2010 NFL Playoff Picture: As It Is Set
Now that we know the playoff teams, their seedings and who plays where, let’s get down to it.
AMERICAN FOOTBALL CONFERENCE
WILD CARD WEEKEND
BYE – Do Not Play During Wild Card Weekend
WILD CARD PLAYOFF
4:30 PM – NBC
The Jets dominated the Bengals in a game that meant little to the Bengals with regards to playoff stance. However, there were many things to take away from the NFL Week 17 regular season finale: The Jets ran the ball at will. Mark Sanchez, while strictly serving as “Game Manager”, doesn’t make any mistakes and the Bengals were helpless to stop the Jets’ rushing attack. Conversely, the Jets stuffed everything the Bengals ran. The Bengals were already missing three key players on defense and lost two more (and an offensive lineman) in this game. Hard to fathom whatever they had up their sleeves for the Wild Card Playoff is going to be substantive to beating the Jets’ league-best defense.
I watch the Jets play every week. Their defense is no fluke. Those stats are not inflated. Their defense is for real and so is their running game (buoyed by a mammoth offensive line). It seems as though everything that embodied the Giants up until last year got transferred to the Jets. The Jets are a scary team to beat if Mark Sanchez is put in a position where he does not commit turnovers. In years past, the Jets were the team that would lose 44-7, 44-9 and beat the hottest team in the conference (for the Giants this year, that was Dallas — TWICE) in the same breath. Rex’s boys are going to be a force to be reckoned with — (the Bengals just do not have the personnel in any phase of the game to beat the Jets, let’s face it).
NY Jets 23
1:00 PM – CBS
The Ravens, by all accounts and for all intents and purposes “should’ve” beaten the Patriots earlier this year when they traveled to Foxborough. A dropped pass late by Mark Clayton was the difference. The Ravens were driving and able to beat the Patriots’ relatively slow back seven for scores in this game. Opportunities will be had in the Wild Card Playoff. Tom Brady is allegedly playing with 3 broken ribs and a busted ring finger. The cynic in me is saying either or both of the following is true: Belichick is trying to play cat and mouse with the Ravens and trying to get them to focus on Brady and/OR they’re (Patriots) trying to paint Brady as some tough guy warrior who’s going to play and gut it out regardless. You can’t be a tough guy when you beg referees for flags on plays that were negligible at best.
Ravens are coming in playing decent ball and they’re more physical than the Patriots overall. Not to mention the fact that the Patriots are missing their key cog to their offense in Wes Welker (Out for Season, Torn ACL/MCL).
They weren’t going to win anyway, but they definitely aren’t after getting a full dosage of Ray Rice and Willis McGahee.
New England 20
NATIONAL FOOTBALL CONFERENCE
WILD CARD WEEKEND
BYE – Do Not Play During Wild Card Weekend
WILD CARD PLAYOFF
8:00 PM – NBC
What a weird twist of events these past two weeks. The Giants went from playing for the division, to winning two straight after the loss to Philadelphia which sealed their fate concerning the division, then lose to Carolina in embarrassing fashion, while Dallas has won two games they normally would not win in December and the Giants were eliminated from playoff contention in Week 16.
The Eagles went from being almost locks to secure the #2 seed to being the #6 seed (and had the Giants beaten the Iggles in Week 13, who knows?). That has to concern them to an extent, but read on.
The Cowboys are playing error-free football. That’s what you want. Tony Romo hasn’t made a bad throw in almost a month. The Cowboys’ running game gets yards in gashes and wears teams down with three different running backs at that.
I love how that arrogant Roy Williams is getting humbled quickly down in Dallas. He has been full of himself since he was at the University of Texas and seeing the Drake of the NFL in Miles Austin (I mean that both as a nod to his quick ascension/major success and a knock because I hate the guy for some reason other than being a Cowboy — just as I hate Drake, but that’s another column ha) and one-trick pony Patrick Crayton surpassing you as Romo’s chief WR targets.
The Eagles did not show up Sunday. I figured they would take DeSean Jackson away, as they have both games this year, however, I did not think the Eagles’ complete game plan would look so trashy. They had no continuity at any point in the game.
That being said, I really don’t think there will be any parallels between the 24-0 rout by the Cowboys over the Iggles otherwise.
Maybe Andy Reid was holding back a bit, but that’s hard to fathom, because the Iggles had a first round bye and a week to rest (AND PREPARE) at stake. So there’s not an excuse Philly fans can use. The Cowboys whipped them fair and square.
I just really believe there will be adjustments made and the Dallas’ winless-in-the-playoffs streak extends to an alarming 14th year. The Cowboys haven’t beaten themselves, which is why they haven’t lost since losing to the Giants (somehow) a few weeks ago. However, the Eagles did leave 2 touchdowns on the field as Don could not make a good throw to DeSean Jackson and on another occasion, Jeremy Maclin. Those plays (and several others) will be there next week, because Dallas didn’t do anything special or in particular to stop the Eagles’ deep game to Jackson nor Brent Celek (who DID have a big game, BTW).
4:40 PM – FOX
Green Bay fans are excited about being back in the playoffs. Understandably so, after the way they exited them once their smoke-and-mirrors show ended in 2007 and not making the playoffs at all in 2008. The Packers have played remarkably well the second half of the season. They managed to stay under the radar in the NFC and in the entire NFL as teams focused on what the Saints and Vikings were and WEREN’T doing, and how Philadelphia had gone on a patented run and had a shot at the #2 seed, while Dallas DID NOT implode in December as they did the rest of the 2000s decade — while the reigning NFC East champion Giants, who finished 12-4 in 2008 (albeit reeling late and continued it throughout 2009 despite their fast start), began 2009 with a 5-0 record, with 3-8 the rest of the season and looked like the worst team in football while doing so. But no one was talking about the Packers.
Never fear, I watch them every week. There are some key things to point out that they do well (and some statistics that are deceiving in their favor which need to be dispelled).
The season began as the Packers were middling at best, with a 4-4 record. They could not protect QB Aaron Rodgers, which most fans and other viewers such as myself pinned the majority of the Packers’ problems upon. Once they began protecting him better, he made plays on his way to his second consecutive 4,000 yard passing season (and these aren’t empty, we’re 6-10 and playing from behind every week, 4,000 yards, these are within the context of the offense and the game, type 4,000 — sort of like Kobe averaging 30 PPG right now with the Lakers, if you will).
However, the defensive statistic that their fans like the cite in the same breath has to stop. The Giants were ranked #10 and everyone KNOWS once you take away the first 5 games of the season, the Giants literally and figuratively had the worst defense in football. Were they a 10th ranked defense? Not in my eyes. And so it is with the Packers. They built up their numbers playing against the NFC’s dregs in the Lions (TWICE), the Bears (TWICE) and teams like St. Louis. When faced with legitimate offenses, they struggled and had to get into shootouts with them — unable to stop them.
Also, people are saying that Ryan Grant is running the ball exceptionally well. No. He’s getting yards here and there, but there’s nothing spectacular about the Packers’ running game.
The Cardinals effectively took Week 17 off, resting Warner after the 1st quarter. They did have a few players leave the game banged up and they will not be 100% when these two teams play again on Sunday (DE Calais Campbell (hand), WR Anquan Boldin (everything), CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (knee). The Cardinals are a legitimate offense and you already know how I feel about the Packers playing one of those.
Grant won’t be running the ball with Darnell Dockett (FROM?!?!) disrupting everything. If Campbell cannot go, the Cards may miss him a bit, but the Cards have playmakers at every level (Dockett, Dansby, Okeafor, DRC, Rolle, Adrian Wilson FROM?!?! High Point, etc.)
Too much in the desert.
Green Bay 23
DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF NOTES COMING IN ONE WEEK.