Monday, January 12, 2009

Looking Back at the NFL Playoffs

This weekend’s playoff games provided us with plenty of excitement and drama. Really, for me these games represented everything that makes football a great sport. There were plenty of big hits, some cheap shots, a lot of trash talking and some genuine bad blood. Those are the elements that make the NFL a great product. Now, let’s take a look back at the action from this past weekend.

Baltimore Ravens 13 vs. Tennessee Titians 10: These two teams flat out do not like each other and it showed when they took the field on Saturday night. This game was not for the faint of heart. The hits were absolutely devastating. In all honesty it was a beautiful site. These two teams met in the early part of the season, and the final score was 13-10 so it was kind of surprising to see that odds makers thought the Titians were worthy of being a four point favorite. The Baltimore defense was suffocating once again forcing three turnovers inside the red zone and effectively shut out the Titians. The spread favored the Titians by four. I liked the Ravens defense, and they are my AFC pick for the Super Bowl so obviously I chose the road Ravens to cover the spread and come up with the victory.

Arizona Cardinals 33 vs. Carolina Panthers 13: Without a doubt this was the surprise game on the weekend for pretty much everyone outside of the state of Arizona. On Thursday the Panthers were favored by ten points and yes that is a massive spread for a playoff game, but all one had to do was consider the facts, and the spread was not inconceivable. The Arizona Cardinals were missing stud receiver Anquan Boldin, and their defense didn’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of opponents. None of that mattered; Larry Fitzgerald had an amazing game, setting franchise records for receiving yards in a post season game. Kurt Warner found Fitzgerald early and often. But what was more impressive than the Arizona Cardinals passing attack was their defense. They set the tone early when they forced Panthers QB Jake Delhomme to fumble a ball deep in his own territory. In the end, the Cardinals were able to apply pressure early and kept the pressure on throughout the game. They came in 10 point underdogs and blew away the competition. On a side note, Carolina talk radio was rampant with trade Jake talk after his six turnover performance on Saturday night. I say not so fast my friend. The Panthers do need to look for a new option at quarterback, but they can get survive with Delhomme now while a young quarterback matures.

Philadelphia Eagles 23 vs. New York Giants 11: It has always interested me in how much the AFC North and the NFC East resemble each other. The Giants and the Eagles are long time rivals and they just don’t like each other. Much like the Steelers and Ravens don’t like each other as you will find out in the AFC Championship game. Another parallel between the two divisions is when teams match up it becomes a hard fought defensive battle with the last team standing being the winner. The Eagles and the Giants played in what looked like a tornado in Giants Stadium. The high winds made passing the ball very difficult, and both teams saw their kicking games suffer. The wind was so much of a factor that Tom Coughlin deferring the opening kick and losing the win in the fourth quarter as a reason to why the New York Giants lost their game. Eli Manning wasn’t able to adjust to wind and his passes were off target all day long. He threw costly interceptions and the Philadelphia Eagles did just enough to take advantage of the situation. The 12 point margin of victory does not represent how close this game actually was. The spread favored the Giants by four points, but I went with the underdogs to cover and win, and that’s exactly what the Eagles did.

Pittsburgh Steelers 35 vs. San Diego Chargers 24: Can’t say I ever gave San Diego much of a chance in this one, and they lived up to those expectations. The Chargers played well, but the Steelers defense never let the Chargers offense get into a grove. To be frankly honest the Steelers actually looked scary good in this game. Big Ben was throwing the ball deep, and seemed to have good accuracy. They also got Willie Parker rolling on the game. It was the first time that I’ve really seen the Steelers showcase a multi dimensional offensive attack. And the defense, well it was the Steelers. This game was the one that hurt me when it came to predictions. The Steelers were six point favorites, and I thought the San Diego Chargers could keep things interesting and cover the spread at the very least. It did not take long for me to realize that I was completely wrong about that. The Steelers dominated the ball and the game. Pittsburgh would win the game and cover the six point spread that means I split my pick on this game. Not bad I guess.


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