January 12, 2011
So the first round of the playoffs is over, and as the dust settles on the field, it’s hard to believe who’s left standing. Saturday’s first match-up was between the Seattle Seahawks—the only team to ever reach the playoffs with a losing record (7-9)—and the defending World Champion New Orleans Saints. I was among the overwhelming number of those who thought the Saints would come to Seattle and show the Seahawks that they didn’t deserve to be there, that they weren’t worthy. However, all that trash talking must have gotten to the Seahawks as they put up 41 points against the Saints, silencing critics and the Who Dat nation alike. While trailing 34-20 in the third quarter, the Saints were able to make a resurgence with two touchdowns and a field goal in the 4th quarter, but in the end, they proved they were no match-up for the Seahawks, losing 41-36 in Seattle and keeping one record alive: the Saints have never won a playoff game on the road.
Across the country in Indianapolis, Peyton Manning and the Colts hosted the Wild Card New York Jets Saturday evening. They came with loud mouth coach Rex Ryan and young quarterback Mark Sanchez. Ryan had been saying all week that he couldn’t wait to finally beat Manning, all the while praising him for his work ethic and pre-game studying. With 50 seconds on the clock, Manning charged down the field, settling for a field goal attempt on fourth down. Ex-Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri proved his clutch-kicking reputation true when he nailed the 50-yard kick, breathing life into fans at Texas Oil Stadium and nearly ensuring a Colts win. But the defense dropped the ball. They let the Jets punt returner run for 47-yards, setting into motion what would become the game-winning 34-yard field goal. The Colts, the defending AFC champs and losing team in the Superbowl last year, could have won that game. But scared play calling and bad defense gave the game away. At least twice, the Colts called a running play on 3rd and short, once deep in Jets territory, instead of throwing the ball. You have Peyton-freakin’-Manning, regarded as one of the top two quarterbacks in the league (along with Tom Brady), and you RUN the ball? Perhaps they were scared of an interception, but it’s the playoffs, where you either go big or go home—and the Colts learned that the hard way.
The one not so surprising win of the weekend was the Ravens over the Chiefs in Kansas City Sunday afternoon. The Ravens went in the heavy favorite, and while the Chiefs were first to score a touchdown making it 7-3 in the first quarter, the Ravens defense and multiple Chiefs’ turnovers silenced their offense: the final score was 30-7. The Ravens travel to Pittsburgh next week where they’ll face a rested Steelers team. The Ravens players are already preparing for the face-off. Players like offensive guard Ben Grubbs says “It’s going to be a bloodbath, a train wreck” and his teammate Terrell Suggs compared it to the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight saying the Ravens will be like Mayweather if they win.
Wild Card Weekend ended with the Green Bay Packers in Philadelphia. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers facing Michael Vick and the Eagles was the hardest game to pick, but four out of five pre-game announcers picked Green Bay, despite the fact they were on the road and Vick knew he had to deliver. Unfortunately, Vick disappointed at home, and Rodgers, while not spectacular, (especially in the last quarter where he was unable to score on three possessions) got the job done. Previous Philadelphia QB Donovan McNabb has had one of his worst seasons ever this year; In contrast, when he was with Philly, he was able to take the Eagles to 5 NFC Championship games and one Superbowl. While they may never have won a title, at least McNabb got the team that far. Though this was arguably Vick’s comeback year—he was all the talk surrounding the MVP award for a while; that award will undoubtedly go to Patriots QB Tom Brady. Brady didn’t perform much in the last month of the season, except against a capsizing Giants team. While Rodgers and the Packers head to Atlanta to face the Falcons next week, Vick goes into the off-season as a free agent, wondering if his last second, game-losing interception will impact his price tag.
The Capitals enjoyed a 3-2 win against the Florida Panthers on Saturday night, their first since the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day. They were goal-less against the Tampa Bay Lightning on January 4, losing 1-0 in overtime. While they were down 1-0 early on Saturday, it was tied 1-1 by the mid-way mark thanks to Eric Fehr’s second-period goal. The momentum proved to be on the Caps’ side, when Mike Green had a power play goal in the third, and star Alex Ovechkin gave the Caps the insurance they needed with his own score a few minutes later. So far January has proved a more favorable months for the Caps, who endured a grueling December, losing 9 of their 14 games, including seven in a row. They face the Panthers and Lightning again this week, though in less favorable territory: on the road.
The Wizards came together and beat the New Jersey Nets on Friday, 97-77. It is their first win of 2011, with their last win coming at the hands of the Indiana Pacers, 104-90 on December 29. Both wins came at the Verizon Center, proving that home court advantage may in fact impact the team’s performance. Unfortunately, the team couldn’t extend their winning streak beyond one, as they lost to the Charlotte Bobcats 104-89 on Saturday night. The Wizards now have a 9-26 record going into the second week of the new year, their hopes of a revitalized team under rookie guard Jon Wall all but dashed. While Wall had 16 points and 11 assists during Saturday’s game, it wasn’t enough magic to lift the Wizards to a win. So while the Wizards may have gotten their new franchise face in Wall, he hasn’t been the superstar powerhouse they had hoped for. At least, not yet.
Pitchers and Catchers report on February 15, and spring training for the rest of the roster begins soon after. Opening Day for baseball is April 1. Baseball is one of my favorite sports, so look out for lots of baseball coverage as the time draws near. Just something to look forward to during the cold winter months!