In this week's NFL playoff chatter, the guys break down the chances of Tim Tebow pulling off another miracle, the 49ers slowing the Saints, and the Giants toppling the Packers.
Follow our panelists on Twitter @JesseCampigotto @JasonD79 @tcare66
.The first week of the NFL playoffs is in the books, and it ended with a wild finish. With one throw, Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow ended the Pittsburgh Steelers' season following an 80-yard TD strike in overtime. Should his 316-yard, two-TD performance silence Tebow's critics for at least one week?
It should silence them for exactly one week. Look, people need to stop going along with these wild swings in public opinion on Tebow. He's not as good as he looks when he wins, and he's not as bad as he looks when he loses. The mistake that the Steelers, Mike Tomlin, and the "great" Dick LeBeau made was treating Tebow like the worst quarterback to ever play in the NFL based on his poor performances over the last two weeks of the regular season. Pittsburgh overdid things by loading up on run stoppers and daring Tebow to beat their defensive backs with deep throws into single coverage. You don't get to the NFL as a quarterback if you can't make those plays. Expect Bill Belichick to deploy a smarter strategy this week.Jason Davidson:
For seven days, yes. Sure, Tebow was clutch with the game-winning TD pass to Demaryius Thomas in overtime, but he was not good at all in the final three weeks of the season as Denver backed its way into an AFC West title with three straight losses. And yes, Tebow threw for two touchdowns and 316 yards, but he only completed 10 of 21 passes. And Jesse is bang on with the fact that LeBeau ran a defence that basically challenged Tebow to throw deep passes all afternoon. To Tebow's credit, though, he may have finally won over John Elway. It won't be the same against the New England Patriots on Saturday night even though we all know the Pats' secondary is nothing special.
He's not getting any criticism this week from me. Forget the 10-of-21 passing. Tebow - and I'm finding it difficult to type this - beat the No. 1 pass defence in the NFL. On Denver's first scoring drive, Tebow hit Thomas with a perfect deep sideline pass for 51 yards to convert a 3rd-and-12. Two plays later, he finds Eddie Royal on a pretty 30-yard TD strike in the corner of the end zone. Of course, nothing compares to the stunning surprise Tebow had for the unprepared Steelers, hitting Thomas in stride for the 80-yard TD in overtime. Critics, including me, don't have a leg to stand on this week because Tebow delivered during playoff time with his arm. Now, I may have a different view after the Broncos visit the Patriots, but for this week I only have praise. The Saints destroyed Detroit with a virtuoso offensive performance. Can any team stop Drew Brees and this New Orleans machine?
Yes, because I disagree with that first statement. The Saints did not destroy the Lions. Playing at the Superdome, where they have an enormous home-field advantage, New Orleans led by only a field goal a few minutes into the fourth quarter when Darren Sproles converted a fourth-and-2. Sproles subsequently ran in a 17-yarder to put the Saints up by 10, and on the ensuing possession a Detroit receiver fell down on a deep pass, giving New Orleans an easy interception that it converted into a 17-point lead. The Lions quickly cut their deficit to 10 before a failed on-side kick gave the Saints another short field and a TD that supplied that misleading 17-point margin of victory. The Saints' offence is excellent, yes, but this team has had one of the easiest schedules in the league and it went 5-3 away from its comfy dome. New Orleans can be beaten this week on the road in San Francisco.Jason Davidson:
With all due respect to Brees, let's see how he makes out on the grass against the NFL's top-ranked defence. The 49ers will challenge Brees in a much different way than what he saw with the Lions, who had a rather mediocre defence throughout most of the season. The Saints did go 3-2 on natural grass in 2011, but those wins came against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Carolina Panthers and Tennessee Titans. San Fran is an entirely different, not to mention much more potent, beast.Tony Care:
It won't be easy. When you look at the torrid pace Brees has set over the last month, a lot of it has to do with the fact the offensive line has given him so much time to survey the field. Brees is no different from any other elite QB. He doesn't like pressure - no one does. The 49ers have one of the best defences in the league. They are tied for seventh with 42 sacks, and it'll be imperative that the defensive front gets to Brees because San Francisco can't match the Saints offensively. Simply put, the 49ers need sacks and turnovers to upset New Orleans. While I anticipate a closer game, I still envision a Saints-Packers NFC championship game. When you look at how the Giants finished the regular season and their second-half dismantling of the Atlanta Falcons in their wild card game, how much of a chance do you give them against the world champion Green Bay Packers on Sunday?Jesse Campigotto:
Green Bay is the better team, but it's not that hard to picture the Giants winning this game. When the teams met on Dec. 4 in the Meadowlands, the Packers needed a 31-yard field goal as time expired to beat the Giants. The tight score was no fluke, either. New York outgained Green Bay handily on a per-play basis (7.3 to 5.8) and a quick look at penalty yardage and third-down conversion rates shows nothing crazy. Ditto for the turnover battle, which Green Bay won 2-1 (both QBs threw a pick, and the Packers recovered the game's only fumble). Interesting betting note: The Packers were favoured by seven points in that game. This week at Lambeau, they're favoured by 7.5. The home field is generally worth three points of spread movement, so if we use that regular-season number as a guide, you'd expect the Pack to be favoured by 13.5 in this week's game at Lambeau (it would be 10.5 on a neutral field). I feel like perception has shifted too much toward the Giants (who have played on national TV two weeks in a row) and away from the Pack (who haven't been on TV in weeks).
You can never say a team doesn't have a chance, so I suppose the Giants have a shot at pulling off an upset. I have already lost count of how many times references have been made to the 2007 NFC championship game, when Brett Favre's last throw in a Packers uniform was an interception that led to a Lawrence Tynes game-winning 47-yard field goal. Aaron Rodgers is a much more responsible quarterback, and I just don't see him turning the ball over at a crucial part of the game. Good on the G-Men for this late-season surge and saving Tom Coughlin's job, but the ride ends at Lambeau Field on Sunday. Gotta hand it to Jason Pierre-Paul, though, for guaranteeing a win on Sunday. Pretty bold statement.Tony Care:
The Giants have a better shot than most pundits are giving them. This game should make Packers fans nervous. There is no better defensive line than the Giants', which will make life difficult for Rodgers. The Packers will have both their tackles back, but when a team can throw Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Chris Canty at an offensive line, it's going to be a tough day. Another area of concern is the Packers' run defence, which has been brutal. If running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs consistently move the chains, it keeps Rodgers off the field. Remember Super Bowl XXV? (Sorry, J.C., cheap shot on a Bills fan). In the regular-season matchup, very little separated the two clubs aside from the fact Rodgers had the ball last, which proved disastrous for New York. Having said all that, I see another high-scoring, nail-biting affair with Green Bay coming out on top. With another blowout playoff loss Falcons QB Matt Ryan is now 0-3 in the post-season. Is this a blip in an otherwise promising career or should Falcons fans begin to worry?
Ryan hasn't shown greatness in his four NFL seasons, but I wouldn't give up on a guy who's still young (27 next season) and durable (missing only two games in his career). Forget that for a minute, though. Let's talk about those two 4th-and-inches sneaks he got stuffed on against the Giants. I think most NFL teams should use the sneak more in those kind of situations, but Ryan might be the wrong guy to run that play due to his slight build. So here's what I'm proposing: the Falcons get a backup QB who comes in for short-yardage plays (like the way Philly sometimes deployed Michael Vick in his first season with the Eagles, or the way we thought Tebow might be used in the NFL). This is common practice in the CFL, and I wonder why more NFL teams don't try it.
What is it with 4th-and-short situations with these guys? Ryan and company simply cannot convert when they need to. Look, Ryan hasn't been great in his three playoff losses, but not all of this falls on him as far as I'm concerned. But you can't ignore the fact that the Falcons have been outscored 72-23 in their last two playoff outings. Ryan has no shortage of offensive weapons to choose from, but for some reason it hasn't been working. How much responsibility does Mike Smith accept here? I will give Ryan the benefit of the doubt as I still see him having a promising career.Tony Care:
I'd be concerned from a couple of areas. First, the Falcons traded away a lot to move all the way to No. 6 in the draft and grab rookie receiver Julio Jones because Atlanta's top brass felt it was only one big-play receiver from taking the next step. But in the loss to the Giants, Ryan completed only one pass of more than 20 yards (granted, Roddy White didn't help matters by dropping a handful of passes). Also, Ryan, like Ravens QB Joe Flacco, needs a good running game in order to be successful. That won't cut it in today's NFL. Elite quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Rodgers and Brees not only win games without a great ground game, they mask defensive deficiencies with their ability to pile up points at an astonishing rate. Ryan is nowhere near that level, and there's a real chance he may never get there.
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