Welcome to the first entry of Grapplers Sports Blog. Today I will be evaluating in my own way the matchups for this weekend.
This one may be closer than most people think. The Bolts are "riding high" as the cliche goes, winners of their last 8 games enroute to a perceived sacrificial appearence against the undefeated Patriots. The status of Phillip Rivers and Antonio Gates remains a mystery at this point, but we have to assume that Rivers and Gates will play, at least until they get too battered to continue. Billy Volek did an admirable job of directing the offense against the defending champions, but is not at this point a reliable option. LaDainian Tomlinson looks to be OK for the game. If the Chargers can field their trio of playmakers, they stand to make this one a game.
The Patriots defense is vunerable to either the pass, or the run, but seemingly not both. Teams that have been able to make it close against the Patriots had either good running days or good passing days, but not both. "The Hoodie" breaks out his ninja-master play calling and manages to neutralize one threat enough to give the Patriots offense the opportunity to win games. If the Chargers can get solid play from which ever quarterback steps onto the field, and they use LT as both a runner and a receiver, they could pull this one out.
The key to beating the Patriots, at risk of sounding like some of our favorite sportscasters, is to outscore them. But its when you outscore them that matters. They are incredible at closing games, and the offense always seems to have enough in the tank to finish off the scoring. I think the problem is that most teams go at the Pats hoping to keep the offense off the field. The problem with that is that they stay fresh late in the game, while the opposing teams offense is tired, unable to pull together a winning drive. I think a big key to this game is to limit the big plays of the Patriots and force them into actually having to put together drives for scores.
Antonio Cromardie is going to be a huge factor in this game. He is an exciting, athletic young cornerback who doesn't seem to know any better. His ability and insticts may be enough to limit some of those Tom Brady to Randy Moss airmail TD's.
Beating the Patriots is not an impossible task. They have been limited in their offense recently (as far as their standards go), and their defense is nothing to be afraid of. Their regular season ppg stats are inflated by playing in a weak division, and opponents attempting to run the ball to keep the offense off the field. If the Chargers can slow down that offense, they have the offensive firepower to outscore any team in the league. Remember, they put up 28 points against the leagues top scoring offense last week.
Do I think they'll win? No. I do see a close game though, with the Patriots pulling it out in the end 31-28.
This is another matchup where you have a clearly superior team against a team that is playing great at the right time of year. The problem for the Giants is that the Packers are playing pretty well right now as well. The Packers have put up over 30+ppg over their last 5 games, the only exception being the Packers loss to Chicago in Week 16.
Many people have pegged this as a close game, however, at the risk of sounding like a homer, I don't see this happening. The Giants secondary played out-of-this-world last week, but they are banged up, and not that great to begin with. The Giants clear advantage in this game would appear to be their pass rush. However, the only things able to rattle Brett Favre and the passing game this year were the Cowboys in Dallas and the wind in Chicago. The Packers played terribly both games, and did not play their brand of football.
The Giants pass rush will be neutralized by the Packers ability to throw the quick slant and wide reciever screen, as well as a heavy dose of Ryan Grant. They do have a shot though, if Kevin Boss comes to play. The Packers have been susceptable to tight ends all year. If Eli Manning can find Boss, and Boss can manage to haul in some passes, the Giants could be serious trouble for the Packers. If Boss gets going, the linebackers will have to cover him tighter opening up the inside running game for Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs.
Unfortunatly, I don't see this happening. I see the Packers starting out with a heavy dose of Ryan Grant to slow down the pass rush, moving to some intermediate passes to the posts to take advantage of the linebackers reaction to the run, and then settling into their offense, keeping the Giants guessing all day as to whats coming next. The Packers secondary will keep Eli and the passing game in check, and Boss will be his usual presence, but not enough to cause any concern for the Packers. Packers 31-16.