At the Water Cooler : Divisional Weekend

New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks (Seahawks won, 23-15)

This round was certainly much closer than the last round, but in the end, it was play calling and decision making (including this mind-boggling one to end the game) that sent the Saints home. Seattle doesn’t look as good offensively as they have in the past, but the Legion of Boom looks as good as ever.

Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots (Patriots won, 43-22)

I was completely convinced that the Colts were going to come back to win after scoring a touchdown to close the Pats’ lead to 7 in the 3rd quarter. But a third interception from Andrew Luck (though only 2 were really his fault) sealed the deal for New England. To add insult to injury, Tom Brady proved that he really can do everything.

San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers (49ers won, 23-10)

The Panthers undoing came by choosing to only score points in the 2nd quarter. At halftime, this was a competitive 13-10 game. But the wheels noticeably came off as the second half progressed. The Niners are now off to their 3rd conference championship game in three years. That’s incredible.

San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos (Broncos won, 24-17)

If you only watched this game in the final minutes of the 4th quarter you probably never would have guessed that the score was 17-0 just minutes before. True to form, the Chargers mounted a surprising comeback and seemed like they just might keep the good times rollin’ on their wild playoff ride. But it wasn’t to be, and as a result, we all get to see another edition of Brady v. Manning.

And all is as it should be.

Manning and the Broncos will travel to Brady and the Patriots for the AFC Championship next Sunday. We’ll chat more about that game on Friday, and the NFC game, too:  a Niners at Seahawks rematch in Seattle.

Oh. My. Word.

It’s going to be one amazing Conference Championship Sunday, people.

What to Know : Divisional Weekend

Divisional weekend of the playoffs has arrived! Here are a few things to note for each game.

New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks (Saturday at 4:35pm EST, FOX)

The Saints are hoping the second verse is not the same as the first. The Saints played a Monday nighter in Seattle earlier this season and were pounded in a 34-7 loss. This seems like an easy out: the Saints are notoriously bad on the road; the Seahawks are notoriously unbeatable at home. However, it’s the playoffs: notoriously unpredictable.

Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots (Saturday at 8:15pm EST, CBS)

Here’s a word to the wise: don’t turn this game off, no matter what the score is. In Week 12, the Patriots overcame a 24-point deficit to beat the Broncos. Last weekend, the Colts overcame a 28-point deficit to beat the Chiefs. So no matter what the scoreboard says, watch this one until the clock reads zero.

San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers (Sunday at 1:05pm EST, FOX)

The 49ers are one heck of a road team. But traveling to the east coast for an early game after playing in the arctic in a late game in Green Bay last weekend at the end of an already long season seems like a significant challenge. Both quarterbacks can run, both defenses are no joke. This should be a tough win for either team.

San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos (Sunday at 4:40pm EST, CBS)

If you’ve listened to any sports analysts over the past week you’ve probably heard that this game is an upset waiting to happen. I think that’s a little overstated; this is the same San Diego team that had a hard time beating the Chiefs second string all of two weeks ago. However, 6th seeds have done notoriously well in the playoffs in recent years. The Chargers do have all the makings of a miracle run, but the Broncos have Peyton Manning. I wouldn’t count him out just yet, regardless of his less-than-stellar playoff persona.

What to Know : After Divisional Weekend

football, games, divisional

There must be a balance in place for playoff games. Last week’s wildcard games were so lackluster that this past weekend’s divisional games had no choice but to tip the scales with some of the best playoff football one weekend has ever seen. Wow. This weekend was a fan’s dream! (Minus, of course, the Packers loss. That was clearly a nightmare.)

Game 1: Ravens at Broncos (Ravens 38, Broncos 35)

What We Learned: Never quit. The Broncos secondary quit on a late Hail Mary by Joe Flacco in the waning seconds of the game when it seemed like the Broncos had sealed the deal on a victory. The 70 yard TD tied the game…and the Broncos, with Peyton Manning at the helm, with 2 timeouts at their disposal, decided to run out the last 30 seconds on the clock and take their chances in OT. Clearly, that decision did not work in their favor. Remember all of those stats we talked about on Friday? In this game, Playoff Peyton got the better or Ravens-Beating Peyton.

What’s Next?: The Ravens move on to face the Patriots at Foxborough for a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship game.

Game 2: Packers at 49ers (Packers 24 31, 49ers 45)

What We Learned: Colin Kaepernick is good. The Packers defense is bad. As we talked about yesterday, the Packers had no answer for the option-heavy offense the Niners run, and the Niners didn’t have to answer for anything the Packers ran because they barely did anything on either side of the ball. Those last 7 points in garbage time shouldn’t count; at that point in the game everyone had given up.

What’s Next?: The 49ers will travel to Atlanta to play the newly-energized Falcons.

Game 3: Seahawks at Falcons (Seahawks 28, Falcons 30)

What We Learned: It’s not over until the last Hail Mary is thrown. This game was 20-0, Falcons, at the half. That the Seahawks were going to come back and take the lead was possible, not probable, and definitely not one of the options Falcons faithful saw as remotely plausible. But come back they did! It started with a Matt Ryan interception and continued with Russell Wilson being Russell Wilson. The Seahawks don’t go down without a fight. The Falcons tend to fold easily. But in the end, we learned that there is something different about this Falcon’s team.

They win in the playoffs.

What’s Next?: The Falcons will host the red-hot 49ers in the NFC Championship game.

Game 4: Texans at Patriots (Texans 28, Patriots 41)

What We Learned: This game was different than the last one. For one thing, it was still close at halftime – 17-13, Patriots. Last time the Patriots soundly defeated the Texans, and this time it felt more like the Texans were beating themselves. They couldn’t make the most of the opportunities presented to them by the Patriots. It’s not every day Tom Brady goes 3 and out on multiple drives. Even with their defense playing fairly well, the Texans offense had trouble scoring in the red zone and rarely capitalized on multiple Daniel Manning runbacks – who single-handedly kept the Texans in the game. It wasn’t so much of a beat-down this time, but at no point in the game did I find myself thinking that the Texans were en route to a victory. And with the victory, Tom Brady surpassed Joe Montana as the winningest quarterback in postseason history.

Not a bad day’s work.

What’s Next?: The Patriots get their yearly date with the Ravens in the postseason. But I’m not sure they’ve ever seen a Ravens team like this before.

What a weekend! I’ve gotta say, the first game set the mark for me. I think it’ll be a memorable one for quite some time. (Unlike the Packers game, which I’d just as soon forget ever happened.)

How about you guys? Which game was your favorite?