Posted 01/16/2012 at 04:19 PM
While the best game of the weekend was the Saints/49ers NFC tilt that featured four lead changes in just over four minutes to close the game, the biggest story was the collapse of the 15-1 Packers on the other side of the NFC bracket. While Green Bay had offered plenty of red flags with its ridiculously favorable turnover margin and the worst statistical defense in the NFL while allowing more passing yards than any team in NFL history, no one thought it would be the offense that would let them down. Likely MVP Aaron Rodgers missed some throws and had two turnovers but he was let down by several drops from his receiving corps and costly fumbles from his running backs. With some pressure from the Giants and playing without a lead for one of the few times this season, Rodgers and the Packers looked rather average. What looked like it might be a dynasty after last year’s Super Bowl run appears likely to go down as just a one year wonder of a hot team that got on a roll in the playoffs to win a title even though this was the dominant team of the regular season.
Maligned QB Alex Smith came though with the game of his life, featuring great numbers and two late fourth quarter comeback drives to at least gain a bit more credibility. The other QB with major question marks was Joe Flacco, and while the Ravens won and he avoided big mistakes, he didn’t exactly build much confidence among Ravens fans. Flacco has a winning playoff record but his numbers are quite poor. The big win for Baltimore in New England in the playoff two years ago will be talked about a lot this week. It may not be mentioned that Flacco had 34 yards passing and a 10.0 QB Rating in that game. That was the worst playoff game of Tom Brady’s career as he had three interceptions and passed for just 154 yards in the 33-14 loss that was out of hand quickly.
The magical run for Tim Tebow came to a sharp halt as the Patriots stormed out to a quick lead and never looked back. The decision to defer after winning the coin flip certainly will be viewed in hindsight as a mistake as for Denver to have a chance they needed to set the tone of the game early as slow down grind. It may not have mattered as the game was out of reach early. While the Tebow offense had its moments this season it is not well suited to play from behind. The off-season moves for the Broncos will be heavily scrutinized and from an organizational and financial standpoint they are in situation where they need to go with it another year even if John Elway and John Fox have doubts.
While it was the best season in franchise history for Houston the team has to wonder what could have been. T. J. Yates did a lot of good things but ultimately was overwhelmed into some key mistakes last week against Baltimore. With veteran Matt Schaub healthy, the Texans certainly could have had a better shot and probably would have been in a more favorable seed and might have been playing at home after a bye week. With Jacksonville and Indianapolis in transition the Texans should be a team to watch next year.
Drew Brees and the Saints figure to have a few more years as an elite team but with the Panthers emerging as a serious threat and the Falcons still in the NFC South it will be tough for New Orleans to be a top seed and earn home field in the playoffs, something that appears to be critical to the success of the team after another early flame out on the road.
With the Packers and Saints out of the picture, New England is the heavy favorite to win the Super Bowl at even money despite needing to win two games. Given the past success of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady that is no surprise especially if Belichick brings his Darth Vader hood and mask to the sidelines again next week. The Super Bowl will be indoors which should favor the passing team. Baltimore is the biggest long shot at 6:1 but they would be face a very short spread if they win this week. Best of Luck, on to this week’s slate…