At Least I’m Not A Bengals Fan…
…Because if my team had an elite receiver that busted routes like AJ Green did in the second half of this game, I’d have broken furniture in my home. The defense did its job in that game, Andy was not as bad as his numbers suggested, and yes, the other receivers didn’t step up like the game plan hoped they would. Doesn’t matter in the playoffs. You’re the star. Big players make big plays in big games, Adrian Jeremiah Green. That game needed one play by you to be won, and you blew two shots at it. Playoffs are about the things you do best, and harsh realities when you don’t do them in big games. No better example of that than the 2 end zone balls Green couldn’t corral. The Texans did you a half dozen favors and you didn’t oblige.
At Least I’m Not A Vikings Fan…
…Firstly because I’d be wondering exactly how Christian Ponder hurts his throwing arm, because it can’t be from throwing. Ponder’s toughness was put into question in the second half of his rookie season, and without any real threat of a passing attack, the Packers were allowed to keep 37 in the box and limit AP to 99 yards. That being said, it was clear that the Packers D wanted nothing to do with Joe Webb early. I’ve seen Webb do well in prime-time regular season games (including a game nobody thought he’d win against the red-hot Michael Vick Eagles on the road in 2010), but it became clear by the 2nd quarter that this stage was too big for him. I would have tried more basic passing in the first drive and gone off of it with the read-option stuff on the second drive. Go a little opposite your true game plan to soften them up, and also give AP opportunities in draw plays if the pass plays work. The Bears, Giants, and Cowboys would have put together better games in this spot. NFL ain’t fair. I think the real question of this game is about Ponder. I obviously don’t know exactly how bad the injury is, but I know it’s not a bony or ligamentous injury. It’s just alot of swelling and bruising. Tony Romo came out and played with that on his hand and was competitive last year. Philip Rivers played an AFC Championship game with a torn ACL. Ponder’s ducking out with a triceps bruise? Not the kind of thought I want sticking with me for 8 months.
The Sentiment Bowl. #Chuckstrong vs. #RayLewisPullingATiki. When I first looked at this weekend’s games, I took a step back and said to myself “I can’t like ALL four home teams this much, can I?”. Thankfully, Ray Lewis put so much pressure on his team by drawing a shit-ton of attention to himself in pulling a Tiki Barber that there finally is a stage for the upset. Bruce Arians, as you know, is a long-time offensive coordinator for the Steelers, who have been able to successfully navigate much better Baltimore defenses than this one. I think Arians capitalizes on the early emotion, gets a few inexperienced DB and LBs to bite on hard fakes for big plays (something Indy has done well all year, and the playoffs are about what you do well) and that gets Indy the early lead they need to hide the holes in their own defense. Indy strikes early, Freeney and the boys pin their ears back, and Flacco caves in. A great Ray Rice game negates all of this, obviously, but they haven’t shown you anything that suggests he’ll be a bell cow here, and really, the Ravens haven’t played a good game against a team that showed up to play them since November 18.
Colts 31, Ravens 24.
(Update: Bruce Arians was hospitalized for severe flu-like illness one hour prior to the game. Arians was the cornerstone of my picking this upset, and with a new playcaller in one of the harshest stadiums with a rookie quarterback, it simply won’t be executed. Baltimore catches another break. It’s really upsetting.) Ravens 30, Colts 14.
Not everyone seems to agree with me here, but I thought this game was as tough to call as the Houston-Cincy game. The logic for picking Seattle has been put out there: these teams are nearly identical on offense, but Seattle has the much better defense, so they win. I disagree. Seattle’s defense is good, but much like the Giants, it hinges on athleticism. It relies on one-on-one battles being won, and against an offensive scheme where you can get away with not blocking a defensive end (particularly a rookie one like Bruce Irvin whose instructions this year have been somewhere along the lines of “Bruce go eat man with ball”), I think it’s going to get exposed a little bit. Seattle’s defense is going to get caught being aggressive to the strong side, and alot of plays are going to leak out of the weak side to be thrown to. Also, Russell Wilson hasn’t really shown intermediate accuracy like Robert Griffin has. I think the Skins can get away with shading the coverage back to take away the deep balls he throws so well, making sure they stop Marshawn Lynch (obviously no easy task), and forcing him to methodically drive the ball for 60 minutes. I don’t think the Seahawks can take away everything Robert Griffin does well. The sleeping giant in this year’s playoffs is the Washington offense and just how good the Shanahans are at implementing zone blocking and easy reads for RG3. Washington’s train doesn’t stop until it meets a real contender. Redskins 24, Seahawks 17.