Archive for the ‘NFL’ Category

And thus begins another year’s NFL Playoffs.

Considering the defending champions (Baltimore Ravens) and defending NFC No. 1 seed (Atlanta Falcons) both missed the playoffs, this postseason presents big change opportunities. Saturday’s match-ups feature prime examples of such opportunities.

Kansas City Chiefs at Indianapolis Colts – Saturday Jan. 4 (4:35 PM ET)

Chiefs vs ColtsThe No. 4 vs No. 5 seed match-up may be the closest game to call. It’s no surprise then to discover a litany of parallels between the teams.

Both teams feature a starting QB that was the No. 1 overall draft pick, Alex Smith from the 2005 draft and Andrew Luck from the 2012 draft.

Both the Colts and Chiefs went from last place in the NFL to securing a wildcard spot the following year, the Colts from 2012 to 2013 and the Chiefs from 2013 to this current season.

Thanks, in part, to a disastrous AFC South Division, the Colts seemingly coasted to the division title. Such was the not the case for the Chiefs’ AFC West, which features the No. 1 seed Broncos and both the Wildcard teams (Chiefs and Chargers respectively).

Terrible division aside, the Colts certainly boasted perhaps the most impressive out-of-division record, having beaten the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos and the Chiefs themselves. In fact, the Colts held the Chiefs to a season-low seven points.

Arguments may be made that the Chiefs had already locked up a playoff spot by that point and lacked luster. However, I believe the Colts, and more specifically Andrew Luck, have proven themselves true contenders.

Ultimately this game will come down to defense and which team can win the turnover battle.

Prediction: Chiefs win 27-24.chiefs

New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles – Saturday Jan. 4th (8:10 PM ET)

Saints vs Eagles

The second Saturday game brings a sense of resurrection.

In the Saints’ case, this comes with the reinstatement of previously suspended Head Coach Sean Payton. Payton’s absence was almost unanimously understood to be the cause of the Saints’ poor season in 2012-13.

The postseason resurrection of the Philadelphia Eagles is two-fold. One, the hiring of the former Oregon Ducks’ Head Coach Chip Kelly and two, the Dallas Cowboys’ narrow throat.

The most interesting aspect of this match-up, in my opinion, is that each team’s offensive strength is the other’s defensive weakness. The Eagles own the No. 1 rushing attack in the NFL while the Saints’ rush defense ranks 19th. The Saints are the No. 2 passing team in the NFL while the Eagles rank dead last in pass defense.

I tend to give the edge to the team with the better run game in a cold atmosphere, which Philly will definitely provide. However, Drew Brees and Co. are hungry and I cannot see an NFC “Least” team with a first year starter taking down the Saints.

Prediction: Saints win 31-24 Saints

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Sunday February 3, 2013

***Baltimore Ravens vs San Francisco 49ers: 6:30 PM ET (CBS)***

Brothers John and Jim Harbaugh, head coaches of the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers, respectively, will lead their teams into Super Bowl 47 in New Orleans Feb. 3rd.

Both the Ravens and 49ers had to win on the road against the No. 1 seed, Baltimore at Denver and San Francisco at Atlanta. Both edged the top dog by less than five. Maybe more impressive is the gauntlet of quarterbacks each team has faced.

The Ravens defense has faced and stopped Andrew Luck (consensus future great), Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady. Likewise, the 49ers defense took down Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan.

Both quarterbacks, Joe Flacco and Colin Kaepernick, are playing in their first Super Bowl and have much to prove.

For Flacco, winning the Super Bowl would finally silence his critics. Even with the most road playoff wins of any NFL quarterback besides Eli Manning (tied for most), Joe has taken most all of the “Flacc” for the Ravens lack of Super Bowl visits in his 5 years at the helm. No doubt, Flacco is looking to follow Eli Manning’s pathway to respect.

For Kaepernick, winning the “Big Game” would mean “Kaep”-ping off one of the biggest success stories of the season. From day one, all eyes have been “Kaep” and Coach Harbaugh for the risky decision to replace 7-2 starter Alex Smith after he suffered a concussion. Making it to the Super Bowl alone has certainly cemented Colin as San Francisco’s man for a long time.

To answer the question of “Who will win this Super Bowl?” one must first answer another simple question: Which offense will be more successful against the other’s elite defense?

I believe the answer will be that the 49ers offense will be much more successful than the Ravens will be against the other’s “D.”

Baltimore’s offense is geared towards setting up the run, stable tight end play and airing out deep bombs when available. The 49ers defense is built to stop this exact method. With one of the best, arguably the best, “front seven” in the NFL, no team has comfortably run on the 49ers. The back end of that seven, lead by Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman are some of the best coverage line backers in the league and can hold the Ravens’ TE Dennis Pitta in check. Tony Gonzales’ numbers from last week are not indicative of what to expect as Baltimore does not have a Roddy White/Julio Jones tandem to cover as well.

The Baltimore defense, specifically its own “front seven” is also no joke. Anchored by Haloti Ngata, the Baltimore line is more than capable of stopping the run and rushing the QB with stand-out Paul Kruger, Hall-Of-Famer Ray Lewis, and beast Terrell Suggs. Fortunately, the 49ers offense has no holes, least of all in the O-Line.

Prediction: Last season, the Harbaugh brothers faced off in Baltimore, where the Niners’ offense struggled to put anything but 3 points on the board in a 16-3 disappointment. You can bet the Niners’ bolstering their offense in the postseason had a lot to do with games like this. Younger brother gets the last laugh. San Francisco wins 35-20.

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

***(2) San Francisco 49ers at (1) Atlanta Falcons: 3:00 PM ET (FOX)***

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The San Francisco 49ers put on perhaps the most impressive offensive showing against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Divisional Round, winning 45-31. Perhaps most impressive about the win, was the fact that the Packers kept it close late, tying the game 24-24 midway through the third quarter, before Colin Kaepernick led three straight touchdown drives, putting the game out of Green Bay’s reach.

The Atlanta Falcons were considered by many analysts to be the most likely home team to lose their Divisional Round matchup – and they nearly did. The Seattle Seahawks, once again, had to come back from a multiple-touchdown deficit. With 30 seconds left in the game, the Seahawks scored to go ahead 28-27. However, Matt Ryan was not about to be denied a playoff win, yet again, and led the Falcons down the field to set up Matt Bryant for the game winning, 49-yard field goal.

Prediction: The Atlanta Falcons are in for a very rude awakening. If they can keep Matt Ryan on his feet, they might only lose by 10. San Francisco wins 42-21.

***(4) Baltimore Ravens at (2) New England Patriots: 6:30 PM ET (CBS)***

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In the more thrilling of the two AFC Divisional Round games, the Baltimore Ravens beat the Denver Broncos in overtime 38-35. The Broncos were a heavy favorite due to in no small part to their 11-game win streak. The last game the Broncos had lost was to the New England Patriots, Baltimore’s upcoming opponent.

The Patriots put a 41-28 beating to the Houston Texans, reminiscent of the 42-14 destruction of Week 14. The Pats are hoping not to have another repeat this week of their matchup during the regular season with the Ravens, when they lost 31-30. Both teams have been through a lot since then and this game looks to be a real block buster.

Prediction: The Ravens lost a heart-breaker in last year’s AFC Conference Championship game to the Patriots after a dropped TD pass and a missed field goal. This year, they get their revenge. Baltimore wins 35-31.

Saturday, January 12th, 2013

***(4) Baltimore Ravens at (1) Denver Broncos: 4:30 PM ET (CBS)***

The Baltimore Ravens handled their business against the Indianapolis Colts at home Sunday afternoon, winning 24-9. With Ray Lewis spotlighted in an emotional return, after tearing his left arm triceps muscle mid-season, the Baltimore defense shined most brightly, allowing zero touchdowns and 3 field goals.
This week the Ravens travel to Denver to play perhaps the one team no one wants to face: the Broncos. Denver is well rested, enjoying a much deserved first round bye. Considering they played the Kansas City Chiefs in their season finale, they really have been off for two weeks.

Prediction: Because the Ravens played such a stellar game against the Colts, they will likely play the Broncos down to the wire. That said, Peyton Manning is Peyton Manning. Denver wins 27-21.

***(3) Green Bay Packers at (2) San Francisco 49ers: 8:00 PM ET (FOX)***

The Green Bay Packers rolled over the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field Saturday, winning 24-10. The score of this game doesn’t explain much about how it went. The Vikings put the first points on the board with an early field goal, but fell behind 17-3 by halftime. Green Bay managed just one more score in the second half, going up 24-3 in the third quarter. Minnesota capped the game with an essentially meaningless touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
Standing in the Packers way this week are the San Francisco 49ers, perhaps the remaining NFC team most feared. The 49ers beat the Packers on the road in Week 1, however, both teams are far from where they were. The “Niners” are led by a different quarterback, altogether.

Prediction: 49ers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh is under a major microscope this week, as his decision to swap Alex Smith out for Colin Kaepernick was a hot topic. If Green Bay beats San Francisco when Smith beat the Packers earlier this season…don’t check your email/texts/mailbox Jim. San Francisco wins 35-20.

Sunday, January 13th, 2013

***(5) Seattle Seahawks at (1) Atlanta Falcons: 1:00 PM ET (FOX)***

The Seattle Seahawks are the only wild card team left in the playoffs and are rolling. In Washington D.C., the Redskins went up early 14-0 in the first quarter and looked to be in control when Robert Griffin III suffered another knee injury and wasn’t the same.
The Atlanta Falcons have the NFC’s best record (13-3) but seemingly have yet to earn a consensus respect the #1 team usually commands. With an unmatched passing attack, Atlanta will put up a formidable test for Seattle’s gritty secondary.

Prediction: Seattle needs to make sure they don’t get behind to Matt Ryan or they might not escape again. That said, Seattle wins 28-24.

***(3) Houston Texans at (2) New England Patriots: 4:30 PM ET (CBS)***

In a less than stimulating opening game, the Houston Texans held off the Cincinnati Bengals 19-13 at home to slip into the divisional round and must now face the Patriots in Foxborough, MA.
The Patriots have wonderful memories of facing the Texans in Week 14 in their house to the tune of 42-14.

Prediction: Expect a similar outcome to Week 14, as the Patriots will be itching to get back to the Super Bowl. New England wins 38-17.

Sat. January 5th, 2013

***(6) Cincinnati Bengals at (3) Houston Texans: 4:30 pm ET (NBC)***

The Bengals (10-6) will travel south to Houston where they will face the Texans (12-4). This should make for an extremely interesting game. The Texans offensive strength is undoubtedly their running game, led by Pro-Bowler Arian Foster. Cincinnati’s defense is formidable and boasts the seventh best pass defense and 12th best rush defense, allowing just 107 yards rushing per game. On the flip-side, the Bengals air attack is one of the best in the league, headed by star receiver, A.J. Green. Houston’s pass defense is suspect at times, ranked 16th in the NFL.

Prediction: Look for Cincinnati to play much like their season closer against the Baltimore Ravens. Cincinnati wins 24-21.

***(6) Minnesota Vikings at (3) Green Bay Packers: 8:00 PM ET (NBC)***

The Vikings (10-6) and Packers (11-5) face off Saturday night in what may be the most exciting of the Wild Card Round match-ups for a couple reasons. One, they are heated division rivals. Two, they just played each other last week in a closely fought battle that came down to field goal as time expired. Not only did it seal the playoff spot for Minnesota, but allowed San Francisco to swipe the No. 2 seed and bye from the Packers.

Prediction: The Packers will be playing angry, revenge on their minds. Green Bay wins 31-17.

Sun. January 5th, 2013

***(5) Indianapolis Colts at (4) Baltimore Ravens: 1:00 PM ET (CBS)***

The Colts (11-5) head east to face the Ravens (10-6) in Baltimore. Behind the arm of rookie Andrew Luck, Indianapolis has been this year’s feel-good story in the league. With head coach Chuck Pegano battling and overcoming leukemia this season, the Colts have pulled out some truly inspirational victories under long odds. This week will be no different as Baltimore is favored.

Prediction: Look for Baltimore to establish the run game with Ray Rice and play tight playoff defense. Baltimore wins 31-24.

***(5) Seattle Seahawks at (4) Washington Redskins: 4:30 PM ET (FOX)***

Seattle (11-5) makes its way east to Maryland as well, only they’ll take on the Redskins (10-6), winners of the NFC East Division. If there is one team that no one wants to face, home or away, it’s the Seahawks. Seattle has been as hot as you can get over the last month. With a statement win over their in-division rival, San Francisco, Seattle has all the workings of a team that can make a Super Bowl run. Led by rookie quarterbacks, Seattle and Washington look to have bright futures in Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III, respectively.

Prediction: Seattle is trending up while Washington is in for an emotional hangover after Sunday Night’s win against Dallas. Seattle wins 28-14.

AFC NFC

The end of the 2012-13 NFL season approaches with Week 17.

With just this one week comes a litany of playoff implications, even in the AFC, with all playoff spots clinched. In the NFC, there are three teams still on the outside looking in; the Chicago Bears, the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants.

For Dallas Cowboys Fans

Dallas’ situation is the most simplistic – Win and you’re in. Lose, you go home. The Cowboys will travel to D.C., where they will face the rookie QB Robert Griffin III and his Washington Redskins.

For Washington Redskins Fans

Washington’s playoff situation has a bit more leeway than that of Dallas’.  A win for Washington also secures the NFC East Division Title and the 4th seed (cannot reach higher mathematically). However, should the Redskins lose to the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football, they are not necessarily eliminated from the playoff race. They can still clinch a playoff spot if Chicago and Minnesota both lose, as they hold the tie-breaker between potentially four 9-7 record teams; themselves, the Bears, the Vikings and the New York Giants.

For Chicago Bears Fans

Chicago’s playoff chances are not assured but also not highly unlikely. For the Bears to make the playoffs they must first beat the Detroit Lions on the road. The Vikings also need to lose to Green Bay at home, which, according to ESPN’s “Accuscore,” is not an impossibility with the Packers a 67% favorite to win.

For Minnesota Vikings Fans

Minnesota’s playoff destiny is in its own hands, to speak proverbially. If they beat the Packers, they secure the 6th seed in the playoffs. If they lose that game, they need the Bears, Cowboys, and Giants to lose as well (In essence, leaving the standings identical). A Vikings win closes the door on any playoff hopes of both Chicago and New York.

For New York Giants Fans

New York is most certainly in the most dire of the NFC playoff race situations. The Giants not only most win their season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles, but must also have the Vikings, Cowboys and Bears all lose their finale games.

Among the teams in the NFC that have already clinched their spots in the playoffs, some outcomes may affect the seeding.

For Atlanta Falcons Fans 

The #1 spot is locked and assured for the Falcons. Notwithstanding their dominance this year, Atlanta has received criticism for its lack of success in the playoffs, losing in the first round of all three of its last berths since 2008.

For Green Bay Packers Fans

Green Bay currently holds the #2 seed and will retain it with a win. A loss to the Vikings may result in trading the #2 seed for San Francisco’s #3 seed, should the 49ers beat the Cardinals at home. The Packers will concede the #2 to the Seattle Seahawks if both Green Bay and San Francisco lose and Seattle wins, claiming the NFC West Title and tie-breaker with a head-to-head victory in the “Fail-Mary” game against Green Bay. The Packers cannot fall lower than the #3 seed, secured with a first round home field advantage at-worst.

For San Francisco 49ers Fans

San Francisco has the same luxury of an assured first round home field advantage at-worst if they beat the Arizona Cardinals at Candlestick Park Sunday. Should the Packers lose, a Niners victory secures a #2 seed and first round bye along with the NFC West Division Title. If the 49ers lose to the Cardinals and the Seahawks beat the Rams, San Francisco will lose the NFC West to Seattle and snag the #5 seed. They’d then have to play either Green Bay, Seattle, Washington or Dallas, on the road in the “wildcard round.”

For Seattle Seahawks Fans

Seattle is assured at least the #5 seed but stands to move up to as high as #2 with help. If Seattle wins and San Francisco loses, the NFC West division title will belong to the Seahawks, as well as home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs. If Green Bay also loses in the previous scenario, Seattle holds the tie-breaker over Green Bay for the #2 seed and first round bye.

All the AFC playoff spots are secured, however, there still exist situations where movements in seeding can occur.

For Houston Texans/Denver Broncos/New England Patriots/Baltimore Ravens Fans

Because Houston and Denver have identical 12-3 records they hold the #1 and #2 seeds, respectively (Houston beating Denver gives them the tie-breaker). Should Houston beat Indianapolis on the road Sunday, they will lock up #1. Should they lose and Denver wins, the Broncos will take the #1 spot. If New England wins along with Denver, a Texans loss drops them to the #3 spot and gives the #1 and #2 seeds to Denver and New England respectively. If the Patriots win and the Broncos lose, the Patriots will take the #2 seed from the Broncos, as they own the head-to-head tie-breaker. If both the Texans and the Broncos lose, a Patriots win gives them the #1 seed, leaving Houston and Denver at #2 and #3 respectively. If New England loses and Baltimore Ravens win, the Ravens will move up to the #3 seed and the Pats fall to #4.

For Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals Fans

Indianapolis and Cincinnati have the #5 and #6 seeds locked up respectively.

 

AFC-North

For the last decade the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers have been top dogs, winning the division championship eight of the last ten years between the two.

The Steelers have definitely seen the most success, winning the Super Bowl in the 2005-06 and 2008-09 seasons. Most recently, the Steelers reached the Super Bowl in 2010-11 season, losing to the Green Bay Packers.

Before Week 14 of this season, the Ravens sat in first place in the division with a 9-4 record. Trailing them were the Cincinnati Bengals and the Steelers, both with 7-6 records and both in the wild card race.

The Bengals played the Philadelphia Eagles in the Thursday Night Football game. Cincinnati won handily 34-13, narrowing the gap with the Ravens and putting pressure on both Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

The Ravens hosted the Denver Broncos with a chance to clinch the division title. Denver had other plans, beating the Ravens soundly in front of the home crowd 34-17.

With “Big Ben” Roethlisberger back in the lineup after being out three weeks due to injury, the Steelers went on the road to play the surging Dallas Cowboys at “Jerry World.” No doubt Pittsburgh looked at this as a must-win game. Dallas, being in their own tight division race, had other ideas.

After a back and forth battle, the game went to overtime. The Steelers won the coin toss and looked to be in control, but on only the second play of the OT period, Big Ben threw an interception to Brandon Carr, which he returned to the Steelers one-yard line. A chip shot field goal by Cowboys Kicker Dan Bailey sealed the victory for Dallas and sent the Steelers home one game behind the Bengals in the Wild Card race and two games behind the Ravens in the division race.

The good news for the Steelers is that they have the easier schedule between the three to finish the year, hosting Cincinnati and then Cleveland. Cincinnati, after travelling to Pittsburgh, must then play the Ravens. Assuming the Steelers beat the Bengals next week, they will own the tie breaker over the Bengals should they finish with identical records. With the Indianapolis Colts sitting in the fifth spot with a 9-5 record, the sixth will have to be either the Steelers or Bengals, as all other AFC teams below them have losing records and cannot make the playoffs.

In any case, it looks as though the AFC North race will end dramatically.

SAN FRANCISCO – With the “What have you done for me lately?” attitude found everywhere throughout the sports world, there are numerous occasions when single game performances, good and bad, are blown way out of proportion. At the root of such occasions a common theme can be found – expectations. Perhaps no quarterback in the NFL has to fight lower expectations than Alex Smith.

This has never been more evident than after the 49ers beat the Seattle Seahawks 13-6 in the week seven, “Thursday Night Football” game in Candlestick Park on October 18, 2012.

Smith did not play his best game of this season by far. He completed 14 of 23 passes for 140 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Very mediocre numbers by NFL quarterback standards. The reaction to Smith’s performance, however, was not standard for this type of performance.

Rewind to just after week five – Alex Smith and the 49ers were coming off of the most lopsided victory of the 2012 season, beating the Buffalo Bills 45-3. In fact, of all 92 NFL games played this season, the 49ers own two of the three largest margins of victory (34-0 over the New York Jets ranks third).

Going into the highly anticipated week six match-up against the 2012 Super Bowl Champion New York Giants, Smith was receiving praise, not for “managing” football games, as was the case during the 2011-’12 season, but as a true leader and veteran capable of leading the 49ers to a Super Bowl victory in 2013. A poor outing by Smith put an end to that.

Smith threw three interceptions in a 26-3 defeat at the hands of the Giants and once again, murmurings of Smith’s inabilities resurfaced.

Pregame analysis for the Seahawks match-up was littered with doubts of Smith’s capability to get the Niners to the “promised land.” Anything less than a perfect game against Seattle was predestined to attract scorn from the naysayers, chomping at the bit to compare Smith in a bad light to the Aaron Rodgers and Tom Bradys of the league. But is that fair?

Let’s do that comparison using concrete facts. Luckily for us, both Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady have faced the Seattle Seahawks this season (the Patriots just the week before the 49ers), so it shouldn’t be difficult.

Here are the passing stats:

Alex Smith – (14/23) 140 yards 1 TD 1 INT

Aaron Rodgers – (26/39) 223 yards 0 TD 0 INT

Tom Brady – (36/58) 395 yards 2 TD 2 INT

Looking at the stat lines, all three QBs completed over sixty percent of their passes (Rodgers – 66.7%, Brady – 62.1%, Smith – 60.9%) and each threw an equal number of touchdowns to interceptions. Smith ranks right between the two, throwing for more TDs than Rodgers yet less INTs than Brady.

Smith out-shined both Rodgers and Brady in his touchdown passes per completion percentage (Smith – 7%, Brady – 2.7%, Rodgers – 0%). He also finished between the former MVPs in yards per attempt (Brady – 6.8 yards/att., Smith – 6.1 yards/att., Rodgers – 5.7 yards/att.).

The glaring hypocrisy of the whole mess is that the Patriots and the Packers both lost to the Seahawks, whereas, the 49ers won. The story line after the Packers’ loss was the terrible call that gave Seattle the victory over Green Bay. After the Patriots’ loss it was how great a comeback the Seahawks mounted over the Pats, once again winning on a last second pass play.

Neither Tom Brady nor Aaron Rodgers received even a tenth of the criticism that Smith received, even though Smith compares not only similarly, but in some areas more favorably than both Brady and Rodgers. Why?

Expectations – and it’s about time they changed.

Smith ranks tenth in the NFL in Total QBR (quarterback rating) this season. He ranks ahead of Aaron Rodgers, Joe Flacco, Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford, Michael Vick, Jay Cutler, Tony Romo, Phillip Rivers and 14 other starters.

Smith has the highest Total QBR in a single game this season (99.2 on a 100 scale). This game is also the fifth highest rating of any quarterback in any game since 2008.

It’s time again for another edition of Estrogen Corner.

With me again is the lovely, brilliant and, obviously, female Rebecca Roberts.

Rebecca has joined me in the past to talk about the Broncos during their time of struggle with Josh McDaniels and first starting Tim Tebow.

To gain a different prospective on Super Bowl LXVI, I caught up with Rebecca and had a one on one Q&A.

Dan Condie – Between the Patriots and Giants, what will be the determining factor in the game tomorrow?

Rebecca Roberts – Defense, all the way. We already know that (Eli) Manning and (Tom) Brady are both stand out quarterbacks who have some big targets. Gronk (Rob Gronkowski), (Wes) Welker, (Victor) Cruz, (Hakeem) Nicks etc.. So the question will be which defense can show up and stop the big gains?

DC – What role will Gronkowski play if the ankle is around 70%, like most analysts anticipate?

RR – He is a beast and if his ankle is 70%, it might as well be 100%. He will, without a doubt, play and he will be a major factor for the Patriots. I would say he contributes two to three touchdowns.

DC – If Eli is able to pull off the victory, how much will it do for his reputation as an elite QB?

RR – I think, unfortunately, it will cement him as one of the greats. But I don’t think it will be deserved. Yes, he is a great QB, but look at the teams he has had surrounding him this year and when he won the 2008 Super Bowl. And, let’s not forget the freak Tyree catch. So, does he deserve to be recognized as a great QB? Yes, but will he deserve all the hype and deserve being called greater than Peyton (Manning)? Um, no.

DC – If Tom Brady can win Super Bowl LXVI in convincing fashion, where does he rank among the all-time great NFL quarterbacks?

RR – Ugh, I want to hate Tom Brady, I really do. But, if he wins this game, in my mind, he will be one of the top 10 greatest.

DC – Top 10?! Who do you feel are the top 5 QB’s in NFL history?

RR – (John) Elway, (Joe) Montana, (Dan) Marino, (Steve) Young and, gag me, I’ll never admit this again, (Brett) Favre.

DC – (laughing) Okay. On a closer note, how do you feel about the Tim Tebow situation going forward in Denver?

RR – I think everyone knows I was one of the biggest Tebow doubters of all time. However, I am a huge Broncos fan and was totally stoked with the way our season ended. I did get very annoyed that no one was talking about our incredible defense and was giving Tebow all the credit, though.

I am anxious to see Tebow after he actually has an off-season and (John) Elway has been able to work with him. Am I convinced he was the chosen one and is the answer to our problems? No. But I am excited about the progress he made and hope he continues to improve.

DC – How would you feel if Denver were to make a move to pick up a veteran QB in the off-season? Say, Peyton Manning?

RR – That is a tough one. Obviously, no one is going to complain if Peyton Manning is their team’s QB. However, I am looking for a team that can be great for the next ten years, not just have one great season with a QB who is on his way out. I would almost prefer them to make some moves and get a younger talent that can develop into the next big thing and be a franchise player.

DC – Do you think there is a QB in this year’s draft below Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III that would fill that need?

RR – I think Luck could be over time but he won’t come out and be an all-time great right away. He needs to not be so anxious to win right away and take a cue from (Aaron) Rodgers and sit back. Learn the game and give it time.

DC – Do you see the Broncos as the “cream” of the AFC West going forward? Did Denver luck out with Kansas City injuries?

RR – Denver lucked out with Kansas City and Oakland injuries and also with Phillip Rivers pulling a Max Hall and forgetting which team he was supposed to throw to. I don’t think Denver is the cream of the crop, but I think they are definitely a team to be feared moving forward.

DC – Okay, in closing, who do you like in Super Bowl LXVI? Score prediction?

RR – Like I said, it will be a defensive battle and I believe the Giants will be too much for the Patriots’ defense to handle. Giants 24-21 over New England.

DC – Thank you. As always, you know your stuff.

New England Patriots at Washington Redskins 08...

Image via Wikipedia

The New England Patriots will face the New York Giants February 5, 2012 in Super Bowl XLVI.

Tom Brady leads the Patriots into their 7th Super Bowl in franchise history (5th in the last decade). Brady was the Patriots starting quarterback in the previous four “big dances” with a dramatic loss to Eli Manning and the New York Giants in 2008 being his most recent.

Eli Manning leads the Giants to their 5th Super Bowl all time and 3rd since 2001. The Giants pulled off what many believe to be possibly the biggest upset in NFL history when they beat the 18-0 New England Patriots just four years earlier in Super Bowl XLII.

It seemed this season the final four teams remaining in the playoffs weren’t there to mess around. Both conference championships were hotly contested to the last blow of the whistle. The “Pats” and “G-men” won their respective Conference Championship games by three points (Patriots 23-20 over the Baltimore Ravens and Giants 20-17 over the San Francisco 49ers).

Interestingly enough, the number three seems to be a very significant number for the Tom Brady.

All four Super Bowl’s Brady has played in have been decided by three points (20-17, 32-29, 24-21, 14-17).

Three is also the number of Super Bowl rings Brady dons. Surely Brady has plans of changing that number to four.

The key to this game is going to be the New England defense. The New York Giants’ defense has been playing lock down defense the last 6 games and the New England offense is as dangerous as any New York has faced, including the Green Bay Packers.

Eli Manning during a 2007 training camp

Image via Wikipedia

However, with the emergence of Victor Cruz the second half of this season, I would argue the Giants’ offense stands just as much chance of breaking a game open as the Patriots. Thus, the New England defense must have all hands on deck February 5th because they are far from the caliber defense the 49ers field.

The Giants are the best team in the NFL at getting pressure on a quarterback with just the front four. Alex Smith found that out in the NFC Championship game, being flushed from the pocket play after play.

Because of how well the Giants have played as a complete team the last 7 games, I like their chances of winning this 2008 rematch.

Prediction: Giants 27 Patriots 24