2012 Pro Bowl Post-Game Analysis

After an interesting emo-pop presentation by Hot Chelle Rae, it’s the NFC’s best against the AFC’s best this season at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii. The Super Bowl lies a week away, but for now, we have got NFL football players playing some glorified backyard flag football.  It’s mildly entertaining, but it’s no Super Bowl.  (With the Pro Bowl scoreboard at http://www.nfl.com seemingly hacked or bugged, it is definitely not the Super Bowl.)

Now to the post-game analysis:

  • After San Francisco 49ers David Akers kicked the ball, Pittsburgh Steelers Ben Roethlisberger‘s drive went into a quick three-and-out for the AFC.
  • With Green Bay Packers Aaron Rodgers at the NFC’s helm, after passes to Atlanta Falcons Tony Gonzalez and Green Bay Packers Greg Jennings, Arizona Cardinals Larry Fitzgerald scores off a 10-yard reception to bring the score to 7-0 with 9:20 in the first quarter.
  • After an onside kick by David Akers and recovered by Chicago Bears Charles Tillman at the AFC 44-yard line, Aaron Rodgers threw a 44-yard pass to Larry Fitzgerald for yet another touchdown to bring the score to 14-0 with 9:14 in the first quarter.  A trick play paid off big for the NFC!
  • After an entertaining series of events involving an interception by Green Bay Packers Clay Matthews and lateral to Chicago Bears Charles Tillman, Ben Roethlisberger launched the ball to Cincinnati Bengals A.J. Green for a 34-yard AFC touchdown to bring the score 14-7 with 7:01 in the first quarter.
  • After a fumble by Philadelphia Eagles LeSean McCoy, Ben Roethlisberger launched the football to Miami Dolphins Brandon Marshall for a 75-yard touchdown reception to tie the game.
  • After a batted-ball recovery by Aaron Rodgers, the NFC drive stalled in the closing minutes of the first quarter.
  • With New Orleans Saints Drew Brees in for the NFC in the second quarter, Brees steadily made it down the field with Larry Fitzgerald and Tony Gonzalez.  Brees capped off the drive with a 1-yard pass to New Orleans Saints Jimmy Graham with 9:47 in the second quarter.
  • On the other side, San Diego Chargers Philip Rivers made it down the field with passes to San Diego Chargers Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates.  He capped off this drive with a 29-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall to tie the game 21-21.
  • After a drive led by several passes to Jimmy Graham, Saints Drew Brees threw a 11-yard touchdown pass to Green Bay Packers Greg Jennings to bring the NFC up 28-21 with 5:22 in the second quarter.
  • AFC’s Philip Rivers answered quickly with passes to San Diego Chargers Vincent Jackson and ultimately finished the drive with a 27-yard touchdown to Antonio Gates with no time left.
  • After the interception of Carolina Panthers Cam Newton, Cincinnati Bengals Andy Dalton steadily moved down the field, but the drive stalled at NFC’s 19-yard line.  Oakland Raiders Sebastian Ganikowski booted a 37-yard field to bring the score 31-28 AFC with 12:23 in the third.
  • With 12:09 in the third quarter, Cam Newton threw a 55-yard touchdown reception to Carolina Panthers Steve Smith to bring the score 35-31 NFC. Cam Newton certainly has the physical assets of a great quarterback for that pass.
  • After another onside kick by David Akers, an interception by Houston Texans Johnathan Joseph and his 26-yard return, Jacksonville Jaguars Maurice Jones-Drew 39-yard rush, the drive ultimately stalled, and NFC is forced to punt.
  • In a split second, Cincinnati Bengals Andy Dalton threw a  47-yard touchdown reception to Brandon Marshall with 3:53 in the third quarter to bring the AFC up 38-35. Marshall had an amazing  juggle catch as he tumbled onto the ground.
  • After the 36-yard return by Pittsburgh Steelers Antonio Brown off the kickoff, Baltimore Ravens fullback Vonta Leach rushed for 1-yard touchdown rush to bring the score 45-35 AFC with 11:40 in the last quarter.
  • Cincinnati Bengals Andy Dalton threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall to bring the AFC up 52-35 with 8:25 left in the game.
  • Denver Broncos Von Miller gets an 8-yard sack on Cam Newton and the first and only in the game with 8:25 in the fourth.   Cam Newton gets his second sack by Von Miller with 6:16 left in the game.
  • NFC’s Cam Newton was intercepted by San Diego Chargers Eric Wheddle with a 29-yard return who lateraled to Kansas City Derek Johnson for a 60-yard touchdown run to bring the score of the AFC up 59-35.
  • Newton’s redemption came in a 36-yard touchdown reception to Larry Fitzgerald to bring the score 59-41 AFC with 2:37 in the last quarter.
  • Saints Drew Brees drop-kick field goal is no good with 2:37 left.

The first half was a match of offenses trading blows through the air.  Pittsburgh Steelers Ben Roethlisberger could not find any rhythm, but Philip Rivers did.  New Orleans Saints Drew Brees played like he usually does and performed well with a 144.3 quarterback rating, only above Green Bay Packers Aaron Rodgers with 140.1 in the Pro Bowl. All of the running backs on either the NFC or AFC side ran very little.

In the second half, the defenses for the NFC and AFC became more relaxed and began playing hard.  Cam Newton certainly began feeling the pressure as he had two sacks by Von Miller and an interception return for a touchdown by Eric Wheddle and Derek Johnson.  To release the pressure, both teams began rushing from running backs and fullbacks.

In this Pro Bowl game, AFC’s Cincinnati Bengal Andy Dalton was the best performing quarterback with a 152.5 quarterback rating with New Orleans Saints Drew Brees as second-best with his 144.3 rating.  The best running back performer was Jacksonville Jaguars Maurice Jones-Drew, and lastly, the best wide receiver of this Pro Bowl was Miami Dolphins Brandon Marshall with his 177 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns.  His four touchdowns broke a Pro Bowl record, and Marshall rightfully deserved the Pro Bowl MVP award.  On the NFC side, Carolina Panthers Cam Newton performed miserably with a 44.8 quarterback rating with 193 passing yards, 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions in a Pro Bowl game nonetheless which means he won’t be getting any MVP awards.

This game was won easily by the AFC 59-41, and this game is the highest scoring Pro Bowl game, not that it means much in light of the regulations.  After this charade of a game, the Super Bowl will be coming with the New York Giants and the New England Patriots meeting at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana.  This will be a Super Bowl rematch with Giants Eli Manning facing the Patriots Tom Brady, and the game should be more entertaining than this Pro Bowl game. Get the pizza, beer and chips ready!

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Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Denver Broncos: AFC Wild Card Playoff Post-Game Analysis

With the first-ranked Pittsburgh Steelers facing the declining cult Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, this game doesn’t look pretty for the Broncos. Eighth-ranked Denver Broncos Willis McGahee might be able to change the face of the game, but he shouldn’t be a significant factor against a dominating defense. However, a hurt Ben Roethlisberger could be a factor for the Pittsburgh Steelers offense and for that matter, the Denver Broncos defense.

Now the post-game analysis:

  • With the Pittsburgh Steelers first drive, they stalled, and kicker Shaun Suisham made the field-goal from 45-yards out at 11:19 in the first quarter to give them the 3-0 lead.
  • With the Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger leaning on his running back Isaac Redman in this series, Shaun Suisham kicked another field goal from 38-yards out at with 27 seconds left in the first quarter to bring the Steelers to a 6-0 lead.
  • Denver Broncos Tim Tebow threw two successive bombs to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and Eddie Royal.  With a 30-yard touchdown pass to Eddie Royal, the Denver Broncos take the lead 7-6 at 13:31 in the second quarter.
  • After a 58-yard bomb to Broncos wideout Demaryius Thomas, the Broncos score again with a 8-yard rushing touchdown by Tim Tebow at 10:41 in the second quarter.  The Broncos upped their score 14-6.
  • At 9:54 in the second quarter, Broncos defensive end Robert Ayers sacked Ben Roethlisberger and aggravated the quarterback’s ankle.  After that incident, Roethlisberger threw an interception to Broncos safety Quinton Carter at the Steelers 27-yard line.
  • After the interception, the Broncos drive stalled at the Pittsburgh 2-yard line.  Broncos kicker Matt Prater kicked an easy 20-yard field to bring the score 17-6.
  • After a 40-yard strike to his tight end Daniel Fells,the drive stalled again at the Pittsburgh’s 10-yard line.  Matt Prater kicked another field goal to bring the score 20-6 at 1:08 until halftime.
  • With a 32-yard pass to Steelers running back Isaac Redman, wideout Mike Wallace rushed in for a 1-yard touchdown at 4:33 in the third quarter.  The Steelers closed the score 20-13.
  • Continuing their drive from the third quarter, Broncos kicker Matt Prater kicked another field goal to bring the score to 23-13 at 13:14 in the fourth quarter.
  • After running back Isaac Redman’s 28-yard rush, Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham kicked for a field goal to bring the score to 23-16 at 10:03 left in the last quarter.
  • At 7:43 in the fourth quarter, Broncos running back Willis McGahee fumbled the ball on Pittsburgh’s 45-yard line. Capitalizing on McGahee’s turnover, Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Jerricho Cotchery 31-yard touchdown reception tied the score 23-23 with 3:56 left in the fourth quarter.

The first half was the battle of defenses as Denver Broncos and the Pittsburgh Steelers brought pressure relatively easily on Ben Roethlisberger and Tim Tebow in the first few series in the first quarter.  However, Tim Tebow relaxed the Steelers defense by throwing bombs to his wideout Demaryius Thomas and other receivers.  Simply put, Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow shredded the thin secondary of the Steelers in the first half.  With the aggravated ankle injury to Steelers Ben Roethlisberger, the Denver Broncos defense sensed it and feasted on the damaged quarterback.  The Steelers burned secondary, the driven Broncos defense and Roethlisberger’s ankle injury culminated in 20-6 Broncos lead into the half.

The second half began with the Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers surging at times. The Pittsburgh Steelers  defense performed well at stopping Tim Tebow’s drives in the redzone, and through sheer will and accurate passing, Ben Roethlisberger willed his Steelers to tie the game with the Denver Broncos.  Steelers running back Isaac Redman did his fair share in this game with 121 rushing yards during regulation.

This playoff game was the first playoff game with non-sudden death regulations established during the tumultuous off-season.  However, in an instant, Denver Broncos scored a 80-yard touchdown from Dimaryius Thomas to win the game 29-23.

Overall, Broncos Tim Tebow performed better than injured Steelers Ben Roethlisberger with his 125.6 quarterback rating on 356 passing yards and 2 touchdowns. Broncos wide receiver Dimaryius Thomas was exceptional as he had 204 receiving yards and a touchdown in this game.

With some Tim Tebow magic in overtime, the Denver Broncos win the Wild Card playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now Tebow will face New England Patriots Tom Brady with his third-ranked quarterback rating at 105.6 and second-ranked quarterback in terms of passing yards with 5,235. At Brady’s side is his wideout Wes Welker who had 1,569 receiving yards during the regular season and ranked second in terms of receiving yardage.  However, Wes Welker is recovering from an injury, and that may hinder Tom Brady slightly in their game against their game against the Denver Broncos.  Tim Tebow better bring some of his magic in the next game as he will face the New England offensive juggernaut.  On the bright side, both the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos defenses are average at best.

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Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Green Bay Packers: Super Bowl XLV Post-Game Analysis

This is one crazy battle of defenses with their stars Green Bay Packers Clay Matthews and Pittsburgh Steelers Troy Palomalu and their balanced offenses with their star wide receivers Green Bay Packers Greg Jennings and Pittsburgh Steelers Mike Wallace for the Super Bowl. Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers is fighting for his Super Bowl ring, and Pittsburgh Steelers Ben Roethlisberger is fighting for his third ring.  It is also the time of millions of dollars spent on a few minutes of commercial time for Super Bowl sponsors.  And lastly, it is the time for Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers and football fans all around the world to enjoy lots of food, soda and alcoholic beverages. (And one final note, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones won’t be presenting the Vince Lombardi Trophy to his team in his stadium unfortunately.  For us Eagles fans and others around the nation, that is something to relish.)

Now to the post-game analysis of Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas:

  • The fumble on the kickoff by Tramon Williams was a close one early first quarter for the Green Bay Packers.  Luckily, the Green Bay Packers recovered the ball.  Otherwise, this would have been a completely different ball game.
  • Donald Driver‘s 24-yard catch from Aaron Rodgers on their first drive in the first quarter was beautiful although the offense sputtered soon afterwards that drive.
  • The Pittsburgh Steelers defense harassed Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers early and often.  James Harrison ultimately caught up with Aaron Rodgers in the third quarter with a sack.
  • Jordy Nelson‘s 29-yard reception from Aaron Rodgers gave the Green Bay Packers at the close of the first quarter their first score of the game 7-0.
  • Green Bay Packers Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins interception of Pittsburgh Steelers Ben Roethlisberger returned for 37 yards and their second score in late first quarter to 14-0.  Wow.
  • Steelers Ben Roethlisberger’s late first quarter 18-yard rush was impressive.
  • Green Bay Packers cornerback Jarrett Bush’s interception in the last few minutes of the second quarter led to Greg Jenning’s 21-yard touchdown to bring the Green Bay Packers 21-3.
  • Ben Roethlisberger targeted Hines Ward for much of the last series of the second half and completed an 8-yard touchdown to bring the score to 21-10 Packers.
  • This was the half of injuries to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers. Green Bay Packers Sam Shields and Charles Woodson left for the locker room for examination before the half.  Unfortunately, Charles Woodson suffered a collarbone injury and would not return.  On the opposite side of the ball, Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders would not return as well.
  • Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was more effective into the half with a 134.6 quarterback rating on 2 touchdowns and 137 yards.  Meanwhile, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was less effective at 58.3 quarterback rating on 2 interceptions, a touchdown and 143 yards passing.
  • Interestingly enough, Green Bay Packers running back James Starks was more effective at 37 yards and 5.3 yards per carry into the half.  On the other hand, Steelers Rashard Mendenhall had 3o yards and 3.8 yards per carry.
  • Black Eyed Peas midnight rave halftime was interesting to say the least. Where’s a clothing malfunction when you need one?  On the bright side, Slash’s awesome guitar shredding  redeemed the show — a little bit. Remind me to gouge my eyes out next time — and not to watch any scheduled halftime shows on the NFL Network with the Black Eyed Peas anytime soon.
  • Early third quarter, the Pittsburgh Steelers relied on the run with the combination of Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman with Mendenhall rushing for a 8-yard touchdown for a 21-17 score.
  • Late third quarter, Steelers Shaun Suisham’s 52-yard field goal miss would have brought the score to within 1 point and was costly for this Super Bowl game.
  • After the recovered fumble of Rashard Mendenhall by linebacker Desmond Bishop on the 36-yard line of the Packers, Aaron Rodgers focused on Jordy Nelson again, but Greg Jennings got an 8-yard pass from Aaron Rodgers to bring the score to 28-17 early fourth quarter.
  • Middle of the fourth quarter, Ben Roethlisberger floated a 25-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace which was beautiful, and the score was brought closer to 28-25 via a successful 2-point conversion from Ben Roethlisberger’s lateral to Antwan Randle El.
  • Steelers coach Mike Tomlin‘s (with Ben Roethlisberger) burning of timeouts in the second half of the game is still about as bad as Andy Reid’s mishandling of challenges (and sometimes timeouts).
  • The 31-yard seam pass to Greg Jennings from Aaron Rodgers was fantastic late in the fourth quarter.  Unfortunately, Rodgers dipped in the pot once too much for Jordy Nelson, and the Packers had to settle for a field goal by Mason Crosby.
  • Green Bay Packers Aaron Rodgers had a stunning 111.5 quarterback rating for the Super Bowl on 3 touchdowns, no interceptions and 304 yards passing.
  • Running backs of both teams were both limited in the Super Bowl. Steelers Rashard Mendenhall had only 63 yards rushing, and Packers James Starks only had 52 yards rushing.
  • The receiving corps of both teams were the stars of the Super Bowl.  The Pittsburgh Steelers duo of Mike Wallace and Hines Ward had 89 yards receiving and 78 yards receiving respectively, and both had a touchdown in this game.  The Green Bay Packers tandem of Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings had 140 yards receiving and 64 yards receiving respectively.  Nelson had a touchdown, but Jennings had two.

This was a game of turnovers recovered by both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay packers defenses and continuously shifting momentum. Green Bay Packers moved the ball well in the first half, but the Pittsburgh Steelers moved the ball better in the second half. In the closing minutes of the game, Ben Roethlisberger attempted a two-minute drill, but he rushed his passes with the Green Bay defense closing upon his receivers. The Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl XLV with the score of 31-25 over the Pittsburgh Steelers.  The Vince Lombardi Trophy is returning to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, and Aaron Rodgers has earned his first Super Bowl ring and a well-deserved Super Bowl MVP (with a brand new Camaro).

Now that the Super Bowl is over, football fans can await the drama of the off-season, including the labor negotiations. If these don’t entertain, I’m sure we can hear from some of the diva wide receivers of the league like Terrell Owens or Chad Ochocinco Johnson tweeting their pressing concerns. We can also look forward to the Arena Football League starting March 11, and this will temporarily satiate the football craving, if the NFL lockout occurs.  And then the playoffs for the NHL will begin soon.  Lastly, the beginning of the NASCAR season starting this week in Daytona with the new rules and the newly paved three-wide racetrack.  All these should be great sporting events to follow.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Green Bay Packers: Super Bowl XLV Pre-Game Analysis

The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers are meeting in Dallas Stadium for the Super Bowl in about a week.  In the meantime, their respective teams can get some rest and perhaps recover some of those who may have been injured in their conference playoff games.  The Pittsburgh Steelers against the New York Jets was a physical game, and the Green Bay Packers against the Chicago Bears was just as physical, if not more.  For the Steelers game, their defense and their running game with Rashard Mendenhall broke the Jets backs.  And for the Green Bay Packers team, their defense and the combination of Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings won their game.

Now to the pre-game analysis of the Super Bowl:

Quarterbacks

Neither quarterback was particularly impressive in their last conference championship game.  The Pittsburgh Steelers Ben Roethlisberger had 133 yards passing, 2 interceptions and a 35.5 quarterback rating against the New York Jets; and, the Green Bay Packers Aaron Rodgers had 244 yards, 2 interceptions and 55.4 quarterback rating against the Chicago Bears. However, in the post-season, Aaron Rodgers is currently ranked 1st in quarterback rating at 109.2 while Ben Roethlisberger is ranked 10th with an overall quarterback rating of 75.5. During the regular season, Aaron Rodgers was similarly more effective than Ben Roethlisberger. Aaron Rodgers had 3,922 yards passing, 28 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and overall quarterback rating of 101.2, which was 3rd overall rating during the regular season.  On the other side of the ball, Ben Roethlisberger had 3,200 yards passing, 17 touchdowns, 5 interceptions and an overall quarterback rating of 97.0, which was 5th overall during the regular season.  Given these statistics, the edge goes to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers by a moderate margin.  As of this time though, Rodgers is battling a sore shoulder during a hit that occurred during his game with the Chicago Bears. It shouldn’t change things though, unless he suffers another concussion.

Running Backs

Pittsburgh Steelers primary running back Rashard Mendenhall went on a tear against the New York Jets, rushing 121 yards, 2 touchdowns and 4.5 yards per carry.  Presently, in the post-season, Mendenhall is ranked 3rd in rushing yardage, has 3 touchdowns and averaging 3.6 yards per attempt.  Mendenhall was equally impressive during the regular season, as he was ranked 7th overall in rushing yardage. He had 1,273 yards rushing, 13 touchdowns and averaged 3.9 yards per carry. His reliever Isaac Redman contributed 247 yards during the regular season and averaged 4.8 yards per carry. On the opposite side of the ball, the previously third option James Starks of the Green Bay Packers has risen in the post-season.  He is currently ranked 1st overall in rushing yardage with 263 yards rushing, a touchdown and averaging 3.8 yards per attempt in the post-season.  During the regular season, however, he had a meager 101 yards rushing and averaged 3.5 yards per carry.  His reliever, now former starter Brandon Jackson, has only 28 yards during the post-season, but he’s become more of a wide receiver during these playoffs. During the regular season, Jackson had 703 yards rushing, 3 touchdowns, averaged 3.7 yards per attempt and ranked 33rd overall.  Rashard Mendenhall and the Pittsburgh Steelers get the edge on this one by a wide margin, if Steelers coach Mike Tomlin sticks with his present gameplan.

Wide Receivers

This is one interesting battle.  Starting with the Pittsburgh Steelers, their receiving duo consists of Mike Wallace and Hines Ward. Mike Wallace of the Steelers was impressive during the regular season, racking up 1,257 yards receiving, 1o touchdowns and averaged 21.0 yards per reception.  He was ranked 5th overall in receiving yardage overall during the regular season, but in the post-season, he hasn’t made an impact yet. Meanwhile, Hines Ward had 755 yards receiving, 5 touchdowns and averaged 12.8 yards per reception.  With the Green Bay Packers, the tandem of Greg Jennings and James Jones were originally the pair to be reckoned with during the regular season, but Jordy Nelson has replaced James Jones as the second wide receiver threat during the playoffs.  Greg Jennings, however, is currently ranked 1st overall in the post-season with 239 yards receiving and averaging 14.1 yards per reception. During the regular season, Jennings was equally impressive.  He had 1,265 receiving yards, 12 touchdowns, averaged 16.6 yards per reception and was ranked 4th overall in receiving yards during the regular season.  Comparatively, during the regular season, James Jones had 679 yards receiving, 5 touchdowns and averaged 13.6 yards per reception, and Jordy Nelson 582 yards, 2 touchdowns and averaged 12.9 yards per reception.  During the post-season, however, Jordy Nelson currently has 146 yards, a touchdown, averaging 12.2 yards per reception and is currently ranked 5th overall in receiving yardage.  Suffice it to say, the Green Bay Packers wide receiving corps is much more of a threat than the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Packers get the edge.

Tight Ends

Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Heath Miller has maintained himself as a consistent threat into the post-season, with 77 yards receiving, a touchdown and is currently ranked 19th overall in receiving yardage.  During the regular season, he had 512 yards receiving, 2 touchdowns and averaged 12.2 yards per reception. On the Green Bay side of the ball, Andrew Quarless or Donald Lee have not been much of a factor during the regular season or the post-season. During the regular season, Quarless had 238 yards receiving, a touchdown and averaged 11.3 yards per reception.  And Lee had 73 yards receiving, 3 touchdowns and averaged 6.6 yards per reception. Heath Miller and the Pittsburgh Steelers get the edge on this one by sufficient margin.

Defenses

Both of these defenses have been the difference maker during nearly all the post-season games that they have played.  During the regular season, the Steelers defense was ranked 12th against the pass, 1st against the run and 2nd overall in the league.  Their playmakers were many.  During the regular season, Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons recorded 135 tackles and was ranked 8th overall. Safety Troy Polamalu recorded 7 interceptions during the regular season and was ranked 3rd overall in the league. To date, Lawrence Timmons has 19 sacks and is 4th overall in the post-season. Linebacker James Harrison of the Pittsburgh Steelers have contributed 3 sacks in the playoffs and is currently ranked 3rd overall. During the regular season, the Green Bay Packers defense was ranked 5th against the pass, 18th against the rush and 5th overall.  Linebacker Clay Matthews was ranked 3rd overall in sacks with 13.5 by the end of the regular season, and cornerback Tramon Williams had 6 interceptions and was ranked 5th overall in interceptions.  Both of these defensive backs have maintained their momentum into the playoffs.  Clay Matthews recorded 3.5 sacks to his name and is ranked 2nd overall currently in sacks.  And Tramon Williams is ranked 1st with 3 interceptions in the post-season with his fellow cornerback Sam Shields who is currently ranked 2nd with 2 interceptions.  In terms of numbers and playmakers, the edge goes to the Green Bay Packers, but should Mike Tomlin retain his gameplan previously, the edge should go the Pittsburgh Steelers in reality.

Coaches/Intangibles

Both of these head coaches have adapted and changed their gameplans accordingly in the playoffs.  Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and Packers coach Mike McCarthy have both relied on the run and the pass when necessary.  The talent though still runs on the side of the Green Bay Packers, although Rashard Mendenhall could possibly be featured again against the Packers.  This remains a push, although the injury to Aaron Rodgers may be a concern in the Super Bowl itself.

The Edge

The edge goes to the Green Bay Packer2 24-20, but this score may be a conservative estimate.  In any case, Aaron Rodgers should find a way to squeak one past the Pittsburgh Steelers stifling defense in the last few minutes of the game.  This game will be hard-fought between these two teams though, and it should be a physical matchup and a mental one between the coaches.

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.

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.

Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: AFC Divisional Post-Game Analysis

After the Winter Classic held at Heinz Field not so long ago, the AFC Divisional Playoffs began with two tough teams — the Pittsburgh Steelers against the incoming Baltimore Ravens. This should be one of the better games into the playoffs, and it certainly did not disappoint.  This was a physical, smash-mouth, in-the-trenches game and an intense rivalry game.

Now to the post-game analysis of the game:

  • Both running backs scored in the first quarter. The Steelers Rashard Mendenhall sc0red the first touchdown for his team and the game mid-first quarter, and the Ravens Ray Rice answered in the close of the first quarter with his 14-yard touchdown.  However, neither rushing game of the Steelers or the Ravens was particularly effective as both running backs were held under 50 yards rushing and shut down.
  • Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin‘s loss of challenges into the half was about as bad as Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid’s mishandling of timeouts. Luckily, the Steelers made adjustments into the half.
  • The fumble that was caused by Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs on Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and picked up by tackle Cory Redding shifted momentum in Ravens favor tremendously. The Steelers offense imploded as the costly errors, turnovers and a missed field goal by Shaun Suisham changed the face of the game.
  • Rashard Mendenhall’s fumble mid-second quarter was costly for the Steelers.  Joe Flacco connected with Todd Heap for a 4-yard touchdown and the Ravens third touchdown of the game.
  • The Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco and the offense switched their focus from tight end Todd Heap in the first quarter to running back Ray Rice in the second quarter. It was an interesting chess game on the Ravens part, and the Steelers couldn’t find an answer for either in the second quarter.
  • Ray Rice’s fumble early third quarter was costly for the Ravens, as it led to a Steelers touchdown from Roethlisberger’s tight end Heath Miller from 9 yards out.
  • Joe Flacco’s interception by Ryan Clark late third quarter was as costly as another Steelers touchdown to Hines Ward for a tie game of 21-21.
  • Terrell Suggs of the Ravens caused great interference in the backfield and tacked a couple of sacks on Ben Roethlisberger. Cory Redding created as much trouble.
  • On the other side, James Harrison of the Steelers caused trouble in the Ravens backfield persistently.

One of the greatest rivalry games and one of the best playoff games of the 2010 playoff season ended with the Pittsburgh Steelers winning 31-24 at their home field. The Steelers fans did their part, and the stalwart defense did theirs. This was a game of penalties, turnovers, sacks, mental errors and team tackling. The Steelers are off into the AFC Championship game, and let the rally towels fly for now.  Their next opponent, the New England Patriots, given current odds, won’t go down any easier.

Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: AFC Divisional Pre-Game Analysis

The Baltimore Ravens capitalized on the mistakes of the Kansas City Chiefs and won the wild card game 30-7. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco improved into the post-season, and the Ravens defense lit up the Kansas City Chiefs offense by sacking Matt Cassel three times and forcing five turnovers.

This is a rematch of the week 4 matchup during the regular season in which the Baltimore Ravens won 17-14 and a week 13 rematch in which the Pittsburgh Steelers won 13-10.  Now to the pre-game analysis of this rubber-band match:

Quarterbacks

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco had 3,622 yards passing, 25 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a respectable 93.6 rating during the regular season.  On the other side of the ball, Steelers Ben Roethlisberger had 3,200 yards passing, 17 touchdowns, 5 interceptions and a 97.0 quarterback rating.  Both are going to have difficult times ahead in this game, but Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers get the very slight edge on pure numbers.

Wide Receivers

The Ravens wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason had a compiled total of 1,639 yards receiving, 14 touchdowns and averaged 13.1 yards per reception during the regular season.  On the other hand, Mike Wallace of the Steelers had 1,257 yards receiving, 1o touchdowns and averaged 21.0 yards per reception.  He was ranked 5th overall in terms of receiving yards and 3rd overall in terms of touchdowns in the league by season’s end. Opposite of him, Hines  Ward had 755 yards receiving, 5 touchdowns and averaged 12.8 yards per reception.  The Steelers get the edge overall, with the power of Mike Wallace. 

Running Backs

The Ravens will have to rely on both Ray Rice and Willis McGahee in this matchup. During the regular season, Ravens Ray Rice had 1,220 yards rushing, 5 touchdowns and averaged 4.0 yards per carry. He was ranked 10th in terms of total overall rushing yardage.  On the other hand, his partner Willis McGahee had 350 yards rushing, 5 touchdowns and averaged 3.8 yards per carry.  On the opposite side of the ball, Pittsburgh Steelers Rashard Mendenhall had 1,273 yards rushing, 13 touchdowns and averaged 3.9 yards per carry. He was ranked 7th overall in terms of rushing yardage but he was ranked 2nd in terms of rushing touchdowns. His reliever Isaac Redman had 247 yards and averaged 4.8 yards per carry.  Rashard Mendenhall and the Steelers get the significant edge.

Tight Ends

This is going to be one of the most interesting battles.  The Baltimore Ravens Todd Heap had 599 yards receiving, 5 touchdowns and averaged 15.0 yards per reception.  During the post-season so far, he has 108 yards receiving and averaged 10.8 yards per reception.  On the other hand, the Pittsburgh Steelers Heath Miller had 512 yards receiving, 2 touchdowns and averaged 12.2 yards per reception.  The Ravens get the edge in this one as Heap is leaned on far more.

Defenses

This is going to be one heck of a trench battle.  The Ravens defense was ranked 21st against the pass and 5th against the rush during the regular season.  Their star linebacker Ray Lewis had 139 tackles and was ranked 6th during the regular season.  Lewis did tack on one more tackle during the post-season.  Most notably, however, their cornerback Ed Reed led the league with 8 interceptions by season’s end.  Both are forces to be reckoned with. The Steelers defense was ranked 12th against the pass and 1st against the rush during the regular season.  Their star Troy Polamalu was 3rd in interceptions overall with 7 by the season’s close. The Ravens defense was ranked 10th overall during the regular season whereas the Steelers defense was ranked 2nd. The Steelers defense gets the edge by a moderate margin, although Ed Reed and Ray Lewis can be gamechangers.

Coaches/Intangibles

Coach Mike Tomlin of the Steelers has been inconsistent with his coaching at times during this season, relying on Ben Roethlisberger too much instead of their running back Rashard Mendenhall to win games.  But he’s been favoring Mendenhall a bit more during the regular season.  Coach John Harbaugh has been relying more on the pass with Joe Flacco recently, although a bit more balanced with Ray Rice and Willis McGahee being used to tire defenses out.  Unfortunately, John Harbaugh has never won against Ben Roethlisberger.  The Steelers get the edge in this one, although the win last week should boost the Ravens morale.

The Edge

By numbers alone, the Steelers should get the significant edge with a score of 27-17, but numbers haven’t proven themselves against this matchup.  Realistically, I imagine it to be close again with the Steelers get a slight edge over the Ravens 20-17.

Pittsburgh Steelers’ Hines Ward Made Valid Points Concerning NFL and Its Regulations

With the labor lockout looming within a few months, Pittsburgh Steelers‘ leading wide receiver Hines Ward makes some valid points concerning the NFL and its current policies.

First, concerning the addition of two more games, he stated that it is contradictory to the stricter enforcement of NFL hitting regulations.  He is correct about that,and these two additional games will definitely affect the longevity of his 13-year career in the NFL and the rest of the NFL players, particularly the veterans of the game.

Second, he stated that there has been confusion regarding what is or is not considered a legal hit.  This confusion has definitely affected the Pittsburgh Steelers, and most recently, the game against the Oakland Raiders where it seemed like every other play included some penalty. His teammate linebacker James Harrison was fined $25,000 for roughing Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick last Sunday, and Harrison feels that he is targeted by the NFL referees for any particular hit. For someone who has been fined more than $100,000 this season, he has a justifiable reason to believe that he is targeted.

Next, Ward made a valid statement that the regulations are not distributed fairly.  If a rough hit is upon Indianapolis ColtsPeyton Manning or New England Patriots’ Tom Brady, the player or players will be immediately fined.  But when the Steelers quarterback Ben Rothlisberger appeared to be intentionally injured by Buffalo Bills’ Arthur Moats and Marcus Stroud after being sacked last Sunday, neither player was penalized during the game or fined thereafter. It is a bit contradictory on the league’s part.

Lastly, he mentioned how the NFL endorses gambling and drinking in its commercials, yet NFL players can’t partake in either. From a players’ perspective, it’s understandable in that the organization which he plays in doesn’t permit the things they are endorsing, it is contradictory.  But from an organizational perspective, it is a business that is run by money and other businesses.  The alcohol and gambling businesses are two of those major businesses.

Hines Ward made reasonable arguments against the NFL, but whether his arguments will be effective in the upcoming bargaining agreement or create public endorsement, we will have to wait and see.