Wild Card Week: Cincinnati Bengals @ Houston Texans

cincinnati-bengals5We made it through the regular season and we’re off to start the race for Super Bowl XLVII!! Our first match-up is a rematch from last year’s playoffs between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Houston Texans. Battle lines for this game start right there… the Bengals have been here before and it bodes well for them. Last year was a surprise where this year they expected to be here.

The first thing that jumps out is the Bengals and Texans are #6 & #7 in defense. Although JJ Watt has garnered most of the publicity, it’s the Bengals who are 3rd in sacks with 50. This will travel well with them since they gain them in a group. Watt with his 20 1/2 hasn’t helped that team over the last four weeks.

With the Bengals you have to pick your poison and either double Geno Atkins 12 1/2 sacks or Michael Johnson’s 11 1/2. Behind all that pressure is surprise rookie LB Vontaze Burfict (128 tackles) and Ray Maualuga (122 tackles) where they get to set their sites on Arian Foster. Burfict has proven to be a playmaker and Houston might try to take advantage of him with misdirection plays. Each team ranks in the 20’s against the run and for the Bengals, they have to stop Foster who rushed for 1,424 yards and 15 touchdowns this year. However he has only 1, 100 yard day in his last four outings.

The big thing that jumps out is the Houston Texans are not playing confident and peaked too early. Here at Taylor Blitz Times we asked if the Texans had enough playmakers to make it to New Orleans. In this late season slide there were no playmakers to turn any of these games around when they were close and we think that is what will happen in this one. The Bengals have been playing playoff football for two months now. They were chasing the Ravens, passed the Steelers and have won 7 of 8 just to make the playoffs. Matt Schaub is going to  play well but only if they’re ahead. These last few weeks you can see he presses if behind. Andre Johnson is still a top receiver but he’s no longer the complete package that could grab possession balls and beat you deep. The Bengals have several veteran cornerbacks in Terrance Newman, Nate Clements, “PacMan” Jones, and Leon Hall can cover the Texans. Do you realize they have defensed 35 passes between the four of them?? Do you realize combined with the 50 sacks, they have given up 20 points or less in 8 straight games??

At this point of the season, you are what you are and with that we are taking the Bengals over the Texans. Watch for Ben Jarvus Green Ellis to keep the pressure off of Andy Dalton. Will he get 100?? He’ll come close… Do you realize the Texans are 26th against the run?? Time for the Bengals to reverse they’re playoff history.

 

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NFL Week 14: Atlanta Falcons v. Houston Texans – A Matter Of Perception

Jonathon Stewart and the Panthers took the Falcons  to school on Sunday.

Jonathon Stewart and the Panthers took the Falcons to school on Sunday.

As the NFL playoffs near, we see teams jockeying for playoff positioning,  and pundits making arguments for which teams will do well in the postseason. The Taylor Blitz Times is no different in that regard. The most interesting scenario that has occurred this season is no one believes in the teams with the best records. The Atlanta Falcons along with the Houston Texans were handed big losses and the chant of “over-rated” reverberated throughout the NFL fan-base via twitter &  facebook. Even NFL.com ran a story to this degree, however appearances can be deceiving.

If you look at the two teams and each loss, they’re very dissimilar. The Houston Texans took to a big stage to show the defending AFC Champion Patriots and the rest of the conference that they were to be taken serious. Homefield advantage throughout the playoffs is at stake and everyone watched them get obliterated 42-14, on Monday Night Football in a game where everyone had this date on the calender circled for months. The Falcons /Panthers game was nothing like that. It wasn’t one where Atlanta needed to prove themselves. They have already been to the playoffs four straight years and for the first time may have homefield throughout. They were just caught off guard by a division opponent who knows them and matches up well against them.

houston-texans-v-england-patriots-20121210-192412-399In their earlier match-up this season, Carolina had the chance to run out the clock on the Falcons, but a Cam Newton fumble under 2 minutes to go kept them from a game clinching first down. After a punt that pinned Atlanta to their own 10, Matt Ryan launched a 60 yard bomb to Roddy White on the next play which helped set up the game winning kick by Matt Bryant.  That 30-28 win established two things: The first is the Falcons’ ability to come from behind and win close games as they have all year. Do you realize the Falcons are 8-1 in games decided by 7 or less this season?? That is the mark of a champion.

The second, it established the Panthers as a team that could give Atlanta’s defense fits running right at them. Try to the tune of 199 yards, then 195 last Sunday, which allowed Carolina control of the clock and the line of scrimmage.

As each team gathered in their second loss, the buzzards started to circle. For us the real measure of what took place on Sunday and Monday Night, showed the Texans on the short end of the stick. They lined up against the team that played in last year’s Super Bowl and were beaten soundly. Most of the talk after last year’s playoff run was “Well if we would have had Matt Schaub…” Last week, they had him and he turned in a lackluster 19 of 32 for 232 yards and 1 interception performance. It didn’t seem he was as big as the game they were playing, lacking leadership and fight throughout. Nevermind his earlier Pro Bowl status…this was the proving ground for him and his team. You had Arian Foster, who has led the NFL in rushing and all he could muster was a 15 carry 46 yard performance. Hell teammate Ben Tate ran for that much in garbage time. Once you include Andre Johnson, none of the vital signs for Houston were functioning when the clock struck zero.

In the game with the Patriots, the Texans had their manhood taken and the only way to get it back is to take it back. Coach Kubiak has to use that as motivation to get this team ready for the playoffs. Their confidence has to be shaken…

As for the Falcons, Coach Smith needs to keep the ship steady yet find out what has happened to their offensive rhythm. In the last two weeks they have averaged 322.5 yards per game when in the previous 4 weeks the average was 421.5. That translates into a time of possession difference that may make the Falcons more beatable than in the season’s first 10 weeks. Each has work to do but the psychological fallout from the loss in New England gives the Houston Texans the tougher hill to climb.

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NFL Week 5: First Quarter Report Cards

Tonight’s game between the Chicago Bears and the Dallas Cowboys marks a quarter of the 2012 NFL season will be in the books. Last year we had twists and turns that could be blamed on the lockout where this one doesn’t have a scapegoat. Alright maybe it does with the replacement officials yet in hindsight they only affected one game. Aside from the Seattle Seahawks v Green Bay Packers Monday Night tilt, there were bad calls on both teams to even things out. Yet the regular officials were back yesterday and made a call that surprised me and will be the last we’ll say about the referees for awhile.

Doug Wiliams injuring his knee and dropping the football in Super Bowl XXII. The ruling then was he gave himself up therefore the ball was dead. Yesterday the NFL refs ruled differently.

Taken from The Chancellor of Football’s Facebook page: In yesterdays Jets v 49ers game, Santonio Holmes injures his knee, drops the football and turned it over to San Francisco. In Super Bowl XXII, Denver was up 10-0 on the Washington Redskins when Doug Williams dropped back, injured his knee, drops the football as he is writhing in pain just like Holmes. He hadn’t been touched down and Rulon Jones recovered the ball. The explanation THEN was Doug Williams “gave himself up (injury) therefore the ball was dead” Huh? The Denver Broncos would have had the football at the Washington 22 with a chance to go up 17-0. A turning point of a game that NEVER got talked about. So either the Broncos got cheated in Super Bowl XXII Dennis Smith Karl Mecklenburg Eric V. Lockett or they screwed up yesterday. Which is it!?!?!?!?

The point maybe moot with the 49ers handing the Jets one of their worse home loss in years but we are here to hand out report cards.

The 49ers swallowed the Jets offense yesterday 34-0.

Receiving an “A” grade:

Atlanta Falcons – On course for a possible trip to the NFC Championship Game or beyond. Matt Stafford trapped on his own 1 with :59 left and down 28-27 hits Roddy White for 59 yards. He completed 3 passes and moves the team 70 yards and they win 30-28. Could be a team of destiny with a win like that. An absolute championship building block.

Minnesota Vikings- Christian Ponder has yet to throw an interception and this team is not beating itself. Yesterday’s 20-13 win over Detroit was the Vikings first divisional win in 2 years. By moving to 3-1 with a head to head victory on Detroit gives them a 3 game lead over the Lions. As time goes on and Adrian Peterson gets comfortable with his recovered knee…look out.

Houston Texans- Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, and Arian Foster are powering the only team in the AFC South. J.J. Watt and the defense has played solidly yet this team hasn’t played anyone yet.  We’ll know if they stay on the “A” list when they take on the Baltimore Ravens in week 7. That’s the team that eliminated them last year.

Arizona Cardinals -Surprisingly this team has become a defense first football team. They had a signature win over the New England Patriots in Foxboro two weeks ago. They have won in spite of their offense sputtering in 3 games and rotating quarterbacks in Skelton and Kevin Kolb. Right now they are 4-0 and playing strong football. Patrick Peterson is about to become the cover corner and is blossoming into a great player.

San Francisco 49ers – Last week when they lost to the Vikings everyone wanted to attribute it to jetlag. Maybe the Vikings are that good and surprised San Fran. Yet Harbaugh’s bunch exposed the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions to start the season off right. Yesterday’s 34-0 destruction of the New York Jets showed how physically imposing this team is. They are rushing the football with authority and playing thunderous team defense. They will definitely be there in the end.

Brian Dawkins was honored at halftime of last night’s game.

Receiving a “B” grade:

Baltimore Ravens – This team should be on the “A” list but were undone by Joe Flacco’s 4 for 16 2nd half performance in the 24-23 loss to the Eagles. The defense has played lights out football with Haloti Gnata, the best defensive lineman in the NFL, and Ray Lewis still playing at a high level. Ray Rice is still running the football hard and has 317 yards rushing on the young season. Flacco is still checking the ball down too much to Rice and if he doesn’t improve on this they won’t make it to an “A”.

Philadelphia Eagles – Michael Vick has had a rough first quarter yet he did march them to a winning score with a minute to go against Cleveland. As an encore, he brought the Eagles back last night against the world champion Giants. What has been lost in this great start is how the defense has been playing. Everyone besides Namedi Asoumgha… What has happened to him?? Right now they are 3-1 and as the Cardinals keep winning, that one loss doesn’t seem like such an upset.

Chicago Bears – Last night showed how a team can play when they are hitting on all cylinders. Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall are making progress. You saw how Devin Hester can be freed with defensive attention on Marshall. Once the team is totally in an offensive rhythm once Matt Forte is at 100%, you can see how Hester can become the Bears answer to Minnesota’s Percy Harvin. On defense, it was pointed out that the Bears are playing fundamental 4-3 defense without any gimmicks. Solid pass rush, strong linebacker play and Charles “Peanut” Tillman has been the most consistent corner over the last 5 years. All they have to do is get Cutler to have a good game once they face the Packers. They’re records keep going as they are and they won’t have to worry about Green Bay. A serious NFC darkhorse in Chicago.

New England Patriots – Early on they had some protection issues and were going away from Wes Welker. With yesterday’s blistering 45 point second half in their 52-28 win in Buffalo, they may have righted the ship. In doing so, the Patriots had two 100 yard rushers in Stevan Ridley (137 yards) and Brandon Bolden (137 yards) and should bode well the rest of the season. Even though they are 2-2 on the season, they lost to 4-0 Arizona and 3-1 Baltimore. Brady can get hot and now that they have awakened from their early season slumber the Patriots will be off and running from this point forward. Next up they host the Denver Broncos. Tom Brady v. Peyton Manning. You don’t think Brady will be up for this one?? Another 40 point outing awaits…

San Diego Chargers – Just making this list by virtue of their record are the 3-1 Chargers. In reality they are the best of the weaker teams and have a weak schedule to thank. The Titans, Raiders, and Chiefs have a combined record of 3-9. When they lined up against the Falcons, they couldn’t stay on the field and were crushed 27-3. Their offense is ranked 24th in the NFL and will need to remain turnover free to keep this up.

Cincinnati Bengals – On a 3 game winning streak, this is the surprise team of the early season in the AFC. Right now Andy Dalton has connected on 67.5% of his passes and 8 touchdowns to just 4 interceptions. Cincy is playing wide open football and are ranked 10th in all of football. Do they have the ability to run the football with muscle when they need it?? They were exposed in that 44-13 opening day loss to Baltimore for lacking that. They have to develop some strong running game to combat all of their division rivals.

Marshawn Lynch has enjoyed a rebirth in Seattle.

Receiving a “C” grade:

New York Giants – Eli Manning has been saving this team all season and nearly pulled out another game last night against the Eagles. So if Manning didn’t throw for more than 250 yards and 25 fourth quarter points, where would the Giants be?? Where is their pass rush?? They have had a few injuries and they still need to run the football with authority. They need to make Andre Brown (5.2 yards per carry) the running back the rest of the season. Ahmad Bradshaw is not an every down running back.

Denver Broncos – Every thought has been on Peyton Manning and will the Broncos make it to the Super Bowl. At 2-2 with a trip to Foxboro coming up, this game is when we find out about this team. They beat the hapless Raiders and an undermanned Steelers defense. Yet against teams with real Super Bowl aspirations, they are 0-2 and face the defending AFC Champions. They beat this  Patriot team then talk to the Chancellor.

Washington Redskins – Robert Griffin III has made this team one to be reckoned with. Not only have they been competitive, they are 10 points away from being 4-0. Right now they are feeling the loss of Bryan Orakpo on defense. However after several years of solid defense, this team is transitioning into an offensive team that can run the football and rest their defense. With 8 rushing touchdowns to go along with 69.4% completion percentage, 1,070 yards and 4 touchdowns, Griffin will be more dangerous as defenses tire.

Seattle Seahawks – Everyone is upset that a bad call gave them a victory over the Green Bay Packers but a truth was overlooked by the finish. This team has been playing defense as though Buddy Ryan is coaching them. They sacked Aaron Rodgers 8 times in that game and almost knocked him from the game. The Seahawks are ranked #2 in total defense and the defense held the mediocre Cowboys to just 7 points when they came to visit. So keep in mind in home games, they have only given up an average of 9.5 points per game. This is a growing trend. Once the offense with Rookie QB Wilson can get some consistency in the passing game, this team will move into the “B” category.

Well these are the teams that have made the grade. So if you don’t see your team here, they have to return with a signed report card from their parents. Either they are going in the wrong direction or flat-out don’t grade above a “D” or an “F”. It is what it is… so they better crack open the books and get their game-plan together. Report cards are always tough elixirs for some to take. Remember this isn’t about cheering for a team, this is about assessing their performance.

[Dallas Cowboys] – Listen…not only do they not get a passing grade but everything that was discussed by The Chancellor before was evident last night. https://taylorblitztimes.com/2012/05/26/the-chancellor-weighs-in-on-jerry-jones-comments-on-cowboys-super-bowl-window-closing/ This team does not have a player at any position aside from DeMarcus Ware that is either the best at his position or a player other teams would replace their player for one that plays for the Cowboys. They’re just not that good. Seattle and Chicago both manhandled them in their two losses and they were sporadic in a lackluster 17-9 win over Tampa. They were fired up for game 1 against the Giants, which now looks like a fluke win. Now they’re season gets tough with four of the next five on the road in Baltimore, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Carolina. Who are they better than of that bunch?? Come on now Cowboy fans…

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Wild Card Week: Cincinnati Bengals @ Houston Texans

Welcome to the post season and here are two Cinderella stories meeting during NFL Wild Card week. Who would have thought that after losing Chad Ochocinco and Carson Palmer, Marvin Lewis would have his Cincinnati Bengals in the playoffs?? Very few… Now they have the chance to win a playoff game which is something they didn’t accomplish with Palmer or Chad. He comes in with a growing rookie quarterback in Andy Dalton and the NFL’s #7 defense. They were a top ten defense all season and finished with 45 sacks on the year and will face either T.J. Yates or Jake Delhomme.

Now neither quarterback is a world beater at this time however Yates led the Texans to a 20-19 victory over the Bengals just four weeks ago. Yet they haven’t won a game since. The  Texans have to lean on their defense which comes in ranked #2 and has given up the fourth fewest touchdowns this season with 31. Having Andre Johnson is a huge step in advancing to the divisional round. This team is a little beat up and going into the playoffs with a second or third string quarterback doesn’t bode well. We’re just not sure about Jake Delhomme at this point when facing a formidable pass rush.

You have to remember that Bengal’s rookie quarterback Andy Dalton is from TCU and should have some fans at this game. He will want to have a good showing. In his first year replacing Carson Palmer, the former Horned Frog threw for 3,398 yards and 20TDs. A strong showing overshadowed by the success of Cam Newton in Carolina. With 1,067 yards rushing this season from Cedric Benson, the Bengals are built to win this playoff game. Houston does have Arian Foster (1,224 yards rushing) to counter that but this is the first foray into the NFL playoffs for this team and many of their players.

The Texans would be better suited to win this game had Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson were completely healthy but in this one…we’re taking the Cincinnati Bengals. You don’t go into the playoffs on a 3 game LOSING streak and expect to wake up in the playoffs. The only time we can remember that happening was in 1986 when the Jets lost their last 5 then beat the Kansas City Chiefs in the wildcard game. Yet they had to switch from Ken O’Brien to Pat Ryan at quarterback to achieve this…. Anyway this should be a game for the Bengals defense to get some respect today.

2011 AFC South Previews and Predictions

With the NFL season a few days away, the Colts are starting to realize what life will be like without Peyton Manning. His inability to recover fully from neck surgery has given the front office a gaze into the near future when he will not be under center. The Colts spent a majority of this year’s draft improving the offensive line, it’s a given he will take some shots as this line develops. The images of an aging Brett Favre taking hit after hit have to be dancing in Coach Caldwell’s mind, and Manning has been placed as doubtful on the injury report for week one against the Texans.

Just in the nick of time too as Texan linebackers Mario Williams and Brian Cushing were going to come screaming at him off the corners. It seems as though the Colts are after one last hurrah where a division rival from Texas has grown in leaps and bounds. Last year they fielded the NFL’s leading rusher in Arian Foster. His 1,616 yards and 16 TDs to go along with the production of perennial Pro Bowl wideout Andre Johnson, should make this the best offense in the division.  Coach Kubiak is on the “hotseat” and hopes new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips can improve his defense. These developments are happening at just the right time in our eyes. Circle week 4 when this team hosts the Pittsburgh Steelers to find out if they are for real or not.

2011 AFC SOUTH PREDICTIONS

Houston Texans 10-6 *

Indianapolis Colts 9-7

Tennessee Titans  5-11

Jacksonville Jaguars 3-13                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            For the first time since they moved from Houston in 1996, the Tennessee Titans will be moving in a new direction without Jeff Fisher. The team he left behind has some pieces but made a mistake in not retaining Kerry Collins. He could have provided some continuity as the team develops #1 draft pick Jake Locker. Now he will help shape the Colts (when Manning returns) gameplan when they face his former team. Furthermore the contract renegotiation for the services of RB Chris Johnson are over, yet the subsequent holdout normally mean hamstring problems. Something to watch as this team brought in Matt Hasselbeck to be the transition quarterback.

Now we have the swan song for Jack Del Rio coming up. It looked like his team had been regressing since that playoff loss to New England a few years back. If you remember, Coach Rio in a stunning move, cut starting QB Byron Leftwich and handed the keys over to David Garard to generate more offense. that was 2007, so what does that have to do with 2011?? Lets just say same time same channel. As we went to press yesterday, Del Rio released starting quarterback David Garard. This time there is only rookie QB Blaine Gabbert to handle the offense.  He’s simply lost it with this move. In his defense, the last time he made this bold move, Garrard had provided a second half spark in many games during the previous season. Maurice Jones Drew will see mammoth 8 man fronts and will see a long season. The Titans were picked to finish last when this move came across the wire.  Looks like a recipe for disaster.

As for the Colts, this looks like the end of a remarkable run. This team won 115 games during the 2000’s which included a Super Bowl triumph in the 41st edition. As time has gone on they have drafted low for many years and now the team is devoid of any star power outside of Manning. Even if he is healthy, he masks many deficiencies. Yet with the loss of defensive sparkplug Bob Sanders there is a lot to overcome. With the emergence of the Jets and re-emergence of the Ravens with superior secondaries, the Colts deficiencies at receiver have shown up in their last few playoff losses. Each of which have come in the first round…only this year the Colts won’t make it that far.

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Next up: AFC North