by Ryan Meehan
The divisional playoff round got started on Saturday afternoon in Massachusetts with a dandy of a fine game, and ended on Sunday night with what turned out to be kind of a stinker. Such is life in the NFL, where much like a home for transient teenagers – They’re not all winners. Thankfully enough good stuff happened for it to be worth our while, and this is what went down divisional playoff weekend in the NFL.
Patriots 35, Ravens 31
While I am well known for getting on this website and bagging on certain aspects of the NFL, I can’t even complain about a single thing with regards to this game. It was an eleven on a ten scale and I enjoyed the hell out of every minute of it. Baltimore came out looking like they were going to pull of the upset, as they jumped out to a 14-0 lead. But even though they had temporarily contained the monster that was Tom Brady and were looking virtually invincible, you just knew that Belichick had a gameplan up his sleeve that was slowly going to send Flacco & Company packing. The Ravens did almost everything they needed to in this game, and they still ended up losing. Their only real bummer stat was the fact that they were one for nine on third down, but in their defense they were converting on a lot of first and second down plays. Flacco ended up with a better QBR than Brady did, and both quarterbacks had seventeen incompletions so it’s not like he took the kid to school or anything. By the time the second half started, coach B had pretty much decided that he was only going to throw the ball or die trying. And that theory proved to affect the stat line: The Patriots won with just fourteen rushing yards. After watching what New England was able to do, I have a hard time believing that anybody but them would be the favorites to win the Super Bowl from here on out even though in the next game the Seahawks would finally get something rolling offensively. They are going to destroy the Colts at home next week, and I have no idea how I am going to stretch that thought for a whole paragraph.
Seahawks 31, Panthers 17
This game was not nearly as awesome as the one which preceded it, but got interesting as soon as Richard Sherman picked off Cam Newton and obviously got in his head. He never really left, and the Seahawks slowly worked their way away from the Panthers before Kam Chancellor returned a 90 yard interception for a touchdown which sealed the game for Seattle at 31-10. Someday Cam Newton is going to learn to throw balls like that out of bounds, but it might be too late for it to matter by the time he comes to that realization. Carolina had a hell of a year and did end up winning a playoff game, but they were simply no match for the Legion of Boom in this one. Although the Hawks finally got their offense rolling against that Panthers’ defense, Wilson still only threw for 268. But he did have 3 touchdown passes and no interceptions, and that’s really all that matters. We know Wilson is never going to go out and have a 450 yard day – it’s not who he is. But what the Seahawks may lack in being a complete team, they more than make up for with their vicious defense. Seattle became the first reigning Super Bowl Champion to win their next playoff game since the 2005 Patriots, proving that either the league is actually starting to show some parity or that free agency is totally out of control.
Packers 26, Cowboys 21
Within several minutes of watching this game, it was clear that Aaron Rodgers was bothered by the calf muscle injury he had suffered in the Lions game two weeks ago. He knew he couldn’t scramble, and he was well aware of that so he had to adjust his game accordingly. And to his credit, I thought he did a damn good job in the second half of playing to the best of his abilities. The Dallas Cowboys found themselves on the flip side of a familiar coin again this week, as all talk about the officiating will be centered around the Dez Bryant drop. A lot of writers will be spending a majority of their week fighting about this, which for the record was an awful call. What really pissed me off about this whole thing is how after the game, everybody was saying that even though it is a bad rule, that the correct call was made. Huh? Think about the mental logjam that has to occur in order for that sentence to be a real thing: You have to understand that something is wrong, know that a certain rule is in place that allows for that wrong thing to be called right, and then applaud the fact that the thing you know is wrong was carefully assessed as being right. This extends further than the competition committee, this is just poor marketing. Anyway, I still feel like the better team won and that the Packers looked impressive when it counted. That being said, that’s a .500 team without Rodgers.
Colts 24, Broncos 13
Hate to say I told you so, but I called this as my only upset of the weekend and I was right. I’m not sure if Peyton Manning is officially out of gas, but Andrew Luck just fueled up and he’s going to be a staple in this league for a while. The NFL may not have gotten their standard Brady/Manning playoff match-up, but you know what? They’re going to need to prepare for life without Peyton Manning at some point, and there has never been a better time than now. How stupid do you feel if you’re the Papa John’s guy right now? Andrew Luck has officially arrived, and he’s got two straight playoff wins to prove that’s the case. The Colts look very solid, and if they were playing anybody but New England next week I’d say that they would be a lock for Super Bowl XLIX. Denver on the other hand leaves this game with an awful taste in their mouth: A lot of broadcasters are saying this might be the end of the road for Manning, and both DeMaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas are free agents now. I could honestly see a team like Seattle or the Patriots snagging up either of them, and if Peyton’s not the player he used to be then the Denver Broncos could very easily miss the playoffs next year.
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