Well just like that the regular season is now done and dusted. Before
the dust even has chance to settle we go racing into the wild card play-off weekend.
Welcome all to week 17 of The Lo Down. This is a special week for me as not only is the regular season over but I'm currently sitting next to the Hudson river looking at the beautiful statue of liberty as I write.
I've had the pleasure of being in New York since Wednesday and it has been amazing from the mass crowds around times square on new years eve to having a nice quiet moment relaxing by the river.
Let's move on to the football now, again this week particularly the AFC there has been some interesting results. Going into this week, Denver, Oakland, Cincinnati and the Jets needed a win to stand a chance of getting to the play-offs.
I was very surprised that none of the above teams were able to sneak a win and so the play-off picture finishes exactly were it was last week. New England are no.1 seed in the AFC with Baltimore no.2 after their win over Cincinnati. Houston hang onto the no.3 slot with Denver taking the AFC West being no.4. Rounding off the AFC play-offs we have Pittsburgh at no.5 and Cincinnati as no.6.
Now its onto the NFC. Going into this week the Saints had a chance of taking second place from the 49ers if they won and the niners lost. All of the NFC play-off teams were decided last week except for the NFC East title. This came down to a battle between the Giants and Cowboys or I see a battle between Eli and Romo.
As you can guess from the picture above unfortunately for Romo the outcome was not so good. The Giants raced to a 21 point lead and unlike the Bills they were able to hold onto that lead and came away winners by 31 - 14.
OK so with that said the NFC teams heading into the play-offs this year are Green Bay as no.1 by finishing the season 15 - 1. The 49ers were able to avoid a slip up at the hands of the Rams and finish as no.2, of course that meant that the Saints finish as no.3. The Giants win over the Cowboys sees them no.4 leaving the Falcons and Lions finishing as no.5 and no.6 respectively.
I shall be coming back to the play-off picture later on with myself and EJ giving the pros for each team and how they can win this week.
OK so like the blog I have moved on from the banks of the Hudson to a much warmer and comfortable place. Its happy hour at the Chelsea Grill. A great bar and restaurant we found ourselves in on new years eve. If you find yourself in NY I strongly recommend heading to this place, its on 9th Avenue between 47th and 46th street.
Apologies as I have digressed again, let's get back to the action with all the scores from week 17:-
New York Jets 17 vs 19 Miami
Buffalo 21 vs 49 New England
Tennessee 23 vs 22 Houston
Indianapolis 13 vs 19 Jacksonville
Washington 10 vs 34 Philadelphia
Chicago 17 vs 13 Minnesota
Carolina 17 vs 45 New Orleans
San Francisco 34 vs 27 St Louis
Detroit 41 vs 45 Green Bay
Baltimore 24 vs 16 Cincinnati
Pittsburgh 13 vs 6 Cleveland
Kansas City 7 vs 3 Denver
Seattle 20 vs 23 Arizona
San Diego 38 vs 26 Oakland
Tampa Bay 24 vs 45 Atlanta
Dallas 14 vs 31 New York Giants
Finally before we move onto the play-offs, I had the joy of going to the Patriots vs Bills game this week. The Bills got off to a great start taking a 21 - 0 lead in the 1st Quarter unfortunately though I knew a come back was inevitable. The Patriots over the course of the next 3 quarters demolished us by scoring 49 unanswered points taking the game 49 - 21. Despite the result I had great fun with some Pats fans and a Bills fan behind me. I didn't get his name but his spirit was amazing and a true billiever!
So now we move onto the play-off match ups for the wildcard weekend. As always I'll start with the AFC and the first match up between the Bengals and the Texans. First up is myself with the reasons why the Texans will beat the Bengals:-
Adri - Whilst their onto the third string quarterback, the Texans are still a solid football team. They have one of the best defences in the league and when you have the duo of Arian Foster and Ben Tate you are difficult to stop. I think we will see TJ Yates using a lot of screens and dump off’s to Foster to give him more touches. If Andre Johnson is fit to play then they also have one of leagues elite receivers to get the ball down the field too in clutch situations. I agree with what I've heard this week that the key match up will be Joseph against AJ Green, whoever comes out on top will win it for their team.
EJ - Good for the Bengals to make the play-offs, making 3 teams from the AFC North. It is their first play-off birth in a long time. Unfortunately, they are playing against a very hungry team in Houston, which is their first time ever in the play-offs. Luckily for the Bengals, they are playing against the 3rd string QB in TJ Yates, who will also be playing against the pain of having a separated left shoulder. The Bengals defence needs to apply pressure as often as possible on Yates, hitting him on the shoulder to make him wary of any future injury. Cincy has to mainly focus on stopping Foster in the running and pass game, as I feel if he is shut down, the Texans will be shut down. Offensively, the Bengals will struggle with a very stout Houston defence, especially with the Texans knowing they will need to help out their offense by not letting the Bengals score due to the QB situation. Cedric Benson and Bernard Scott will need to help their rookie QB out by getting rushing yards making 3rd down conversions shorter and easier. AJ Green has been battling injuries all year long, but is a gamer and will toughen it out and will no doubt have at least one big play on the Texans D. In order for the Bengals to win, Jermaine Gresham (TE) and another Bengals WR will need to step it up.
Now we have the Steelers vs Broncos. I have shot myself in the foot by doing the pro's for the Broncos but here goes:-
Adri - For the Broncos to beat the Steelers they need McGahee to have the game of his life for two reasons, firstly to keep Big Ben sitting on the bench for as long as possible and also so they don't have to rely on Tebow's passing ability. I think maybe even confuse the Steelers by lining up their back up QB under centre and Tebow as the RB.
EJ - It seems unfair that the Steelers can't play the Broncos at home due to having a better record, but it is the way the play-offs have always been set up with the division winner getting to play at home. Steelers defence may take a big hit if safety Ryan Clark cannot play due to the altitude in Denver and the health condition he has preventing him to play in such heights. However, I feel defences are figuring Tebow out and the Steelers D will likely subdue Tebow. Bummer for the Steelers that they lost their RB Rashard Mendenhall for the season due to a torn ACL. Isaac Redman has big shoes to fill and unfortunately for Steeler fans it looks like he has a hard time holding onto the ball as he lost 2 fumbles last week. That, coupled with Big Ben's lingering ankle injury could hinder the offense big time which showed this past weekend with the Steelers only scoring 13 points on the lowly Cleveland Browns. The Steelers are a veteran team and play-off hardened, so guys like Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown will make enough plays to escape with a victory.
Now we move onto the NFC where we have a couple of mouthwatering ties in prospect. First up we have the Lions vs Saints:-
Adri - OK so after the shenanigans of having to convince you the Broncos will win I have the Saints for this one :) Firstly let's start with the obvious in Drew Brees, he is currently on fire which included setting the record for the most YDS in a single season. At the start of the season I didn't see this happening with the start Brady had but he has turned it on at the right time. Let's also not forget in Colston and Moore who are capable of making immense catches. The saints also have Jimmy Graham and I've not even started on their running game with Sproles as the change of pace guy playing extremely well backed by a championship winning defence on their day. OK EJ let's hear you counter that my friend :)
EJ - Detroit lost a great game against Green Bay to end the regular season and now has to go up against the hottest team in the league -- the Saints. Not only are the Saints on a roll, but their offense is led by the record setting QB Drew Brees who looks unstoppable. It will be tough for the Lion defence to focus just on any one player as the Saints are loaded with Sproles, Colston, Graham, etc.... The best they can do is try to have long sustained drives to keep the Saints potent offense off the field and win the turnover battle. The one thing the Lions do have for them is a potent passing attack themselves led by Matthew Stafford who threw for over 400 yards and 5 touchdowns against the Packers last week. They also have what I believe the most dynamic WR in the league -- a freak of nature -- Calvin Johnson, aka Megatron. He will have to continue his torrid pace of torching defences in order for the Lions to have a fighting chance against the Saints.
Finally we have the Falcons vs Giants. Here is why the Giants will roll into the next round of the play-offs:-
Adri - Eli Manning and Victor Cruz. These two have also had outstanding seasons individually and seem to have a real chemistry. Cruz is quickly becoming Mannings favourite target in clutch situations. Also they have a great double act at RB with the speed of Bradshaw and the power of Jacobs. They also have to me a great corner in Webster who is capable of shutting down and picking off the best receivers in the game. Over the last few weeks he has come up big and I expect more of this in the play-offs.
EJ - I believe this is going to be the most entertaining game and the highest scoring game of the first round play-offs Atlanta is playing good overall football right now, with Matt Ryan having found his groove. Michael Turner, Roddy White, and Julio Jones add multiple weapons to Ryan's repertoire. They will have a daunting task trying to stop Eli Manning who I feel is having his best year yet. He looks like his older brother Peyton and even sounds like him checking/audible at the line of scrimmage. There has been no better 4th quarter QB, so Atlanta has to got to be weary of that along with the rushing game. If they can stop Cruz, they still have got to worry about Nix and Manningham. I see a shoot-out!
Well I hope you have enjoyed my final blog of the regular season and will keep reading through the play-offs
Until next time when I'm back on the right side of the pond 'Thanks
for Stopping By'