T.G.I.M.! 1.10.2011

Examining a wild weekend in the NFL.

James LeBeauby James LeBeau

Ok, so maybe I was a little off in my predictions last Friday about who would win this past weekend in the opening Wild-Card round of the NFL. Yes, 1-3 may be a little worse than being ‘off’, but isn’t that the beauty of the NFL? On any given game (yep, pulling out this tired saying), any team can win and it was proven in spades this weekend. What was also proven is that home field advantage is nice but not essential as the home teams could only cough up one win and that one, by Seattle, was the one everyone expected a loss out of.

And how about those Seahawks!

New Orleans Saints vs. Seattle Seahawks
Seattle took all the hate and annoyance generated by everyone who didn’t feel they deserved to be in the playoffs at 7-9 and turned it into a stellar performance against the defending champion New Orleans Saints.  Seahawks coach Pete Carroll squeezed every ounce of fire and pride out of his team in their 41-36 victory and should be commended for it.

"It didn’t matter what I said to them, or what was said outside, and all of the story lines and all that, they just did not buy it," Carroll said. "Where that came from? If I knew that, we’d have something special here. It came out of an attitude and it came out of a faith in one another."

New York Jets vs. Indianapolis Colts
The second game on Saturday saw the Jets edge the Colts 17-16 in a win that was payback for Indianapolis’s win in last years playoffs that sent them on to the SuperBowl. The win was one New York had to have after all the talk leading up to this game by head coach Rex Ryan. This one was personal for Rex and he wasn’t shy in letting you know this before or after the game.

"We’ve been in some close ones this year, but to come out and pull this game out against a great football team, against a great quarterback, it was a Herculean effort," a relieved Ryan said. "I mean really, I’m just thankful for the men I coach. Thankful for the two backs we got, that pounded it in there. Thankful for that coaching staff. Thankful for Nick Folk, and I’m thankful that I finally got to beat Peyton Manning."

The loss by Indianapolis has many feeling that Colts QB Peyton Manning may be a tad overrated as this puts him at a 9-10 career playoff record. While I feel this sentiment may be a little harsh, it does have some merit, because if you want to be considered one of the best of all time at your position, you need to be able to bring it when the season is on the line. That’s something I’ve rarely seen Manning do. So talk him up all you want Colts fans but in the playoffs, give me Tom Brady or Ben Roethlisberger, two guys I know can get it done in the clutch.

Baltimore Ravens vs. Kansas City Chiefs
The opening game on Sunday pit the Baltimore Ravens vs the Kansas City Chiefs in what was an interesting game for almost a half. But then reality set in for the Chiefs, the reality that they were a really young team that just wasn’t prepared for the intensity of  the playoffs facing a battle tested Ravens team with Super aspirations and the experience to back it up.

"You just come in and make up your mind when things start going your way they start going your way," Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said. "We knew that this was a very tough place to come play. They have a very talented ball club. We were able to show them and that’s kind of how we are built. We are built for 60 minutes."

If anything, the 30-7 win by the Ravens goes to show you what experience and a will to win can bring to the table. Both of those were intangibles that had Kansas City outclassed from the beginning.

Green Bay Packers vs. Philadelphia Eagles
The Final game on tap this past weekend saw the Green Bay Packers squeak by the Philadelphia Eagles 21-16 for the Packs first playoff win in the Aaron Rogers era. Rogers was steady with three touchdowns but it was the emergence of a Green Bay running game that decided this one.

That’s right, I said a Green Bay running game!

The so-called one dimensional Packers (and they were called that for a reason, the reason being they couldn’t run the ball to save their lives before this Sunday) got a stunning 123 yards on the ground by rookie RB James Starks. This, combined with a defense that held fast the entire game, were the difference between a win and a loss.

That young Packers D managed to corral and confuse Vick all day, right up to the last meaningful play in the game where they intercepted Vick in the endzone with 33 seconds to seal the win. It was a disappointing ending for an Eagles team that had been soaring higher than expected all season.

"I feel like I got greedy and took a shot at the end zone," Vick said about his last pass. "I didn’t throw the ball I wanted and got picked. It’s not the way I wanted to go out, but I went down swinging. I have to learn from it."

To sum up this weekend in football into two words, it was ‘friggan sweet’! But as nice as this one was, next weekend, the Divisional round, is set up to be even bigger as we have some match-ups that have football purists salivating. Join us later this week as we delve into these games, getting you set up for another round of thrilling competition…a round in which I hope to go a little better than 1-3 with my predictions.