A Weekend of Football
Posted Jan. 07 at 06:24 AM
What do you think the tagline would be in a commercial about this past weekend's games? "NFL Playoff Football, it's great 25% of the time," perhaps? Whatever the case, I saw almost every minute of all four playoff games, and I for one am not bragging about it. Let's discuss.
Bengals at Texans. This was fairly interesting, if only because I thought Cincinnati would win, Houston dominated the game throughout, and yet I still thought the Bengals would win in the final minutes. Problem: Andy Dalton couldn't make the throw or lead the drive to get it done, despite having ample opportunities. Hostile environment, strong opposing pass rush, curious error or two by A.J. Green (no idea why he wasn't even looking for the ball on one key interception thrown his way), but even with all that, Dalton had a couple of shots to win the game and couldn't hit on them. There will be a lot of offseason talk about whether he can take a step up or whatnot. My feeling is that the Bengals have a young receiving corps that's just coming around and when Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu take a step up next year, Dalton will benefit. I think this is a good team that will be back in the playoffs next year.
As for the Texans, I probably blew my playoff league by not having Arian Foster on my roster. It's cumulative so it's too early to say, but I have a lot of similar players as other teams do, and I didn't get the 30ish points they got from Foster. I thought the Bengals defense would do a better job against him, and should have considered that workload counts for a lot with running backs. You knew if they got in close he'd be the one scoring; the chances wouldn't go to someone like Vonta Leach or Evan Royster, as they did in Baltimore and Washington. Foster and Lynch; those are the guys you don't have to worry about somebody else scoring their touchdowns. Lesson learned. Like most I expect Houston to get rolled in New England next week, but then again who knows. They've got some ability and New England hasn't been a sure thing in this round the last few years.
Vikings at Packers. Don't really want to talk about this game much because I'm still kind of annoyed. Probably one of the worst football games I've ever watched a lot of, with awful offensive play from the Vikings (this team scored 37 points last week!) and a fairly boring outing from the Packers too. We liked DuJuan Harris to be the lead back and he was, and had a nice game. But I'm not ready to say he'll be part of a big playoff run or enter next year as the starter or anything. Green Bay's offense will help any functional running back put together some nice numbers if he simply doesn't fumble and can run through big holes, just as its passing offense is deft enough to enable somebody like Matt Flynn to throw 6 TDs. Go into San Francisco and win and I'll be impressed. Not that it can't be done, indeed the Packers have a strong chance to win next week, but it won't be as easy as the Vikings made it look last week. Minnesota, meanwhile, needs to rethink its backup quarterback position, good grief. Junk the likes of Jerome Simpson and Michael Jenkins, too. Find a way to make Percy Harvin happy so it's not building its receiving corps entirely from scratch next year. Needs some help on defense, too. Otherwise, great team.
Colts at Ravens. Apart from Ray Rice losing two fumbles, this game was about as expected. Indianapolis' defense pretty much has nothing going for it right now; it's like Peyton Manning's first couple of playoff appearances with this team. They had a nice draft on offense this year, now they need to keep developing those young receivers (and get rid of Donnie Avery right quick) and add some defensive pieces. A lot of them. A couple of good defensive drafts and the Colts will be ready to win some games in the playoffs.
As for the Ravens, a note on Ray Lewis. I'm not 100 percent sure he doesn't play next year. I know, he wants to see his kid play in college and all that, but he can easily come back and say his son convinced him to give it one more year or something. Kind of think this retirement idea came up as an awesome way to motivate the team this postseason (which ends in Denver next week). Come next June he'll be thinking about "one more ride." ... Nice game for Flacco and Boldin. Those guys, needless to say, will need to be even better next week. Baltimore is not gonna run much on Denver, so Rice will need to be a big part of the passing game and the players not covered by Champ Bailey, Boldin or Torrey Smith and definitely Dennis Pitta, will see a lot of passes. Strange things happen in the playoffs all the time, but I'd like Baltimore a lot more if they were in New England next week. ... The NFL, by the way, needs to take a look at that turnover rule. Either all turnovers are reviewed, or they aren't. Rice's first one wasn't I guess because the whistle had blown or something. Again, I don't understand the value of replay if there are things built into it where certain plays either aren't reviewed or stand because of something like an illegal challenge. Either review all scoring plays and turnovers, or don't. Pretty damn simple.
Seattle at Washington. As expected, this game salvaged an otherwise crummy weekend of football by being pretty awesome throughout. Funny how it started out all Washington and then Seattle simply steamrolled them. I know Griffin aggravating his knee injury was a factor, but it was pretty clear midway through the second quarter that Seattle is a borderline great NFL team right now, and Washington had made its way into the postseason with a great running game and quarterback and precious little else. About the time Leonard Hankerson dropped a perfect throw over the middle that would have converted a third down and turned into a huge play, I said, no way Washington is good enough to win this game. I agree with the consensus that Griffin should have been pulled after his first knee aggravation. Watching him limp around out there made the second, worse aggravation seem inevitable. (So did the lousy field, good grief guys, you don't have so many home playoff games that you want to damage your own team's chances with a miserable playing surface.) Griffin and Morris and Garcon are nice offensive building blocks. Blow the rest of it up; Moss, Morgan, Hankerson -- these guys aren't helping you.
A note on Seattle, which is, Wow. Lynch is the best postseason running game of the past few years, and Russell Wilson is about the coolest rookie quarterback we've seen in the postseason in even longer. Guy looks like he'll make a play with his arm or his legs whenever its needed and not break a sweat, either. I absolutely believe Seattle can win in Atlanta next week, and I like their chances in San Francisco or Green Bay a week later, too. They're good.
Now we have six days to talk about these games -- can Houston surprise? Can Baltimore stick with the Broncos? Is this a different Atlanta team? And can San Francisco and Green Bay, who have played some memorable postseason games over the years, come up with one more classic? My early guess has Seattle and three home teams winning, but let's see. I'm sure we all want to spend a week reliving that Green Bay-Seattle replacement officials game. Right?
Posted by PETER DEBIASE | Jan. 07 at 06:48 AM
Andy: Goodell needs to make two phone calls to DC today. The first should be to Shanahan to inquire as to why he did not remove RGIII from the game yesterday after he first tweaked his knee and why his story regarding the game where the original injury occurred seems to differ so much from that of Dr. Andrews. I don't know about you, but I am more inclined to believe arguably the foremost orthopedic surgeon in America over a coach who has proven to be a liar over the years. Or maybe the commish is not as concerned about player safety as he claims to be? Then he should call Danny Boy and inquire as to why the playing surface at FedEx was in as bad a condition as I've ever seen in an NFL playoff game. Not only did it probably contribute to RGIII's injuries, it also probably contributed to the Seahawks losing their best pass rusher for the remainder of the playoffs. Or maybe the commish is not as concerned about player safety as he claims to be?
Posted by BEN HOGEVOLL | Jan. 07 at 09:22 AM
Andy,Im not as high on Russell Wilson as you are.He needs to connect on long bombs with his receivers running north or south, wide open instead of way over throwing them like he did with Baldwin, not once, but twice!You have to connect on them if you want to win a superbowl.I think they could MAYBE???? beat Atlanta, but no way survive S.F. or G.B.
Posted by ANDY RICHARDSON | Jan. 07 at 10:51 AM
Ben, I agree there's room for improvement with Wilson. But Seattle smacked San Francisco around pretty good in Week 16, albeit in Seattle. They can certainly play with the 49ers. I think their defense is good enough to cause problems for Green Bay, too. Peter, yeah, that field was a wreck yesterday. As a Morris dynasty owner I'm relieved he made it through OK.
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