2012 Wild Card Preview: Detroit vs. New Orleans

This is the second of four posts this week examining the Wild Card matchups in the NFL Playoffs. Check back during the next few days for more previews:

The New Orleans Saints and Detroit Lions open up the NFC Wild Card games on Saturday at 8 ET on NBC in New Orleans. The Saints haven’t lost since week eight and has won by more than 20 points in its past three games. The Lions have won three of their last four, but gave up 45 points in a loss to the Green Bay Packers Sunday in a game that Aaron Rodgers didn’t play. In their one meeting this year, New Orleans defeated Detroit 31- 17 behind 342 yards and three touchdowns from Drew Brees. Here’s a look at the matchup:

Offense: For New Orleans, this is all about Drew Brees, who sent an NFL record with 5476 passing yards in the season and is neck and neck with Aaron Rodgers for the MVP award. While running back Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas combined to rush for just 1165 yards, they averaged nearly six yards a rush. Brees moved the ball around to his receivers, with Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston his favorite targets.

Detroit’s Matthew Stafford wasn’t too shabby either, throwing for more than 5000 yards as well and 41 touchdowns. Stafford looked to wide receiver Calvin Johnson the most as the two connected on 96 passes for 1681 yards and 16 touchdowns. On the ground, the Lions weren’t as effective as running backs Jahvid Best and Kevin Smith combined for just 746 yards, less than four yards a carry. Continue reading “2012 Wild Card Preview: Detroit vs. New Orleans”

2012 Wild Card Preview: Cincinnati vs. Houston

This is the first of four posts this week examining the Wild Card matchups in the NFL Playoffs. Check back during the next few days for more previews:

The first matchup of the 2012 NFL Playoffs will see the Cincinnati Bengals travel to Houston to take on the Texans at 4:30 et. Saturday on NBC. The Bengals lost a tough game to the Baltimore Ravens yesterday in yet another loss to a team with a winning record. In fact, Cincinnati defeated just one team with a winning record the entire year. Houston, on the other hand, won four games against teams with winning records, including a 20-19 victory over the Bengals in Week 14. Since then though, the Texans have gone winless with losses to the Carolina Panthers, Indianapolis Colts and Titans. After the Texans starting quarterback Matt Schaub went down with a season-ending injury in week ten, rookie TJ Yates took over and has performed okay during the final six games. However, left the Texans’ final game against the Titans with an injury to his non-throwing shoulder, but is expected to play on Saturday. Here’s a brief look at how the teams matchup:

Offense: Yates hasn’t had to carry a huge load for the Texans but he may need to do more against the Bengals. Luckily for Houston, the injury is to his non-throwing shoulder so he should be in good shape come Saturday. Nevertheless, running back Arian Foster will have to carry the brunt of the load in the game as he has done, along with running back Ben Tate, for most of the year. Look for Houston to continue using its second-ranked rushing offensive to plow through the Bengals’ defensive line. If Yates isn’t 100 percent, the Texans will have to rely even more on their running backs, which could limit their effectiveness over the course of the game.

For the Bengals, rookie Andy Dalton threw for more than 3000 yards this year and 20 touchdowns to lead his team to the playoffs. At running back, Cedric Benson surpassed the 1000-yard mark for the third consecutive year. Cincinnati sits in the middle of the league in both categories, but the two-thronged attack gives head coach Marvin Lewis plenty of options on the offensive end. I expect an even mix of Dalton and Benson, but look for Dalton to go deep to wide receiver AJ Green as the combination has proven lethal throughout the year. Continue reading “2012 Wild Card Preview: Cincinnati vs. Houston”

The Concussions Question We Don’t Want To Face

Happy Holidays to Everyone! Hope everyone had a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend!

When asked whether he would hide a concussion or admit it to the medical staff, Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew admitted that he’d hide it and his reasoning, while understandable, is extremely worrisome.

“The bottom line is: You have to be able to put food on the table. No one’s going to sign or want a guy who can’t stay healthy. I know there will be a day when I’m going to have trouble walking. I realize that,” Jones-Drew said. “But this is what I signed up for. Injuries are part of the game. If you don’t want to get hit, then you shouldn’t be playing.”

You have to give Jones-Drew credit for his comments. I’ve wavered back and forth over the issue of concussions because decades ago, concussions were much less frequent. The reason? Players just played through them. The NHL is having a concussion epidemic now but fighting is much less than it was decades ago. Teams are now just much more careful with players and are extra cautious (and rightfully so) with concussions these days.

But what if players don’t admit they are concussed? Everyone who has ever played sports has injured himself a bit and told a coach that he was fine, even if he wasn’t. Players want to play. It’s that simple. But concussions lead to a whole new level of extremely serious problems. And yet, Jones-Drew is willing to accept those problems to play and earn a living. Here’s where I’m not sure I fully agree with Jones-Drew though. He’s the league’s leading rusher this year. He’s earned a good amount of money during his time in the league. No matter if he retires tomorrow, he’s going to be able to “put food on the table” as long as he doesn’t waste what he’s earned. He doesn’t need to risk brain damage to feed his family. Continue reading “The Concussions Question We Don’t Want To Face”