Well, last weekend couldn’t have gone any better for this sports blogger. Four for four. Perfection. An unblemished playoff record. Wild Card Weekend was tamed.
OK, enough of that. Aside from my dominating performance though, the games themselves were highly entertaining—save for the shellacking in Green Bay. They all had interesting storylines going into them, had drama throughout, and left me wanting more football.
Thank God the Divisional Round is upon us.
As good as those storylines were last weekend, the way the games played out there might be even better ones ahead of us. Three of the four games feature rematches from during the regular season. Odd thing is, all three regular season games were completely lopsided, be it on the scoreboard or just in how the flow of the game was. The home team in each of these games was the victor in the previous matchup as well.
Enough jibber jabber, though. Let’s get to the games.
Baltimore Ravens @ Denver Broncos—Saturday, 4:30pm, CBS
The Hall of Fame career of Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was extended for another week after an impressive win against the Colts in last weekend. This week, he’ll get one last crack against another future Canton-bound player—Peyton Manning.
To do so, Lewis is going to have to help Baltimore buck an awful trend against teams quarterbacked by Manning. Peyton has won his last nine starts against his former team’s former city’s current team. Two of those nine games came in the playoffs as well.
While Lewis did look a little slow and rusty in his first start back since tearing his triceps, he was still a force in the middle. Unfortunately, it won’t be the same rookie-QB-led Colts on the other side of the field again. He’ll have to try and stop one of the most methodical and intelligent quarterbacks to ever lace up.
Manning has the Broncos on an 11 game winning streak during which they’ve averaged 31.8 pts per game. Too much for an aging defense to handle. Broncos win 35-24
Green Bay Packers @ San Francisco 49ers—Saturday, 8:00pm, FOX
The second of three rematches this weekend. San Fran marched into Lambeau Field for their Week 1 matchup and effectively shut down the Packers. It’s a start to the season that Aaron Rodgers would have liked to avoided, but it’s one he’ll get a chance to avenge in his home(ish)town. Oh, and against the team that took Alex Smith with the first overall pick in the 2005 draft instead of him.
Absolutely gushing with gooey madness. Almost too much to handle.
One big difference exists, and it’s one that I think will result in a different outcome than the Week 1 game. And that difference’s name is Colin Kaepernick.
What the second-year pro (and Wisconsin native, ironically enough) brought to the 49ers while Alex Smith was out with a concussion was excitement, a new look, and a jolt of energy. It was enough to convince Jim Harbaugh to make the switch permanent. And while he’s been decent—thanks to his athletic ability—my gut just won’t let me trust him in his first postseason action.
Rogers has been here, and the Pack are hitting their stride at just the right time. They, of all teams, know the importance of getting on a roll in late December and January. Packers win 27-24
Seattle Seahawks @ Atlanta Falcons—Sunday, 1pm, FOX
Not to take away from Seattle’s impressive comeback in their Wild Card game against the Redskins, but what might it have looked like if Robert Griffin III’s knee was 100%? Whatever percent that knee was at during the first quarter was enough to put the Skins out in front 14-0 after two drives. A tweak, run, and a few tears later, the Seahawks found themselves marching on to the next round.
They won’t have the luxury of playing against an injured signal caller this week.
They will, however, be playing against the Atlanta Falcons. The team who hasn’t figured out how to turn their regular season dominance into post season wins in three of the last four seasons. Matt Ryan will look to buck that trend.
Something that I think leans heavily in their favor is the fact that Seattle will be making their second cross-country trip in a week. Seattle was 3-5 on the road this season. They will also have to do battle against the fifth ranked defense in the league.
Eventually something is going to have to go right for Atlanta in the playoffs, and there might be no better time than now. Falcons win 26-20
Houston Texans @ New England Patriots—Sunday, 4:30pm, CBS
Houston held on in the final minutes of their Wild Card game against the Bengals to advance to the divisional round for the second season in a row. Now they get a crack at Tom Brady and the Pats in Foxboro—the same team that romped them last month 42-10.
The last month of the season, starting with that rough one in New England, was quite terrible for Schaub and the Texans who went 1-3 and fell from the 1st to 3rd seed. It was good that they got the win to start the post season, but having the bye would have benefitted them, allowed them to regroup, and (more importantly) play this Divisional Round game in the confines of their own dome.
But they flopped, and now have to travel back to Foxboro. No one’s fault but their own.
Tom Brady is who he is. Analyze it anyway you want and you should (if you know what you’re talking about). Brady can roll out of bed and throw four TDs, while wearing Uggs, and I expect nothing less here.
If the Texans want to have any chance in this game, Arian Foster’s going to have to get more than 15 carries (and more than 46 yards).
It’s not going to happen though. These are the Patriots, and these are the NFL playoffs. Patriots win 37-27