Shratweiser Reaction: My Nightmare Watching the 49ers Play in Lambeau

Let’s get one thing straight from Sunday’s game between the Packers and the 49ers. The Niners were lucky to get out of there with a win. Everything about the game had that Packers-are-destined-to-advance type feeling. The Niners completely dominated the first quarter, only to come away with two field goals despite being first and goal inside the 7-yard line two different times. We also burned our first two timeouts of each half within a few minutes, but I think that was just Jim Harbaugh’s way of playing down to Mike McCarthy. Like when you spot your little cousin the first seven points in a pickup game.

But let’s get to the play where I knew, for sure, that the Packers were going to win. 13:28 left in the 4th, Niners winning 13-10, Packers on the San Francisco 30 yard line, 4th and 2: Aaron Rodgers is stuck in the pocket, with Niners defensive tackle Ray McDonald all over him, about to bring him down for a sack (with the help of Ahmad Brooks. Then, out of nowhere, Rodgers somehow escapes the pocket in the luckiest, most Eli-Manning-Super-Bowl-Helmet-Catch type way and throws a 26 yard dart to Randall Cobb; first and goal Packers at the 4-yard line. If that play doesn’t scream, “You’re screwed, we’re getting every break and winning this game”, then I don’t know what is.

By the way, I’d like to issue a warning to those slobbering over Colin Kaepernick’s performance. He did not play well on Sunday. Aside from missing numerous open receivers, he was extremely lucky to be only intercepted once, instead of thrice. On their first possession, Kaepernick was almost picked off in the endzone by Tramon Williams, who dropped what would’ve been a sensational one-handed interception. And then on the Niners final drive, Kap made a bad decision on an out-route to Anquan Boldin that should’ve been intercepted by Micah Hyde. It was in Hyde’s hands, and he dropped it. Those two plays are the game right there. Kaepernick made some excellent plays with his arm and his legs in the 4th, but he needs to play exponentially better next week in Carolina for the 49ers to have any shot at advancing.

When the Panthers came to San Francisco in Week 10, I had the pleasure of being in attendance. And in my only experience in the cesspool that is Candlestick Park, aside from having the pleasure of seeing some of the worst 49er fans in the history of sports, I watched Carolina take down the Niners in excruciating fashion.

Check in later this week for the entire breakdown of this Sunday’s game in Carolina. Or don’t. It’s your choice, there’s no need to be all rude about it.

Fan Reaction: 49ers at Packers

So several of us here at S and G had a vested interest in this gem of a playoff game. I myself am a Packers fan with Doogie and Tammy being San Fran men. Here’s my take on the game:

49ers: What else is there to say about this team? Their front 7 is great and attacked the incredibly weakened Pack O-line to get to Rodgers. Their RB is still great, posting good gains on an albeit weak defense. Their QB is a clear Pack-killer, shredding the inexperienced and injured Packers D (last real play of the game, Bush made the rookie mistake of running in and not playing contain, letting Kaep get loose). This team played hard and won hard, and is a major reason they still look good to make their way back to the big game. They face Carolina next week in what looks to be two near-mirror image teams facing off. Overall, their game I rank as a A-. They faced a weakened opponent but in adverse conditions and while they struggled to put them away, they did the job. I’ll be rooting for these guys to take the NFC.

Pack: As disappointing as the game was, I have to feel some pride as a fan. I thought they were going into a buzzsaw even though they had homefield on Hoth. Their defense, injured into inexperience beyond belief (not helped by two more loses in the first series), managed to hold Kaep and Gore most of the game, for the most part preventing big gains except when Crabtree or a running Kaep were involved. Rodgers and Lacy, with no O-line to protect them, managed to batter and push the offense downfield when they needed to. For a team that squeaked into the playoffs, they were barely knocked out. I look forward to next year when the Pack will (hopefully) have a health Lacy and Rodgers and a fixed up O-line and Defense (McCarthy is known for drafting very well since he drafts on value available not how many QBs can a team have- looking at you Jags). I give them a B+. They were a team that faced an uphill battle and were only thrown off just before reaching the top.

Fans on either side of the ball must have been on edge the whole game, but I think both teams walk away from this with their heads held high. I see both teams doing as good or better next year and look forward to the next match-up in a possible rivalry (once the Pack can take one of these…).

Wild Card Round: Playoff Predictions

Official NFL Playoff Predictions Sure To Go Wrong… But Not Really

It’s finally here… one of the greatest months in sports. After 17 long, grueling, fantasy filled weeks, it all comes down to this loaded 12-team field of teams ready to vie for the Lombardi Trophy (which will eventually be renamed the Jim Harbaugh Trophy… you heard it here first). Let’s just hope the terrible officiating we’ve been subject to all season does not directly affect any of these outcomes. On the surface, though, this shapes to be one of the most even and strong playoff fields in recent memory.

A couple of quick thoughts before I dive into some of my own personal analysis and predictions:

  • Thank God the Cowboys and Lions are not part of these playoffs. Ain’t nobody got time to watch that train wreck.
  • Don’t be fooled… Peyton Manning CAN play in cold weather. But I’d still take Brady and the Pats all day in cold or bad weather games (spoiler on future predictions).
  • Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb coming back makes the NFC a lot more interesting.
  • I believe that 11 of the 12 teams can win the Super Bowl. It’s going to come down to matchups and who gets the most breaks at the most opportune time.

 

Kansas City (11-5) @ Indianapolis (11-5)

These two teams meet again in a rematch from Week 16, when the Colts dominated the Chiefs in Kansas City. After a 9-0 start, catching the league by storm, the Chiefs finished 2-5 in their last seven games, with their only two wins coming against the bottom-feeding Redskins and Raiders. League history shows that it’s often the hottest team, and not always the best team, that ends up making a run to winning the Super Bowl. Given how the season ended, I’m not so sure it was a great idea to rest players in week 17 against San Diego, despite almost pulling the upset without the likes of Alex Smith and Jamaal Charles. Much of the Chiefs early success was predicated on a stout and opportunistic defense. During the 9-0 start, the Chiefs defense allowed an impressive 13.4 points per game. Over the last seven, that number ballooned to 27.7 points per game. The combination of an exposed defense and some untimely injuries prevented KC from finishing strong. Linebacker Justin Houston is expected to return for this game, which is important as KC will need to regain that early season defensive prowess to earn the victory.

On the other side of the ball, Indy started the season with a 4-1 record and finished the season with the same record over the final five games. They went full steam ahead in Week 17 and played a flawless game against Jacksonville. Yes, it’s the Jags, but Indy will be riding high with confidence as the playoffs get under way in Lucas Oil Stadium and the recent memory of dominating in Kansas City gives the Colts even more of an upper hand. Indy has not been the same team offensively since Reggie Wayne was lost for the season with a torn ACL, but letting Andrew Luck make plays, starting to feed the beast in Trent Richardson, and playing off the energy of the home crowd will fuel the Colts’ victory.

X-Factor: Trent Richardson

Prediction: Colts 23 Chiefs 17

 

New Orleans (11-5) @ Philadelphia (10-6)

Let the offensive fireworks show begin. The Saints are terrible on the road and the Eagles, until lately, have been oddly dreadful at home. Despite that, one thing is certain in this game: offensive firepower. Drew Brees leads the high powered Saints offense into Philly to go head-to-head with Chip Kelly’s high octane offense in what is sure to be highest scoring game of the first round. The Eagles finished the season fourth in the league in scoring with 27.6 PPG and the Saints finished tenth at 25.9 PPG. This game will feature the league’s number two passing attack (Saints @ 307.4 YPG) and the league’s top rushing offense lead by Shady McCoy (Eagles @ 160.4 YPG). However, with Nick Foles finally entrenched as the starting QB, the Eagles were able to achieve the ninth best passing attack in the league while the Saints rushing attack was the league’s 25th best. Watch out for Brandon Boykin (six interceptions this season, including four in last seven games) and emerging star linebacker Mychal Kendricks to attack Drew Brees and company. Philly finished 10-6 after a 1-3 start and have won seven of their last eight, and with a more balanced offensive attack, the Eagles have the advantage in this matchup at home.

X-Factor: Brandon Boykin

Prediction: Eagles 38 Saints 27

 

San Diego (9-7) @ Cincinnati (11-5)

Another rematch. Cincinnati went into San Diego in Week 13 and won a critical game 17-10. In my opinion, San Diego is the worst team to make the tournament. They are the one team of the 12 that I don’t think can win it all. They finished the season with the second easiest strength of schedule[1], which included four games total with the 13-3 Broncos and 11-5 Chiefs. They were gift wrapped the number six seed with some help from the officials (and the Dolphins and Ravens) despite almost losing at home to a Chiefs team who rested their studs in Week 17. Yes, I will admit, Philip Rivers had a great season, better than anyone probably expected, but let’s not kid ourselves, he’s still Philip Rivers, and these are the playoffs. It’s big boy time, not cry baby time. It doesn’t help that they are playing possibly the most balanced offensive/defensive team in the AFC in the Bengals, who ended the season winning five out of six and by a scoring margin of plus-67. Having the best player on the field in AJ Green, I’m picking the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium, despite the fact that they are quarterbacked by the inconsistent Andy Dalton. After losing first round games the past two seasons to the Houston Texans, the Bengals finally get it done for their first playoff victory since 1990[2].

X-Factor: Giovanni Bernard

Prediction: Bengals 20 Chargers 13

 

San Francisco (12-4) @ Green Bay (8-7-1)

Spoiler Alert: I LOVE the 49ers. Will some teeny tiny bias creep into this pick? Probably. But facts are facts. The Niners finished the year 12-4 and have been clicking on all cylinders since the return of star wide out Michael Crabtree in Week 13. I know that Rodgers and Cobb returned dramatically in Week 17 and hit on a 4th and 8 connection late for the winning touchdown. I know, that unlike last year’s playoff game as well as Week 1 of the 2013 regular season, this game will be in Green Bay, where it is bound to be cold and miserable conditions. But what more does San Francisco have to do? They have beaten Green Bay decisively three times in the past two seasons, including Colin Kaepernick’s coming out party last postseason. Despite losing Mario Manningham, this is the healthiest they have been on both sides of the ball all season. Without looking past this first round game, there also has to be some inkling of Seattle on the mind next week, which should provide enough motivation to get them through on the “Frozen Tundra”. Green Bay’s defense has proven weak all season (8th worst in YPG and PPG) and will be without Pro-Bowl linebacker Clay Matthews, while the Niners boast the 11th best offense and 3rd best defense, despite an array of injuries which lead to inconsistency for much of the season. They can run it, and now with a three headed monster of Crabtree/Boldin/Davis, they can throw it again. The return of Rodgers and Cobb, as well as the hometown elements and a proud history, will keep it close, but the 49ers ultimately win this game and earn a date with Seattle next week.

X-Factor: Michael Crabtree

Prediction: 49ers 31 Packers 24

 

Next Week’s Playoff Scenarios Based on These Predictions:

Indianapolis @ Denver

Cincinnati @ New England

San Francisco @ Seattle

Philadelphia @ Carolina




[1] http://www.theredzone.org/Features/NFLStrengthofSchedule.aspx

[2] http://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/cin/playoffs.htm