Monday, January 23, 2012

AFC/NFC Championship Thoughts

Photo Courtesy of Yahoo Sports
Photo Courtesy of USA Today

Now I'll bet my life on it that not one person on this planet, if given the option to pick two goats, one from each title game that helped cost their teams chances at the Super Bowl, picked the unlikely duo of Billy Cundiff and Kyle Williams.  These two players shoulder a lot of the blame today whether it is fair or not.  And in my estimation, they do deserve a lot of the blame.  However, I still cannot believe people would be sick enough to go as far as to make threats on the lives of these players.  It sickens me to think that people are that "loyal" to their team that they would even say that these two players deserve death just for making an error on a football field.  It is a game, people, remember that.  Now with that off of my chest, let's take a look at each game and how they played out the way they did.  While I did not have a chance to make formal predictions on here before the games, I did have the Patriots and Giants winning these games (pat on the back).

Let's start with the Patriots/Ravens game first.  The Ravens gameplanned perfectly to hold Brady in check as he was held without a touchdown pass.  They mixed up their defenses perfectly to throw Brady off, and he never looked comfortable all day.  They did do some nice things on the ground, as BGE was able to find the end zone on a very nice run where he used his blockers very well.  Brady threw two picks, but it could have easily been four if not for a couple of fortunate penalties that negated the interceptions.  Overall, the offense did not play well, but the defense actually looked decent as Wilfork played one heck of a game once again.  He stuffed run gaps and allowed himself and others to get pressure on Flacco and force him into tough throws.  Sterling Moore was the unheralded hero for the Pats, breaking up the pass that Lee Evans had in his hands that would have won the game.  I'll call it a great play by Moore and also a goat play for Evans as you simply have to secure that ball with a chance to get to the Super Bowl.  I thought Flacco and Boldin played well, as they were dynamite on that final drive as Boldin was able to rack up yardage on some very nice throws by Flacco.  It came down to Cundiff, and sitting there on my couch I just had a hunch he would choke.  Kickers not doing their jobs is something that frustrates me beyond belief as my friends know.  And as the ball sailed wide left, I was not surprised at all.  To me, it seemed like Cundiff was too casual in getting out there and I thought maybe Harbaugh would use his final timeout to give him more time to set up.  If he missed following a timeout, people may say they iced their own kicker, but I think that school of thought is nonsense.  He needed more time to set up for a chip shot like that.  If it was a 50-yard field goal, that may be a different story, but this particular chip shot could have been a make if Cundiff had more time to settle in.  And with all this said, the Patriots advance to the Super Bowl where Tom Brady will start his fifth one.  He is 3-1 in Super Bowls and is looking to add a fourth title to his already outstanding career.  They didn't play well, but they got it done.  The lasting image from that game for me will be the stunned look on Torrey Smith's face after the missed field goal.  He is only a rookie and will have plenty of chances to get back, but I do feel for Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, and the older guys.  Yes, they have a ring, but this may be one of their last chances to get another one.

Regarding the 49ers/Giants game, it was a battle in the slop out in San Fran, and two key blunders by Kyle Williams ended up costing the Niners a chance at the Super Bowl.  The defensive lines for both teams played outstanding, getting constant pressure on Smith and Manning.  I thought the Giants defense did a wonderful job minus two big plays to Vernon Davis.  If they want to be in the Super Bowl, the Niners must address the wide receiver position in the draft or free agency.  Davis is a beast, but he's a tight end.  Crabtree, for all the hype, is average at best.  And outside of that, what else do they really have in the passing game?  They went 13-3 without many weapons to catch the ball, so just imagine how good they can be if they have an impact player or two they get this offseason.  Eli now may have to be considered elite simply for his will in big road playoff games.  They are always on the road and always find a way to do the unthinkable.  Tom Coughlin went from hot seat to star coach in a short time as his methods continue to work in the postseason.  Victor Cruz is no fluke.  I bashed him during the season (mainly because he would tear it up and wasn't on my abysmal fantasy team), but he looks like he will be a rock solid player for the forseeable future in this league.  I love Hakeem Nicks, and while he was held relatively quiet, I could see him having an impact similar to Plaxico Burress in the Super Bowl three years ago.

 The Giants found a way again, and we will have a rematch.  And while it is a rematch on paper, I see it hardly as a rematch because the makeup of these two teams is different than when they met three years ago.  The Patriots have a pretty poor defense that relies on the offense, mainly Welker and the stud tight ends, to put up tons of points.  The Giants, while similar in philosophy to past years, now have Nicks and Cruz as their star wide receivers and seem to like to throw the ball all over the place despite still have Jacobs and Bradshaw on the ground.  Manning threw it 58 times in the slop, which shows that they have ultimate faith in him.  While I do not think he will throw it that many times at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indy, I think he can eclipse 40 for sure.

With two weeks until the Super Bowl, let the predictions and thoughts flood in.  Comment here and we will dialogue about the big game coming up.

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