NFL Playoff picture takes shape - Los Angeles Post-ExaminerLos Angeles Post-Examiner

NFL Playoff picture takes shape

Photo above: Quarterback Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers throws a pass in the second half of the game Saturday. Calais Campbell of the Arizona Cardinals tries to tackle the QB.

The Carolina Panthers made it into the playoffs by winning their division, despite having a losing record. No one expected them to win in the playoffs, especially because their first game would be against the Arizona Cardinals. For most of the regular season the Cardinals had the best record in the NFL and they finished 11-5 in a season that didn’t have any team get more than 12 wins.

Plus, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton has had so many injuries, including a roll-over traffic accident, what were the Panthers’ chances?

Fozzy Whittaker scores on a 39-yard pass from Cam Newton in a crucial drive for the Carolina panthers.

Fozzy Whittaker scores on a 39-yard pass from Cam Newton in a crucial drive for the Carolina panthers.

Considering the Cardinals had to use third string QB Ryan Lindley as the starter, the Panthers had a good chance and they took advantage of it. It was an ugly game. Cam Newton didn’t play well and it was Carolina’s defense that kept Carolina in the game and gave them the win.

They held Arizona to just 78 total yards of offense. That is best defensive effort ever in a playoff game. On top of that they sacked Lindley four times and intercepted two of his passes. It couldn’t all be just because the Cardinals had a third string quarterback. The entire Arizona offense was broken. Plus, the Panthers defense has improved a lot and was ranked #10 at the end of the season. It was really the Carolina defense dominating the Arizona offense. Final score was 27-16.

If the Panthers expect to win in Seattle, Cam Newton and the offense will need to play much better. As good as the Carolina defense played Saturday, the Seattle defense is that much better. Looking at the Seahawks record, they held the Green Bay Packers to 16 points, the Cardinals to three and six points, the Denver Broncos to 20, the New York Giants to 17 and the San Francisco 49ers to seven.

Should the Panthers win in Seattle, it is very likely they would then have to play the Packers at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. Teams have done it before; the Packers won Super Bowl XLV in 2010 playing on the road, defeating the top three seeded teams in the NFL to do it. But the Packers had (and have) Aaron Rodgers who is a far better quarterback than Cam Newton. Newton’s game on Saturday wasn’t bad, he passed 196 yards and had only one interception, but he wasn’t accurate most of the game and a better Arizona defense might have changed the outcome of the game.

The Cincinnati Bengals lost to the Indianapolis Colts. Andrew Luck has all the luck — and a pretty good offensive line and the skills to make use of the talent around him.

Quarterback Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts

Quarterback Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts

The Bengals never seriously challenged the Colts with their offense. Quarterback Andy Dalton passed for 155 yards and no touchdowns and Andrew Luck passed for 376 yards and one touchdown. The difference in that game was the quarterbacks. Dalton was without one of his best receivers, A.J. Green, who has been out due to a concussion, but the poorly thrown passes in key drives really puts the weight on Dalton. Final score was 26-10.

Neither team had much of a running game, which should concern Indianapolis. Next week they will face the Denver Broncos. In the final game of the season the Broncos just wiped out the Oakland Raiders, 47-14 and they accumulated 142 yards rushing with two backs, C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman. Well, it was only the Raiders, but against the San Diego Chargers, a team with a winning record and a defense ranked #9 in the league, Denver still got 111 yards on the ground. The Colts defense is ranked #11 and the Broncos D is ranked #3.

And they will play in Denver. The 12th player on the field for the Broncos is always the altitude: 5,280 feet — one mile — above sea-level.

The Baltimore Ravens can win in the playoffs without Ray Lewis; they beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh, 30-17, in one of the most anticipated games in the wild card round. The Ravens dominated defensively, especially when it counted. The Steelers had more yards passing than the Ravens, but Pittsburgh couldn’t find the end zone enough to win the game. Once again defense was the deciding factor in this game. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 338 yards, but had two interceptions and only one touchdown pass. Final score was 30-17.

Quarterback Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens about to pass

Quarterback Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens about to pass

The Ravens will face the Patriots in Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts next week. They are a better team offensively and defensively, but the Ravens turn into a different team for the playoffs so they could pull off another road win.

The final game this weekend was the Detroit Lions at the Dallas Cowboys, in Arlington, Texas. It started out great for the Lions. They scored two touchdowns in the first quarter and the Cowboys looked terrible. But then in the second quarter Dallas QB Tony Romo and his offense started to play football.

Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions in first quarter.

Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions in first quarter.

When you look at the stats, the Lions outplayed the Cowboys in every offensive category. They had more yard passing and rushing. The Detroit defense even sacked Romo six times, but the Lions had three turnovers to the Cowboys one and that was the difference in the game.

You can’t blame it on the referees. As much as the Lions might disagree with that one call, and a lot of people believe the officiating crew got it wrong, games do not hinge on one play. In the second half the Cowboys defense stepped up when they needed to and Romo was able to deliver a game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter, after the controversial call and after Lions punter Sam Martin shanked a punt and gave the Cowboys great field position. The Lions had a chance to win it, but ultimately they were unable to score again. The final score was 24-20.

“Run it, and let’s get the hell out of here.” — Legendary Packers head coach Vince Lombardi on the final play of the 1967 NFL Championship Game, December 31, 1967. Bart Starr kept the ball and snuck across the goal line for the win, sending the Green Bay Packers to Super Bowl II in Miami. FL to meet the Oakland Raiders.

“Run it, and let’s get the hell out of here.” — Legendary Packers head coach Vince Lombardi on the final play of the 1967 NFL Championship Game, December 31, 1967. Bart Starr kept the ball and snuck across the goal line for the win, sending the Green Bay Packers to Super Bowl II in Miami. FL to meet the Oakland Raiders.

Their next game is in Green Bay against the Packers. The last time the Cowboys played a playoff game in Lambeau Field the Packers won in the final seconds — it was the famous “Ice Bowl,” on December 31, 1967. The Cowboys were winning with just 13 seconds left on the clock, 17-14 when Packers quarterback Bart Starr called a quarterback sneak and just barely landed with the ball over the goal line. It is still considered one of the greatest games ever.

The weather in Green Bay next Sunday is expected to be partly cloudy and the temperature at game time about 15°f. That’s 10 degrees warmer than the Ice Bowl. Maybe it’s a good omen for the Cowboys.

••• •••• ••••• •••• ••••

Everyone is talking about the possibility of Los Angeles getting an NFL franchise — soon. The owner of the St. Louis Rams has purchased enough land to build a stadium in Inglewood, CA, the suburb of L.A. where the Lakers and Clippers had played in the Forum.

Question is will the city of St. Louis give the Rams a deal on a new stadium or will Rams owner Stan Kroenke start building a new home in L.A.? Kroenke said he would even be willing to let the Raiders use the stadium if they chose to move from Oakland.

(All photos are screenshots from YouTube)


About the author

Claudia Gestro

Claudia is of Peruvian and Italian descent, having been born in a small town, in the North of Peru, South America. She was raised by her grandmother from an early age, living in poverty until Claudia’s mother brought her to America. She landed in Miami, FL and started her new life, playing high school basketball and eventually becoming a United States citizen. Claudia completed her education at Florida International University with a BA in Broadcast Journalism and became a model to supplement her income. Since graduating from FIU Claudia has worked with many of the Spanish Language broadcasting companies, including Telemundo, Univision and most recently Spanish Language channels on SiriusXM satellite radio and PasTV Deportes in Venezuela.She encourages you to follow her on Twitter and Facebook. Her content appears here under a shared content agreement with her Spanish television clients. Contact the author.
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