FOX Sports Exclusive
Saints look out of sync at wrong time
Before I talk about the playoffs, I want to say that Brett Favre really was the best quarterback I ever saw play. I remember his first touchdown pass for the Packers. It was in a game against the Bengals when he came in for Don Majkowski. He threw two that game, and 296 games later, he holds every quarterback record that counts.
I wish he would have retired after last season, because what he accomplished with the Vikings, almost getting them to the Super Bowl, was truly remarkable. But he simply couldn’t leave the game. He is a guy who has always worn his emotions on his sleeve, through all the pain of his father dying and also his wife fighting cancer. The game is going to miss him. Yes, there was too much drama, but he was true to the game. He loved playing, and we all loved watching him play.
Now, let’s talk about the playoffs, and, boy, do we have a great game next Sunday on FOX. The Packers at Philadelphia.
One thing about the playoffs: Every team has a quality quarterback. You need one to get this far. All 12 playoff teams have one except maybe Seattle. I just don’t know Charlie Whitehurst that much.
When the Packers won in Philadelphia back in September in Week 1, Kevin Kolb was the Eagles’ starting quarterback. This will be a different game with Michael Vick. He can be Superman. Or, he has played like that, primarily when he rallied his teammates against the Giants a couple weeks ago.
But as super as the Eagles looked a couple of weeks ago, they have played pretty average in these past two games. Well, I won’t count the loss to Dallas, because the Eagles were resting too many key players. But that loss to the Vikings has me concerned about Vick and Andy Reid’s team. They sure didn’t handle the Minnesota blitz very well, and we know that the Packers can blitz and have the players to pressure Vick. The Eagles are going to have to make some adjustments or Vick has to make quicker decisions when the Packers rush him.
As we said on the show Sunday, the Packers are a scary team. I’m not sure anybody really wants to play them. Aaron Rodgers didn’t play that well against the Bears, but he just has so many receivers. They all get open, and they all can run after the catch. Greg Jennings, who has been as good as any receiver in the league the second half of the season, got behind coverage and Rodgers hit him in stride to set up the winning touchdown.
The only thing the Packers can’t do is run consistently. But when Rodgers is on and they are protecting him, the Packers can beat anybody. Now, it won’t be easy going into Philadelphia, but the Packers can deal with the elements. I also think Philadelphia’s secondary isn’t has strong as it was earlier in the season. It is playing a rookie safety in Kurt Coleman and right cornerback Dimitri Patterson has been benched a couple of times. The Packers will have some solid matchup advantages against this secondary.
I didn’t like the way the Saints finished today against Tampa Bay. In fact, I really liked how the Bucs finished their season, even though they missed the playoffs. Josh Freeman is a pretty impressive young quarterback, while the Saints really didn’t appear in sync. Drew Brees threw an interception in his 12th straight game, and that’s hard for me to figure out. Brees played great last Monday night on that game-winning drive to beat the Falcons, but he wasn’t even able to throw for 200 yards against the Bucs, who stuffed the New Orleans’ running game and also came up with three sacks.
Yes, the Saints scratched some of their starting receivers for this game. I guess I will have to say I will trust coach Sean Payton to get them ready for the wild-card game Saturday. They are the defending champs, and they looked great beating the Falcons in Atlanta.
In the AFC, I think both road teams, the Ravens and the Jets, have a chance of winning. Baltimore struggled Sunday against the Bengals, but this is one solid team. The Ravens have an opportunistic defense, and Joe Flacco is a solid quarterback. The way the Raiders went into Kansas City and dominated the Chiefs, I have to believe Baltimore can win this game.
Now, the Jets will have a tougher time beating Peyton Manning. But these aren’t the same, old Colts, or the ones we are used to seeing in the playoffs. They have some defensive holes, and Manning doesn’t have all his receiving weapons.
The key to this game will be Mark Sanchez. He must play well, hit the open receivers and not make mistakes. He can’t commit the dumb turnover. If he does that and if the Jets can run and control the clock, the Jets can win. I know that’s a lot of ifs, but that’s the best I can do. The Jets have been through a lot this season, but nothing seems to affect them. And that’s a good thing heading into the playoffs.
Let’s be honest. The two best teams in the AFC are the Patriots and my Steelers. I figure they will win their first playoff games and play each other in the AFC Championship Game. The Patriots have been so dominant down the stretch, and Tom Brady has gone 11 games now without an interception.
I’m not convinced the NFC is as clear-cut as the AFC. Atlanta will be difficult to beat in the Georgia Dome, but this is the first time for the Falcons to have the No. 1 seed. How will they deal with the pressure? The Bears showed me a lot in losing to Green Bay today. Their defense is going to be tough to beat in Soldier Field. I think Jay Cutler has had a great season, too, but they sure didn’t protect him very well. Green Bay sacked him six times and forced him into two interceptions, one in the end zone.
The Bears have to play better than that if they are going to play in the NFC Championship Game. To me, the NFC playoffs are more wide open. I mean, anything can happen. Kind of like the Eagles coming back from 21 points down in eight minutes to beat the Giants.