NFC Divisional Playoff: San Francisco 49ers @ Carolina Panthers

This is the one playoff game this weekend that could have been interesting. With Carolina wideout Steve Smith at 60% by his own admission, or at least doubtful, it takes steam out of this match-up. Smith is the conscious and fighting spirit of that football team. Although the league’s #2 defense is intact, this team peaked a few weeks ago.

Cam Newton is going into his first NFL playoff game.

Cam Newton is going into his first NFL playoff game.

Cam Newton can’t play sporadic and expect the defense to keep him in a playoff game until he finds his accuracy. Sure they won 10-9 in Candlestick but that really woke the Niners up for this one. In that previous game Vernon Davis left injured, Michael Crabtree didn’t play, and Aldon Smith was just coming back and rounding into shape. Colin Kaepernick is coming off of a third career playoff win and they haven’t lost since Crabtree has come back.

The best all around linebacker in the NFL. Last year's Taylor Blitz Defensive Player of the Year: Navorro Bowman

The best all around linebacker in the NFL. Last year’s Taylor Blitz Defensive Player of the Year: Navorro Bowman

One element of this game is the threat of the pass from the Tight End position. Vernon Davis has the speed to pull Luke Kuechely deep where he has to play the run honestly. Consequently Greg Olsen doesn’t do the same and Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman will creep up and shut down the run.

So watch for Frank Gore to have a good day and San Francisco to dominate the time of possession. The Niners win 26-13 today.

Even when I think back to Cam Newton’s National Championship performance against Oregon. His play that day wasn’t transcendent. Stars have to come out when the games get big like this. Weaknesses are magnified and without Smith 100%, he has to play above a pedestrian performance. He has to be a star for them to win. Just can’t see that in his first playoff game.

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AFC Divisional Playoff: Indianapolis Colts @ New England Patriots

After one of the greatest come from behind victories in NFL history, the Colts have earned a first class trip to New England. Their mission, should they choose to accept it, is to stop the Patriots from making a 3rd straight trip to the AFC Championship Game. The Colts are riding an emotional high but do they have the horses to win a high stakes playoff game against Bill Belichick and Tom Brady??

Andrew Luck came of age in last week's comeback. The Colts will always believe they can win from this point forward, no matter the deficit.

Andrew Luck came of age in last week’s comeback. The Colts will always believe they can win from this point forward, no matter the deficit.

One of the items that gets lost in the aftermath of last week is Indy gave up a near playoff record 513 yards and 44 points. They gave up 378 yards passing and 4 touchdowns to Alex Smith at home, and now they plan to improve on that against Brady on the road?? Never forget weaknesses are magnified in the playoffs. Hard to improve on the 20th ranked defense when they’re not playing well.

Don’t forget the last time Tom Brady saw the Indianapolis Colts, he draped 59 points on them. Of course fans will say Luck is playing better now. However he doesn’t play linebacker or cover receivers. Last week, Pro Bowl DE Robert Mathis had a timely sack and forced fumble, but that was it.

Legarrette Blount has played like Dorsey Levens  of late.

Legarrette Blount has played like Dorsey Levens of late.

Now some may point out the Patriots aren’t the same team they were a year ago and they’re right. Brady has had a modest season by his standards. Yet the Pats have shifted strategies. In their last two games against the Ravens and Buffalo Bills, they rushed for 142 and 267 yards respectively. Those were the 10th and 12th best defenses also, Indy’s is 20th. One was getting revenge on the defending champions that ended their season last year, and the other was against a division rival playing in the equivalent of their Super Bowl.

Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich will pressure Andrew Luck today.

Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich will pressure Andrew Luck today.

The Colts will need to run the football and control the tempo of the game. If not Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich will come after Luck. Their not as flashy as a Robert Mathis but they did combine for 19.5 sacks 3 forced fumbles and 4 fumble recoveries. Add to that the genius of Belichick when it comes to taking away an opponents best receiver. He will keep TY Hilton from getting open which will make Luck hold the football even longer which will allow the rush more time to get there.

Everyone has their eye on Andrew Luck but The Chancellor of Football’s is on the defensive alignment and assignments that Belichick will throw at him. I have gone on record calling him the greatest coach of the last 50 years in the NFL. He configured a 2 man line defense that slowed the 90 Bills in Super Bowl XXV. The week before he stopped Joe Montana and the Niners from 3-peating with normal 3-4 and safeties over the top. He stopped The Greatest Show on Turf when he repeated his Super Bowl XXV performance upsetting the Rams in XXXVI. He spent the last decade keeping Peyton, Edgerrin James, and Marvin Harrison from reaching the Super Bowl while he won 3. Each of those teams had 3 Pro Football Hall of Fame talents on those rosters.. Do you really think he can’t stop a second year quarterback and a modest talent in Hilton??

Look for LaGarrette Blount to get the football on a rainy day. The Colts weren’t tackling well last week and will struggle stopping the run. In a physical game the Patriots will win 31-13. What happened to this team when they played earlier against the Seahawks and 49ers?? They rose to the occassion then and Head Coach Chuck Pagano needs them to wake up and get back to that tonight.

Who do you have in this game??

 

 

 

 

NFC Divisional Playoff: New Orleans Saints @ Seattle Seahawks

As we make our way into the second week of the NFL playoffs, its time to put on the big boy pads as the heavyweights join the fray. First giant to be awakened are the Seattle Seahawks. Not only have they gone 15-1 at home over the last two regular seasons, but Coach Pete Carroll excels at getting his teams up for big games. This dates back to his days when he led the Men of Troy to 2 straight collegiate national championships.

Kam Chancellor's thunderous hit on Vernon Davis a year ago is still the defense's seminal moment in becoming the NFl's most feared defense.

Kam Chancellor’s thunderous hit on Vernon Davis a year ago is still the defense’s seminal moment in becoming the NFL’s most feared defense.

Don’t forget the New Orleans Saints were dethroned as defending Super Bowl champion in Seattle to a team less talented than this one 41-36. Remember the 2010 Seahawks were the first team to enter the playoffs with a losing record. Now fast forward to this year’s 34-7 Monday night massacre in week 13 and keep a few things in mind.

The first is Pete Carroll’s expertise is teaching in the secondary. And let’s face it, The Legion of Boom is led by the league’s best secondary and there isn’t a group close to this one. Not in physicality or cover skills. Richard Sherman has talked the talk while leading the league in interceptions with 8. The safety tandem of Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas is easily the best and most physical. Carroll’s defense and bad weather is the kryptonite to Sean Payton’s offense.

Seattle Seahawks alternate logo.

Seattle Seahawks alternate logo.

The second is the road record from the boys on the bayou. Do you realize they were 1-4 in their last five road games to end the season?? The lone win?? A 17-13 win over the Falcons who were in the midst of a tailspin of a season in week 12. Sure they made team history with a win in Philadelphia but that was against a first time playoff coach in Chip Kelly. A first time playoff starter in Nick Foles and a playoff inexperienced team in the Eagles. Those jitters kept the game close and a more experienced Saints team took advantage.

Yet are the psychological scars from the primetime beat down in Seattle healed?? The Chancellor of Football says no. You can be more ready to play a team but when one physically beats you down, that lives with you in high stakes collision sports and boxing. Have you ever listened to a boxer discuss in an interview how haunted they were when they were physically manhandled by an opponent. If it’s psychological than it’s sociological and a team has to re-live that nightmare.

The Saints bring a defense to Seattle this weekend and is the real wild card in this rematch.

The Saints bring a defense to Seattle this weekend and is the real wild card in this rematch.

However there is a silver lining in Rob Ryan and the Saints defense. You remember him right?? Jerry Jones fired him last year and brought in Lane Kiffin and had the worst ….alright I digress. They come in with the 4th best defense in football and have forced 13 fumbles this year. On a rainy day, this could be where this defense could turn this playoff game.

After reviewing the regular season match-up again, the Saints offense was completely manhandled by the NFL’s #1 defense. One theme that has held is how badly the Saints fare against top defenses on the road. With NFC supremacy on the line, they only scored 7 and had 188 total yards in the Monday night massacre in Seattle. Then with NFC South supremacy on the line two weeks later in Carolina, they score 13 in another loss that relegated them to a wild card.

Russell Wilson is used to playing in the elements. Thanks to his college days in Wisconsin and Seattle as a pro.

Russell Wilson is used to playing in the elements. Thanks to his college days in Wisconsin and Seattle as a pro.

Sandwiched between these was a 27-16 loss to St Louis where they were outhit again. Do you realize these 3 losses were all on the road in weeks 13-16?? Now they are going out on the road again to the rainy Pacific Northwest with that passing game?? It doesn’t look good.

Now this is the playoffs where you elevate your game and this Seahawks defense is the best The Chancellor of Football has seen since the 2000 Ravens. http://taylorblitztimes.com/2013/03/08/2013-seattle-seahawks-preview-ready-to-make-a-move/ This is the team we picked to win the Super Bowl and Percy Harvin is back to add a missing element. The Saints hope to get to him and force a turnover when he gets it. Russell Wilson will play his usual heady game and run when he has to. The coverage of Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell is necessary to keep it going. Yet look for a thunderous shot by Kam Chancellor on Jimmy Graham early in the game to send a message.  The Seahawks are too good and too fast for New Orleans and should win 38-3. The only way the Saints stay in this game is to force some turnovers.

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AFC Wild Card: San Diego Chargers v Cincinnati Bengals

Welcome to day two of the National Football League playoffs for 2013. One of the items being thrown around by television pundits is “No one wants to play the San Diego Chargers.” It’s true that the Chargers have won 5 of their last 6, but so have the Cincinnati Bengals. In the 6 Cincy has won, one of those was a 17-10 victory over these exact same Chargers on their home turf just a month ago. The media is at it again…

The Cincinnati Bengals should be the best of the AFC North in 2013.

The Cincinnati Bengals should be the best of the AFC North in 2013.

What about the fact the Bengals were not only 8-0 at home but tied the National Football League record for scoring 40 points in four of those games?? Last performed by the 2000 St Louis Rams of The Greatest Show on Turf vintage. They averaged 34.4 points per game at home and are being treated like an after thought by the media. Everyone is pointing to Andy Dalton throwing 4 interceptions in the finale against Baltimore. Yet they still scored their average with a 34-17 rout ending the reign of the champion Ravens.

Now the Chargers show up on wild card weekend with the NFL’s 23rd ranked defense that has given up 30 on the road to Philly, 30 to Washington, 38 to Kansas City, and even 27 to the lowly Raiders. Do you realize the Chargers have only forced 6 turnovers in 8 road games this year?? Now they’re going out in the cold and will do it in the playoffs?? Isn’t this the team that barely beat the Chiefs playing with a second string group 27-24 in overtime just to get into the playoffs?? What juggernaut “no one wants to play team” are they talking about??

The National Football League's #3 defensefeatures Vontaze Burfict. Who is seriously considered  for TBT Defensive Player of the Year.

The National Football League’s #3 defensefeatures Vontaze Burfict. Who is seriously considered for TBT Defensive Player of the Year.

The Bengals will win this game 37-24 on the strength of a couple things. The first is they field the only top ten defense from the AFC that is in the 2013 playoffs. They rank 3rd… Another is the Bengals know the Chargers very well. Not only did they beat them in San Diego 17-10 this year, they beat them 20-13 last year on the road again. Now they get them at home where the Bengals really put up points?? That doesn’t bode well for today. Who and what were the teams ranked Cincy draped 40 on at home this year?? Try 49 on the 11th ranked New York Jets, 41 on the 9th ranked Cleveland Browns, 42 on the 20th ranked Indianapolis Colts, and 42 on the 31st ranked Minnesota Vikings. Last but not least these were totaled from week 8 on so this is very relevant.

Don’t listen to ESPN try to sell you a bag of goods on San Diego and not bring up the strength of the Bengals. They are peaking at the right time and are right where we predicted they would be: http://taylorblitztimes.com/2013/04/16/2013-cincinnati-bengals-team-preview-slowly-building-a-winner/

Andy Dalton and A.J. Green have only known playoffs in their 3 seasons in The Queen City. Today should show the growth of the team with a win.

Andy Dalton and A.J. Green have only known playoffs in their 3 seasons in The Queen City. Today should show the growth of the team with a win.

The Chargers really would pull off a tremendous upset if they were to win today. The Chancellor of Football doesn’t see that at all, not in spirit, way the teams are playing, nor in stats. But that’s why they play the games as Chris Berman always reiterates. However the Bengals should win easily 37-24. We predicted they would be in New York for the Super Bowl. Step one is today…

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NFL Wild Card Week: New Orleans Saints v Philadelphia Eagles

Now as we move on to game two of the National Football League’s playoffs, where the New Orleans Saints travel outside to The City of Brotherly Love. The first thing that jumps out at you is how poorly they have played on the road this year (3-5) and how they haven’t won a road playoff game in their history. Every pundit is talking about the battle between Drew Brees and Nick Foles.

Nick Foles can come of age with a win against the Saints.

Nick Foles can come of age with a win against the Saints.

The bigger issue is the Eagles field the NFL rushing champion in LeSean McCoy while Pierre Thomas is out for the Saints. Brees and the offense needs some balance in this game. They have passed the football 68% of the time on offense. That doesn’t win road games and especially doesn’t win playoff games. If Mark Ingram can step up the Saints have a chance to win this game.

However Sean Payton won’t want to stay with the running game long enough to keep the Eagle offense out of rhythm. Drew Brees will have to carry the load as he throws 50 times on a windy night. Now would be a good time for the defense to force Foles and McCoy into a few turnovers to steal momentum from the Eagles.

Problem is Nick Foles has played as well any quarterback in the NFL this season. All the Eagles have to do is stay balanced and they should win this game. Mark Ingram will have the chance to leave his imprint on this game, however he will have to show some toughness as he takes hits going into the second half. Especially in the cold. The Eagles defense should make him turn it over late and secure a solid win 30-17.

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AFC Wild Card: Kansas City Chiefs @ Indianapolis Colts

Playoff time in the National Football League begins now and you can smell it. Listening to all the pundits talk about the team no one wants to play, they keep talking about the wrong team. The team no one wants to play isn’t the San Diego Chargers, it’s the Indianapolis Colts. They are the giant killers that toppled Denver from the ranks of the unbeaten, beat the Seahawks, bludgeoned the 49ers, and three weeks ago upended the Chiefs to keep them from winning the AFC West.

Lucas Oil Stadium with championship banners hanging.

Lucas Oil Stadium with championship banners hanging.

Keep in mind they are coming into this playoff match-up with a higher defensive ranking than the Chiefs. They have to contend with Jamaal Charles who represents 35% of the Chiefs offense. Today Andy Reid has to get Alex Smith to go downfield with DeWayne Bowe while the Colts are keying on Charles.

He led the Chiefs in rushing (1,227 yards) receptions (70) and the league in touchdowns with 19. Right now Reid’s offense is too one dimensional. Dexter McCluster could be a wild card here but we have to see some new wrinkles.

Today the Colts will win 30-21 as they are plus 5 in takeaways at home. Take out the aberration when they turned it over 5 times in a 38-8 loss to the Rams, that number jumps to plus 10.  In the last seven games, Kansas City has forced only 6 turnovers in 6 games and 7 versus the Raiders. The problem is they’ll be missing Tamba Hali although LB Justin Houston is back. The playoffs start with a win in Lucas Oil by the Colts.

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Super Bowl XLVII Preview:….And The Winner Is??

Super Bowl XLVII

Super Bowl XLVII

Three nights from now, the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens will try to get some sleep knowing their lives will be different by the end of Sunday night. The boy-hood dream of becoming a Super Bowl champion will be realized by one group where the other will be roped off as the trophy presentation begins.  What color will the confetti be as the league assembles the champion’s podium??

For the most part the sporting world wants to know why Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers is not nervous. Its relatively easy, he’s playing the same offense he did in college. Under normal circumstances a young quarterback is spending his time learning a new offense along with learning the pro game. This game will be decided by the read option and the execution of it. Can the Baltimore defense squeeze this play down and minimize it’s effectiveness??

As we told you in the Ray Lewis Super Bowl preview article….this is the key to this game: In the Ravens defense, when they see this play, Lewis needs to stay on Frank Gore and the outside guys in Dannell Ellerbe, Paul Kruger, and Bernard Pollard have to be there to hit Kaepernick early to get his attention. Lewis out in space would definitely be a liability at this time. He, Haloti Ngata, and Terrence Cody have to take care of Frank Gore at the point of this play.

Dannell Ellerbe, Haloti Ngata, and Paul Kruger are as key as Ray Lewis in Super Bowl XLVII

Dannell Ellerbe, Haloti Ngata, and Paul Kruger are as key as Ray Lewis in Super Bowl XLVII

If the Ravens can prove to use the front 3 to eat up the blockers and limit Gore’s effectiveness on the read option, Lewis will be able to scrape from inside out if Ellerbe and Kruger can keep containment. This will have to be later in the game once the read option has been neutralized up front. This game may be won or lost on this premise. Lewis needs to flow from his Inside Linebacker position to the cut back point of this play with containment. If the 49ers can stretch the outside, Lewis will not be able to make it to that point to stop Kaepernick.

One wild card the 49er offense can play is RB LeMichael James, he lends a cutback ability and a bounce in or out of a running play that might be harder for Lewis to track. However will he be in enough plays to be that effective a decoy and make that much of an impact on this game. One of the 49er’s strengths is their offensive line. The movement they got on BJ Raji of the Packers in the divisional round was embarrassing. They moved him from left to right where RT Anthony Davis, and Guards Mike Iupati, and Alex Boone rooted him out of there playing too high. This group can move and they can block. If ever there was a game where Terrence “Mount” Cody needs to hold ground next to Haloti Ngata, this is it. Our CEO has often said Ngata is the best defensive lineman in the NFL for his ability to take on double team blocks low, defeat them and make the tackle in the backfield, while keeping blockers off Ray Lewis. Even if he doesn’t make the tackle, occupies the double team allowing Lewis to make the tackle, he’s done his job. Anything more is extra. Understand that Ngata had 50 tackles and 5 sacks from the interior. That is down from 2011’s 64 tackle performance but still enough to make his presence felt this Sunday.

The best linebacker on the field for Super Bowl XLVII won't be Patrick Willis or Ray Lewis. It's Navorro Bowman.

The best linebacker on the field for Super Bowl XLVII won’t be Patrick Willis or Ray Lewis. It’s Navorro Bowman.

The San Francisco 49ers front seven is as good as the Super Bowl has seen in the last ten years. Their linebackers are better than that Tampa unit that won Super Bowl XXXVII. Navorro Bowman just may be the best linebacker in the NFL although Patrick Willis gets most of the ink. If you’re not a Taylor Blitz Times regular it may come as a shock to you that Bowman has been  an All Pro now for back to back seasons even though he just made the Pro Bowl for the first time. Coaches and those that know like The Chancellor of football know this tackling machine can play the run (144 tackles) or the pass. It was Bowman that knocked down the 4th and 4 attempted pass to Roddy White at the end of the NFC Championship Game. He is going to be all over Ray Rice in this football game, whether its a flare pass or run. Willis will be there along with DT Justin Smith (64 tackles) to keep Raven rushing attempts to minimal gains. Watch for RB Bernard Pierce #30 to get a series or two as the lead back if Rice is ineffective early. The 49ers front seven is hard to crack.

Which brings us to the passing attack and the way that Super Bowl XLVII will be won. Coming into this game we have two front sevens playing heads up football but what about the back seven?? The 49ers passing game saved the day with the re-emergence of TE Vernon Davis in the NFC Championship Game. The question was was it a new wrinkle in the offense or an aberration. On a whole is the passing game enough to carry the 49ers to victory on a team that just made Peyton Manning and Tom Brady look pedestrian in back to back playoff games on the road?? The Ravens picked off those two Hall of Famers 5 times combined while on the road. Now they face a quarterback in his 10th start with Hall of Fame S Ed Reed lurking back there disguising his coverages. We don’t see it.

Ed Reed's crafty play at safety is a wildcard in Super Bowl XLVII. He will force Kaepernick into one mis-read interception in this game.

Ed Reed’s crafty play at safety is a wildcard in Super Bowl XLVII. He will force Kaepernick into one mis-read interception in this game.

The other hot hand in these playoffs is Joe Flacco. He’s passed for over 800 yards and 8 touchdowns in the three playoff games leading to this one. He has found the most success in the three receiver sets which have simplified his reads. One of the changes to the Ravens offense that no one is talking about is the firing of Cam Cameron and the play calling of former Indianapolis Colts coach Jim Caldwell. He used to shape the game plan for the Colts also so he knows what to call having participated in Super Bowl XLI & XLIV. Through this play selection, Flacco has been confident and delivered the football to TE Denni Pitta, WR Anquan Boldin, and WR Torrey Smith. Boldin provides a power mismatch on the outside with his experience but it’s his muscle in the slot that showed in the playoffs. He just bullied Patriot DBs when the ball was in the air.

In the end, the Ravens will force Kaepernick to win this game passing, unfortunately the Ravens should have the lead from being successful passing the football first, winning the game 31-27. The Baltimore Ravens will be the winners of Super Bowl XLVII

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Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!