This is the first of four posts this week examining the Divisional matchups in the NFL Playoffs. Check back during the next few days for more previews:
After a poor 1-3 showing by me last week with my predictions, I’m doing it all again for the Divisional round. First up, the Saints visit the 49ers at 4:30 ET on Saturday on Fox. This is a huge matchup between two teams that both finished the year 13-3. New Orleans and San Francisco did not face each other this year so they’ll be working off game film entirely to prepare for Saturday. Here’s a look at the matchup:
Offense: The Saints have a lethal passing game with Drew Brees, who set an NFL record this year for passing yards in a season. Not much more needs to be said for New Orleans’s passing game: it’s tremendous. But the Saints’ running game is underrated with Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomsa offering different options in the backfield. New Orleans tore up the Detroit Lions last week, putting 45 points on the board against the Lions’ tough defense.
For the 49ers, quarterback Alex Smith is still young but he has the luxury of playing in a system where he’s not the focal point. Running back Frank Gore is one of the league’s best backs and ran for over 1200 yards this year and fumbling just twice all year. Smith threw just five interceptions as well as the 49ers excelled at not giving up the ball. However, while San Francisco did not turn the ball over often, it also gained only 311 yards per game, seventh worst in the league. Read more…
The Canucks knocked off the Bruins 4-3 in an exciting, hard-fought game on Saturday afternoon. I hadn’t had time to post about it and was going to wait until the B’s next game to comment on it but the back and forth between Boston and Vancouver after the game has necessitated a post.
The refereeing in the game was terrible – except for Marchand’s dirty hit on Sami Salo. Marchand deserved his five-minute major, game misconduct, and a likely suspension. But of the 107 penalty minutes in the game, those were about the only that the refs called correctly. It began less than four minutes into the game when a full brawl took place on the ice. During a line change the Bruins Shawn Thornton and Canucks’ Alexander Burrows got into it. Somehow, Thornton found himself being attacked by SIX Canucks all at once.
Yes, that’s more players than Vancouver is allowed on the ice. The Bruins quickly came to help Thornton and Milan Lucic, who was about to go off for a line change and had one foot on the ice and one foot on, skated over and helped out as well. And that was the end of Lucic’s night. The refs inexplicably gave him a game misconduct for leaving the bench and in the end, Vancouver ended up with a five-on-three for a full two minutes. How can six Canucks attack Thornton at one time and the refs deem it all okay (with the except of some matching roughing and fighting penalties).
The Canucks scored on the ensuing two-man advantage and eventually scored twice on Marchand’s idiotic play. Vancouver’s other goal? It came on another terrible call when Tyler Seguin was whistled for tripping a Canuck player. In fact, Seguin had tapped the Canuck on the ankle slightly, nothing more. However, this Canucks’ goal only evened up the officiating as the Bruins were gifted a goal themselves after a non-icing call (which as clearly icing) caused Vancouver to relax and when the refs didn’t blow the whistle, Boston took advantage. Read more…
This is the last of four posts this week examining the Wild Card matchups in the NFL Playoffs. Thanks for reading:
The last Wild Card matchup is in the AFC when the Pittsburgh Steelers travel to Denver to face the Broncos at 4:30 ET on CBS. The Broncos snuck into the playoffs even though they lost their past three games while the Steelers have won six of their past seven games. Denver has the home-field advantage even though they lost twice as many games as the Steelers did because they won their division. As with the Falcons and Giants, the Steelers and Broncos never faced each other during the regular season.
Offense: For the Broncos, Tim Tebow mania continues. First, experts hated him. Then he shockingly led Denver on a series of fourth quarter comebacks to win seven of eight games. Finally, he lost the last three games with dismal numbers and barely made the playoffs. For the year, Tebow’s numbers are pretty mediocre – less than 2000 yards in 14 games played (11 started) with 18 touchdowns (12 passing, six running) while turning the ball over 13 times (six interceptions, seven fumbles). Tebow has been worse in the past few games and unless he turns it around drastically, it could be a long night for Denver fans.
For the Steelers, a lot hinges on the health of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. When healthy and able to play from under center, Roethlisberger is a very good quarterback but his recent injury has forced him to work from the shotgun position more where he has struggled. If he isn’t at full strength come Sunday, the Broncos can take advantage. The Steelers running attack is now in rough shape with the loss of Rashard Mendenhall last week with a torn ACL. On paper, Pittsburgh is much better offensively than Denver but the rash of injuries has given the Broncos a chance. Read more…