Posted 01/11/2010 at 04:35 PM
With a record 96 points in the Cardinals/Packers match-up, scoring was commonplace in the opening round of the playoffs. That game will get most of the attention as the other three games were not terribly competitive affairs but all four games played ‘over’. This is not likely to be a postseason won by dominant defense and low-scoring grind-it-out type games as the opening totals will suggest again this week. Another big factor that will aide higher scoring is the locations as this week there are three dome games and the lone outdoor game will be played in the sunny calm of San Diego.
Every team scored at least 14 points last week and in two of the three week 17 rematches the same team won. Green Bay also had its chance to win again last week in a wild finish in Glendale. While the Packers/Cardinals game was compelling television and will be remembered as a classic game there really weren’t many dramatic moments as the teams collectively faced just 16 third down plays including only five for the Cardinals.
An underlying theme for this season has been the failure of kickers although it has not received a great deal of national attention. It was critical last week in the wild card games as Neil Rackers was nearly the ultimate goat, badly pulling the potential game-winner in the closing seconds of regulation from just 34-yards in controlled conditions. Green Bay kicker Mason Crosby also missed a field goal that could have made a difference earlier in the game. Cincinnati kicker Shayne Graham missed two field goals that could have kept the Bengals closer in that game and although Jets kicker Jay Feely did his part, his teammates had back-to-back penalties on what would have been successful field goal attempts, ultimately forcing the team to punt. Stephen Gostkowski also missed a field goal for the Patriots to stall any sort of rally attempt.
New Dallas kicker Shaun Suisham was successful last week but the Cowboys and the Saints are playing with recent additions in the kicking game after needing to make changes during the season. The Colts will also use replacement Matt Stover instead of Adam Vinatieri who has been injured. Stover was released by the Ravens before the season and he will go against his former team this week. Stover is the only kicker that has won a Super Bowl still in standing in the playoffs.
Ironically Rackers had the best field goal percentage in the NFL this season closely followed by Ryan Longwell of Minnesota and Nate Kaeding of San Diego. Given the indoor settings of the games this week and most likely next week, the kicking game shouldn’t be expected to be a factor. Given the way this season has gone and some of the shaky kicking situations for teams however, a critical field goal miss is likely to haunt a team in the coming weeks as it very nearly did for Arizona last week. Good Luck.