The Playoffs are finally here
Last night I looked at how the AFC Wild Card games shape up, now it’s the turn of the NFC.
First up it’s the San Francisco 49ers [12-4] vs the Green Bay Packers [8-7-1]
These teams previously locked horns in September of the regular season, and the 49ers came away with the W on that occasion, by a 6 point margin. This is also the second straight post season that these teams will meet, and again in January ’13 the 49ers sealed a 14 point win with a record breaking rushing performance from QB Colin Kaepernick, as they sealed their way to an eventual Super Bowl appearance.
The teams line up with these numbers from the regular season:
49ers : 24th on Offence, 5th in Defence, 30th in passing and 3rd in Rushing.
Packers: 3rd on Offense, 25th in Defence, 6th in Passing and 7th in Rushing.
For both teams, they have an obvious weakness, and if the 49ers are to win, they must exploit the Packers defensive line, whilst the Packers must exploit the 49ers weak passing, with plenty of knockdowns, and interceptions. Unlike other teams mentioned, both teams are known for playoff runs, so inexperience isn’t an unknown quantity for this matchup, so these are the players to make an impact to win the game for their sides, starting with the 25 points per game 49ers.
NaVorro Bowman – 145 Combined tackles [120 solo, 25 assists], five sacks, four forced fumbles and two interceptions. Dependable to make the tackle when it’s needed, and should lead the line to Aaron Rodgers to put him under pressure.
Anquan Boldin: – 85 receptions, totalling 1,128 yards which averaged 13.9 yards per reception and scored 7 Touchdowns. Sometimes the most important part of a football game, is getting the team into a position to score, and not always about scoring, but I’m sure he’d have liked a few more touchdowns in the regular season. A pretty solid debut season for the franchise, and will be looking to build on it in 2014.
To counter, the potential MVPs for this game for the26 point per game Packers are:
AJ Hawk, in his 8th season with the Packers and in the NFL – 118 combined tackles [74 solo, 44 assisted] , five sacks, one forced fumble and one interception. An ever present on the field in all of his eight seasons, and this year was a career high in sacks.
Eddie Lacy in his rookie year managed 284 rush attempts, for 1178 yards which averaged 4.1 yards per carry and 11 Touchdowns in the regular season. 4 yards per carry might not seem like much, but they quickly add up, and also help make the next downs in the series easier to manage, and gives the Packers more options.
A close game, just got even closer and the Packers were without their star QB for some of the season as he sat with a broken collarbone. In that period it was where the Packers lost most of their 7 games. Should be another thriller between these two teams, but I would fancy the Packers to win through in the end.
Finally, New Orleans Saints [11-5] travel to Lincoln Financial Field to face the Philadelphia Eagles [10-6] . The Eagles came out of nowhere to seal this playoff berth, and won four out of their last five to get in.
The numbers going into this one are as follows, first for the 25.9 points per game New Orleans : 4th in offense, 4th in defence, 2nd in passing and 25th in rushing. The 27.6 points per game Philadelphia Eagles counter with the following : 2nd in offense, 29th in defence, 9th in passing and 1st in rushing.
The key ones to watch for the Saints are Cameron Jordon, whom has had a very strong year, in only his 3rd season as an NFL player, and his numbers are 47 combined tackles, [29 solo and 18 assisted], 12.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and he’s without an interception this season. The reason I listed Jordon as a player to watch is due to his 12.5 sacks, in only 47 total tackles which is a very high percentage. Offensively, Jimmy Graham is the man to watch with 86 receptions ,1,215 yards, averaging 14.1 yards per reception, and sixteen touchdowns [Brees has thrown 39 in the regular season]. In only his 4th year in the league, Graham has demonstrated a keen understanding of how to gain more than just a first down; he has the ability to turn short yardage plays into big gains. This could prove huge against the Eagles D line.
The Eagles momentum shifters, and with multiple guys capable of getting a sack on any given play, it wasn’t an easy decision but the Eagles need someone to be reliable in this game as defeat in the wildcard round won’t be a good enough season, they need to win, and this guy makes the big stops, in the big game situations, and throughout his career, has always found a way to get a sack. So, Trent Cole, with his 56 combined tackles [44 solo with 12 assisted] 8.0 sacks, [his career high is 12.5] three forced fumbles and 0 interceptions, he along with his defensive mates can hassle Drew Brees just enough to rush him, or make bad throws, which will lead to more turnovers, which will give their offence better field positions.
The offensive player who should be watched closely is LeSean McCoy. McCoy is their sole reason why they have the leagues’ best rushing line, and he can also catch too. In rushing he has numbers of 314 rush attempts totalling 1,607 yards which average 5.1 yards per carry and he scored nine times. With receiving, his numbers 52 receptions, for 539 yards at an average of 10.4 yards per carry , scoring twice through the air. I think he’s been such a prolific performer this year, with the emergence of Chip Kelly and his offense. His average is higher than it was under Andy Reid, and he’s been targeted more too. I expect the Eagles to have too much for the Saints in this encounter, as Lincoln Financial Field is an un nerving place to visit, and in the playoffs, the intensity will be cranked all the way up.