SPORTS w/The Jock 1-7-11

by Tom Weppel
With the regular season over, we move in to the NFL Playoffs, starting with four games this weekend.
It all starts off on Saturday, with the Seattle Seahawks hosting the New Orleans Saints. As we all know, Seattle has a very mediocre 7-9 record. They have not shown very much firepower whatsoever, winning only two of their last seven contests. In addition, they played the Saints in New Orleans this season, losing 34-19. They ranked 28th overall in offense in the NFL, including last in rushing, and their defense ranked 30th.
You combine that with the Saints coming in as the defending SB champs, ranking in the top 10 in both offense and defense. They finished the season on a tear, winning six of seven before last weeks’ loss to the Bucs.
They only thing stopping the Saints here might be their running game. Their two RB’s…Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas, are out for the playoffs. And so New Orleans will most likely look to Reggie Bush and newly-signed RB DeShawn Winn for their ground game.
Overall, though, QB Drew Brees and his mates should be able pull off a solid victory over Seattle.
Then on Saturday night, the Jets will go into Indianapolis to face Peyton Manning and the Colts.
Indianapolis had a rather rough season. Their running game was shot for most of the year, and they lost a couple of WR’s to injury. At 6-6, the Colts had to win out to get into the playoffs, which they were able to do, winning their last four. Still, they simply haven’t been the same team that played in the Super Bowl last season.
For the Jets, the focus has been on the guile of HC Rex Ryan, and the shoulder status of QB Mark Sanchez. Ryan has tried his best to fend off critics, who came out after New York lost to both the Pats and Bears on the road. Add that to wondering whether Sanchez was doing his best, and it makes for plenty of attention.
But the Jets’ defense ranked 4th statistically in the League, and their pass defense was in the top ten. The key for them will be to stop Manning and his passing. If they can shut him down, and if Sanchez and the offense can put some points on the board, then the Jets have a decent shot at winning this one.
On Sunday, we’ll see the Baltimore Ravens travel to Kansas City to play the Chiefs. Neither team has garnered much attention this year. The Ravens are still mostly known for their top ten defense, led by LB Ray Lewis and S Ed Reed. For Kansas City, it has been their ground game, which was the best in the NFL. RB’s Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones have been outstanding. QB Matt Cassel has also done well, throwing to Pro Bowl WR Dwayne Bowe.
Baltimore finished their season winning five of their last six. Look for them to keep it going.
The last game of the weekend features the Packers heading to Philly to face the Eagles. These certainly are two of the ‘glamour’ teams in the League, especially with so much attention given to QB Michael Vick.
Vick has shown us he still has the tools to deliver and produce. His running and passing have led the Eagles, without question. RB LeSean McCoy and WR Jeremy Maclin have proven to be ample playmakers as well.
Meanwhile, the Packers have come through with a very solid defense. Long-hired LB Clay Matthews has been an animal within his play, and DB Tramon Willams has led the team in shutting down the opposition.
Offensively for Green Bay, they have been all about QB Aaron Rodgers and their passing, as their running game has been non-existent. It hasn’t helped, as they lost their last three on the road.
Overall, this should be a good matchup. My feeling is it will come down to turnovers and mistakes, as well as one or two playmakers emerging.
And so it should be an interesting weekend of play in the NFL, which is exactly how the League likes it!
While the Playoffs crank up, the media attention has focused squarely on various Head Coaching situations around the League. During the season, four teams canned their coaches, including Dallas, Minnesota, Denver, and San Francisco. Then this week, we saw firings with the Browns, the Panthers, and the Raiders. That makes a total of SEVEN firings, or almost 25% of the teams.
Then, on a totally different note, we have seen four teams (Giants, Jaguars, Texans, and Bengals) decide their Head Coaches were okay for the interim, giving them all a reprieve of sorts. Interestingly, fans of those teams were wondering how that could possibly be, as if the Head Coach is the MAIN reason their teams did not fare very well. All of the goings-on produced that much more media attention, discussion, and consternation.
Without question, the Head Coach certainly carries a tremendous amount of responsibility and exposure in generating a successful, winning team, the fact is, he is not the ONLY reason why teams lose. A lot of fans don’t seem to see that, always looking for somebody to take on total, complete blame for failure. It all makes for a scene that, for all intents, becomes a drama-filled, soap opera/reality show…