by TOM WEPPEL
NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE
In the last six NFL seasons, three of the Super Bowl Champions have started off the playoffs as a wild card team, then ran the table. That includes the Packers last year, who pulled off that grand feat, winning all three games on the road before they won the Super Bowl title.
Cincinnati @ Houston
And now, going into this playoff postseason, we have four games with a couple of teams that are certainly solid favorites to win and advance thru this weekend.
On Saturday, it starts off with the Bengals heading to Houston to take on the Texans. The Houston franchise will be making their first appearance in the playoffs, winning the AFC South Division. But they’ve lost their last three games, and there are certain questions as to how well rookie QB T.J. Yates will perform. It is their rushing, with RB Arian Foster, that is their offensive strength.
Meanwhile, their Defense finished the season ranked #2 overall in the league. They did a great job throughout the season shutting down opponents. During the season, they beat the Bengals, 20-19, in Week 14. That game was played in Cincy.
And so it will be up to the rookie QB Andy Dalton to come through with a strong, solid performance, to try and produce some points. That may be a tad difficult.
The Texans are a three-point favorite in this game. They seem set to shut Cincy down…
Detroit @ New Orleans
In New Orleans, the Saints will host their playoff game, taking on the Detroit Lions. These two teams met during the season, in Week 13, with the Saints winning, 31-17.
The Lions I’m sure are going to feel very happy simply to be IN the playoffs! The franchise hasn’t gotten this far in over a decade! Add that, then consider they are going up against the #1 offense in the NFL in the Saints, with Pro Bowl QB Drew Brees and his mates, and you realize a number of unfortunate things will have to happen for New Orleans to LOSE this game!
Yet, Detroit has shown thru the season their abilities and relentlessness, especially on the defensive front. They also have done a good job with their passing game, thanks to QB Matt Stafford and his corps of receivers.
But the Saints are far and away the best passing offense in the League, hands down. Brees has been spectacular throughout the season, and they’ve put together a top-notch squad that has the potential to go all the way.
We’ll see if the Lions can stay competitive with them…
Atlanta @ New York Giants
Last season, the Falcons were the #1 seed in the NFC, only to lose at home to the Packers. This year, their situation is completely different, playing as the visiting wild card.
They’ll start off on the road in the Meadowlands against the Giants, a team that hasn’t necessarily shown a strong degree of consistency or level of play. They proved that, having to win their last game to simply get IN the playoffs!
In the past, the Giants have built their offense with a punishing, effective rushing game. Not this season, as New York ranked last in the league, then focusing all their offense on their passing game. They have solid receivers for Eli Manning to work with, and they can come through and make the big play when desired.
For Atlanta, they’ve been fairly well-balanced in most aspects, both on offense, and defense. After starting off their season 2-3, they were able to finish up going 8-3. They are a cohesive group. You compare that with not knowing exactly what will happen when the Giants take the field, and it should make for an intriguing contest…
Pittsburgh @ Denver
The Broncos come in to this contest having lost their final three regular season games. After reaching popular heights on the QB pedestal, Tim Tebow’s numbers and performances haven’t been completely up to par. He’s thrown four interceptions in his last two games.
Meanwhile, the Steelers come in having won six of their last seven regular season games. While both QB Ben Roethlisberger and S Troy Polamalu are banged up, the boys have been taking care of business, with a solid offense, and a #1-ranked defense.
That means this will certainly be a challenge for the Broncos to defend their home turf and pull off a victory against a tough, veteran Steeler squad. I’ll be curious to see what the Steeler defense will do…and how they will do it…in throwing various schemes at Tebow.
Denver should attack offensively with their ground game. Their rushing was ranked #1 in the NFL during the season.
Pittsburgh nonetheless is a nine-point favorite. We’ll see if they hold up to billing…
In the aftermath of the regular season, it seems as if the sexy move at this time, for teams not making the playoffs, is to fire the General Manager…NOT the Head Coach!
Obviously, somebody told NFL owners that it would look good to get rid of the guy that tried to build the team personnel and roster, versus firing the guy that tried so hard to coach those guys!
And so, see you later, Rams GM Billy Devaney! Catch you down the road, veteran Chicago Bears GM Jerry Angelo! And off you go, now former Colts GM Bill Polian!
Look…the bottom line here is that whenever a team doesn’t make the playoffs…or falters in some way, shape, or form, then one way or another SOMEONE is gonna get the axe! This season, it seems to be coming down on the General Manager, even though five Head Coaches already have been fired! In many cases, what happens, is that those who get fired end up landing somewhere else within the NFL…whether it is with a team, the League, or in broadcast. Then after a year or two, those who got fired will be considered for another job within the same vein later on!
So, keep track of the names you’ve seen on the headlines so far. I will be very surprised if they don’t end up somewhere else…sometimes doing the same job!