NFL Playoffs breakdown
Monday, January 12, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
This post should really be entitled, "How 'bout them [insert team here]?" because boy, who would have predicted at the beginning of the year that it'd be Eagles/Cardinals and Steelers/Ravens to decide who was going to the Super Bowl?


Hold on to the damn ball! The old chestnut "Teams that turn the ball over too much tend to lose" is pretty much true, and we've seen exactly how turnovers made the difference in the first two rounds of playoff action. While there will be much gnashing of teeth about the non-delay of game call against the Ravens, really, the reason they lost was turnovers (well, and Chris Johnson's injury). The Ravens are turnover forcing machines, and they make you pay for every slightly mishandled or mis-thrown ball. They forced Chad Pennington into throwing 4 INTs the week before, when he had only thrown 6 picks all season. They stopped several Titans scoring drives by forcing turnovers in the red zone. On the flip side, even with a rookie QB at the helm, the offense hasn't coughed up the ball at all.

Similarly, the Cardinals remarkable post-season run continues largely because of the 6 turnovers they "forced" against the Carolina Panthers. I use quotes there, because watching that game, I'm not sure "force" is the correct word to use, since Jake Delhomme seemed to almost intentionally throw to the Arizona defenders. Credit goes to Arizona's defense for successfully catching all those balls, but boy howdy - what a display of poor judgment from Delhomme. Every single throw was the result of a bad decision - there wasn't one errantly tipped ball in the bunch.

Lesson: Be Yourself. While balance is important, teams need to remember what got them to the postseason in the first place. It's nice to see Arizona sporting more of a run game in the post season, but in the end, they still stuck with the Warner-Fitzgerald connection and burned the Panthers all day. Similarly, the Ravens have protected the ball on offense and made opportunistic takeaways on defense, and that has allowed them to win the close games. The Steelers are a running team that counts on tough play from the WR (Hines Ward specifically) and short passes in the red zone to the TE. The Eagles aren't as easy to define, but they will win or lose on their defense managing to put pressure on the opposing QB and Donovan McNabb being able to feel comfortable in the pocket.

Contrast that with the Panthers, who abandoned their running game way too early. The score was still close, but they inexplicably chose to throw even though Jake Delhomme was struggling and they had one of the hottest RBs in the game in DeAngelo Williams. At the same time, they forgot what kind of team the Cardinals were, since they apparently didn't feel they needed to double cover Larry Fitzgerald at all.

Preview: Eagles/Cardinals. Well, good news for you Eagles fans out there: at least two columnists at ESPN thinks the Eagles will destroy the Cards. Bad news for Eagles fans out there: the Cardinals are 7-2 at home and they're the riding a hot streak of their own right now. There's nothing more dangerous than a team that has nothing to lose. The Cards have a legitimate chip on their shoulder, having been picked to lose by, well... pretty much everyone. Look to the team who commits more turnovers to lose. my pick: Eagles

Preview: Steelers/Ravens. Two bitter divisional rivals enter, only one leaves. Both regular season matchups between these two were really close. The Steelers are playing great ball right now and they're healthy. The Ravens are in worse shape, especially after their brutal match against the Titans, so several key starters, including Terrell Suggs may be missing. However, it's really hard to beat the same team 3 times in one season, so don't rule out the Ravens just yet. If the defense can shut down Willie Parker, the Ravens have a shot at winning. Also, don't underestimate the effect weather may have on this game, particularly if it's very snowy. my pick: Steelers

**hilarious picture above stolen from espn.com
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