Posts Tagged Patriots

Defense? No One Said Anything About Defense?

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

san-francisco-49ers-logo

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 

Ravens

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.

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50% Of The Time, I’m Right 100% of the Time

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

Broncos

Broncos

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

Packers

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

Seahawks

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

Patriots

Patriots

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.

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