Tuesday, January 19, 2010

NFL Power Rankings Top 15 Championship Week

NFC Divisional Playoff game between New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals

What appeared to be a slate of four highly competitive contests in the divisional round turned out to be mostly the opposite. The rested teams appeared to have a major advantage with fresh legs and pent-up adrenaline- at least for 3 1/2 games. The one outlier was the New York Jets, led by their charismatic and care free head coach Rex Ryan.

The weekend festivities kicked off with the Arizona Cardinals visiting the SuperDome to play the New Orleans Saints in a game that had all the makings of a shootout. It turned out that way on one side, but apparently the Cards did not get the memo. After Tim Hightower broke through the line and went the distance on the first play from scrimmage to give Arizona a quick 7-0 lead, it was all Saints from then on in as they rolled up a 45-14 win.

Drew Brees returned to the form he showed over the first 13 weeks, carving up the Cardinals weary secondary with surgical precision. He was also given a tremendous boost by the Saints energetic defense that made life miserable for the red hot Kurt Warner and Reggie Bush. With his bootylicious girl friend looking on from a luxury suite above, Bush put on a show from wire to wire.

Appearing to be operating at a different speed than the Cardinals defenders, Bush raced for spectacular touchdowns on a 46 yard run in the first quarter and an 83 yard punt return in the third quarter. Overall, he accumulated 84 yards rushing on only 5 carries, 24 yards receiving on 4 catches and 109 yards on punt returns. He inflicted some serious damage on the Cards while hardly breaking a sweat.

In Saturday's late game, the Indianapolis Colts appeared to have shed the disappointment of their coach packing it in on their undefeated season as they jumped to an early lead and rode their defense to an easy 20-3 decision over the Baltimore Ravens. The Colts game plan was to key on Ray Rice and force second year QB Joe Flacco to beat them throwing to his substandard set of receivers.

Heading into the contest, the Ravens appeared to have a favorable match-up pitting their 5th ranked rushing offense against the Colts 24th ranked run defense. Stacking defenders to stop the run first, especially with the advantage of having the week off, Indianapolis provided little room for Rice to operate and exposed the Ravens one dimensional offense. It did not bode well for the Ravens when they fell behind by a couple touchdowns and had to play catch-up.

With half the promising weekend already filled with lopsided games, NFL fans were pumped for a Cowboys-Vikings game on Sunday that surely would not follow suit. Dallas came into the game with a five game winning streak and exuding an air of invincibility. Minnesota had home field advantage, an NFL best 9 Pro Bowlers and a legendary quarterback on its side. This was going to be a slugfest played to a dramatic finish.

Wrong again. Apparently the 'Boys didn't get the memo, either. While the Cowboys squandered opportunities, Brett Favre and Sidney Rice seized the moment. The pair hooked up for 6 connections totaling 141 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Meanwhile, the Vikings defensive line was throwing the Cowboys around like crash test dummies and had QB Tony Romo running for his life. The pressure resulted in 6 sacks and got the best of him as he fumbled the ball three times (two lost) and threw one unbelievably bad shot put interception. It was a long day for Romo, but the Vikings defense clearly won this battle in the trenches.

Minnesota and Favre were giddy with excitement as they mounted a big lead and never let the Cowboys seriously challenge. For good measure, Favre called an audible with a 27-3 lead and under two minutes left in the game to pile on with a run-up-the-score TD pass.

The weekend finished with the upstart New York Jets taking on the AFC's hottest team. The Chargers entered the postseason on an 11-game winning skein, but faced a Jets team full of bravado along with a defensive resume to validate it.

The first half of action played out much the same way as the three earlier games. The Bolts appeared to have more energy and swarmed to shutdown the Jets top ranked run game. Unfortunately for them, missed field goals and penalties limited them to a 7-0 halftime lead.

After the break, the momentum seemed to shift with the Jets continuing to wear down the Chargers with its pounding running game and suffocating defense. The Jets harassed Philip Rivers into throwing two second half interceptions ( three for the game, which he had never done before) and had him looking flustered.

Rookie signal caller Mark Sanchez capitalized on the last pick to fire a TD strike and give his team a 10-7 lead at the outset of the 4th period. A few minutes later, fellow rookie Shonn Greene burst threw the middle for a 53-yard touchdown run that seemed to break the Chargers spirit. New York held on to defeat a somewhat stunned San Diego team. Is it possible to have a "do over" in the vote for NFL Coach of the Year?

  1. Colts (14-2)- Colts looked fresh and hungry for a title
  2. Saints (13-3)-Picked up where they left off in Week 14
  3. Vikings (12-4)-Greater energy overwhelmed 'Boys at line
  4. Jets (9-7)- Two dimensions and the Dilfer approach works
  5. Chargers (13-3)- Fell apart in 2nd half in all 3 phases
  6. Cowboys(11-5)-Was this the same team that crushed Philly?
  7. Packers (11-5)-Best team out of the Super Bowl hunt 
  8. Cardinals (10-6)-Rested Saints beat up Warner and Cards
  9. Ravens (9-7)- Colts dared Ravens to win via the air
  10. Eagles (11-5)-No more "do overs", season's over
  11. Patriots (10-6)-What happened to "The Team of the Decade?"
  12. Bengals (10-6)- Crashed after a promising start to season
  13. Steelers (9-7)- Pulled out another- but too little, too late
  14. Texans (9-7)- First winning season, but no postseason
  15. Falcons (9-7)- Strong finish to disappointing season

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