Before I preview today’s games, I’ll take a look back at yesterday’s matchups.
Well, you win some and you lose some. What I thought was going to be a tight game in Houston, turned into a blowout in the second half, as the Texans rolled over the Bengals 31-10. But Saints/Lions went pretty much exactly the way I expected, and in fact I almost hit the final score right on the nose. I start out my playoffs with a 1-1 record against the spread (same for the over/under), but a 2-0 record straight up. Yes, I know at this time of year that it’s better to be profitable than right. Let’s take a closer look at both games.
Texans 31 Bengals 10
I made a mistake in this one by assuming it would be tight because both teams trotted out rookie quarterbacks. While it was true that the QB who made no mistakes, T.J. Yates, won the game, I seriously underestimated the Texans as an overall football team. The Bengals are a young team who snuck into the playoffs because of an easy schedule…and because the bottom of the AFC was really bad this year. Meanwhile, the Texans were a legit playoff team before losing QB Matt Schaub, with a great defense and running game. I was also fooled by the tight game these teams played a couple weeks ago, but Houston DC Wade Phillips wasn’t coaching in that one, and stud WR Andre Johnson was still recovering from his hamstring injury.
Key play: I could’ve gone with JJ Watt’s incredibly athletic interception for a touchdown, or the big play by Johnson on which he beat Bengals corner Pacman Jones worse than he beat up Cortland Finnegan. But I think the biggest play was Bengals safety Chris Crocker dropping an interception just before the Johnson TD. The score was 17-10 at that point and Crocker would’ve had a big return and maybe even a score if he holds into the ball. Instead the Texans went up by two touchdowns and it was all but over.
MVP: The easy answer would be Texans’ running back Arian Foster, who ran for 153 yards and two touchdowns. But my game ball goes to the Texans’ offensive line. Considered one of the best in football, they proved it again by paving the way so Houston could run for 188 yards, and more importantly, set up the play action bootlegs that gave Yates simple reads, and kept him clean for most of the game.
LVP: Has to be Crocker. Not only did he drop a potential game six when the game was still close, but he also made an embarrassing effort (if you could call it that) to tackle Foster on his 42 yard TD run that set the final score.
Saints 45 Lions 28
You literally could’ve read my prediction column and not missed a thing from last night’s aerial display. Matt Stafford played well (and even ran for a gutty TD), but threw a pair of costly interceptions that kept the Lions from keeping pace with the Saints. Drew Brees was pretty much perfect in the second half as the Lions didn’t stop the Saints (they piled up a record 626 yards of offense) until New Orleans took a knee to end the game. The two standout QBs threw for a combined 846 yards, including a record 466 by Brees.
Key play: Again I’m going with a missed opportunity. This was still a tight game, 24-21, in the fourth quarter, and with the Saints driving, Lions defensive back Aaron Berry dropped a sure interception. The Saints would score on a Darren Sproles touchdown run immediately after. The play summed up the day for a Detroit defense that couldn’t get a stop when they needed to, as they had two other dropped interceptions, and allowed the Saints to convert three fourth downs.
MVP: Who else but Brees? After a slow start, he shredded the Lions in the second half on the way to his record-setting performance. Honorable mention to Stafford and Calvin “Megatron” Johnson, who had 12 catches for 211 yards and 2 TDs.
LVP: The NFL, for making it nearly impossible to defend elite quarterbacks anymore. While he’s an amazing player, Brees’ record-breaking season would’ve been more impressive if defenders were still allowed to, you know, actually hit him or his wide receivers.
Quick picks for today:
Giants 34 Falcons 24
Steelers 20 Broncos 3