Posts Tagged ‘ 2009 ’

NFL Divisional Playoff Recap

The Divisional Playoffs are over with, and we are now into the final four. Super Bowl trips to Miami will be on the line, and it is clear that three of the top four teams in the NFL showed up, and one team has gone back to their roots and decided to crash the party.

Arizona 14, New Orleans 45- All this talk about the Saints faltering was just that… talk. The Saints put on a show in their first ever game as the top seed in the NFC, and the magical run continued with Drew Brees picking apart the Arizona defense much like Aaron Rodgers did with the Green Bay Packers. The only difference in this game: The Saints had a defense to compliment the offense, and behind Brees’ three touchdown passes, and two Reggie Bush touchdowns (one run, one punt return). The Cardinals, the defending NFC East champions, appeared to have set the tone early for a shootout, scoring on the opening drive to go up 7-0, but the Saints responded with 21 unanswered points, and eventually outscored Arizona 45-7 the rest of the way. Arizona set a new NFL record for most points allowed in two playoff games (90), and it could be the end of a career for Kurt Warner, who according to a source, was retiring after the playoffs, but Warner will take time to think his decision through. The Saints will host the NFC Championship game, but against who?

Ravens 3, Colts 20- Peyton Manning went 30-44, for 246 yards, with two touchdowns, and the Colts defense shut down the rushing game of Ray Rice and Willis McGahee and also forced four turnovers as well. Manning threw touchdown passes to Austin Collie and Reggie Wayne in the first half to cruise to a 17-3 halftime lead. The Ravens, whose only scoring came from a Billy Cundiff field goal, just could not get anything going, and a season removed from being a game from the Super Bowl, they get handed their eighth straight loss to Indianpolis, and with the Colts’ victory, Manning got his first win after a bye-week. He was 0-3 coming into the playoffs after a week of rest in his career.

Dallas 3, Minnesota 34- Brett Favre’s revival continues. The opportunity to play for a championship and a Super Bowl was what he wanted, and he had possibly the best game of his career in the postseason. Favre threw four touchdowns (three to Sidney Rice), and the Vikings defense sacked Dallas QB Tony Romo six times and forced him into three turnovers, and Minnesota punched a ticket to New Orleans to face the Saints for the NFC Championship. Favre went 15-24 for 234 yards, but created a stir among the Cowboys, with a late touchdown score. Dallas LB Keith Brooking took exception for that Minnesota was running up the score on his team. Expect a great game in the Duel at the Dome for a trip to the Super Bowl between the Vikings and Saints.

NY Jets 17, San Diego 14- The party crashers have arrived in the form of Gang Green. The New York Jets’ rookies came of age and are maturing in the two short weeks of the playoffs. Shonn Greene ran for 128 yards, including a 53 yard TD run that proved to be the difference, and created yet another San Diego jolt in the team’s recent run. This game reminded the Charger fans of the 14-2 season that led to Marty Schottenheimer’s firing. Philip Rivers threw for 298 yards on 27-40 passing, but he threw a costly interception which led to his counterpart, rookie Mark Sanchez to find Dustin Keller for a 3 yd pass to put New York up 10-7. Greene’s run put New York up 17-7. The Chargers scored on a Rivers’ QB sneak, but the Jets sealed the victory on 4th & 1 to move on and punch their ticket to Indianapolis.

Check back Saturday for the Conference Championhship picks and who will be going to Miami for Super Bowl XLIV.

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Divisional Playoff Thoughts

Wild Card Weekend over, the Divisional Playoffs begin this weekend. The top teams in both conferences will take the field, and the usual question comes about: rest or rust? Let’s go straight to the games.

Cardinals/Saints- If there was any indication that this game would be like the highest scoring playoff game in NFL history yesterday, the advantage would definitely go to New Orleans. The Saints are an explosive offensive team, but three straight losses to close out the season is not really a good look. You could say the Carolina loss was b/c of reserves, but New Orleans did lose to Dallas and Tampa Bay. Arizona is the dark horse of the NFC, and they can definitely pull off the upset, and it was pretty much shown that they can match the Saints point for point, and there is no better time to do it then the playoffs. Anquan Boldin is a game-time decision, but Steve Breaston and Early Doucet did elevate their games, and the Cardinals have a stronger running game. The advantage goes to Arizona.

Ravens/Colts- These two teams met earlier in the season in Baltimore, with Indianapolis winning 17-15. One thing about the Ravens is that they have a great defense and a great running game. And with the playoff disappointments (except for 2006) that Peyton Manning has had over the years, you could say that the Ravens have the chance to win this game. The difference is that the Colts defense is underappreciated, and very efficient themselves. Also, despite the playoff failures, it is hard to go against Peyton Manning. The advantage definitely goes to Indy at the Big Oil Drum. If the Ravens win, it won’t be a surprise

Cowboys/Vikings- The Cowboys are the hottest and healthiest team in the playoffs. They are clicking on all cylinders. They proved that in two destructions of the Philadelphia Eagles in two weeks. But the Vikings are in the noisiest venues in the NFL. The Metrodome is going to be rocking, and Minnesota is 8-0 in 2009 at the Mall of America Field at the HHH Metrodome. The Vikings will win this game if Adrian Peterson takes care of the football, and Brett Favre continues his efficiency and mission to win a Super Bowl. Flozell Adams will definitely have his hands full with Jared Allen, and you can’t forget about that Williams’ Wall on the run defense. Advantage to Minnesota, but like the other games, it can go either way.

Jets/Chargers- The Jets defense against one of the best offenses in the NFL. The Chargers have won 11 in a row, but have experienced more playoff failures than the Colts, and the Jets who weren’t even supposed to be in the playoffs, let alone the divisional round are proving they belong. Mark Sanchez is home, so expect him to play with a lot of inspiration for his family, and he will manage the game. If Vincent Jackson can do what a lot of wide receivers could not do this season, and solve the problem of Darrelle Revis, the Chargers should pull it off. Either way San Diego has too many weapons on both sides of the ball for the Jets to handle. The Jets run should end.

So the final picks: Cardinals over Saints, Colts over Ravens, Vikings over Cowboys, and Chargers over Jets. Be back next Saturday for the Conference Championship previews. Until then, enjoy the games!

AFC West Preview- San Diego Chargers

The San Diego Chargers won the AFC West on the final game of the regular season against the Denver Broncos. It was a win at the right time and the Chargers peaked to the AFC Divisional Playoff before getting eliminated. With LaDanian Tomlinson back healthy, and Shawne Merriman back from injury and fully healed, the Chargers have a clear road to the AFC West championship. It is clear that the only team that can stop the Chargers is… the Chargers.

The team is loaded with talent, and Phillip Rivers showed that he can lead the way and take over most of the load when their main workhorse LT went out with an injury. He led the Chargers on a great run to rally and win the AFC West with great receiver play from Vincent Jackson, and Antonio Gates. Expect Darren Sproles to have a bigger role on offense and take a lot of the running load off LT, especially since he was tagged as a franchise player. The Chargers again have one of the better offenses in the AFC and the NFL, and they can really dominate if they put all those weapons to work. Norv Turner knows this and will call the right plays as he has been, and he has brought out the better side of Phillip Rivers and has made him better, and showed that he can lead this team when Tomlinson is down.

On defense, Shawne Merriman is back, and that is such a huge boost to a defense that just lacked the rush to get sacks on the quarterback. The Chargers did draft Larry English as an alternative for Merriman in case he does not get fully healed or goes back down with another injury. The secondary is one of the best in the league, and Quentin Jammer and Antonio Cromartie who are two of the best cornerbacks are ready to take interceptions back to the house. This defense is very good and when they are on, they are on.

The Chargers again have the easy road to the AFC West championship. Of course the games are played on the field and not on paper, but with two teams transitioning and rebuilding, and the other team looking to mesh and continue to the improve, out of all the teams in the division, the Chargers are the most complete team, and can go deep in the playoffs.

AFC West Preview- Oakland Raiders

The Oakland Raiders have not reached .500 or above since the Super Bowl season of 2002, when they lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In the past five seasons, the Raiders have had four head coaches, and the current head coach, Tom Cable, the one Al Davis did not even know about, is on the shortest of leashes going into 2009. If he does not win right away, he’s probably out of a job for 2010. Looking at what he has to work with, despite the players willing to play hard for him, if the wins don’t come and live up to what Al Davis has proclaimed for the past 50 years: “Just Win Baby”, look for head coach number 5.

If the #1 pick in 2007, JaMarcus Russell can get himself solidified as a true NFL Quarterback, he can be somebody real special and hard to stop. Russell and the two first round picks in the years after, Darren McFadden and Darrius Heyward-Bey, can form one good combination. McFadden was injured for most of his rookie season, and will need to contribute, and Heyward-Bey could really show up and be something special, and show why he was picked ahead of Michael Crabtree. For Russell, this is the year where he needs to show up or ship out, and it’s the time between being a boom or a bust. A good move the Raiders made which has been so under the radar is signing Jeff Garcia, who will be ready to go if Russell struggles.

Defensively, the Raiders have a new coordinator, John Marshall, and he likes to focus on speed, which is what is possessed by cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. Trevor Scott will form a good DE combination with Greg Ellis, who was picked up in the offseason. Scott, came on strong in his first season, and will be definitely a force to be reckoned with in 2009. This unit has improved and made the most strides, especially down the stretch when Cable was getting them to play hard and win games, which was something they did not do under Lane Kiffin.

The Raiders can get better, and can improve, but they have to improve this year, especially if they want to play for Cable like they have. The leash is very short, and with Cable’s incident in the offseason punching an assistant (allegedly), that is not good for team chemistry and if that trickles into the regular season, expect another midseason firing from Al Davis. The Raiders need to “Just Win Baby”, they won’t get too much of it this year.

AFC West Preview- Kansas City Chiefs

The Kansas City Chiefs have ingested themselves with a New England revival and are looking to return to their winning ways that have been gone for the past two seasons. After going 6-26 in the past two seasons, including a franchise worst 2-14 in 2008, Kansas City turned to former Patriots’ assistant general manager Scott Pioli to right the ship. Pioli hired former Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator Todd Haley as the new head coach, replacing Herman Edwards, and made the trade for breakthrough player Matt Cassel. With these new moves in place, the Chiefs are looking to get back in the right direction… The only question is: How long will this rebuilding process take?

Todd Haley is going to be calling the plays on the sidelines as offensive coordinator as he fired Chan Gailey as the offensive coordinator and reassigned him to a different position in the organization. Haley likes the spread offense, but also knows he has a weapon on the ground in Larry Johnson. With the relationship with Johnson and the Chiefs somewhat simmered, expect a good mix of run and pass, as the Chiefs don’t have as many offensive weapons to work with like Haley had in Arizona. Cassel proved himself of handling the Patriots while Tom Brady was hurt, so now that he has a shot to do the same for the Chiefs, he will take advantage of the opportunity. They acquired Bobby Engram, an experienced wide receiver, who will compliment Dwayne Bowe. The offense will improve

On defense, expect a mix of schemes from defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast as he will put in 4-3 and 3-4 formations in different situations. First round draft pick Tyson Jackson will be a good compliment to Glen Dorsey on the defensive line, and with the additions of Zach Thomas and Mike Vrabel, who have something left in the tank, expect the mix of youth and experience pay off over the course of the season on defense for the Chiefs.

The Chiefs are rebuilding with a whole new regime, and it will pay off in the years to come. The formula is simple: put the tools from the Patriot Way into your system, and your franchise will get back on track. Haley’s intensity and passion could be a gift and a curse for Kansas City, especially with Larry Johnson and the strained relationship that is already existent with him and the organization. If he uses the passion wisely, it will be a easier transition, if not, it’s going to be another long season in Kansas City.

AFC West Preview- Denver Broncos

After 28 teams and seven divisions completed, we have reached the final division in our 32 team NFL Preview on TSX: The AFC West.

The AFC West was the mediocre division, and the worst in the NFL in 2008. The San Diego Chargers won the division with only a 9-7 record, and that was won on the final game of the 2008 regular season, in a flex scheduled game against the Broncos in San Diego. The Chargers won the AFC West after virtually being out of it in Week 12. The end of the season sent a lot of waves into Denver, leading to the firing of Mike Shanahan, and then Jay Cutler departs Denver after a rift with their new head coach, Josh McDaniels. The Kansas City Chiefs are in a new beginning and the Oakland Raiders are still trying to re-order their house, and by rallying around new head coach Tom Cable, who did well in the interim enough to get the head coaching job, has a short leash though.

Here’s how the AFC West will turn out

1. San Diego
2. Denver
3. Kansas City
4. Oakland

We start the AFC West in the Mile High City, with the Denver Broncos.

The Broncos have a whole new identity. Since 1995, Mike Shanahan was the head coach and general manager. He won two Super Bowls, and enjoyed a great deal of success in Denver. After the 2008 season and going 8-8, it was time for the Broncos to obtain a new identity. So Shanahan was let go from his position and he was replaced by former New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. McDaniels wanted Matt Cassel in Denver, and that made QB Jay Cutler furious. Cutler then was traded to Chicago for QB Kyle Orton and now Orton is the starting QB in Denver. The Cutler trade has created drama for Brandon Marshall, who has not been happy with the Broncos, and vice-versa.

The Patriot Way is not looking to be the Rocky Mountain Way as McDaniels brings the Patriot playbook to Denver. In Kyle Orton, he doesn’t have an elite QB, but he does stay consistent and does not make too many mistakes. If Brandon Marshall can mend fences with the Broncos, and come back to the team, he and Eddie Royal will be reliable and make Orton look better. Knowshon Moreno, the 13th pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, looks to have an immediate impact as he has speed, power, and a good set of hands out the backfield.

On defense, Robert Ayers will be a great pass rusher for the Broncos, and he was a great pickup in the NFL Draft. They signed Andra Davis from the Cleveland Browns in free agency, and Mike Nolan will be using a 3-4 defense like he used with the Baltimore Ravens and the success they had. However Nolan does not have a Ray Lewis in Denver, and it will not be as easy to recreate the success in Denver as he had in Baltimore right away.

The Broncos are going to finish in second in the division, due to the fact that they have more established players and better personnel than the Chiefs and the Raiders, but they will not finish with a winning season, as this is a year in transition. If Orton plays well and Marshall can be professional for a season, it could be a respectable season for a team going in a different direction

NFC South Preview- Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Since their Super Bowl victory in the 2002 season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have not been in championship form in the years since. With new QBs coming into former head coach Jon Gruden’s rotation every year or two and injuries, and inconsistencies led to the ultimate price: their jobs. Gruden was fired after a 9-3 start and a lead on the NFC South turned into a 9-7 finish and missing the playoffs after losing all four games in December. The Buccaneers also lost defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, who left to become the defensive coordinator of the Tennessee Volunteers led by his son, Lane. The Buccaneers have turned to Raheem Morris as their new head coach, and with a complete overhaul of the coaching staff and new players, this looks like a rebuilding period in Tampa.

The Buccaneers drafted QB Josh Freeman with the 18th pick in the NFL Draft this year, but unless he shines in the preseason, he will not be the starter, as they want to sit him out and let him learn the game. They made a big acquisition in Kellen Winslow from Cleveland, and picked up Derrick Ward from the NY Giants in free agency. Expect a QB battle between Byron Leftwich and Luke McCown for the starting job. Luke has his best chance to be a NFL Quarterback, and Leftwich is trying to get a starting job again for the first time since Jacksonville. The firing of Jeff Jagodzinski as offensive coordinator and moving Greg Olson from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator shows that they are making the right moves, and it was good to make this move before the opening kickoff on Sept. 13th.

Defensively, new defensive coordinator Jim Bates will be doing less Tampa 2 with the secondary doing most of the work, and working more with blitzing out of the 4-3. With Linebacker Barrett Ruud leading the way for the younger Buccaneers, replacing longtime Linebacker Derrick Brooks. Ruud is a leader by example, and will be a great replacement for years to come. Expect him to be flying around the field making tackles and impact on the blitz. This defense is young and will make mistakes but should get better over time and the course of the season.

The Bucs are rebuilding and this season will be a transition into the Morris era, and so far they have made the right moves personnel wise. As the players learn their coach and vice-versa, it will get better. Just don’t expect success in Tampa Bay this season as this team gets a whole new identity.

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