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Tag:NFL playoffs
Posted on: January 15, 2012 8:16 pm
Edited on: January 15, 2012 8:32 pm
 

And there were 4: the Conference Championships

It's go time: We're down to four teams. Next stop, Indy. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

The conference championship schedule is set. The Baltimore Ravens will face the New England Patriots and the New York Giants will play the San Francisco 49ers. The prize for next week's winners? A trip to Indianapolis for XLVI.

Baltimore Ravens vs. New England Patriots, Sun., Jan. 22, 3:00 PM ET CBS

Can Baltimore slow New England's TEs? (US PRESSWIRE)
Patriots

How they got here 
New England dismantled Denver Saturday, 45-10, although it wasn't that close. Tom Brady threw for six touchdowns -- five in the first half -- and the much-maligned Patriots defense shut down Tim Tebow after his career performance against the Steelers the week before.

Brady, Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez were, to varying degrees, unstoppable, but the defense registered four sacks and recovered a fumble, holding Tebow to 136 passing yards and 13 rushing yards.

How will they get to the Super Bowl?
The offensive line continues to keep Brady clean, and he continues to wear out defenses with some combination of the aforementioned Welker, Gronkowski and Hernandez. But the Ravens aren't the Broncos; they're one of the best units in the league and they're not intimidated by the Pats' high-powered offense. In 2009, Baltimore went to New England in the AFC wild-card round, roughed up Brady, and left Foxboro with a 33-14 victory. The difference in this game will likely come down to the Pats' O vs. the Ravens' D.

Their biggest weakness
New England's defense has been a punchline for much of the season but has come together recently. Head coach Bill Belichick was beaming after the Broncos victory, presumably because the cast of characters on the defensive side of the ball (many in the secondary either undrafted free agents, acquired via the waiver wire, or both) played near flawless football against the Broncos. The Ravens and Joe Flacco have struggled all season with consistency but they have a capable down-the-field passing attack that compliments Ray Rice's dual-threat skills nicely. If the Patriots' defense shows up, the game won't be close; if they don't, it could be a repeat of the 2009 playoff game.

Who's hot?
Brady (6 TDs against the Broncos), Gronkowski (set the single-season receiving yards record for tight ends), Hernandez (led the Pats in rushing -- 5 carries for 61 yards -- against Denver), the pass defense.

Ravens

How they got here
Jumped out to a 17-3 lead against the Texans and then held on for dear life as Houston's rookie quarterback committed critical turnovers at key points. Quarterback Joe Flacco had another uneven performance (14 of 27 for 176 yards, 2 TDs) but some of that can be blamed on one of the offensive line's worst efforts of the season. Anquan Boldin looked sharp after missing the end of the regular season with an injury (4 catches, 73 yards, 1 TD) and Ray Rice had a quiet 21-carries-for-61-yards afternoon that kept drives alive and the Texans' D on the field. Baltimore forced four turnovers, including three T.J. Yates interceptions.

How will they get to the Super Bowl?
The defense will have to have its best game of the season against Brady, who is peaking. The problem is that Baltimore's secondary can be exploited, especially if the front seven can't mount a pass rush. The Ravens will have to out-scheme New England's offensive line and create pressure with four and five rushers, and force Brady to get rid of the ball early.

Offensively, Flacco will need to step up, avoid silly mistakes, and Cam Cameron needs to be reminded (again) that Rice is his best weapon.

Their biggest weakness
Flacco's inconsistency. The fourth-year quarterback has flashed glimpses of franchise potential, but he's usually taking sacks, throwing inexplicable interceptions, or misfiring on wide-open targets. Historically, he's played well in the playoffs, which is good news, as is the fact that the Titans, Jaguars, Seahawks or Chargers didn't qualify for the postseason.

Who's hot?
Boldin looks five years younger, safety Ed Reed is ailing but is playing like it's 2004, cornerback Lardarius Webb had two picks against Yates, and punter Sam Koch might be the most underrated player in the NFL right now.

New York Giants vs. San Francisco 49ers, Sun., Jan. 22, 6:30 PM ET FOX

Smith has had a resurgence in '11. (AP)
49ers

How they got here
The 49ers beat the Saints at their own game: they forced turnovers and then turned them into points. Embattled quarterback Alex Smith had to wait almost seven years, but he's finally playing like a first-round draft pick, and he out Drew Brees-ed Drew Brees during the final four minutes of Saturday's Divisional game. Tight end Vernon Davis had a ginormous afternoon, hauling in the game-winning touchdown with seconds left and ending up with seven receptions for 180 yards and two scores.

How will they get to the Super Bowl?
One word: defense. They took the Saints, a team that looked unstoppable the last month of the season, out of their rhythm, smacking pass-catchers, runners and the quarterback in the mouth in the process. But this wasn't a fluke performance; Vic Fangio's unit has played like that all year long. They're a slobber-knocking, sack-happy, ball-hawking bunch and their closing speed and physicality keep the 49ers in every game. (Thanks, Mike Nolan!)

Their biggest weakness
Can Smith sustain his success? We've starting calling Jim Harbaugh the Quarterback Whisperer because what he's done with Smith is worthy of a show on the National Geographic channel. But at this stage of the proceedings, all it takes is one ill-time throw to ruin a team's Super Bowl hopes. Given that the 49ers haven't had a winning record -- or a playoff appearance -- since 2002, there are worse problems to have.

Who's hot?
Smith (24 of 42 for 299 yards, 3 TDs, 1 rushing TD against the Saints), TE Davis (7 catches, 180 yards, 2 TDs including the game-winner), S Dashon Goldson (1 INT), DL Justin Smith (All Pro at two positions), DE Aldon Smith (1 sack).

New York Giants

How they got here
Eli Manning was clinical and the defense forced four turnovers and registered four sacks. The Packers looked like they were having flashbacks from the Chiefs game, the receivers dropped eight passes, and the defense continued their Season of Ineptitude Tour made all the more inexplicable given that they were one of the league's top units in 2010.

How will they get to the Super Bowl?
New York will have to go through the 49ers -- in San Francisco -- and mistake-free football will be at a premium. That means that offensive line has to protect Manning, he has to make great decisions, and everybody has to keep two hands on the football at all times. Because the 49ers' defense will swarm and strip, in that order.  The Giants can also lean on their running game, a pass-rush that is just as effective as San Francisco's, and their ability to win big games on the road.

Their biggest weakness
If the front four can't pressure the quarterback, the secondary can be exposed. Of course, the defense went off on the Packers' offense, considered one of the two most explosive units in the league heading into the weekend. (In related news: the New Orleans and Green Bay have officially begun their offseason.)

A little history: the first 14 games of the regular season the Giants were 7-7, and the defense allowed 385 yards and 27 points per game. The last four contests: New York is 4-0 and has allowed 14, 14, 2 and 20 points against the Jets, Cowboys, Falcons and Packers.

Who's hot?
Manning is playing out of his mind, WR Hakeem Nicks had two touchdown grabs against the Packers (7 receptions, 165 yards), and Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs have revitalized the running game. Osi Umenyiora added two sacks and a forced fumble.

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Posted on: January 15, 2012 1:38 pm
Edited on: January 15, 2012 1:38 pm
 

Despite blowout, Tebow/Brady 2.0 gets big ratings

The NFL denied Harrison's appeal of his one-game suspension(Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

Saturday night's Broncos-Patriots game didn't end in a climatic way: New England steamrolled Denver 45-10, and the drama was out of the game by halftime. But that didn't stop people from tuning in, as the CBS Saturday night affair brought in big-time ratings.

The average overnight rating/share for the game was 20.6/34, making it the highest-rated NFL divisional round game in primetime on any network in 11 years. (By contrast, when the two teams met in the regular season, the game drew a 19.5/36 overnight rating/share.)

It was the second-highest rated AFC divisional game in 18 years, trailing only the matchup between the Los Angeles Raiders and Buffalo Bills in 1994.

The peak ratings for last night game between 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. ET, which shouldn't be a huge surprise. That's right about when the game was still competitive and right about when Tom Brady decided to unleash a pair of touchdowns to send the Pats into the locker room with a 35-7 lead.

Considering the vast differential in the score and the blowout factor, it's a real testament to the drawing power of Tim Tebow's Broncos and Brady's Patriots, especially when pitted against one another.

That, and the NFL's constantly growing popularity.

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Posted on: January 8, 2011 8:07 pm
Edited on: January 8, 2011 8:46 pm
 

Seahawks win should bother NFL executives

M. Williams (US Presswire)Posted by Andy Benoit

Let’s make one thing clear: the Seattle Seahawks deserved to win Saturday afternoon. They had the better game plan (offensive approach: attack Roman Harper through the air; defensive approach: play zone and trust that your ends are better than the subpar Saints offensive tackles). The Seahawks were fundamentally sounder (the Saints missed six tackles on the Marshawn Lynch touchdown run alone). And the Seahawks capitalized on their unparalleled homefield advantage.

And so the Seahawks deserved to win. But that doesn’t mean they proved they deserve to be playing. Analysts all over the country will issue mea culpas this week. They’ll claim the Seahawks proved that, despite a 7-9 record, they were indeed a worthy playoff team.

But this team was still 7-9 during the regular season. That has to mean something. If the NFL trumpets the Seahawks and lauds them as lovable underdogs, the league will tacitly be telling its fans that the regular season really doesn’t matter.

This is a very dangerous sentiment – one that sports leagues have a hard time shaking once it catches on (just ask the NBA or MLB). But look at the results of the past five NFL postseasons. In 2008, the 9-7 Cardinals reached the Super Bowl. In 2007, the 10-6 Giants WON the Super Bowl (knocking off the perfect Patriots in the process). In 2006, the No. 3 seed Colts hoisted the Lombardi Trophy. In 2005, the Wild Card Steelers won three straight road games to earn rings.

And now a 7-9 team has advanced to the second round (with the 10-6 Bucs team that blew out Seattle in Week 16 was home watching). Perhaps it’s great for the NFL. After all, anything can happen come playoff time. And parity rings true. That makes for great television. But what does it say about the importance of the other 17 weeks we just spent watching this league?

The Seahawks deserved to win Saturday. Too bad they still didn’t deserve to play, though.

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Posted on: January 2, 2011 9:03 pm
 

2011 NFL Playoffs Schedule Announced

Posted by Will Brinson

The playoffs are very nearly upon us, which is both sad (because there's no more regular season football) and exciting (because we get football with an actual playoff system, which is so novel, ahem, cough, etc, BCS).

With that in mind, here's the playoff schedule for Wild Card weekend:

Saturday, January 8, 2011
Saints at Rams/Seahawks winner, 4:30 PM EST (NBC)
Jets at Colts, 8:00 PM EST (NBC)

Sunday, January 9, 2011
Ravens at Chiefs, 1:00 PM EST (CBS)
Packers at Eagles, 4:30 PM EST (FOX)

After that, things get a little trickier, of course. On Saturday, January 15, 2011, the highest-seeded team between the Colts, Chiefs and Ravens head to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers at 4:30 PM EST (CBS). The lowest-seeded team of the Rams, Seahawks, Saints and Packers go to Atlanta to play the Falcons at 8:00 PM EST (FOX).

Then, on Sunday January 16, 2010, the other NFC team goes to Chicago to play the Bears at 1:00 PM EST (FOX). While the other AFC team plays at New England at 4:30 PM EST on CBS.

Then we move onto the championship round -- the NFC Championship game is Sunday, January 23, 2011 at 3:00 PM EST on FOX and the AFC Championship game is the same day at 6:30 PM EST.

The Super Bowl is scheduled for Sunday, February 6, 2011 at 6:30 PM on FOX in Dallas.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com