News, Views and Playoffs
Plenty to talk about after an entertaining and pretty interesting playoff weekend.
- Well, you can say the Falcons got the Matt Ryan era playoff monkey off their back if you want to but I can’t, at least not yet. Blowing a 20 point halftime lead and needing a 49 yard field goal with eight seconds left, and then STILL putting Seattle in position for a chance at a miracle Hail Mary to end the game does not make me think the Falcons are playoff hardened. Kudos to Ryan and his teammates for pulling out the win, but 250 yards and 2 picks doesn’t scream playoff performer to me. Ryan did take what the Seahawks defense gave him, and performed under pressure on the final drive, so this is not meant as a criticism of him as such. Maybe with all the pressure of past playoff failures on their shoulders it should be expected that they would struggle to finally get that win. Now that it’s over maybe they will look as good as they did in the regular season the rest of the way. Still, I’ll wait and see how Ryan and the team looks this weekend against the Niners before I pronounce the monkey gone to heaven.
- Interesting quote from Tony Gonzalez after the game, about what he was thinking when Atlanta got the ball with 31 seconds left: “I was thinking on the sideline, ‘I guess this is it. This is how I’m going to go out’… but we believed, and we were able to make the plays when it counted”. Um, which is it Tony? Did you believe you were going to go out losing the game or you believed you were going to win it??? Maybe retirement is the right decision, sounds like a bit of senility is already setting in
- I love satellite radio. Aside from the obvious reason of getting all kinds of sports content, I get a real kick out of listening to the various home broadcasters for games. I watched the first half of the Patriots-Texans game…otherwise known as the competitive phase…and had to go out during the second half. Listening to the Patriots home broadcasters in the car you would have thought they were down 21 points. Griping about the officiating, the hand-wringing about how the Pats have got to do something about their special teams after the big Texan kick returns, etc. One of the broadcasters was actually trying to calm the other one down at one point. The best part was when there was a review, they assumed the review would go against New England because all the other ones in the game had – implying the officials were biased against the Pats – while commenting they agreed the correct call was made and the review should go against the Patriots. Too funny.
- Plenty of commentary going on about the fact Pete Carroll tried the old ‘ice the kicker’ routine on the Falcons game winning field goal and it backfired. Meaning Matt Bryant missed the first kick which did not count because Carroll called a last second timeout, but then made the do-over. I’ll add my two cents on the topic. Icing the kicker doesn’t work, period. Maybe it might affect a rookie kicker in one of his first few game winning situations but even then I doubt it. The idea you’re giving the kicker more time to think/worry about it makes no sense. Every single game where his team needs to drive the field and get into range for a game winning kick the kicker thinks about it for the entire drive, whether he gets to try the kick or not. So 30 seconds more is not going to bother him. And since every single coach with a time out left tries to ice the kicker there is zero element of surprise. Teams line up knowing the time out will get called, and I’m sure some intentionally snap the ball anyway to give the kicker a practice kick, if he wants it. If I’m a head coach now I call the ref over to the sidelines, wait until the team lines up and then tell the ref ‘never mind, let him kick it’. The other team is expecting me to call the time out so maybe they forget about the game clock assuming the time out is coming, or the kicker, snapper and holder realize at the last moment that they have to actually go ahead with the play and it screws at least one of them up and they miss the kick. Worth a try.
- So, more fuel for the Oakland Raiders fan conspiracy theorists. The officials decided not to call the infamous Tuck rule in the Denver-Baltimore game, even though it certainly could have been applied given the circumstances. Peyton Manning’s arm was clearly going forward even though at the point the ball came loose he was no longer trying to throw the ball. Even if they thought it was a close call, you would think the officials would give future hall of famer Manning the benefit of the doubt. After all they ruled on the side of Brady, who certainly wasn’t looked upon as a hall of famer when he got his favorable ruling.
- How does that saying go? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me. Is there another part for ‘Fool me three times’? I picked both the Colts and the Broncos to beat the Ravens this post season, and I’m leaning towards picking the Patriots this weekend. It will be interesting to see how the Ravens defense does against the evil genius and the golden boy. They sure seemed to confuse Manning who is one of the best ever at reading coverages and figuring out what a defense is going to do when he gets to the line. Obviously Brady is no slouch either.
- According to ESPN, Bears WR Brandon Marshall needs arthroscopic surgery on his hip. My first thought when I heard it was ‘will he be ready for the 2013 season?’ Obviously I’m behind the times with respect to modern medicine because the question I keep reading is ‘will he miss the Pro Bowl?’ Are we really to the point that a player can have hip surgery and then play in an exhibition game a couple of weeks later?
- The Eagles have hired Chip Kelly as their new head coach. I’m not a fan, I don’t think it will take NFL defensive coordinators long to take the air out if his gimmicky offensive style. I can’t wait to see if he sticks to going for two after first quarter TD’s like he routinely did in Oregon. Imagine the Philly faithful when the Eagles lose the first couple of games in part due to missed conversions? It could get ugly.
- Authorities received several calls from local citizens about a possible zombie invasion in Colorado on Sunday. Multiple reports mentioned seeing a large group of men, walking at a slow measured pace, arms hanging listless at their sides, with blank stares in their eyes and stunned looks on their faces. Turns out it was the Broncos players going to clear out their lockers. Seriously though I don’t remember the last time, if ever, I’ve seen football players in such a state of pure disbelief as some of the Denver players were after that game.
- Instead of people marveling about 2012 being the year of the rookie quarterback we should be talking about it being the year of the running quarterback. In the past every so often a rookie QB comes on the scene – a la Mike Vick – and everyone marvels at his ability to run the ball. Never before have we had three rookies come in and blow us away. I’m including Kaepernick as a rookie since this is his first year as a starter. His performance against Green Bay was nothing short of amazing. I don’t care how bad you want to label the Packer’s D, plenty of running quarterbacks have played against plenty of bad defenses and never put up 180 plus yards on the ground. It will be interesting which of these guys – RGIII, Russell Wilson, Kaepernick – if any, end up on the list of one year wonders that NFL history is littered with. Defensive coordinators will find a way to stop or limit the gains these guys can get on the ground at which point we’ll see which ones are true NFL quality QB’s and which are not.
- The Bears have hired Marc Trestman as their new head coach. I admit I don’t follow the CFL much, but I do think Trestman is a quality hire. Compared to Lovie Smith I think offensively he will be much more successful and Cutler will quickly get on board with him which is big.
- Interesting column on ProFootballTalk about the possibility of Victor Cruz being signed away from the Giants as an RFA. Obviously his fantasy value will depend on where he ends up but I he’s too good lose too much of his fantasy value no matter where he lands.
- The Charges have hired Mike McCoy as their new head coach. I like the move and I think he’ll soon straighten out Philip Rivers, unless the damage Norv Turner has done is irreversible. I don’t think so, Rivers will be back to fantasy relevance in 2013 mark my words.
For those of you in NFL playoff fantasy leagues, here’s my quick take on this weekend’s games. The numbers shown here are not a prediction of how many fantasy points the player will score. They are a player rating. It works much the same way though, the higher the number the better I think the player will do based on the match up.
I don’t claim to be an expert at picking game outcomes, so don’t mortgage the house and wager based on my game predictions.
Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots
Sunday 6:30 P.M.
10/41f Partly Cloudy
I have been back and forth on this one for days now, and am still struggling with it. New England is the easy pick of course, but I can’t shake the feeling that the Ravens will win. At this point I don’t think you can look at the statistics, game tape, etc. and be very confident in predicting the outcome. I think when a team pulls off a victory like last weekend the effect of that confidence boost is immeasurable. Flacco in particular already has the confidence in himself based on going toe-to-toe with the Pats in last year’s playoffs. He won’t be afraid to air it out as it appeared Matt Schaub was last week. And the entire team won’t get discouraged if they fall behind early or late. But still it is most likely to come down to the flow of the game, mistakes, and maybe big plays on special teams. I think the Ravens keep it close by playing bend but don’t break defense, make a few plays on special teams, and Flacco taking advantage of the opportunities when he gets them. I’m going to pick the Ravens by 2.
Tom Brady – 30.8
Joe Flacco – 20.6
Stevan Ridley – 15.6
Ray Rice – 13.0
Shane Vereen – 6.0
Bernard Pierce – 3.8
Wes Welker – 13.3
Torrey Smith – 9.9
Anquan Boldin – 9.2
Brandon Lloyd – 8.8
Aaron Hernandez – 9.7
Dennis Pitta – 8.0
San Francisco 49ers @ Atlanta Falcons
Sunday 3:00 P.M.
This is another tough one to predict for me. On the one hand as I mentioned above, I was not that impressed with the way Atlanta ‘back-doored’ their way to a win after blowing a 20 point lead. But despite the Niner fans’ apparent excitement over getting to travel to Georgia to play instead of having to stay home and face the Seahawks, I think this will be a challenge. The noise in the Georgia Dome will be horrific, and while I don’t think Colin Kaepernick will get rattled by it, he still does not have the experience to deal with having to call plays at the line of scrimmage when even his center can’t hear him. Still, if San Fran’s outstanding offensive line can control their defensive counterparts like they’ve done to other teams most of the season, Harbaugh can ground and pound the life out of the Falcons and quiet the crowd a little bit. Atlanta’s receivers proved last week that they can stand up to any secondary physically, if Matt Ryan can make even a few big plays and absolutely limit his mistakes, they can win this. But at the end of the day I’m old fashioned and still believe the team that can run the ball and stop the run is the safer bet come the playoffs. San Fran is that team on both counts so I say they win by 7-10 points.
Matt Ryan – 21.9
Colin Kaepernick – 15.1
Frank Gore – 15.2
Michael Turner – 6.5
Kendall Hunter – 6.1
Jacquizz Rodgers – 3.6
Julio Jones – 11.4
Roddy White – 11.1
Michael Crabtree – 10.0
Randy Moss – 3.7
Harry Douglas – 3.1
Tony Gonzalez – 8.8
Vernon Davis – 5.1