#3 HOUSTON AT #2 BALTIMORE
Does anybody care? Presumably the people in Baltimore and Houston.
And you are? Not there.
So let’s do this one quick: The Texans are the Ravens, just a little worse at everything (except running the ball, I suppose). Combine that with the home-field advantage for Baltimore, plus the fact that the Ravens have already beaten the Texans while playing a below-average game, and it all adds up to a Ravens win, right?
What if Bad Flacco shows up? He doesn’t really show up at home, does he? Outside of the Jets game, Flacco has played fairly well at home, and the Ravens are 8-0 at M&T Bank Stadium.
Baltimore gets a home game, eh? Amazing that the Ravens haven’t won a home playoff game since the 2001 season. This is the 16th postseason game in franchise history, and only the fourth at home, where they’re 1-2.
What to watch for: The Texans have really nice road uniforms. In fact, Houston has really nice home uniforms, but they mess with those ones too often by going monochrome or wearing red.
Let’s rank the eight uniforms in this round! Pull my finger.
6. New England
5. New Orleans
4. New York
2. Green Bay
1. San Francisco
No commentary? And ruin a future full post? Come on.
So the final score: I do think it’s close, but that T.J. Yates can never lead the drive the Texans need. Ravens, 23-13.
#4 NEW YORK AT #1 GREEN BAY
I heard you want some props: For correctly predicting the Falcons would become the first team to ever score exactly two points in a playoff game, yeah, I think I deserve some props.
You were, in that prediction, 39 points off the Giants’ final total: Two points! Who saw that coming?
Seemed pretty stab-in-the-dark to me: I amaze myself sometimes.
So you partyin’ like it’s 2007 yet! This isn’t the 2007 Giants. And even if it were, that’s a nearly impossible model to replicate.
Indulge me: Well they are going back to Green Bay after vanquishing an NFC South foe in the first round (with a particularly poor offensive start, just like in Tampa in ’07), and they’re playing a near-unbeatable team they lost to at home by the score of 38-35, and the pass rush is wreaking havoc, and the secondary is inexplicably playing well, and Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs looked competent for the first time all season, and Eli Manning isn’t turning the ball over.
So why aren’t you buying the comparisons? Offensively, they’re very different teams. Manning is better, the wideouts are better if less consistent, and the O-line and running game is much worse. Eli has to do a lot more, and it’s much more of a big-play offense. Probably the best big-play offense in Giants history, or at least my experience of it.
Defensively there are more similarities, with the pass rush the obvious one. Osi Umenyiora’s return not only gives the Giants one of the best speed rushers in the league back, but it allows Justin Tuck to move inside at times, whence he destroyed the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. Jason Pierre-Paul is just a more athletic version of Michael Strahan in this comparison.
The secondary, though, isn’t as good behind Corey Webster, who’s really been playing some tremendous football most of the season. And the linebacking corps has picked it up but still isn’t as good as it was in ’07.
Is there perhaps some other historical comparison you want to make? How’d you know? Let’s go back to 2006, when the Colts entered the playoffs with one of the worst defenses in the league and, ostensibly, the worst possible first-round matchup for them. Indianapolis couldn’t stop the run, and it was going up against Larry Johnson and the Chiefs.
Remember Larry Johnson??? I know, I know.
But the Colts got Bob Sanders back in the playoffs, and suddenly their defense went from being terrible to being above-average. They held the Chiefs and Ravens to 14 combined points despite some generally poor play from Peyton Manning before the offense regrouped to beat New England and Chicago and win the Super Bowl.
The Giants getting Umenyiora back late in the season has energized a previously porous defense in a similar manner thus far.
So you DO think the Giants are going to win the Super Bowl? No.
You’re being frustratingly unbiased here: But the Giants WILL beat the Packers, 55-11!!!
Ooh, giving Green Bay 11: On four safeties and a field goal. Or a safety, a field goal, and a missed two-point conversion—’99 Rams style.
How little confidence do you have in the Giants offense deep in their own territory? Apparently none.
Does he do anything better than Drew Brees? He throws fewer interceptions, and he throws on the run better than anyone.
How is that latter part particularly significant in this game? Well, if people think the Giants’ Super Bowl XLII gameplan can be brought out of retirement for this game, it’ll have to acknowledge that Rodgers is much more mobile than Tom Brady.
But Brady had good pocket presence. He’s not a statue: Right, Brady could move in the pocket and avoid sacks. Rodgers can escape the pocket and hit a receiver on the run for a big play more consistently than even Brady.
Remember when Aaron Rodgers couldn’t win a playoff game? It’s ridiculous how quickly we bestow postseason reputations on guys. Dude loses a game 51-45 and he can’t win in the playoffs. Alex Smith can’t lose in the playoffs!
Rodgers-Smith would be quite the showdown: That is (hopefully not) a topic for next week.
Will this game be as good as the 2007 NFC Championship? That’s an interesting question, because the 2007 NFC Championship was kind of a sneaky good game, and its reputation received a huge boost when the Giants went on to beat the Patriots. At the time, it was kind of an afterthought since Super Bowl XLII was basically going to be New England’s coronation. So most just wanted the storyline of Brady v. Favre. The Giants, meanwhile, only offered the, ‘Hey, they came kinda close to beating them!’ story, which everyone assumed wouldn’t be replicated (including yours truly).
But the game itself was very good. I always view that game as one dominated by the Giants, but rewatching it a few times since (yeah, I get nostalgic), it’s notable how big a role penalties played in that contest. There were a lot of key penalties that sustained drives for both teams, but especially it seems for the Giants.
You knew that Tynes kick was good? Of course. Oh, you’re not talking about the 36-yarder at the end of regulation? I had a good feeling about that one.
The third Tynes kick, I think, is one of the most underrated in NFL history. A 47-yarder, in subzero temperatures, to send your team to the Super Bowl? Pretty amazing.
Don’t you think the choking had something to do with that? Yeah, it makes Tynes look worse. At the same time, it makes that individual kick look better, since he had to overcome the pressure created by the two prior missed kicks—in the same direction, no less.
So how does this one go down? It’s tight, but the Giants just can’t get the one stop they need to give themselves the final drive to win it. If you want to stick with the ’07 theme, I say this one goes like New York’s season-opening 45-35 loss to Dallas, where the Giants were in the game all the way but couldn’t get the ball with a chance to win. The lead consistently fluctuated between three and 10. I see this going a similar, if somewhat lower-scoring way. Packers, 30-24.
Man, we didn’t even critique Peter King today: I don’t have a vendetta against the guy. I certainly don’t want Peter Kingnerdness as a heading next week.