With one major exception, the first round of NFL playoff games this past weekend were far from exciting. Three of the contests were blowouts, but the game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Denver Broncos was probably the most exciting game in playoff history, and it featured the first overtime game under the NFL’s new overtime rules.
Recap of the Wild Card Round
OK, some of the games were good in the early going, but as the games went on, they became a little lopsided.
Texans 31, Bengals 10
The streak continues for the Cincinnati Bengals. They suffered another loss in the playoffs. The Bengals played the Houston Texans, and they looked good in the first half untilHoustonrookie defensive lineman J.J. Watt intercepted the ball and returned it for a touchdown with 52 seconds left in the half. But the Bengals have a lot of young talent on their roster so look for them to be back in the playoffs soon.
Saints 45, Lions 28
The next game was the Detroit Lions and the New Orleans Saints, and it was another example of a good game until halftime. With the score at 14-10 in favor of the Lions, Saints’ QB Drew Brees really got going. He came out with two touchdowns in the third quarter and then a 56-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. A lot of records were tied or broken in that game, including the most touchdowns in a playoff game and most yards of offense combined in a playoff game.
Giants 24, Falcons 2
The first game on Sunday was the Atlanta Falcons at the New York Giants, and it looked like it would be a good game, but then once again after halftime the Giants just started lighting up the Falcons. The Falcons defense was very good in the first half, holding the Giants to just 7 points. Also the Falcons defense got a safety because of their hardcore playing ability. But after halftime, the Falcons must have stayed in the locker room because they were blanked the rest of the game. The Falcons were 0-3 on fourth-down conversions that were inside the Giants’ 25-yard line. The Falcons’ QB Matt Ryan (“Matty Ice”) apparently just wasn’t in the mood to try to get his first playoff victory. (He’s 0-3 after Sunday’s game). The Falcons’ roster has so many players who haven’t won a playoff game but have been in so many. These players include Tony Gonzalez, Matt Ryan, Roddy White and Michael Turner.
Broncos 29, Steelers, 23
The final game of the weekend – the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Denver Broncos – was worth the wait. OK, the game was very lopsided once again in the first half, but after halftime it got exciting. (Wow, I think there’s a pattern going on here ….) At the half, it was Pittsburgh 6 (with all points being scored in the first quarter) and Denver 20 (with all points in the second quarter).
Then the fun really began. The Steelers held the Broncos to just 3 points in the entire second half, and the Steelers scored 17 points in the second half. I guess something clicked in Big Ben Roethlisberger’s mind after halftime because he seemed to play with a little more hop in his step, rushing for 15 yards on three attempts. Fifteen yards isn’t a lot if you’re a quarterback like Michael Vick or Cam Newton. But that’s a lot for a big quarterback who normally doesn’t run. But Roethlisberger stood up in his “ankle injury” and played good football.
The Steelers did force overtime, but it didn’t take long for the Broncos to win the game. On the first play from scrimmage, the Broncos quarterback, Tim Tebow, threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to wider receiver Demaryius Thomas, and the game came to a swift and dramatic conclusion.
Round 2 of the Playoffs (Divisional Round)
The games this weekend are going to be a high-scoring spectacular, a low-scoring event, or maybe another overtime thriller. But whatever the outcome is, I know each game will each be special in its own way. I just hope that halftime won’t spell out disaster for a team again.
The first game, which is on Saturday at 4:30 p.m., is a battle between the team that averaged the most points a game on offense (New Orleans Saints) against a team that allowed hardly any points as a defense (San Francisco 49ers). I expect a high-scoring game and maybe even an overtime finish.
The second game, which takes place at 8 p.m. Saturday, is between the Denver Broncos at the New England Patriots. If the Broncos do to the Patriots what they did to the Steelers, they’ll beat the Patriots, because the Patriots have the worst defense in the NFL this season.
The third game is between the Houston Texans and the Baltimore Ravens. The game is on Sunday at 1 p.m. The Texans are on a roll; not only did they basically shut out the Bengals last week, but they’re also looking to go all the way in their first-ever post-season run.
The final game is between the New York Giants at the Green Bay Packers Sunday afternoon at 4:30. When these two played earlier this year, the Packers scored the game- winning field goal as time expired to win 38-35.
My winning picks
Well, I went 2-2 in the opening round of the playoffs. But I am going to go 4-0 this weekend. My winning picks are in red, and I’m even taking a crack at predicting the scores.
New Orleans – 35 @ San Francisco 49ers – 48
Denver Broncos – 35 @ New England Patriots – 28
Houston Texans – 14 @ Baltimore Ravens – 20
New York Giants – 35 @ Green Bay Packers – 38