NFL Divisional Round Preview

Before I get to my Divisional Round Preview, I’d like to send all of the losers from Wild Card Weekend off the only way I know how: By jabbing them one final time.

Atlanta Falcons: Hey Mike Smith and Mike Mularkey, his name is Jerious Norwood. He’s #32 and he’s one of the best playmakers on your offense. Might want to think about using him more the next time an opposing defense figures out how to shut down Michael Turner.

Indianapolis Colts: Seven trips to the postseason in the last seven years and you only manage one Super Bowl appearance with a three-time MVP at quarterback? Dear Barbara…

Miami Dolphins: Chad, I love you man and I love your story this season. But you can’t force passes down field into double coverage and expect good things. You should have kept doing what you did all season and what you did in your first possession of the game – hit the high-percentage passes and let your receivers get the yardage.

Minnesota Vikings: Did anyone else scratch their head when Brad Childress declined a holding penalty on third down early in the first quarter that would have moved the Eagles on the edge of field goal range? Instead, it brought up forth down and David Akers drilled a 43-yarder to give Philly a 3-0 lead. Childress basically said, “I’m not sure if my defense can hold the Eagles on 3rd and 14 – better give up the field goal so we don’t give up a potential touchdown instead.” You never give your opponents points in the playoffs. Never. Not even a field goal. Force them back, force them to make a play and force them to earn the points.

Myself: I went 1-3 with my Wild Card Predictions last week. Seriously? You went with the Colts in the playoffs? A rookie in Matt Ryan? The Vikings over everyone’s sleeper team in the Eagles? You’re a freaking bum. (Ironically I went 3-1 in a family football pool because I came to my senses and picked San Diego and Philly.)

Moving on…

Chris JohnsonBaltimore Ravens (11-5) at Tennessee Titans (13-3)
Saturday, January 10, 4:30PM ET
Opening Odds: Titans –3
Over/Under: 34.5
Game Outlook:
No disrespect to the Giants and Eagles or any other team playing this weekend, but this is easily the best matchup on the divisional playoff schedule. Did you see what Ed Reed and the Ravens did to Chad Pennington and the Dolphins last week? They held them to only 276 total yards, forced five turnovers and surrendered only 52 rushing yards. And although they used a lot of gadget formations throughout the season, it’s not like Miami’s offense was a dud this year. Granted, the Titans have the seventh best rushing attack in the league and rookie Chris Johnson brings an added dimension to the field, but Mike Heimerdinger has his hands full this week trying to come up with a game plan to move the ball against a Baltimore defense allowing just over 15 points a game this season. That said, it’ll be interesting to see how rookie quarterback Joe Flacco does against the seventh best defense in the NFL. Flacco passed with flying colors last week while playing mistake-free and running for the game-clinching score in the fourth quarter. But he’ll have to do a hell of a lot more than complete 9 of 23 passes for 135 yards against a Tennessee defense that could have DT Albert Haynesworth and DE Kyle Vanden Bosch back on their defensive line. If both players are in the lineup Saturday, Flacco is going to feel the heat up the middle and from the edges so he better get rid of the ball in a timely manner. Overall, this is the best defensive matchup of the year and this game will probably come down to who doesn’t turn the ball over.
X-Factor: Chris Johnson, Titans RB
The only time the Dolphins found success last week was when they used the Ravens’ aggressive style against them and slipped backs out in the flats. Pennington was able to hit Patrick Cobbs and company for seven to 10 yard gains and the Titans could employ the same method. Johnson is a homerun threat and more than capable of taking one to the house every play. Tennessee has to get the ball in this kid’s hands and force the Ravens to miss tackles in the open field, which they have the penchant for doing at times.
Prediction: Titans 16, Ravens 13.
I’m not going to bite on this potential upset. The Ravens’ defense is absolutely nasty, but Flacco worries me against a ball-hawking Tennessee secondary and I think the Titans are going to shut down Baltimore’s running game. This game comes down to which team makes fewer mistakes and I’ll take a veteran in Kerry Collins over the rook Flacco. (Word to the wise though, Kerry – stay away from Ed Reed’s side if you can.)


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End of Chargers-Steelers game a black eye for NFL

Troy PolamaluForget for a moment that gambling even exists. Take it out of the equation and focus on the reality of what transpired at the end of the Chargers-Steelers game, because it was a serious black eye for the National Football League.

By now, most of us know what happened, but I’ll set the scene again for those who have missed out on all the hoopla.

Down 11-10 with five seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, the Chargers took possession at the 21-yard line. There, quarterback Philip Rivers threw a forward pass to LaDainian Tomlinson, who then flipped the ball backwards to teammate Chris Chambers, who then tossed the ball backwards to another teammate, but Steelers’ safety Troy Polamalu intervened, knocked the ball out of the air and recovered it on the 11-yard line. From there, Polamalu returned the ball into the end zone, which referees signaled a touchdown. Pending review and an extra point, the Steelers should have won 18-10.

But that’s not what happened. Officials did review the play and determined that it was in fact a touchdown. However, after reconvening, they determined that one of the Chargers’ lateral passes (the one Tomlinson threw) was an illegal forward pass and therefore the touchdown didn’t count.

No harm no foul, right? The Steelers would have won the game regardless and everyone involved can rejoice at the fact that no game in the history of the NFL has ever ended with an 11-10 score.

But the call wasn’t right. Even if LT’s pass was deemed illegal, the ball never touched the ground and therefore the play continues. The result of the play was an illegal forward pass, which the Steelers would have declined, and the touchdown should have counted. Head official Scott Green even admitted after the game that he and his crew “misinterpreted” the rule and got it wrong.


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Referee admits he blew the final play in the Steelers-Chargers game

Troy PolamaluFollowing the Steelers’ 11-10 win over the Chargers on Sunday, officials admitted that they blew a call off an illegal forward pass that resulted in Troy Polamalu’s touchdown being yanked off the scoreboard.

Pittsburgh still won the game regardless, but had the touchdown stood, the Steelers would have covered the 5-point spread.

Green, in a postgame interview with a pool reporter, said that call was errant — even though his explanation for the confusion was almost as confusing as the play itself.

“We should have let the play go through in the end, yes,” Green said. “It was misinterpreted that instead of killing the play, we should have let the play go through.”

Green said the confusion occurred because there was a misunderstanding about which lateral was in question.

“The first pass was the one that was illegal, but it only kills the play if it hits the ground,” Green said.

“That was incorrect to have killed it at that point. The ruling should have let the play go on. That’s just the way that it played out. We believe the second pass was legal.”

Green was asked why, since the ball didn’t hit the ground during any of the tossing, the officials decided after huddling that the play should have ended.

“We didn’t kill it on the field,” Green said. “After [the] discussion we decided … there was some confusion over which pass we were talking about and it was decided that it was the second pass that was illegal that did hit the ground and therefore we killed the play there.”

However, the officials realized afterward they erred.

“I know,” Green said. “The rule was misinterpreted.”

Well I’m sure people who bet on the Steelers can take comfort knowing that “the rule was misinterpreted.” This was one of the most bizarre situations I’ve seen in a long time and I don’t blame people for being outraged. The Steelers covered and they should have won the bet – plain and simple. And the worse thing is (besides people losing their money) is that they had the call right the entire time. They ruled touchdown, then took it off the board. They really worked hard to get the call wrong in the end.

I can’t prove it, but I know Ed Hochuli and Rex Grossman were in on this somehow.

Vegas must have decided the end of Steelers/Chargers game

I’m not one for conspiracy theories but what transpired at the end of the Chargers-Steelers game had to be a total fix by none other than Vegas itself.

With only seconds remaining in the game and Pittsburgh up 11-10, San Diego took over deep in their own territory hoping for one last miracle. Philip Rivers completed a pass to LaDainian Tomlinson, who then pitched it back to a teammate, who then tried to pitch it back to another teammate but the ball was fumbled and eventually scooped up by the Steelers’ Troy Polamalu. He then returned the fumble into the end zone for an apparent Pittsburgh touchdown.

But after a review, officials determined that it was an illegal forward pass and the touchdown was wiped out. Granted, the outcome of the game didn’t change – the Steelers would have won regardless – but the play did affect the point spread. Pittsburgh was a 5-point favorite and had Polamalu’s touchdown held up, the Steelers would have covered. But with the play overturned, the Chargers covered.

I’m only half serious when I suggest Vegas had anything to do with the outcome of the game, but it was interesting how that play affected so much (at least in the gambling world). Analysts said after the game that it was clearly an illegal pass by LT, so I’ll take their word for it, although it looked totally legal to me. Not only that, but how could officials signal that it was a touchdown only to take the points off the board minutes later?

It’s also crazy that this was the first game in the history of the NFL that ended in a 11-10 final, but I doubt people who wagered on the Steelers care about that useless fact.

Here’s the YouTube video of the play:

More topics related to this subject:

End of Chargers-Steelers game a black eye for NFL

Troy Polamalu’s amazing interception

Proof that NFL.com is not an objective news source

Referee admits he blew the final play in the Steelers-Chargers game

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