AFC & NFC Championship Games Are Set

 

~ The road to the Super Bowl is narrowed down to four teams as the AFC and NFC Championship games are now set. The Green Bay Packers will head into Chicago to face the Bears for the right to represent the NFC. The New York Jets will look to continue what has been one of the great post season runs  in recent history as they head to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers for the right to represent the AFC.  Seeding has played a very small factor this season as 2 of the 4 #6 seeded teams (Jets & Packers) are now 1 game away from the big game in Dallas.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger isn’t Tom Brady or Peyton Manning when it comes to flash or style on the football field. I give the guy respect though because he just goes out and gets it done and sometimes it’s not pretty. In the Steelers playoff win over the Baltimore Ravens, Roethlisberger led his team back from a 21-7 Ravens lead with that blue collar-like approach that represents his style of play. It’s been a long and tough season for the Steelers’ quarterback. He was suspended the first four games of the season following sexual assault allegations that weren’t prosecuted. His image was badly damaged from it, however he has come back to help lead Pittsburgh to 12 wins this season and securing a 1st round bye in the playoffs and now his team is 1 game away from a Super Bowl berth. In a season where so much of the focus has been on Michael Vick and his performance on the field for the Eagles, Roethlisberger’s story has been mostly under the radar. It’s been that way for him since he was drafted actually. The talk of the draft that year was Eli Manning, then the draft day trade of Manning for Phillip Rivers. Somewhere within all of that the Steelers drafted Roethlisberger and he’s proven to be a winner with 2 Super Bowl rings as proof. The win over Baltimore was Roethlisberger’s 7th straight over them and for the Ravens this one had to hurt the most. Costly turnovers dropped passes and not enough big plays when it mattered most took the Ravens out of this game in the second half.

How about those Jets?  2 years for Rex Ryan as head coach and 2 years in the AFC championship game, not bad at all. If you would have told me a couple of weeks ago that the Jets were going to beat Peyton Manning and the Colts then Tom Brady and the Patriots, both on the road … I would have just sat there in front of you with a Bill Bellichick facial expression. Well, the Jets did just that and are now 1 game away from the Super Bowl. People can say what they want about the Jets back dooring into the playoffs this season or being a 6th seeded team. Do they talk a lot? Yes … they talked so much heading into New England, it would have been a major setback had they came out of there without a win. I give credit to Rex Ryan for what he’s done as Head Coach the last 2 weeks for the Jets. Ryan put the spotlight on him,  he told the media that the Colts game was “personal”. Ryan then tells the media the Patriots game is “Rex Ryan vs. Bill Bellichick”. It was a bold strategy that took the spotlight off the team and allowed them to go out and just play. As much as Rex the Promoter is known for his talking, Rex the Coach has put in some of his best work the last couple of weeks in stopping Manning and Brady. The fact of the matter  is not many NFL teams are going to beat the Colts and the Patriots in consecutive weeks on the road. They head into the AFC title game playing with house money. I’m not making the mistake of putting Ben Roethlisberger under the radar. Between the Jets and Steelers, I have to give momentum to New York right now.

Over in the NFC, I was never really convinced that the Atlanta Falcons were for real & I’ve grown more and more convinced that the Green Bay Packers are for real. There is no other starting quarterback among the 4 left in the playoffs that is playing as well as Aaron Rodgers is right now. The Packers have found a running game to go along with Rodgers and the passing attack and it’s defense has been making big plays throughout the playoffs. The latest big play  by cornerback Tramon Williams was a 70 yard touchdown run after intercepting a Matt Ryan pass that ended the first half and bascially the season for the Falcons. This Green Bay team is dangerous and I still can’t believe I didn’t take them seriously during the regular season. The Chicago Bears put the Seahawks away early, and while it was good while it lasted for Seattle’s playoff run, Green Bay-Chicago is a much more attractive game. Two teams that don’t really like each other in the oldest rivalry in the NFL.

Two good games for the right to go to the Super Bowl and I’m going to go with the two teams who are playing the best football right now. The Jets and Packers are heading to Dallas after this weekend.

NFL Playoffs Kickoff With 2 Thrillers, Seahawks & Jets Advance

 

Images by Getty 

~ The two teams that played in the Super Bowl last year will be watching this year’s Super Bowl at home. The NFL playoffs opened up with two thrilling games in the wild card round as the Seattle Seahawks pulled off an upset win of the defending champion New Orleans Saints. In the nightcap, the New York Jets were able to get a taste or revenge against the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last year with a last second victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

I wouldn’t exactly call it David knocking off Goliath, however it was close enough. The Seattle Seahawks stunned the defending champion New Orleans Saints with a 41-36 victory to open up the NFL playoffs. The game turned out to be one of the more exciting games in recent history that featured a 67 yard touchdown run by Marshawn Lynch that might go down as one of the greatest runs in NFL history.The Seahawks with a 7-9 record this season became the first team with a losing record to win a playoff game. The Saints had a better record, however had to play at Seattle because the Seahawks won the NFC west division. (with a 7-9 record, just to show how bad that division was this season)

“We kind of expected to win,I know that sounds crazy, but we did expect to win. The fact that it happened, it’s just kind of like, we want to take it in stride and go to the next one. I know it sounds crazy, but that’s the way the mindset of this team was.” … Pete Carroll, 1st year head coach of Seahawks

The Seahawks had a 14 point lead early in the 4th quarter, when the Saints began to show signs that they were about to make a comeback. That’s when Lynch broke off one of the greatest runs in playoff history for 67 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown and a few anxious moments later gave the Seahawks a win that ended the Championship title defense for New Orleans. Quarterback Matt Hasslebeck threw for 272 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Seattle. Hasslebeck wasn’t even cleared to play until 2 days earlier because of a hip injury.

That run by Lynch was epic and is sure to be apart of playoff highlights for years to come. It’s a great backdrop to that potential story too if it’s ever explored. Lynch was basically a forgotten man in Buffalo before being traded to Seattle. It was also a great story for Matt Hasslebeck who is in the final year of his contract and fought all the way back through injury to play in this game. It’ll be interesting to see how far Seattle goes and it’s going to be just as interesting to see what the Saints do in the off season to fix what went wrong. Reggie Bush had a injury plagued season and has not been able to be the star he was projected to be with New Orleans. The consistency just has not been there for Bush and the Saints need a running game to help take the pressure off of Drew Brees. Brees threw the ball 60 times in the loss to Seattle.

The Jets have been making a habit out of last minute victories this season. It’s only right that in the playoffs they’d take the Colts down to the wire for a thrilling finish as Nick Folk kicked the game winning field goal with time expiring to give the Jets a 17-16 thrilling win.  The Colts, who thought they won it when Adam Vinatieri made a 50-yard field goal with 53 seconds to go, as it turns out though that was just enough time for the Jets. A 47 yard kickoff return by Antonio Cromartie and a poised enough Mark Sanchez led the Jets right into position for Folk to kick the game winner.

Rex Ryan needed this win, it was a playoff win and it was against Peyton Manning. LaDainian Tomlinson came up big when it mattered most with 2 touchdown runs and 82 yards rushing and the Jets get to play another week … in New England.

Rex Ryan … The Promoter & The Coach. Put Up or Shut Up Time.

 

~  The NFL playoffs get started this weekend and the Jets will be one of the 12 teams on the road to Dallas for the Super Bowl. If you’ve been keeping up with the Jets the last 12 months, you’ve wittnessed one hell of a roller coaster ride. The 2009-2010 playoffs ended for the Jets with a loss in the AFC championship game to the Colts. One game short of the Super Bowl in head coach Rex’s Ryan’s 1st season … not bad at all. Rex Ryan was talking. If you ask Rex Ryan then he would have told you that he knew that’s where they’d be anyway. A year later, a HBO Reality show later, a couple of off the field incidents later, the Jets are back in the playoffs and playing the Colts. If you ask Rex Ryan he’d most likely give you the exact same answer … ‘I told you so.’ The Jets coach is not afraid to tell you how he feels, he’s been telling you how he feels since he was hired to coach this team. It’s been 2 years of non-stop, in your face, Rex Ryan. There are two sides to Rex Ryan in his role with the Jets … promoter and coach. Rex the Promoter is not afraid to tell you and anyone with a television that his Jets are the team to beat. It’s then up to Rex the Coach to get the Jets to back that talk up on the field. The flip side to the coin in professional sports is that talking only gets you but so far and you will be expected to produce. It’s put up or shut up time for the New York Jets and Rex Ryan.

If Rex Ryan was a party promoter, his events would sell out every sunday afternoon and occasionally on monday nights. The man can talk.  Since taking over the Jets head coaching duties from Eric Mangini, Ryan has created a winning atmosphere based on his take no prisoners attidude. If someone asks the question , “Why the Jets?” … Ryan’s leadership reflects  “Why Not the Jets?”  He’s the anti-Mangini, everything about him is night and day compared to the coach that was here before him. If Jets fans remember, Mangini’s teams were not really that bad and in fact many of them are on this current Jets team. The difference was clearly Ryan. The team owner even acknowledged that upon hiring him that it a change was needed. The Jets opened a new stadium and had seats to fill of course. They bring in Ryan who quickly let it be known that he’s here to win. They then drafted high profile Mark Sanchez and tagged him as the quarterback of the future. The results came and came quickly as the Jets brought into Ryan’s talk and “Why not us?” mentality. Ryan was talking. The fans brought in too, and so did the media … the NEW YORK Media. Once you talk the talk with the New York media, you’re going to be expected to walk the walk and walk it quickly and often. Ryan won the media and fans over with his talk. He won players over too, signing future hall of famers LaDanian Tomlinson and Jason Taylor. Ryan traded for Antonio Cromartire and Santonio Holmes. Those moves made it clear that the Jets were making a Super Bowl run for 2010-2011. Ryan talked some more and the executives at HBO were listening. The Hard Knocks Series featured the Jets and gave not only the New York market an inside look, it gave the entire country a chance to listen to Rex Ryan talk. The party was now a live one with a lot of energy, Rex the Promoter was talking the talk and then … the regular season started.

The Darrelle Revis holdout throughout the summer and a monday night loss to Ryan’s old team Baltimore to open the season was thought to possibly humble him, it didn’t. The Jets then ripped off five wins in a row. Revis injured his hamstring, which tends to happen if you holdout and miss most of training camp. Braylon Edwards got himself in trouble, arrested on DWI charges. Ryan’s Jet’s won four of the next 5 games headed into a monday night showdown in New England. He was still talking the talk after Tom Brady showed the nation against the Jets why he’ll most likely be MVP this season and why Bill Bellichick will most likely be coach of the year … the Patriots 45 and the Jets 3. The New York media was starting to take notice though that despite the talk Ryan was talking,  this Jets team was not playing with the same swagger it was playing with the season before. Ryan’s talk has always been the shield for what has gone wrong with the Jets, towards the end of the season it began to fall on deaf ears and then the media found a crack in Ryan’s armor … his personal life.

A story broke reportedly involving Ryan’s wife and some private videos. The media asked the questions they were supposed to ask and expected Ryan to once again … talk the talk. Ryan’s response was:  “I know you need to ask, it’s a personal matter.” The talk was temporarily silenced and the aftermath of that was a Rex Ryan that the media, Jets fans, and possibly even the the Jets were not expecting. Ryan was not giving off the same energy in front of the cameras and looked to be thinking about his answers before the questions were asked. The results were mixed as even though you can’t really blame Ryan for steeping up and protecting his family and private life, the swagger the Jets have been carrying clearly was nowhere to be found headed towards the end of the season. They went to Pittsburgh and pulled out a tough win though that I thought was the best of the season. It put them in position to go to Chicago and clinch a playoff spot without any help needed … they lost. Fortunately for them, the Jaguars were able to help them get into the playoffs anyway by handing over a win to the Redskins. The Jets backdoored into the playoffs with 11 wins, and this time it wasn’t due to Rex Ryan’s talk.

Last season, the Jets went into the playoffs confident and playing with house money. We all fed into the hype that Rex the Promoter created, I did, the Jets fans, the media, and now we all are looking for results from Rex the Coach. Rex Ryan is a very good coach, this sometimes get’s forgotten because of his mouth. The Baltimore Ravens through the last decade have been known for it’s intimidating defense, and it was Rex Ryan who had a lot to do with that before coming to New York. In this city though, all the talk and all the promotion in the world is good for only getting you to the door, it does not always get you through the door. It was the Colts who stopped the Jets playoffs run last season and they are standing in the way again.12 months of talk, hype, drama, and when that wasn’t happening … football. In the business of promotion, once the talk is done the actual event has to live up to the expectations. If that does not happen,  that promoter is tuned out and could be eventually out of business.  When Rex the Promoter and Rex the Coach are both on the same page, the Jets are hard to beat. It’s going to take them both to get past Peyton Manning and then Tom Brady and then possibly a rematch in Pittsburgh with Ben Rothlisberger just to get to Dallas. All the “Why not us?” talk won’t be enough if the Jets don’t show up ready to play against the Colts. Rex the Promoter has done all he can to get the Jets to this spot, it’s now up to Rex the Coach to show us all … Why Not the Jets!

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