Super Bowl XLVII Preview: Joe Flacco – Transformation Into An Alpha Quarterback

Joe Flacco has come of age in the 2012 playoffs.

Joe Flacco has come of age in the 2012 playoffs.

Contrary to LaMarr Woodley’s opinion, the Baltimore Ravens have made it to the Super Bowl with Joe Flacco at quarterback. Even here, our CEO has had his issues with Joe Flacco who used to shrink a the enormity of the event. But something happened out in Denver that separated the Raven quarterback we once knew, to the confident play maker that has emerged.

For the whole of his career, Flacco plays well enough but always left you wondering. Every now and again he’d have a flash, like the last second touchdown pass to TJ Houshmandzadeh in week 4 of 2010 to beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh. Yet when the season was on the line some 14 weeks later in the divisional round of the playoffs, Flacco played nervously and wouldn’t pass downfield. In this playoff loss he only completed 3 downfield passes in a 31-24 loss that seamed to seal his fate as a quarterback who couldn’t lead his team to a championship.

He appeared to be afraid to pull the trigger and kept checking the ball down to Ray Rice in that game. Its been the knock our CEO has had on him for years and we’ve talked about ad nauseum when covering the Ravens.  He wasn’t going through his  progressions and getting the ball down the field when the plays were there. We spoke of a damaged fight or flight mechanism that had his nervous feet count 1, then 2 seconds then throw it to Ray Rice. There were games when a receiver would break open and the ball would be overthrown. He wouldn’t capitalize on these moments and would always keep the Ravens opponents in games by not putting them away. It happened in last year’s AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots as well.

Even when you look at his performance over this season, he only completed 59.7% of his passes for 22 touchdowns with 10 interceptions.  Rookie quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck out performed Flacco throwing for 26 and 23 touchdowns respectively. He performed well in the wild card win over Indy with a 282 yards passing, 2 touchdown performance, but would he continue those ways against an AFC heavyweight. For his career he would beat the lessor teams and struggle against the better teams in the AFC playoffs. Why would the divisional tilt against the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning be any different?? The Broncos were on an 11 game winning streak and he had under-performed and lost to the elite quarterbacks in playoff games. He had said he was elite and now was going into the lion’s den at Invesco Field. It didn’t look good.

Flacco's coming out party in the AFC Divisional 38-35 defeat of the Denver Broncos.

Flacco’s coming out party in the AFC Divisional 38-35 defeat of the Denver Broncos.

In the game that will forever define him going forward, Flacco played a magnificent game. He was decisive and made every read while going through his progressions completing 18 of 34 for 331 yards and 3TDs. Where Ray Rice was 2nd on the team with 61 receptions, he didn’t catch a single pass in the 38-35 overtime thriller. When the play was there, he was on time and perfect like when he feathered a 59 yard bomb to Torrey Smith to tie the game at 7. However the clarion moment for him took place when he took the field with 1:09 left in the game and down 35-28. His team needed a touchdown and they had to cover 77 yards. On a 3rd and 3 Flacco dropped back and instead of his usual scared check down throw he launched a game tying bomb to Jacoby Jones for 70 yards and the tying touchdown with :41 left in regulation. Everyone of the 78,000 in the stadium were stunned along with the millions watching the game and Broncos S Rahim Moore. No one believed he would go deep.

SuperBowl47_SOR01a_2012_SCC_SRGBIt was the confidence in how he dropped back and delivered the football that was the most telling point of the play. He was sure of himself and the throw he executed will go down in NFL history. He carried that confidence into the AFC Championship Game in New England. Where for a second year in a row, he out-dueled Tom Brady throwing for 240 yards and 3 more touchdowns leading his team to Super Bowl XLVII. If you’re keeping count, Flacco’s thrown for over 800 yards, 8 touchdowns and no interceptions during this postseason. He’s buried the memories of losing in the playoffs to two of the most storied quarterbacks of his era in Manning and Brady.

So now he gets to wrap up this great postseason run in Super Bowl XLVII. Why would he get nervous now?? Everyone is talking about Colin Kaepernick, Ray Lewis, Ray Rice, and Frank Gore when the man poised to win the most valuable player award and possibly this game is wearing #5 for the Ravens. He now has the most road wins in playoff history with 6. On Sunday he’s going to try and join Eli Manning as the only quarterbacks with 7 or more postseason wins away from home. He’s flown under the radar this whole week and seems poised to do it again.


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Super Bowl XVLI Prediction

Vince Lombardi Trophy

Well you have heard our selections for both conference champions of the NFL. The New York Jets representing the AFC v the defending champion Green Bay Packers to represent the NFC. Each will descend on Indianapolis with a fervor. The all time winningest team in NFL history in terms of championships at 13 would be looking for their 14th.  Most Packer fans bristle when they hear about Sixburgh or Dallas and San Francisco boasting of 5 Super Bowl championships when in reality they only have a third of Green Bay’s titles. A modern dynasty would cement that notion among modern day fans, and rightfully put the Packers at the fore when championship teams are discussed.

However standing across from them at that coin toss would be a franchise that hadn’t played for it all in 42 years in the New York Jets. There in Indianapolis, the Jets want to liberate themselves from the cloud that seemed to descend upon this franchise since that famous Super Bowl III upset of the Baltimore Colts. Ironically, they would look to win their second Super Bowl in the Colt’s regular season home. Rex Ryan, Mark Sanchez and the will win the AFC’s 10th Super Bowl in 15 years.

The main reason the Jets would win a Super Bowl XLVI matchup with Green Bay is the fact that they have excellent corners. Darelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie would be able to shut down either Greg Jennings or Jordy Nelson.  They have a third corner in Kyle Wilson (from Boise St) that gives them as formidable a threesome at cornerback than any team in the league. Lets face facts, the Packers are a passing team and this stellar coverage would allow Ryan to find a few ways to get to Aaron Rodgers. What was the Achille’s Heal of the Steeler defense in Super Bowl XLV, is the strength of the Jets defense in Super Bowl XVLI. Now Ryan can juggle his other eight defenders with exotic blitzes and combo coverages.

As for the ground game, each team could run the ball yet the Jets would be committed to it more. LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene would run the ball 30 times where Packers Coach Mike McCarthy has a penchant for putting it all in Rodgers hands. Mark Sanchez has grown as a quarterback yet Rex wouldn’t put too much pressure on him. They would be fairly conservative and playing keep away to keep their defense rested. One weapon that would be in the Jets favor is the moxie and motivation of Plaxico Burress, who would duplicate Ray Lewis’ situation going from incarceration to Super Bowl champ the following season. Matter of fact the last time the Packer defense saw Burress, he lit up CB Al Harris for 11 rec. 154 yards in the 2007 NFC Championship Game in Green Bay. Pretty sure he’d be okay on a neutral field. He did catch the winning touchdown in the upset of the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, so he wouldn’t shrink at the magnitude of the event. We know Al Harris is gone but Plaxico is still 6’5 to Sam Shields and Tramon Williams, who each stand 5’11. Across from this is WR Santonio Holmes, Super Bowl XLIII’s Most Valuable Player, so you can see how the Packers might have to juggle Charles Woodson, Shields, and Williams.

As quarterbacks go, Mark Sanchez doesn’t have to outplay Aaron Rodgers, he just needs to be proficient. Rely on his running game and take calculated risks when the time is right. He does have the most road playoff wins in history at 4, so he should be at home in these trappings. Rodgers is the leader of the new quartrbacks that will dominate the NFL for the next 10 years. Aaron means everything to the Packers yet their offensive line has a penchant for his getting hit and sacked. Last year in the Super Bowl they dominated the Steelers pass rush with the quick rhythm passing game that Rodgers is the best at. The Packers would counter with waggles, and half rollouts in a way to keep the Jets defense off balance and blitzing to a static passing spot on the Lucas Oil turf.

Mark Sanchez' Joe Namath pose

To repeat as champion, Clay Matthews, BJ Raji, and Eric Walden have to collapse Sanchez’ pass pocket.  They should be able to do this to keep the game close. Green Bay can stop the run and rush the passer with the best teams in football. The Jets would try to keep them to a short field with their possessions and try to force turnovers which Aaron Rodgers doesn’t do. This would be a struggle that would come down to the wire. The Jets would play the tortoise to Green Bay’s hare and win a close tough game…24-16. At long last the New York Jets would be liberated from the ghost of Joe Namath and hoist their second Super Bowl trophy. Mark Sanchez would then get his due as a Super Bowl winning quarterback. Green Bay would have to wait until the following year to see if they can establish a dynasty.

New York Jets celebration

So there you have it…predictions for every NFL team. Their records, division placement, playoff participation, and now conference and Super Bowl champions. It’s all on record and we’ll see how right we are. See you in 6 months.