I got much of what I wanted during the NFL Wild Card weekend.
I got to see my Texans play and post a 31-10 win in their first ever playoff game at Reliant Stadium against the Bengals. I also came close to being perfect on my NFL picks last weekend.
But close only counts with horseshoes, hand grenades and nuclear weapons and the Denver Broncos dropped an overtime bomb on the Pittsburgh Steelers that blasted them right out of the playoffs and nuked my chance to get all four games correct.
So I went 3-1.while Mike, whose picks are here went ouch, 1-3.
It’s the Divisional round, so let’s see if I can get the sweep.this week. It’s going to be tough because the eight teams left in both the AFC and NFC brackets are all division winners keenly aware that a win in this round puts them in their respective conference championship games and one step closer to playing in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis for the Super Bowl.
Three of the games with the exception of the Saints-49ers tilt are all regular season rematches and it’s tough to beat a team twice.
The Saturday games feature the 14-3 NFC South champion New Orleans Saints traveling to face the 13-3 NFC West champion San Francisco 49ers and the 9-8 AFC West champion Denver Broncos facing the homestanding 13-3 AFC East champion New England Patriots.
On Sunday it’s my 11-6 AFC South champion Texans playing their franchise first road playoff game against the 12-4 AFC North champion Baltimore Ravens and the 15-1 NFC North champion Green Bay Packers hosting the 10-7 New York Giants.
New Orleans travels to number 2 seed San Francisco with a high powered offense and Drew Brees having a monster season. They kicked up the record setting offense another notch in the second half at the Superdome to subdue the Lions in the wild card round.
The 49ers will be a tougher number four ranked defensive nut to crack They have five All-Pro’s playing on the Number one NFL defense in creating turnovers. San Francisco’s ground oriented attack is number one in the NFL in terms of keeping the ball.
That will come in handy because in all my years of watching football I’ve never seen any high powered offense that can score points while occupying the bench. The Niners will attempt to execute clock eating drives to shorten the game and try to score touchdowns while doing so.
The Saints also have people that can play on the defensive side of the ball and like to blitz you all day long. That’s a problem for a young 49ers offensive line that has had trouble at times keeping opposing defenses off their quarterback Alex Smith.
The Saints however are 0-4 all time in road playoff games including that shocking upset loss to the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks last year. This is the Niners first playoff game since 2003 and they have lost six straight regular season games versus the Saints.
Somebody’s futility streak ends today. The Saints will take a close game from the 49ers and head to the NFC Championship game.
Saturday’s nightcap features the Tim Tebow led Denver Broncos who are huge underdogs in their Gillette Stadium rematch with Tom Brady and the AFC number one seeded New England Patriots.
This is a dangerous game for the Patriots who have exited the NFL playoffs early for the last three seasons and have a defense ranked last in the league. But they attempt to make up for it by scoring points in prodigious bunches.
The Broncos just polished off the number one ranked defense in the league in Pittsburgh and will be coming into Massachusetts with a wave of confidence as a result of that 29-23 overtime victory
They were also beating the Patriots early in that previous game in Denver 16-7 last month and running the ball at will until three second quarter turnovers were cashed in by the Patriots for 13 points that dramatically changed the complexion of the game and turned it into a 41-23 New England rout
The Broncos do have a defense that is quite capable of keeping Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and the vaunted New England offense out of the end zone. If they can force the Patriots to kick field goals or the Broncos generate enough offense to keep Brady and company sitting on the bench for long stretches of the game, they might be able to pull off another Tebow Time miracle.
Naaah, I don’t think so. The clock strikes midnight for Tebow Time. The Patriots win their first playoff game in three years and kick back to watch the Sunday game to see who they’ll play in the AFC championship barring another unexplained miracle.
Moving on to Sunday, my hometown NFL footballers roll into M&T Bank Stadium again in their liberty white uniforms for a rematch with the number two AFC seeded Baltimore Ravens.
Nobody outside Loop 610 gives the Texans a chance to win this game because of their rookie third string quarterback TJ Yates, their 0-5 record against the Ravens and the 29-14 loss they got saddled with back in October to help Baltimore post an 8-0 record at home.
However, despite the Texans committing zero turnovers they played their worst team game of the seasonthat October day. Arian Foster was held to 51 yards rushing, and they just lost All-Pro WR Andre Johnson and All-Pro LB Mario Williams to a season ending injury in the Pittsburgh game the week before.
Connor Barwin, Brooks Reed and JJ Watt were not the quarterback sacking terrors they are now. The offensive line did not have a good day against the Ravens defense as they allowed Matt Schaub to be sacked four times.
The secondary that day looked more like last year’s unit that got toasted more than Quizno’s subs.instead of the NFL’s number 3 pass defense unit. The Texans number two ranked defense has only given up four pass plays longer than 50 yards this season. Two of them happened in that first Ravens game.
Ricky Williams of all people rushed for 109 yards and a TD and Ray Rice after being held to 39 yards rushing in the first three quarters exploded for 62 in the decisive fourth quarter to finish with 101 yards for the game..
The Texans were so pissed off after that loss they went on a seven game winning streak that led to them clinching their franchise first AFC South title and playoff berth
The Ravens have a great defense with perennial All-Pro’s Ed Reed, Haloti Ngata, Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs anchoring it but a so-so offense that depends heavily on Ray Rice. Shut him down, put Joe Flacco frequently on his behind and make Billy Cundiff come out and kick field goals and you go a long way toward beating the Ravens
The Texans also have a chip on their shoulder because they believe they’re getting dissed by the national sports media. (They are)
The best way to get that national attention and respect is beat the big boys. Sooner or later the law of averages will catch up with my hometown NFL footballers and they will break through and get that first win against the Ravens. Our chances of doing that are better with Andre Johnson back in the lineup and what better time to do it than in the playoffs?
Yep people, I’m picking the Texans to beat the Ravens in an upset and put a Houston NFL squad in its first AFC championship game since the Luv Ya Blue era in 1980.
In the final divisional round game of the day we have another rematch of a regular season tilt at Lambeau Field between the 10-7 New York Giants and the 15-1 defending NFL champion Green Bay Packers.
The then unbeaten 12-0 Packers knocked off the 6-5 Giants 38-35 in a thrilling game that was won on a Tim Masthay kick as time expired and both teams are already talking smack to each other.
The Giant want revenge for this loss. The number one NFC seeded Packers also want some payback for the Giants ending their 2007 season in the NFC Championship game they hosted at Lambeau Field. The Giants knocked them off during that run to an NFL title and upset the perfection chasing Patriots in the Super Bowl. .
It won’t be easy for either team to get what they want. The Packers behind Aaron Rodgers’ 4,645 yards and 45 TD’s have been flinging the football all season with a potent air attack, but their defense hasn’t been as dominating as it was during last year’s championship playoff run.
The Giants have been on a roll lately themselves as they finished 3-1 down the stretch to take their division and Eli Manning had his best NFL season as he threw for 4,933 yards and 29 touchdowns.
He also has weapons such as thousand yard receivers Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz along with Mario Manningham and unlike the Packers they can run the football. The Giants defensive line is healthy and kicking butt as Atlanta found out last week but they will have their hands full in trying to slow down the elusive Aaron Rodgers and his own capable stable of receivers. . .
This should be a tight ballgame that the Packers pull out in front of their faithful fans and get them one step closer to a repeat appearance in the.Super Bowl.