Wednesday, January 11, 2012
NFL Postseason Week 2: The Divisional Round
So with the Wildcard weekend come and gone, there are now only eight teams fighting for the biggest championship in professional football. Before we get to this upcoming weekend's games, lets take a quick recap of last weekend's games. As it turned out, the game I picked to be the most boring of the four games wound up being the most exiting. Tim Tebow did what I never thought he could do, and threw the ball for over 300 yards, and led the Denver Broncos to an overtime win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, something that I would have bet all my money would never happen. The next most interesting game last weekend was the game I predicted to be the first. New Orleans and Detroit turned out to be what I said, a high offense, low defense game. There's no other way to describe it. New Orleans won the game 45-28. The 3rd most interesting game was Houston and Cincinnati. This game was over quickly with Houston blowing out the Bengals 31-10. The only reason that the game wasn't the most boring is because the New York Giants and Atlanta game had a Falcons team that could only score two points on a safety. The offense couldn't do anything that I thought they could do. So last week I predicted a .500 average, not exactly what I was hoping for, but I imagine a better average this week. With that being said, let's get to the four games this weekend ranked from most interesting to most boring.
1.) Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens (-7.5)
Sunday 1:00 PM
The reason that this game is the most interesting to me is because I see these teams as very very similar. They are ranked #2 and #3 in the AFC, they both rely strongly on the run game offensively, and they are always neck-and-neck for team statistics during the regular season. For overall offense, Houston was ranked #13 while Baltimore was #15. For overall defense, Houston was only one spot ahead of Baltimore and both were in the top 3 with Houston having the second best defense in the league and Baltimore having the third. As far as the passing game goes, both teams struggled offensively. Houston was in the middle of the pack at #18 at passing the ball with Baltimore right behind them at #19. Defensively is a whole different story. Once again the Texans are ranked #2 and the Ravens are ranked #3 in stopping the ball through the air. The running game is what will separate these teams. Offensively, Houston is ranked #2 in the league on the ground with a running back like Arian Foster. Baltimore, however, was ranked only 10th in the league, and that with a running back as great as Ray Rice. Rice ranked second in the league for individual rushing, while Foster was fifth, meaning that Rice can take the load himself, while Foster had help running the ball. Defensively these two teams are once again at the top of the list, which Baltimore having the second best run defense in the league with Houston having the fourth. With these two teams having such similar teams, it will be very difficult to make an honest prediction. It may come right down to the venue, with a team like Houston that plays in the warm weather traveling up to a cold Baltimore when the East Coast is supposed to be getting a winter storm. With all that being said, I see a very toughly fought game with a lot of rushing yards for both teams, but the cold weather and Ray Rice's individual performance I think will be the deciding factor, and it's more the weather than Rice being better than Foster, because Foster had such a great week last week.
Official Prediction: Baltimore Ravens win 24-21.
2.) (-3.5) New Orleans Saints vs. San Fransisco 49ers
Saturday 4:30 PM
After the offensive onslaught that the Saints had last week, it is hard to say that this game wont be interesting, especially because of the different styles of both teams. New Orleans is a team that moves through the air, with the number one passing offense in the NFL, compared to San Fransisco's #29 passing offense. New Orleans also has a formidable running offense, with the 6th best running offense to San-Fran's #8. But what can't be denied is San Fransisco's run defense being the best in the NFL. But what will be difficult is stopping the new record holder for passing yards in a single season with only the 16th best pass defense. I think that the 49ers will come out early and often with a run attack, but will be met by the Saints defense. Meanwhile, the New Orleans will turn to their "Saint" Drew Brees to pick apart that defense. So despite the game being in San Fransisco, I have to agree with the current line that New Orleans will win, but I don't see it being as close as the Las Vegas odds currently have it. I see Brees having another great game like he did last week and leading his team to the NFC Championship game.
Official Prediction: New Orleans Saints win 38 - 24
3.) Denver Broncos vs. New England Patriots (-13.5)
Now there are a few reasons that this game will be interesting. Denver is coming off a game in which their "leader" did what so many people criticized him for and threw the ball, and he threw it for 316 yards. And against a defense like the Pittsburgh Steelers. Also, recent history is not on the Patriots side. New England has not won a Playoff game since the AFC Championship in January 2008 (that's right, the 18-1 year....). And last season they were in a similar place with having the #1 seed in the AFC and hosting a team, the New York Jets, who they had destroyed the previous time they played. But the Jets came in and outplayed and outcoached the Patriots from the first quarter until the last. So there are definitely some story lines here that make this game interesting. But the reason that it does not seem interesting is really one thing: Tom Brady and the 2nd best passing team in the league up against the #16 pass defense in the Broncos. Now I will admit this: the Patriots defense is a joke. Overall, they are ranked second to worst in the NFL, and the worst in the AFC. But Denver has the worst passing offense in the NFL, but the best running offense. While the Pat's run defense is still second to worst in the NFL and worst in the AFC, their running defense is a bit better at #17, but still not good by any stretch. What this game comes down to is can Tim Tebow take advantage of this poor pass defense and succeed like he did last week. If Tebow can have a game as good as last week, I would be nervous if I was a Pat's fan (which I am!). However, I still don't see the Broncos coming into New England and beating the Patriots after the Pats traveled to Denver and beat them 41-23. I just see Tom Brady being able to pick apart the Denver defense better than Tim Tebow picking apart the Pat's offense. This will be a high scoring game for both teams, and it will be closer than Vegas is giving it credit for, but I still see the Patriots coming out on top, and that is not as a fan, it is as an unbiased NFL analyst.
Official Prediction: New England Patriots win 35-28
4.) New York Giants vs. Green Bay Packers (-7.5)
Sunday 4:30 PM
And finally to a game which I believe will be the most boring of the weekend. I will admit that the Giants played very well on both sides of the ball last weekend. I will admit they picked apart an Atlanta team which I gave too much credit to. But despite a great game for the Giants (despite a rarely-seen Safety), I just don't see the G-men going into the frozen tundra that is Green Bay and upsetting the 15-1 Packers as long as they have Aaron Rodgers at the helm. Now, I will admit that last season I was rooting for the Packers to win it all so that this team would officially be known as Aaron Rodger's team and not Brett Favre's with some kid standing in his place. But now that they won the Superbowl, and Aaron Rodgers has been proven to be a force to be reckoned with, I say enough! But the Packers wont be eliminated from the post season this week. Despite having the worst defense in football overall, and the worst passing defense overall and the #14 rushing defense in the NFL, the Giants don't have a good enough offense to take advantage of it. Their offense is ranked 8th overall, they are 5th in offense through the air, but last in offense on the ground. So where the Giants struggle on offense, so does the Packer defense. But the Giant defense will not be able to hold the 3rd best offense in the league at bay. The Packers are third best in the league at passing the ball, and the Giants are fourth worst at defending it. The only place the Giants can say they are somewhat good on defense is on the ground, and the Packers are horrible on the ground and wont be running it much. The Packers will put the ball in Aaron Rodgers hands and he will personally run up and down the field on this defense. Now the Giants surprised me last week. I guess there's a chance they could do it again. But I don't see it happening. I see this game as a forgone conclusion.
Official Prediction: Green Bay Packers win 45-31
That's going to wrap up this weeks post season picks. Come back next Wednesday for a brand new prediction and even more analysis with the post season being left to the AFC and NFC Championship games. Enjoy football this weekend everyone!
And for my one Patriot's fan statement of the week: Let's show Tebow who the original playoff miracle man is! (Hint: It's Tom Brady)