NFL Division Round Preview
Déjà vu is defined as “a feeling of having already experienced the present situation”. That may perfectly describe my opening playoff picks. Last season I went 2-for-4 in the opening weekend. This year, 2-for-4 again. Much like “a Full Metal Jacket” I started out with such greatness and promise last week. And then just like the movie it all fell apart. The Colts had a miraculous comeback and the Saints squeaked by with a last second field goal. A perfect Saturday!! Unfortunately the Bengals thought they had a bye and forgot to show up Sunday and the Packers forgot that Colin Kaepernick has two working legs, falling to the 49ers. So once again I start my playoff run at 2-for-4. Well the line of mediocrity gets drawn here, this far no further!! The Saints and Seahawks get things started today with the Colts and Patriots finishing up in the nightcap. Here’s how you can expect things to play out…
New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks
Déjà vu is defined as “a feeling of having already experienced the present situation”. You may get that feeling in this game because these two met on a Monday night back in week 13 and it was expected to be one of the best games of the season. It was not, by any means. The Seahawks thoroughly dominated the game winning 34-7. In the game the Seahawks defense made Drew Brees and the Saints offense look less like a Division Champion hopefully and more like a Division III team. New Orleans put up a measly 188 total yards. That, coupled with the seven points they scored, were the lowest under Head Coach Sean Payton.
The Saints also failed to get top tight end Jimmy Graham involved as well. Although he did score in the game, Graham only had three catches for forty two yards. If New Orleans wants to pull off the upset they will need a whole lot more out of him. That won’t be easy as the Seattle defense finished first in the NFL this year allowing only 273.6 yards a game. Vocal cornerback Richard Sherman played a huge role in the defense as he lead the league with eight interceptions. New Orleans will need a performance from Brees more reminiscent of his 404 yard, two touchdown game he had in Seattle during the 2011 playoffs.
In that playoff game the Seahawks upset the Saints by a score of 41-36. They got great production in that game from running back Marshawn Lynch with 131 rushing yards and one of the most watched again rushing scores on a 67-yard play. The Saints did a good job of limiting Lynch in the game earlier this year allowing him only 45 yards on 16 carries. New Orleans certainly showed why they had the top rushing defense in the league allowing only 80 yard on the ground per game. Even last week they held the leagues top rusher in LeSean McCoy to a putrid 77 yards.
The Seahawks do have some glaring advantages though. For starters they are home. Over their last sixteen games Seattle is 15-1. Add to that the fact that Russell Wilson absolutely torched the Saints in week 13. He finished the game with 310 yards and three touchdown passes. As if that wasn’t enough for Wilson he will also be getting a huge target in the return of Percy Harvin. If Seattle can keep Mark Ingram from having a big game like he did last week (97 yards in Philadelphia) then they should come out victorious. They are one of the few teams in the league that can get into a shootout with the Saints and still come out on top.
FINAL SCORE–> SEATTLE 34, NEW ORLEANS 31
Indianapolis at New England
Déjà vu is defined as “a feeling of having already experienced the present situation”. You may get that feeling in this game as these two teams have played each other in ten straight years. Last year was the first time, however, with Andrew Luck facing the Patriots. It was about as pretty as Rick Baker movie monster in that game for Luck. He threw three interceptions en rout to a 59-24 loss.
This game promises to be different though as Luck is no longer a rookie and has playoff experience under his belt now. A lot of that experience came just last week as Andrew led Indy to the second biggest comeback in NFL history. In the 28-point comeback he threw for 443 yards and three scores. One of the big reasons for the comeback was a receiver that I just last week called “the best “little-known” receiver in the league (in my humble opinion)”. T.Y. Hilton finished with 13 catches for 224-yards and two scores against the Chiefs. If you think he can’t duplicate that against New England just keep in mind that in the last meeting he caught six passes for one hundred yards and two touchdowns. Look for Hilton to be a difference maker again today.
In order for the Colts to be successful they will need to apply pressure to Thomas Edward Patrick Brady, Jr. They may have the perfect man tondo that in Robert Mathis. Mathis led the league with 19.5 sacks during the regular season. For good measure he added another last week. Teams have had good fortune getting to Brady this year. He was sacked forty times, the most for him since 2001.
The Patriots have relied on a well balanced offense this year. Julian Edelman has emerged as Brady’s go-to receiver this season. Julian finished with 1,056 yards. That’s 342 more yards than he had in his entire career combined coming into the season. Not relying too heavily on the passing game the Pats have a surprisingly effective running game with LeGarrett Blount and Steven Ridley. The two combined for 1,500+ rushing yards and 14 touchdowns this season.
This game is by far the hardest game to pick this weekend and should be the most entertaining. The. Brady/Luck matchup has a feel to it reminiscent of Ben Kenobi/Anakin Skywalker. Will Brady metaphorically cut off Lucks limbs or will Luck that he is now the master?
FINAL SCORE–> COLTS 37, PATRIOTS 27