2012 Divisional Preview: Denver vs. New England

This is the second of four posts this week examining the Divisional matchups in the NFL Playoffs. Check back during the next day for more previews:

Saturday’s second Divisional game (kicking off in just three hours) features the Broncos travelling across the country to take on Tom Brady and the Patriots on CBS. Led by Tebow’s best performance of the year last week, Denver stunned Pittsburgh to earn a trip to Foxboro. The Patriots, meanwhile, watched the Wild Card games from their homes, trying (and seeming to fail) to recover from a grueling season. New England and Denver faced each other once this year with the Pats ending the Bronco’s six-game winning streak by a convincing 41-23 scoreline. Here’s a look at the matchup:

Offense: Anyone else not believe in  Tim Tebow now? Sure, he still hasn’t proven himself as an NFL quarterback, but with God on your side, you don’t need NFL-caliber skills. Tebow threw for 316 yards last week including a 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play of overtime to set up this week’s matchup with New England. Running back Willis McGahee struggled last year against a physical Pittsburgh defense, running for just 60 yards on 19 carries. While the Patriot’s defense is terrible, Tebow struggled at times in the teams’ first matchup this year and the Broncos turned the ball over three times. They must protect the ball with their lives if they want to have a chance tonight.

For New England, the offense starts with Tom Brady. Brady broke the single-season record for passing yards, only to come in second to Drew Brees this year in passing yards. Nevertheless, Brady had a tremendous year, though he turned the ball over at a slightly higher rate than in previous years. Wide receiver Wes Welker was Brady’s favorite target this year as the two connected 122 times for over 1500 yards. However, when the Pats enter the red zone, look for Brady to go to his next-favorite target, tight end Rob Gronkowski who caught 17 touchdown passes this year. On the ground, the Patriots use Benjarvus Green-Ellis and Stevan Ridley to offer a different look, but this offense starts and ends with its start quarterback. Continue reading “2012 Divisional Preview: Denver vs. New England”

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2012 Wild Card Preview: Pittsburgh vs Denver

This is the last of four posts this week examining the Wild Card matchups in the NFL Playoffs. Thanks for reading:

The last Wild Card matchup is in the AFC when the Pittsburgh Steelers travel to Denver to face the Broncos at 4:30 ET on CBS. The Broncos snuck into the playoffs even though they lost their past three games while the Steelers have won six of their past seven games. Denver has the home-field advantage even though they lost twice as many games as the Steelers did because they won their division. As with the Falcons and Giants, the Steelers and Broncos never faced each other during the regular season.

Offense: For the Broncos, Tim Tebow mania continues. First, experts hated him. Then he shockingly led Denver on a series of fourth quarter comebacks to win seven of eight games. Finally, he lost the last three games with dismal numbers and barely made the playoffs. For the year, Tebow’s numbers are pretty mediocre – less than 2000 yards in 14 games played (11 started) with 18 touchdowns (12 passing, six running) while turning the ball over 13 times (six interceptions, seven fumbles). Tebow has been worse in the past few games and unless he turns it around drastically, it could be a long night for Denver fans.

For the Steelers, a lot hinges on the health of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. When healthy and able to play from under center, Roethlisberger is a very good quarterback but his recent injury has forced him to work from the shotgun position more where he has struggled. If he isn’t at full strength come Sunday, the Broncos can take advantage. The Steelers running attack is now in rough shape with the loss of Rashard Mendenhall last week with a torn ACL. On paper, Pittsburgh is much better offensively than Denver but the rash of injuries has given the Broncos a chance. Continue reading “2012 Wild Card Preview: Pittsburgh vs Denver”

Can The AFC Playoffs Get Any Tighter?

Week 16 of the NFL season is upon us and the races are incredibly close.  

Photo Courtesy of AP

 

Historically close.  

The San Diego Chargers blew out the Tennessee Titans on Friday night to clinch the number two spot in the AFC behind the Indianapolis Colts who continue their pursuit for perfection Sunday against the New York Jets. Besides the Chargers and Colts, the rest of the AFC is effectively up for grabs.  

Here is the current playoff situation:  

Division Leaders
1. Indianapolis Colts (14-0)
2. San Diego Chargers (12-3)
3. New England Patriots (9-5)
4. Cincinnati Bengals (9-5)  

Wild Card Leaders
5. Baltimore Ravens (8-6)
6. Denver Broncos (8-6)  

In the Hunt
Miami Dolphins (7-7)
New York Jets (7-7)
Houston Texans (7-7)
Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7)
Jacksonville Jaguars (7-7)  

The Patriots and Bengals are in the best place  as if either wins, they clinch their division. The Ravens and Broncos control their own destiny as well, but any slip up by them opens the doors for any of the Dolphins, Jets, Texans, Steelers, or Jaguars. So many things can happen, but let’s look at some of the games this week  

Jaguars at Patriots – The Jags travel up North into the Cold to face Bill Belichick’s Patriot team. After a couple of turbulent weeks, New England enjoyed its first real home win of the season last weekend and have put the Randy Moss saga behind them. Meanwhile, Jacksonville fought valiantly against the Colts last week, but came up four points short of the upset. This should be a great game, but I’m giving the Pats the edge mostly because New England excels in cold weather and Florida teams don’t. New England Continue reading “Can The AFC Playoffs Get Any Tighter?”