Playoffs? Playoffs!?

NFC Playoff Picture
Kick back and relax now that the NFL regular season is over. The NFL playoffs are soon to be upon us where we witness the best teams in the world go at it with one another. It is where the best teams, the teams that have truly earned their playoff spot, host at least one game against a team that barely snuck in the playoffs as a wild card. Oh yea I forgot, unless you are the Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints. The Seattle Seahawks won their division with a record of 7-9 with a week 17 victory over the St. Louis Rams. Seeing that the Seahawks won their division they will host the 11-5 defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints. Yes, a 7-9 team is hosting an 11-5 team in the playoffs. The Saints, however, in no means snuck into the playoffs. If things went right for them in week 17 they could have been the #1 seed in the NFC and have home field advantage, but instead they get to open up the playoffs in Seattle against a Seahawk team that is coming off of an emotional game against the St. Louis Rams. As much as it is frowned upon, that a team with just one more win than the lowly Dallas Cowboys can even just be in the playoffs, they are still in the tournament, and they still get to play at least one game at their home field. It wasn't pretty, by any means, but the Seahawks shut down a very conservative Rams offense by taking away their leading receiver Danny Amendola who had 83 receptions coming into the year. Man, the Dallas Cowboys could sure use a guy like him. A guy who can get open in the flats and do some damage, oh that’s right, the Cowboys cut him from their practice squad. Another great call from genius talent tandem that was Wade Phillips and Jerry Jones. Nonetheless, the Seattle Seahawks did
what they had to do and no more to reach the playoffs. They are simply the best of the worst and that is good enough to get you in. Once you are in the playoffs, everything might as well be thrown out the window, because a team can get hot that you wouldn't normally expect and go on to win it all. Last year, mathematician/head coach of the New York Jets, Rex Ryan reported that his team was mathematically out of the playoffs, and two months later he was in the AFC championship game with a shot to go the Super Bowl. So nothing is guaranteed here, but you'd have to say that the New Orleans Saints are going to be heavily favored over the Seattle Seahawks, and who can blame them? The only team that seems to have the Saints' number, even at the Superdome, is the best team in the NFL, that is, the best team in the NFL according to head coach Raheem Morris. Yes, that team is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They become the first team to beat the New Orleans Saints in back to back years at the Superdome since it being refurbished. The Buccaneers, who would have thought? They are getting hot right now too, so that’s a team you may want to watch out for as for making a run. But, they didn't get into the playoffs thanks to the Green Bay Packers taking care of business against the Chicago Bears. It was a win that also knocked out the reeling New York Giants. The Packers are a team that no one would want to face in the playoffs seeing as, at one point in the year; they were arguably the best team in league. If the Packers can get rolling and start the playoffs off with a win in Philly over the Eagles, watch out, because these Packers can be very dangerous. That is, as long as they protect their pro bowl snub quarterback Aaron Rogers and his head that has had to overcome two concussions this year. Could they beat the one seed Atlanta Falcons at their home stadium? It’s debatable, but once again, if the Pack gets hot, they will be trouble for anyone, anywhere. They have already proven they can beat the 2 seed Chicago Bears, so it is very possible that the NFC team going to Arlington this February will be the Green Bay Packers. But really, it is up in the air as there is no clear cut favorite in the NFC. Just imagine if the Seattle Seahawks shock the world and defend their home turf against the New Orleans Saints, you know Pete Carroll will have his guys fired up come playoff time. I'm not saying it will happen, but I will say it will be closer than the experts think.
AFC Playoff Picture
Tom Brady finished the season with a touchdown interception ratio of 9.0. Which was an NFL record surpassing the old ratio of 6.25 held by none other than Brady himself. No other quarterback has even hit the 6.0 mark in NFL history. Brady isn't the only Patriot that is mistake-free; the Patriots had an eight week stretch where they did not commit a turnover, a streak that came to an end when running back Danny Woodhead coughed the ball up to the Miami Dolphins in what was really the only bright spot for the Dolphins all day. The New England Patriots look nothing short of a well-oiled machine poised to make a deep run into the playoffs. They locked up the #1 seed, along with the home field advantage throughout the playoffs that came with it. Unlike the NFC, the Patriots are the clear cut favorite to come out of the AFC, and represent the AFC in Arlington for the Super Bowl. Although, seeing that it is the playoffs, you never know what could happen in a very competitive AFC. The other team with a bye heading into the playoffs is the ever dangerous and physical Pittsburgh Steelers. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger seems to have his act together on the field (and we can only hope off the field as well) as he led his team to a division title. Although, things are pretty easy when you have an every down, grind it out runner in Rashard Mendenhall. The speedy back out of Illinois carries the load for the Steelers in a run heavy offense. Once Mendenhall establishes the run, the Steelers look to air it out to arguably one of the fastest men in the league, Mike Wallace. Wallace caught a long bomb from Roethlisberger on the Steelers' first play from scrimmage on Sunday against the Browns. A play that was made possible due to one of the best playmakers in the league right now, and the one with the thickest and fullest hair, safety Troy Poalomalu. It seems like every time you look up Poalomalu finds a way to come up with the ball. He is a true game changer that
offenses have to look out for when they face the Steelers, because he can change the momentum of a game, and fast. The only other safety I could relate Poalomalu to would Baltimore Raven safety Ed Reed. A man who seems to be in on every interception that takes place. Reed leads the defense with the Ravens along with Ray Lewis and countless other playmakers that line up on the Baltimore Ravens defense. They are a defense that doesn't give up many points and relies on the solid running game of running back Ray Rice. Rice, an alumnus of Rutgers, is the heart and soul of this Baltimore Ravens offense. They live and die by the production of Rice, especially as of late since QB Joe Flacco has been struggling, or at least not very consistent in the closing weeks of the regular season. The Ravens, a team that has one of the best rushing attacks in the league square off against the team that I think has the most dangerous rushing attack, the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs are a dangerous team that doesn’t often lose at home. Running Jamaal Charles finished 2nd overall in most rushing yards to Texans running back Arian Foster, partially because he was splitting time with another great runner by the name of Thomas Jones. Throw in the rookie speedster out of Ole Miss that is Dexter McCluster, and you have quite a dynamic trio of running backs. A running game that sure does make it easy for QB Matt Cassel to throw it up to WR Dwayne Bowe, who has been streaky, but as of late been catching fire again. It will be tough to beat the Chiefs in Arrowhead, but if the Baltimore defense can shut down the running game, the Ravens may very well be the team advancing in the playoffs, which is by no means going to be an easy task. The Chiefs won the division finishing above the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders did not make the playoffs, even though they finished with a perfect record in divisional play, which included beating the division champion Chiefs twice. They lost out on the last wild card spot to the New York Jets. A team with an outspoken head coach who boasted they were going all the way to the Super Bowl this year hands down, with no competition. It was a rough start for the Jets, but they managed to pull out close win after close win on the back of running back Ladanian Tomlinson and some late heroics from wide receiver Santonio Holmes. The Jets get a team that, by record, is the weakest team in the playoffs. Who is though you may ask? None other than the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts have now made the playoffs 9 years in a row thanks to their win over Tennessee in week 17. It hasn't been easy for the Colts, or quarterback Peyton Manning who has lost multiple weapons and had to deal with countless pressure from defenses. In a supporting cast that includes the names of Blair White and Jacob Tammy, Manning has the most out of what he has had to play with in leading the Colts to a division championship. He will have his hands full though with the blitzing style of the Jets' defense. It’s tough to see the Colts winning here, but, after all it is the Colts, its #18, and it is in Indianapolis.
Closing Notes
The regular season is now over and the playoffs are upon us. Throw the records out and get ready for some hardnosed football. 12 teams ranging from the Seattle Seahawks to the New England Patriots are in the playoffs this year. Who knows what will happen. It’s all about getting hot at the right time and being mentally prepared. So my advice is to do what I'll be doing next weekend. Kick back, relax, and enjoy some playoff football.

-Colby

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