NFL Playoffs: Superbowl XLIX… Repeat or Redemption?

We’re finally here, Superbowl week!  DeflateGate has dominated the talk since Championship weekend, but now it’s time to talk about the game as we are finally just days away.  Now the story-line becomes: Repeat or Redemption?  The Seawhawks have a chance to be the first team to repeat as World Champions since their opponent did it back in 2004-05. On the other side, the Patriots look to get the win in Glendale that escaped them in 2007 when the Giants stopped them a win short from 19-0.

Superbowl XLIX

  • Let’s break it down team by team.  Russell Wilson had arguably the worst three quarters of his career in the NFC Championship game, but as winners tend to do, he put it all behind him and led his team to victory. That being said, New England’s defense made a better passer in Andrew Luck look like a 3rd stringer, so you have to look for Wilson to take more chances on the ground to help limit turnovers.  Richard Sherman hurt his arm two weeks ago, so the Patriots might look to throw his way a bit more than the original game plan, especially early to test him.  As for New England, remember when they were 1-2 and everyone thought Brady was finished?  Yeah, me neither.  This team is like the Spurs, where they keep the core, add pieces and find ways to be better than you when it counts.  They may not be the record setting offense of 2007, but they’re well-balanced and don’t make many mistakes, which will be key against the Legion. So who walks away with the Lombardi Trophy: Seattle for a second straight year or New England for the first time in a decade? Honestly, I think the Seahawks are the better team because of that defense and their ability to run the ball by both the QB and Media Day darling.  However, I can’t see Tom Brady losing a third straight Superbowl, especially after the two weeks of allegations and accusations New England has had to endure, true or not, that remains to be seen.  He’s the first to make 6 Superbowls, and I think he gets that elusive 4th in Glendale. NEW ENGLAND WINS

So that’s it.  I am very okay with this pick being very wrong as I had neither of these teams making the big one before the season began, nor do I have a rooting interest.  All I ask, is that this one isn’t over before halftime like last season?

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NFL Playoffs: Championship Weekend Recap

The Superbowl is set.  The Seattle Seahawks look to be the first repeat champions since their opponents, the New England Patriots, did so in 2004-05.

These two team took 2 different paths to winning their conferences.

NFC Championship Recap

  • Early on this one was looking like a Turnover bowl rather than a title game.  Green Bay had a chance to score two quick touchdowns but settled for field-goals.  I had no problem with them settling for the first one.  I understand this was a game to get you into the Superbowl, but the Packers were on the road, in the best home-field advantage in football and had a chance to put points on the board first against the best defense in the NFL.  But when they got the ball right back on a turnover, Green Bay once again couldn’t force it in in the red-zone, so they hit another field-goal to go up 6-0.  That’s the point when I would’ve taken a shot.  You’ve given yourself proof you can score against them, and now you have a shot to put them down double digits in the 1st quarter.  The Pack would score a touchdown in the first half and add another field-goal to hold a 16-0 lead at the halftime break.  But that’s just a 2 score lead, which isn’t as daunting as a game that could’ve been at 24-0.  The turnovers for both teams continued, but the Seahawks defense continued to shut down Green Bay, giving their offense a chance.  Add to that a huge game from back Marshawn Lynch to help balance out field position and get the offense on track.  But even so, Seattle found themselves down 19-7 with under 6 to play.  And then the fun started.  After 4 interceptions, his first such game, Russell Wilson woke up, ran in a score to bring Seattle to within 6.  Then a misplay by Green Bay on an on-side kick gave the champs the ball back.  Lynch made it look easy on a 24-yard TD run then Wilson showed his escape ability to prolong a 2-point conversion attempt, to put them up 3.  Aaron Rodgers had under 90 seconds, and 3 time outs, and managed to get into field goal range for kicker Mason Crosby, who nailed his 4th of the game.  To OT we went, Seattle won the toss then marched down the field like it was nothing, capped off by a perfect 35-yard pass to tight-end Jermaine Kearse to win the game.  It was redemption for Wilson, who’s 4 interceptions were all on passes towards Kearse.  Poor execution doomed Green Bay, who outplayed Seattle for most of the game.

AFC Championship Recap

  • This game was never in doubt.  New England has owned Andrew Luck and the Colts the past 3 years, and last night was the biggest win of them all.  It was 14-0 Patriots before anyone was over the first game of the day.  That being said, it was still a game at the start of the 3rd quarter, with Indianapolis down just 10.  But Luck continued to struggle in the playoffs, throwing 12 interceptions in 6 career games.  The Patriots defense wasn’t having any of the Colts offense.  But the story of the game?  Legarrette Blount’s 3 rushing touchdowns and nearly 150-yards on the ground.  Tom Brady spread the wealth in the air, and only turned the ball over once.  3 touchdowns from New England in the 3rd turned this one into a laugher, making it the 2nd biggest blowout in AFC Championship history.

I’ve gone 7-3 with my playoff picks, but neither of the teams (Packers/Broncos) I thought in the preseason would be playing in the final game are here.

NFL: Week 8 Thoughts

We’ve reached the mid-way point of the season, and 2 win-less teams, while just 1 undefeated squad remain.

This weeks bye teams: Baltimore, Houston, San Diego, Tennessee, Indianapolis, and Chicago.

I know it’s the NFL, and injuries are apart of the game, but this week seemed to contain a lot more season ending ones than normal.

NFC EAST (We Live in a World Where a 2-win Team is Just 2 Games Out)

  • Cowboys:  What looked like win number 5 ended in a heart-breaking last second loss.  When you force 4 turnovers, and don’t turn it over yourself, you should probably win.  Sean Lee’s two interceptions, and Dez Bryant’s 2 touchdowns mean little in a bad road loss. (4-4)
  • Eagles: Michael Vick left hurt again, and Matt Barkley turned the ball over a lot.  Make it 10-straight home losses, further extending a franchise record.  With another bad offense showing, they’ve gained just 479 yards the past two games. (3-5)
  • Redskins: They did something no other team had done against Denver, carry a lead into the 4th quarter.  The defense was great the first three quarters, turning two Manning turnovers into points to help build said lead.  But they just couldn’t stop the Broncos in the final period.  More troubling was the play of Robert Griffin III, who only completed 50% of his throws, couldn’t hold onto the ball, threw two picks, and was a non-factor in the run game.  (2-5)
  • Giants: This team will take ugly wins any day, and they got their second of the year Sunday.  Eli Manning and his offense didn’t hurt themselves with turnovers, though they did stop drives with drops and bad passes.  Btu they scored on 5 of their drives, thanks to Josh Brown’s career high 5-5 on field goal attempts.  The defense pitched a second straight shutout, with the only score coming on a special teams fumble recovery. (2-6)

NFC NORTH (These Teams Can Score With Anyone)

  • Packers: When you score on every possession until you take victory formation, you know you had a good day.  This team has lost a number of weapons, but Aaron Rodgers continues to find new weapons.  Rodgers completed 24 of 29 passes, with Jordy Nelson going for 123 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns. Micah Hyde added a second quarter 93 yard punt return touchdown, while Eddie Lacy rushed for 94 yards and a score.   (6-2)
  • Lions:  Matt Stafford and company turned the ball over 4 times, but when it mattered the offense got down the field mistake free for an 80-yard game winning touchdown drive to sink the Cowboys.  Their biggest weapon showed once again why his nickname is “Megatron.”  Calvin Johnson had himself a day for the ages, grabbing 14 balls for 329 yards, the 2nd best performance in NFL history.  The monster total trails only the 336 yards receiving Flipper Anderson had for the LA Rams  in an overtime game against New Orleans back in 1989.  The game winner was a fake snap keeper by Stafford, that perfectly capped off a strange game. It was a huge come-from-behind victory, that helps Detroit in a the race for a playoff spot. (5-3)
  • Bears:  Bye Week.  (4-3)
  • Vikings:  Rookie wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson set an NFL record with a 109-yard return on the opening kickoff to give Minnesota a quick lead.  But it wouldn’t last.  Adrian Peterson rushed for 60 yards and a touchdown while Christian Ponder’s return wasn’t anything to write home about.  The newly reinstated starting QB ran for a score, but managed just 145 yards passing.  The big problem was the defense had no answer for Green Bay, though they’re not alone there.  (1-6)

NFC SOUTH (The Panthers Are Looking to Pounce)

  • Saints: It was slow going early, but once it was all said and done, they came out with a big home win.  A big reason why they picked up win number 6: big contributions from guys returning from injury.  Jimmy Graham came back from an ankle to score 2 touchdowns, while Lance Moore added one of his own to the get the scoring started for New Orleans.  Add a big day from rookie Kenny Stills, 5 Drew Brees touchdown passes and a defense that rattled Thad Lewis all day, you’ve got why this team is sitting pretty atop the division. (6-1)
  • Panthers: They got the best of a division match-up to start off week 8, meaning that for the first time in Cam Newton’s career, he’s over .500 and on a three game win streak (which has seen them score 30+ point in each).  In another easy win on Thursday Night, Newton became the 1st player in NFL History to run for 25 and throw for 50 touchdowns in any three year span of a career.  Carolina’s mobile quarterback threw 2 scores, and ran for another in the win, while DeAngelo Williams added another score on the ground.  The defense did it’s job as well, picking up 3 sacks, while recovering a fumble.  (4-3)
  • Falcons: So much for putting together a second straight good game.  Matt Ryan threw four picks, after only throwing 3 in their first 6 games.  Harry Douglas had another good game as a featured wide-out, but it didn’t matter. They got absolutely nothing on the ground, while their defense couldn’t stop Arizona in the run game.  (2-5)
  • Buccaneers: Another day, another loss.  They couldn’t get anything going on offense, particularly in the run game.  Mike Glennon was forced to throw the ball 51 times. It’s the 7th time in franchise history that they’ve opened up losers for their 1st 7 games.   (0-7)

NFC WEST (So Many Wins)

  • Seahawks: Russell Wilson was on the ground, a lot.  But they found a way to win despite a big effort by the Rams defense.  In the end it was their defense that held, stopping the Rams on a last second goal-line stand where it was touchdown or bust for Seattle.  It wasn’t a crisp night on offense.  Wide-out Golden Tate caught both of the games only touchdowns.  It was rare rough night on the ground for both Wilson and Marshawn Lynch, who managed just 23 yards on the ground.  They’re the only team to force at least two turnovers in the first 8 games of the season(7-1)
  • 49ers: It was time and travel money well spent for San Fran, who knocked off the hapless Jags in London for their 5th straight win.  The defense did it’s job against Jacksonville, but the offense was the story.  Colin Kaepernick continues to wreak havoc not with his arm, but with his legs.  Two rushing touchdowns, one thrown for the Niners QB.  Not to mention another two on the ground from their actual running back Frank Gore.  (6-2)
  • Cardinals: Rookie rusher Andre Ellington is a huge reason why this team got to .500.  The youngster out of Clemson rushed for 154 yards on 15 carries, including an 80-yard touchdown run.  And how about Pro Bowler Larry Fitzgerald’s day.  Number 11 caught four passes for 48 yards and a touchdown, becoming the youngest player – at 30 years, 57 days – in NFL history to reach 800 career receptions. (4-4)
  • Rams: Robert Quinn had himself a Monday night.  The defensive end now has 10 sacks through 8 games, 3 of them against Seattle, which hasn’t happened by a Ram in 25 years.  In fact, the entire defense was crazy active all night, getting Russell Wilson to the ground.  In his first start for the injured Sam Bradford, Kellen Clemens didn’t help his teams cause, throwing 2 interceptions. Zac Stacy and Greg Zuerlein were the offense.  Stacy with 134 yards rushing, and Zuerlein went 3-4 on field goal attempts.  But when they needed it most, Stacy was shaken up and the team through 8 games still doesn’t have a rushing touchdown. (3-5)

AFC EAST (New England Continues to Find a Way)

  • Patriots: A big 2nd half comeback helped New England avoid losing back-to-back division games for the first time since 2006. 24 unanswered points by the Pats, including two touchdowns in the span of 7 plans in the 3rd quarter helped shake off an ugly first half.  But Tom Brady had another bad start, throwing for just 116 yards, and managing just 1 touchdown pass. But the defense held long enough for them to find a way, and it means putting some distance back between them and the rest of the division. (6-2)
  • Jets: Win, lose, win, lose.  This team is inconsistent to the point they haven’t been on any sort of win or losing streak this season.  A week after a big win over New England, the Jets looked lost against the Bengals.  To be fair Cincy is hot right now, but Geno Smith wasn’t good, and the defense had no answer for a relative no-name in wide-receiver Marvin Jones. It didn’t help when you starting back only gets you 11 yards on the ground  but again, that’s a product of the Bengals crazy good defense.  (4-4)
  • Dolphins: Remember when this team was 3-0?  Yeah me neither.  This week, they came out firing in the first half, carrying a 17-3 lead to the locker room.  What could’ve been a big road win, turned into their 4th straight defeat.  Ryan Tannehill threw for 2 touchdowns, but turned the ball over 3 times. (3-4)
  • Bills: They were in the game at half-time, but the Saints offense was just too much for Buffalo.  Thad Lewis had no chance with the pressure New Orleans put on him, sacking him 4 times, and forcing 3 fumbles, two the starting QB lost.  Fred Jackson found the end-zone, but didn’t have a great day on the ground. (3-5)

AFC NORTH (Cincy Isn’t All Defense These Days, But They Are All Alone at the Top)

  • Bengals: This team isn’t just about defense, and if Cincy figures out how to get more from their run game, the AFC should be very afraid.  Andy Dalton is on the best streak of his career, adding a high of 5-touchdown passes against New York.  Marvin Jones, and not AJ Green was the story on offense, catching a Bengals record 4 of Dalton’s five TD passes.  Green could’ve had a big day, but had some drops.  The defense didn’t let the Jets do anything on offense.  The weeks biggest blowout allowed the Bengals to rest their starters, including Dalton for the 4th quarter. This team is running away with this division. (6-2) 
  • Ravens: Bye Week.  (3-4)
  • Browns: They played a lot better with Jason Campbell under center, but KC’s defense is just too good.  They were in the game the entire time, thanks in large part from a good day by Josh Gordon, who went for 132 receiving yards and a touchdown. Campbell took over for the ineffective Brandon Weedon, and did a good job not turning the ball over, and avoiding big hits against a sack-happy Chiefs front 7. (3-5)
  • Steelers: Just when you thought maybe this team was turning it around, they lose Oakland. And it’s not so much that they lost, it’s how they lost.  They had absolutely no answer for the run game, letting both Terrelle Pryor and Darren McFadden combine for almost 200 yards and 3 touchdowns.  This defense used to be known or their ability to stop the run, but you wouldn’t know that looking at the box score of this one. And their own ground and pound was non-existent, meaning Ben Roethlisberger had to throw it 45 times. (2-5)

AFC South  (Nobody Gained or Lost Ground With Just the Jags Playing)

  • Colts: Bye Week. (5-2)
  • Titans: Bye Week. (3-4)
  • Texans: Bye week. (2-5)
  • Jaguars: The only South team in action, Jacksonville went all the way to London to just to lose their 8th game of the year, and 13th straight dating back to last season.  The offense wasn’t necessarily the problem, with Maurice Jones-Drew having one of his best day on the ground and in the pass game of the season.  Chad Henne was also okay, throwing for a touchdown and committing no turnovers.  But the 49ers on a level so far out of sight that there was really no chance.  The run defense was non-existent.  They really will be in a race for worst record with the likes of Tampa Bay and Minnesota all year(0-8)

AFC WEST (It’s A Two Team Race)

  • Chiefs:  They continue to find ways to make enough plays to win, and remain unbeaten halfway through the season. It wasn’t pretty, but Alex Smith continues to be smart with the football, throwing for 225 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers.  Jamaal Charles had another good day on the ground.  The defense only managed one sack, a rare thing for them this season, but they held Cleveland scoreless in the 1st and 4th quarters. They’re the first team to win their first 8 games after losing 14 the previous season.  (8-0)
  • Broncos: It’s hard enough to score 31 points in a game, let alone a quarter, making Denver’s 38 in the 4th look even more impressive.  Peyton Manning had a bad day, something you don’t say often about a guy who throws for 354 yards and 4 touchdowns.  But the former MVP also threw 3 interceptions and lost a fumble.  But he led his team to victory in the end, and that’s all that really matters.  That and he showed no ill effects from a ankle issue that held him out of practice early in the week.  (7-1)
  • Chargers: Bye Week. (4-3)
  • Raiders: Terrelle Pryor and Darren McFadden had a huge day on the ground.  Pryor scored on a 93-yard run, the longest by a quarterback in NFL history, while McFadden found pay dirt twice.  They almost blew the lead late, but their defense did enough to pick up win number 3, which matches last seasons win total. (3-4)

So that’s it.  One half down, one to go.