The time has come. Even though we are a New York based site and both the Jets and Giants crapped the bed this year, that doesn’t mean that Sports Debaters interest in the NFL playoffs lessens. The Wild Card Round is upon us and there are some extremely exciting match-ups. Here is our breakdown and predictions for both of Saturday’s Wild-Card games.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Houston Texans: In a rematch of last year’s Wild Card game, the Bengals and Texans will face off in Houston to open this year’s festivities. The Houston Texans were in the drivers seat all season long, and many experts expected them to win the AFC’s home field throughout the playoffs. However, over the past few weeks, they have come back to earth and their loss last week to the Colts forced them into action the opening weekend. The Bengals have played an impressive brand of football the past few weeks, and their Week 16 nail biting win over the Steelers catapulted them into today’s game. Last year, the Texans beat the Bengals 31-10 behind QB T.J. Yates, as starter Matt Schaub went down with an injury heading into the playoffs. This year, Schaub is back and ready to prove himself in the post season for the first time. The Bengal’s Andy Dalton and AJ Green are easily among the best young QB/WR combinations in the NFL and it is a sure bet that they will be a presence in the playoffs for years to come. However, we expect the Texans, behind Arian Foster, J.J. Watt and the rest of the supporting cast to take care of business in front of their home crowd. Prediction: Houston 21- Bengals 17.
Minnesota Packers vs. Green Bay Packers: Anytime two division rivals matchup in the playoffs, players on both teams inevitably bring their best games. In a rematch of a game that was played only a week ago, the Minnesota Vikings beat the Green Bay 37-34 in a thrilling game to clinch a playoff spot. Adrian Peterson came into the game needing 208 yards to break the all-time rushing record one year after tearing up his knee, and he came a mere 9 yards short. In the two games against Green Bay this year, Peterson has put up 210 and 199 yards so we can expect a similar performance in this battle. Unfortunately for the Vikings, there is a well known QB opposing them in the likes of Aaron Rodgers, who has completed 75% of his passes against the Vikes in the past five seasons. Greg Jennings finally looks healthy and he will join forces with Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and James Jones as the best set of wideouts in the NFL. Although Viking’s QB Christian Ponder threw for three TD’s against the Pack last week, Green Bay’s Charles Woodson will return to action and will surely make life more difficult for the Sophomore QB who is 1-3 in his career against Green Bay. We expect a close, high-scoring game and a lot of Peterson yards but in the end Aaron Rodgers will out-duel Christian Ponder by a margin that even Peterson can’t overcome. Green Bay will make up for last year’s disappointing home loss to the Giants and a 2-4 record in their last 6 playoff games at Lambeau, and move on to the Divisional round next weekend. Final Score: Packers 38- Vikings 28
Check in tomorrow prior to kickoff for our predictions on the Colts vs. Ravens and Seahawks vs. Redskins.
1. Hate to admit when I am wrong, but in this situation I get a little joy over my erring ways. The New York Jets might be better off then I believed, then we all believed. Mark Sanchez played like a man who knows his seat is hot and we determined to keep the Tebowmaniacs quiet. Stephen Hill and Jeremy Kerley told Mr. Cromartie that maybe there are a few other receiving options on this Jets roster and maybe Antonio needs to just focus on his defensive job. Although Mike Tannenbaum has received plenty of attention for the QB he brought in this offseason, the truth of the matter is that his upgrade at the Safety position will end up being the real difference maker if the Jets are to have a playoff type of season. I’m not going to get too carried away about an opening day win against the Buffalo Bills, but in general things might not be as bad as well as many of us believed. Maybe Rex and Tony Sporano actually do know something the rest of us don’t?!
2. The San Francisco 49ers are a beast. I thought the 49ers were the best team in the NFC last year, and if it wasn’t for a couple of muffed punts and an awful call on an Ahmad Bradshaw fumble, they would have beaten the G-men in that thriller by the Bay. However, even though I was expecting the 49ers to have the same type of year as last, I didn’t see them beating Green Bay at Lambeau in Mr. Rodgers neighborhood. However, Alex Smith outplayed his Green Bay counterpart, the 49ers defense came out aggressive and Frank Gore and friends gained 186 against a Packers defense that might be their achilles heel for the second season in a row. Randy Moss, who torched the Packers for years as a member of the Vikings, made his 49er debut memorable with a 14 yard TD reception. Hell, even Kicker David Akers entered the NFL record book by tying an NFL record with a 63 yard field goal. Couldn’t have been a much better day for San Francisco.
3. It’s hard for a QB who enters the league owning a cool nickname, landing a Subway commercial and inheriting franchise saving expectations to actually live up to the hype…but that’s exactly what Robert Griffin III accomplished in the Superdome yesterday. Making his debut against Drew Brees and a Saints team that rarely loses at home, Griffin came out firing completing his first 8 passes, including a 88 yard TD strike to Pierre Garcon. He also showed off his legs by running for a solid 40 yards while throwing no picks. While all the other rookie QB’s struggled, RG3 showed he is ready for the big time, making Washington’s blockbuster trade to acquire him look like the correct move one week in. After the game, Griffin said “You can win a high school state championship and a bowl game in college, but to play in the NFL, the pinnacle of it all, and win your first game against a Hall of Famer in Drew Brees, it’s at the top.” Betting on the fact that there will be many more ahead.
4. Peyton Manning did not miss a beat. He ran the no huddle offense, picking the vaunted Pittsburgh Steeler defense apart. He read Troy Polamalu’s blitz attempts like a college scholar, calling for audible after audible. I was dead wrong in thinking he would be better off hanging them up after his injury and taking a broadcasting job. He looks healthy, his arm appeared as strong as ever and his football IQ is as high as can be. Manning has plenty of new toys to play with, as Erik Decker and Demayrius Thomas joined up with his old friends Brandon Stokley and Jacob Tamme, as each receiver made an impact on last night’s victory. Manning looks hungry, is on a team full of talent on both sides of the ball and it’s clear to me that the Denver Broncos are the class of the AFC West. I’m assuming that watching Eli pass him in Super Bowl victories also plays as a huge motivation for Peyton this season and after last night’s showing, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Manning tie his little brother at some point in the next few years.
5. The replacement referees are a disaster and this will be more of a problem that I originally expected. For the most part, every time they are getting on the microphone to explain a call they are either stuttering, stating the wrong team or yardage or just plain-looking really confused themselves. In Green Bay, the refs threw a flag for an illegal block in the back on Randall Cobb’s TD punt return, but then when the Packer sideline and fans let the refs hear their opinion, the picked the flag up and awarded the TD. It was a clear illegal block and the referees were bullied into changing the call. Around the same time, the Seattle Seahawks were lucky enough to receive a fourth timeout in the closing moments of a tight game. During the Broncos and Steeler game last night, literally both sidelines erupted over the same play in which Tomlin attempted to challenge a play as the Broncos were trying to quick snap it. However, NBC clearly illustrated that the closest official on the field to Tomlin and the challenge flag had his back to all the action. The referees have no clue or control over the game and this will be an ongoing issue for the course of the season.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Alex Smith, has made it abundantly clear that he does not believe offense wins games. Not really what you want to hear from the leader of your offense. In a recent interview, Smith said that he does not think big stats equate to wins…well they don’t really hurt either.
“I could absolutely care less on yards per game,” Smith told a group of reporters. “I think that is a totally overblown stat because if you’re losing games in the second half, guess what, you’re like the Carolina Panthers and you’re going no-huddle the entire second half. Yeah, Cam Newton threw for a lot of 300-yard games. That’s great. You’re not winning, though.”
After hearing this comment about his quarterback, Carolina Panthers Linebacker Jon Beason tweeted, “Alex smith, don’t hate on Cam (because) your stats would’ve gotten u cut if Peyton decided to come 2 San Fran. Truth b told. That’s after a 13-3 yr.”
I found this to be one of the funniest things I have ever heard. The sad part is that it is painfully true. Alex Smith led his 49ers to win the NFC West and make it all the way to the NFC Championship game where they eventually lost to the Superbowl champion New York Giants. San Fran was one of the many teams that went after the coveted free agent Peyton Manning. There is a lot of validity to what Smith is saying about stats being over hyped, but demeaning what Cam Newton did for last year’s Carolina Panthers was an unnecessary low blow.
Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford, Eli Manning and Aaron Rodgers were the top 5 QB’s in passing yards this past season. All five of them made the playoffs and had successful seasons. Eli even went on to lead his team to win the Superbowl and was given the MVP award for the game. I am a strong believer that defense wins games in the long run, but it is impossible to win it all without a fundamentally sound offense. I honestly think that if Cam Newton and his offense had the defense supporting him that Alex Smith had this past season, then Cam would have been lifting that trophy instead of Eli. I might be a little biased based on the fact that Cam Newton absolutely killed it for my fantasy team this past year, but Alex Smith should just keep his mouth shut and let his defense keep winning games for him.
In this past season, Alex Smith had less passing yards than QB duds like Mark Sanchez and Rex Grossman. Smith was 27th in the league in yards per game, with less than 200, and he threw for a dismal 17 total touchdowns. Maybe Smith should start caring a little more about stats because he will find himself riding the bench soon enough with those numbers. Winning your division is great and a 13-3 record is nothing to laugh at, but whether you finish last in the league or you lose in the Superbowl the end result is the same.