Pro Bowl 2012: Reeling the Regulations and Needed Changes

With the Pro Bowl 2012 over, the Pro Bowl in of itself needs several changes.  Although I realize that the NFL does not want any of the players hurt, it does not mean they should play glorified flag football for the fans.  The fans paid hard money in this depressing economy, and they deserve the players to actually show up for the game.  Unfortunately, the NFL players got most of the fans’ hard earned money for this charade of a game.

Here’s my list of approved changes to the Pro Bowl in 2013:

  • Make tackling relevant.  The NFL All-Stars on defense showed up for a reason — to tackle.  Illegal tackling, such as horse-collar tackles and spearing, should be avoided, but everything else should be legal.
  • Tight End Formation. Having a tight end on each down is good, but the tight ends should participate more as blockers and tacklers like they do during the regular season.
  • Needs More Twists.  Seriously, the linebackers need to allow to twist.
  • Needs More Gadget Plays.  As gimmicky as this sounds, the NFC and the AFC for the 2012 Pro Bowl did this well.  At least, the  coaches were allowed to reinvent the wheel and experiment.  Hopefully, this opens up more varied tactics during the upcoming regular season.
  • Running Backs Need to Rush More. As inclined as say the New England Patriots Tom Brady and New Orleans Saints Drew Brees might be to pass instead, running backs need to be on display again.  They barely showed up in the first half of the 2012 Pro Bowl.
  • Needs More Touchdown Celebrations.  The referees should withhold their excessive celebration flags and allow the players to use props and celebrate however way they like when they score a touchdown.
  • Cornerbacks and Safeties Should Play Hard on Coverage.  They should be permitted to close down the breathing room of wide receivers like they do during the regular season.
  • Overload Blitzes Should be Permitted. C’mon, dude.  The defense should allow overload blitzes more often to sack the quarterback.  With the quarterbacks this elite in the Pro Bowl, they should be permitted to manhandle the offensive line like they do during the regular season.

These are my suggestions for the next Pro Bowl.  With that, it might make the game more exciting to watch.  Although high offensive scoring might appease some of the crowd, it does not appeal to fans who actually watch football instead of being an armchair quarterback.

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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 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.

Detroit Lions Quarterback Matthew Stafford: 2011 Year in Review and 2012 Fantasy Football Outlook

2011 Year in Review

The Detroit Lions had a great run this 2011 regular season, but the Lions could not contend with the dominating weapons of the New Orleans Saints offense and the great vision of their quarterback Drew Brees.  However, we are not here to talk about Drew Brees but to talk about the Lions veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford broke several records this season.  With his 5,000+ passing yards this season, he joined the company of New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and New England Patriots quarterback  Tom Brady.  This is impressive, given some of the tougher games he had in the 2011 regular season.  And with his 41 touchdowns this regular season, he’s in the company of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.  Lastly, he was ranked fifth overall during the regular season in terms of quarterback rating with a 97.2.  He has matured and progressed since joining the Detroit Lions in 2009.

Matthew Stafford started out strong during the regular season with his first game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  In this game, he had a 118.9 quarterback rating on a whopping 305 passing yards, 3 touchdowns and an interception.  He kept a 110+ quarterback through his next two games against the Kansas City Chiefs and Minnesota Vikings, but he slowly declined until his game with the Denver Broncos in week 8.  With the Lions defense harassing the Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow,  it was up to Matthew Stafford to ignite the offense, and he did such.  He passed for 267 yards, 3 touchdowns, no interceptions and a 130.8 quarterback rating. The next game was his worst game as he faced Chicago Bears Brian Urlacher and the tough defense.  Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford had 329 passing yards, 1 touchdown, 4 interceptions and a dismal 46.3 quarterback rating.  In Stafford’s following game against the Carolina Panthers, it was an offensive shootout as the Lions won 49-35.  Stafford’s statistics benefited from this shootout as he had 335 passing yards, 5 touchdowns, 2 interceptions and a 121.9 quarterback rating.  He had great last four games with ratings of 103+ against the Minnesota Vikings, the Oakland Raiders, the San Diego Chargers and the Green Bay Packers.  Stafford had his best games the regular season against the San Diego Chargers.  In that game, with a dominating win of 38-10, he had 373 passing yards, 3 touchdowns and a stellar 137.6 quarterback rating.  All in all, Stafford had a fantastic season with ten games with at least 100+ quarterback rating.

2012 Fantasy Football Outlook

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has matured this season, and with Lions wideout Calvin Johnson at his side, he should be able to produce near those numbers this upcoming season.  However, he has demonstrated that he has difficulties with tougher defenses.  With the Lions entering the playoffs, one can expect the upcoming schedule to be tougher than this upcoming season.  He should still be capable of producing QB1 numbers, but I expect that he should become a low-end QB1 much of the 2012 regular season.  Stafford should be easily picked up within the first two rounds of the upcoming fantasy football draft, and I would heavily recommend picking him up if you can’t pick up New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees or Green Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

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.

Detroit Lions vs. New Orleans Saints: NFC Wild Card Playoff Post-Game Analysis

This is a game of dominating quarterbacks with second-ranked New Orleans Drew Brees against fifth-ranked Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions. While Stafford has the awesome Calvin Johnson as his wide receiver, Drew Brees has pocket presence and the pair of Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston. Both are potent wide receivers in their own right.  With record-breaking Saints quarterback Drew Brees playing at home in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, this is going to be a tough game for Matt Stafford and his Detroit Lions.

Now to the post-game analysis:

  • With 12:26 in the first quarter, Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford drove down the field easily and throws a1 10-yard touchdown pass to his tight end Will Heller.
  • New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees answers back. Unfortunately, his wide receiver Marques Colston fumbles on the Detroit’s 18 yard-line and linebacker Justin Durant recovers with 8:24 in the first quarter.
  • The running game begins to pick up for the New Orleans Saints as running backs Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles both break for significant yardage near the end of the first quarter.
  • Saints running back New Orleans Saints Darren Sproles runs for a 2-yard touchdown to tie the game 7-7 with 14:06 in the second quarter.
  • Detroit Lions Matthew Stafford moves down the field again and with a 13-yard touchdown pass to his elite wideout Calvin Johnson to gain the lead 14-7 with 9:18 left in the second quarter.
  • Saints quarterback Drew Brees had the football knocked out by defensive end William Young and recovered by him on Detroit’s 38 yard line at 5:39 in the second quarter.  With the whistle by a referee on the field, Young was unable to gain any yardage (although through analysis of the real-time events on that entire play, Saints should have gotten the ball back.)  Luckily, the Saints put a stop to the Lions offense, and the Lions failed to capitalize on the turnover.
  • Saints wide receiver Marques Colston almost ties the game with a touchdown from his quarterback Drew Brees, but he did not maintain possession of the football with 21 seconds left until halftime.  With time as Brees’ enemy and failed touchdown passes, Saints had to rely on a field goal by kicker John Kasay to bring the score 14-10 Lions.
  • Saints Drew Brees strikes down the field with a 41-yard touchdown pass to wideout Devery Henderson to lead 17-14 with 13:17 left in the third quarter.
  • Saints Marques Colston gets a first down at 9:27  in the third quarter after receiving a 11-yard pass from Drew Brees although he received the ball quite short of the first-down marker.
  • After marching down the field with relative ease, Saints quarterback Drew Brees tosses a short 3-yard touchdown to Jimmy Graham to extend the lead 24-14 with 4:07 left in the third quarter.
  • Detroit Lions Matthew Stafford answers with an astonishing 42-yard pass to Calvin Johnson to the Saints 2-yard line.  Stafford himself rushes for a touchdown to bring the score to 24-21 Saints with 1:16 left in the third.
  • Saints running back Darren Sproles gets a rushing touchdown from 17-yards out at 9:58 left in the fourth quarter.  The hole was huge and an easy scamper for Sproles as he extends the score 31-21 Saints.
  • Saints wideout Robert Meachem scores on a 56-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees to bring the score to 38-21 with 7:39 in the last quarter.
  • Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson answers with a 12-yard touchdown from Matt Stafford to close the score 38-28 Saints with 4:45 left on the clock.
  • The Saints recover the onside kick at 4:39, and almost instantly, quarterback Drew Brees throws a 41-yard bomb to Robert Meacham to bring them to the Detroit’s 1-yard line.  Saints running back Pierre Thomas finishes with a 1-yard touchdown and elevate the score to 45-28.
  • Detroit Lions Matthew Stafford’s pass to Nate Burleson was intercepted by cornerback Jabari Greer with 3:13 left in the game. The game was pretty much sealed at that point, if it wasn’t earlier.

The first half was a Thrilla in the Superdome as both offenses moved up and down with ease, exchanging blows.  Whereas the Detroit Lions moved quickly down the field passing, like the agility of Muhammad Ali, the New Orleans Saints relied on the run, pounding and grounding (even through receptions from their running backs and fullback)  like the late, great Joe Frazier.  The New Orleans quickness cost them two fumbles however as the second quarter drew to a close. Not helping either team through the first half, the referees were giving contradictory flags and signals.

After baiting the Detroit Lions with the run in the first half, the New Orleans Saints combined the run with the pass.  Saints wideout Marques Colston became marquee as the field opened up.  Like the first half, the referees weren’t doing any favors as they were giving contradictory flags and signals.  At one point, there was a beneficial first down given to the Marques Colston of the Saints despite him tackled at least a yard short of it.

This NFC Wildcard playoff game was indeed a battle of the quarterbacks in this game, and both teams relied on their powerful offensive weapons. Saints Drew Brees had a phenomenal night with 466 passing yards, 3 touchdowns and a 134.4 quarterback rating.  The Lions Matthew Stafford didn’t too bad either with his 380 passing yards, 3 touchdowns, 2 interceptions and a 97.0 quarterback rating. His wideout Calvin Johnson was as advertised tonight with 211 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns, but Megatron could not overcome the Optimus Prime of Drew Brees. His fellow Autobots Pierre Thomas, Marques Colston and Robert Meachem was too much for the Lions to handle.  The New Orleans won the game assuredly with a score of 45-28.

The New Orleans Saints will face the dominant fourth-ranked defense of the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Divisional playoff game at Candlestick Park.  However, the Saints have not faced tough defenses through much of the regular season with the exception of the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars early on.  In both of those games, however, the New Orleans won handsomely by at least 10 points.  San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith will have to rely on his wits and weapons as he will have to overcome the overwhelming offensive weapons of the New Orleans Saints.  In the meantime, Detroit Lions wideout Calvin Johnson will be doing his pumping on his bench at home.  Matthew Stafford had a great run, but the vision of Drew Brees and the potency of his available weapons was just too much.

The Philadelphia Eagles Without a Defensive Coordinator: Without a Heir on Andy Reid’s Head

Well, Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid and his family have finished their week of vacation time, and the Philadelphia Eagles have run out of publicly known candidates for the defensive coordinator position.  Sean McDermott, the Eagles former defensive coordinator, was recently fired and just as quickly hired by new head coach Ron Rivera and the Carolina Panthers.  Although the Eagles defense hasn’t been the caliber it once has under the late Jim Johnson, the defense remained 12th overall from last season.  It wasn’t great, but it was respectable.

Now Dennis Allen, the former assistant defensive line coach of the New Orleans Saints since 2006, has chosen to go become defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos and passed on the Philadelphia Eagles position. He will be joining former Carolina Panthers head coach John Fox with John Elway as vice president of football operations. Professionally, these potential Eagles defensive coordinators have already been taken and were pursued aggressively by other teams.  But it’s not the Eagles lack of urgency that is really disturbing in hindsight.

The most important question remains why all of these potential candidates have turned down the open position.  Or to put it another way, why have these potential candidates not aggressively pursue the open position?  That remains some food for thought  — and maybe a bitter pill to swallow.  Now the Eagles may have to potentially choose candidates among perhaps the New York Jets, the Green Bay Packers or the Pittsburgh Steelers.  At this point, I don’t see these teams willing to part with their defensive coaches or coordinators so easily.  The loss of the late Jim Johnson has impacted this team a year and a half later and has left this team now without a heir to his throne.

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.

Seattle Seahawks vs. Chicago Bears: NFC Divisional Pre-Game Analysis

The Seattle Seahawks, the Cinderella team of this playoff season, conquered the New Orleans Saints in the wild card playoffs, but this time, they face a different opponent.  Whereas the New Orleans Saints defense could be battered by the Seahawk’s Marshawn Lynch, the Chicago Bears defense with Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs won’t be that easy.  However, the Good and the Bad Jay Cutler could pose interesting results, as well as the Good and Bad Matt Hasselbeck with Charlie Whitehurst peeking over his shoulder.

Quarterbacks

During the regular season, Chicago Bears Jay Cutler had 3,274 yards passing, 23 touchdowns, 16 interceptions and a 86.3 quarterback rating.  However, he’s a bit sporadic, sometimes doing better against the better defenses and sometimes doing a whole lot worse.  The Seattle Seahawks Matt Hasselbeck had 3,001 yards passing, 12 touchdowns, 17 interceptions and a decrepit 73.2 quarterback rating during the regular season.  However, he improved significantly against the New Orleans Saints with 272 yards passing, 4 touchdowns, 1 interception and a 113.0 quarterback rating.  However, this is a push right now, depending on which Cutler and Hasselbeck decide to show up, with the Seahawks gaining the slight edge due to their win over the Saints previously.  Hasselbeck’s morale should be high going against this defense but…

Wide Receivers

The Seattle Seahawks wide receivers Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu had a compiled total of 1,245 yards receiving, 6 touchdowns and averaged 14.0 yards per reception between the both of them during the regular season.  In the post-season, Mike Williams is currently ranked 7th with 68 yards and a touchdown to his name. On the other hand, the Bears receiver Johnny Knox had 960 yards receiving, 5 touchdowns and averaged 18.8 yards per reception during the regular season. His partner Earl Bennett had 561 yards receiving, 3 touchdowns and averaged 12.2 yards per reception.  Additionally, the Bears have their last and most dangerous weapon, Matt Forte, who has 547 yards, 3 touchdowns and averaged 10.7 yards per reception.  The Bears get the edge with their variety of weapons at their disposal.

Running Backs

Intriguing setup given how Marshawn Lynch of the Seahawks detonated against the Saints last game, but Seattle had problems stopping the run, as they ranked 21st during the regular season.  The Seattle Seahawks Marshawn Lynch had 737 yards rushing, 6 touchdowns and averaged 3.6 yards per carry during the regular season.  He was ranked 28th during the regular season, but he is currently ranked 1st in the post-season.  On the other hand, Matt Forte of the Bears had 1,069 yards rushing, 6 touchdowns and averaged 4.5 yards per reception.  He was ranked 15th in terms of rushing yardage, far better than Marshawn Lynch.  The Bears get the edge in this one, as Forte is more of a more effective running back than Lynch.

Tight Ends

The Seahawks tight end John Carlson had 318 yards, 1 touchdown and averaged 10.3 yards per reception during the regular season.  In the post-season game against the New Orleans Saints, he had 17 yards, 2 touchdowns and averaged 5.7 yards per reception. On the other side of the ball, the Bears tight end Greg Olsen has 404 yards, 5 touchdowns and averaged 9.9 yards per reception.   Both tight ends should be leaned on this game, but given the Bears rush ability, John Carlson and the Seahawks get the edge.

Defenses

During the regular season, the Seattle Seahawks defense was ranked 27th against the pass, 21st against the rush and overall, 27th in the league. On the other hand, the Chicago Bears defense was ranked 2oth against the pass, 2nd against the run and 9th overall.  Dominating Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher was 11th in terms of tackles overall with 125, and both Bears cornerback Charles Tillman and safety Chris Harris were ranked 10th in interceptions overall with 5 each.  However, going in Seattle’s favor is that they did upset the New Orleans defense that was ranked 4th during the regular season. It’s hard to imagine lightning striking twice for this Cinderella team, but anything is possible this season.  By the numbers, the Chicago Bears dominate the edge in terms of talent and statistics, but the Seahawks have shown they can disrupt that.

Coaches/Intangibles

Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has shown that he is capable of leashing a potent offensive attack, but whether he can keep it up against the Chicago Bears defense, that remains to be seen.  Considering how the defense contained Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers much of their last regular season game, it does not bode well for Matt Hasselbeck nor the Seahawks offense this time around. Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith has relied on the traditional Bears game — grind the ball with the running back Matt Forte and hit them hard with the defense led by Brian Urlacher.  Lovie Smith and the Bears get a moderate edge in terms of weapons available to him, but for both coaches, it depends on which quarterback decides to show up.  Both quarterbacks have been less than impressive generally the regular season.

The Edge

The edge goes to the Chicago Bears 21-10 by the numbers.   This should become a ground-based, in-the-trenches kind of game.  However, week 6 has shown that whoever has the best ground game can win this.  In that week of the regular season, Justin Forsett of the Seahawks dominated the game, but this is a different Chicago Bears team that hasn’t become as pass-happy as before.  Realistically, it could potentially be a fairly close game again, similar to week 6: 20-17 Bears.