Some observations of this past weekend’s games…
Hass is brass, but Pack laugh last
After the Seahawks won the coin toss in overtime, QB Matt Hasselbeck exclaimed to the official, “We want the ball. We’re gonna score!” Not since the Carolina Prowler called out Simeon Rice and Warren Sapp over the Panthers stadium scoreboard back in week ten has a prediction caused such an uproar. Hasselbeck had not one but two chances at fulfilling the prophecy. But on Seattle’s second possession in overtime, Hasselbeck’s third down pass from the Green Bay 45 was intercepted by Al Harris and returned for the game-winning touchdown giving Green bay the 33-27 victory advancing them to face the Eagles next week. The INT overshadowed a solid performance out of Hasselbeck who threw for 305 yards on the road in less than ideal conditions. While Favre relied on his receivers to make most of the plays, Hasselbeck threaded the needle on more than one occasion and had the Seahawk receivers not dropped eight passes, Seattle would be on the road to Philliy right now. How many games have we seen where Seattle’s receivers have dropped more than five balls? It must be five or six games which does not translate into wins very often. So while Hasselbeck’s prediction goes by the waist side, he can surely hang his head high with a solid performance. I just hope his receivers don’t lose too many golf clubs in the water hazards this offseason due to their lack of grips.
The Lewis boys not enough to take out Titans
While Jamal and Ray Lewis led the Ravens offense and defense to the playoffs, they did not have enough to extend the Ravens winning streak over Tennessee to six games as the Titans eliminated the Ravens 20-17. The league’s leading rusher was held in check rushing for only 35 yards on 14 carries. The inability to keep the Titans defense honest with the pass, allowed Tennessee to stack the line and not let Lewis break a long run. On the other side of the ball, Ray Lewis posted 17 tackles (11 solo tackles) but it was not enough to shut down the duo of Eddie George (who suffered a shoulder injury) and Chris Brown who combined for 149 yards rushing. While McNair’s numbers werent those of a co-MVP (159 yards passing, 1 TD, 3 INTs), McNair connected on four of four passes on the Titans final drive setting up the game-winning 46-yard field goal from 44 year-old Gary Anderson to clinch the win and advance Tennessee to the next round where they’ll travel to wintery Foxboro to face the Patriots. While the Titan passing attack was less than dominate, the Titans defense shined bright led by Keith Bulluck and his eight tackles, all of the solo variety. Tennessee picked off Wright twice and sacked him twice, but it was the ability to shut down Jamal Lewis that won his game. Next up, the Titans face a Patriots team that defeated them back in week five 38-30 thanks to some special teams play from Bethel Johnson and a Ty Law INT returned for a touchdown. You can bet the Titans will hope for the same remtach success that the Colts experienced this past weekend. Segue…
Manning shines in avenging loss
One of these years, Mike Shanahan will learn his lesson. After defeating the Colts in week 16 31-17 without the services of Clinton Portis, Shanahan rested most of his stars in the final week against the Packers who need to win to get into the playoffs. As you would imagine, the Packers rolled over what was essentially Denver’s backups, 31-3 clinching a playoff berth. The question is did that game have any affect on the psyche of the Broncos players? Who knows for sure. What is known, is after the 41-10 the Broncos took at the hands of the Colts this past weekend, every step that was taken in the past two weeks will be retraced to prevent that scenario from ever happening again. Then again, the way Manning was throwing the ball I don’t think it would have mattered who was plying for Denver or how many guys they had on the field. Manning, who unlike his co-MVP counterpart posted huge numbers (377 yards and five TDs), was on the money connecting with seven different receivers while only throwing four incomplete passes. His stats were bolstered by the Broncos blunder in failing to touch Marvin Harrison after falling to the turf making a catch. Harrison, knowing that no one touched him, got up as three Broncos defenders were arguing over the missed coverage, and sprinted the remainder of the 46 yards for the score. It was that kind of day for Denver. With the win, Indy has answered the questions regarding Manning and Tony Dungy’s inability to win a playoff game. Next up for the Colts is a trip to Kansas City to face the other offensive powerhouse in the AFC. If this past game was any indication, hold off the bathroom breaks until commercials. You won’t want to miss any of the quick strikes.
Parcells turns into a pumpkin as fairy tale season ends
The ride had to end sometime, but Parcells and the Cowboys faithful were hoping it was extended a few weeks later. The top-ranked Dallas defense was picked apart like a buzzard who just found fresh road kill last Saturday night as the offensive juggernaut known as the Carolina Panthers made it look easy in the 29-10 victory. Things were going the Cowboys way early on. The Panthers put together a couple nice drives, but could only convert them into field goals (even after the first Panther drive brought Carolina to the 1-yard line of Dallas). This was Parcells’ plan. Keep the game close and hope your defense makes a big play to swing the momentum. The only problem was the Panthers offense had other ideas. Stephen Davis showed no signs of an ankle injury as he rumbled for 104 yards and a score. Both Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad cracked the 100-yard mark receiving as Jake Delhomme continues to impress with his poise and pocket presence. Despite being under constant pressure, Delhomme was sacked only once, did not throw an INT, and completed 18 of 29 passes. Pretty impressive numbers for a guy who became a starter for the first time in his career this season. The Panthers defense also chipped in their two cents forcing two turnovers and sacking Quincy Carter three times. Carolina better hope their defense has more in the tank, as the Panthers must head to St. Louis to face the greatest show on turf. If the Panthers can get to Bulger, they may survive by grinding it out offensively behind Davis. If Bulger has time to throw, this one could be another shoot-out. Sweet!
Some other passing thoughts….
The more I thought about picking the Cowboys to win, the less I liked it. My initial thought was, “How can you bet against Parcells in the playoffs?”. But after doing the projections for the Panthers, it appeared as though they would have success moving the ball and Dallas would struggle more against the tough Carolina defense. Oh well, going 3-1 ain’t half bad.
Do you think if the MVP voting waited a week, the “co-” would have been removed from Peyton Manning?
How sweet is it to be done with the first round of playoff games and having ALL of your players left in your fantasy football playoff pool? Even with seven players left in the Sharks Swim, I’m liking my chances. Let’s get it on!!
Looking ahead to this week’s matchups:
New England vs. Tennessee: Rematch of week 5 when N.E. won 38-30. I’m not sure what the weather forecast is for Saturday night, but you can bet they’ll be some serious hitting going on. Brady vs. McNair is very intriguing. For some reason, I still like the Titans to pull off the upset.
Kansas City vs. Indianapolis: Talk about the potential for a high-scoring affair? What’s the over/under in this game, 60? The Colts will have a tougher time stopping the Chiefs than they did Denver this past week, but the Chiefs have shown some weakness on defense as of late and the Colts will certainly capitalize on that. This one may come down to the last one with the ball wins. My guess is the Colts will have the last possession and that’ all it will take.
Philly vs. Green Bay: Ahman Green will be tough to stop even for Philly as they need to show Favre some respect. But, I like the Eagles matchup on offense vs. the Packers defense as well. Allowing 27 points in a playoff game and winning, doesn’t speak well for your defense. Look for McNabb to have a big day. If Favre can avoid throwing the costly INTs, he’ll keep the Pack in this one. I’ll still take Green Bay if they don’t turn the ball over more than once.
St. Louis vs. Carolina: The Panthers are a team that has started to win me over. I didn’t think they would last very long in the playoffs (as my selection of the Cowboys to win supported), but a strong running game and a potent defense is a scary combination in the playoffs. I just don’t know if the defense will be able to contain the high-flying Rams. Will Delhomme post similar number to last week or will he return to his 15-yard, 0 TDs, 1 INT level that he played at during a majority of the regular season? Delhomme is the key and unfortunately for Carolina fans, I don’t think he’ll be enough this week. Rams advance.
Until next week…