Friday, January 9, 2015

NFL Divisional Round Playoff Preview

Manning (right) faces his old team once again this Sunday.

Reseeding: Necessary, Proper, or Neither?

    Recently, much talk has been circulating about restructuring the NFL Playoff System, because this year's NFC South winner had a winning percentage under .500. The Carolina Panther's record of 7-8-1 defies logic as they made the playoffs over multiple teams with better records: The 10-6 Eagles and 8-8 49ers in the NFC; The 9-7 Bills, Texans, Chiefs, and Chargers, and the 8-8 Dolphins in the AFC. However, what these doubters fail to realize, is that the NFL is divided into a smaller governing bodies just as is every other professional league in the US, and as is the American Government.

     The NFL, or federal government, is the overarching governing body of the entire league. The leader of the NFL, Roger Goodell, is akin to the President of the United States, as he has the ability to pass or veto rules. The NFL is divided into 2 Conferences, or states, if you will. Each State is afforded the right to send 1 representative to the Super Bowl each year. Within each conference are 4 divisions: North, South, East, and West, which serve as local governments that have the right to send at least 1 representative to the playoffs each year.

     This is determined by playing divisional opponents 6 times per year, in addition to playing each team in a select NFC Division, 1 team each from the remaining 2 NFC Divisions, and each team in a select AFC Division, resulting in a total of 16 games. Additionally, 2 teams from each conference are chosen regardless of division based on their regular season record.

     In order to maintain an equal balance of power, preserve the purpose of conferences and divisions, and foster division rivalry, it is of the utmost importance to keep the current model of NFL Playoff Selection. Classic Rivalries: Packers-Bears, Cowboys-Redskins, Steelers-Raven, are kept alive by battling against each other to secure spots in the playoffs.

And now, on to the games:

Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots 

     These two teams will face each other in the playoffs for the 4th time in the past 6 years, with the Ravens currently holding the edge 2-1. In the past, the Ravens have dominated the Patriots in the playoffs by dominating up front, running the football up the gut, and playing great on 3rd down. However, the situation is different this year, as there is no more Ray Rice, and although playing well as of late, the Ravens defense lacks the star power of old, and has a secondary that has been devastated by injuries. The Patriots have continued to retool their team as the years wear on, and they are once again atop the league. Tom Brady proved over the past 12 weeks that he is still one of the greatest in the game, and the Ravens have nobody to stop Rob Gronkowski. Patriots will win again.

Carolina Panthers at Seattle Seahawks 

     The Panthers were a source of much controversy coming into their game last week, as many thought the Cardinals were much more deserving of a home game, because they finished 3.5 games ahead of the Panthers. However, that is neither here nor there, as the NFL Playoffs are about the now, and right now the Panthers are on a 5 game winning streak. The Seahawks finished the season remarkably strong after going through a rough stretch in the middle of the year and look to continue their quest for the first Super Bowl Repeat in 10 years. I expect Marshawn Lynch a.k.a"Beast Mode" to make something amazing happen, but although the Seahawks will win, the Panthers will keep it close. Seahawks take this one.

Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers 

     The Cowboys are lucky to still be alive in the playoffs after a boneheaded mistake by the referees lead to a 4th Quarter Comeback for Romo & Company. They head to the "Frozen Tundra" of Lambeau Field to face a Packer team led by MVP Candidate Aaron Rodgers. All is not what it seems however, as the Cowboys come into this game with an 8-0 record on the road, including a win at Seattle, their only home loss of the season. In addition to that, Rodgers has been diagnosed with a tear in his calf muscle suffered in their win versus Detroit in Week 17. That, plus the Packers weak rushing defense, is a recipe for disaster. The Big Three in the Big D will put up huge numbers on Sunday. Cowboys with their 9th road victory of the season.

Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos (- 7)

     The match-up we have all been waiting for: Luck vs Manning. 13 seasons in Indianapolis left Peyton with 1 Super Bowl ring and a ton of heartache, and his career in Denver is shaping up to be very similar, minus the ring. Luck, on the other hand, is only 25 and his career is just beginning to blossom into a beautiful masterpiece. A win over Indianapolis' former hero would solidify him as the second coming. The Broncos lost a lot of steam in the last month of the season, but there is the off-chance that a bye week gave them a chance to tighten up. Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and CJ Anderson will not go down without a fight, but neither will Chuck Pagano and his Cardiac Colts. Indianapolis with the upset victory.