Whew! it was a wild first week of the NFL post season. But things sorted out just about how we all expe–what? The 7-9 Seahawks beat the defending Super Bowl champs? Peyton Manning is one-and-done?! What in the name of Vince Lombardi just happened?!
Let’s take a look at the replay…
New Orleans at Seattle
The Line: Saints by 11
Result: Seattle wins, 41-36
We’re one round into the NFL playoffs and we’ve probably already seen the upset of the year and the play of the year.
Seattle had no business winning this game. They were the largest home playoff underdog in NFL history. Matt Hasselbeck entered the contest as the 28th-best quarterback during the regular season, with just 12 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. It took him three weeks to throw his fourth TD of the season; he registered the same feat in less than three quarters on Saturday evening.
But Hasselbeck was not the star of the show, no matter how you slice it. Much-maligned running back Marshawn Lynch stole the show with one of the most electrifying runs of the season, one on which he broke at least six tackles, threw one defender to the ground, and showed a combination of speed, power and patience he never displayed at any point prior in his career. The 67-yard wowfest accounted for the final Seattle points and the difference in a game that featured 44 points by halftime, one point shy of Vegas’ over/under for the entire game. The only people who saw this coming less than the New Orleans Saints were the Seattle Seahawks, who find themselves with a record that is still under .500, even after beating down the defending champs in a home game they didn’t deserve to host.
New York Jets at Indianapolis
The Line: Colts by 2.5
Result: Jets win, 17-16
This one was all about revenge. Rex Ryan made it clear during the week leading up to the game that, for him, this game was personal. He fumed about last year’s playoff defeat at the hands of these same Colts, so you can only imagine the party that is undoubtedly approaching the 48-hour mark in the Ryan household.
The Jets beat the Colts in every aspect of the game except passing touchdowns; they nearly doubled the Colts’ rushing output, they managed a seven-minute advantage in time of possession, they sacked Peyton Manning twice and totaled seven more first downs than last year’s AFC Champions. While it wasn’t utter dominance, those stats are a key indicator of why the Jets won.
Baltimore at Kansas City
The Line: Baltimore by 3
Result: Baltimore wins, 30-7
You would never know the Chiefs led 7-3 with under two minutes remaining in the first half if you hadn’t either watched the game or read the official gamebook. There is no statistic that would indicate Kansas City even showed up for this game. Matt Cassel had one of the most pathetic outings of any quarterback, including the regular season and preseason, mustering just 70 yards. His three interceptions were the most he has had in a game this year and nearly half of his regular-season total (7). The Ravens got their first sack in over 140 quarterback drops, then tacked on two more — all in the second half. In fact, roughly one quarter of the Chiefs’ total offensive yardage came on Jamaal Charles’ 41-yard scamper for the team’s only points.
Green Bay at Philadelphia
The Line: Eagles by 2.5
Result: Packers win, 21-16
Michael Vick stole the headlines this week, with his first playoff showing in a long, long time. He put up big yards, nearing the 300-yard mark with 292. He accounted for two touchdowns, one by land and one by air. But he didn’t win. He was outgunned by a deadly-efficient Aaron Rogers, who completed 67 percent of his passes for just 180 yards, but three touchdowns. Unknown James Starks had his breakoug game, running 23 times for 123 yards. And, most of all, Green Bay’s defense came up with the play of the game when CB Tramont Williams picked off Michael Vick with under two minutes remaining and the Eagles driving for what could have been the deciding points.
Baltimore at Pittsburgh
Prediction: Steelers win, 24-10
Baltimore looked great against a Kansas City team that had no business being in the playoffs other than being the best of a very bad — and very disappointing — four-team bunch in the AFC West. They are young and lack the big-play talent of Super Bowl-caliber teams, and that showed. But the Ravens’ next test is far greater, as they travel to Pittsburgh to take on a division rival that has owned them over the last nine games, winning two out of every three contests. In fact, every time Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger has started against the Ravens during that stretch, the Steelers have gone on to win. When he has not, they have lost every time. Pittsburgh has more weapons on a more potent offense, and while the two defenses are closely matched, Pittsburgh ultimately comes out on top there, too, with the best outside linebacker tandem in the NFL and the only strong safety who can completely change the direction of a game with a single play. And if you doubt that, there are some people in Tennessee, Cleveland, Cincinnati and — oh, yeah — Baltimore who can tell you all about it from very recent memory.
Green Bay at Atlanta
Prediction: Packers win, 20-17
The Packers are hot right now, and their defense has found its stride. After giving up big points to some big teams — and a few small ones — they completely shut down one of the top three offenses in the NFC to advance to the divisional round. Atlanta has had time to rest, but even though Matt Ryan looks every bit like a seasoned veteran, he will face a pass rush that ate the Eagles and Mike Vick alive. Ryan’s late-game heroics stop here.
Seattle at Chicago
Prediction: Bears win, 23-9
Seattle may have put up a lot of points against the Saints, but it was at home, with the visitors having to travel nearly 2,000 miles to play a game two timezones away from the Superdome. The ‘Hawks don’t play well on the road, and expect it to be cold and maybe a bit breezy in the Windy City. Jay Cutler will probably throw five picks and get sacked 122 times, but he will still manage to win fairly easily against a team that just doesn’t travel well.
New York Jets at New England
Prediction: Jets win, 30-28
I’m going out on a limb here with this pick, given the recent beat-down the Pats put on the Jets — and “beat-down” is being polite. But I’m going with my gut here to bet that Rex Ryan has cooked up something a little more meaningful than a poorly-timed, poorly-planned barb about Tom Brady’s hair. The Jets’ D has been ferocious all year, and when they have come to play, they’ve generally outplayed. It’s a nail biter, but the Jets come out on top in the upset of the week.