NFL Divisional Playoff Picture

NFL Divisional Playoffs

Wild Card Recap

Last week the NFL Wild Card games were played. The Houston Texans defeated the Cincinnati Bengals in a low scoring matchup resulting in a final score of 19-13. The Green Bay Packers defeated the Minnesota Vikings by two touchdowns for a final score of 24-10. The Seattle Seahawks defeated the Washington Redskins by a final score of 24-14 and, in a highly anticipated matchup, the Baltimore Ravens defeated the Indianapolis Colts with a convincing 24-9 victory. For the Ravens game in particular, the anticipation was not because it was playoffs or that the teams matched well. Instead, the excitement surrounding the game was a result of an announcement that came in the days leading up to the game.

Ray Lewis Announces Retirement

Ray Lewis is perhaps one of the most valuable defensive players of all time. As linebacker, Lewis has played in 17 NFL seasons – all as a Baltimore Raven. Although he does not pay close attention nor concern himself too much with his own individual stats, they are impossible to ignore. Drafted first round in 1996, Lewis eventually went on to help his team win Super Bowl XXXV, earning the MVP award for the game. In addition to that one standout accomplishment, Lewis notably racked up over fifteen hundred solo tackles, 19 forced fumbles, over 40 sacks and 31 interceptions, which resulted in greater than 300 return yards and three touchdowns. There is no doubt that Lewis earned his paycheck each and every game he stepped out on the field and his pick as Defensive Player of the Year, twice.

Incredibly, while perfecting his own game, Lewis also served as a role model and leader for his teammates – playing an important role in their development, also helping them become better athletes, mentally tough and emotionally & physically prepared for each game. His leadership qualities surely were considered when selected for the Pro Bowl more than a dozen times and when named seven-time First-Team All-Pro.

After returning from an injury related absence this season, Lewis announced at the close of the regular season that he would not be returning for the following season. While the news came abruptly and seemingly prematurely, Lewis’ explanation for the timing of his announcement actually made perfect sense. To put it simply, Lewis eluded to the fact that he has had a great NFL career, has done as much as he could in the league, and his calling is now to be with his family – a supporting father to his kids. As for the timing of his announcement, he decided that the fans that have supported him for 17 years deserved to know what was going on so that when they came to the games they had full awareness of what was at stake. From a stakeholder perspective, it actually might have been one of the classiest decisions ever made by an NFL player. The idea that fans now know that this is their last opportunity to see Ray Lewis play definitely inhibits anyone from feeling cheated by an announcement following the end of the playoff season. It also eliminates any speculation that the announcement is merely a media stunt to capture more attention. Analyzed from every angle, the more you ponder Lewis’ decision, the more it makes perfect sense and, undoubtedly, the more you can’t help but feel a little bit compelled to root for the Ravens, just because Lewis is a likable guy and wildly entertaining on the field.

Divisional Playoff Scenarios

• Baltimore Ravens vs Denver Broncos

The Baltimore Ravens take on the Denver Broncos on Saturday 1/12 at 4:30pm. What a story it would be if the Raven’s advanced and went on to win the Super Bowl the year Ray Lewis announced his retirement heading into playoffs. One thing is for sure, the stage is set for the Raven’s to capture the spotlight and, having made it beyond round 1, all eyes will be this game. While having little to do with the actual play of the game, the emotional matchup here is Lewis’ retirement vs Peyton Manning’s return. It’s interesting to see which headline will turn more heads and capture more hearts as the world decides who they will root for in this game. It seems logical that the player leaving will have the edge and perhaps steal the victory since, more often than not, the player representing the uniform for the potential last time tends to play harder and generate a stronger reaction from teammates than the guy that has staged a comeback. All statistical odds aside, the winning team ought to be the one playing with more heart that day. If I were a gambling man, I’d put my money on Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens.

• Green Bay Packers vs San Francisco 49ers

This game between the Green Bay Packeres and the San Francisco 49ers kicks off at 8pm on Saturday and is destined to be a great matchup as both Aaron Rodgers, of the Packers, and Colin Kaepernick, of the 49ers, are definitive threats in the passing game. The game is anticipated to be a shootout, however, the team that masters the running game will likely come out on top. Experienced running back, Frank Gore, will lead the charge for the 49ers while quarterback, Kaepernick, will likely be the difference maker if he can successfully advance the ground game through a few carries himself. The 49ers aren’t at full strength on defense though and leave room for Green Bay Packers quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, to exploit the secondary. However, there are a few holes in Green Bay’s game as well and it’ll be up to the Niners defense to do their job in finding them in order for the team to come out on top.

• Seattle Seahawks vs Atlanta Falcons

The Seattle Seahawks face off against the Atlanta Falcons at 1pm on Sunday afternoon. Matt Ryan leads the charge for the Falcons in a game that they are favored in by analysts heading into the weekend. The Falcons are desperate for a playoff win and despite the Seahawks excellent running back, Marshawn Lynch, this playoff matchup is slated to be the first playoff game win for the Falcons in, what will be, their fourth attempt.

• Houston Texans vs New England Patriots

In the last matchup of the weekend, the Houston Texans take on the New England Patriots on Sunday afternoon at 4:30pm. Similar to the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers game, the Texans / Patriots matchup is likely to be decided by the quarterbacks. Veteran Tom Brady will be poised and on target as he most always is. It’ll be up to the relatively inexperienced Matt Schaub to hold his own if he hopes to keep the Texans afloat come Sunday. The New York Giants have notably knocked off the Patriots in Super Bowl matchups, including one instance when the Patriots were playing perfect football. They found success in the attack, drawing up an aggressive offensive strike while apply constant pressure to the typically patient Tom Brady. Houston will have to apply the same strategy if they hope to beat New England. Therefore, look for the Texans to come out swinging with big offensive plays and a highly aggressive defense. As long as they can consistently get close to Tom Brady and move him out of the pocket, they will be sure to increase their odds of victory. However, relentless pressure on the quarterback will leave them susceptible to the deep threat if they cannot get hands in Brady’s face. They will have to be in position to make contact with Brady within a 3-5 second count if they don’t want to get burned for extra yardage. The Texans should also hope that their defensive linemen and linebackers are in top-notch shape in order to maintain the stamina they will need to keep that kind of pass rush active for the entire duration of the game. If they tucker out with 15 minutes to go, Brady will be sure to capitalize and no lead is safe at that point.

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Top Five Scariest Players in the NFL Right Now

No matter how old Ray Lewis is he'll still scare and intimidate any NFL player.

You counted your candy and you took off your costume as Halloween is now officially over until next year, but what if I were to tell you that five NFL players rather it’s Halloween or not will still scare the socks right off of you. So without any introduction, here are the five scariest players in the NFL right now.

5. Tom Brady- Six time Pro Bowler, three time Super Bowl Champion, and two time M.V.P. Tom Brady is by far one of the most feared quarterbacks in the game. Not only is his presence of what he’s capable of doing scary enough but his emotion and horrific glare that he shows to the opposing team as it seems as if nothing can stop him or intimidate him in any way makes him clearly one of the most feared players to play against when his team shows up on the schedule.

4. Darrelle Revis- If it’s not scary enough for you that Darralle Revis has his own “island” as people call it because when he plays against opposing wide receivers he takes them completely out of the game, isn’t scary enough for you then I don’t know what is. Andre Johnson, Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco, Reggie Wayne, Vincent Jackson, Randy Moss, Steve Smith, Roddy White, Marques Closton, all just few of the players that Revis has shutdown in his career and has made them almost invisible when they went up against him. He’s the best and he shows no signs of letting up as each game ends in the same story and the same result of teams not throwing the ball to his side as they fear that he’ll intercept it, swat it down, or even worse return it for a touchdown.

3.Calvin Johnson- Nicknamed “Megatron” from the character from Transformers due to his rare combination of size, hands, speed, strength, leaping ability, body control and hand–eye coordination Calvin Johnson is hands down the best wide receiver in the NFL. Currently third in receiving yards at 804 behind Carolina Steve Smith (918) and New England Wes Welker (824) and leading every receiver and running back in touchdowns with 11, Calvin Johnson is proving to everybody and everyone that he’s clearly the leagues best. Rather it’s a streak route, zig zag, double team, triple team, or a jump ball, just throw the ball in his area and chances are number 81, Calvin Johnon is coming down with it.

2. Ndamukong Suh- Ndamukong Suh makes quarterbacks, running backs, and offensive lineman cringe in fear when they see him lined up against them. They cringe in fear because not only will he just get by you or tackle you but he may even hurt you and the best part about it, is that he doesn’t care…not one bit. With complaint after complaint and comment after comment from all various players that Suh plays to hard and that he hurts players on purpose says it right there alone, that he’s a scary player. But when a player says and thinks that he’s not even human, that’s even scarier; “I’m just a different breed. I hate to say that, but it’s kind of like, no athlete in the NFL is like any other person. You can’t treat everybody the same exact way,” Suh told ESPN.

1. Ray Lewis- Ray Lewis lives, breathes, and eats football. It’s everything to him and his 12 time Pro Bowl appearances, two time defensive player of the year awards, and his Super Bowl ring shows that. Though he doesn’t care about all of those luxuries as he only cares about one thing; winning and he’ll do anything to get it even if that involves tackling his own mother to win it will happen and he doesn’t care about what you think, the opposing team thinks, or I what I think. He’ll hit you, he’ll abuse you, he’ll make you cry, and he’ll scare you. From the pre-game dance, to the leader in the huddle, to the rest of the yelling and screaming, Ray Lewis even at age 36 is still the most feared player in the NFL.

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Will The Madden Curse Strike Again This Year?

What will it be this year? Or will it be nothing?

Its official Peyton Hillis, running back of the Cleveland Browns will be this year’s cover boy for EA Sports Madden 12. A great honor that comes with one very horrific perk; known to most as the “Madden Curse.”

The Madden Curse usually consists of an injury which may last a few games and then go away or may turn into a season ending injury. However sometimes it doesn’t end there as that injury may turn into another injury the next season or maybe even a career ending injury.

Though last years cover boy Drew Brees, quarterback of the New Orleans Saints survived the Madden Curse but still managed to get injured. Though it wasn’t as severe, Brees played with a low grade MCL sprain for most of the season.

Does that mean that the curse that petrifies players and ruins team’s seasons is finally over? Or was the curse just taking a break? Who knows?  In the meantime let’s have a quick history lesson.

2011, Drew Brees: Brees played in every single game, however played with a low grade MCL sprain, then they were upset by the Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs.

2010, Troy Polamalu/Larry Fitzgerald: Polamalu only played five games due to reoccurring knee injuries, Steelers go 9-7 and just miss the playoffs. As for Fitzgerald, he wasn’t affected much, 97 receptions, 1,092 yards, 13 TD, and made the Pro Bowl.

2009, Brett Favre: Comes out of retirement, fights with the Packers management, then traded to the Jets, starts off hot but then goes horrible down the stretch as the Jets lost 4 of last 5 games.

2008, Vince Young: Missed 1 game with quad injury; led the Titans to their first playoff appearance in four years.

2007, Shaun Alexander: Fractures his foot then goes onto miss six games; less yards and Touchdowns in 2006 and 2007 then what he had the previous seasons in 2004 and 2005.

2006, Donovan McNabb: Gets a sports hernia in the first game of the season, goes onto miss seven games; fights with Terrell Owens all year long; then after making it to five straight pro bowls, McNabb not only misses it that year, but hasn’t been to one since.

2005, Ray Lewis: Breaks his wrist, however only misses one game; has his first season without an interception; misses 10 games next year with thigh injury.

2004, Michael Vick: Fractured his fibula one day after Madden was released, he would miss 11 games; Pro Bowl next 2 seasons; then had off the field issues and was sent to jail.

2003, Marshall Faulk: Hurts his ankle and misses two games, and never rushed for 1,000 yards again.

2002, Daunte Culpepper: 4-7 record to start the season then injures his knee ending his season.

2001, Eddie George: Has a career season, but then in the playoffs he fumbles as top-seeded Titans lost in the first round to the Ravens.

2000, Barry Sanders: Retired one week before training camp.

So what will the curse be this year? A bad season for the Cleveland Browns? (Not like they haven’t had that happen before). An injury? Could happen, but how long would it last? How serious would it be? All questions, that will eventually be answered whenever wherever by the glorious, famous, Madden Curse.

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