Saturday, January 14, 2012

Round 2: Fight (Divisional Playoff Preview)

After a relatively un-wild Wildcard Weekend (save for Denver's OT thriller), it's time to move on to the divisional round. If we learned anything from last weeks games, it's the importance of turnovers. Houston moved on thanks to J.J. Watt's fancy pick-6 as well as Cincy dropping a surefire one of their own. 14 point swing. New Orleans "blew-out" the Lions in a game that would have been a whole closer if Detroit had caught any of the 6 interceptions that came their way. And of course the Giants D help the Falcons offense scoreless when Matt Ryan executed two 4th and 1 QB sneaks exactly how you would expect a player from B.C. to, resulting in two pseudo turnovers. Take care of the ball, and get touchdowns in the red zone, not field goals. That is my wisdom for you this weekend.


Denver @ New England (Sat - 8:00pm)

Can the Pats finally get over the hump, or will they lose a 3rd straight home playoff game? Hard to believe there would ever be a possibility of that happening, but that is what's on the line when Tebow and Company come to town. The Pats beat Denver pretty handily in Week 15, but it wasn't as pretty as the final score looked. Denver rushed for 160+ in the FIRST QUARTER until the Pats D stiffed for the rest of the game - but lets not forget that Denver lost Willis McGahee for the remainder of the game at the end of the 1st (although NE was without Chung and Spikes). Denver also gifted the Pats fumbles on two straight possessions, followed by a muffed punt that New England recovered. As much as I would love for that to happen again, I don't see it.

The proven formula for beating the Pats over the past few seasons has been getting pressure on Brady without bringing extra pass rushers and making him uncomfortable in the pocket. Can Denver get to Brady without blitzing? New England handled Dumerville and Von Miller pretty well in the first meeting (save for Elvis's one monster sack of Tom), so here's hoping for the same success. Look for Denver to take some shots down the field against the suspect Pats pass D just like they did against Pitt last week. Will they be able to connect on any of these or draw any pass interference calls? We shall see. It should be a fun one, look for me amongst the frozen fans.

New England 34 - Denver 17

Houston @ Baltimore (Sun - 1:00pm)
At first glance, this one has the look of a blowout. A rookie QB on the road at one of the toughest stadiums to play, going up against a dominating defense. TJ Yates looked serviceable against Cincy last week, but Cincy ain't no B-mo'. Houston relies so much on their dominant run game, which is all well and good except when you're facing Haloti Ngata & Co.. For all the hype that Ray Ray and Suggs get, Ngata is the best player on that defense - and probably the best d-lineman in the NFL. And of course there is Ed Reed.

The only cause for hesitation is that you could take everything I just wrote above and flip it to Baltimore and have it be (pretty) true. Flacco isn't a rookie, but I have about as much faith as him as I do in Yates. They're also extremely dependent running game and are facing one of the leagues best defenses. Ok, so I guess I trust Flacco a littttle more than Yates, and Houston doesn't have Ngata or Ed Reed, but Wade Phillips has that D playing like they do. At the end of the day, I don't see Yates being able to produce enough in order for Houston to pull the upset.

Baltimore 24 - Houston 17


New Orleans @ San Fran (Sat - 4:30pm)
The most intriguing game of the weekend. The Saints have looked unstoppable over the past 2 months, but have yet to prove they can beat a good opponent outdoors. The 9ers are the surprise team of 2012 - but how do we know they're for real? Alex Smith hasn't eclipsed the 300 yard passing mark this season - will they be able to keep pace with Drew Brees? Will the Saints offense be able to show any balance by running the ball against the NFL's most stout run D? And the 9ers pass D is no pushover either. The one is a battle of old school "defense wins championships" NFL vs. new school "every QB in the league set a franchise passing record this season" NFL. It should be exciting to watch, something I'll be trying to figure out how to do from a freezing parking lot in Foxboro.

New Orleans 27 - San Francisco 13

NY Giants @ Green Bay (Sun - 4:30pm)
Now how the hell do I pick in this one? After what I wrote last week about the Giants, followed by the tragic news out of Green Bay this week, this game has all the making of an upset special. But everyone seems to be hopping on that bandwagon, which usually means it's not going to happen. What to do, what to do? The Packers have been the leagues best team all season, and were one game away from us being in the midst of a barrage of 19-0 talk. The Giants gave them a hell of a test in the regular season, and have been known for knocking off juggernauts in recent seasons. I think the return of Greg Jennings, A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop should be enough to keep the Pack from stumbling.

Green Bay 31 - NY Giants 20

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