Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Brothers Bowl Breakdown...

As impossible predictions came true we're facing one of the most improbable Super Bowl matchups in recent history. The 49'ers outlook was bleak near the end of the first half of the NFC Championship game when they gave up an astonishing 17-0 lead. The high flying Falcons looked poised to end their streak of bad luck, but fate had a different plan. After riding the hot hand of quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco finds themselves in the driver's seat with a great chance of actually winning the Lombardi trophy. Luck is on their side, as they have performed well when they reached the big game.

However, victory will not come easy for either team. Though the 49'ers they have a deep receiving core in Randy Moss, Michael Crabtree, A.J. Jenkins, Vernon Davis, expect DB's Bernard Pollard, and Corey Graham to cover routes over the middle, and to the sidelines rather well. The Raven's secondary is unheralded but they stymied New England's strong receiving corps.

The same can be said about San Francisco, however. Last week, they made second half adjustments to shut down arguably the best receiving tandem in football: Roddy White and Julio Jones. Meanwhile they had to contend with legendary tight end, Tony Gonzalez. So, things will not be easy for Anquan Bolden, Tory Smith, or Dennis Pitta.

Both teams are equipped with stout run defenses. Key matchups to look for. Frank Gore against Haloti Ngata. Both players share multiple Pro Bowls. This will be a great battle that may contribute more than people give it credit for. If Gore is held in check and receivers are well-covered, a linebacker spy could make Kaepernick think twice about running.

Another matchup to watch is the formidable pass-rushers of the 49'ers. The Ravens offensive line is not the strongest and they have been moved around plenty. Flacco may not get the luxury of holding the ball waiting for the deep routes to develop, if Navarro Bowman and Patrick Willis put pressure on the offensive line.

In the end, will the Ravens rally around a grizzled veteran to give him on last shot at glory to send him out in style? Or will the 49'ers strike it rich and evoke the glory days once again? We will know soon enough...

Monday, January 14, 2013

Don't Crown a Super Bowl Champion Just Yet

We are down to an improbable four. However, far too many so-called gurus are ready to proclaim the New England Patriots, champions once again. Not so fast. First and foremost, the exciting divisional playoff weekend was stuffed with spectacular games. More importantly these games were phenomenal in terms of tension and upsets. Two games that very few people really saw coming were the Baltimore Ravens vs. Denver Broncos, and the San Francisco 49'ers vs. the Green Bay Packers.

Ray Lewis Ravens Divisional Playoffs 2013If the Ravens, who were nearly 10 point underdogs, were able to pull off one of the most stunning road upsets in the history of the playoffs who is to say they can't repeat next week in Foxboro? There is a lot of animosity between New England and Baltimore going back to last year's heartbreaking AFC championship loss. There are 101 reasons why the Ravens have the right combination of talent and mojo to pull off the upset. Also, few people talk about the fact that New England has been playoff losers their last 4 postseason appearances. Of course this doesn't mean they are a bad team whatsoever. But it does make you wonder...

Not many suspected that the mighty, Aaron Rodgers would be bested twice by the same team. We were all wary of a suspect pass offense, and another read-option quarterback in Colin Kaepernick. However, how wrong us doubters were. He put up a searing 180 yards rushing, an all-time record for any quarterback in any game. Also, he routinely spread the ball to receivers and tight end Randy Moss, Michael Crabtree, and Vernon Davis. All of this confusion made the Packers appear to be a second class team. If the Patriots advance and the 49'ers advance, look for a strong run contingency from Kaepernick and the 49'ers. If executed properly, it could result in the 5th straight playoff loss for New England's beloved Pats...

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

And Then There Were 8.....

Is it always good for a team to be on the bye week? Not necessarily. In the past three playoff seasons, teams who didn't have a bye week had more wins and more momentum going into the final games of the season. Yes, it helps the team recover from injuries, but it seems as though the risks far outweigh the benefits. As coaches, and team management begin to understand this, look for teams to aim for a valuable #3 seed. This will never be something that no team/coach will ever admit, but it will be done.

Case in point: Many people didn't feel like Green Bay played their hardest football in the final quarter of the final game of the season, vs. the Minnesota Viking. They were playing for a bye, but came up short. The Packers appeared nonchalant and unmotivated to win. Were they strategically aiming for the #3 sport, or were they outplayed? Now that the league knows more about the practice, look for sanctions to be put into play.....


Saturday, January 5, 2013

2012-2013 Wild Card Predictions

There are many who say wild card teams, or teams with a relatively low record, do not have a chance to come close to winning the super bowl. Startling statistics show that the wild card teams are sometimes dominant forces in the playoffs. In recent history, the 2011 Green Bay Packers, and the 2010 New York Giants were able to make incredibly runs from the playoff spot to hoist the Lombardi trophy. What does this mean? That a record number of wild card teams are doing better, since the switch to the 12 team playoff format adopted in 1990. Here are some of our bold predictions.

Wild Card Weekend NFC Playmakers
Minnesota over Green Bay. Though the Packers have a vaunted defense led by Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji, the offense led by captain Aaron Rodgers is prolific. Is that enough of a crutch to match the speed of 2000 yard rusher Adrian Peterson? In week 17, the Packers lost to the surging Vikings on the last play of the game. Look for the Vikings to show up confidently ready to make a huge statement. Though the game will be close, we can easily see the Vikings putting the game on Peterson's shoulder to control the clock and wear down the defense. Also, we predict Ponder having a passer rating of over 85.00. This is because he will only have to connect with receivers enough times to keep the Packers Defense guessing as to what the next play is going to be. They have met 18 times in the post season and the team to win in the last game before the postseason won just over 55% of the actual post-season game. So history is definitely on the side of the vikings.

Washington over Seattle. One of the greatest stories in football this year was "RG3". Robert Griffin III took the team over, and frustrated defenses all over the league with his strong arm, and incredibly quick feet. The addition of running back, Alfred Morris, added to that talent. Not only will Washington probably triumph, but they have the potential to be this year's dark horse NFC contender. This will be a very interesting game to watch, as Seattle has a very good chance to keep things close. We're looking for a great performance from Seahawk's running back, Marshawn Lynch. In addition, there will be many opportunities for Seahawk's quarter back, Russel Wilson to use his legs. He plays a similar style to RG3. However, we think Washington is a much more dynamic team than the Seahawks. Also, the Redskins have the coaching experience, under Mike Shanahan. We predict a 3 point victory for the Redskins.

Houston over Cincinnati. Everyone knows that the Bengals have been enjoying one of the biggest runs ever having won 7 out of their last 8 games. Also, Houston lost their number 1 seed and their right to a bye. However, even with Houston's sluggish performance, Cincinnati does not have the DB's and safeties to match up with Andre Johnson. Also, Arian Foster should be able to run the ball effectively against a suspect defensive line. His flexibility as a receiver will help him catch many screens out of the backfield as well. The interesting factor here, is that Andy Dalton grew up in Texas, and has played at Reliant Stadium in Houston. He has only lost one of those 3 times. This could be an X factor. However we still believe the Texans will roll to victory with big defensive plays out of "J.J. Swatt", candidate for Defensive Player of the Year.

Baltimore over Indianapolis. Before last week, we were prepared to say that the Colts were in a good position to win the game. However, after legendary linebacker, Ray Lewis, announced his retirement the Ravens were immediately fired up. Knowing this is the last run of Lewis, the man who played 17 seasons, and won Super Bowl MVP, they will be looking to put pressure on Andrew Luck early and often. Look for Luck's inexperience to be a factor in this game as he may throw at least 2 interceptions. Don't forget the bitter taste in the Raven's mouth that came from Billy Cundiff missing a critical field goal that would have led to overtime, last season. Luck, and the Colts, will definitely keep it closer than many people think, but the expertise of Ray Rice, and Torrey Smith should play a huge factor in this game. We're taking Baltimore by 7 points.

The scores don't always tell the whole story of the football games. We'll be sure to give you the breakdowns in the next post. See you in the next round!!


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