Posts Tagged NFL
Last weekends NFL’s Divisional Round was one of the most exciting football weekends in recent memory. On Saturday, the 49ers sent the cheese heads back to Green Bay with outstanding play from Colin Kaepernick, while the Ravens sent the Broncos to the glue factory with a Hail Mary and a late Manning interception. On Sunday, the Falcons clipped the Seahawks and withstood their ferocious rally,and the Patriots finished off the weekend by crushing the horse wranglers from Houston.
The only thing that didn’t show up last weekend was the defense. The average combined score of the games was 69 points, a huge jump compared to 38 points back in 2009. Now that the NFL has become such a pass friendly league it has become so important to have an elite quarterback, or at least have a quarterback playing at an elite level. This weeks Conference Championships offer very interesting match-ups and all of these teams deserve to be here based on last weeks performance.
Atlanta Falcons vs San Francisco 49ers
The Falcons game last weekend was a tale of two halves. In the first half, they were the powerhouse that they have been all season, which lead them to a NFL best record of 13-3. They built a commanding 20 point lead and the Seahawks looked out of it early. When the second half began, the Seahawks and the Falcons were different teams. The Seahawks went on a 28-7 run to take a late lead. Falcon’s quarterback Matt Ryan, the QB that had failed to win any “important” games, stepped up and was able to drive down the field in less than a minute and help secure the victory. The 49ers game was more back and forth until they were able to take complete control by the forth quarter. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s running ability baffled Green Bay and will present similar problems for the Falcons 21st ranked run defense.
The Niners have an explosive ground game with Frank Gore and Kaepernick. And when the read-option is working it allows for the play-action to be effective. If the Falcons are unable to stop the ground game, they don’t stand a chance. Michael Crabtree is playing like a pro-bowler and Vernon Davis offers Kaepernick a safety valve when he’s under pressure. While San Francisco’s defense kept Aaron Rodgers and the Packers generally contained, the Falcons do present a different set of problems for the 49er defense. Matt Ryan might not be as explosive as Green Bay’s Rodgers, but he has a better receiving core with Julio Jones, Roddy White and the reliable Tony Gonzalez. The Niners do have a potent pass rush lead by Aldon Smith and his 19.5 sacks, however, the biggest difference this week is the Falcons run game. The Niners beat a Packers team that had no true running back, but Atlanta posses a quality RB in Michael Turner. Turner had an off-season in regards to stats, only 800 yards rushing, but has scored over 10 touchdowns for the past 5 years and is always dangerous to break off long runs if the defense focuses to much on Jones, White and Gonzalez. These two offenses should continue their hot streak and this might turn into a shootout. It might take the 49ers a quarter or two to get into the game with their young quarterback, and that should be Atlanta’s time to strike first. If the Falcons are unable to score first, the game will still be exciting, but the Niners should come away with a double-digit victory.
San Francisco 49ers 38 Atlanta Falcons 31
New England Patriots vs Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens escaped Denver last weekend by the skin of their teeth. But when the game was on the line they got one last interception out of their aging legendary defense, and were able to book their ticket to New England. The Ravens shouldn’t need any more motivation, but facing the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last year makes this game all the more tantalizing. Baltimore is going to need a big game from their offense to pull this one out. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco had an impressive game last week (18/34, 331 yards, and 3 touchdowns) and will need to have a similar one to keep up with the Patriots and Tom Brady. If Flacco can throw for a percentage closer to 65%, as opposed to the 53% last weekend, the Ravens will be set up to control the ball and be put in more manageable distance downs. Ray Rice ran for 131 yards on the ground last week against Denver’s 3rd ranked rushing defense, and he should be able to continue that dominance against the Patriots 9th ranked rushing defense. Rice’s success on the ground keeps New England’s defense on the field and takes pressure of Flacco. Baltimore is going to have their backs against the wall this week in one of the most hostile stadiums in the league.
The Patriots continued their current form and were able to handle Houston’s early attempts to make it a game last weekend. But as the game went on, it was clear that Houston was just not there yet, although you can’t help but wonder if Brian Cushing were back it would of been a different story. The Patriots once again relied heavily on the arm of Tom Brady to carry them and he didn’t disappoint. They will follow the same formula this week with their short yardage passes to open up deeper passing lanes later in the game. Any team would miss the presence of record setting tight end Rob Gronkowski, but Aaron Hernandez has shown that he is more than capable. The Pats running game isn’t anything to boast about, but Stevan Ridley has the ability to gash any defense. They shouldn’t be able to get to 41 in this game, and if Baltimore is able to hold onto the ball and keep the Pats under 30 points, they should be able to pull this one off. The Ravens will be lead by their emotional leader Ray Lewis, and should pull off the upset in this one.
Baltimore Ravens 34 New England Patriots 28
The Conference Championships should follow the same script as the Divisional Round, an ample amount of offense and the defense making game changing plays at the end. All of these teams deserve a spot in the Super Bowl, but there’s only space for two.
Wild Card weekend is over and it’s time for the heavy hitters to step on the gridiron. This weekend offers a lot of intriguing story lines. From the quarterback who was never supposed to play again ,to the legendary linebacker playing in his last playoffs, and an overachieving rookie leading his team past all who stand in their way. These divisional match-ups should be thrilling.
Denver Broncos vs Baltimore Ravens
Peyton Manning is finally playing on a team that has a respectable defense. Having a defense that ranks 2nd in total yards and 4th in total points, alleviates a lot of pressure on the offense. The Ravens handled Manning’s former team (Indianapolis Colts) last weekend, but they are now facing a more well-rounded team. Since returning from career threatening neck surgery, Manning hasn’t skipped a beat being placed in a new offense. He has the 2nd most passing yards (4,659) and touchdowns (37) of his career, while posting a quarterback rating of 105.8. The Ravens are flying high with the return of their emotional and defensive leader, Ray Lewis. However, they are an average team on the road (4-4) and the Broncos have only lost one game at Mile High (7-1), back in week 3 to Houston. The Ravens should put up a good fight behind Ray Rice, but his recent fumbling issues are troubling. If Baltimore plays a clean game, and their defense is able to create 2 or more turnovers, they could come out on top. However, the Broncos have won 11 in a row, and should make it 12 come Saturday.
Broncos 31 Ravens 24
San Francisco 49ers vs Green Bay Packers
This game will be either the most exciting, or biggest letdown of the week. The Packers are back in full swing, and if the 49ers aren’t careful, the game could be over at halftime. Green Bay sent a message to the rest of the league last week with the way they handled Minnesota. The Vikings were coming into the playoffs with a 4 game winning streak, yet were out of the game early in the second half. The 49ers still have an intimidating defense that has allowed the 2nd fewest points. However, their offense is more of an issue. After controversy at quarterback this year, the Niners need a competent starter to handle the 2nd best pass rushing attack in the league. If Frank Gore and the ground game can get field position and control the clock, it will take some pressure off the passing game, and keep the ball away from Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers has been on fire, launching three or more touchdown passes in the final three weeks of the season, and posting a QB rating of 104.9 against the Vikings last week. The 49ers defense will present a number of problems for Rodgers, and because his team has a weak ground game, he will be forced to air it out. The 49ers need a few great plays from their defense to pull this one off. This will be a close game, but the Packers should come out on top.
Packers 24 Niners 20
Atlanta Falcons vs Seattle Seahawks
Is this the year that the Falcons and Matt Ryan can finally get a postseason win? The simple answer, no. Ryan and the Falcons had a great regular season and come into the playoffs with the best record in the NFL. Seven out of their 13 wins were by a touchdown or less, so they know how to win the close ones. Ryan and his receivers are having career years, and rank 6th for total passing yards. However, there are a few red flags that their record doesn’t show. Michael Turner and the rushing game had an off-year and rank 29th in the league. Unlike Green Bay, Falcons haven’t had much success in the playoffs, so relying just on their passing game is going to put immense pressure on Ryan. Their defense also instills a “bend, but don’t break” policy. They rank 23rd and 21st in passing (242.4) and rushing (123.2) yards allowed, but are 7th best in total points allowed (26.2). On the other-hand the Seahawks are coming in with a lot of momentum. While they do have a poor road record (3-5), they showed last weekend they can play in a hostile environment by scoring 24 unanswered points last week in Washington. The Seahawks obvious strength is their defense. The defense was the best in the league, allowing the fewest points (15.3) and 4th fewest total yards (306.2). This allows rookie Russell Wilson, who is playing like a seasoned pro, some leeway to make some mistakes. Marshawn Lynch should also help put Wilson with more manageable short distance downs. If Wilson limits his mistakes and the Seahawks can knock Ryan around at the beginning of the game, they should be able to pull off the upset at the Georgia Dome and continue the Falcons struggles in the playoffs.
Seahawks 27 Falcons 17
New England Patriots vs Houston Texans
The Texans are heading to Gillette Stadium after a close game with the Bengals last weekend. Matt Schaub struggled in the beginning of his playoff debut, but was able to fight off his nerves as the game went on. This Sunday, Schaub and the Texans are going against similar defense, but a much better offense in New England. The Texans know the Pats well after being crushed 42-14, in week 14. This game shouldn’t get that out of hand, but Houston will need a career game out of J.J. Watt and Arian Foster to give them a chance. If Watt, or another Houston defender, can create a few turnovers that lead to easy points, anything is possible. Tom Brady and the Pats are coming into the playoffs winning 9 of their last 10 games. They have an all-time great in Brady, an above average defense allowing 20.7 points a game, and one of the best coaches of all-time in Bill Belichick. Houston needs to catch a few breaks, or get an early lead to put the pressure on New England. However, the Patriots should prove too much for them, and should win comfortably.
Patriots 31 Texans 20
This weekend offers a lot of exciting variety in the type of games we can expect. The Falcons and Patriots against the underdog Seahawks and Texans. The Ravens at Broncos and Packers at Niners games look like closer games on paper, but playoff football always offers a few surprises.
Football is not for the weak or easily intimidated.
The National Football League had over 170 head injuries in 2011 alone.
However, being exposed to rugby, I have to say rugby has to be one of the toughest, if not the toughest, game in the world.
This isn’t a post about whether you’re more of a “man” if you play one or the other. And no matter which one you play, they’re both violent and can lead to some serious injuries. This is just about a few differences.
More pads,harder hits
Yes, football players hit harder. Before you agree or disagree, hear me out.
Being covered from head to toe in pads allows you to use your body with reckless abandonment The hits in football have gotten so violent and dangerous that the National Football League had to change the way the game is played. This has left a certain void in the NFL because the games aren’t as exciting as they used to be, but it should lead to less head injuries and less tragic stories linked to those injuries. Rugby players typically do not have the run up that football players do, a safety can have a 15 yard full speed sprint before he collides with another player. Rugby players generally know when they’re about to get tackled. They can prepare themselves mentally and physically. However, football players, whether their on offense or defense, get blind sided a few times a game.
The hits are harder, but they hurt less. This isn’t to say they don’t hurt or you can’t get injured in football, but rugby leaves you hurting more the next day. Next time you watch a rugby game keep an eye on players in a scrum or ruck. Players get stomped and punched and no one looks twice. And because you have the same players on the field for 80+ minutes, players tend to get more tired and can’t recharge after each dead ball, like in football. However, you won’t see as many serious injuries in rugby because they don’t wear pads. Sounds counter-intuitive, but because they don’t wear pads it forces rugby players to make more fundamentally sound tackles.
More strategy, less all rounders
Football has more strategy and more specialists, but not as many athletes. Once again, hear me out.
Every single down in football has a called play on offense, defense and special teams. There is never a time in a game where players just do their own thing like you would in the park with friends. There are audibles, changing the play right before the ball is hiked, but it isn’t a free-for-all, it’s just replacing one specific play with another specific play. There are so many different formations and schemes on offense and defense, like bringing in extra linemen to catch the defense with a smaller and less physical defense back still on the field. On the other side of the ball, gone are the days of the simple defense. Defenses consist of hybrid systems of zone and man-to-man coverages mixed in with a variety of blitzes. All of these strategies are constructed to try to catch one team out of position.
Of course rugby has strategy too. There are a number of different techniques and formations interwoven into the free-flowing game. There are situational strategies like lineouts and scrums, and techniques like dummies, switches and loops, and you have to make sure your defense is always in a strong formation. However, there is just not as much strategy or play-calling. The reason is because rugby doesn’t stop as often as football does.
Playing constantly for two 40 minute halves is grueling and exhausting. All 15 rugby players stay on the field the whole time, barring injury or substitution. The same players are on offense, defense and kick (special teams). Each player does have a position and a general skill set, but for the most part they can be interchangeable. In today’s football, you would be hard-pressed to find a team that has more than two players playing who can play both offense and defense. Each player has a very specific skill set, and there might be a player who plays corner back and plays a little receiver, but you will never see a quarterback on the other side of the ball. This would explain why there is such a variety of athletes on a football team. Rugby does also has a variety of sizes and weights, but you don’t see many players over 250 pounds (113 kg). In today’s NFL, a lineman would seem out-of-place if he didn’t weigh over 330+ pounds(151 kg). That is why rugby players, as a whole, are in a lot better shape.
Different, not better
There will be endless comparisons between the two sports since football does get its origins from rugby. It’s a lot like comparing baseball to cricket, the playing surface and equipment share similarities, but the actual games are completely different. So whether you strap on the pads or get ready for a scrum, just be ready for a physically intense game.
Seeing that I’ve been out of the states nearly 4 months and haven’t seen any live football in 2, this could get interesting and will be completely accurate.
Cincinnati vs Houston
Houston 24 Cincinnati 20
I have been pleasantly surprised all season by Cincy. They have surpassed all my expectations and this will not be an easy game for Houston. The Bengals have won more games on the road than at home (6-2 away) so they won’t be afraid to play in Texas. Dalton and Green have combined to be one of the most prolific tandems in the league and should pose a serious threat. However, the Texans have too many weapons on both sides of the ball. Houston is built for the playoffs with an all-pro running back in Arian Foster and an all-time great in Andre Johnson. The defense might give up a few points in this one, but the only real concern for Houston is their own quarterback, Matt Schaub. This will be Schaub’s first postseason start and they haven’t exactly ended the season with a lot of momentum. This should be a really exciting game and should go down to the wire with Houston coming out on top.
Minnesota vs Green Bay
Green Bay 31 Minnesota 17
Adrian Peterson is a monster, we all know it, but unfortunately for the Vikings, that won’t be enough this week. AP was able to give his team the final push last week against the Packers, but this game won’t come down to him. AP has had his way with the Packers defense for years now running for over 175 yards 4 times. All logical wisdom would say Green Bay is in trouble, but they’re not. Of all the games this weekend, I see this one being the closet to a blowout. Green Bay has too much experience and talent to lose this one, and being that the NFL is a passing league it never hurts to have one of the best in the business in Rodgers. On other side of the field stands the reason why the Vikings are in trouble, Christian Ponder. Ponder will have to play the best game of his life to beat the Packers and that still might not be enough. He played great last week, but that wasn’t the playoffs and that wasn’t in the legendary Lambeau Field. The score might not be completely out of hand, but the game will be well in the Packers control.
Indianapolis vs Baltimore
Baltimore 17 Colts 10
The Colts this year have been somewhat of an anomaly. They gut most of their talent from front office to the field, pick up a rookie quarterback to replace a legend, and their head coach falls seriously ill and misses most of the season. And now the team that “sucked for Luck” is in the playoffs. However, I see the fairy tale coming to an abrupt halt. Luck has played years ahead of the curve but still shows signs of being a rookie and the Colts still aren’t good enough to advance yet. There are holes in both experience and talent on all sides of the ball and they play like a different team out of the dome (4-4 away). The Ravens have been another strange team this year. Beginning this season they were seen as one of the favorites to win it all and throughout the season they have dipped in form due to poor play and injuries. However, they are another team that play well at home (6-2 at home) and with Ray Lewis coming back for his final run before he hangs up his pads, the Ravens have their emotional leader back. Baltimore also had the luxury of resting its work horse, Ray Rice, last week so he will be fresh. This will be another close and physical battle, but the Ravens should prevail.
Seattle vs Washington
Washington 13 Seattle 10
Saving the best for last, this is the game that is the most intriguing to me. Two rookie quarterbacks far surpassing expectations with solid teams around them. RGIII and Russell Wilson have been fantastic this year. However, Seattle have really struggled playing on the road this season (3-5 away). They stumble without the support of their fans and struggle with the noise of others. As great as the young QB’s have been, this game will rely on both teams ground game. Marshawn Lynch was as potent as ever gaining nearly 1,600 yards on the ground and another 200 through the air. He will present the biggest problem to the Redskins, just as rookie Alfred Morris should present an equal problem for the Seahawks. This shouldn’t be a high scoring game due to new quarterbacks and stellar defenses. This should be an old-fashioned possession game, but don’t be surprised by a flash of brilliance by one of the rookies. This game will come down to either one critical mistake or some kind of special team play.
There you have it. The home teams should take it this weekend. Those are the predictions from a guy who is currently 10,000 miles away from football. Looks like it’s going to be a late night or an early morning with that 10 hour time zone difference.
Michael Vick and Tim Tebow are the same but equally opposite.
I have always been fascinated with Vick and Tebow’s stories. Sure, Vick’s is coming to a close and it has had a lot more dramatic ups and downs, but there are certain similarities I just can’t seem to shake.
Vick came out of school as a once in a lifetime talent. He was lighting fast, had a massive arm and seemed to have all the right tools to win. He did have some off the field problems, but that isn’t unheard of. I mean, who wouldn’t have gotten into a little trouble when you’re treated like royalty as a kid in college. He was highly sought after when he came into the NFL, and even though he didn’t put up great numbers he was exciting and fans loved to watch him.
Then there’s Tebow. The born captain, who got his name for leading his team, a perennial powerhouse, to two championships. He was loud, strong and charismatic. You always hear about it, but he had the intangibles. The kind of things you can’t describe but make people winners. He never thought twice to stand up in front of his teammates, coaches and media and rally his troops. However, even though he had more success in college than Vick he was treated as a lost cause when he came to the NFL. Anyone who saw him during his workouts could see why. He had all the red flags you don’t want your quarterback to have, he takes too long to throw the ball and he has a serious lack of power and accuracy. But the Broncos picked him up and we know how that went.
Here’s what I found interesting about these two men. Being that they are both unorthodox left-handed quarterbacks that rely on their feet in different ways, Vick’s speed and Tebow’s power, they are at the same point but just at the opposite ends of the spectrum. Vick was always given praise coming into the NFL. His talents he acquired naturally and through hard work always outshone his other issues. As a young player he didn’t read defenses well, he couldn’t stand in the pocket, he didn’t lead his team. Of course he did have success winning so it didn’t matter, especially in sports. Vick’s spectacular downfall from superstar to criminal is something that can only be rivaled by Tiger Woods or Kobe Bryant. I know Vick did his time and is working hard for dog related organizations and charities, but the damage has been done. Or should I say was done.
When Vick came back to the NFL people hated him. Many wanted him locked away for good for what he was involved in. However, as bad as his crimes, in sports, especially in America, as long as you win things are forgiven. There are countless stories of people screwing up, but were successful at their profession so it made up for it. America loves tragic stories, but that doesn’t compare to how much we love comeback stories. Vick took a page out of Kobe’s book. For better or worse, once he outed McNabb from the Eagles he was that electrifying player we missed and no longer the convict.
Of course then there’s Tebow. Who was taken by a struggling team with a journeyman quarterback and was seen as a marketing move opposed to a professional one, much like the Jets trade. After getting a chance to show what he could do, because of the fans chanting his name whenever he was near the field, he became the starter in Denver. He wasn’t as electric as Vick, but he did what was most important, he won. He didn’t play well for 3 1/2 quarters but when the game was on the line he same how got the ball in the end zone. Tebow couldn’t really throw the ball or read defenses, but the Broncos for some reason or another just seemed to click when they needed too. When the Broncos beat the Steelers in the playoffs Tebow should have been solidified as the starting quarterback for at least the next year, most other franchises would have done it, let alone a struggling one. I understand why the Broncos did what they did in signing Manning and losing Tebow, but had it been Vick instead of Tebow, I believe Manning would be playing for the 49ers .
The media craze around both of these players has been legendary, obviously for different reasons. One is the ultra-talented fallen star redemption story and the other is the prodigal leader that always gets undercut. The media have hurt and helped both of them in very different ways. Vick was sky rocketed by the media coming out of college and was equally shot down after the scandals came out. Tebow was already shot down and seen as a bust before he stepped on the field and once he started winning no one could talk about anything else. Whether you loved him or hated him Tebow was a national conversation for months. Of course as time went on, Vick was brought back to the pinnacles of high achieving sports superstars and Tebow was sent to ride the bench and occasionally trip over a lineman’s foot if he got called in to run the wildcat.
But as fate would have it, Vick has been struggling all season and Tebow has been cast aside by a joke of a New York Jets team. It would seem fitting for a veteran and experienced Vick to head to the bright lights of NY and Tebow to head back to his home state to take a group of no names to prominence. No matter how their stories unfold, these two men no matter how different they are, seem to be equally the same.