To say the least, I was either disappointed or surprised by the outcome of Sunday's playoff games. The Baltimore Ravens defeated the Houston Texans in the first game by a score of 20-13 to advance to the AFC Championship game next week against the New England Patriots. Three teams from the AFC North made the playoffs, and the Ravens' fortune of capturing a first-round bye paid off as they were able to have a game at home where they shined this season.
I had my doubts about Baltimore prior to the game, and everything went down almost exactly as I anticipated. Joe Flacco threw two early touchdown passes, but he only completed about 50 percent of his attempts and was sacked five times. Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron had a terrible gameplan; as usual, his playcalling had no real cohesion to it. Fortunately for Flacco, receivers Anquan Boldin and Lee Evans combined for three tremendous receptions during the game to bail their offense out.
The Texans were a team built to be the true No. 2 seed in the AFC. Their offensive line was outstanding. Running back Arian Foster ran for 138 yards, and rookie quarterback T.J. Yates was not sacked once. The Texans' defense held electric running back Ray Rice to just 2.9 yards per carry and stopped Flacco from hitting on his signature big play down the field. Ultimately, the injury to starting quarterback Matt Schaub during the regular season finally came back to bite the Texans. The Texans were good enough to get as far as they did with Yates, who was better than most rookies would be in the situation he was put in. He fell into the traps set by safety Ed Reed and company though and was baited into throwing three interceptions. He should've been picked a few more times. His final Hail Mary pass did hit Kevin Walter right in the shoulder amidst a crowd, but he was unable to haul it in. Baltimore advances, hopefully to get torched by the Patriots next Sunday.
The NFC game on Sunday was a bit of a stunner to me. It wasn't a surprise to see the Giants play so well, but it was definitely a surprise to see the Packers play so bad. I think there were seven dropped passes by Green Bay's usually
reliable unstoppable receivers. Aaron Rodgers had at least two passes in which he missed fairly wide open targets. The Packers coughed the football up three times on fumbles. The defense gave up a Hail Mary heading into the half when the Giants had basically packed it in the play before. This was definitely the opposite of the team that won 15 times during the regular season, but credit goes to the Giants for capitalizing.
There are two more intriguing match-ups set for next week now, which I'll talk more about during the week. San Francisco fans have to be thrilled to be getting another home game though. It's unreal that we could be on the verge of a Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh Super Bowl. On the other hand, we could have a Giants vs. Patriots re-match in the makings. Few people will talk about the other two possibilities though -- Ravens vs. Giants, or Patriots vs. 49ers. We'll see how things unfold during en route to Super Bowl 46.