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Playoffs Preview- NFC Divisional Round

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Aaron Rodgers

After a typically dramatic wildcard weekend, the Playoffs continue this week with the divisional games just around the corner.

The first of two NFC divisional games takes place on Saturday night as the Green Bay Packers travel to San Francisco to take on the 49ers.

The second game is on Sunday in Atlanta as Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks tackle Matt Ryan and the Falcons at the Georgia Dome.

Now without further ado, here are my previews and predictions for the games.

Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers

Mike McCarthy

Keys to the Game

When the Packers have the ball…

Aldon Smith

Aaron Rodgers vs 49ers Pass Rush

  • The 49ers boast one of the toughest defenses in the NFL led by star linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVarro Bowman. However, it’s one of the Niners other starting linebackers that will provide the biggest test for Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and that is pass rusher Aldon Smith.
  • Smith had an outstanding 19.5 sacks in the regular season and is one of the most feared pass rushers in the league coming off the edge. Rodgers will be under pressure from Smith and the rest of the 49ers pass rush throughout the game and faces his biggest test of the year on the road in San Francisco.

When the 49ers have the ball…

Frank Gore

Frank Gore and 49ers Running Game vs Packers Run Defense

  • Whilst the 49ers passing attack has been inconsistent this season, their running game has remained one of the best units in the league led by starting running back Frank Gore. Gore rushed for over 1,000 yards again this campaign and he is also helped out by backups Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James along with quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
  • The Packers defense is still a work-in-progress vs the run and rank as the 17th best team in the league. How Clay matthews and co. handle Frank Gore and the 49ers running game will be key to the outcome of this one.

Prediction

Clay Matthews

The Packers are coming off an impressive wildcard victory against their division rivals Minnesota Vikings and this will be a huge game in particular for their quarterback Aaron Rodgers against the team that passed on him in the 2005 Draft.

The 49ers are coming off a first-round bye and have the added pressure of having Colin Kaepernick as their starting quarterback with Kaepernick starting his first ever Playoff game.

In this contrast of quarterbacks between Packers starter Aaron Rodgers and 49ers backup Alex Smith, I think Rodgers proves yet again that the 49ers made the wrong decision.

Packers 28 49ers 19

Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons

Russell Wilson

Keys to the Game

When the Seahawks have the ball…

Marshawn Lynch

Marshawn Lynch and Seahawks Running Game vs Falcons Run Defense

  • Just like the 49ers in their game, the Seahawks offense will likely lean on their rushing attack led by their Pro Bowler Marshawn Lynch. Lynch rushed for a career-high 1,590 yards this season en route to helping the Seahawks to the league’s third best ground game averaging over 160 yards per game.
  • The Falcons defense ranks in the mid-twenties in terms of NFL rankings for both passing and rushing yards allowed per game but surprisingly, they only allow 18 points per game which is the fifth best in the league. Their run defense will set out to put the pressure on Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson in this one by shutting down Marshan Lynch and their running game.  

When the Falcons have the ball…

Julio Jones

Falcons Wide Receivers vs Seahawks Secondary

  • This is a key matchup in this game with two of the league’s best units going head-to-head with the Falcons wide receivers vs the Seahawks secondary. Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez will also be a target for quarterback Matt Ryan in the passing game.
  • Falcons wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones both had over 1,000 receiving yards this season with Jones in particluar emerging as a reliable weapon for the Falcons offense. The Pro Bowler will likely be covered by Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman with Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas also being a key player for the Seahawks secondary.

Prediction

Matt Ryan

The Seahawks pulled off an upset last week in a win over RG3 and the Redskins on the road in Washington and they face another tough test this week on the road in Atlanta.

Matt Ryan and the Falcons may have lost their last regular season game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but the number one seed appear to be favorites at home in this one.

I picked the Seahawks to lose last week and I’m doing the same again this time around.

Seahawks 17 Falcons 20

Mike Smith

So those are your previews and predictions.

For more Playoff updates, follow me on Twitter.

Follow @PodgeOH

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Playoffs Preview- AFC Divisional Round

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Ray Lewis

After a typically dramatic wildcard weekend, the Playoffs continue this week with the divisional games just around the corner.

The first of two AFC divisional games takes place on Saturday night as the Baltimore Ravens travel to Denver to tackle the Broncos.

The second game is on Sunday with an intriguing matchup in store as the Houston Texans go on the road to New England to take on Tom Brady and the Patriots.

Now without further ado, here are my previews and predictions for the games.

Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos

Peyton Manning

Keys to the Game

When the Ravens have the ball…

Ray Rice

Ray Rice and the Ravens Run Game

  • Running back Ray Rice has seen his role in the Ravens offense reduced this season after he had only 257 carries which was his lowest total since the 2009 season. He wasn’t much of a factor in their wildcard win last week against the Colts either and he rushed for just 68 yards.
  • The Ravens will be looking for Rice to step up in this game against a solid Broncos defense. Joe Flacco can’t do it all by himself and so he needs help from Rice and rookie Bernard Pierce to provided solid support on the ground.

When the Broncos have the ball…

Demaryius Thomas

Peyton Manning vs Ravens Veterans

  • Peyton Manning may be the league’s best veteran offensive player but the NFL’s probable MVP is going up against two of the best veteran defensive players in this one. Two names immediately jump out from the Ravens and those are star linebacker Ray Lewis and playmaking safety Ed Reed.
  • Both players are Future Hall of Famers and Lewis is coming off an emotional game last week when he led the team with 13 total tackles in his final home game. Manning will have to be at his best going up aganist these two leaders in what will be a football version of a chess game featuring some of the smartest players in the game.

Prediction

Ed Reed

The Colts beat the Ravens 34-17 back in week 15 on the road in Baltimore and as the number one seed, they will be the favorites in this game at home in Denver.

However, I see the Ravens pulling off an upset led by star linebacker Ray Lewis on defense along with help from Joe Flacco and the offense.

Ravens 20 Broncos 17

Houston Texans at New England Patriots

J.J. Watt

Keys to the Game

When the Texans have the ball…

Arian Foster

Matt Schaub and the Texans Passing Game vs Patriots Pass Defense

  • It’s no secret that the Patriots pass defense is the team’s biggest weakness and it has been for a number of seasons now. They ranked as the 4th worst team vs the pass this year after giving up over 270 yards to opponents per game.
  • The Texans offense is led by star running back Arian Foster and so they can beat opponents both on the ground and through the air. However, if Foster and the rest of the Texans running game struggles, the pressure will be on Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and co. in the passing game to step up against a poor Pats pass defense.

When the Patriots have the ball…

Tom Brady

Tom Brady vs Texans Pass Rush

  • When the Patriots have the ball we will see two of the best players at their respective positions going up against each other. The headline may say Tom Brady vs the Texans pass rush but it will most likely be a battle of Tom Brady vs J.J. Watt as the Pats quarterback and the league leader in sacks go head-to-head.
  • Watt had 5 tackles and 1 sack last week in the Texans win last against the Bengals and the second year player is coming off a season in which he had an incredible 20.5 sacks. Tom Brady will need to keep a close eye on pressure coming from Watt off the edge every time he drops back to pass.

Prediction

Vince Wilfork

The Texans are back in the Playoff divisional round for the second year in a row but question marks still remain about their ability to take the next step into the Playoffs.

As for the Patriots, playing at home after a first-round bye and Tom Brady and co. will certainly be well prepared for this one by head coach Bill Belichick.

In a high-scoring game, I’m picking Tom Brady and the Pats to come out on top and advance to the AFC Championship Game.

Texans 21 Patriots 31

Bill Belichick

Bill Belichick

So those are your previews and predictions.

For more Playoff updates, follow me on Twitter.

Follow @PodgeOH

Playoffs Preview- NFC Wildcard Round

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Aaron Rodgers

The NFC Playoffs kick off tomorrow with the first of two wildcard games as the Minnesota Vikings travel to Lambeau Field to take on the Packers.

The second wildcard game takes place on Sunday with an exciting game in store as rookie sensation Robert Griffin III leads his Washington Redskins at home vs fellow rookie quarterback Russell Wilson and the travelling Seattle Seahawks.

Now without further ado, here are my previews and predictions for the games.

Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers

Christian Ponder

Keys to the Game

When the Vikings have the ball…

Adrian Peterson

Adrian Peterson vs Packers Defense

  • Adrian Peterson is coming off the best statistical year of his career and this is all after coming back from an ACL and MCL injury. Peterson came up just nine yards short of setting a new NFL record for rushing yards in a season after he ran for 2,097 yards. Eric Dickerson kept his record from 1984 in tact.
  • The Packers defense ranked 17th best in the league in 2012 vs the run after giving up 118.5 yards per game. The odds are that #28 runs for more than that in this game as the Vikings look to ease the pressure on quarterback Christian Ponder.

When the Packers have the ball…

Greg Jennings

Aaron Rodgers and Packers Passing Attack vs Vikings Secondary

  • Aaron Rodgers may not have hit the same heights as he did in 2011 but 2012 was still a success for the Packers quarterback. Rodgers again threw for 4,000 yards whilst having a 67.2% completion percentage and a 108.0 quarterback rating.
  • The Vikings defense is better suited to stopping the run as they give up over 240 yards per game through the air. The Vikes will look to Jared Allen and the rest of their pass rushers to get after Aaron Rodgers and ease the pressure on the secondary.

Prediction

Clay Matthews III

The Vikings have flown slightly under the radar this year and surprised many by reaching the postseason over teams like the New York Giants and Chicago Bears.

As for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, they were my Super Bowl pick before the season began but they had a number of poor performances on the way to an 11-5 record.

In this battle between two division rivals, I see the Packers coming out on top.

Vikings 24 Packers 31

Seattle Seahawks at Washington Redskins

Russell Wilson

Keys to the Game

When the Seahawks have the ball…

Marshawn Lynch

Marshawn Lynch and Seahawks Running Game vs Redskins Front Seven

  • Marshawn Lynch has had a tremendous year for the Seahawks leading them to the third ranked rushing attack in the league. Lynch ran for 1,590 yards in 2012 and 11 touchdowns with rookies combining for an added 843 yards on the ground.
  • Luckily for the Redskins, their defense is one of the best in the league vs the run after allowing just over 95 per game in the regular season. This defense is led by their front seven including standout players like London Fletcher and Ryan Kerrigan.

When the Redskins have the ball…

Alfred Morris

Robert Griffin III vs Seahawks Defense

  • Robert Griffin III has been spectacular this season for the Redskins both passing and running the football. Griffin had over 4,000 total yards in the regular season along with 27 total touchdowns whilst his fellow rookie Alfred Morris helped out with over 1,600 yards in the backfield.
  • These two rookies helped the Redskins to the number 1 ranked rushing attack in football with almost 170 yards per game. RG3 is certainly one of the most exciting quarterbacks in the Playoffs and Seahawks defenders like Bobby Wagner and Chris Clemons will be keeping taps on the Baylor star throughout the game.

Prediction

London Fletcher

The Seahawks have surpassed all expectations this season by reaching the Playoffs and much of the credit goes to quarterback Russell Wilson who had a solid rookie campaign.

Wilson’s fellow rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III had an amazing year with the Redskins and led them to their first division title since 1999.

In this battle of rookie quarterbacks, it’s RG3 and the Redskins who are my choice to win the game.

Seahawks 13 Redskins 20

Robert Griffin III

So those are your previews and predictions.

For all NFL fans it is now time to get ready for postseason football as the Playoffs are back.

Follow @PodgeOH

Playoffs Preview- AFC Wildcard Round

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Ray Lewis

The AFC Playoffs kick off tomorrow with the first of two wildcard games as the Cincinnati Bengals travel to Houston to take on the Texans.

The second wildcard game takes place on Sunday with an exciting matchup in store as rookie quarterback Andrew Luck leads his Indianapolis Colts on the road in Baltimore against veteran linebacker Ray Lewis and the Ravens.

Now without further ado, here are my previews and predictions for the games.

Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans

Marvin Lewis

Keys to the Game

When the Bengals have the ball…

Andy Dalton

Andy Dalton vs Texans Pass Rush

  • Andy Dalton may not be among the elite when it comes to the quarterbacks on show in the Playoffs but he is still a solid quarterback nonetheless. Back-to-back 3,000 yard passing seasons have been an impressive start to his career for the second-year player out of TCU.
  • Dalton’s favorite target is wide receiver A.J. Green who was drafted in the same draft class back in 2011. Green has also had a fantastic start to his career with 162 catches for over 2,400 yards in his first two years in the NFL.
  • The success of the Bengals offense in this game will largely depends on how they handle the Texans fearsome pass rush. Led by star pass rusher J.J. Watt, the Texans defense will look to put pressure on Dalton throughout the game.

When the Texans have the ball…

Arian Foster

Arian Foster vs Bengals Defense

  • When it comes to the ground battle in this one, these two teams are pretty evenly matched with the Texans offense averaging just over 132 yards per game and the Benglas defense giving up a little over 107 yards per game.
  • The Texans rushing attack is led by star running back Arian Foster. Foster has been one of the league’s most consitent backs in recent years and is arguably the best running back in the NFL outside of Adrian Peterson.
  • The Bengals defense will have to be at their best to contain Foster but they certainly have the players capable of doing so. Linebackers Vontaze Burfict and Rey Maualuga along with standout defensive linemen like Geno Atkins and Michael Johnson will all be looking to put on a big performance.

Prediction

J.J. Watt

The Bengals have never won a Playoff game under head coach Marvin Lewis and face an uphill battle to do so on the road in Houston.

With an exciting offense led by standout players Arian Foster and Andre Johnson along with a defense which includes the league leader in sacks in J.J. Watt, the Texans are favorites to win this game and progress to the next round.

Bengals 19 Texans 27

Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens

Chuck Pagano

Keys to the Game

When the Colts have the ball…

Andrew Luck

Andrew Luck vs Ravens Defense

  • Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck has been fantastic for the Colts this year and he is my pick for the Rookie of the Year award. Luck set a new NFL record for most passing yards in a season fro a rookie with a 4,374 yards. He has also been effective scoring for the Colts this season with 28 total touchdowns.
  • As for the Ravens defense, veteran linebacker Ray Lewis announced news of his impending retirement this week and he will hang  up his cleats once the Playoffs are finished. There have been reports that #52 will join the ESPN crew as a member of their “Monday Night Countdown” program.
  • Back to matters on the field however and Luck faces a very tough test against Lewis and the rest of the Ravens defense. The rookie is facing his first postseason test and he will need to be wary of the Ravens blitz packages along with keeping a close eye on safety Ed Reed.

When the Ravens have the ball…

Joe Flacco

Joe Flacco and Ravens Passing Attack vs Colts Secondary

  • In my humble opinion, Joe Flacco is not an elite quarterback. But with the Ravens defense on his side, he doesn’t  need to be. Flacco just needs to step up in the clutch and stop making mistakes in key moments of games to take the next step in his development.
  • However, getting close isn’t good good enough with a team this talented and so the Ravens will be looking to get the win in the AFC Championship Game this year. Flacco will need more help from his wide receivers this postseason with players like Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith on the outside.
  • Looking at the opposite side of the ball now and the defensive backs tasked with stopping Flacco and co. are led by cornerbacks Vontae Davis and Darius Buter. These two starters will need to be sharp and they will also have to keep an eye on running back Ray Rice who will be used as a receiver out of the backfield in the passing game.

Prediction

Ed Reed and Ray Lewis

The Colts have overcome tremendous adversity this season due to the illness of head coach Chuck Pagano and they deserve great respect for getting to this stage with star rookie quarterback Andrew Luck under center.

Ray Lewis announced this week that he will be retiring after the Playoffs end but the future Hall of Famer won’t want to walk away from the game just yet and I see the Ravens led by veterans Lewis and Ed Reed getting the victory and advancing to the next round.

Colts 17 Ravens 20

Gary Kubiak

So those are your previews and predictions.

For all NFL fans it is now time to get ready for postseason football as the Playoffs are back.

Follow @PodgeOH

Chargers Clean House- Norv Turner and A.J. Smith Out

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Norv Turner

The San Diego Chargers have announced the firing of head coach Norv Turner.

A.J. Smith

General Manager A.J. Smith has also been relieved of his duties as the Chargers react to yet another disappointing season.

Turner and his Legacy

Following three consecutive years of missing the Playoffs, team ownership decided it was time to make a change.

Turner leaves with a 59-43 total record as head coach of the Chargers. However, he was never able to translate his regular season wins into Postseason success. Despite all the talent that’s been at his disposal since Turner arrived as Head Coach in the 2007 season, the Chargers never made it past the AFC Championship Game.

Websites like http://firenorvturner.com/ will be satisfied with this news and for many fans, it is a coaching change that is long overdue.

I myself was pulling for Turner to be fired after last season and was shocked that he was given another year as head coach with the team.

Potential Replacement

Jon Gruden

My top candidate to replace Turner is Jon Gruden. Gruden is the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach who guided them to a Super Bowl victory in 2002. He was fired by the Bucs when the 08 season finished after back-to-back 9-7 seasons.

Since then, the 49-year-old has been an analyst for Monday Night Football on ESPN. He is an Offensive minded coach who would bring some much needed enthusiasm to the Chargers Offense.

Gruden gets my vote as the next head coach of the San Diego Chargers.

Decisions for 2013

After hiring a new head coach and a new general manager, the next big decision that owners need to make will be regarding quarterback Philip Rivers.

Philip Rivers

Rivers is facing an uncertain future for the Chargers after another poor season.

The 31-year-old is coming off his worst statistical year since 2007. To make matters worse for #17, he has 47 turnovers in his last 32 games.

With all the other changes going on for the Chargers, it could now be time for a change at the quarterback position too.

Much will depend on the quarterback class in the upcoming draft along with the available free agents.

Matt Barkley

USC quarterback Matt Barkley is one to keep an eye on in the 2013 draft and would be an intriguing prospect for the Chargers.

The coming months ahead will be crucial for the future of the franchise with a new head coach, a new general manager and possibly even a new quarterback all on the way for the Chargers.

For all your Chargers updates, follow me on twitter.

Follow @PodgeOH

Written by podgeoh92

December 31, 2012 at 6:26 pm

NFC Playoff Picture- Final Standings

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Matt Ryan

The Regular Season finished last night and the Playoff picture is now complete.

Some of the standout teams missing out on the Postseason from the NFC this year are the defending Super Bowl champions New York Giants who finished with a disappointing 9-7 record 8-8 and their division rivals the Philadelphia Eagles who underachieved yet again this season.

Looking on the other side at some of the top teams now and the Atlanta Falcons secured the top seed with the San Francisco 49ers getting the number 2 seed.

The Playoffs kick off on Saturday night with the first of the two wildcard games.

So here are the final standings from the NFC.

East

1. Redskins 10-6

2. Giants 9-7

3. Cowboys 8-8

4. Eagles 4-12

North

1. Packers 11-5

2. Vikings 10-6

3. Bears 10-6

4. Lions 4-12

South

1. Falcons 13-3

2. Panthers 7-9

3. Saints 7-9

4. Bucs 7-9

West

1. 49ers 11-4-1

2. Seahawks 11-5

3. Rams 7-8-1

4. Cardinals 5-11

Playoff Seeds

1. Atlanta Falcons First-Round Bye

2. San Francisco 49ers First-Round Bye

3. Green Bay Packers Division Winner

4. Washington Redskins Division Winner

5. Seattle Seahawks Wildcard

6. Minnesota Vikings Wildcard

The first two seeds get a first-round bye, and the wildcard games see the number 3 seed vs  the number 6 seed and the number 4 vs the number 5 seed.

Minnesotta Vikings at Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers

Seattle Seahawks at Washington Redskins

Robert Griffin III

A full preview of both these games will be posted later this week.

For all your playoff updates, follow me on twitter.

Follow @PodgeOH

Written by podgeoh92

December 31, 2012 at 11:04 am

AFC Playoff Picture- Final Standings

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Peyton Manning

The Regular Season finished last night and the Playoff picture is now complete.

Some of the standout teams missing out on the Postseason from the AFC this year are the 8-8 Pittsburgh Steelers and the perennial underachieving San Diego Chargers.

Looking on the other side at some of the top teams now and Peyton Manning led his Denver Broncos to the top seed with Tom Brady the New England Patriots getting the number 2 seed.

The Playoffs kick off on Saturday night with the first of the two wildcard games.

So here are the final standings from the AFC.

East

1. Patriots 12-4

2. Dolphins 7-9

3. Jets 6-10

4. Bills 6-10

North

1. Ravens 10-6

2. Bengals 10-6

3. Steelers 8-8

4. Browns 5-11

South

1. Texans 12-4

2. Colts 11-5

3. Titans 6-10

4. Jaguars 2-14

West

1. Broncos 13-3

2. Chargers 7-9

3. Raiders 4-12

4. Chiefs 2-14

Playoff Seeds

1. Denver Broncos First-Round Bye

2. New England Patriots First-Round Bye

3. Houston Texans Division Winner

4. Baltimore Ravens Division Winner

5. Indianapolis Colts Wildcard

6. Cincinnati Bengals Wildcard

The first two seeds get a first-round bye, and the wildcard games see the number 3 seed vs  the number 6 seed and the number 4 vs the number 5 seed.

Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans

Andre Johnson

Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens

Ray Lewis and Ed Reed

A full preview of both these games will be posted later this week.

For all your playoff updates, follow me on twitter.

Follow @PodgeOH

Written by podgeoh92

December 31, 2012 at 10:49 am