Saturday, 14 January 2012

How great it's the last eight - only flaw it'll end up four

It's Divisional Playoff time in the NFL and there is only one game that football fans are really talking about.

Yep the three-time Super Bowl winning New England Patriots play host to the two-time Super Bowl winning Denver Broncos.

The matchup features the two highest profile quarterbacks on the whole planet, Denver's Tim 'God's on my side' Tebow and Tom 'Pretty Boy' Brady (yes Aaron Rodgers is the current Super Bowl MVP and a stud but he simply doesn't generate the same interest as these two).

Have to admit I fell asleep last weekend with the Broncos nursing a healthy lead against the #1 ranked defensive team the Pittsburgh Steelers. I woke up to the sound of a huge crowd noise and rewound my Sky+ to see what on earth had happened.

If I wasn't lying down I sure would have needed too after seeing Tebow launch a rocket that Demaryius Thomas latched on to before stiff-arming Ike Taylor and simply out-running Ryan Mundy. For all the hype about Steelers safety Troy Polamalu he simply wasn't there when it mattered.

Nobody wins an NFL playoff game, with an 80 yard touchdown on the first offensive play, against the best defense in the league - unless that is your name is Tim Tebow.

Have to say I loved the Broncos gameplan - somewhat reminiscent of Muhammed Ali's rope-a-dope tactic - take a pounding and then launch the killer haymaker.

So what have we got later today then? Is it possible that Tebow can win again and take his Broncos to an AFC Championship? Let's break this game down...........

The Broncos possess the number one rushing offense in the NFL, grinding out 164.5 yards against their opponents. Led by the underrated Willis McGahee's 1199 yards Denver does not pretend to be anything apart from a hard nosed running team with a soup├žon of passing. Tebow managed 660 rushing yards, combining designed run plays and emergency scrables, similar to his option style play he delivered at college in Florida.

The Broncos wideouts are now the weakest unit of it's kind left in the playoffs after second-year Eric Decker was lost to injury. Despite the Patriots defensive backfield being susceptible to the pass, there is no way Demayrius Thomas can carry the team on his own if the Broncos have to pass. Aside from Decker and Thomas no player on the Broncos managed over 19 cathces. Simply not good enough.

The Broncos defense has been the real reason that John Elway is smiling, led by DE Elvis Dumervill and rookie pass rushing stud LB Von Miller. The Von-Elvis combo combined for 21 sacks, giving opposing quarterbacks nightmares. CB Champ Bailey seems to have been playing since Brett Favre was a pocket passing pee-wee, and is again going to the Pro Bowl (this time I figure probably more due to reputation than actual gameplay). The Broncos biggest weakness is safety as they are playing not one, but two rookies, Quinton Carter and Rahim Moore. You can bet the farm that Patriots tight-ends Ron Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are looking to have monster monster games against these two. If they don't Wes Welker will simply tear a hole bigger than the one in a genetically modified polo mint.

From a Patriots perspective they have the second worst defense in the league, giving up 411 yards a game, including 117 a game on the ground. Somehow, someone please tell me it's not true, Pats DE Andre Carter is a Pro Bowler, despite looking more average than a brown paper bag when he was Redskin (yes I am bitter). The rest of New England's D is jam packed with players who are not exactly household names - the likes of Kyle Love, Tracey White and Rob Ninkovic.

Keys to the game
1) Patriots outside LBs v Tim Tebow. If Tebow repeats his 90+ yards rushing as he did against the Pats during the season then we could be smelling another upset.
2) Pats TEs Gronkowski and Hernandez. It's almost impossible to take away both from the game. No team has ever used two tight-ends to such success before in NFL history.
3) Broncos offensive line. If the Broncos have any chance of an upset then the need to keep possession for around 35-36 minutes. They need long energy sapping drives that will wear down Vince Wilfork and company.

Under the radar: Broncos backup running back Lance Ball, who could have a big game relieving McGahee as the Broncos try to keep possession for as long as possible.

Prediction: My head says the Patriots will leap out salmon-like into a 21-0 lead and then simply smoke the salmon en-croute to a blowout. Man I must be hungry. My heart on the other hand says Tebow has indeed got links to the big man upstairs. Maybe there will be a Disney film come out soon about Tebow. I even have the title ' God's Advocate'. Funny things happen in the playoffs, and when the #1 rushing offense goes up against the #31 defense then it is possible to see Tebowmania reach a whole new plane.

Score: Broncos 23-21 Patriots - with A Prater field goal as the seconds tick away at the end of regulation.

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