entire BCS system is put into question, and questions will remain long after the BCS Championship has been decided.

The Fall of Jay Cutler and the Rise of Caleb Hanie: The Chicago Bears without Their Claws

Quarterback Jay Cutler in their NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers injured a sprained MCL, an ankle injury, and he did not play after the second half of the game.  He did not play well during that game with only a 31.8 quarterback rating on 80 yards and an interception.  He soon joined Todd Collins, his backup, who did not fare any better. Collins had a 39.6 quarterback rating when his short debut in this playoff game.

Former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka, Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel and San Diego Chargers quarterback Phillips Rivers said they did not understand why Jay Cutler sat out and would have fought to be brought back in the game.  However, Cutler didn’t.  Perhaps it was because coach Lovie Smith cut him short in the locker room during halftime, but I agree that Cutler should have argued on the sideline with Lovie Smith after being pulled, despite him playing poorly.  Cutler demonstrated he has no heart or will to fight in the NFL, even when the cards are stacked against him.  He became “Jay Quitler.” Heck, even Rex Grossman had more heart than he did, and he consistently played poorly while with the Chicago Bears.

With the rise of third option Caleb Hanie during the game, Hanie nearly made a comeback for the Chicago Bears.  Hanie however performed better than either Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Chicago Bears backup Todd Collins or their starter Jay Cutler.  Hanie had a 65.2 quarterback rating on a touchdown and 2 interceptions on 153 yards. Perhaps next season, it will be the season of Caleb Hanie for the Chicago Bears.  The Bears can’t ask for any worse at this point since they released Rex Grossman to the Washington Redskins.

What I Learned this Conference Playoff Weekend

This was one fantastic Sunday for football.  The Chicago Bears kept it close, despite using the third option quarterback of Caleb Hanie and the overpowering offense of the Green Bay Packers. Coach Lovie Smith and the Bears should be proud, and they should only have to make some minimal adjustments for next year. The Pittsburgh Steelers won over the New York Jets 24-19 in one tough game.  The Jets nearly made the comeback, but Mark Sanchez could not generate a two-minute offense and move his team down the field quicker. Ultimately, it was Pittsburgh Steelers rushing offense that controlled the clock and the scoreboard. Now Green Bay Packers will face the Pittsburgh Steelers in one heck of a Super Bowl.

Here’s what I learned this conference playoff weekend:

  • Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall is a beast, considering he had 121 yards rushing against the stiff New York Jets defense.
  • Green Bay Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings is a beast.  He had 13o receiving yards in his game against the Chicago Bears.
  • The Pittsburgh Steelers defense is stifling.  It contained the New York Jets offense to only 50 yards at the half, with 1 yard rushing.
  • The New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez needs to practice the two-minute drill more.  Hopefully, it’s not Donovan McNabb‘s two-minute drill. Sanchez should shoot for Peyton Manning’s two-minute drill.
  • The New York Jets running back LaDanian Tomlinson‘s tank isn’t quite empty, but he is no longer the threat he was when he was the San Diego Chargers.
  • Although Packers running back James Starks isn’t Ryan Grant, he has shown tremendous potential.  Whether the Packers win or lose in the Super Bowl, the starting position in their backfield may be up for grabs next season.
  • Both quarterbacks Green Bay Packers Aaron Rodgers and Pittsburgh Steelers Ben Roethlisberger are strong and mobile.  It will be interesting to see how they will fare in the Super Bowl.
  • However, both Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger performed miserably in their previous game. Rodgers had a 55.4 quarterback rating on 2 interceptions and Roethlisberger had a 35.5 quarterback rating on 2 interceptions. But their respective defenses stepped up at the right time and helped them win the game.
  • Good Caleb Hanie is much better than Bad Jay Cutler or Bad Todd Collins.  Good Caleb Hanie may even be better than Good Jay Cutler, but that will be determined next season.

Now, let’s get ready for the Super Bowl with pizzas, chips, sodas, assorted “adult beverages” and whatever else that might be cooking.  Although it shouldn’t be shootouts like the past Super Bowls, this game will be physical and could have as much drama as some hockey games.

New York Jets vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: AFC Championship Post-Game Analysis

The New York Jets, with their quarterback, Mark Sanchez, defeated two tough opponents in their wake, the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots. The New York Jets arrived at Heinz Field, the home of the Pittsburgh Steelers, for one of the most physically demanding challengers of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Jets and the Steelers battled each other tonight in one heck of a physical game after the one in Soldier Field.

Now to the post-game analysis of the AFC Championship:

  • The Pittsburgh Steelers did a good job of establishing the run on their first drive  with their running back Rashard Mendenhall that ended with 28 yards rushing and a touchdown.
  • The Steelers kept on rushing with Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman with more than 100 yards pounded the Jets defense into the half.  Steelers coach Mike Tomlin kept his formula in past successful games by establishing  the run early with Rashard Mendenhall, rather than giving up on the run early like he has a tendency to do.
  • William Gay’s 19-yard fumble return for a touchdown sealed the half at 24-0 for the Steelers.
  • Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had a mediocre quarterback rating of 42.6 into the half. Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez was not much better at 42.4.
  • The 45-yard pass from Mark Sanchez to Santonio Holmes was amazing to close the lead to 24-10. The bootleg by Sanchez against the pursuing Steelers defense opened up the pass. Obviously, Rex Ryan gave the offense a talk to wake them up.
  • The Jets defense finally woke up in the second half of the game.  With three negative plays near the end of the third quarter from the Steelers, it gave the Jets more time on offense.  Additionally, the Jets defense bottled up the rush from Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman.
  • The safety on Ben Roethlisberger mid-fourth quarter was disastrous for the Steelers to bring the score to 24-12.  It gave the Jets two points, the ball back and their continued momentum.  But the Jets wasted too much time to bring the score to 24-19.

The Pittsburgh Steelers won at Heinz Field to the score of 24-19 over the New York Jets.  Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets performed admirably at a 1o2.2 quarterback rating on 2 touchdowns and 233 yards passing.  Now the Pittsburgh Steelers will face the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl in Dallas.  It will be a battle of balanced offenses, and it will be interesting to see if the Steelers defense can contain Aaron Rodgers and the weapons at his disposal.

Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears: NFC Championship Post-Game Analysis

This was one of the oldest rivalries sorting itself out on Soldier Field, with Aaron Rodgers and his explosive wide receivers against the stalwart defense of the Chicago Bears, led by Brian Urlacher.  This was the ultimate rubber-band match for these two rivals this season — whoever wins goes to the Super Bowl.  The Chicago Bears won in week 3 of the regular season with a 20-17 score and lost in week 17 against the Green Bay Packers 10-3.  The Bears intended on shutting out the Packers from arriving into the playoffs by using their starters in that last game, but they couldn’t stop the fourth quarter drive against Aaron Rodgers.  It’s Lovie Smith vs. Mike McCarthy, Julius Peppers and Brian Urlacher vs. Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings and Jay Cutler vs. Clay Matthews…

Now here comes the NFC Conference playoffs and its analysis:

  • Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers started off early in the first quarter with passes to Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings and James Starks. And an amazing Rodgers’ 1-yard rush for a touchdown as a first strike against the Chicago Bears.
  • Bears running back Matt Forte‘s early first quarter 24-yard reception from quarterback Jay Cutler was stunning.
  • The almost-close safety late first quarter to Jay Cutler was avoided barely with a jump pass to Matt Forte (that was dropped).  That was too close for comfort for the Bears and their fans.
  • James Starks got his first NFL career touchdown from 4-yards out, and it extended the lead to 14-0 for the Packers.
  • Bad Jay Cutler finally showed up in this critical game with a quarterback rating of 34.1 with only 80 yards passing and an interception into the half.  Unfortunately, Bad Jay Cutler additionally was replaced with backup Todd Collins after the half. The game for the Bears started to spiral downwards afterwards.
  • Green Bay Packers had 103 total yards rushing between Aaron Rodgers, James Starks and Brandon Jackson into the half.  The Packers established a running threat albeit a bit unconventionally with Rodgers in the equation, but it was first assisted by the receiving duo of Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson with 115 yards combined into the half.
  • Near the end of the fourth quarter, the interception from Lance Briggs of the Chicago Bears from a pass intended for Packers wide receiver Donald Driver was answered with an interception from Sam Shields with a pass intended to Johnny Knox.
  • Brian Urlacher’s 39-yard  interception return of Aaron Rodgers could not swing the momentum into the Bears favor as the offense sputtered under Todd Collins.
  • Then in came Caleb Hanie, the third option at quarterback for the Bears late third quarter with both an injured Jay Cutler and an anemic Todd Collins on the sidelines.
  • Caleb Hanie’s drive ended with Chester Taylor’s 1-yard touchdown to close the lead within a touchdown at 14-7.
  • BJ Raji’s late fourth quarter 18-yard interception on Caleb Hanie brought the score of 21-7.
  • Earl Bennett’s 35-yard pass for a touchdown kept the game interesting again at 21-14.
  • Sam Shields last interception of Caleb Hanie sealed the game.

The explosive Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers offense fought the Chicago Bears at Soldiers Field and came out with a 21-7 win. The arrival of Bad (and Injured) Jay Cutler and Bad Todd Collins did not go so well for the Chicago Bears, despite the Bears defense stepping up at times. Good Caleb Hanie brought life to this Bears team, although the last two minutes closed the game for the Bears.  Surprisingly, Good Caleb Hanie had a better quarterback rating at 88.1 compared to Aaron Rodgers 55.4.

Now the Green Bay Packers are off to the Super Bowl against their opponent to be determined later tonight, and the Chicago Bears may have found a starting quarterback for their next season over Jay Cutler. Coach Lovie Smith and the Bears are now regretting not stopping the Green Bay Packers in their last game of the regular season, as the Packers ended theirs in the post-season.

New York Jets vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: AFC Championship Pre-Game Analysis

The New York Jets did the unexpected in the playoffs, and they won against the New England Patriots at Foxboro nonetheless.  However, they will face their own shadow in the shape of the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Both of these defenses have been incredibly stiff in the post-season.  The Jets defense have conquered two elite quarterbacks, Indianapolis Colts Peyton Manning and New England Patriots Tom Brady, in the playoffs.  The Steelers Ben Roethlisberger is below that caliber, but he is physically harder to bring down than either Peyton Manning or Tom Brady.  Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Steelers defense held its own against Joe Flacco, Ray Rice and their rival the Baltimore Ravens.

Now to the pre-game analysis:

Quarterbacks

In the post-season, so far, the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had 226 yards passing, 2 touchdowns and a 101.8 quarterback rating.  He is currently ranked 5th overall in terms of quarterback rating in the post-season. During the regular season, Roethlisberger had 3,200 yards passing, 17 touchdowns, 5 interceptions.  On the other side of the ball, in the post-season so far, the New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez currently has 383 yards passing, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception and a 91.6 quarterback rating.  During the regular season, Sanchez had 3,291 yards passing, 17 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a 75.3 quarterback rating. Roethlisberger and the Steelers get the edge, but both quarterbacks should be harassed constantly in this game. 

Running Backs

The Pittsburgh Steelers Rashard Mendenhall was brutally effective during the regular season. During the regular season, he had 1,273 yards rushing, 13 touchdowns and averaged 3.9 yards per carry.  He was ranked 7th in terms of rushing yardage and 2nd in terms of touchdowns overall in league.  However, he has fallen in the playoffs, as Mendenhall is only ranked 11th in terms of overall rushing yardage at 46, but he currently tied with New York Jets running back LaDanian Tomlinson in terms of touchdowns at 2. The New York Jets tandem of LaDanian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene were not as powerful during the regular season.  During the regular season, LaDanian Tomlinson had 914 yards rushing, 6 touchdowns and averaged 4.2 yards per carry; and his partner Shonn Greene had 766 yards rushing, 2 touchdowns and averaged 4.1 yards per carry. In the off-season, however, both Jets running backs have been surprisingly effective.  LaDanian Tomlinson currently has 125 yards rushing, 2 touchdowns and averaging 4.8 yards per carry. Shonn Greene meanwhile has 146 yards, 1 touchdown and averaging 4.1 yards per carry. Tomlinson is currently ranked 4th in rushing yardage in the post-season while Greene is ranked 2nd.  The New York Jets get the slight edge in this one, but all three running backs will have difficulties establishing themselves.

Wide Receivers

The New York Jets wide receiver tandem of Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery have exploded in the post-season.  Edwards is currently ranked 4th overall in the post-season in receiving yardage at 114, averaging 19.0 yards per reception and 2 touchdowns to his name.  Cotchery is currently ranked 5th overall at 113 receiving yards and 16.1 yards per reception.  During the regular season, Edwards had 904 yards receiving, 7 touchdowns and averaged 17.1 yards per reception; and, Cotchery had 433 yards receiving, 2 touchdowns and averaged 10.6 yards per reception.  On the other side of the ball, the Steelers duo of Mike Wallace and Hines Ward haven’t been making many waves this post-season yet.  During the regular season, however, Mike Wallace had 1,257 yards receiving, 1o touchdowns and averaged 21.0 yards per reception; and he was ranked 5th in terms of receiving yardage overall when the season ended.  His partner Hines Ward had 755 yards, 5 touchdowns and averaged 12.8 yards per reception.  The receiver corps of the Pittsburgh Steelers is a bit more effective ounce per ounce, and they get a slight edge. But the Jets have the more versatile group.

Tight Ends

The New York Jets tight end Dustin Keller has been slightly more effective in the post-season so far. In the post-season, Keller has 57 yards receiving and averaging 9.5 yards per reception. During the regular season, he had 687 receiving yards, 5 touchdowns and averaged 12.5 yards per reception.  On the opposite side of the ball, Steelers tight end Heath Miller currently has 39 receiving yards and averaging 7.8 yards per reception.  During the regular season, Miller had 512 yards, 2 touchdowns and averaged 12.2 yards per reception. Given these numbers, Dustin Keller and the New York Jets get the slight edge.

Defenses

This is the litmus test for both teams — and how they will test their opposing quarterbacks.  Both have had playmakers on their defenses throughout this season so far.  Now they will be put to the test…During the regular season, the stalwart New York Jets defense was 6th against the pass and 3rd against the run, and they were ranked 4th overall in the league. The Jets defense has found playmakers in the off-season.  The Jets David Harris and Eric Smith are both ranked 1st and 2nd at tackles in 21 and 20 respectively.  Jets linebacker Calvin Pace is currently ranked 4th in sacks at 2 in the post-season.  During the regular season, the Pittsburgh Steelers defense was ranked 12th against the pass and 1st against the rush and was 2nd overall in the league.  In the post-season, linebacker James Harrison is 2nd in the league in interceptions at 3, and safety Ryan Clark has had one interception and is currently tied for second. The New York Jets gets the slight edge, as it has conquered two tough opponents in the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts successively.

Coaches/Intangibles

New York Jets coach Rex Ryan had played mind games through talking trash.  When he first performed this tactic against the New England Patriots, his team was destroyed in week 13.  However, in the past divisional game against the New England Patriots, he defeated the New England Patriots with his defense.  Rex Ryan has demonstrated flexibility in using his resources. This past week against the New England Patriots, he used his defense to win the game, and the previous game against the Indianapolis Colts, he used his two running backs LaDanian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene to win the game for him.  On the opposite side of the ball, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin tends to rely on Ben Roethlisberger’s arm more often than not.  He tends to give up on the run easier than Rex Ryan does.  The edge goes to Rex Ryan and the New York Jets because he has faced two elite opponents of past seasons in the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots.  More importantly, he defeated his rival Bill Belichick, and the Patriots defeat has given his team a boost in morale. 

The Edge

The edge goes to the New York Jets 27-24.  The New York Jets balanced approach has paid off in the playoffs, and it should give them the time for the last field goal to win the game.