A Day of Football
Posted Jan. 16 at 09:39 PM
I think what's great about football is that upsets really are upsets. When an underdog wins in the NHL or NBA, can it be really that shocking? Most of the top teams are close and homefield/courr/ice doesn't matter that much. In baseball, we all know a hot pitcher can take a couple of wins in a short series.
But in football, we all think we know who the better teams are, and sometimes there are even games during the season (New England 45-3, or the Saints crushing the Seahawks) that convince us of that. So when shocking upsets happen before us in football, all we can do is admit we were wrong, tip our hat, and be glad we saw something unexpected. On to the games...
Ravens at Steelers: Kudos to Ben Hogevoll, who told me the Steelers would win this game and was right. I was looking pretty good for about a half, but for whatever reason, the Steelers got tougher when they got down and the Ravens started making mistakes. Fumble, interception, fumbled snap, blown coverage, Steelers win. I guess the difference is that when the Steelers got a chance, you kind of knew they weren't going to squander it. It's what they've done for the last few years, it's why they've won a lot of close playoff games en route to winning a couple of recent Super Bowls, it's why Ben Roethlisberger is a legit star even if some won't get pass his off-field indiscretions. Kind of a tough loss for the Ravens, and although Joe Flacco will rightly get plenty of blame for his awful interception on a floater for Todd Heap, and Ray Rice for his momentum-turning fumble, I'm fixated on Anquan Boldin dropping a perfect end-zone throw in his chest late, forcing the Ravens to settle for a game-tying field goal rather than scoring a go-ahead touchdown. Boldin was brought in to make those big catches in big games, and I don't know what else Flacco had to do besides catch it for him.
Packers at Falcons: Wish I could say I was surprised. What was disappointing about this game was that Matt Ryan came out on fire; didn't miss a throw early on. Then came the end-zone interception where Michael Jenkins fell down, and things just kind of snowballed -- punctuated by probably the worst throw/decision of Matt Ryan's career. That said, would it have mattered much if the Falcons offense played much better? Their defense never did anything, aside from committing holding penalties, to slow the Packers down. It looked like a mismatch coming in -- did anyone notice how the betting line moved a full point in favor of the Packers shortly before kickoff? -- and turned out to be one. Clearly the Falcons' main problems are on defense, but two of their main weapons, Michael Turner and particularly Tony Gonzalez, will be a year older, and not better. As for the Packers, eh, I'll talk more about them on Saturday. They're pretty good, how about that. But a 3-point favorite at Chicago? Huh.
Seahawks at Bears: The game itself was an ugly whitewash, so instead I'm thinking about Matt Hasselbeck's postgame quotes. "I don't think anyone realizes how close we were to doing something really special...we had it all set up for us." Huh? You were lucky to get a misfiring, banged-up Saints team at home, then were blown out from the opening snap at Chicago. The game wasn't close. Hasselbeck went on to add that the team didn't deserve it, but it was a really odd postgame take. Anyway, full credit to Jay Cutler for an awesome first playoff game, taking some hits (as he did for most of the season) but making big throws and runs anyway. This (and Mark Sanchez in the later game) is why teams give up high draft picks to secure franchise quarterbacks. Does anyone think the Bears are hosting the championship game next week if they don't trade for Jay Cutler? Maybe Kyle Orton's Mom.
Jets at Patriots: The weekend shocker. Maybe the Jets believed, and maybe some diehard and inexperienced Jets fans believed, but how many really thought the Jets would win this game? New York got an interception early, but were dragged down short of the end zone by lead-footed Alge Crumpler, of all people, then missed a field goal. Sure looked like a "same old Jets" moment. But series after series, they kept shutting down the Patriots, making their wideouts look as marginal as they actually are, making their running backs look like the undrafted cast-offs they actually are, making us question why we ever thought this team was going to cruise into the Super Bowl. And the Jets offense didn't do a lot, but Mark Sanchez made big throw after big throw, and his receivers -- who dropped their fair share of passes over the last month or so -- made big grab after big grab. It was impressive. It was shocking. And I don't really care about the talk, but I do know that it didn't matter. Unless the Patriots actually did get a little psyched out, in the sense that they were so determined to show that they were the professional, business-like franchise, that instead they left their emotion in the locker room. Sure looked that way, anyway.
Looking ahead...I'm not buying into the hype about how fantastic Aaron Rodgers was against a lousy Falcons pass defense in perfect conditions. Yeah, he was awesome, but he wasn't in either game against the Bears. Him having a huge game against Atlanta was not surprising. Doing it at Chicago in a possible poor weather game, we'll see. ... Jets-Steelers, well, I won't underrate Pittsburgh's defense again. It's a tall order for New York to go in and win. But it's definitely not as daunting as winning in New England, or winning in Indy against a great Colts team a season ago. And I know the Jets defense can shut down Rashard Mendenhall and make things tough for Ben Roethlisberger.
Two good games coming up, with no clear favorite. Here's to football.
Posted by BEN HOGEVOLL | Jan. 17 at 03:23 PM
Andy thanks for the kudos but was unnecessary.For what its worth and most likely help me win the playoff pool,Greenbay will win by 6.5 points.to much good def for Cutler and forte.Rogers is also WAY better than Sanchez. Pittsburg will win by 7 points because of def Palamalu and Harrison. jets revis and Cromartie will do a good job on Ward and wallace but Ben will find rookies Sanders and Brown often.Great superbowl to look forward to,Greenbay Pittsburg.Thankful NO NewEngland.Thankyou Jets!
Posted by BEN HOGEVOLL | Jan. 17 at 03:28 PM
I met rogers is better than Cutler,not Sanchez but i will stick with that also .rogers is better than both.
Posted by ANDY RICHARDSON | Jan. 17 at 08:13 PM
No argument on rodgers being better than those guys. Chicago's D is comparable and special teams is better and they're home....that's their advantage, if any. Jets-!teelers...I'm buying into the jets. Looks like a tossup to me.
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