After a great weekend of NFL games last weekend in which 3 out of 4 Wild Card games came down to a field goal, this week was a little more disappointing in terms of intrigue. Not one of the four games was really in doubt during the course of the weekend, as all four favorites handled their business and are now going on to play Championship Weekend in which might be the best Final Four in NFL History. Next week we will have the legendary QB matchup that we all wanted in Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady and the NFC West Blood Bath Part III, as the Seahawks and 49ers battle it out for NFC Supremacy. Before we begin breaking down these incredible games, let’s take a look as to how we got here.
Seattle Seahawks 23 – New Orleans Saints 15: Even though the final score shows a one score loss for New Orleans, anyone watching the game witnessed a one-sided Seattle win, despite New Orleans tacking on some points in the closing minutes. Marshawn Lynch went into “Beast Mode” with 140 yards and two touchdowns. His second TD run came with 2:40 left in the game and the 31 yard dash to end zone pretty much ended the game. Although Russell Wilson had a shaky game, the Seattle defense and running game more than made up for it. The best TE in the game, Jimmy Graham was held without a catch until there was 41 seconds left in the game, and his eight yard reception did nothing other than erase the zero on his stat line. Although Drew Brees ended up with 309 yards, he was only 24 of 43 in earning those yards and a big chunk of them came in the 4th quarter when Seattle began playing a prevent style of defense. Overall, the Seahawks took care of business and will now host the NFC Championship game in a building that provides them with the past home field advantage in the NFL.
San Francisco 49ers 23- Carolina Panthers 10: In what was expected to be a low scoring defensive affair, the San Francisco 49ers kept their hopes of a second consecutive Super Bowl trip alive by beating the Carolina Panthers on the road. There was a debate about who the more reliable QB heading into the game would be, Colin Kaepernick who has done nothing but win in his career but doesn’t bolster the sexiest numbers; or Cam Newton, the #1 pick from three years ago who has the stats to backup his game but he was making his playoff debut. While Kaepernick didn’t wow anybody with gaudy numbers, he stayed true to form and got San Francisco into the end zone once with his arm and once with his leg. Cam Newton let the playoff nerves get to him a little bit and ended up throwing 2 picks along with only one touchdown. Twice in the game, Carolina had the ball inside the 49ers 3 yard line with first and goal. Both times, the stingy 49er defense stopped them from getting into the end zone, as Carolina settled for one FG and turned the ball over on downs. Frank Gore had a solid game as usual, running the ball 17 times for 84 yards. The veteran WR Anquan Boldin, whom the 49ers picked up from the Champion Ravens for moments like yesterday had a huge game, catching 8 balls for 136 yards. The 49ers stamped their ticket to Seattle where they’ll look to carry on their Road Warrior ways in what should be an epic battle.
New England Patriots 43 – Indianapolis Colts 22: This was the only game I got wrong in my predictions last week. Though I also felt that Andrew Luck was overhyped at this early stage in his career, I believed that the injury plagued Patriots would be vulnerable to the Colts. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I was traveling to a bar to catch the game and by the time I reached my stool at 8:30, the Colts were in a 14-0 hole. Andrew Luck played like an Andrew Luck type of game, throwing for a lot of yards but combined his 2 TDs with 4 INTs. This is a recipe that will always lead to a loss, especially when going against a Bill Belichick coached. I never thought I’d see the day in which the Patriots score 6 TDs and Tom Brady was responsible for none of them, but that is exactly what happened. LeGarrette Blount tied the Patriot postseason record with 166 yards on the ground, adding 4 TDs to an incredible stat line. Stevan Ridley added 52 yards and 2 scores of his own as he attempted to redefine what has been an extremely disappointing season. With the run game in high gear and Brady still at the helm, the Patriots played their way into their 3rd straight AFC Championship game.
Denver Broncos 24 – San Diego Chargers 17: If you told the San Diego Chargers that they would hold Peyton Manning and the Broncos high power offense to 24 points, I guarantee you that they would have felt really good about their chances of winning. In a season in which all of the talk in Denver has been about the offensive weapons at Manning’s disposal, it was the much aligned defense which stepped up and lead the Broncos to victory. The Chargers were unable to get onto the score board until the fourth quarter, as Phillip Rivers only completed 18 passes for a meager 217 yards. San Diego has been living with it’s running game in recent weeks, but the Denver front seven only allowed the Chargers 65 yards on the ground. I couldn’t believe all of the chatter I heard this week in which the “experts” felt as if San Diego had the Broncos number. The fact that Phillip Rivers was 6-2 in his career in Denver and that Peyton Manning was 0-3 in his last 3 postseason games provided the fodder for this misconception. Peyton was efficient, threw for 230 yards and 2 TDs and most importantly, helped the Broncos convert 3rd downs at a 9 of 13 clip. Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball combined for 133 yards on the ground for Denver who controlled the game and will now be reward by hosting the AFC Championship game next week.
We will be breaking down each matchup in detail later this week and give our picks for the games…next week will be unbelievable as the four best teams in the NFL are alive and all four of them are candidates to win the Super Bowl this year. Stay tuned and enjoy the hoops and puck until the weekend arrives…