Phil @ NYG
This one was a really interesting game, cause you saw each team dominate one half. The Giants really dominated the first half of the game, and the Eagles the second half. The difference of course was very similar to the Titans/Ravens game, where the Giants dominated their half but just couldn’t finish drives, and didn’t outscore the Eagles. The Eagles half, they dominated everything, including the scoreboard.
One of the big story-lines here has to be the Giants inability to pick up fourth and short twice with their go-to back. Jacobs ran well the whole day, except in crunch time when it counted the most. The inability to pick up those first downs were killer.
The other story has to be Eli Manning. I don’t believe Eli is a good quarterback. He’s had a couple strong games over his career, and one of the stretches of strong games unquestionably came when it counted most last year. No one can ever take that away from him. However, he’s simply too inconsistent, and it seems to come in waves.
Patrick blogged earlier about the difference the Giants have seen with and without Plaxico. I think it was somewhat evident simply from the inability to get any down field threats. Hixon and Steve Smith-lite clearly aren’t the big-play guy Plax can be. The Eagles didn’t respect them, as seen by consistent single coverage that both receivers were beating. But they didn’t have to, because both receivers were dropping those down-field passes.
The difference is two-fold. First, you lose that down-field threat; you have an inability to get the ball down field in big chunks. Second, you lose out on shorter plays because the Eagles are bringing safeties up to stop the runs. Manning isn’t as effective without the big play threat, and the runners clearly aren’t as well. This has to be something the Giants address in the off-season.
On the flip-side, the Eagles are playing really good football right now. One has to wonder how long it’s going to be, before they have a big let-down game. That seems to be their formula over the last few years. The games they’re good, they’re one of if not the toughest team in the NFL. But they can turn in some real stinkers at real random times. The game against the Redskins was a great example. They were crawling out of a hole of desperation, began playing really well, looked like a team that controlled its destiny, and then suddenly they mailed it in, resulting in them needing a lot of help to even make the playoffs.
How do you rank a team like that? They’re good enough to go to the Superbowl. But you simply don’t know if they’re consistent enough to ever win one. Are they capable of going four straight games without dropping a stink-bomb? Historically, the answer’s “no.”
SD @ Pitt
My TV blew up and I wound up missing the second half. Apparently I wasn’t the only one, because SD missed it too.
They held tough for a little while. But very clearly, those were two teams playing on different levels. San Diego’s a decent team. But Pittsburgh is one of the elite teams in the NFL. The Chargers were simply outmatched.
The third quarter was simply amazing. The Chargers ran one play, possessing the ball for 17 seconds. The rest of the quarter entirely belonged to the Steelers. And that was the difference in the game. The Chargers fell apart, and the Steelers ran them over, and there was simply no hope of recovery.
There really isn’t a lot to say about this game. The Cardinals game may have been more lop-sided in terms of the score. But in my mind, this was the most dominant performance of one team over another in the playoffs thus far. The Panthers had one guy truly collapse. The Chargers simply got beat everywhere on the field. Offensively, defensively, even on special teams (though Sproles was solid).
It sets up a terrific game between two bitter rivals for the AFC Championship. The two factors that favor the Steelers a great deal here, though, are first the Steelers are coming off an “easy” game against the Chargers, while the Ravens are coming off a slug-fest with a few injuries against the Titans; second that the Steelers of course beat the Ravens twice in the regular season.
There’s no doubt in my mind the Steelers are simply a better football team than the Ravens. As Patrick eloquently put it, the delta between the Ravens offense and Steelers defense isn’t as big as the delta between the Steelers offense and Ravens defense.
With that said, the Ravens are definitely looking forward to this game. They’re white-hot, and coming off that win they have to feel like they’ve got the ability to beat anyone at any time.
What a match-up it’ll be!
Monday, January 12, 2009
Phil @ NYG