NFL Conference Championship Predictions and Writing Recap

Only three games left in the NFL season, excluding the Pro Bowl. Actually the Pro Bowl would probably count as -0.5 games, because that’s how bad it has become. A drawback to writing for multiple sites is that you have to avoid repeating information when writing a preview for the few games left, but my early week broke up the monotony with a much-needed trip down memory lane.

Part of what makes this the best time of the (NFL) year, also makes it the worst when people overreact to playoff results.

This Week’s Articles

Captain Comeback Divisional: Last-Minute Shockers by Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens – Cold, Hard Football Facts

One of the more epic playoff games ever, Baltimore at Denver, deserved an epic-sized recap. See what the refs screwed up, how Chris Kuper disappointed in his return, Joe Flacco’s big-play postseason, the worst defensive mistake in NFL history, and whether or not the Broncos played it too conservatively late. Also, the Falcons and Seahawks play one of the most exciting fourth quarters in playoff history, and Matt Ryan finally gets a chance for a game-winning drive in the playoffs. He only had 0:25 to do so. Finally a look at more dominant wins by the 49ers and Patriots.

Peyton Manning’s 9-11 Playoff Record Is a Call for Help – Cold, Hard Football Facts

If you think Peyton Manning’s playoff career should be defined by 11 losses and eight one-and-done seasons, then you have some cold, hard facts to read up on. A game-by-game recap of Manning’s eight early playoff exits, looking at the real reason his teams lost that day, and the unique circumstances that have produced such a record. Stats, tables, GIF images, the whole nine yards this week.

One example: Two yards away from beating the Chargers, and your rookie TE forgets the snap count and gets beat for a sack.

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Joe Flacco Eyeing an Elite Contract, But Is He an Elite NFL QB? – Bleacher Report

Can you believe Joe Flacco is going to start as many AFC Championship games (3) in five seasons as Peyton Manning and Dan Marino each started in their career? But that says more about the Ravens than Flacco, and even though he said he was the best quarterback back in April, he’s still not an elite player. A look at what kind of long-term contract Baltimore should offer Flacco.

The Thinking Man’s Guide to NFL Conference Championship Games – Bleacher Report

An information-filled preview for each game on Championship Sunday. Find out how the Falcons not only own the fourth quarter under Matt Ryan, but are also the top scoring differential team in the first quarter since 2008. With Ravens/Patriots, a look at Baltimore’s fatigue, the bad news for rematches in this round, the great runs by No. 4 seeds since 1990, and New England’s absurd home-field advantage.

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Ravens Want to Win, But Patriots Need to Win – NBC Sports

Previewing the AFC Championship again, this time focusing on how the Patriots need a Super Bowl win to validate historic success since 2007.  Despite a 76-20 regular-season record since 2007, these teams have come up empty in the playoffs despite being the favorite each time. There is still plenty to play for with the Ravens as well, making their third AFC Championship since 2008, and looking for the Hollywood ending for Ray Lewis before he retires.

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NFL Conference Championship Predictions

For all the people who went 1-3 or worse last week, going 2-2 doesn’t sound so bad, though the AFC, my favorite conference, had my two wrong picks.

  • 49ers over Falcons, 23-17
  • Patriots over Ravens, 27-23

Please, no game-deciding special teams plays this year. Last year was brutal enough.

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Peyton Manning’s Eight One-And-Done NFL Playoffs: Learn What You Are Criticizing

Peyton Manning lost another playoff game. Starting as a common quarterback narrative, the story has breathed too many years without more Super Bowl success to dispel, because we all know the “NFL For Dummies” handbook says to judge a quarterback based on championships won in the ultimate team sport.

So when Manning loses a playoff game, the popular thing to do is bash his reputation as a postseason quarterback, bash his losing playoff record (9-11), and call him a choker. The latest loss was probably the most painful one yet, and it gives Manning 11 playoff losses (tied with Brett Favre for record) and eight one-and-done postseason’s (another record).

But when someone throws that last fact out, they clearly do not realize what they are criticizing. If you want to bash the Colts and No. 1 seed 2012 Broncos for losing these games, five of them at home (by a combined 14 points), as a team, then feel free. They probably should have won at least 5-6 of them.

Though if you are bashing Manning based on his performances, then you need your head examined. Which other QB in NFL history could possibly produce these numbers and go 0-8 in the process without getting royally screwed over by his teammates and various other factors in a way no player ever has?

This is what you are knocking when you throw out the eight one-and-done seasons and 0-8 record:

  • 176/302 (58.3 percent) – This includes over 30 dropped passes in what equates to half a regular season
  • 2,075 passing yards (6.87 YPA)
  • 10 TD passes, one TD run
  • 6 INT – Three deflected off his own receiver’s hands, two thrown vs. 2002 Jets when Colts trailed 34-0/41-0 in 4th quarter
  • 82.0 passer rating – This would rank 23rd all time in postseason history (min. 150 attempts).
  • Six games with rating of 82.0 or better (five over 88.3, which is roughly career rating).
  • Seven losses by a combined 26 points; one other loss by 41 points.
  • Led in final 5:00 of fourth quarter five times.
  • Led in final 0:40 of fourth quarter four times.
  • Three overtime losses.
  • Two games where Manning’s last possession resulted in a missed field goal by Mike Vanderjagt (2000 MIA, 2005 PIT).
  • 2002 at Jets: Manning set Vanderjagt up for 41-yard FG, trailing 7-0. The next time he took the field, it was 17-0 Jets.
  • A memorable play where Nick Harper could have returned Jerome Bettis’ fumble for game-winning TD, but was tackled by Ben Roethlisberger.
  • Billy Volek came off the bench for Philip Rivers to lead Chargers on fourth-quarter comeback win (2007).
  • The worst average starting field position for any road team in the playoffs in the last 30 years (2008 San Diego).

These are not normal occurrences, and somehow the same quarterback keeps experiencing them, and becomes the easy target every year.

Saturday was the ultimate bow on top. Rahim Moore had a shot at a game-ending interception, and instead offers up what will go down as the worst ball misjudgment in NFL playoff history, resulting in Baltimore’s 70-yard game-tying TD. That is “Game Over” for any other quarterback. This was supposed to be “Manning’s best defense ever,” yet they suffered the biggest lapse and letdown in his career.

The game incredibly continued into overtime, and on Manning’s second possession, he went Favre and threw a bad interception. Immediately this cues the “Manning with another crushing playoff INT” talk, yet look at the list. This is the first time he’s ever thrown an interception in a close game like this that was actually his fault.

Just like how the Tracy Porter play in Super Bowl XLIV was the first time Manning ever turned the ball over in the fourth quarter/overtime in a one-score game in the playoffs. Yet the narrative is he always does these things. How does that happen when the facts show otherwise? These plays are first’s, not repeats.

What Manning usually does in the playoffs is give his team a chance to win the game in a way no other quarterback has. When they don’t, he takes the blunt of the criticism regardless of his play.

This stuff isn’t that hard to analyze. They only play 11 playoff games a year. Blame the quarterback when he deserves it. Don’t just blame Manning because of his status, and that you expect a touchdown every single drive from him. He’s not perfect. No one is in the playoffs.

In a 20-game sample, things are not going to even out, and they certainly have not evened out for Manning just yet, and he is really running out of chances. If the playoffs are supposed to be so important, so micro-analyzed, why are we seeing more garbage analysis than ever before? Just saying “9-11” does not prove a thing.

You know why quarterbacks who win a lot of playoff games do so? It’s not because they statistically out-produce Manning, because few do in the postseason. It’s because their teammates don’t muff onside-kick recoveries like Hank Baskett in the Super Bowl, miss clutch field goals like Mike Vanderjagt, forget a snap count on 3rd-and-1 with a chance to clinch the game, or allow a back-breaking 70-yard touchdown bomb.

Winning playoff teams limit their mistakes and finish games in the playoffs. There is no magical playoff quarterback formula about it. Manning was just over 30 seconds away from clinching his 50th game-winning drive, moving onto next week’s AFC Championship, and then disaster struck. A disaster other quarterbacks simply don’t have to deal with, because games never end that way.

Stop writing your stories before the game even starts, and pay attention to what actually happens. Be a defensive writer; one who reacts to what they see. Otherwise, you end up with garbage that truly defines the word “offensive.”

NFL Divisional Playoff Predictions, Seeds and Writing Recap

The best weekend of the NFL season is upon us: the Divisional Playoffs. I am ready for an upset or three. I am prepared to go 4-0 or 0-4 on my game picks, which is exactly why this weekend rules. I spent a ton of time writing the history of it last year (Part 1 and Part 2), now this week I spent time summing up stats and anxiously looking forward to these four matchups.

This Week’s Articles

Captain Comeback Wild Card: Seattle’s Russell Wilson Last Rookie QB Standing – Cold, Hard Football Facts

We had three close games on Wild Card weekend, one real crapper in Green Bay, but it took the Seahawks in the last game to get a game-winning drive. Russell Wilson led it, and led-blocked on it for Marshawn Lynch. Otherwise we watched the Bengals go 0/9 on third down, and the Colts dropped the ball in Baltimore. Andrew Luck set several rookie playoff records, but with the loss and Robert Griffin III tearing his ACL, Wilson emerges as the last rookie standing in the playoffs.

Ignore the Raw Numbers, Andrew Luck Had a Great Rookie Season – Bleacher Report

Consider this my season review of Andrew Luck’s rookie year. A look at the type of offense he ran and why the Colts were successful despite having little to surround Luck with, and his generally below-average traditional stats.

Following a Legend: Andrew Luck Wild Card at Baltimore Ravens – Colts Authority

Luck’s rookie season came to a quick end in the postseason in a 24-9 loss. His 288 passing yards were the most by a rookie QB since Sammy Baugh way back in 1937. His 54 attempts and 28 completions were rookie playoff records, but it wasn’t enough for the Colts. They became the first offense in playoff history to compile over 400 yards of offense (419) and score single-digit points. Too many dropped passes doomed the Colts, as we came up with 8 drops in this one.

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The Thinking Man’s Guide: NFL Divisional Weekend Predictions – Bleacher Report

Find out about Baltimore’s fatigue, the wild card that is Colin Kaepernick, Seattle’s early start time in Atlanta, and Houston being the latest rematch for New England in the playoffs.

Being the No. 1 Seed Often Means One and Done – NBC Sports

Expect the Broncos and Falcons to have a Super Bowl rematch? Don’t count on it. Just 3 of the last 22 Super Bowls have been between No. 1 seeds. A look at the decline in their postseason performances, along with what Atlanta and Denver can do to make it to the big game.

NFL Playoffs: What Seeding History Really Says About Your Team’s Chances – Cold, Hard Football Facts

Here I get even more seedy. Want a quick reference for every playoff seed since 1990? Want to know how often a No. 2 beats a No. 3 in the Divisional round, or what a No. 1 does vs. a No. 2 seed? We have all that here, and much more as I looked into the playoff seeds in the 12-team format (since 1990). A lot of interesting finds, but nothing better than this table that sums up the gap closing between the top and bottom seeds, resulting in a more exciting, unpredictable postseason.

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NFL Divisional Predictions

I set the bar too high last week. Sure, only 3-1 with the Colts loss, but did nail the correct point total for the three winners while coming very close to the loser’s score. That probably means I’ll be way off this week, which is expected with tougher games. All the favorites won last week. That won’t happen again this week.

  • Broncos over Ravens, 23-13
  • 49ers over Packers, 31-27
  • Falcons over Seahawks, 27-17
  • Texans over Patriots, 24-21

Like I said, you can easily go 4-0 or 0-4 this week. That’s why I love this week.

NFL Wild Card Predictions, MVP Voting and Writing Recap

Playoffs. I have already been feeling some postseason pressure to get things done, but it was a successful week and am looking forward to more significant research to put out there before we head into the offseason. This intro would sound much better read by Don Cheadle.

Last year I recapped every 4QC/GWD in playoff history for each round (can be found under Captain Comeback 2011 archives). The Wild Card round is home to the all-time NFL comeback, Houston’s 32-point collapse in Buffalo 20 years ago this week. It also has the only two playoff games ever ending on a defensive score in overtime, and both games involved the Packers. Finally, the only two playoff games to have two lead changes in the final minute are also on Wild Card weekend.

The best game last season ended up being the Steelers in Denver, with the longest game-winning TD pass in NFL playoff history from Tim Tebow to Demaryius Thomas. I have a feeling Sunday’s games could live up to that one again.

This Week’s Articles

Captain Comeback Week 17: 2012 NFL Regular Season Review – Cold, Hard Football Facts

It’s the year-end review of the regular season, with a ranking of all 32 offenses in the clutch. Go figure the Colts and Broncos were among the best, while San Diego was the only team in the league without a single comeback or GWD in 2012.

The Biggest Flaw for Each NFL Playoff Team – Bleacher Report

It may be a  slideshow, but you are getting 12 articles in one here. A look at each playoff team’s fatal flaw, whether it be something tangible or a perception they must overcome. Framing each team the proper way before the postseason starts.

Following a Legend: Andrew Luck Week 17 vs. Houston Texans – Colts Authority

Houston blitzed Andrew Luck on 75.9 percent of his drop backs this week, but the battered offensive line actually held up enough for one of the most efficient offensive performances of the year for the Colts. Luck threw perhaps his pass of the season with a 70-yard touchdown strike to T.Y. Hilton in the fourth quarter on a 3rd and 23 to ice the game and the Colts’ 11th win.

The Thinking Man’s Guide: NFL Wild Card Predictions – Bleacher Report

The four-game preview format of TMG works best here, looking at each Wild Card matchup. Also included is a review of some postseason studies I did in the last year on home-field advantage, quality wins in the regular season, and marquee blowouts in 2012.

Best Rookie QB Class Ever Makes Postseason Debut – NBC Sports

Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson will be the 12th-14th rookie quarterbacks to start a playoff game. A look at their record-breaking success, and whether or not one of them can make more history by reaching the Super Bowl.

Voting History: Why Peyton Manning Should Run Away with NFL MVP Award – Cold, Hard Football Facts

Not only was this the argument for Peyton Manning clearly being the MVP over Adrian Peterson in 2012, but you also get a chance to view all the MVP voting results (AP award) for 1986-2011. A great resource given this information is nowhere to be found elsewhere in one place. Find out who the only TE to receive a MVP vote is, or the only cornerback.

 NFL Wild Card Predictions

I’m not a fan of picking the final score, but here’s a shot at it.

  • Texans over Bengals, 19-16
  • Packers over Vikings, 24-13
  • Colts over Ravens, 20-17
  • Seahawks over Redskins, 24-20

Season results:

  • Week 1: 12-4
  • Week 2: 11-5
  • Week 3: 4-12
  • Week 4: 10-5
  • Week 5: 10-4
  • Week 6: 5-9
  • Week 7: 12-1
  • Week 8: 10-4
  • Week 9: 11-3
  • Week 10: 9-4-1
  • Week 11: 11-3
  • Week 12: 10-6
  • Week 13: 8-8
  • Week 14: 11-5
  • Week 15: 11-5
  • Week 16: 12-4
  • Week 17: 11-5
  • Season: 168-87-1 (.658)