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Prediction and Preview for the Super Bowl

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Seattle Seahawks at Denver Broncos:

6:25 PM

MetLife Stadium

Finally the big game has arrived. After an epic season, we are watching the best two teams play for the final, which is rare in the NFL. The two number 1 seeds are playing in the Super Bowl for the first time since 2009, Saints won Peyton Manning’s Colts. This game is even more intriguing because it will pit the number one scoring defense in the league verses the number one scoring offense in NFL history. This game has great matchups, Peyton Manning versus Richard Sherman, Broncos’ passing offense, which is the best in the league, versus Seattle’s secondary, which is the best in the league, and Marshawn Lynch aka Beast Mode verses the Broncos’ run defense, which was surprisingly the 8th best unit in the NFL during the regular season. The Seahawks were able to sustain success throughout the season because their defense ranks first against the pass and seventh against the run while their offense has taken great strides with Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch. Although Seattle is predominantly a run first team, 4th in yards per game and 2nd in attempts per game in the league, with Marhawn Lynch and a versatile Russell Wilson, the passing offense was incredible consistent and efficient. While the Seahawks finished 26th in passing yards per game, they were fourth in the league in yards per attempt, ninth in completion percentage, and third in interceptions. Although the stats may be random, it shows that the team strategically uses its running game to set up the defense for the play action pass down the field, which is rarely intercepted, but commonly completed. Although the Seahawks do not have a big play receiver, the group is steady and catches every ball thrown their way. Although Harvin has been hurt throughout the season, he has great talent and speed that could break a game open, if he can play through the game. Along with the ability to throw the ball for a big play, Marshawn Lynch is a great running back that wears a defense until they break and give up a huge run. As seen in the last view playoff games, Lynch has rushed for a long touchdown late in every game, which gave the Seahawks the win. The Seahawks have a great balance of big plays while limiting their turnovers. The Seahawks should be able to throw on the Broncos as long as they block for Wilson because the Broncos’ secondary is the worst part of their team and is facing nagging injuries. Although Lynch may have trouble in the first half against the stout Broncos’ run defense, he should be able to wear them down and eventually break huge runs at the end of the game. Also, Wilson may try to run more often if his offensive line is having trouble like their game against the 49ers, although the 49ers have a far superior pass rush.

Courtesy of ESPN
Courtesy of ESPN

Along with the great offense, the defense complements the offense because it causes turnovers and stops every offense it has faced over the last few games. The defense has been great because it plays to its strengths: its secondary. Along with Richard Sherman, one of the best corners in the league, the Seahawks have Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, and Brian Maxwell. Besides Earl Thomas, the trio has great speed and size while playing physical football at the line of scrimmage. They will need to continue playing bump and run defense against Peyton and his wide outs so that they can disrupt the rhythm of the Broncos’ offense. Although Thomas does not have the size, he is a ball hawk in the secondary and makes great plays that alter the path of the game for the Seahawks. Although they will probably switch the men they play, fans should expect Sherman on D. Thomas, Chancellor and linebackers on J. Thomas, Earl Thomas or a linebacker on Welker, and Maxwell on Decker. Since the Seahawks can play one on one coverage in the backfield, the front four of the Seahawks is given more time to rush the passer. The Broncos’ offensive line has been great this postseason and Peyton has not been sacked in any of the previous two games. The combination of Clemens, Mebane, Bryant, and McDaniel must apply pressure on Peyton in order to force errant passes and turnovers. Although Seattle rarely blitzes, their linebackers are solid, athletic, and have the ability to play all over the football field. The linebackers will need to occasionally add pressure on Manning while also defending the run and stopping the short routes to Welker or Thomas over the middle. The Seattle defense needs to be able to stop the run in order to put Manning into “throwing downs”. This will help them come off the field and possibly cause a turnover. The cold and the wind should help Seattle’s ferocious and aggressive defense. Fans need to look at the way the game is called because it could make a major difference in the game. Although the refs have not called many holds or pass interferences on Seattle this year, the Seahawks are known for holding and interfering with the receivers. If the refs make these calls, it will give Manning extra downs, which will lead to a demise of the Seahawks.

Courtesy of ESPN
Courtesy of ESPN

Since the first game, which featured the Ravens and the Broncos, it seemed that the Broncos would make it the Super Bowl. Although the Broncos could not maintain the pace that they set in the first game, 7 touchdowns, they became the greatest scoring offensive of all-time. The Broncos have been lead by Peyton Manning all season long. Manning set the record for most passing yards and passing touchdowns in a season. Peyton would not have been able to succeed without the best receiving core in the league and one of the best and most consistent offensive lines in the league. During the season, D. Thomas, E. Decker, J. Thomas, and W. Welker all recorded more than 65 catches, 775 yards, and 10 touchdowns. The Broncos’ receivers posted great numbers because they are skilled and Peyton is able to fit the ball into tight windows. The Broncos’ receivers are big, fast, and have great hands, which enables them to win one on one matchups and separate from opposing cornerbacks. Manning has time to throw to all of his receivers because his offensive line is one of the best in the league. Although they lost Ryan Clady early in the season, the unit has been great over the last two games. Over the past two games, Peyton Manning has faced little pressure and has not been sacked. If the Seahawks cannot provide pressure on Manning, the Legion of Boom will be unable to stop Peyton and the best passing attack of all time. Along with Manning’s ability to spread the ball by passing, the Broncos have a very good running game that compliments their passing attack. Along with having the ability to catch the ball, Knowshon Moreno has rushed for over 1000 yards while recording 10 touchdowns. Lately, Montee Ball has been effective and provides Denver with a physical back that can wear down opposing lineman. If the wind affects the game, the Broncos should be confident that they can move the ball without passing the ball. The Seahawks are unlikely to hide many of their schemes so Peyton Manning will need to execute and put his offensive pieces in the correct spots in order to score points.

Courtesy of ESPN
Courtesy of ESPN

Since the Broncos’ offense has been historic, the Broncos’ defense has been very good and fantastic over the past four games, including two playoff games. Over the past four games, @Houston, @Oakland, San Diego, and New England, the Broncos’ defense has allowed on average 15 points per game. Although the Broncos ranked 26th in the league in passing yards allowed, the pass rush has improved and the cornerbacks are playing well even though they lost their best corner Chris Harris. The combination of Robert Ayers, Trevor Knighton, and Shaun Phillips has been great and has recorded five sacks in the past two games. Although the Denver secondary does not have as much talent as the Seahawks, Bailey, Rodgers-Cromartie, and Jammer have been playing well stop opposing quarterbacks in the first half. Although the trio has been good in the first half, the group has allowed more open receivers. In the game against the Chargers, Rivers and Allen torched the Broncos and almost came back to tie the game. Although the group will not have to stop a big play receiver, they must ensure that the Seahawks’ wide receivers do not run behind the defense. While the secondary needs to stop the big plays from Russell Wilson, the Broncos’ front seven must stop Marshawn Lynch and the Seattle rushing game. The best part of the Broncos’ defense is their rushing defense, which ranked 8th in the league during the regular season. The group has been successful because they have big, athletic players on the line. Last week, the group put forth their best effort and held the Patriots’ running backs to 57 yards, although they posted 235 yards the week before. The Broncos’ defense will be tested because they have not seen a running back like Marshawn Lynch. In order to stop the big, powerful, and fast running back, they need to stay fresh and keep Lynch from bouncing outside. If the Broncos’ can keep Lynch inside the tackles, the smaller defensive backs will not have to attempt to tackle Lynch, which is nearly impossible.

Courtesy of ESPN
Courtesy of ESPN

Although the game will be close, the Seahawks should be able to win the game because they have a better overall team. The Seahawks will keep Manning off the field because they usually win the time of possession battle with Lynch. Also, the Seattle secondary should limit Manning because they will throw off his timing and their size will affect the receivers. Although Wilson has not played well lately, Percy Harvin is set to return, which gives him another competent receiver that can garner yards after the catch.

Prediction: Seahawks win 24-23

Pics and Stats from ESPN.com

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Predictions and Previews for the Saturday Games in the NFL Divisional Round

By: Jon

New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks:

4:35 PM

Courtesy of ESPN
Courtesy of ESPN

In a rematch of their week 13 matchup, the Saints will be heading into Seattle’s CenturyLink Field in an attempt to reach the NFC Championship. However, the Saints must hope that this game will be different than the previous game. The Seahawks thrashed the Saints at home by 27 points, their worst loss of the season. The Seahawks blitzed the Saints and took a 17-0 lead in the first quarter and a 27-7 lead by halftime. The Seahawks were able to totally stop the entire Saints offense and allowed them only 188 yards, their lowest output of the season. The Seahawks’ secondary played huge, although they did not record and interceptions Brees threw for only 147 yards and one touchdown because the secondary was great and double teamed his main weapon, Jimmy Graham. Along with the incredible pass defense, their rush defense allowed only 44 yards on 2.6 yards per carry. While the Saints offense was exposed, the Seattle pass offense could not be stopped and Russell Wilson accounted for 310 yards, 3 touchdowns, 47 rushing yards, and a quarterback rating of 94.7, which is out of 100 points. Although the Saints were able win on the road at Philly for the first time in franchise history, Drew Brees played below average and will need to improve his play in order to win in Seattle. Although Philly is a raucous environment compared to most stadiums, Lincoln Financial Field is like a tea restaurant compared to CenturyLink Field, which gives the Seahawks the best home field advantage in the league. Since entering the league last season, Wilson has lost only once at home, this season to the Arizona Cardinals. Although Brees will fortunate that the weather will be above freezing, unlike last weekend, the weather calls for heavy rain and 20 mph wind. Unfortunately the Saints are predominantly a passing offense, which will be affected by the weather and the great Seahawks passing defense. However, the Saints showed last week that they could create a resemblance of running game. Last week, Mark Ingram played the best game of his career and recorded 97 yards and one touchdown. Along with Ingram, the Saints combined for 185 yards on the ground, which enabled them to move the ball although Brees passed only 250 yards and 2 interceptions. The ground game will need to have an even better game this week if they are going to have a chance, since Brees will likely have trouble again this weekend. While the Saints offense will probably have trouble, the Seahawks’ players should have adapted to the cold and rainy weather and have a better chance of playing through the elements. The Seahawks may be given a huge addition if Percy Harvin can return and make an impact for the Seahawks. The Seahawks will hope to establish their ground game with Marshawn Lynch against the 25th ranked rushing defense in the league. Although it has been three years since the Seahawks huge upset over the Saints and Marshawn Lynch’s crazy 67 yard run nicknamed “beast mode”, the Saints defense is playing better and held the best running attack to only 80 rushing yards in Philly. The Seahawks should attempt to score early and run the ball so they keep Brees on the bench and eliminate the Saints’ ability to run the ball. Also, Wilson needs to limit his turnovers so the Saints cannot capitalize on extra possessions. The Seahawks should be the favorite in this game because they have better defense and are well built to play in this type of weather. Although the game will be closure, the Saints will need to pull off a huge upset to win the game.

Prediction: Seahawks win 27-20

Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots:

8:15

Courtesy of ESPN
Courtesy of ESPN

Will it be time for the new guard to overtake the old guard? After one of the most exciting games of all time, the Colts must regroup and head on the road to take on Tom Brady and the second seed New England Patriots. Andrew Luck played a great second half and led the Colts to the second largest comeback in NFL playoff history. Although the Colts did not play the Patriots this season, the Colts headed to New England last year and were destroyed by the men for Foxborough. However, this is a different Colts’ team and Andrew Luck is a different quarterback with more experience and relationships with his offense. The Colts are on a great run and have won 4 straight games and 5 games in their last six efforts. The Colts have been able to succeed because they are playing better defense, running the ball, and Andrew Luck is playing like one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Although the Colts did not run the ball very frequently in their contest against the Chiefs, since they were down by 28, they did achieve 5.3 yards per game. The Colts have an added dimension in the running game because Andrew Luck has wheels and ran for 45 yards against the Chiefs. Although Luck’s rushes are nice, his arm and decision making make him one of the best in the quarterbacks left in the playoffs. Last week, Luck threw for 3 interceptions, but 443 yards and 4 touchdowns. Although Luck is very young, one of his best qualities is his ability to lead his team and be cool during pressure filled situations. While the Colts have a good quarterback, the Patriots may have the best quarterback of all time in Tom Brady. Although Brady has posted better statistics in his career, he needed to use all of his skill to lead the Patriots to the second best record in the AFC and an undefeated record at home because his receivers do not have much talent and are unable to provide separation or catch the ball in conference. Like the Colts, the Patriots are hot and have won five of their last six weeks. However, the week break may cause the Patriots to lose rhythm, which could affect them early in the game. The Pats have been able to run the ball with more efficiency and frequency this season, which will be necessary against the Colts. While the Colts are above average against the pass because they have quality pass rushers and corners, their rush defense ranked 26th during the season. LaGarrette Blount, Stevan Ridley, and Shane Vereen have provided the Pats with a three headed attack that should be able to gain yardage against the Colts. However, the Pats have not been great in the playoffs over the last few seasons. After winning three titles early in his career, Tom has not won a championship over the past decade. The problems with the Pats have been their inability to shut teams down on defense and run the ball to set up the pass on offense. The Colts should be able to pass the ball and run the ball because Luck can throw on any defense and the Pats have one of the worst defense in the league. In this game, the Colts should be able to pull off the upset because they are playing better defense and Luck has the talent to lead the Colts past the Pats. Besides the 31 points they allowed in the first half, the Colts allowed 37 points over the past few games. The Colts should be the favorite if the game is close because Luck has a knack to win close games against any quarterback and team, Seattle, Denver, and Kansas City. The game should be high scoring, since the weather is not going to horrible and the offenses are a notch above the opposing defenses. Last weeks’ game should give Luck even more confidence that he can win any game against any team.

Prediction: Colts win 37-34

stats and pics from ESPN.com

Predictions and Preview for NFL Wild Card Playoff Round

By: Jon

 

Kansas City Chiefs at Indianapolis Colts:

Courtesy of ESPN
Courtesy of ESPN

4:35 PM Saturday

Two weeks ago, the Colts and Chiefs played in Kansas City and the Colts came out victorious in a low scoring game. The Colts were able to control the game and comfortably won the game 23-7 on the road. The Colts dominated the game after the Chief’s first drive of the game. The two teams are heading in opposite directions. The Colts are playing their best football of the season, especially on the defensive side of the ball, while the Chiefs are playing horribly. Outside of their win against the Raiders, the Chiefs have won once in the last 8 games and have lost two straight games. Kansas City was great during the beginning of the season because they ran the ball effectively, did not turnover the ball, and played great defense. However, the team has not played great defense since the injuries of Houston and Hali, their two best pass rushers. Without an effective pass rush, the Chiefs’ defense has been vulnerable and has allowed more than 20 points per game. Their porous defense has forced Smith to throw the ball more often and force more passes into tight windows. Besides for the offensive clinic against the Raiders and the late explosion against the Redskins, the Chiefs do not play well in high scoring games and have lost three of the last five games when they score more than 24 points. While the Chiefs have tried to become more dynamic because of their poor defense, the Colts are playing better defense and have simplified the offense. The Colts have won their last three games and have allowed a combined 20 points in those games. Although the Colts lost their best offensive weapon in Reggie Wayne, they have run the ball more effectively and have become more efficient in the passing game. Also, players, like D’Rick Rogers and Greg Whalen, have risen from the bench and have produced for the team. The Colts will be benefited by playing at home on the turf and in front of their home crowd. The Colts are 6-2 at home and use the speed of the turf to play better defense. At home, they have beaten the Broncos and the Seahawks. The speed of the turf improves the Colts pass rush, especially Robert Mathis, and allows their speedy linebackers and secondary to track down opposing running backs. In this game, the Colts should be the favorite. They are playing better, at home, and have the better quarterback. Although Smith is older than Luck, he has only one more playoff appearance and does not have the skill or leadership like Luck. The game should be close, but Luck has been great in close games this season. The Colts will be looking to stop the run, which will make Smith pass the ball more frequently. Unless Charles is able to beat 7 or 8 men box, the Chiefs will have difficult scoring against the athletic and feisty Colts defense. The game should come down to the last few minutes, but Luck should be able to pull out a big win and garner his first playoff victory in his career.

Prediction: Colts win 24-20

 

New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles:

8:10 PM Saturday

Courtesy of ESPN
Courtesy of ESPN

The Saints will attempt to win their first road game in their franchise’s history when they head to the City of Brotherly Love to play the Eagles. Although the Saints have been one of the most dominant teams since the addition of Drew Brees, the Saints do not play well on the road, especially in the cold. All five of the Saints’ losses have been on the road this season. The three Saints’ wins on the road have been by a combined 14 points against the lowly Bucs, Bears, and Falcons, neither team is above 500. Also, the Bears’ game was the only contest that was not in a warm weathered climate or in a dome The Saints have trouble on the road because they are built for the fast turf field and the controlled climate in the Superdome. Although the Saints do not play well or have the team set for the cold weather, they are extremely dangerous and have Drew Brees, who always gives them a chance in a game. The Saints have lost two of their last three because the offensive line has not played well. The Saints are forced to start a rookie left tackle, who should be abused and over matched against Trent Cole and Mychael Kendricks. The key for the Saints will be Jimmy Graham. Last week, the Eagles could not stop Dallas’ tight end, Jason Witten, who is not on the same tier as Jimmy Graham. If Graham can explode and Brees’ limits the amount of turnovers, the Saints will have a chance in Philly. While the Saints play poorly on the road, the Eagles have played well at home, winning their last four games. The Eagles have been extremely fortunate this season that Nick Foles has put forth one of the best statistical seasons in NFL history. Although Foles has been great because he does not turnover the football, he is given a lot of help from Shady McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Riley Cooper, the talented tight ends, and the stable offensive line. The Eagles running game has been the best in football because McCoy has been great this season and they cannot crowd the line with the skill of Nick Foles. Although the players have been playing well, Chip Kelly deserves a lot of credit for turning around the third worst team in football, last season. His offenses has been constructed because of the speed and talent. He has given McCoy the opportunity to run and catch the ball out of the backfield, which has made him the best non-quarterback in the NFL. Along with the offense’s success, the defense has improved throughout the season. Although the defense allows plenty of yards, they have adopted the “bend don’t break” philosophy and have been great in the red zone. As seen from their last 7 games, the Eagles hold teams to field goals and frequently cause turnovers, which has been a formula that wins championships. The Eagles should be able to force a few turnovers this weekend because Brees does not have the same accuracy in cold weather games and the ball is harder to grip, which causes more fumbles. The Eagles have been on fire of late and should be able to continue their winning ways against the Saints. The Saints will have trouble scoring because of the cold and the deficiencies on the offensive line. While the Saints have improved at stopping the pass under Rob Ryan, the Eagles are a great running team and should rely on McCoy, Brown, and Foles to lead them to a win in Kelly’s first playoff game.

Prediction: Eagles win 31-27

 

San Diego Chargers at Cincinnati Bengals:

1:00 PM Sunday

Courtesy of ESPN
Courtesy of ESPN

In another rematch, the Chargers will be heading into Cincinnati in hopes of extending their season. Although the Chargers should probably not be in the playoffs, they are a dangerous team and played very well toward the end of the season. The Chargers are a dangerous team in the playoffs because Phillip Rivers is playing like a top quarterback again under Ken Whisenhunt. Phillip Rivers has decreased his number of interceptions and has increased his completion percentage, touchdowns, and yardage. Rivers has been aided by the emergence of rookie Keenan Allen and Ryan Matthews. Matthews has added a running game that San Diego has not seen since Tomlinson. Allen has filled the void left by Vincent Jackson when he went to Tampa two seasons ago and recorded over 1000 yards. The Chargers have Woodhead and Gates, who are great situational receivers and provide safety blankets for Rivers. The Chargers have won 4 of their lat 5 games, but the one loss came to the Cincinnati Bengals in sunny, warm San Diego. However, this game will not be played in the sun or the warmth. The temperature is going to start at 37, but is intended to drop to 1 with a 100% chance of rain in the forecast. The rain, snow, and cold could affect Rivers’ ability to throw the ball against the stout Bengals defense. The Bengals’ defense is ranked 5th in both yards per game against the rush and the pass. The Chargers were unable to master the Bengals’ defense in week 13 and scored only 10 points. The Bengals were able to pick off Rivers and force two fumbles in the contest. The Chargers may turn the ball over again because the poor weather is conducive to slippery hands and off target passes. Along with the Chargers’ offense, the Bengals’ offense will be negatively affected by the weather as well. The Bengals have the 8th best passing attack in the league because Dalton has dramatically improved and AJ Green is one of the three best wide receivers in the league. In the past two playoff match ups against the Texans, Green did very little, which dramatically decreased their ability to score and move the ball. Unlike the Texans, the Chargers do not have the shut down secondary or the pass rush to stop quarterbacks from succeeding. The Chargers are currently 29th against the pass. Like their week 13 matchup, Green and Dalton should connect for 100 yards and at least one touchdown. If the Bengals can establish their ground game and account for over 150 yards, like week 13, the Chargers will have a difficult time scoring enough points against the Bengals’ stingy defense. Also, the running game in the snow will allow the Bengals to throw less frequently and not risk turnovers. The Bengals’ defense and the weather should be able to hold down the Chargers’ potent offense, while doing enough on offense to get their first playoff win in Marvin Lewis’ tenure.

Prediction: Bengals win 24-17

San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers:

4:40 PM Sunday

Courtesy of ESPN
Courtesy of ESPN

The fans going to the game should wear their gloves, a hat, a scarf, a coat, and about eight more layers of clothes. The weather Green Bay is set to be around 0 degrees at the start of the game and go toward -18 as the sun drops and game ends. However, the weather does not include the wind chill, which should make the fans even happier. The TV companies that want to black out the game because of poor attendance should go out and sit in the stands before condemning the fans. Like 2 of the other three match ups, the Packers played the 49ers in week one in San Francisco. Although it was a long time ago, the 49ers won and won in the previous playoffs, which should give them confidence against the Packers. Although the Packers are playing at home and are more “used” to the cold, if one can be used to the weather, the cold probably benefits the 49ers and their ground and pound style of play. However, the Packers should be happy that they made the playoffs after losing Aaron Rodgers for seven games during the middle of the season. In normal situations and weather, the Packers would want to throw the ball about 35 times because their wide receiver core is one of the best in the league and not many teams can  limit Rodgers’ skills. Although the Packers will always have a chance with Rodgers, they need Eddie Lacy to play effectively, if they are going to challenge the 49ers. Currently, Lacy is listed questionable, but the Packers needs him because he bruises the opposing defense and adds an extra element to the Packers’ offense. Aaron Rodgers will probably have trouble with the accuracy because it is very difficult to handle the ball when it is cold, let alone -18 cold. Even if Rodgers wears a glove, it will affect his accuracy and ability to drive down the field. While the Packers’ offense should be fine, the defense will be challenged against the 49ers offense. The Packers defense currently ranks 24th and 25th respectively in passing and rushing yards allowed. Although the 49ers have what many believed was one of the ten best quarterbacks in the league before the season, the 49ers rank 30th in passing yards, but 3rd in rushing yards. Although the 49ers have not achieved much from their quarterback, the team is incredibly hot. They have won 6 straight and 11 of their last 13 games, which bodes well for their playoff future. The key to 49ers is their ability to play great defense and run the ball, which can translate into any weather. The 49ers rank 7th in passing yards and 4th in running yards allowed this season because they have great linebackers, Bowman and Willis, and their secondary is very good. The 49ers, like the previous two games, should be able to control the pace of the game and time of possession with their running game. Although Kapernick has not been great this season, two of his best games of his career has been in his last two games against the Packers. However, the cold will probably stop Kapernick from running wild, but his strong arm should allow him to throw through the cold and possible snow. Without Clay Matthews providing a pass rush and assisting against the run, they will not be able to stop the improving 49ers offense. The Packers will need to cause turnovers, like their 2010-11 title run, in order to keep the 49ers off the field and give more touches to their All-Pro quarterback. Although the last two match ups have been high scoring, the weather should disrupt the offense and make it a low scoring game.

Prediction: 49ers win 24-23

 

pics and stats from ESPN.com