It’s always fun to rank the top players in sports. In this edition, I will be ranking the top quarterbacks in the NFL. There are 32 teams in the NFL so I will only rank 32 quarterbacks. Moreover, I am only going to be ranking the presumed starting quarterbacks for each team. So, for example, Vince Young will not be on this list because he will be backing up Michael Vick in Philadelphia while John Beck will be on the list because he is the presumed starter for the Redskins. I feel like this is the only fair way to rank the quarterbacks. I will rank these quarterbacks based on how good they are right now, taking into account each players pure skills such as arm strength, accuracy, poise, leadership, etc. With all that being said, let’s get started. Read more…
Packers @ Bears
There’s no secret between these two divisional foes. The Packers and Bears know each other inside and out. I think this will be a relatively low scoring affair as a sloppy Soldier Field, hasty weather conditions, and two aggressive defenses will make their mark on this game. The Packers are hot, plain and simple. But at the same time, the Bears were the ones that won their division; the ones that earned a playoff bye and home field advantage, and yet are being somewhat disrespected in the eyes of the media. I think this game will come down to two matchups. The first being the offensive line of the Packers versus the defensive front of the Bears which includes the likes of Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, and Julius Peppers just to name a few. The second matchup being between the quarterbacks, Rodgers versus Cutler. Who will get the most protection? Who will make the clutch throws? Who will protect the football? In my opinion, the quarterback that answers these questions will go onto the Super Bowl and I think Aaron Rodgers will be that guy.
Packers win 21 – 17
#6 Packers @ #1 Falcons
The Falcons escaped with a narrow 3-point win at home against the Packers in their regular season showdown, and I see the playoff matchup between these teams will pretty much follow suit. Aaron Rodgers earned his first playoff game last week on the road in hostile Philly against the Eagles. He’s carried the Packers for the entire season, especially during the last few weeks, but I see that all coming to an end against the Matt Ryan led Atlanta Falcons. ”Matty Ice” has only lost twice at home in his entire career and although I think this will be another grind-it-out game that comes down to the last second, I’ll give the slight edge to Ryan and the Falcons. The Falcons have had a knack for coming away with the “W” in close games as they have an impressive 6-2 record in games decided by 6 points or less this season.
Falcons win 26 – 24
#4 Seahawks @ #2 Bears
The Seahawks come into this game with absolutely no pressure on them yet again as nobody thought they would even make the playoffs, let alone beat the defending champs and play in the NFC Divisional Round. Seattle actually beat the Bears in their week 6 matchup, but I don’t see the same result this time around. The Seahawks will face a much tougher defense in the Bears then they did last week when they beat the Saints. I think it’s safe to say that Marshawn Lynch will not break 8 tackles en route to a 60-plus yard td run and Matt Hasselbeck will not throw 4 td passes against a very stout Bears defense. The only concern I have about the Bears is with quarterback Jay Cutler, who’s the epitome of recklessness and inconsistency. This will be Cutler’s first ever playoff game and while I do think he will make mistakes, in the form of a pick or two, I don’t think the Seahawks will be able to capitalize on them against the Bears’ strong defense.
Bears win 23 – 14
#5 Saints @ #4 Seahawks (1/8/11, 4:30 p.m. ET, FOX)
Keys to the Game
- Reggie Bush – with Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory both out for the playoffs, Bush will have to step up and finally show that he can run the ball between the tackles. If he can, the Saints can go a long way. If not, they will be lucky to get past the lowly Seahawks.
- Saints Secondary – Matt Hasselbeck is prone to throwing interceptions and the Saints’ secondary has to channel their magic from last year’s postseason in order to take advantage. Last year’s Super Bowl team was 3rd in the NFL with 26 interceptions while this year’s Saints squad is dead last in picks with only 9.
- Limit the Turnovers – obviously the team who commits the fewest turnovers is more than likely going to win the game, but this applies more to the Seahawks then any other team. The Seahawks are 1-4 when Hasselbeck throws 2 or more picks and 5-3 when he throws 1 or none.
- Special Teams – the Seahawks are in the top 10 in kickoff return yards and average, punt return yards and average, and rank 1st in kickoff return TDs with 3.
Prediction - the Seahawks struggle, to say the least, against high-powered offenses and the Saints definitely qualify as that. The Seahawks have given up 30 or more points in 8 of their 9 losses including 34 points to the Saints in their week 11 loss. They’ll give up 30 plus once again as the Saints will pull away in the second half and beat the Seahawks by a score of 31 - 13.
#6 Packers @ #3 Eagles (1/9/11, 4:30 p.m. ET, FOX)
Keys to the Game
- Hit Vick – Clay Matthews and the blitzing Packer defense have to get to Vick early and often. They have to make Vick uncomfortable in the pocket and force him to roll to his right.
- Stay Away from Samuel – the only danger in the Eagles secondary is Asante Samuel. The Eagles have rookies all over the secondary including the cornerback position opposite Samuels and at the safety position.
- Get to Rodgers – order to account for their inexperienced and depleted secondary, the Eagles must use various blitz packages to get to Rodgers. The Packers have a suspect O-line and Rodgers tends to hold on to the ball just a tad too long.
- Run the Ball – the Eagles have to be able to run the ball with Shady McCoy in order to counter the many blitzes they’ll see from the Packers. Plus, Charles Woodson has a knack for making big plays in the playoffs and linebackers Desmond Bishop and Nick Barnett and very good in pass coverage.
Prediction - the Eagles have been fluttering of late, losing to rookie QB Joe Webb and the Vikings and Stephen McGee and the Cowboys in the previous two weeks, and needing big second half performances in order to get the W against the Giants and Cowboys in the weeks prior. I like Rodgers to get his first career playoff victory as the Packers beat the Eagles by a score of 33 – 23.