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.

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NFL and the NFLPA Mediation Countdown: Lockout Day+6, Or The Charades Continue

Now it’s Friday, and nearly a week after the NFL team owners have declared the lockout and the NFLPA has undergone decertification.  With both parties at a standstill, the NFL players have undertaken to strike back on their own without the union’s assistance against the team owners.  From one of their initial volleys against the team owners, the disbanded NFLPA decided first to hold the top incoming draftees from attending the NFL Draft proper with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, but they decided that they might hold an “alternative event” which NLFPA executive director DeMaurice Smith might shake their hands instead. Whether the NFL Draft is held with Commissioner Roger Goodell or NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith is irrelevant at this point, it is still a show and now a show with a political move behind it.

In a vain attempt to acquiesce the NFL players, the NFL proposed suspensions for illegal hits.  Additionally, they proposed moving the kickoff 5 yards to the 35 and touchbacks to the 25.  This is a meager attempt to satisfy the players, much less the public.

In other news, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco took out on his own to participate in Major League Soccer tryouts for Sporting Kansas City.  At best, he might actually have a chance of doing well and might be a diva for another sport.  At worst, he’ll warm the benches of this soccer team while real soccer players play.

And in more of the other news, Minnesota Vikings Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson commented that the NFL is  a form of modern slavery to Yahoo! Sports.  Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall defended him via Twitter.  Both of these running backs received some attacks from the general public and the media, but this is nothing more than mere charade, mere show.  The absurdity of it got the attention of the press, which served Peterson’s purpose, but it’s nothing more than a mindless shouting in order to get attention. It still doesn’t resolve the issue that the NFL work stoppage is still in effect over finances.

At this point in the juncture, it appears that sports fans will have to settle for the MLB regular season opening in the next couple of weeks, the upcoming NHL playoffs and at present, the spectacular NCAA March Madness has already begun.  President Barack Obama has not yet intervened on NFL’s behalf as of yet.  But the longer the work stoppage draws out, it might eventually draw Obama out of the shelter of the White House.  If Obama doesn’t do public relations himself, surely another government agency might intervene at some point, especially when summer comes to a close. Until then, we wait for the rich team owners and players fight childishly amongst themselves, much like the rich college colleagues constantly argued among themselves for nearly the entire movie The Social Network without the awkward presence of Jesse Eisenberg as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

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.

Fantasy Football Running Back Quick Picks for NFL Week 16

These Six Must-Starts are, in force, for the fantasy football Super Bowls, but the last two carry caveats:

Now to the rest of the players:

Jonathan Stewart (Carolina Panthers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers): Solid RB2.

Felix Jones/Tashard Choice/Marion Barber (Dallas Cowboys vs. Arizona Cardinals): Solid RB2s.

Ray Rice (Baltimore Ravens vs. Cleveland Browns): Solid RB1. Should have a solid day against this 25th-ranked rushing defense.

LaDanian Tomlinson (New York Jets vs. Chicago Bears): Low-end RB2.

Matt Forte (Chicago vs. New York): Low-end RB2.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis (New England Patriots vs. Buffalo Bills): High-end RB1.

Fred Jackson (Buffalo vs. New England): Solid RB2.

Anthony Dixon/Brian Westbrook (San Francisco 49ers vs. St. Louis Rams): Solid RB2 options.

Steven Jackson (St. Louis Rams vs. San Francisco): Solid RB1.

Javhid Best/Maurice Morris (Detroit Lions vs. Miami Dolphins): Low-end RB2.

Jamaal Charles/Thomas Jones (Kansas City Chiefs vs. Tennessee Titans): Charles is a mid to high-end RB1, but Thomas is a low-end RB2.

Knoshown Moreno/Lance Ball (Denver Broncos vs. Houston Texans): RB1.

Mike Tolbert/Ryan Mathews (San Diego Chargers vs. Cincinnati Bengals): Low-end RB1.

Cedric Benson (Cincinnati vs. San Diego): Low-end RB2.

Donald Brown (Indianapolis Colts vs. Oakland Raiders): Low-end RB2.

Marshawn Lynch (Seattle Seahawks vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers): Potential RB1, but aim for solid RB2.

LeGarrette Blount (Tampa Bay vs. Seattle): Low-end RB1/high-end RB2.

LeSean McCoy (Philadelphia Eagles vs. Minnesota Vikings): Solid RB1. This might be a game where he gets more rushing yardage than Michael Vick. Maybe.

Pierre Thomas/Reggie Bush (New Orleans Saints vs. Atlanta Falcons): Solid RB2.

Michael Turner (Atlanta vs. New Orleans): Solid RB1.

Ryan Torain (Washington Redskins vs. Jacksonville Jaguars): Low-end RB1.

Maurice Jones-Drew (Jacksonville vs. Washington): Low-end RB1.

Fantasy Football Running Back Quick Picks for NFL Week 14

The Must-Starts are, as follows, but the last two require some caveats attached:

  • Arian Foster of the Houston Texans
  • Peyton Hillis of the Cleveland Browns
  • Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings
  • Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens
  • Rashard Mendenhall of the Pittsburgh Steelers. With injuries to the offensive line, he’s been in decline and falling into RB2 status, with lesser amount of touches.
  • Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans. With the Titans offense in flux, he is the only safe and relatively dependable start, but his value has been decreasing and falling into RB2 status, with lesser amount of touches and yardage gained.

Now to the rest of this week’s schedule:

Donald Brown/Mike Hart (Indianapolis Colts vs. Tennessee Titans): RB3 or flex, at best, even against this inconsistent defense.

Matt Forte (Chicago vs. New England): Low-end RB2.

Darren McFadden (Oakland Raiders vs. Jacksonville Jaguars): Solid RB2.

Maurice Jones-Drew (Jacksonville vs. Oakland): Solid RB1.

LeGarrette Blount (Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Washington Redskins): High-end RB2.

Keiland Williams/James Davis (Washington vs. Tampa Bay): High-end RB2.

Michael Turner (Atlanta Falcons vs. Carolina Panthers): High-end RB1.

Jonathan Stewart (Carolina vs. Atlanta): High-end RB2.

Darren McFadden (Oakland Raiders vs. Jacksonville Jaguars): High-end RB2, but the Raiders offense and defense has been unpredictable.

Maurice Jones-Drew (Jacksonville vs. Oakland): Solid RB1.

Marshawn Lynch (Seattle Seahawks vs. San Francisco 49ers): Solid RB2, based on last week’s performance, but I would still hold my breath.

Brian Westbrook (San Francisco vs. Seattle): Solid RB2.

Steven Jackson (St. Louis Rams vs. New Orleans Saints): Solid RB2.

Chris Ivory (New Orleans vs. St. Louis): Low-end RB1.

Ronnie Brown/Ricky Williams (Miami Dolphins vs. New York Jets): RB3s.

LaDanian Tomlinson (New York vs. Miami): Low-end RB2.

Knoshown Moreno (Denver Broncos vs. Arizona Cardinals): Solid RB1, the only consistent part of this offense ironically enough.

Tim Hightower (Arizona vs. Denver): High-end RB2.

Jamaal Charles (Kansas City Chiefs vs. San Diego Chargers): RB2.

Mike Tolbert (San Diego vs. Kansas City): RB2.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis (New England Patriots vs. Chicago Bears): High-end RB2.

Matt Forte (Chicago vs. New England): High-end RB2.

LeSean McCoy (Philadelphia Eagles vs. Dallas Cowboys): Low-end RB1.

Tashard Choice/ Felix Jones (Dallas vs. Philadelphia):  Solid RB2s, if the Cowboys decide to focus on the running game to keep the game out of the Jon Kitna’s hands.

Fantasy Football Running Back Quick Picks for NFL Week 10

I will reiterate these are Must-Starts, or The Big Five:

I know Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis had a big weekend last week against the New England Patriots.  In the same vein, Patriots running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a dismal showing but should have had Hillis’ numbers against the Browns defense. For the most part, the Big Five have been relatively consistent, so you can trust these guys.

Now onto another crazy week in the NFL:

Ray Rice/Willis McGahee (Baltimore Ravens vs. Atlanta Falcons): Rice has potential RB1 status. McGahee is a solid RB2 in my opinion.

Michael Turner (Atlanta vs. Baltimore): Low-end RB1/high-end RB2.

Matt Forte (Chicago Bears vs. Minnesota Vikings): Potential RB1 status, as always, but falls into a RB3 or flex status always.

Peyton Hillis (Cleveland Browns vs. New York Jets): Low-end RB1. After the embarrassment of the New England Patriots, the Jets defense will stiffen a little.

DeAngelo Williams (Carolina Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers): RB3 or flex.

Ronnie Brown/Ricky Williams (Miami Dolphins vs. Tennessee Titans): RB3 or flex.

Jamaal Charles (Kansas City Chiefs vs. Denver Broncos): RB1. But this could potentially turn into a passing affair. Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and Broncos wide receiver Brandon Lloyd could be in for one heck of a game.

Cedric Benson (Cincinnati Bengals vs. Indianapolis Colts): Could potentially have a big game, but realistically, count him as RB2.

Donald Brown (Indianapolis vs. Cincinnati): Could potentially have a big game, but again, he’s a low-end RB2 or RB3.

Javhid Best/Kevin Smith (Detroit Lions vs. Buffalo Bills): Should potentially have a big game for both, but play conservative as RB2.

Fred Jackson (Buffalo vs. Detroit): Should potentially have a big game, but play conservative again as RB2.

Maurice Jones-Drew (Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Houston Texans): RB3 so far.

Marion Barber/Felix Jones (Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants): Seriously? The Cowboys should be more worried about Jon Kitna getting knocked out and added to the Giants list of quarterback KOs.

Ahmad Bradshaw (New York vs. Dallas): Play him if you got him. This should be a good outing for him.

Steven Jackson (St. Louis Rams vs. San Francisco 49ers): Low-end RB1 against one of the surprising stiffer defenses.

Frank Gore (San Francisco vs. St. Louis): Tough. RB2.

Marshawn Lynch/Justin Forsett (Seattle Seahawks vs. Arizona Cardinals): Should be a breakout game, but don’t count on it. Forsett still has the higher upside, based on pure talent not on touches.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis/Danny Woodhead (New England Patriots vs. Pittsburgh Steelers): Tough. RB2, maybe RB3, considering the showing last week.

LeSean McCoy (Philadelphia Eagles vs. Washington Redskins): Low-end RB1. The potential for Michael Vick to rush again in this matchup may hurt this running back’s stats.

Ryan Torain/Clinton Portis (Washington vs. Philadelphia): Low-end RB2s.