Three blowouts and one great game if you like offense, that is all you need to know to summarize this weekend’s playoffs. Overall though I can’t complain, because every team I was rooting for won. A couple quick points I want to make about the games this weekend:
–For all the talk about this being a quarterback league and that you need a franchise quarterback to win the big games, defense and the run game were the difference in the first round. The four highest paid QB’s in the first round all are going home and of those matchups you can really only say that Romo was better than McNabb (and that is a pretty close comparison). Though Warner is a ‘franchise’ guy, and Flacco and Sanchez could one day be as well, none of them were the best quarterback on the field.
–Running game and defense were the difference in ALL the games.
While you wouldn’t think the Cards could play defense with the way they were torched by Rodgers, they made two big plays early, as well as the fumble return that won the game in overtime. They also put more consistent pressure on Rodgers than the Packers defense did on Warner. The Cards out gained the Packers on the ground 156-90. The Ravens defense absolutely dominated the Patriots from start to finish, they forced four turnovers and had Brady completely confused. They won with just 34 yards through the air (Flacco had a 10.0 QB rating!), because they controlled the running game 234-64.
As for the Saturday games: The Cowboys forced four turnovers, and also chipped in with four sacks. They out gained the Eagles 198-54 on the ground. The Jets game is the one exception as they didn’t out rush the Bengals, both teams finished with 171 yards, but the Jets defense controlled that game from start to finish, with 3 sacks and forcing two turnovers. For the Bengals, running the ball is the only way they could move it (not good when they spent most of the game trailing) as Darrelle Revis absolutely shutdown Chad Ochocinco.
–Another interesting thing was of the three repeat matchups from week 17, only the Cardinals changed their fortune: We heard all week how you should take the results from week 17 with a grain of salt, because the playoffs are different, or they ran vanilla offenses, or that the Bengals, Eagles and Cards were resting their players, or that they weren’t trying because they had nothing to play for (even though the Eagles definitely did have something to play for). Despite all the talk and rhetoric all week, the exact same result happened when the Bengals and the Eagles got on the field this weekend (and the Bengals were now at home).
–The thing I love the most, is the four teams that were considered the “sleepers” or “dark horses” are now out of it: All year we heard about the Patriots being back this year, now that Brady was healthy New England was going to pick up where they left off in 2007. And the talk didn’t die down when they lost to the Colts or the Saints, or a few other games a ‘dominate’ team should have won. Instead it turned to how they would be a different team in the postseason, and a team that could go to the Super Bowl. In reality they weren’t a great team and got blown out yesterday (how hard is it to figure out the Raven’s offense: run right, run right, run left, run center, run right?).
The Bengals all season we heard how they were a new team with a ground game and defense to go along with Palmer and Ochocinco. Well the running game worked, but Palmer was off all day on Saturday. And what happened to that defense, not only did the Jets run over them, but they couldn’t figure out the Jets simple passing attack or get any pressure on Sanchez (has anyone ever seen two more simplistic offenses than the Ravens and Jets be successful in the playoffs??).
In the NFC, for a long time the Eagles became a favorite third option for all the analysts who didn’t want to pick a front runner. And Philly looked like an even better pick once the Vikings and Saints started struggling down the stretch. They looked anything but a Super Bowl contender on Saturday. The Packers became another favorite pick down the stretch, despite the fact questions about their O-line, pass defense and running game hadn’t been answered. All the talk of how they were a new team after the Cowboys game and that if they faced the Vikings and Favre again the outcome would be different is all for naught.