Wild Card Weekend? That was more like Mild Card Weekend from what I saw. And please spare me the ‘that was old-style, great defense’ rhetoric. The first game seemed to be one in which Cincinnati and their 0-for-9 third down offense seemed to be most eager to punt, that is when Andy Dalton wasn’t overthrowing open receivers. That was followed by the letdown known as the Vikings-Packers rematch, which was over five minutes after halftime; were we to really believe that Joe Webb could bring Minnesota back, even against that suspect Green Bay pass defense? Sunday brought us another snoozer, with the Colts settling for three field goals against a Baltimore defense that has been average all year. The only decent game was Seattle at Washington – at least it was until Robert Griffin re-injured his knee and Mike Shanahan left him in the game even though it was obvious that he was completely ineffective.

Thankfully this weekend looks like it should be far more enticing, with the NFL’s eight best teams playing.

 

Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos
Saturday January 12 at 4:30 p.m. ET, at Mile High Stadium
TV: CBS; announcers are Greg Gumbel, Dan Dierdorf and Solomon Wilcots
Weather: prediction is for temperature around 20 at kickoff, then dropping into the teens; 5 mph wind; 20% chance of snow
Odds: Denver favored by 9½ to 10 depending on where you shop, with a point total of 46

 

We already know all the reasons why Denver will win: Peyton Manning is better than Joe Flacco. Von Miller (18½ sacks) and Elvis Dumervil (11½ sacks) are beasts, and Baltimore’s offensive line has been average (14th in pass protection per Football Outsiders). The effect of a visiting team playing in the mile high altitude. A week off to rest, and extra time to prepare. Manning has beaten the Ravens nine consecutive times, including once earlier this season and twice in the playoffs. Denver’s offensive line has allowed only 21 sacks, 2nd best in the NFL. The Ravens defense, particularly against the run (26th per Football Outsiders) was no match for Denver last time, and won’t be this time.

On top of that the Ravens just came off an emotional win and could have a bit of a letdown; now they travel 1,700 miles across a couple of time zones on a short week to face a team on an 11-game winning streak.

 

Well screw conventional wisdom, I think the Ravens have an excellent shot at winning this game.

Baltimore fans need to hope that the colder weather will have a negative effect on Manning, who has spent his NFL career playing in a dome. It’s difficult to beat a good team twice in a season and the Broncos defeated the Ravens earlier this year. Baltimore was not playing well at that time, and has since improved, with solid victories over the Giants and Colts.

The Ravens are healthier now than they were in the first meeting when they had a brand new offensive coordinator, and no Marshall Yanda, Ray Lewis, Bernard Pollard, Dannell Ellerbe or Ed Dickson. This will be only the second time all year that Baltimore will have their big four defensive players – Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs, Lewis and Ed Reed – on the field at the same time. Defensively they are much better right now than they have been all year, and offensively they are much better ever since Jim Caldwell took over for Cam Cameron. As for the much maligned defense, they are allowing only 4.0 yards per carry, which is 8th best in the league.

Turnovers are always key in every football game, and this is something that actually favors the Ravens. Baltimore is 3rd best in the AFC with a +9 turnover differential, while the Broncos are actually at minus one. The Ravens have turned the ball over just 16 times, which for perspective is the same as the Patriots; that’s tied for 2nd best in the entire NFL. Denver on the other hand has turned the ball over 25 times, including 14 lost fumbles.

Ray Rice was a non-factor in the regular season meeting between these two teams. OC Jim Caldwell uses Rice much more effectively than Cam Cameron did, and will not let that be the case Saturday. Defensively the Ravens need to press Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas and knock them off their routes, because the linebackers can’t keep close to them on those short crossing routes that the Broncos like to run.

The last game means nothing and has no effect on the outcome of this game. While the world wide leader is ready to crown Manning as The Greatest To Ever Play The Game and hand him the Lombardi Trophy before the Broncos play a single playoff game, I still have my doubts. There’s a shocker almost every post-season (e.g., Giants beat 15-1 Packers last year; Saints lose to 7-9 Seattle the year before); this is going to be this season’s playoff shocker.

 

Prediction: Ravens 24, Broncos 20
Ravens +10 (two units)…
Under 46… X

 

Three-team teaser: Ravens +19 at Broncos(); Seahawks at Falcons under 55½(); Packers at 49ers under 54(X), one unit(X)

 

 

Random Thoughts:

Rex Ryan: poster child for why you should think twice before getting a tattoo.

Rob Ryan: poster child for why Jerry Jones should fire himself as the general manager.

 

 

Tale of the Tape

Wild card weekend was meh.
Bengals at Texans: Plus two units on the under, minus one unit on the Bengals +4½.
Vikings at Packers: Minus one unit on the Vikings plus 7½ points, minus two on the total.
Colts at Ravens: Got the total right, missed on the Colts plus seven.
Seahawks at Redskins salvaged the weekend: 3 units on Seattle minus 3 and 2 units on under 46.

NFL Results for WildCard Weekend (and the season):
Straight Up: 3-1 (75%) last week, 173-86-1 (67%) for the season
Against The Spread: 1-3 (25%) / 125-131-4 (49%)
Over/Under: 3-1 (75%) / 142-114-4 (55%)
1 Unit Plays: 1-3 (-230) / 61-46 (57%)
2 Unit Plays: 2-1 (+180) / 45-34-4 (57%)
3 Unit Plays: 1-0 (+300) / 27-22-3 (55%)
4 Unit Plays: 0-0 / 2-2 (50%)
5 Unit Plays: 0-0 / 3-1 (75%)
Weekly Total: 7-5 regular (58%); 0-0 teasers
All Confidence Picks: 7-5 (58%) / 148-106-7 (58%)
Wild Card Weekend Total: +250
Season NFL Total: +8880

Season College Total
34-18, net +12 Units, +970

Season Grand Total
+9850

 

 

This Day In Patriots History

 

January 10, 1962:
Clarence Weathers was born in Greenville, South Carolina.

Weathers came to visit his brother Robert, who was a RB with the Pats in 1983; OC Lew Erber saw his athletic ability and signed him as a free agent, even though he hadn’t played any organized football since dropping out of Delaware State as a freshman. Weathers was with the Pats in 1983 and 1984, but was slowed down by foot and knee injuries. In two years with the Patriots he appeard in 25 games, with 27 catches for 494 yards and 5 touchdowns. He neded up playing nine years in the NFL, mostly as a backup receiver and special teams player.

 

January 10, 1986:
Mike Rivera was born in Shawnee, Kansas. The linebacker from Kansas University has spent parts of 2011 and 2012 on the practice squad; he appeared in the 2012 season opener for the Pats at Tennessee.

 

January 10, 2004:
New England Patriots 17, Tennessee Titans 14 at Gillette Stadium
Division Round of the 2003 Playoffs

The Pats advanced to the AFC Championship game for the third time in four years in a game that is most remembered for its frigid temperature. Adam Vinatieri’s 46-yard field goal with 4:11 remaining was the game winner on a Saturday night where temperatures hovered around zero with a wind chill of 14 below. Due to the conditions the Pats lifted their ban on bringing blankets and sleeping bags into the stadium, and free coffee and hot chocolate was made available in the parking lot. There were reports of beer freezing in the stadium before fans could finish drinking their beverage, though that may just be an urban legend.

It was New England’s 13th consecutive win, and they improved to 9-0 at home for the season. The win was Tom Brady’s 14th when tied or coming from behind in the 4th quarter in just 47 career starts, and his fifth of the 2003 season. Brady improved his record to 14-1 in games decided by seven or fewer points, and 35-12 for his career overall.

On the first drive Brady completed a pass across the middle to Kevin Faulk for a 19-yard gain, then burnt an early timeout when he was confused by Tennessee’s defensive coverage. The decision to call a timeout proved to be a good one; on the ensuing play Brady found Bethel Johnson open over the top for a 41-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead just four minutes into the game.

After Tennessee tied the score on a 5-yard run by Chris Brown the Pats drive appeared to stall. On a 3rd-and-13 Brady hit Johnson, who then cut back looking for a running lane; Brady threw a key block on the Titans safety and Johnson gained 14 yards on the play for a first down. Later in the drive Brady made a first down on a naked bootleg on a 3rd-and-3; two plays later Antowain Smith scored to give the Pats a 14-7 halftime lead. The score would have been closer if not for Richard Seymour’s block of a field goal late in the half.

Tennessee tied the score on an 11-yard pass from Steve McNair to Derrick Mason to make it 14-14 heading into the 4th quarter. Brady hit Troy Brown on a 4th-and-3 from the Tennessee 33 to get the ball close enough for Vinatieri’s clutch field goal, but there was plenty of time left. McNair drove the Titans to the New England 33 but two penalties left them out of field goal range. McNair threw a pass on 4th-and-12 to Drew Bennett who somehow was wide open at the 10-yard-line – but the ball bounced off his hands and fell incomplete.

The Pats defense harassed McNair all night. Willie McGinest had seven tackles and three sacks; Mike Vrabel had a sack; Rodney Harrison had an interception that led to a touchdown, five tackles, and several hits on McNair; and Tedy Bruschi had nine tackles.

 

January 10, 2010:
Baltimore Ravens 33, New England Patriots 10 at Gillette Stadium
2009 Wild Card Playoff Game

A week after losing Wes Welker to a knee injury, the Pats came out flat and were run over by the Ravens. Ray Rice rushed for an 83-yard touchdown on Baltimore’s first offensive play, and things went downhill from there. Tom Brady threw two touchdowns but also threw three picks and lost a fumble on one of three times he was sacked. About the best thing that can be said about this fiasco was that it was the final game of Adalius Thomas’ NFL career.

 

 

♪ ♫ ♮ ♯ ♪ ♫ ♮ ♯ ♪ ♫ ♮ ♯ ♪ ♫ ♮ ♯ ♪ ♫ ♮ ♯ ♪ ♫ ♮ ♯ ♪ ♫ ♮ ♯ ♪ ♫ ♮ ♯

 

January 10, 1943:
Jim Croce (Bad, Bad Leroy Brown; Time In A Bottle) was born in Philadelphia

January 10, 1945:
Rod Stewart was born in London

January 10, 1946:
Aynsley Dunbar, drummer for Journey and Whitesnake, was born in Liverpool

January 10, 1948:
Donald Fagen of Steely Dan was born in Passaic, New Jersey

January 10, 1953:
Pat Benatar was born in Brooklyn

January 10, 1956:
Elvis Presley made his first recordings for RCA Records, including Heartbreak Hotel

January 10, 1964:
Brad Roberts of the Crash Test Dummies was born in Winnipeg

 

 

 

Follow on Twitter @AllThingsPats