AFC Championship Post-game Analysis

Somewhat surprisingly, this game was similar to the first one. In both championships, one team dominated throughout, yet had to fight off a vicious comeback in the second half. And in both games, the team that played the full 60 minutes won. In this game, it was the Pittsburgh Steelers, punching yet another ticket to their 8th Super Bowl. But NOT with style. Who knew the Steelers could win with Ben Roethlisberger finishing the game with a 35.5 passer rating (2 ints, 0 TDs) while Mark Sanchez earning a 102.2 passer rating (o ints, 2 TDs)? I guess it’s true that defense does, in fact, win championships. In a semi-low scoring game, it came down to the stops and turnovers. Although the Steelers turned the ball over twice as opposed to the Jets’ 1 turnover, the Pittsburgh defense shut down the Jets offense in the first half, allowing only 3 points. It didn’t help that the Jets defense didn’t have an answer for Rashard Mendenhall until the 2nd half. Too little, too late, Jets. Just like in the NFC, the better team won.

Looking Ahead: Will the Steelers officially end all debate as to which franchise tops all others? With a seventh Super Bowl victory, there is no doubt in my mind that the Steelers’ franchise will have set the bar for all other franchises. But it won’t come easy. The Steelers have to face a solid NFC opponent that is simply on a tear right now, led by elite QB Aaron Rodgers. No team has come up with an answer for this star since November. I couldn’t think of a more worthy opponent to truly gauge the Steelers dominance.

MVP: RB Rashard Mendenhall; With all the speculation before the game highlighting Big Ben and the Pittsburgh defense, it seemed no one talked about the guy who ended up making the biggest difference. Mendenhall, being held under 100 yards since November, came up big when it mattered. The blocking was great, yes, but this guy made things happen for himself. Just watching him you could see he wanted every single one of the 121 yards he earned. Breaking tackles and fighting for the next yard every play, he was the face of the first drive which set the tone for ensuing drives. I can’t wait to see how he does in the Super Bowl.

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NFC Championship Post-game Analysis

I watched this entire game. I watched the analysis and predictions and such before the game as well. Finally, the game has been played and the pregame predictions do not mean much now. So what can we gather from this game as we look ahead to Super Bowl XLV?

I was glad to see that this game was close and was not decided until the last minute. However, if you watched the game, it was pretty one-sided for a good portion of the game. Green Bay dominated Chicago on both sides of the ball in the 1st half. The 2nd half was a different story, with the Bears figuring out the Packers offense and Caleb Hanie accounting for the Bears’ 14 points. But even so, the Packers were the better team on the field and deserved to win and go to the Super Bowl.

Looking Ahead: The Packers actually won the perfect type of game heading into the Super Bowl. They felt what its like to fight off a comeback, be stopped consistently on offense (in the 2nd half), and win on the road against a good defense. They made a lot of mistakes late in the game but were able to win and learn from this game. This is the best way to prime your team for the Super Bowl.

MVP: #8 Punter TIm Masthay; Surprised? Me too. I have never seen a punter have quite as big an impact as this guy. How do I know? Just noticing at all was enough. He had 5 punts landing within the 20-yard line, a few of those inside of the 10. But forget about stats, when Rodgers was being stopped and the Bears were trying to build something together, this guy threw off the Bears offensive gameplan by having them backed up against their own endzone. This lead to key stops by the Packers. Knowing Bears would play conservative back there, the Pack was able to blitz and stop any potential long drives the Bears had in mind. Great job, Aaron Rodgers and Pack defense, but Tim Masthay deserves a the most thanks for this championship win.

Friday Picks: Week 7

Last week record: 6-8 (Week 6: 9-5)                 Overall: 44-32

(Home teams are in CAPS)

ATLANTA over Cincinnati

CHICAGO over Washington

St. Louis over TAMPA BAY

San Francisco over CAROLINA

BALTIMORE over Buffalo

Philadelphia over TENNESSEE

KANSAS CITY over Jacksonville

PITTSBURGH over Miami

NEW ORLEANS over Cleveland

SEATTLE over Arizona

New England over SAN DIEGO

DENVER over Oakland

GREEN BAY over Minnesota

NY Giants over DALLAS

Cold Hard Lock: BALTIMORE over Buffalo; The only thing going for the Bills in this game is the fact that they are coming off a bye. And I’m not even sure that helps. There are just too many reasons Baltimore will win: They are at home, Bills yet to have won, Baltimore have lost two games (losing by less than 5 in both), they are 3rd in the league in passing yards allowed, and then some. Sorry Bills, it just won’t happen.

Upset Pick: NY Giants over DALLAS; This pick is unique in that, to me, this isn’t an upset. But apparently the Cowboys are favored in this game (-3). So this is an easy pick for my upset pick of the week. How does the most disappointing team in the league, who are in shambles, get the favorite spot over a team who has won three impressive games in a row? It doesn’t make sense. Is it because Dallas is at home? Probably. But in their two home losses, Dallas has allowed at least 27 points. Meanwhile, in the in Giants’ last three games, the defense has allowed an average of 11 points allowed, a significant improvement from their loss to Tennessee in week 3.

Game to watch: NY Giants at Dallas; The impact of this game will be huge no matter what team wins. If New York wins, Dallas will be all but out of division contention while the Giants continue their fight with the Eagles at the top. If Dallas wins, the Giants will be remembered as the team who let Dallas back in the race. That is not a team you want to be. When Tuesday comes around, the NFC East will have changed significantly.

Team to watch: Atlanta Falcons; The Falcons were one win away from convincing me they were the top team in the NFL. And what happens? They blow it against the Eagles. Now, they have a pretty easy game against the Bengals this week. But it needs to be impressive. If there is any doubt that Atlanta cannot sustain success, they will be in trouble. Atlanta is so close to being an elite team in the NFL. They just need to show resiliency by learning from last week’s loss and coming back strong with a win.

Player to watch: NFL Defenses; I realize this is not a single player, i’m not dumb. But it will be very interesting to see, after a week chalk-full of hard hits and injuries, how defenses react to the new suspension rule. If there is one single player that you could watch, it would be James Harrison. He has threaten to retire from the NFL for the “hard hit sanctions”. It will be interesting to see how he changes his mentality on defense this week, if at all.

Going to School: Week 6

I apoligize for my lack of updates in the past week. I realized I needed a “bye week” for myself. But anyways, I am back after a week 6 full of hard hits and injury. This segment is mainly about what we learn each week about the NFL standings and teams. To be truly honest, I do not feel like addressing the injury issue a whole lot right now. One reason for that is that it has been talked aboutso much in the past few days. Not TOO much of course; it’s a serious issue. I just don’t know much about the topic or how to stop these type of injuries. One thing I do know is that I don’t wanna see another hit as brutal as the one DeSean Jackson took on Sunday. Other than that, what else did we learn from Week 6 or the NFL?

The best team in the NFL is…we don’t know! It’s not clear. We have good trio of solid teams with 1-loss each. The Jets (5-1), and the Steelers and Patriots (4-1). They have won impressively and show strength on both sides of the ball. However, there is not one team who shows us the whole package. Each team shows a different weakness that will prove detrimental to their success. The Jets and Pats have great offenses but need to work on defense. Pittsburgh’s defense shows few mistakes but the offense still needs to improve. Keep in mind: these imporvements need to be made in order to be perfect teams (if there is such a thing). These teams are very close to being dominate. They just need to take the extra step and crush teams on both sides of the ball.

The NFC West is a joke. You know a division is in shambles when the leaders are tied at 3-2. Also, when the only team who’s scoring differential is positive is +1. And of course when the projected winner of the divisions is last place at 1-5. Jeez. This is a historically bad division who’s division winner has not surpassed a record of 10-6 since 2005. Unless i’m mistaken, the 49ers were supposed to show significant imporvements this year and win this division. Well, they have been one of the biggest disappointments of the NFL (right there with the Cowboys) and are LAST in the division. Frankly, this divison is up for grabs between three teams who do not belong to San Francisco. It’s just sad to see how one division can hold 4 sub-par teams. P.S. I do predict the Rams will win this division. They have some very impressive wins and their season is showing signs of hope. Plus, the Cardinals are ranked in the bottom six in virtually every yardage category.

Friday Picks: Week 5

Last week record: 10-4                 Overall: 35-27

(Home teams are in CAPS)

Jacksonville over BUFFALO

CINCINNATI over Tampa Bay

Atlanta over CLEVELAND

St. Louis over DETROIT

INDIANAPOLIS over Kansas City

Green Bay over WASHINGTON

Chicago over CAROLINA

BALTIMORE over Denver

NY Giants over HOUSTON

New Orleans over ARIZONA

Tennessee over DALLAS

San Diego over OAKLAND

Philadelphia over SAN FRAN

NY JETS over Minnesota

Cold Hard Lock: Atlanta over CLEVELAND; Finally, Buffalo is not my Cold Hard Lock loser! It was incredibly hard to pick a game as a lock, believe me. Locks are supposed to be games that you don’t even have to think about. Well this week, it was the game that I had to think the least about. The Falcons look solid on both sides on the ball and a couple weeks ago, they gave the Super Bowl Champs their first loss. Last week, their win did not look spectacular. But the bottom line is that they won. This is something Cleveland has not done much this season. Last week, they managed a three point win against the Bengals but before that, they did not look good in their losses. I’ll give them credit, they haven’t lost by more than seven. But the bottom line is that they lost. So when is comes down to a solid winning team to a close-game losing team, I will take the winning team (Atlanta) every time.

Upset Pick: NY Giants over HOUSTON; The upset pick was even harder to pick than my lock, if you can believe it. It’s because, when you think about it, there are so many games where the underdogs are not totally out of it. Even this one is not much of an upset. The Texans are only three point favorites. But if you watch the Texans, then you watch the Giants, you can see the Texans look like a team that together. There wins haven’t been blowouts, but they’ve been good. The Giants, on the other hand, have been a mess. So why would I pick the Giants? Well, if you know me personally, you probably know. If you don’t know me, then your probably even more confused. I believe in Eli Manning, as crazy as that sounds, to lead this team in this game, and the season. He has been able to keep up with the elites of the league. Plus, the Texans’ passing defense is the WORST in the league. Expect Eli to win this game through the air.

Game to watch: Kansas City at Indianapolis; (see Inside Indianapolis Colts: Week 4) This will be an intriguing match up. You have and the only undefeated team going against the Colts. Who’s the only undefeated? The once-lowly Chiefs. This game will come down to the Colts D and how they can recover from giving up 31 points in week 4. It’s this simple: if the Colts D can stop the Chiefs, they will win.

Team to watch: Philadelphia Eagles; How can the Eagles recover from two devastating losses? One being the loss against the Redskins last week and the other the loss of Michael Vick. The Eagles have a chance to look great again against the 0-4 49ers. If they lose that game, they will experience a shift of feelings that no team should endure: favorites in the NFC east in week 3 to bottom o’ the barrel in week 5.

Player to watch: Eagles QB Kevin Kolb; First, Kolb was chosen to be lead the Eagles franchise as their new, young QB. Then, we was quickly replaced by Michael Vick after suffering a head injury. Now, after an injury to Vick, he has been forced to lead a team that appears the be hanging by a thread. A win against the 49ers on SNF, and he has a chance to convince the Eagles fan base that he is the right guy for the job. A loss, and Kolb will have turned the Eagles fans into boo birds once again. And if that’s not a lot of pressure, I don’t know what is.

Inside Indianapolis Colts: Week 4

For many years now, the Colts have been almost automatics as playoff contenders. Last year, they went to the Super Bowl and went 14-0 in their first 14 games. But the Colts have a few obstacles in their way this year. Right off the bat, they have gone 2-2, a record no one expected they would see associated with Indy. Also, they face a dreaded Super Bowl loser curse: The last nine Super Bowl losers have not made it back to the Super Bowl the next year, and seven of those nine have not even made it back to the playoffs. The Colts unfortunatley are staring into the face of this curse. But can they overcome it? For one single reason, I think they can. That reason is Peyton Manning.

Offense: If you thought Peyton Manning’s numbers were good last year, consider the fact that Manning is on track to beat last year’s stats in completions, yards, and TDs. Enough said……well, maybe not. Manning is in the prime of his career in his 13th year of his career. That is a luxury that the Colts have been led by season after season. Manning has lived up to expectations and the Colts passing offense is 2nd in the league. However, the running game has possibly held the team back. Joseph Addai has not been putting up great numbers. Now, this somehow worked out last year for the Colts, but with the defense the way it is this year, Addai needs to find a way to perform.

Defense: The Colts defense, like Addai, never seem to stand out in the crowd. The games the Colts have won have been more impressive than the losses have been devastating. In fact, the two losses have been against teams that are in the top 12 in rushing yards this year. So while the Colts defense shouldn’t feel too bad, there is significant room for improvement. The next three weeks should get the D back on track. The face the Chiefs in week 5 who have actually had a great running game. But the passing game is terrible for the Chiefs and the Colts should be able to turn the Chiefs into a one-dimensional team in that game. Week 6 they see the Redskins on the road. The Redskins don’t seem to have a very strong offense on ground or in the air so the Colts shouldn’t see many problems there. They then have a whole week off to prepare for the Texans who ran all over them in week 1. In these three weeks, the Colts should be able to improve and prove to Houston that changes can happen in can just five weeks.

Week 5 Preview: The Colts’ week 5 opponent is the Kansas City Chiefs, who are 3-0. Offensively, the Colts should be fine passing the ball just like any other game. Running, however, may be a bit more challenging. The Chiefs had held their opponents to an average of 75 yards rushing a game (5th in the league). But the Colts have faced teams like this before and done just fine thanks to Peyton. Basically, expect Manning to have a field day. Defensively, the Colts should be able to force Kansas City to run. Although KC QB Matt Cassel had a breakout performance against the 49ers last week, I think the Colts will handle him just fine. Now, if KC is forced to run, the Colts must be ready for it. RB Jamaal Charles has yet to rush for over 100 yards this season. Look for the Chiefs to give him more chances running this week–in his first three games, he never had more than 12 rushing attempts. The Colts D is still a question mark at this point, but the Chiefs have not a team as elite as the Colts yet. Prediction: As 7 point favorites, I think the Colts hand the Chiefs their first loss and win 28-17.

Overall Lookout: To the Colts fans out there: I bet you are worried, and I understand that because you’re used to the Colts getting out of the gates quickly. But do not worry just yet. The Colts are one of many 2-2 teams in the league that are not in bad shape (see Going To School: Week 4). Colts fans, realize that you have one of the best and smartest players in the league at Peyton Manning. I’ll bet he has been in this hole before and is more than used to digging the team out of it. Do not take Manning for granted. Without him, I would be a whole lot more worried for the Colts right now. I understand the Colts are 0-2 in the division and that’s bad, but Manning and the Colts are just too strong on offense to go away quietly, or at all. The bottom line is, don’t worry before things have gotten bad. If you lose your next two games, then go ahead worry. But know now that it’s okay to rest your Super Bowl hopes and dreams on the shoulders on Peyton Manning, you’ve done it before.

Going To School: Week 4

Well, at this point in the season, I bet most of us didn’t expect to see what we see now. Kansas City is 3-0, Indy is 2-2, Dallas has only won one game, there are 10 teams with three wins and the league is up for grabs. At this point last season, there were 11 teams with three wins or more and 5 undefeated teams. Quite a change between seasons regarding the undefeateds. Our one undefeated team is the Chiefs? Ouch. Like I said, this league can fall into the hands of anyone right now. Did week 4 give us any clues to what teams could runaway with the league? What did we learn in week 4?

Eight of the ten teams with three wins are legitimate playoff contenders. Kansas City (3-0), Atlanta, Chicago, Baltimore, NY Jets, New Orleans, Houston, Green Bay, New England, Pittsburgh (3-1) are the best teams in the league as far as wins go. However, Kansas City and Chicago do not show playoff potential. For both teams, their problems stem from the quarterback. For Chicago, QB Jay Cutler is doing horrible. But there is room for improvement. Cutler leads the league with the most sacks than any other QB. One could argue that the O-line is responsible for this. But if you watched his latest game against the Giants, you could clearly see his hesitation in the pocket. This wasn’t seen in the first 3 games. Could it have just been the Giants that threw him off his game? Maybe. But consider this: Chicago’s winning differential is just 1 point. That’s not a stat skewed by one game, but a stat that represents how the Bears are barely surviving. As far as Chiefs QB Matt Cassel goes, he is just a mess. He ranks in the bottom half in the league in completions, QB rating, and pass yardage. And this is the leader of the Chiefs 3-0 team? This kind of performance cannot last. These two teams must show significant improvment on pass offense soon, or they’ll find themselves struggling to make it back on top.

2-2 teams are in relatively good shape still. The majority of teams in the league are 2-2, naturally. It may seem to certain teams that they are not where they are supposed to be, specifically the Colts, Giants, Eagles and Chargers. But these teams shouldn’t fret. Not yet anyway. The Giants and Chargers, who both faced tough starts, have each had HUGE wins in week 4. The Colts and Eagles are coming off some pretty tough losses. The Colts should not be too worried because they are led by a supremely good QB who can lead them through any adversity. The Eagles may be the only team in real trouble. They lost a great QB at Michael Vick and are now stuck with Kevin Kolb, again. But if they can just get in a groove anf find their rhythm, they will be back on track. And there’s no better place to do it than on the road against a team that is a mess and without a win, the 49ers.