Like sands through the hourglass, these are the days of a dwindling NFL season. We’re down to the final three games on the playoff dock, and we’ve got some familiar faces sticking around, while a few notable curses remain dutifully intact. This past weekend had modes that were beast, injuries that were concealed and elite’s that were dismissed. Without further adieu, let’s take a closer look at divisional round. #NoRomo
Aaron Rodgers Calf
Aaron Rodgers suffered a torn muscle in his calf the week before the Packers’ meeting with the Dallas Cowboys, but outside of a slight limp you wouldn’t have known it. Rodgers completed 24 passes out of 35 attempts for 316 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and was sacked only once. Of course, having Eddie Lacy average over five yards a carry 101 yards on 19 carries helps, but the game was Rodgers to win. Maybe most impressive is that only two of the seven receivers he connected with averaged less than ten yards per reception. The calf held up.
The Catch (that wasn’t)
Although speculation seems justified, it was still a spectacular catch. And regardless of your alliances, Dez Bryant’s leaping grab and it’s impending reversal on a Calvin Johnson-technicality (being too good) was an unfortunate turn of events, as the catch put the Cowboys on the one-yard line trailing the Packers by 5. Excitement ensued! Would Romo break the curse and push Dallas to the brink of the Super Bowl? But Mike McCarthy challenged—his first successful challenge of the season—Dez’s possession was reversed to incomplete and the ‘Boys season washed down the drain like the stink of a fat New Jersey Governor. The play will now be filed away with the many other missed opportunities of an NFL season that will probably be better of being forgotten.
Russell Wilson The Seahawks became the first reigning Super Bowl champ to win a playoff game the following season since 2006, and it was the familiar recipe of strong defense and a near-flawless performance by Russell Wilson that made it happen. DangerRuss was an efficient 15 of 22for 268 yards and three touchdowns. And almost predictably, he had zero interceptions and rushed for another 22 yards. The result was a dominant 149.2 QB rating. Jermaine Kearse took home the stat line of the day: three catches for an impressive 129 yards. Aided by a 63 yard touchdown bomb, he averaged 43 yards per reception.The upstart Panthers made a game of it until fourth quarter, only trailing 14-10 before the Seahawks ripped off two TDs and a field goal in nine minutes to finish it off. Ending with Kam Chancellor’s 90 yard INT return for a touchdown.
The Secret Illuminati of Peyton Manning’s injury
Everyone watching Peyton face off against his Indy replacement could tell something was wrong. Manning’s missed on 20 of his attempts and looked totally out of sorts in the Broncos loss to the colts. By the second half the ball wasn’t even flying in a spiral, and Peyton was once again forced to discuss “duck” passes. The next morning Adam Schefter reported that two sources claimed Manning tore his quad on December 14, but local reports said it was only a strain. Regardless of which, the Vegas odds-makers were probably not too happy the Broncos didn’t release any information about the injury prior to the game. The Broncos and NFL want Peyton to retire about as much as gamblers love a last-second field goal in garbage. If he’s going to go out, they want it to be on his terms. And a 17-game farewell tour they can sell some swag around.
Baltimore Ravens secondary
Joe Flacco twice put the Ravens up by 14 points against the New England Patriots, and each time the Baltimore secondary gave the game back to the Pats. It was so bad that the Patriots literally stopped trying to run the ball because passing was so easy, resulting in a lopsided stat line of 14 yards rushing to 408 passing. The most spectacular of which wasn’t even thrown by Golden Boy Tom Brady. Julian Edelman took a lateral from Brady, dropped back and completed 51-yard touchdown strike to fellow white guy Danny Amendola. Golden Tom hammered the final nail in the coffin when he hooked up with Brandon LaFell for 23 yards with just over five minutes to play. The back field of Baltimore was a huge issue all season and it was only a matter of time before it caught up with them.
The end of the Panthers Run
Because it would have made people’s heads explode, watching an under-.500 team make it to the Super Bowl would have been the best. The Panthers arguably had one of the most interesting story arcs of the whole season: an awful start; Cam Newton getting turnt up; Jonathan Stewart’s coming-out party; the defense getting ridiculously good; the other NFC South opponents practically giving away the division; the car crash and then Cam’s first ever post season win. It’s unfortunate that it had to end, but the sun always sets in Carolina. Just don’t ask me if it’s North or South.
The Divisional Championship games
AFC: Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots
Tom Brady hopes to get it done against his old-new foe in the Colts, but the neck-bearded wonder Andrew Luck looks to surpass the aging Brady as the elite-est quarterback in the AFC. The Pats have plenty of tricks up their sleeve, but T.Y. Hilton is T.Y. Hilton.
NFC: Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks
At this point, if you’re doubting the ability of Aaron Rodgers, you should just stop. But what about the Russell Show out of Seattle? Can the Seahwaks become first team since the 2004-05 Patriots to repeat as Super Bowl champs? Expect plenty of thankful Beast Mode to give it to the Packers’ 23rd-ranked rush defense. How is that calf feeling, Aaron?