24 Hours 'Til Sunday — Andy Richardson
Posted Jan. 12 at 05:18 AM
Arguably this is the best weekend of the football season. The bad teams and playoff riff-raff are all sitting home, and the four games over the next two days will produce the Championship Game participants, and the Super Bowl teams. It's as good as it gets, from an NFL if not a fantasy perspective, so let's take a look at what's to come.
Ravens at Broncos: Would like to point out that I thought the Broncos would be going to the Super Bowl around Week 8 or so. Some talk has been made about Peyton Manning's relative lack of success in the postseason, but when did the Colts have homefield advantage and Champ Bailey, Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil shutting down No. 1 wideouts and wreaking havoc in the backfield. At the risk of exaggerating, this Broncos team would look pretty good even with Kyle Orton still quarterbacking them. Or Brian Griese or Jake Plummer. In any case, I'll try to make this game interesting. Baltimore's defense pulls it together for one grand effort and frustrates Peyton Manning. It stymies Knowshon Moreno, who's a marginal running back. Ray Rice doesn't run on Denver, but he catches 7 passes for 75 yards and a touchdown, and Joe Flacco throws 2 TDs to Dennis Pitta; tight ends have had a lot of success against Denver this season. That's not how I think the game will go, but how it could do if you want to make a case for Baltimore winning. More realistically, Peyton Manning marches the offense up and down the field after playing this game in his head for the last couple of weeks, and Baltimore's offense struggles to do much of anything. I'll call it 27-13, Broncos. Denver will have to come out really flat not to win this game. It's supposed to be cold and maybe snowy, and maybe that will slow Denver down somewhat, but if that's how things work out, it's not going to help the Ravens put up good numbers, either. Denver just has too much on both sides of the ball to lose this game.
Packers at 49ers: Game of the weekend if not the postseason. Clearly the Packers offense has the ability, when on, to move the ball on anyone, just as the 49ers defense has the ability to frustrate any offense. Justin Smith will be limited with an arm injury, which is a big negative. Realistically Green Bay won't run the ball effectively; they'll use DuJuan Harris, maybe James Starks, and sprinkle in some John Kuhn. They'll have some success through the air, because they always do, but picking the right receiver is tricky. I think Jennings and Cobb are the right guys, Cobb because he's tough to defend if they're just throwing him balls around the line of scrimmage. I think the big, under-discussed element of this game is Colin Kaepernick. Is he ready to win this game? He had that big game against New England, but struggled against, say, St. Louis. Now he's in the biggest game of his life against a defense with some elite talent that can make things tough on quarterbacks. I want to believe in San Francisco and indeed will be rooting for them, but the Rodgers versus Kaepernick component of this game concerns me. I think a week ago I was picking the Niners, but today I'm going to call it 27-24, Packers, and hope I'm wrong, especially since my NFL Playoff Challenge roster is all Niners and Broncos. Two players who could be good here are Frank Gore and Vernon Davis, as long as Kaepernick doesn't have some kind of meltdown. Of all the games this weekend, this postseason, this is the one that looks like it could truly go either way. Should be a classic.
Seahawks at Falcons: Russell Wilson says Seattle needs to bring its "A-plus game" to beat the Falcons. Because the A game, I guess, just isn't gonna do it. Regardless, I kind of like the Falcons here. Impressive as Seattle was in Washington last week, they're now without their best defensive lineman, and I'm not sure they have the offensive firepower to win in Atlanta. I keep going back to Atlanta's regular-season home wins over New Orleans and the Giants, both of whom they really shut down; it's a better defense than the one that got bounced from the playoffs in previous seasons. (I'm mildly concerned about this late report of a Marshawn Lynch foot sprain, too.) I respect Seattle's defense, but Julio, Roddy, and Gonzo are a lot for a defense to handle, especially if your pass rush is missing its key player. I'm calling it 27-17, Atlanta, and thinking it will be another year before the Seahawks are ready to make a Super Bowl run.
Texans at Patriots: I took a long, hard look at this one for the Weekly, and was left with little optimism that Houston can slow down New England's offense, or do enough against its defense to win. The Texans have the defensive player of the year and some nice offensive pieces, but New England has its generally unstoppable offense, enough defense to frustrate an erratic passing offense like Houston's, and definitely enough against the run to slow down a generally underachieving Arian Foster. Not shut him down, but hold him to modest numbers in a game where New England figures to score 30ish points. I've seen New England struggle in home playoff games in recent years, like the Ravens and Jets, but Houston's pass defense isn't as good as what those teams brought to the table, and you have to question their toughness after the way they got slapped around in the regular-season encounter. I like both tight ends, which Houston probably can't cover (few teams can), and Stevan Ridley in the latter part of the game with New England working a lead. Let's call it 30-20, Patriots, and hope it's that good.
Enjoy the games.
Posted by PETER DEBIASE | Jan. 12 at 06:37 AM
As Lee Corso once said, "Not so fast, my friend". At least one favorite of more than a TD has lost in the Divisional Round in each of the past five seasons and favorites are only 10-10 in the last 20 Divisional Round games. I'm not sayin it's gonna happen this season, I'm just sayin. I didn't lose any players from my team that I had to pick the roster up front, which is probably a bad thing particularly at WR/TE. PPR, need to start 3 out of Jennings, Cobb, D. Thomas, Decker (had a huge game v Bal a few weeks ago), Welker, Gronk, Andre. Even though I think GB will put up points, I have pretty much decided against their receivers although Cobb is tempting in PPR. The other five should all be good. Don't know if Gronk will be playing the majority of the game so maybe he's a slight risk. QB: Peyton or A-Rod? Leaning toward A-Rod since the weather may not be conducive to Peyton lighting up Bal. RB: Foster, Rice and Ridley? Normally I would stay away from Ridley in PPR when having the choice of two of the better all around RB's in the NFL, but if the game unfolds like you predict he should have opportunities to put up points in second half. Thanks much.
Posted by ANDY RICHARDSON | Jan. 12 at 06:57 AM
Peter, I would go with Thomas, Andre, and Gronk. Decker 4th, I figure Manning goes to the other guy this time. I like Manning but Arod makes a little more sense fantasywise. I would bench Ridley...why chance Belichick's running back whimsy.
Posted by ANDY RICHARDSON | Jan. 12 at 07:00 AM
And you're right, since everyone wants and expects Brady-Manning, we will probably be denied. But I cant rationally project either team losing. I give Houston a better shot, just because of the suspect New England D.
Posted by PETER DEBIASE | Jan. 12 at 07:25 AM
Thanks Andy. I share your concern on Lynch, but he's probably as good as it gets this week if healthy since the only way Seattle has a shot IMO is to attack Atlanta on the ground. In a standard scoring league (+ 3 addl. points for team victory), would you pick him or go with two of Foster, Knowshon, Rice, Ridley or Gore. Not considering DuJuan this week. Thanks.
Posted by ANDY RICHARDSON | Jan. 12 at 08:43 AM
I would use Lynch and Foster. I like Gore too. When in doubt avoid possible committees.
Posted by David Kennedy | Jan. 12 at 08:53 AM
Lynch, Foster, Gore, and Knowshon pick 2? In leaning to Gore and Lynch. Decker over Cobb? I dont trust Atlanta in the playoffs. I beleive in Seattle. Atalanta has no run game. Its a tall task to cover all them receivers but Seattle should generate good pressure on Ryan. I think one dimensional teams get exposed in the playoffs unless they have Aaron Rodgers, Brady, or Manning. Ryan is not that good yet. Seattle 27 Atl 23. I think Wilson is already a better QB than Ryan and of course has the escapability thing as well. I really feel the other games arent very close. NE, Denver, and SF win big.
Posted by BEN HOGEVOLL | Jan. 12 at 09:13 AM
I enjoy picking the games vs you Andy- what do i know??? Broncos 31 ravens 21-49ers 34 pack 28 they did it once at lambeau with smith this year,they should do it again at home with better QB -Seahawks 28 falcons 24-patriots 37 texans 24
Posted by ANDY RICHARDSON | Jan. 12 at 09:16 AM
I concede the 3 extra points makes Moreno tempting, but those other backs are so much better...
Posted by ANDY RICHARDSON | Jan. 12 at 09:18 AM
Kaepernick is better, but the inexperience concerns me. That is how I am rooting, though.
Posted by ANDY RICHARDSON | Jan. 12 at 11:03 AM
David I like Lynch, Foster and Decker. Good luck
Posted by PETER DEBIASE | Jan. 12 at 08:12 PM
It's a shame we can't get a heads up that defenses aren't going to bother showing up. Way to embarrass yourselves Broncos and Packers.
Add a Comment
Already a registered user? Please sign in to add comments.
To add comments, you must become a registered user of our site. To register, please click here.