What We Learned From the Seahawks Win, Plus a Playoff Preview and the Great NFL Coaching Purge

Will the record holder for most touchdown passes in a rookie season please stand up?

Russell Wilson continued to scribble out portions of the Seahawks’ record book, and the NFL’s for that matter, and write himself in. Wilson now has tied Peyton Manning for the most touchdown passes thrown in a rookie season. Not something people would have expected for a Quarterback who was selected after five other QBs, one of whom isn’t even starting (Brock Oswiler is Manning’s backup.)

It Doesn’t Come Cheap

(That sounds nothing like any kind of title, it’s mainly there to make my other bolded title look better by default.)

The Seahawks demolished the Cardinals, Bills and 49ers in recent weeks. Maybe you heard. Point is that another blowout probably wasn’t going to be beneficial, at least for the playoffs. The Seahawks had to work for this win. That will be nice when the playoffs roll around and teams won’t be losing by astronomical amounts.

Playoffs

“Playoffs? Don’t talk about—playoffs?! You kidding me?! Playoffs?!”

That would be Jim Mora talking about, you guessed it, the playoffs. Yes, the glorious playoffs are here. We all get to wait and see who delivers the play of the postseason. Last season it might have been Kyle Williams’ muffed special-team handling, maybe Mario Manningham’s Super Bowl catch. The year before that, gave us Marshawn Lynch’s brilliant touchdown run against the Saints. Hopefully this year someone will provide us with a play that belongs in the same breath as the Lynch run or David Tyree’s catch. Because frankly, as much as I just amped up the Manningham catch and Williams’ trouble holding onto the ball, those plays are summed up in one word: anticlimactic.

The playoffs are a different animal this year in the NFC and almost the same relative animal in the AFC. The “National” Conference returns only Green Bay, Atlanta and San Francisco from last years’ playoffs with Seattle, Washington and Minnesota as the newcomers. The AFC meanwhile has the exact same lineup (Houston and Cincinnati played in the 3-6 game last year and will do the same this weekend, they must love playing each other) with the sole difference being Indianapolis taking Pittsburgh’s slot.

In the first round of the playoffs, I think Andrew Luck is going to win many a playoff game in his career, but I can’t see the Ravens losing this game. Not with it being a home game, not with it potentially being Ray Lewis’ last game, not with it being possibly Lewis’ last home game period, win or lose. The Ravens will beat the Colts 33-21.

The Bengals will definitely be more competitive than in last year’s 31-10 romp. That being said, I don’t think the Bengals can keep up with the Texans top-ten ranked offense and defense. Houston wins 24-14 over Cincinnati.

Over in the NFC I like the Vikings to beat the Packers. The Vikings won last week over Green Bay, and nothing says momentum like beating a team and then playing them again. Adrian Peterson could very well have another field day. It will be a surefire win if the Vikings’ 9th-ranked pass defense can bottle up Aaron Rodgers, Bahia Verde’s (that’s Spanish for “Green Bay” for all you folks at home) 20th-ranked run offense could stick out like Clay Bennett in Seattle. Minnesota wins 27-21.

The Great Coaching Purge: NFL

It’s being dubbed “Black Monday,” but the day that a good portion of the league lost coaches was mainly due to lack of quarterbacks. Arizona, Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, Kansas City, San Diego and Philadelphia all made changes. All of those teams, with the exception of Chicago (Lovie Smith probably got fired for not getting it done in the postseason, or even getting there) and maybe San Diego, have serious long-term questions at the quarterback position.

I’ll check in next week with the divisional round preview. See you then.

Taking the Wind Out of the 49ers Sails: Why They Aren’t the Best Team In Football, or Even Their Own Division

If I had a nickel for every time the San Francisco 49ers were lauded for praise for their play in the first two weeks of the season, I might have more nickels than Mitt Romney.

(See here, I can do political stuff, too!)

If you aren’t a 49ers die-hard fan who has the right to think their team is the best, as all die-hards do, then I’m going to stop you from ponying up any more money on them in Vegas.

Continue reading

NFL Divisional Round Preview

Tebow-Mania, Big Blue, the Frozen Tundra, Houston’s First Playoff Appearance and Drew Brees’s passing records.

That’s what you’re going to hear a lot about this week as the NFL playoffs take somewhat of a center stage. Your ears will also tend to pick up a lot of the entire Josh McDaniels situation with New England, Baltimore’s surging defense and the offensively challenged San Francisco 49ers.

The first game that the nation, and world for that matter, will see is New Orleans versus San Francisco. The Saints have a prolific offense led by the record-setting Brees as well as big receiving threats Jimmy Graham and Robert Meachem. Devery Henderson and Lance Moore provide very good fourth and fifth options for a team that can also role out a stable of talented running backs with speed man Darren Sproles, talented back Pierre Thomas and slam back Chris Ivory. All those weapons plus an underrated D make the Saints a sneaky Super Bowl pick.

Now to the other sideline: San Francisco. Due to my heavy biased approach to Seattle I have to bash the Niners a little bit, or a lot. I’d be an idiot to say San Fran’s D isn’t good. It’s a very good defensive team with some excellent linebackers like NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis. Carlos Rogers and Donte Whitner were and are excellent free agent finds for Jim Harbaugh. Then we get to the other side of the ball, ehhh. Frank Gore is a perennial Pro Bowl player who consistently racks up big games. And he’s great, don’t get me wrong. But he’s the Niners’ crutch. Everything runs through him. If he’s off then the 49ers will have a lot of problems. Alex Smith is a game manager. I know it, you know it, hell even Harbaugh probably knows it. He isn’t going to light up the score board, more or less he’s going to lite it up. Smith hasn’t topped 300 yards once this year. That includes a schedule with teams like Tampa Bay, Washington, St. Louis (twice), Cleveland and the Eagles. Yikes. He has only put up 3 TDs once in a single game this season. That was in a 48-3 win over Tampa in which he managed only 170 yards. When you score 48 points you should probably have a little more than 170 passing yards. Vernon Davis is a solid tight end, Michael Crabtree is a viable option, but is likely only the third or fourth option if he were on the Saints team.

Prediction: Saints 48 49ers 21

Now we finally get to Mr. Tebow. Tebow prevailed against the defending AFC champs in round one. Granted the Steelers were banged up, a win is a win, especially in the playoffs. Denver takes its rag tag bunch into New England to face a Patriots team that made a hiring that is curious to say the least. First, let’s set it up for people who have lived under a rock for the last couple years. Denver’s head coach is John Fox. Denver hired him after firing Josh McDaniels. McDaniels went on to run the offense in St. Louis this season before he was hired by the New England Patriots as their Offensive Coordinator for next year seeing as they will lose their current one to be the next head coach at Penn State. Did I mention that McDaniels was hired after the season ended? And he will serve as an offensive assistant or something of the like for the rest of the playoffs. You make the call on the shady-ness of that one.

New England, amid all that hoopla, has a guy named Tom Brady. Not sure if you’ve heard of him. They also roll out an offense that might only be rivaled by those in New Orleans and Green Bay (certainly not San Francisco). The Pats do have a porous D that could pose problems for New England.

Denver has the underdog factor. That, Tebow, a resurgent Willis McGahee and a strong defense makes for a nice upset pick of sorts. The underdog’s luck has run out in the divisional rounds in recent years. It’s also hard to pick against Tom Brady and a full arsenal of weapons with the man they call Gronk at the forefront.

Prediction: New England 35 Denver 23

Houston and Baltimore, your playoff rookies and playoff vets, this one probably screams blowout for a number of reasons. One, the Ravens have one of the better defenses in the league. Two, Houston is down to their third string QB and has been forced to sign Jake Delhome and Jeff Garcia as a result. No typo there, Jeff Garcia is the Texans third string QB. But they do have a very effective running game with the dynamic duo of Arian Foster and Ben Tate. That also gives them an extremely efficient play action attack that is one of the better ones in the league, TJ Yates or no. Oh yeah, Andre Johnson is also their number one receiver.

Baltimore’s defense is very good. Their offense is the key. Ray Rice, is the key to their offense. So to boil it down, Ray Rice is the key. In a loss in Seattle, Rice got five carries and lost 22-17. Rice needs to get it going if Baltimore is going to have any chance at winning. This is going to be a grind it out game, lots of running and lots of defense. Look for the Ravens running and D to prevail.

Prediction: Baltimore 23 Houston 17

The defending Super Bowl Champs are taking on the G-Men. The Giants held, or rather gave, the Falcons all of two points in the opening round. The Packers on the other hand sat and watched the wildcard round in the comforts of their own homes.  New York has a lot of weapons to surround Eli Manning, while they aren’t near the level of the weapons that Aaron Rodgers has, they’re good weapons. Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham, upstart Victor Cruz and the two-headed running back monster of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs.

The Packers roll out tons of weapons that go right at the other defenses: Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Ryan Grant, Jermichael Finley, (go ahead catch your breath, there’s more) Donald Driver, Randal Cobb, James Starks and John Kuhn. So to sum that up, the Pack can score. Their defense on the other hand is the key. Their D has been a struggling unit. They are good against the run (14th), but their passing defense is last in the league. Yep, last.

This is going to be a passing clinic. The Packers are last in pass D and the Giants are 29th. It doesn’t help when the two guys at QB are both pro bowlers. Like I said, this is going to be a shoot out.

Prediction: Green Bay 42 New York 35