NFL Divisional Playoff Weekend Wrapup

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by Ryan Meehan
This weekend we got treated to a healthy dose of postseason pigskin.  And by “treated” I mean that in the sense that I went 4-0 with my picks, so as you can imagine it was a delight for me.  The Championship round is now set, and in my opinion the four best teams are a part of it.  And when it comes to sports, isn’t that really all you can hope for?  I certainly hope so.  As I’m typing this, the guy who provided Alex Rodriguez is on 60 Minutes trying to explain to the host why he doesn’t think he’s a bad person.  I suppose we can’t win them all…  
Seahawks 23, Saints 15   
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Seattle jumped out to an early lead of 6-0 when they dominated the first quarter about as much as you can dominate of quarter without scoring a touchdown.  (Remember the position play game we thought would happen)  But it didn’t last long, because Marshawn Lynch busted out a great touchdown run early in the second.  I’m starting to convince myself that Lynch’s ability to get more yards per contact hedges mostly on the intensity of the initial hit.  He seems to roll off of them better than anybody of that size in the NFL today.  Not that the Saints are prone to any sort of bounty program or anything, but did anybody else catch the bullseye that was on Percy Harvin’s head in the first half?  Is he in the mob?  Sending the Saints into the locker room down 16-0 at halftime.  Drew Brees only had 34 yards passing in the first half, which might not be the blueprint for beating New Orleans but that information is definitely in the instructions.  But New Orleans came out in the second half and looked very good.  They were moving the ball really well and spreading it around as if they just figured out how to do so, but Cliff Avril put that dream to death.  When they did get the ball back to score their first touchdown, that drive seemed like a friggin’ eternity, and that’s how they ended up losing.  They put together and other long drive after Marshawn Lynch scored another TD, but by that point it didn’t matter and their season was resting on an on-side kick – Never a good place to be.  But interestingly enough, they executed it well and ended up recovering the ball.  In the end, it would be too little, too late and although they got it going Seattle came away with the win.
Now I do want to be very cautious about Seattle.  Although the quarterback that got over on them during the fourth quarter is a first ballot Hall of Famer, it still happened and this ended up being a one possession game in which the difference was about 30 yards.  And you have to figure New Orleans missed a crucial field goal, so Seattle is still beatable.  They let up towards the end of this game and if that’s really them, then that could be a problem in another game where they don’t score 16 points right away.  And if they scored 16 in the first half, that also tells me three of those drives resulted in only scoring field goals so there is cause for concern.
Patriots 43, Colts 22 
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During the first half of this game, the Patriots played pretty well and at times looked very dominant.  Going over that two quarter stretch, I realized what is different about the Patriots now and the Patriots five years ago.  The Patriots now don’t have the same killer mentality that they used to have.  It sounds bizarre to say it in a wrapup that reads they scored 43 points, but let’s be real – the old Patriots could have hung 70 on that sorry wet paper sack that Indianapolis calls a defense.  And for the Colts on offense?  We wondered last week if Andrew Luck was going to be prone to the same type of mistakes he made in the first playoff game, and I think that he proves he still isn’t quite at an elite level.  He’s very good, but as the old saying goes there isn’t a Hall of Very Good.  The Patriots were just too strong on all fronts – LeGarrette Blount had 4 touchdowns and the passing game was just enough to get by – and that’s all they needed.
I do think that it is funny all of the analysts were surprised that the Patriots were going to move towards more of a running game when you consider all of the injuries they’ve suffered…Well, no shit – what else were they going to do?  Really, really rely on their kicking game?  They now have a running back they can salvage, something that I haven’t been able to say since Corey Dillon vanished off of the face of the earth.
49ers 23, Panthers 10 
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What I saw in this game was pretty much what everybody else saw – a team that is very well practiced with a ton of playoff experience beating up on a bunch of kids who are wet behind the ears.  The Niners looked every bit as good as the team that got to the Super Bowl just eleven and a half months ago, thanks to the elusive Colin Kaepernick and his superior game management skills.  Additionally San Francisco’s defense was absolutely smothering, and Newton looked lost in a building where he is typically very comfortable.  Anquan Boldin had eight receptions and 136 yards, and he’s one of their older players and is only in San Francisco in the first place because the team who won the Super Bowl thought his career was over.  But Newton had two costly interceptions, and if their defense was a sliver worse in the red zone this game would have easily been a blowout.  They had one streak of genius in the second quarter, but it was short lived.
What we have seen with Carolina this season may have been a fluke.  They could easily be next year’s Atlanta or Houston, and either way they won’t win the NFC North in the remainder of Brees’ career.  It will be interesting to see where the writers rank them next year, because based on the way they played on Sunday I can’t give them more than 7 wins.  I just can’t do it.
Broncos 24, Chargers 17
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The Chargers scored a majority of their points late, and never really had this game under control.  Which shouldn’t surprise anybody – they were only 4-4 on the road in the regular season, and they were scoreless through the first three quarters of this one.  They had no answer for all of Peyton Manning’s options, of which they are many.  An NFL roster allows you to hold 53 players, and by my count the Broncos have at least a hundred and twenty guys who can line up as a wideout.  San Diego and Carolina reminded me a lot of each other as I watched this game – They were both teams that looked like they didn’t belong there because they didn’t belong there.  But due to what I saw in the fourth quarter, I saw that Denver is beatable and we’ll find out if that’s the case next week.  They can let teams climb back into games, and that happened earlier this year against New England who they are playing Sunday afternoon.  But I love DeMaryius Thomas and what he’s able to do as a wide receiver.  Even in snaps where he isn’t the result of the play, you’re screwed because you immediately have to put the biggest guy on your secondary squarely on him or Peyton will make him the result of the play.  He’s the west coast Megatron of the NFL.
Manning’s numbers were not are astronomical as they had been in some of this year’s games, and in the era of protecting the quarterback two touchdowns is kind of an off day for that skill level.  His passer rating was only 93.5, while Rivers sat at over 115.  So sometimes numbers do lie, and like Charlie Sheen will tell you winning is what’s most important in life.
And waffles.  Winning and eating waffles covered in whipped cream cheese are the only things you’ll ever need to worry about chasing.
Once again thanks for visiting First Order Historians and enjoying more of the internet’s finest in user generated content.   Meehan
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