NFL Wildcard Playoff Preview: How the Jets can beat the Colts

New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan reacts on the sidelines in the fourth quarter against the Buffalo Bills in week 17 of the NFL season at New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on January 2, 2011. The Jets defeated the Bills 38-7 and advance to the playoffs. UPI /John Angelillo

As I did with the Saints-Seahawks preview, below I break down how the Jets can beat the Colts on Saturday and vice versa.

THE JETS WIN IF: Obviously Mark Sanchez needs to be productive for the Jets to have a shot, but I’m going to focus on Rex Ryan’s defense. If Ryan finally wants to get the Peyton Manning monkey off his back, he could learn a lot from watching how the Patriots, Chargers and Cowboys defended the Colts in Indy’s three-game losing streak in Weeks 11-13. In those three games, the Colts averaged just 2.6 yards per rush. Granted, they didn’t have Joseph Addai then, but the key to defusing Manning might start with taking away his running game. Obviously the Jets need to get pressure on Manning. All teams facing quarterbacks like Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers need to dial up pressure to beat those guys. But despite the popular belief that the Colts can’t run the ball, most of Manning’s success comes from Indy’s balance on offense. The Colts might not rack up a lot of rushing yards, but that doesn’t mean their ground game can’t be effective. The Jets need to focus on shutting down the Colts’ rushing attack first and make them one-dimensional. If Manning is constantly in third-and-long situations, then eventually the Jets will come up with a big play (just as the Patriots, Chargers and Cowboys did). Disguising blitzes and sending pressure from the secondary is all well and good, but those things won’t matter if the Colts can move the ball on the ground. Peyton is going to make plays – that’s just what he does. But it’s those times when the Jets force him to throw in third-and-long when they need to capitalize.

THE COLTS WIN IF: Peyton continues his domination of Ryan-led defenses. Over the past month of the season, quarterbacks such as Tom Brady and Jay Cutler were able to strike for big plays because Ryan constantly had to send extra defenders to help his feeble pass rush. If Manning can strike for a couple of long-gainers and put the Jets back on their heels, then it will force Mark Sanchez to beat the Colts with his arm. Another thing Indy must do is control the tempo. If the Jets are able to play their game (i.e. running the ball and playing good defense), then Manning may get frustrated that he can’t attack, attack, attack like he’s used to doing. Nothing infuriates him more than having to stand on the sidelines and watch the time tick off the clock. But if the Colts can establish rhythm early, get into the fast tempo they want to play and make Sanchez and the Jets’ offense scramble to catch up, then Indy wins this one running away.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Five reasons to tune into NFL Wildcard Weekend

This series is brought to you by T.G.I Fridays®, encouraging you to Rush in and Tackle their new Game Time Menu!

It’s the NFL Playoffs – we know you don’t need us to tell you to watch. But here are five storylines that will definitely peak your interest as you tune into Wildcard Weekend in the NFL.

1. Can the Seahawks do the unthinkable?
Everyone believes it’s a foregone conclusion that the Saints will beat the Seahawks by about six touchdowns. But if the NFL has taught us anything over the years it’s to expect the unexpected. It’s safe to say that the Saints aren’t the same team they were a year ago when they hoisted the Lombardi Trophy. They still have Drew Brees to lead Sean Payton’s explosive passing attack and Gregg Williams’ defense can still bring the heat. But Brees has thrown 22 interceptions this year, Payton lost his inside runner in Pierre Thomas (who was placed on IR earlier this week) and Williams’ defense has been less opportunistic than it was a year ago. (They led the NFC in interceptions last year with 26, but picked off a league-low nine passes this season.) The Seahawks are easily the most overmatched team in the playoffs and the only reason why they’re playing this weekend is because they were fortunate enough to play in the NFC West. That said, you know Pete Carroll will rally the troops this Saturday and give the Saints all he’s got. It still may wind up in a six-touchdown defeat, but on any given Sunday (uh, or Saturday)…

2. Can Rex Ryan get the Peyton Manning monkey off his back?
In six games against Ryan-led defenses, Manning is 5-1 with 1,513 yards, 12 touchdown passes and only two interceptions. And the lone loss came in Week 16 last year when the Colts had already locked home field advantage and Curtis Painter played the majority of the second half as Peyton looked on from the sidelines. Ryan hasn’t had an answer for Manning yet and once again he must try to defeat Peyton in his house. Everyone was concerned with Mark Sanchez when these two teams met in the AFC Championship last year, but it was Ryan’s defense that failed as Manning shredded the Jets for 377 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions. Whatever Ryan has thrown at an opponent’s offense, Manning has diagnosed it and has figured out a way to beat it. Peyton is a film junkie and will never be caught unprepared. Thus, Ryan better come up with a new wrinkle or two if he wants to put an end to Manning’s hold over him.

Read the rest of this entry »

Seahawks prove that there’s a need for the NFL to re-seed

Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll looks up at the game clock in the fourth quarter of their game against the New York Giants on Sunday November 7, 2010 at Qwest Field in Seattle. The Giants beat the Seahawks 41-8. (UPI /Jim Bryant)

Throughout the NFL season, I’ve participated in the Washington Post’s NFL panel, “The League.” This week, I was asked for my take on the Seahawks and whether or not they’re the worst team in NFL history to make the playoffs.

Are the 2010-11 version of the Seattle Seahawks the worst playoff team in NFL history? Yes, considering they’re the only team to make the playoffs with a losing record. But that’s not the NFL’s biggest problem when it comes to its current playoff structure.

The Seahawks won’t be the only host team with a worse record than their opponent this weekend. Look at the schedule: The 10-6 Colts are hosting the 11-5 Jets, the 10-6 Chiefs are hosting the 12-4 Ravens and yes, the 7-9 Seahawks are hosting the 11-5 Saints.

I have no problem with the four division winners making the playoffs. “>Do I think it’s elephant dung that the 10-win Giants and Bucs didn’t make the playoffs and the 7-9 Seahawks did? Absolutely. This is the first time since 1991 that a pair of 10-6 teams will miss the playoffs, all while a 7-9 team gets in. That’s not fair but sorry, that’s just the luck of the draw.

But for the love of football man, can we get Roger Goodell to re-seed the playoffs after the regular season?

Seattle has proved that just because a team wins its lousy division doesn’t mean it earned the right to host a playoff game. The NFL wants to reward the four teams that win their division, which is fine – I’m on board with that. But it’s ridiculous that a team like the Ravens (a legit Super Bowl contender) will be on the road this weekend when the Seahawks play at home.

Read the full article.

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.)

Read the rest after the jump...

NFL Playoff Preview: Wild Card Weekend

What a bizarre season this has been. Two teams that many pundits figured would meet in the Super Bowl – the Cowboys and Patriots – didn’t even make the playoffs. While two teams expected to dwell the cellars of their respective divisions for another season – the Dolphins and Falcons – will be playing in round one of the postseason, which kicks off this weekend.

Below is a complete playoff preview for the four Wild Card games this weekend. In each game preview you’ll find a matchup breakdown, a player to keep an eye on, odds, and a predicted score. (What’s a game preview without a prediction?)

Rather amazingly, all four home teams are underdogs this weekend.

Matt RyanAtlanta Falcons (11-5) at Arizona Cardinals (9-7)
Saturday, January 3, 4:30 PM FOX
Opening Odds: Falcons –2
Over/Under: 51
Game Outlook:
Outside of having to face Kurt Warner and a Cardinals’ offense that averages over 290 passing yards a game, this is a great matchup for the Falcons. Arizona has had issues stopping the run over the past couple weeks and before Edgerrin James cracked 100 yards Sunday against the Seahawks, no Cardinal rusher hit the 100-yard mark in the previous seven games. Offensively, that means Atlanta can do what it does best – put the game in the hands of Michael Turner. “The Burner” is coming off a 208-yard rushing performance in Week 17 and hasn’t shown signs of wearing down despite this being the first season that he’s had to carry the full rushing load. Look for the Falcons to try to wear down Arizona’s front seven throughout the game and keep the Cards’ explosive offense on the sidelines. Once the Cardinal safeties start to creep up to stop Turner, Atlanta offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey can start taking shots down the field with rookie quarterback Matt Ryan. Defensively, the Falcons will have to keep their safeties back in coverage and rely on their front seven to stop the Cardinals’ run game because corners Chris Houston and Dominique Foxworth can’t contain Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald in one on one coverage. Although Boldin has missed the final two games with a shoulder injury, he’s expected to play, which is obviously huge for Warner and the passing game. But if they can’t run the ball they’ll be to one-dimensional and the Falcons will be able to sit back in coverage.
X-Factor: John Abraham, Falcons DE
Abraham has been an absolute beast this season and if the Falcons can build a decent lead with their running game, it will allow Abraham to pin his ears back and head straight for the quarterback. Atlanta has done a nice job rotating their defensive linemen all season to keep them fresh and if Abraham can get pressure on Warner, he’s bound to make mistakes and turn the ball over.
Prediction: Falcons 30, Cardinals 27.
Atlanta’s secondary is a concern (especially with safety Lawyer Milloy nursing a back injury), but the Vikings exposed the Cardinals two weeks ago and the Falcons will use the same blueprint.

Read the rest after the jump...

Related Posts