Surely you’ve heard by now that Joe Flacco is the greatest clutch quarterback the NFL has seen since the days of Johnny Unitas.
Since the 2012 postseason, Flacco’s postseason credentials are second to none. He has thrown 13 touchdown passes and ZERO interceptions.
Last week, I did not forget about the power of postseason Flacco…sort of. When originally typing last week’s playoff picks post, I selected the Ravens to grab a W in Pittsburgh. However, after realizing how lousy Baltimore played down the stretch, I hit backspace a few times and picked Pittsburgh even after bemoaning the loss of LeVeon Bell.
Another playoff gem from Flacco later and the Ravens sit ready to pounce as they get set to face their old friends from Foxborough in the divisional round action on Sunday.
Time for some pickage…
BALTIMORE AT NEW ENGLAND – Ok, everyone keeps rolling on about how this Ravens team is postseason tested and will be ready for the Patriots once again because they handled New England in two of three postseason games in Foxborough. However, those games matter little. The personnel has changed drastically on both sides. No Ed Reed. No Anquan Boldin. No Ray Lewis. No Dennis Pitta. No Aaron Hernandez. No Wes Welker. You get the point.
Here’s what we do know. This season, the Ravens played a schedule full of patsies (no pun intended) including eight games against the NFC South and AFC South – two of the NFL’s worst divisions. Yes, the Ravens enter with a major pass rush and playmakers on offense but this is their first big boy test of the season.
During their ’12 postseason run, they played Denver during the regular season before seeing them in their shocking, upset win over the Broncos. So, at least they saw a fastball during the regular season. By virtue of who remains, Baltimore played one of the other final four AFC teams. They lost on the road to Indy 20-13.
I’m not buying the Ravens. I get why Patriots fans are scared but remember, the last time these two teams met was NOT in the ’12 AFC title game. It was during Week 16 of the ’13 regular season in Baltimore…a 41-7 New England win.
Flacco is good but the Patriots should have an answer for the Smith brothers and Owen Daniels. Plus, Justin Forsett doesn’t scare me. The key is New England’s offensive line. Assuming they don’t get Brady killed, the Patriots can figure out how to exploit the Ravens enough.
New England having a defense will make things a lot easier for them this time around. I wouldn’t make any travel plans to Indy or Denver if I was a Ravens fan.
NEW ENGLAND 27, BALTIMORE 17
CAROLINA AT SEATTLE – Just to be a jerk, I really want to make a case for Carolina based off of the Panthers losing three straight seasons by less than a touchdown to Seattle in defensive battles.
It’s just an awful spot for them.
Keep an eye on Seattle’s offense. Look, as great as that Seahawks defense is, are you truly comfortable with Russell Wilson making plays to Paul Richardson and Doug Baldwin en route to a repeat all postseason long and putting up enough points to win?
They are going to have some big questions to answer later in the playoffs but I don’t think this game is where it happens.
Too much D for Carolina, who will feel like they played a JV high school team last week after dealing with Arizona.
SEATTLE 23, CAROLINA 9
DALLAS AT GREEN BAY – Man, I don’t like this Aaron Rodgers calf stuff. This point of view was further solidified after reading Bill Simmons’s article today on the NFL playoffs, which brings up a rather horrifying truth about Rodgers. Eliminating his 2010 Super Bowl run, he owns one playoff win…over Joe Webb of Minnesota Vikings fame.
Meanwhile, Dallas has heard about how they shouldn’t be in the second round because of some league-wide conspiracy to get them into the Super Bowl and that they are nothing without Chris Christie’s lucky orange sweater.
Ultimately, this game is about whether Rodgers can manage the pain in his calf to deliver a competent performance and how (and if) Dallas can exploit it.
If Rodgers plays but is limited, that casts a big pall over the game from one perspective. Remember, it can be more difficult to change quarterbacks on the fly in-game rather than giving a backup a full week to prepare.
Take the Cowboys’ Week 15 opponent last season. Their opponent lost their quarterback weeks earlier to an injury and thus, left it on the backup quarterback’s plate to clean up even though he had plenty of to prepare.
Dallas led at halftime 26-3…only to lose 37-36…to the Green Bay Packers.
Green Bay’s quarterback that day? Matt Flynn…who may appear in Sunday’s game if Rodgers is not up to snuff.
The Cowboys had a 99% win expectancy in that game at AT&T Stadium last year after leading by 23 at halftime. Whoops.
So, all is not lost if Rodgers doesn’t appear. The backups got ample reps this week. However, I can’t think of a more deflating moment in recent Packers history in the non-Brett Favre division than seeing Rodgers being useless or unable to finish on Sunday.
It looks like that might happen.
DALLAS 30, GREEN BAY 24
INDIANAPOLIS AT DENVER – We’re clearly seeing the end of Peyton Manning. The question is how will the movie end?
Will it end in a hail of bullets? Will it end with a whimper? Will it end thanks to Andrew Luck, the man who followed Manning in Indianapolis?
The only person who may have the true answer to this is Denver running back CJ Anderson. He will attempt to stave off football rigormortis for his quarterback by trying to dominate Indy in an area they’ve labored with throughout the season – run defense.
Indy finished a mediocre 18th in rush defense this season and still have the recognition of putting New England’s Jonas Gray on the cover of Sports Illustrated after surrendering 199 yards and four touchdowns to him back in November.
Despite Indy’s deficiencies, they have one of the NFL’s greatest human erasers – Andrew Luck. He’ll have to play at an all-world, mistake-free level on Sunday. While that sounds difficult for him to do in Denver, he can certainly get it done.
He’ll have a lot of great days in the NFL but Denver has invested too much time and money into the offseason to blow it (at least, for the moment).
DENVER 37, INDY 21
LAST WEEK – 3-1