NFL Divisional Round Recap and Some Thoughts
I went 1-4 in the weekend’s picks, but I wouldn’t trade that one win for any of the others. Let’s break down the picks, in order of my interest in them.
My Pick: NY Giants (+7.5) over GREEN BAY; Reality: Giants 37 – Packers 20; we’ll have a moment of silence for Ryan, who went up to Green Bay to watch the game…a few points about this game:
1. It was thorough domination by the Giants: The final score should have read 37-6 as 14 of the Packers points would not have been scored had the game’s officials made fairly easy correct calls (more on that later). What was kind of astonishing is that the Giants simply beat the Packers, they hit harder, played to the whistle and straight up won the individual battles. The most mind-boggling play of the evening was Ahmad Bradshaw’s run before the half to set up Eli Manning’s Hail Mary touchdown to Hakeem Nicks. On what was clearly a play designed to run out the clock and one that was telegraphed when the Packers called a defensive timeout, Bradshaw was allowed to run for 20-plus yards and across the field to get out of bounds and stop the clock. Then Nicks simply beat three Packers for the touchdown.
2. Horrible NFL Playoff officiating continues: Had the Packers won this game by less than 14 points, people would be calling for the heads of the game’s referees. Fresh off screwing the Lions in New Orleans, the refs were at it again this week, failing to get the call right on Greg Jennings’ 1st quarter fumble –no doubt the ball was out on that one– despite having the benefit of a replay. To make matters worse, head referee Bill Leavy flagged Osi Umenyiora for roughing the passer on a critical fourth quarter, third-down stop by the Giants. Leavy claimed Umenyiora made helmet to helmet contact on Aaron Rodgers, despite the fact that it was a clean hit and Leavy himself was standing near enough to the play to see as much. The refs will be glossed over since the Giants won, but they shouldn’t be. The NFL, which prides itself as the best run league in sports, shouldn’t tolerate Donaghy-esque officiating on its biggest stage. I don’t think the refs from last night’s game should lose their jobs, but none of them should be working another playoff game anytime soon.
3. FOX’s comedy lineup is CBS level bad: I can’t think of a single comedy on Fox that I would like to watch, except for New Girl which stars my lover Zooey Deschanel. I’ve watched exactly one episode of Raising Hope in my life and it was just as mind-numbingly stupid as the show’s promos suggest. I don’t believe in eugenics, but I think we’d all be better off if the people who watch Raising Hope were forcibly sterilized (after that we can move on to fans of 2 Broke Girls). Also, who’s the genius who greenlit a Napoleon Dynamite cartoon. That movie sucked and it took a solid two years to remove Napoleon Dynamite quotes from everyday conversation, and now, just when all the world’s morons have forgotten about it, you had to bring that sh*t back? Whoever is behind this deserves to rot in a cell in the Hague, surrounded by genocidal tyrants, for attempting to kill what precious little we have left of real comedy.
4. Resting your players before a playoff bye is a bad idea: You’d think the repeated playoff failures of Peyton Manning’s Colts would have made this abundantly clear, but the Packers reinforced it last night. Aaron Rodgers had two weekends off after sitting for Week 17 and was clearly out of synch with his receivers. The Giants’ secondary deserves a ton of credit for playing better than anyone expected them to, and correctly keying in on Jordy Nelson Green Bay’s best receiver and making him more or less invisible for much of the game. Still, some of the Packer’s drops were mind-boggling and it’s hard not to think that the rust from long layoffs for players like Rodgers and Greg Jennings (who should have gotten a few snaps in Week17) didn’t contribute.
5. These Giants are better than the ’07 team: Well sort of… what I’m trying to say is that the comparisons are lazy. These Giants play the game in a very different style than the ’07 incarnation of the team, the only commonality is a relentless pass-rush. The ’07 Giants were a team built around the running skills of Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward, and a rookie 7th round pick named Ahmad Bradshaw. As good as Plaxico Burress was, those Giants had nowhere near the amount of receiving talent that this team features. Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, and Mario Manningham are the best trio of big-play receivers in the game. Yeah, I said it. The Packers receivers deservedly got a lot of attention in the run up to this game, but the Giants’ corps was near as good all season long, and much better when it counted. On the other had, the Giants’ running game has stagnated. On defense, the Giants’ scheme has changed slightly since Perry Fewell took over for Steve Spagnuolo. Both defenses bring pressure, but Fewell relies more on a base cover-2 scheme. Additionally, the ’07 team had a better linebacking corps, but lacked two safeties with the talent of Antrel Rolle and Kenny Phillips. These Giants play a lot of big-nickel, putting three safeties on the field with Phillips, Rolle, and Deon Grant, the ’07 team didn’t have the personnel to do that.
My Pick: New Orleans (-3.5) over SAN FRANCISCO; Reality: Saints 32 – 49ers 36; How explosive were the ’11 Saints? They turned the ball over 10,000 times in this game yet still managed to put up 32 points. Gregg Williams, or Dr. Heat as he like to call himself (this is an incredibly stupid nickname) is the big goat here, picking his spots for blitzes poorly. On the other (tiny) hand, Alex Smith actually looks good… perhaps he had hand-enlargement surgery?
My Pick: Denver (+13.5) over NEW ENGLAND; Reality: Broncos 10 – Patriots 45; I have no idea what I was thinking with this pick. Tom Brady on the warpath is a scary sight.
My Pick: BALTIMORE (-7.5) over Houston; Reality: Texans 13 – Ravens 20; What a boring game. Houston is a great defensive team, but Joe Flacco is just an abysmal quarterback. He got bailed out by a couple nice catches by Anquan Boldin and Lee Evans, but make no mistake, it was a perfectly Bledsoe-esque performance. Flacco is a statue in the pocket and has absolutely no idea where to move when he feels the slightest bit of pressure. The Ravens’ general incompetence on offense might have cost them Ed Reed for next week’s game. Had Baltimore been able to convert a simple 3rd and 1 at the end of the fourth quarter Reed wouldn’t have hurt his knee defending a last ditch pass attempt by TJ Yates. Seeing the way Reed’s knee buckled on the replay I have a hard time imagining him playing next week. The Ravens will miss him sorely when Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are taking turns humiliating his replacement.