Championship Games Set

After another interesting weekend of NFL playoff action we know who will compete for trips to the Super Bowl on Championship Sunday (the best TV day of the year).  Both #6 seeds are still alive as both #1 seeds are 1-and-done.  Only 1 of the 4 games surprised me, which is a bit unusual.  Lets take a quick look at all 4 games from Divisional weekend.

Everyone knew going in that Ravens/Steelers would outscore the New England game, right?  Obviously the story of this game was turnovers.  I can only hope that Ramon Foster will be more aware to pick up a loose ball the next time it happens.  Great job by the Steelers to put that bad luck 2nd quarter behind them and play perhaps their best half of football all season in the 2nd half to beat Baltimore and remain undefeated all time in playoff games against teams in their division.  Specifically, that likely was Ryan Clarke’s best game, forcing a fumble from Ray Rice, who hadn’t lost a fumble all season, and later in the quarter making the interception when Flacco tried to force the ball into double coverage.  What this game came down to was the Ravens made many mistakes in the 2nd half and the Steelers made very few.  Trailing by 3 late in the 4th quarter Flacco hits Boldin for a go-ahead touchdown but he drops it and the Ravens have to take the tying field goal.  The Ravens defense then puts the Steelers in a 3rd & 19 just above the 2 minute warning, looking at a chance to get the ball back and try to drive for the winning field goal.  But they get beat by a high school play, just send a guy deep and throw it up.  If its intercepted its like a punt.  If its incomplete you punt, which you were going to do anyway.  But maybe it works.  It worked.  But the Ravens still had a chance after Mendenhall’s nifty run for the touchdown; on 4th & 19 the Steelers somehow let TJ get open 20 yards downfield, but he dropped a perfect pass.

I could be imagining things, but I could’ve swore the Atlanta Falcons had a defense?  Not Saturday night they didn’t.  To me, though, the play of the game was the last play of the 1st half.  10 seconds, no timeouts, edge of field goal range, the Falcons left their offense out there.  The Packers defense knew it had to be an out route, get a few extra yards for the field goal.  Then the Falcons inexplicably had Ryan roll out (I guess to lessen the chance of getting sacked?), which then told the Packers which sideline the pass was coming to.  Jump the route, house it, 14 point lead at halftime, take 2nd half kickoff drive the field house it 21 point lead.  Ballgame.

Seattle lost today because they aren’t as good as the Chicago Bears.  But I still have two plays by the Seahawks that I question.  Down 7-0, 1st quarter, 4th & 1 at the Bears 40, knowing that you are the prohibitive underdog and you’ll need to make more plays, why not go for that 1st down?  You had some momentum, pick up that conversion, get some points, get yourself in the game.  I guess maybe they started believing a bit too much that they were a good team and not a 7-9 team.  Fast forward about 2 hours.  Down 28-0 facing a 4th down in the red zone why are you kicking a field goal?  Still leaves you down 4 scores.  Being very theoretical give Seattle a touchdown on that drive and zoom forward and the score is 35-28 with Seattle trying an onside kick in the final 2 minutes of the game.  Just sayin’.

Like the Seahawks against the Saints last week, every time the Jets did something wrong, like missing a field goal after the early interception or several other plays, I kept thinking “okay, the Patriots have them now.  New England will win this game and I’ll be on my blog blaming the Jets for doing this, this, and this wrong when they had a chance.”  But a funny thing happened on the way to that paragraph.  The Jets won.  New England was clearly not as sharp as they were 6 weeks ago.  Brady threw behind Branch on a key 4th down play late in the 4th quarter (I just criticized Tom Brady to fill a void that I’m sure will be left by the MSM.  Brady has now lost 3 straight playoff games, 2 of them at home.  Just sayin’).  A fake punt on your side of midfield in the last 2 minutes of the first half which failed and let the Jets lead by 11 instead of 4 at the break?  But most of the story is on the Jets side of the ball.  The defense never let the Patriots hit the big play, and most of the time they found a way to get off the field before points were scored.  The Jets offense didn’t turn the ball over.  Sanchez didn’t hit every throw, but he hit enough throws, and he hit the important throws.  Most importantly, when the Patriots got an 8 point TD to cut the score to 14-11 at the end of the 3rd quarter, the Jets responded.  They went down the field and got the TD back on a great catch by Santonio “Robert Horry” Holmes in the end zone (credit to someone on Twitter for the nickname).

So now we have two 6 v 2 matchups for the the Halas and Hunt trophies.  Green Bay at Chicago will be at 3pm on Fox and New York at Pittsburgh at 6:40pm on CBS.  I’m sure most people will pick the Packers in the early game.  I am not going to disagree, but I would ask people to remember that, while the Bears “tried” to win the game in Week 17 they did not have the same level of motivation as did the Packers.  They will this Sunday.  I think it safe to say neither team will have the point output they had this past weekend.  As for the nightcap its hard for me to separate heart and head where the Steelers are concerned.  I will say that yes they lost at home a month ago to the Jets, but I think that was the Jets best performance until earlier this evening, maybe even including.  Also I would remind that the Steelers didn’t have Polamalu in that game.  I was rooting for the Jets today because I thought that was more winnable than going to Foxboro.  But certainly not easy.

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