Here are my predictions for the NFC Divisional Round.
New Orleans 30, San Francisco 21: The Saints cashed in on five offensive series in the second half against the Detroit Lions last weekend, and are expected to keep their high-flying offensive attack going against the 49ers on Saturday. Drew Breesclearly is on a mission, which is why I believe they’ll defeat San Francisco, and advance to the NFC Championship game for the second time in three seasons.
New England 28 – Denver 16: The story of Tim Tebowhas been fascinating, but against the Patriots at Gillette Stadium, I’m expecting him to struggle, and possibly throw two or three interceptions.
Baltimore 28 – Houston 21: Earlier this season, the Ravens defeated the Texans, 29-14. Joe Flaccocompleted 20-of-33 passes for 305 yards and one touchdown, while Billy Cundiffkicked five field goals. Can Baltimore duplicate their week five performance against Houston on Sunday? My answer… YES!
New York 24 – Green Bay 21: This is a total shot in the dark, but the Giants have gained a great deal of momentum over the past few weeks, and might have what it takes to knock out the defending NFC and Super Bowl champions. I like New York’s front seven on defense, especially since they could provide a great deal of chaos toward quarterback Aaron Rodgers. If the Giants pressure the Packers, and force a few turnovers, then expect Big Blue to walk away winners on Sunday.
With one week left in the regular season, here’s the way the AFC is shaping up…
The New England Patriots have clinched the East and a first-round bye. If they beat the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, they’ll wrap up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
In the North, the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers have both clinched playoff spots. One of them will win the division; the other will be a wild card. Baltimore owns the tiebreaker by virtue of beating Pittsburgh twice. The Ravens will travel to Cincinnati, while the Steelers play at Cleveland.
The Houston Texans have won the South, and are locked into the No. 3 seed.
The Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders are tied atop of the West. If they’re still tied after next week, Denver owns the tiebreaker. Those two teams face the Chiefs and Chargers, respectively. Whoever doesn’t win the division will be out.
That leaves one card spot open. The “win and you’re in” team is Cincinnati. All the Bengals have to do is beat the Ravens at home, in one of the marquee games of the final weekend. If Cincy stumbles, the Raiders, Titans and Jets can all sneak in, but they’ll also need help from the respective squads.
A quick overview of the division races in the AFC with five games remaining…
The Patriots are in great shape. They have a two-game lead over the Jets, and own the tiebreaker by virtue of beating New York twice already. Their next two games are against the winless Colts and the subpar Redskins. It looks more and more like there will be another home playoff game in Foxboro in January.
The Jets came up with a much-needed win over the Bills last Sunday to stay in the playoff hunt. Buffalo, after getting off to such a hot start, has dropped four straight and now sits at 5-6.
This is the best division in football. The Ravens and Steelers are tied atop the division at [8-3] records, but Baltimore has the edge because it has beaten Pittsburgh twice. What makes the North so intriguing is the surprising play of the Bengals. They’re [7-4], just one game out of first place. But they’ve already lost to both Pittsburgh and Baltimore once, so the Bengals would have to beat those teams the second time around to have any shot at the division title. Still, it is very possible that both wild cards could come from the North.
The Texans are [8-3], riding a five-game winning streak, and have one of the best defenses in the league. But who’s going to play quarterback for them the rest of the way? Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart are both done for the year with injuries. Right now T.J. Yates is the man, but you’d have to think Houston’s going to pick someone up for the stretch run. Tennessee is in the hunt at [6-5], and if Chris Johnsonkeeps running like he did Sunday against the Buccaneers, watch out.
While the North may be the best division in football, the West may be the most interesting to watch down the stretch. And it’s all because of one guy: Tim Tebow. People can say what they want, but he’s [5-1] as a starter. As much hype as there is surrounding Tebow, people tend to overlook the fact that the Raiders have a one-game lead over Denver, and are coming off a big win at home against the Bears. Oakland and Denver split the head-to-head matchups during the season.
So who is the best team in the AFC? Take your pick. There is a four-way tie for the top spot between the Pats, Ravens, Steelers and Texans. We may not know who gets the byes until the final weekend.
The head coach continued by saying, “You obviously can’t have that many penalties and turnovers when you’re playing a good football team, so that’s my responsibility and I’ve got to make sure that I take care of that [going forward].”
The Eagles recorded 10 penalties, one interception, and yielded 457 net yards, which didn’t seem to make the head coach or the players too happy. Although, Philadelphia’s offense registered 466 yards in a span of 60-minutes, and 400 yards through the air, which was certainly a goal the Eagles wanted to accomplish.
New England has allowed opposing offenses to record a plethora of yards this season, especially against Buffalo, New York, Pittsburgh, and San Diego.
“Well the teams that we saw that had success against them obviously threw the football, and did a good job with it. And they’re stout against the run. You’re playing into their strength with that, [so] again, I’ll take responsibility for that,” said Reid.
However, despite beating New England in net and passing yards, Reid certainly believed the Patriots were the better team on Sunday.
“You’ve got to give credit to the other team, they did a good job against us,” said Reid.
The New England Patriots will host the New York “Football” Giants at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, and you can certainly expect it to be a great one.
Giants quarterback Eli Manningwill enter the game with a two-game winning streak against Tom Bradyand head coach Bill Belichick, and certainly, he’d like to pick up his third career victory against the Patriots. However, Brady and Belichick haven’t lost a regular season game at home this season, as well as haven’t dropped back-to-back contests either.
“We’ve got a big game this week, that’s all our focus is on – getting ready for the Patriots,” said Manning. “[We] understand that they’re always good at home and [we’ve] got a great challenge to go in their and play our best.”
Here are some highlights from Manning’s most recent interview with the media via the Giants website in regards to this weekend’s tilt.
On what he, and his offense needs to do to be successful against the Patriots: “I think we know as an offense, we got to do a good job executing. We [have] to keep the ball in our hands, we can’t make mistakes, we can’t turn the ball over, [and] obviously, [we’ve] got to convert on third downs, and try to get positive plays each play, avoid going backwards, avoid penalties – just those type of things. When we get into the red zone, you’ve just got to score touchdowns. You can’t sell for field goals. [Also] our defense has got a great challenge going [against] a high powered offense with the Patriots, so offensively, we know we’ve got to do our part.”
On facing the Patriots secondary: “The safeties do a good job disguising – not tipping their hands [to] exactly what they’re doing … If we can run our offense efficiently, just guys making the right decisions, picking up some of their blitzes, and guys just making plays when they’re given opportunities, [we should have some success].”
On facing a talented Patriots offense that can score at any given second: “They do jump out on teams and with their offense, they score early on until you get a lead, so it forces teams to throw the ball, and the Patriots are kind of sitting back two deep, and playing soft, keeping everything underneath the style of defenses where they’re giving up yards, but a lot of teams aren’t getting in their and scoring a lot of touchdowns always, so it’s a little bit of both, and we’ve just got see what they’re doing early on in games, how they change throughout the situation of games and have a great plan, [so we] can go execute.”
On playing the Patriots at Gillette Stadium: “These games are fun. When you play against good teams, and when you think of the Patriots, you just think of a team that’s always in the playoff picture, always a talented team, and well coached, so these are easy games you get excited for, [and] you just want to go in their and play the style of football that we know we can.”