by Ryan Meehan
Since I usually never sell myself as the guy who brags about how he got his picks right, last week was an exception to that rule. However this time the football gods got me and they got me good during divisional playoff weekend. I went 1-3, and to make matters worse it was even more disturbing because I was certain my picks were locks. But that’s why the NFL playoffs are so exciting to begin with, and let’s see just how much I was off.
Ravens 38, Broncos 35
This game was very neck and neck throughout the first 59 minutes. To be brutally honest, even though it was so close that doesn’t change the fact that the Broncos were ready to put this one away. But when you really think about it, they needed two special teams touchdowns from Trinidon Holliday just to keep pace with the Ravens. Something wasn’t right about the Broncos all game – their defense looked confused the whole afternoon and Champ Bailey (who is usually very reliable) got smoked series after series. Nonetheless, they were up 35-28 and had the Ravens in their own territory. A three and out would have finished the job and caused for a lot of Coors to be poured throughout the state of Colorado. But just when it looked like the Ravens were dead in the water, Joe Flacco hit Jacoby Jones for a touchdown, much to the chagrin of Tony Carter and Rahim Moore who won’t be any instructional videos on how to cover a wide receiver anytime soon.
Throughout the first overtime period that Baltimore Ravens did exactly what they have done over Lewis’ seventeen year career – they were able to stop the opposition at the end of the game and give their offense just enough opportunity to win. They held the Broncos scoreless through the entire first overtime, and held them off in the second as well – long enough for Justin Tucker to kick a game winning field goal and send the Baltimore Ravens up to Foxboro for the second straight year to meet the Pats in the AFC Championship.
This is probably the space I should use to say that there is a possibility I may have been wrong about Flacco. He’s certainly a guy who’s tough and can rally the troops, but we now know he’s clutch as well. I know I keep bringing up this next guy’s name, but I’m not sure that there is a secondary player in the NFL right now that is having a good of a year as DB Corey Graham. He’s come up so big in the last few weeks, and he seems determined to become one of the NFL’s next big stars. I didn’t give the Ravens the respect that they deserve, and they made me (and plenty of other odds makers) look extremely stupid.
Editor’s Note: First Boner Pill Advertisement 4:08PM
49ers 45, Packers 31
In our second installment of “Meehan has no idea what he is doing when it comes to picks”, we head to California where the 49ers were hosting the Packers. They weren’t very good hosts, as they only let the Packers have the ball for 8 minutes in the first half. The second that Kaepernick got outside of the pocket the Packers were hopeless. To quote Bart Scott, they simply “couldn’t stop a nosebleed”, and in this instance they were up against one hell of a nosebleed. The Packers looked very good heading into this game, and this was where the standard “NFC West” is weak argument was supposed to come into play. It didn’t and I think we can all agree that division is no longer the laughingstock it once was, especially when you consider how dominant the NFC North was supposed to be this season.
Even though Green Bay scored first on an interception by Sam Shields and they were only down by 3 points heading into the locker room, you just got the feeling that San Francisco was in total control of this game. They were getting it done everywhere on the field, and if you can honestly tell me you predicted that Michael Crabtree was going to score two touchdowns in the second period you’re only lying to yourself. And their defense played very well – Green Bay’s leading rusher was Harris and he only had 53 yards on 11 carries.
In the second half, things feel apart for the Packers – the momentum that the 49ers had carried into the locker room seemed to be too much for them to handle on the road. The only touchdown they scored was very late in the game after the Niners had already tacked on three more scores, and by that point the contest was pretty much over.
Last week I had mentioned how little Vernon Davis has been used in the San Francisco offense since Colin became the starter. This puts him in a very awkward place when the season is over because they might be the most complete team remaining in the playoffs, and they really don’t need him. Davis has been selfish in the past because he believed that he wasn’t getting the ball enough, and I couldn’t help but notice how Kaepernick seemed to be running to the exact spots on the field where Davis was getting the ball when Alex Smith was the starting quarterback.
San Francisco looks very good at the moment, and they have really tightened up in the areas where they were having problems during the regular season. They don’t seem to be giving up the big plays anymore, and on offense everything is working much better although from a distance it could be viewed as a little disorganized. But as long as Kaepernick can keep running the ball like that, I have no reason to believe that they can’t win against the Patriots should they face them in the Super Bowl.
Falcons 30, Seahawks 28
The Falcons jumped out to a 20-0 lead early and Seattle looked dead in the water. They couldn’t get anything going on the ground, which was what exactly what they needed to do. They looked very flat and were well covered by the Atlanta secondary. Headed into the locker room they still didn’t have a single point.
But after halftime, the Seahawks went right to work. Russell Wilson hit Golden Tate for a 29 yard score. It looked as if it was going to be for nil, as Matt Ryan led the Falcons all of the way down the field to put them up 27-7. When the fourth quarter began, no one could have imagined Atlanta blowing a 20 point lead with the exception of Wilson. Calm and poised, he led the Seahawks on three straight touchdown drives that put them up by one point with very little time remaining. The Georgia Dome fell silent, and you couldn’t help but look at the Falcons and say “You see, I TOLD you they were going to find a way to blow it”. But then Ryan completed two lengthy passes (one to Harry Douglas and the other to Gonzalez) and was able to set Matt Bryant up for a dame winning 49 yard field goal. Carroll took a timeout to ice Bryant, who had a practice kick which he missed. But the one that counted split the uprights and the Falcons were on their way to their third NFC Championship game in their franchise history.
The one bright spot that I could take away from this game (even though I can’t stand the Falcons) is that it was nice to see Tony Gonzalez finally get a playoff win. He’s still a very effective go-to guy, and tight end is a difficult position to play for as long as he has been able to do it at that level. Good for him and if this is his last year, he’ll always have this game, which I think it’s pretty cool. However, I am still very suspect about the Atlanta Falcons. Even though they won the game, the way they sort of fell apart during the majority of the fourth quarter is enough to lead me to believe that they are going to get crushed by the Niners next week. Seattle had more passing yards, more total yards, ran more plays and had more first downs.
Patriots 41, Texans 28
Like I said in the preview piece, the Texans had no shot at winning this game. Even though I also felt the same way about the first three matchups, this one I was 100% sure about. So you could understand how freaked out I was when Danieal Manning returned the opening kickoff almost all of the way for the score. But the fear was short lived, as the Texans were not able to get into the end zone and had to settle for a field goal. From that moment on, the Patriots controlled this game with an iron fist and it’s no surprise that fist belonged to Tom Brady.
The bad news for Koz and other Patriots fans is that there was a casualty that came out of this game – Tight end Rob Gronkowski broke that forearm and he will not be available for the remainder of the playoffs. Although a huge loss, the Patriots did get three touchdowns from Shane Vereen, who is likely to see more action on some of the short passing routes that Gronk usually runs. The Pats defense controlled Matt Schaub, but at the same time I’m not exactly sure if he was all he was cracked up to be this year.
This was another example of a game where the score didn’t reflect how mad the beating actually was. The Pats manhandled the Texans up until the point where it didn’t matter, and then they packed it in. No need to do anything stupid when you have a big game coming up in seven days, and this player management is exactly one of the reasons that the Patriots go so deep in the playoffs almost every year. They do a fantastic job of long term planning and they know when to pull the plug. There are some football purists that may disagree with that approach, it’s extremely smart when you consider that you’ve got a guy who is likely headed to his sixth Super Bowl.
Summary: The one lesson that is to be learned from all of this weekend’s action is that one person does not a team make. Peyton Manning, JJ Watt, Aaron Rodgers, and Russell Wilson will all be watching next week’s games on television as opposed to playing in them. Football is a team game and nowhere is that more apparent in the playoffs. Weaknesses are not just exposed, but abused and every team that won this weekend did an incredible job of abusing their opponent’s weaknesses.
Thinking ahead, I like San Francisco and New England to advance to the Super Bowl. We’ll cover that in greater detail in next week’s preview. Until then stay warm, and thanks for visiting First Order Historians and enjoying more of the internet’s finest in user generated content.