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.
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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…

New York Giants vs. Green Bay Packers: NFC Divisional Playoff Post-Game Analysis

The New York Giants have won their last three games successively against the New York Jets, the Dallas Cowboys and the Atlanta Falcons.  They won their wild card game against the Falcons handsomely 24-2, but this isn’t the Falcons at Lambeau Field.  It is the Green Bay Packers with the first-ranked quarterback Aaron Rodgers during the regular season in terms of quarterback rating with 122.5.  The Giants ringer will have to be their spectacular wideout Victor Cruz who was ranked third in reception yards with 1,536 during the regular season.  Cruz will have to give one of his best performances this season to contend.  Will Eli Manning bring his 2007 magic to this game?  (I think we can forget Tim Tebow’s magic after yesterday’s rout by the New England Patriots.)  Or will the Green Bay Packers offensive juggernaut decimate their defense?

Now to the post-game analysis:

  • After the New York Giants methodically moved down the field with Eli Manning at their helm, their series was halted as the Green Bay Packers defense locked down.  A 31-yard field goal by the Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes brings the score to 3-0 Giants with 8:37 in the first quarter.
  • After Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers torched the zone coverage of the Giants, he could not make a touchdown as the Giants defense clinched down.  Their kicker Mason Crosby kicked a 47-yard field goal to tie the game 3-3 with 5:38 in the first.
  • Eli Manning threw a dart to his wideout Hakeem Nicks for a 66-yard touchdown reception with 4 minutes left in the first quarter.   Nicks broke a tackle, and the Giants take the lead again 10-3.
  • After a short punt by Lawrence Tynes to the Green Bay 40-yard line and a (controversial)  fumble challenge overturned, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers torched the zone coverage yet again.   He tossed an easy 8-yard touchdown reception to his fullback John Kuhn to tie the game 10-10 at the beginning of the second quarter.
  • After a stunning onside kick by the Green Bay Packers and recovery by the New York Giants, kicker Lawrence Tynes field-goal is blocked at Green Bay’s 21-yard line with 12:37 in the second.
  • After an interception of Eli Manning by Packers safety Morgan Burnett and a Giants fumble recovery of Packers John Kuhn on the Packers 43-yard line, Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes kicked a 23-yard field goal as the series stalled at the Packers 5-yard line with 1:56 left until halftime.
  • After a Hail Mary from Green Bay Packers 37-yard line with 6 seconds left, Hakeem Nicks caught the ball for a touchdown and brings the Giants score to 20-10.  That was an amazing catch!
  • After a 7-yard sack-fumble by Aaron Rodgers recovered by Giants safety Deon Grant at the Giants 3o-yard line, Eli Manning and his Giants stalled and forced to punt.
  • After the 12 and 29-yard rush by Packers running back James Starks, the Packers drive stalled the Giants 17-yard line, and Mason Crosby kicked a 35-yard field goal to bring the score to 20-13 with 3:55 left in third quarter.
  • Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers gets sacked for a 6-yard loss by linebacker Michael Boley and defensive end Osi Umenyiora on a 4th and 5 from Giants 39-yard line early fourth quarter.
  • Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes boot a field goal from the Packers 17-yard line to bring the score to 23-13 with 7:53 left in the game.
  • The Giants recovered the football from Packers running back Ryan Grant at the Packers 4-yard line.  Immediately, Eli Manning passed a 4-yard touchdown to his wideout Mario Manningham with 6:53 left in the game. The Giants are up 30-13.
  • After a 16-yard rush by Aaron Rodgers and controversial roughing-the-passer call on Osi Umenyiora, Rodgers threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to his wide receiver Donald Driver with 4:52 in the game. The Packers close the score 30-20.
  • With an onside recovery by the Giants Victor Cruz and a 24-yard rush by Ahmad Bradshaw, Brandon Jacobs sealed the game with a 14-yard touchdown rush to bring the score of 37-20 with 2:44 left in the game.
  • With one last gasp from Packers Aaron Rodgers, he was intercepted by Deon Grant at the Packers 36-yard line with 1:56 left on the clock.

The first half was the half of defenses.  Neither the Green Bay Packers or the New York Giants would break, but they both shown that they can bend.  Giants quarterback Eli Manning demonstrated that he could keep up with the Packers Aaron Rodgers.  Again, like with the previous divisional playoff games, the running game was stymied for both teams although it affected the Giants more.  The Giants had a meager 37 total yards rushing into the half.  The shining star into the half was Giants wideout Hakeem Nicks with 152 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns.  Lastly, the referees were giving both teams trouble as they were giving contradictory signals — again.

The second half was the tale of the New York Giants defense.  Michael Boley and Osi Umenyiora caused trouble in the backfield and pressured Aaron Rodgers persistently and consistently. The fumble recoveries by Deon Grant and Chase Blackburn critically changed the face of the game toward the Giants favor.  The Packers receivers dropping the ball, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy questionable play calls (at times) and Giants onside recoveries helped them more.  Giants coach Tom Coughlin’s old-school conservative game-plan worked well against one of the better offenses in the league and won the game 37-20.

The New York Giants will face the similarly defensive-minded Jim Harbaugh’s San Francisco 49ers next in the NFC Championship game.  The New York Giants red-hot defense and the San Francisco consistent defense will come head-to-head, and both defenses can change the face of the game easily.  Both Alex Smith and Eli Manning have their work cut out for them.  In the meantime, it looks like Aaron Rodgers will continue doing more State Farm commercials with B.J. Raji and Clay Matthews in his spare time not in the playoffs. Or not.

F.Y.I.:

Denver Broncos vs. New England Patriots: AFC Divisional Playoff Post-Game Analysis

The miracle of Denver Broncos Tim Tebow will be put to the test against the New England Patriots third-ranked quarterback Tom Brady in terms of quarterback rating.  On top of that, the Denver Broncos defense will have to contend with two of the best in terms of passing yardage during the regular season with Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker ranked second with 1,569 receiving yards and tight end Rob Gronkowski ranked sixth with 1,327 receiving yards.  Playing at Gillette Stadium won’t do Tim Tebow any favors  as the fans of Foxboro will do anything to unsettle the young Tim Tebow.  The miracle of Tim Tebow will have to overcome these odds and tip the scales.  Can it happen? Yes.  Will it happen? Not if coach Bill Belichick will have anything to say about it.

Now to the post-game analysis:

  • The New England Patriots veteran quarterback Tom Brady struck fast as he threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to his wideout Wes Welker with 13:14 into the first quarter.
  • With the fumble by Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow on Denver’s 17-yard line, Patriots Tom Brady immediately capitalized on the turnover with a 10-yard touchdown reception by his tight end Rob Gronkowski.  The Patriots lead 14-0 over the Denver Broncos with 7:17 in the first quarter.
  • Capitalizing on the interception on Tom Brady by safety Quinton Carter, the Denver Broncos running back Willis McGahee pounded the ball from 5-yard touchdown run and bring the game to 14-7 at the beginning of the second quarter.
  • Methodically moving down the field with the rushes of tight end Aaron Hernandez, running backs Danny Woodhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Tom Brady threw a touchdown reception to Rob Gronkowski again with 7:49 in the second quarter to bring the score to 21-7.
  • With 2:06 in the second quarter, Patriots Deion Branch scored on a 61-yard reception to up the lead 28-7.
  • Yet another touchdown reception by Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski from 19 yards out with 10 seconds left until halftime.  Tom Brady tied an NFL record with his five touchdowns in a half of a postseason game.
  • With a half-field to play, Patriots Tom Brady threw a 17-yard touchdown reception to his tight end Aaron Hernandez to bring the score to 42-7 with 11:53 in the third quarter.  Brady broke a postseason record with his six touchdowns and the Patriots 42 points in a postseason game. This is beyond amazing.
  • With 2:19 in the third quarter, Broncos kicker Matt Prater kicked a 41-yard field goal to bring the score to 42-10.
  • On the Denver’s 2-yard line, Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski boot an easy 2o-yard field goal with 12:44 in the fourth quarter.
  • After a 41-yard pass to Broncos wideout Dimaryius Thomas, the Patriots defense locked down and locked on Tim Tebow, and the Broncos failed to score.  Kind of sad. Really.
  • After a 3rd and 10 punt by Tom Brady, a hardy scuffle between the Patriots and the Broncos occurred with 3:10 left in the game.  The frustration of the Denver Broncos defense ignited the scuffle, and it didn’t look pretty.

The New England Patriots defense contained Broncos Tim Tebow and forced him to be a pocket quarterback in the first half.  However, this is not Tebow’s element as he was forced to rely on his running back Willis McGahee to release pressure again. Willis McGahee produced sufficiently with 68 yards and a touchdown, but the Patriots had a ringer in their tight end Aaron Hernandez.  Hernandez nearly produced as much yardage on the ground with 58 yards — and he also had 29 receiving yards in the first half.

The second half continued with the dominance of the New England Patriots over the hapless Tim Tebow and his Denver Broncos.  Broncos coach John Fox could not stop the bleeding with quarterback Tim Tebow forced to throw deep.  Tim Tebow never developed as a pocket passer either with the Denver Broncos or the Florida Gators, and in this kind of situation, it was difficult to come back from.  The constant pressure of the Patriots defense didn’t help much either. The game ended finally with a 45-10 Patriots win.

Tom Brady and his New England Patriots will have to face either the Houston Texans or the Baltimore Ravens.  Either team have elite running backs in Texans Arian Foster or the Ravens Ray Rice who were ranked fifth and second respectively in terms of rushing yardage during the regular season.  Lastly and more critically, the Patriots will face the second or third-ranked overall defense during the regular season which should be intriguing either way.

New Orleans Saints vs. San Francisco 49ers: NFC Divisional Playoff Post-Game Analysis

This is a game of juggernauts — San Francisco 49ers fourth-ranked defense against the first-ranked quarterback in the 2011 postseason and second-ranked quarterback in terms of quarterback rating during  the regular season, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.  The New Orleans Saints, however, will have deal with sixth-ranked running back in total rushing yardage during the regular season, the 49ers Frank Gore and an improved Alex Smith under their new head coach Jim Harbaugh.  On the Saints side, however, we have head coach Sean Payton, the River City gambler on their 2009 path to the Super Bowl championship and in this year as well. To bring more class to this playoff game, Huey Lewis and the News sang the national anthem prior to the start of the game at Candlestick Park.

Now to the post-game analysis:

  • First series of Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints was quenched by Pierre Thomas’ fumble at the San Francisco 2-yard line at 8:57 into the first quarter.  The San Francisco 49ers demonstrated that their defense can bend but not break even under one of the potent offenses, but the Saints have demonstrated they can move down the field with relative ease.
  • The San Francisco 49ers defense finally hit paydirt as Drew Brees was sacked for a 11-yard loss by linebacker Aldon Smith at 3:29 in the first quarter.
  • With that, 49ers Alex Smith bomb one to his tight end Vernon Davis for a stunning 49-yard touchdown at 2:17 in the first quarter.  The 49ers take the lead 7-0, and Candlestick Park goes crazy.
  • Capitalizing on 49ers interception on Drew Brees by safety Dashon Goldson, Alex Smith spears one to his wide receiver Michael Crabtree from 4 yards out to lead the game 14-0.
  • With the Saints wideout Courtney Roby fumble on a kickoff return, San Francisco 49ers kicker David Akers booted an easy field goal to bring the lead yet again 17-0 at 14:17 in the second quarter.
  • After nearly a fourth — and fifth turnover, Drew Brees tossed a touchdown to tight end Jimmy Graham from 14 yards out at 9:37 in the second quarter.  The New Orleans Saints bring the score to 17-7.  The New Orleans Saints definitely needed this score to bring their confidence up after their prior three turnovers, including Drew Brees interception.
  • With 4:16 left in the second quarter, New Orleans Saints wideout Marques Colston gets a 25-yard touchdown to bring the score to 17-14.   Yet another Saints comeback after another slow start…well, almost…
  • Drew Brees gets another interception by the 49ers defense by cornerback Tarell Brown at the two minute warning.  Luckily, the 49ers could not capitalize on this turnover.
  • Yet another Saints turnover in the beginning of the second half…running back Darren Sproles fumbled on the New Orleans Saints 22-yard line.  The 49ers David Akers kicked an easy 41-yard field goal to bring their score up 20-14 at 10:39 in the third quarter.
  • After some interchange in the third quarter between the New Orleans Saints and the San Francisco 49ers, Saints kicker John Kasay kicked a field goal to bring the score within three at 13:13 in the fourth quarter.
  • After San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore broke for 42-yard run, kicker David Akers kicked yet another field goal to bring the score to  23-17 with 7:40 left in the game.
  • With a pass from Drew Brees, running back Darren Sproles broke through the secondary for a 44-yard touchdown and helped brought Saints the lead 24-23 with 4:11 left on the clock.
  • A surprising 28-yard quarterback rush by San Francisco 49ers Alex Smith with 2:18 on the clock.  Simply amazing.
  • Yet another amazing play as Drew Brees threw a 66-yard touchdown bomb to his tight end Jimmy Graham to bring the carry the lead 32-29 with 1:48 left in the game.
  • Another intense play as 49ers Alex Smith threw a 49-yard pass to his tight end Vernon Davis with 40 seconds left on the clock.  To top it off, Alex Smith threw a 14-yard touchdown reception to Vernon Davis to bring the score and the game win of 36-32 with 14 seconds left in the game.

The first half was one of turnovers for the New Orleans Saints with two fumbles and two interceptions.  However, through the in-game adjustments by their head coach Sean Payton, the Saints made a comeback to 17-14.  The San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh brought their fourth-ranked defense overall to this playoff game.  Interestingly, none of the running backs on either side could establish rhythm as San Francisco 49ers dominant running back Frank Gore had only 32 rushing yards and the New Orleans Saints running backs Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory had a combination of 14 total rushing yards in this half.

The second half was a chess game as both offenses and defenses had problems establishing rhythm.  However, it was not until late third quarter through mid-fourth quarter, things starting getting interesting.  Field goals and touchdowns started happening.  With both quarterbacks relying on their tight ends to score touchdowns to contest the lead within the final few minutes of the game, San Francisco 49ers overcame the New Orleans Saints offensive juggernaut.

Now Alex Smith, their stellar running back Frank Gore, their clutch tight end Vernon Davis and their fourth-ranked defense will await their next opponent in the NFC Championship game.  Whether it’s the New York Giants or the Green Bay Packers, they will be tested, and they passed this test — barely.

NFC Wild Card Playoffs: Top 10 Things We Learned

The NFC Wild Card weekend was a grandiose display of offenses.  Quarterback Drew Brees and his New Orleans Saints thumped the Detroit Lions 45-28.  The Lions could not handle the unadulterated offensive firepower of the Saints.  On the other side, the New York Giants Eli Manning played exceptionally well against the stifled Atlanta Falcons.  The Giants won handsomely 24-2 over the Falcons with the Atlanta Falcons unable to generate any significant offense.

Here are the top 10 things we learned about the NFC Wild Card playoffs:

  1. Atlanta Falcons Coach Mike Smith and the Playoffs Don’t Mix. Three playoff losses from his 2008 season is beginning to sound like a trend.  On the bright side (or not), the Atlanta Falcons has become the Philadelphia Eagles of the South.
  2. New Orleans Saints Drew Brees is the Man. Saints quarterback Drew Brees was spectacular as he had 466 passing yards, touchdowns and a 134.4 quarterback rating in his game against the Detroit Lions.  Currently, he’s the top quarterback in both rating and passing yards in the playoffs, and he’s the man to beat.
  3. Atlanta Falcons Need to Work on Their Fourth-and-Inches.  It does not bode well when a team can’t get inches to a first down.  Seriously.
  4. Who Needs Peyton Manning When We Have Eli?  Giants quarterback Eli Manning performed admirably against the hapless Atlanta Falcons.  He had 277 passing yards, 3 touchdowns and a 129.3 quarterback rating, second only to Drew Brees in the playoffs.
  5. The Running Back Tandem of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw are Dangerous. Running backs Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw are ranked third and fifth respectively in the playoffs in terms of rushing yardage.
  6. Detroit Lions Wideout Calvin Johnson is Megatron.  With 211 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns in his game against the New Orleans Saints, Calvin Johnson still remains the beast.  Now he’s just a beast without the playoffs…
  7. Detroit Lions Quarterback Matthew Stafford Performed Well Despite the Loss.  Despite his two interceptions, Matthew Stafford performed well with a 97.0 quarterback rating in his game against the New Orleans Saints.
  8. The New York Giants Receiving Corps Are a Threat. Giants wideouts Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham are passing threats, and just in time…
  9. The New Orleans Saints Receiving Corps Are a Threat. The New Orleans Saints receiving corps of Marques Colston, Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem should make the San Francisco 49ers defense shake in their boots.
  10. The Running Back Tandem of Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas Are Dangerous. Not only do the Saints have weapons in the air, they have weapons on the ground in Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas.  Both are capable of breaking tackles, and both assist this high-powered offense.

The New Orleans Saints top-ranked offense will come head-to-head with San Francisco 49ers fourth-ranked defense. It will be harder for Drew Brees and company to overcome, but nothing a little Orleans magic won’t cure. Meanwhile, the New York Giants have a tougher hill to climb as they are facing Aaron Rodgers and his Green Bay Packers. With the top-ranked Aaron Rodgers in terms of quarterback rating of 122.5, his 45 passing touchdowns and his third-ranked offense during the regular season, can the New York Giants beat this Goliath?  It’s going to be bare-knuckle fight, that’s for certain.

AFC Wild Card Playoffs: Top 10 Things We Learned

What an exciting AFC Wild Card weekend! Quarterback T.J. Yates and running back Arian Foster of the Houston Texans thumped the Cincinnati Bengals 31-10.  And the thriller with the Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers…Steelers coach Mike Tomlin could have never predicted the Denver Broncos would have posed a problem as Tim Tebow was almost considered bench material.  Tebow struck, when it counted, in overtime with the 80-yard bomb to his wideout Dimaryius Thomas and won the game 29-23.

And to sum it up, the 10 things we learned from the AFC Wild Card playoffs:

  1. Don’t Underestimate Denver Broncos coach John Fox. He spotted the weakness of the Steelers, their thinned secondary, and exploited it.  He let Tim Tebow go after rushing wasn’t successful with either Tim Tebow or their running back Willis McGahee.
  2. Don’t Underestimate Tim Tebow’s Magic. Tim Tebow’s magic came back when it counted — in the playoffs.  Dimaryius Thomas helped him greatly. (The New England Patriots won’t make it that easy even with their porous defense.)
  3. Houston Texans Running Back Arian Foster is Still The Man. No doubt Arian Foster helped the Texans win as he had 153 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns in the game.  His presence was felt, and he will be in their next game against the Baltimore Ravens.  A tale of two running backs in this divisional game, you bet.
  4. A Hobbled Ben Roethlisberger Didn’t Help the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Not just his mobility was off, but his accuracy was off as he had throw over the linebackers of the Denver Broncos even without the help of Brian Dawkins.
  5. Steelers Running Back Isaac Redman May Be in Line for the Starting Job.  Although not quite as strong as Rashard Mendenhall, he has the agility to break tackles.  Mendenhall may be looking in the mirror pretty soon.
  6. Broncos Wideout Dimaryius Thomas is Dangerous.  He was the savior for Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos.  Tebow would have benched for Brady Quinn if it wasn’t for Thomas’ awesome performance of 204 yards and a touchdown in his game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
  7. Pittsburgh Steelers Number One Defense Counted for Nothing. Having the best defense in the league counts for little if they can get burned for long yardage.
  8. Texans Quarterback T.J. Yates Did Satisfactory in the Playoff Environment. He’s no Matt Schaub, but he has a future with the Houston Texans as their future quarterback.  If not there, then definitely somewhere else.
  9. Cincinnati Bengals Quarterback Andy Dalton Has Some Growing Pains. Dalton still needs some more experience in the NFL.  He has the talent and composure to succeed in the league, but he needs time.  He needs to learn that frustration does not breed success.  Ask Peyton Manning in his difficult games.
  10. Charles Barkley Shouldn’t Do NFL Halftime Shows. Ever. Seriously.  He shouldn’t.

Now Tom Brady and his New England Patriots will face the revived Tim Tebow and his Denver Broncos.  Can Tebow bring the magic or will he fall to the tactics of Bill Belichick?  Two potent running backs, Baltimore Ravens Ray Rice and Houston Texans Arian Foster, will face each other to decide who is the better running back.  Don’t underestimate the underdog in this match; as it won’t be the size of the dog in this fight as much as the sheer will.

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.

What I Learned This Divisional Playoff Weekend

The upsets keep on continuing of this wild season of football.  Each game had its own merits but the Seahawks destruction by the Chicago Bears was not pretty.  Here’s what I learned this divisional playoff weekend:

  • Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers is on fire into the playoffs.  He has maintained a 100+ quarterback rating so far through both games against the Atlanta Falcons and the Philadelphia Eagles.
  • The Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers game had to be the best game of the four.
  • Two of the top defenses in the league, the Steelers and the Jets, will be battling it out next weekend.  It will be interesting to see which quarterback will collapse first — Ben Roethlisberger or Mark Sanchez?
  • Not to repeat myself, but two of the top defenses in the league, the Packers and the Bears, will be battling it out next weekend.  Who will collapse first — Aaron Rodgers or (Good) Jay Cutler?
  • The New York Jets defense held against both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.  Amazing.
  • Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch could not catch lightning in a bottle twice.  Chicago Bears defense held him to 2 yards total rushing.
  • The Good Jay Cutler showed up in his game against the Seahawks, but whether that quarterback will show up against the Packers, that will remain to be seen.
  • All the running backs were held under 100 yards rushing in all four divisional playoff games.
  • The 102-yard punt return by Atlanta Falcons Eric Weems was spectacular, although his team could not stop the potent offense of the Packers.
  • This is the season of the defenses, unlike past years where the New England Patriots, the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts battled for top dog status with their offenses.
  • Both number 1 seeds of the playoffs, the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons, lost this weekend! I am amazed by this result, especially from the Patriots.

Now we wait for next week’s conference games with the New York Jets facing the Pittsburgh Steelers for the AFC Championship game, and the Green Bay Packers facing their rival Chicago Bears for the NFC Championship game.  Both games should be good in their own right, but each of these games will test their respective quarterbacks as these defenses in each of these teams are stiff and unforgiving.

New York Jets vs. New England Patriots: AFC Divisional Post-Game Analysis

This was the game between the best quarterback in the league this season, the New England Patriots Tom Brady, with against one of the better defenses in the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro.  The odds favored the Patriots coming into this game, and it should be interesting whether the Jets can turn the odds on its head, like the Seattle Seahawks did against the New Orleans Saints. This game should determine whether the talk from Jets coach Rex Ryan can be put into practice, and this game should determine whether Patriots coach Bill Belichick can counter and bring the Patriots into the AFC Championship game.

Now to the post-game analysis:

  • The interception caught by Jets linebacker David Harris from Tom Brady returned for 58 yards early first quarter was not costly at all, as it was limited by the Patriots defense and the missed field goal by Nick Folk. Surprising on all three accounts, from the interception to the missed field goal.
  • The Jets defense brought it to Tom Brady throughout this game.  Between Jets Drew Coleman and Shaun Ellis, the offensive line for the Patriots was being exposed consistently as Brady kept on being being harassed.
  • Surprisingly, Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez performed better than Patriots quarterback Tom Brady into the half. Sanchez had 120.1 quarterback rating on 101 yards passing and 2 touchdowns while Brady had 50.9 rating on 99 yards passing and 1 interception.
  • Both running backs of the Patriots BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead were both held under 50 yards rushing.
  • Wide receiver of the Jets Jerricho Cotchery had a 100 yard game.
  • The 2-yard pass to Alge Crumpler from Tom Brady and the two-point conversion from Sammy Morris from the end of the third quarter changed the complexion of the Patriots offense that had been mostly quiet since the first quarter.
  • Late fourth quarter, Tom Brady’s incompletion on 4th and 13 to Deion Branch shifted the momentum in the Jets favor, but the stop by the Patriots defense and the 41-yard return by Julian Edelman returned the momentum back in Patriots favor for a moment.  But the Jets defense held the Patriots to only a field goal.
  • The onside kick retrieved by Antonio Cromartie sealed the game for the New York Jets with two minutes left in the game by setting up the 16-yard run by Shonn Greene for a touchdown.

The New York Jets won against the New England Patriots 28-21 at Foxboro nonetheless to go into the AFC Championship game, and they had beaten the odds.  Jets coach Rex Ryan stuck with his word and beaten his rival Bill Belichick.  The Jets defense had proven itself, as it stifled both Indianapolis Colts Peyton Manning and the New England Patriots Tom Brady.  Now they will face the Pittsburgh Steelers, and this should be a battle of the defenses.  It should be a physical and down-in-the-trenches kind of game.