Fantasy Football News

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Weekend Preview: Who will earn a spot in the Conference Championship?

I have been slacking with the posts as of late and never really did an official recap of this past weekend's Wild Card match-ups. Therefore, I will be combining my (late) recap with a preview of the Divisional round. My picks for last week's slate of games was 3-1, by the way, with my only bad pick being the Saints/Seahawks game.

Also I have added, in addition to my game pick, a simulation of all four games by both Whatifsports.com and Madden 2011. I let the computer play all four Divisional games and have added the final score for your entertainment. I was looking to earn a little extra credit, so I finished the rest of the playoffs and Super Bowl simulations via WIS and Madden for additional entertainment. The final scores of the Conference Championships and Super Bowl were added to the end of my article. Enjoy:

Saturday January 15, 2011

(5) Baltimore Ravens at (2) Pittsburgh Steelers (4:30 PM ET on CBS)

How Baltimore won on Sunday: The first half of the first round game between the Baltimore Ravens and the AFC West winning Kansas City Chiefs was very sloppy on both sides of the ball as Kansas City's Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles took over the spotlight at Arrowhead with his 41 yard touchdown run following a Joe Flacco fumble. Baltimore dominated the first half time of possession, holding on to the ball for 20 of the 30 minutes, but three sacks of Flacco, and the Flacco fumble limited Baltimore's offense to just 10 first half points as they went in to the break with a 10-7 lead.

Kansas City's head coach Todd Haley failed to make the needed adjustments at the half as the Ravens came out and scored 13 third quarter points. Simply enough, Baltimore's defense stepped it up and forced two turnovers during the quarter (one fumble, one INT) and put points on the board as a result. Before the final quarter even began, the Chiefs' hearts were out of it. Baltimore's defense, led by the intimidating Terrell Suggs and future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, took the final two quarters over and forced three second half turnovers, leading to a 20-point outburst.

What will need to be done to win this Saturday: When these two teams meet, it's always a bloodbath. And points are always hard to come by considering these are two the toughest defenses in the game. Turnovers are a given. So that's why I think the team with the most effective offense will come out winners in this game. Both teams are tough against the run, so if Ray Rice and Rashard Mendenhall are able to make an impact on the game it will go a long way for their respective team.

Who will win: I'm going to have to lean towards Pittsburgh in this one, likely because Ben Roethlisberger edges Joe Flacco in the postseason, and knows how to have success against the Ravens (7-3 against BAL in the regular season; 1-0 in postseason). I haven't even mentioned the fact that Baltimore will be playing on Pittsburgh's home turf with 50,000-plus Terrible Towels. Pittsburgh wins 14-10.

WIS' prediction: Steelers 16-13
Madden's prediction: Steelers 17-10
(6) Green Bay Packers at (1) Atlanta Falcons (8 PM ET on FOX)

How Green Bay won on Sunday: Aaron Rodgers and his sixth seeded Packers were technically underdogs to the Eagles, but this doesn't necessarily surprise me that they were able to go in to the Linc in Philly and defeat Vick's Eagles. Green Bay's record could have easily ended up much better than it was at the end of the regular season had Rodgers not suffered from a concussion late in the season against Detroit. Rodgers is back to full speed and led his Packers to a 14-3 halftime lead as the defense limited Vick early on. The difference between the two games is that Green Bay played solid all sixty minutes and were able to control the clock throughout, as well as limit the mental mistakes (just two penalties all game).

Philadelphia was able to force two Green Bay turnovers, but was only able to convert one of them for points. Two missed David Akers field goal attempts and a failed two point conversion could blamed for the loss, but the fact of the matter is that Vick got greedy towards the end of the game and went for it all. He rushed a throw in to the corner of the end zone to rookie receiver Riley Cooper and the Pack took advantage of the under-thrown pass as Tramon Williams picked off the pass to seal the five-point victory.

What will need to be done to win this Saturday: For the Packers, another huge key in to their victory in the first round was the running game. After Ryan Grant suffered a season-ending injury ankle injury (against Philly) during the first game of the season, Green Bay's run game came in to question. Brandon Jackson--Grant's replacement--ran for career-highs 703 yards and three touchdowns in the regular season, but was a non-factor this past weekend (3 attempts for 10 yards). Luckily for head coach Mike McCarthy, first-year running back James Starks (29 attempts, 101 yards during regular season) ran for 123 yards in his first career postseason game. If Green Bay wants to defeat Atlanta, they will need to make them one dimensional by taking away the run. If Michael Turner is a non-factor, and the Packers secondary can control Roddy White, Matt Ryan may find himself in some trouble against Green Bay's front seven.

Who will win: The above paragraph is much easier said than done. Stopping Atlanta's fifth-highest scoring offense is quite the task, and after allowing 352 total yards last week, I can't see Green Bay succeeding against Matty Ice, Turner and White. The run game of the Packers scares me, as well. How do we know that Starks' Wild Card performance isn't a fluke? Atlanta wins 28-14.

WIS' prediction: Packers 20-3
Madden's prediction: Falcons 22-19 (OT)
Sunday January 16, 2011

(4) Seattle Seahawks at (2) Chicago Bears (1 PM on FOX)

How Seattle won on Saturday: Perhaps one of the biggest upsets in NFL postseason history, I am still in shock that Seattle's offense put up 41 on the defending champions. It's obvious that Drew Brees had a spectacular game and did all he could to lead his Saints back to the Super Bowl. Unfortunately his 404 yards and two touchdowns (and 36 points scored) weren't enough for the Saints to squeeze out a victory as the defense allowed four passing touchdowns.

The greatest run in postseason history was basically the knock-out blow with just over three minutes to play. Former Buffalo Bills' running back Marshawn Lynch, who at one point was one small mistake from being out of the league for good, broke eight tackles on a 67-yard touchdown run that put the 'Hawks up by 11. Brees came back and threw for one last touchdown pass to Devery Henderson, of course, but the five offensive touchdowns for Seattle was just too much to overcome.

What will need to be done to win this Sunday: Once again Seattle will be overmatched against Chicago, but that doesn't mean they don't have a shot. But Seattle will need to break 150 yards on the ground again against Chicago, and on the defensive side of the ball they cannot allow Jay Cutler to have a big day. They were able to get away with a huge day from Brees because of the amount of success the offense had against New Orleans. This week they will be on the road against a much tougher defense, though, and will need to match Chicago's explosiveness on both sides of the ball. In Seattle's week six victory over Chicago they played great defense by sacking Cutler six times and shutting down Matt Forte (8 attempts, 11 yards, 1 TD).

Who will win: As much as it is nice to see the underdog prevail, I just don't see these Seahawks doing it twice in a row. I doubted them last week and they proved me wrong, but it looks like they will have to do it again this Sunday. Hasselbeck could have a huge day in the passing game, but if they can't get anything going on the ground against Chicago's second-best run defense, they wont be able to keep up with Chicago's tempo. Chicago wins 24-10.

WIS' prediction: Seahawks 17-14
Madden's prediction: Seahawks 20-17
(6) New York Jets at (1) New England Patriots (4:15 PM on CBS)

How New York won on Saturday: Head coach Rex Ryan finally got the best of his mortal enemy Peyton Manning, limiting him to just 225 yards passing and one offensive touchdown. But it wasn't as convincing a victory as Jets' fans were hoping for as kicker Nick Folk squeezed a 32-yard field goal through the uprights as time expired. If it wasn't for New York's powerful run game (led by L.T.'s 82 yards and two touchdowns), New York wouldn't have had a chance against Indy's 20th-ranked overall defense. Second-year quarterback Mark Sanchez looked jittery and threw a key red zone interception just before the half. Ryan's defense kept the team in it despite zero turnovers and just four Indy punts. Ball control was key in this game as New York held on to the ball for 33 of the game's 60 minutes.

What will need to be done this Sunday: With the amount of trash-talking coming from coach Ryan and cornerback Antonio Cromartie have been doing this week, New York's defense will certainly need to step up. New England has the league's hottest offense, scoring at least 30 points in each of its final eight games this season, including 45 in a week 13 matchup with this same Jets team. Throughout the season, New York was the sixth-best scoring defense and was third-best in the league in total defense.

But, Tom Brady's Pats are the highest-scoring offense and are arguably the most balanced offense out there. On the defensive side of the ball New England's young defense is highly underrated, and picked off the opposition 25 times this season (most in the league). Sanchez will need to be 100% mistake-free and New York will need to get pressure on Brady nearly every play.

Who will win: This will be the one game that I don't think will be close. At all. Rex Ryan's defense really doesn't stand a chance against Brady and Belichick's pass-oriented offense, and Mark Sanchez is in for a long day against New England's quick defense. The game will be over at halftime. New England wins 31-10.

WIS' prediction: Jets 27-6
Madden's prediction: Patriots 34-17
The rest of the postseason, according to Whatifsports...

Conference Championships:

AFC...Steelers 21, Jets 7

NFC...Packers 31, Seahawks 20

Seattle gets the privilege of hosting a second playoff game despite their 7-9 regular season record, but Rodgers earns his first Super Bowl appearance with an 11-point victory over Hasselbeck's squad.

Pittsburgh lucked out with Sanchez's shellacking of the Pats in the second round, and didn't have much trouble handing the Jets its second consecutive AFC Championship loss in a 14-point victory.

Super Bowl:

Steelers 44, Packers 24

MVP: Ben Roethlisberger (17/24, 243 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs)

Ben gets his third Super Bowl ring with his MVP performance against the Pack as his offense puts up 44 points.

The rest of the postseason according to Madden...

Conference Championships:

AFC...Steelers 31, Patriots 20

NFC...Falcons 24, Seahawks 19

Super Bowl:

Steelers 29, Falcons 17

MVP: Rashard Mendenhall (22 rush attempts, 132 yards, 2 TDs)

I swear to you I had nothing to do with the outcome of these simulations. Pittsburgh has prevailed, capturing the team's seventh Lombardi trophy according to both Whatifsports.com and Madden 2011.

**The Baltimore/Pittsburgh Divisional matchup seems to be the only one in which one team has been favored by myself, Whatifsports and Madden's simulation. Interestingly enough, all three have seen a mixed result in predictions. I wish I could say that I think there will be an upset this weekend, but I just don't think it will happen and I have justified my reasoning in the above article. That's why the National Football League is so great, though, anything can happen on any given Sunday.

Who knows what this weekend holds for us. We could witness history.

Photo credit
Flacco and Roethlisberger: AP Photo/Nick Wass
Tony Gonzalez: AP Photo/Rich Addicks
Jay Cutler: AP Photo/John Smierciak
Deion Branch: AP Photo/Charles Krupa

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