Friday, 13 January 2012

NFL Notes: 2011 NFC Wild Card Round


A disappointing performance from the Atlanta offence. Failing to score in the first round of the playoffs is not what they had in mind when they traded up to select Julio Jones in last years darft. Atlanta punet Matt Bosher averaged close to 50 yards a punt in the first half but the defence could only hold out for so long. The story of the Falcon's season is the failure to convert on fourth-and-one. They had two key efforts here and were stuffed both times on QB sneaks. I would not be impressed with the Atlanta Offensive Co-ordinator this season given the talent they had but Jacksonville obviously saw something

The Giants are still using their Super Bowl 42 game plan but now with their defensive line horses fit and Brandon Jacobs looking really good, he had 92 yards on 14 carries,  it is starting to work again. The big problem next weekend is that, unlike Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers can run from pressure. In this article I said I would start using the coins in the pocket analogy and here we go: I am astounded by how many Giants fans have come to the same conclusion about this weekend's game. Apparently both teams have spectacular offences but the giants are running the ball well and their defensive line is playing at a high level. Ergo the Giants* will win.

* A bit weird but I wrote the joints there the first time no capitalization - the Ney York Football joints.

Of Note:
- The last three Falcons' opponents have gone on to the Superbowl so there failure to win a playoff game is not as disappointing as it looks at first.

What The Loser Needs: Redo the off-season and sign Darren Sproles, who could have been a key player for them on short downs. It must be particularly galling that he ended up at division rivals New Orleans. It is going to be a key off-season for the Falcons. They have a long list of free agents, particularly on defence. John Abraham, Curtis Lofton, and Brent Grimes are among the best available at their line of defence. They are on the cusp of being a rebuilding team and when you consider Matt Ryan as a dome player, the offensive talent he has played with, and the era he has played in then he does not have an impressive resume. Would they be brave enough to use him as trade bait to go get one of the two highly-touted QB's* in this draft?

* Obviously the Colts would have to be a three-team trade.


one of the more interesting finishes from a gamblking perspectiveThis game was more interesting from two perspectives the NFL is not trying to push: bad officiating and betting. To the former first, there was an inadvertent whistle on a fumble that the Lions would have scored from making it 20-7. Instead they were wrongly given the ball and went 3-and-out. The Saints scored on their next drive to get the score back to 14-10, the half-time score.

From a betting perspective the over was set at a historic 59.5. It was looking dicey at half time but New Orleans scored touchdowns on all five meaningful posessions in the second half and they Brees'd passed the total. The New Orleans offence was outstanding and set a play-off record with 626 yards on offence.

The spread for the game was set at 10.5 points. New Orleans scored with 9:53 remaining in the fourth quarter to make it 31-21. Stafford was intercepted on the first play of the next Lions' drive and it took the Saints only four plays to cover the 61 yards necessary for a touchdown. The Saints now led by 17 but the back-door cover loomed large. The Lions the took 9 plays to cover 79 yards - 38-28, Lions by half a point. The Saints recovered an onside kick and again took only 4 plays to score a touchdown. Stafford was left with almost four minutes to drive the length of the field for the cover. Alas, the magic was over, he was intercepted on the second play and (hickory-dickory-doc) the Saints ran out the clock.

What The Loser Needs: It is tempting to say defence and lots of it. Many people may even predict a Texans-like draft where their first five picks were on defence. However the offensive line needs improvement and they don't have a viable running back. I see them drafting between those positions as they continue to build from within.

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