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. https://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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NFC Wildcard: San Francisco 49ers @ Green Bay Packers

In the NFL playoffs the first thing you have to do is learn what it takes to win on the road.  Its widely understood you should win a majority of your games at home. However are you equipped to win at home in all conditions?? Today with the weather hovering around 5* and -20* wind chill, the edge goes to the team that will run and possess the football.

127888192_crop_650x440We have to go on record giving the edge in this game to the San Francisco 49ers. They run better and stop the run.

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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Taylor Blitz Times Coach of the Year: Andy Reid

The late Bum Phillips when discussing Don Shula’s coaching abilities once said “Shula can take his’n and beat your’n then take your’n and beat his’n.” In layman terms he could beat any opponent no matter the personnel he had or was given. This fits the 2013 season for several National Football League coaches but the one who’s coaching style best illustrates this is Chief’s coach Andy Reid.

Coach of the Year is Andy  Re....wait that's not Reid.

Coach of the Year is Andy Re….wait that’s not Reid.

Consider the fact Kansas City was coming off of the worst season in NFL history. Not only was the coaching staff headed by Romeo Crennel escorted out the door. The players left behind endured a 2-14 season, along with the suicide of former teammate Jovan Belcher. At the practice facility no less. In 2012 this team had lost 13 of it’s last 14 and scored just 211 points all year. Good for dead last in the NFL.

All Reid did was breathe life into an organization with a forgotten quarterback in Alex Smith. Whom San Francisco discarded when Colin Kaepernick stepped to the fore midway through last season. Consequently he provided Smith with his 6th offensive coordinator in 8 years.

2013 TBT Coach of The Year: Andy Reid

2013 TBT Coach of The Year: Andy Reid

Just as he had with Donovan McNabb, Jeff Garcia, Brett Favre, and a resurrected Michael Vick, he got the most out of his quarterback and made the playoffs. Smith finished with career highs in yardage (3,313), touchdowns (23) and nearly eclipsed his career low in interception percentage (1.4% in 2013 v 1.1% in 2011). By the way that led the league

It took awhile for the offense to get into a groove as the defense led the Chiefs to a 9-0 start. They finished 11-5 while scoring 430 points, good enough for 6th in the league, while allowing 305 points good enough for 6th defensively.

Aside from Smith, he performed this with players that had been with the Chiefs the previous year. His career was at a crossroads after being dismissed in Philadelphia. His message had grown stale as his Eagle’s free-fell from playoff contention losing 11 of 12.  Reid has his team heading to Indianapolis for a wild card tilt with the Colts this Saturday. However that game turns out this has been a successful season for both he and the Chiefs.

By the way… Taylor Blitz saw this coming: https://taylorblitztimes.com/2013/05/13/2013-kansas-city-chiefs-preview-tools-for-a-resurgence/

Honorable Mention:

2. Bill Belichick – What else needs to be said about Belichick’s coaching abilities?? In 2013 he began the season without the top 5 receivers from the year before. He endured the awful controversy that is the Aaron Hernandez murder case and steered his team onward. Then he loses two of his leaders in perennial Pro Bowler Vince Wilfork and leading tackler Jerrod Mayo for the season. Yet here they are 12-4 entering the playoffs as the #2 seed having already beaten #1 seed Denver in the regular season. He’s two wins away from coaching a record 6th Super Bowl and participating in his 9th.

Kiss the rings.

Kiss the rings.

He’s the greatest National Football League coach since Vince Lombardi without a doubt. Under normal circumstances he would be runaway coach of the year. He’ll have to settle for second on my list because he did have Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady to help guide the ship. The Patriots have played in the last two AFC Championship games and we had them predicted to make it to this one as well. Their missing key contributors and roll into the playoffs having won 5 of their last 6. One of those is over the Denver Broncos. Please don’t underscore that for it’s importance if they play again.

3. Chip Kelly – “Man he’s not going to win with that gimmicky college offense in the pros.” You can remember hearing that before the season and it died somewhere around week 7. I had my reservations as well but no one counted on Nick Foles becoming one of the National Football League’s best quarterbacks. Yet they have the NFL rushing champion in LeSean McCoy and the defense is making timely plays. He infused a new atmosphere in a place Andy Reid used to call home but he is using Reid’s old players. How he does in the NFL playoffs will dictate how he’ll take command of the NFC East next year.

Congratulations to Andy Reid…Taylor Blitz Times Coach of the Year

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