How Will These Titans Be Remembered?

titans-chiefsThey did the unthinkable…again.

After dethroning the mighty Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the American Football Conference (AFC) Wildcard game, the Tennessee Titans took out the league’s best regular season football team when they shocked the Baltimore Ravens 28-12 in the Divisional Playoffs over the weekend.

What’s next?

The AFC Championship Game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Titans are one win away from the Super Bowl.

I don’t think many people would have believed this would happen after week six after the Titans were shutout 16-0 by the Denver Broncos to drop to 2-4 on the season.  The Titans have gone 9-3 since then including a 35-32 win over the Chiefs in week 10.

Every year there is usually one team that peaks at the right time and at the moment, that team is the Titans.  Almost every football “expert” picked the Ravens to takeout the Titans.  Much was said and written about how they would be unable to contain Ravens’ quarterback Lamar Jackson.  Now that we are Monday Morning quarterbacking, we can see now that they did a pretty good job with that.

So can the Titans beat the Chiefs in Kansas City on Sunday or will their Cinderella season turn into a pumpkin at Arrowhead Stadium?

After that Titans finished off the Ravens, I thought that the Titans would do better playing the Chiefs than they would the Texans.  The Titans have exceeded all expectations while the Chiefs are anxious not to let another chance to advance to their first Super Bowl since 1969 to slip away from them.  I think that the pressure is on the Chiefs not to choke.  Last year they lost to the Patriots at home in overtime in the AFC Championship.  In 2017 they were upset by the Titans 22-21 in the wildcard game.  They were beaten by the Pittsburgh Steelers 18-16 at home in the 2016 playoffs.

Another interesting stat….the Titans have beaten the Chiefs in their last four meetings.  Three of the four Titan wins were in Kansas City.

The Titans weren’t supposed to be here.  Kansas City expected to be here.

For the Titans to win yet another unthinkable game, they will need quarterback Ryan Tanneyhill to get it done.  You can expect that the Chiefs will have a scheme to stop Titans’ running back Derrick Henry who has demolished opponents in the playoffs and force Tanneyhill to beat them.

So how will these Titans be remembered?  Will they be the team that got on a roll only to fall in a disappointing loss to Kansas City or will they continue their unbelievable run and represent the AFC in the SuperBowl?

Not that it has anything to do with this year’s team but in their history, the Titans have played in four AFC Championship games in 1978, 1979 (at the Houston Oilers) and 1999, 2002.  They are 1-3 in AFC title games winning in 1999 in their first season in Nashville.

I am hopeful that the Titans will upset the Chiefs to advance to the Super Bowl in Miami but – putting my emotional feelings aside – I fear that the Titans will be remembered in losing to the Chiefs this Sunday.

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Random Sports Thoughts

randomPREDATORS GOT THE DEVIL FOR A COACH

Okay, I have GOT to say this….what the “devil” were the Predators thinking in hiring John Hynes to replace Peter Laviolette as their coach?  I don’t understand the thinking that goes into replacing Laviolette with a coach was was fired in December from the New Jersey Devils who was in last place.  I was expecting something more.  I thought they would go with one of the remaining assistant coaches or even ask Mike Fisher to come in to coach the team.  If Hynes was the only option, I think I would have stayed with Laviolette.  Not a good move.  I would be surprised if the Predators even make the playoffs this season.

TITANS ARE ON A ROLL

The Titans did the unthinkable last week, they took down the mighty New England Patriots in the wildcard round last week.  Derrick Henry is a beast and punished the Patriots with a huge game on the ground.  Now the Titans move on to face Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens this Saturday in the divisional round.  It doesn’t get any easier as they play the top team in the National Football League (NFL).  The Titans haven’t done so well with mobile quarterbacks and Baltimore’s Jackson is about as mobile as it gets.  Certainly the Titans could win but they are going to have to play another great game.  I think it’s going to come down to how they are able to defend against Jackson.

NFL COACHING CHANGES

The Dallas Cowboys have hired former Green Bay Packers’ head coach Mike McCarthy to replace Jason Garrett.  I think that’s a good match….I don’t think the same about the Carolina Panthers hiring Matt Rhule from Baylor.  His overall coaching record in college is 47-43.  His only previous NFL experience was in 2012 as the assistant offensive line coach for the New York Giants….I’m not sure who is going to go the Cleveland Browns.  I keep reading that Patriots’ offensive coordinator Josh Daniels is in the running but, personally, I wouldn’t bother with pursuing him.  Others still on the Browns’ list are Kevin Stefanski and Jim Schwartz.  Not looking good for the Browns.

MLS SET TO KICKOFF IN NASHVILLE

Believe it or not, the season opener for Major League Soccer (MLS) in Nashville is February 29th when Nashville SC hosts Atlanta United.  (Yes, I’m still trying to get used to these soccer team names).  It’s going to be a challenging start to the Nashville expansion team.   Nashville is set to play Atlanta (2018 champion), Portland (2015) and Toronto (2017) in its first three matches before hosting Columbus Crew SC at Nissan Stadium. The fifth match is a nationally-televised game against Seattle Sounders FC, which won the 2016 and 2019 titles. Nashville SC has a 34-game schedule and will play in the Western Conference in 2020, with two matches against each of those 12 other teams. The club is scheduled to play eight of its 10 games against Eastern Conference opponents by May 30.Nashville SC will have no home matches between May 13 and July 5, playing seven road games during that time. But there are five consecutive home matches between July 18 and Aug. 5.

XFL SET TO RETURN IN FEBRUARY

Training camp is underway for the eight XFL teams.  The season will kickoff on February 8th with the Seattle Dragons taking on the DC Defenders and the Los Angeles Wildcats play the Houston Roughnecks.

The XFL has announced some interesting rule changes.

  • During punts, players can’t leave the line of scrimmage until after the punter kicks the ball away, so there will won’t be any blocks.
  • Punts that go into the end zone or out of play will be spotted at the 35-yard line or wherever the ball lands out of bounds. The concept of fair catches and pinning the opposition down deep are being eliminated with this type of rule.
  • On point-after attempts following a touchdown a team will have three options: a one-point play from the 2-yard line, a two-point play from the 3-yard line, or a three-point play from the 10-yard line.
  • Like college football, players will only be required to have one foot in bounds to establish possession on catches. The XFL believes that will make the game easier to officiate and won’t lead to long reviews.

Finally, a shootout-style overtime period will be put in place where each team will get five single-play possessions from the 5-yard line. If the game remains tied, teams will rotate possessions until someone comes away victorious.

HAVEN’T THEY PLAYED THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP YET?

This morning I wondered if the game had been played already.  Unless you are a Tiger fan (LSU or Clemson) then it isn’t exactly on your radar.  Apparently it wasn’t on mine.  The answer is that the title game will be played Monday in New Orleans.  The 16-day gap from the semifinals was a result of scheduling the Superdome for the game.  Planning for the matchup next week has been underway for years, but not as currently arranged. The playoff organizers selected New Orleans for this season’s championship game in November 2015. Before New Orleans was chosen, Superdome officials and the local host committee said the stadium was available for Jan. 6 or Jan. 13. Playoff officials selected the later date, expecting that this season’s semifinals would be played on Dec. 31. They hoped to avoid a gap of less than a week between rounds.  Personally, I don’t really care.  Just play the damn game already.

 

 

 

 

 

Can The Titans Dethrone The Patriots?

NFL: New England Patriots at Tennessee TitansCan they?  Yes they certainly could.

Will they?  It’s hard to say.

New England has won about a million Super Bowls and the Tennessee Titans have a big task ahead to go into New England and try to dispatch of the Patriots this weekend in the American Football Conference (AFC) wildcard playoffs.  The last time the Patriots lost a playoff game at home was to the Baltimore Ravens in the 2012 AFC Championship Game.

So what’s different about this game?  There are a lot of Titan-Patriot connections starting with head coach Mike Vrabel who played for the Patriots.  I don’t know if that makes a difference but there is a lot of familiarity there and how the mind of Bill Bellicheck works.

The Patriots haven’t really been as dominant this year and they have relied a lot on their defense to win.  The Titans need to continue to do what they do best with running the ball with Derrick Henry and setting up the play-action pass that Ryan Tanneyhill has done so well this season.  If the defense can put pressure on Tom Brady, there is a chance to get this one.  Pressure on Brady is the key or else he could feast on the poor pass defense of the Titans.  The Titans are 24th in the league in pass defense.

It’s hard to judge this game.  Yes, the Titans won last week but they basically beat up on the Houston Texans’ JV team to get into the playoffs.

Here is how the teams rank in the NFL Stats:

  • Total Offense:  Titans (12th), Patriots (15th)
  • Passing:  Patriots (8th), Titans (21st)
  • Rushing: Titans (3rd), Patriots (18th)
  • Total Defense:  Patriots (1st), Titans (21st)
  • Against Pass: Patriots (2nd), Titans (24th)

Here’s another wildcard for this wildcard game – the weather.

The forecast currently calls for light rain throughout the day, but then could turn into a heavier snow/rain mix with winds blowing at around 10 to 15 mph. The low is set for 33 degrees.

And do you know what they are calling this weather system?  Weather Storm Henry

The running back Henry comes into the game after rushing for 211 yards on 6.59 yards per carry against the Houston Texans in Week 17. The 2019 NFL rushing champion has been a powerhouse for the Titans, but he has particularly come on strong late. Over his past seven games, Henry has rushed for 959 yards on 6.3 yards per carry and 11 touchdowns. His success against a Patriots defense that has struggled against the run at times during the regular season will be the key if the Titans have a chance to dethrone the mighty Patriots.

 

 

Football Chatter

wr-romeI was thinking about my football teams today and I’m not sure how this season is going to end.  Let me start with the high school level…

My “adopted” Georgia High School football team, Warner Robins, is playing the Rome Wolves for the third year in a row in the postseason.  Three years ago, Rome demolished Warner Robins 38-0 in the state final.  Last year, Warner Robins got revenge with a 45-28 win in the state semifinals.  This season they are meeting in the second round.  I’m really not sure how this one is going to go.

I live about a mile from Blackman High School in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.  I haven’t been to any of the games and I really don’t know much about Tennessee high school football like I do in my history with Georgia but I know this week is a big deal as the Blackman Blaze play cross-town rivals Oakland Patriots in the quarterfinals.  Oakland is the defending state champion.  Blackman hasn’t had a great season from what I have seen but they are on a roll.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see an upset here.

I took a peek at the national high school football rankings and here is the latest top 10 teams in the nation:

  1. Mater Dei (Santa Ana, CA)
  2. St. Thomas Aquinas (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)
  3. Duncanville (Duncanville, TX)
  4. St. John Bosco (Bellflower, CA)
  5. St. Frances Academy (Baltimore, MD)
  6. Saint Louis (Honolulu, HI)
  7. Katy (Katy, TX)
  8. De La Salle (Concord, CA)
  9. Allen (Allen, TX)
  10. Lakeland (Lakeland, FL)

In college football, the Georgia Bulldogs are ranked fourth in the College Football Playoff rankings but they have struggled on offense in recent weeks.  I know that worries folks but a win is still a win.  A one-point win is still as good as a 30-point win.  This week the Bulldogs play Texas A&M.  The Aggies are 7-3 so they won’t be a pushover for the Bulldogs and will probably play them tough.   Texas A&M leads the series with a 3-2 record but have lost the last two games in the series.

I attempted to go to a Middle Tennessee State University football game this year but the Saturday I had tickets for a game, I had a flat tire and spent the day dealing with that.  I haven’t tried since but maybe it’s a good thing since the Blue Raiders are having a down year.  They lost to a previously winless Rice University last week.  They play their last home game this Saturday when Old Dominion comes to town.  Old Dominion is 1-9 on the season so who knows which Blue Raider team will show up?  MTSU is 3-7 on the season so there are no bowl games possible this season.

The Tennessee Titans are 5-5 and coming off a bye-week after defeating the Kansas City Chiefs two weeks ago.  They host the Jacksonville Jaguars this Sunday in an AFC South battle.  The Titans have a golden opportunity to make things happen as they play AFC South teams in four of their last six games.  I’m still not sure how far the team can go with Ryan Tanneyhill at quarterback and the pass defense still scares me.

The Atlanta Falcons have won two games in a row since their bye week as they have actually played solid defense in their two wins over the Saints and Panthers not allowing a touchdown in those games.  Whatever they have done has worked and a few more wins could possibly save Dan Quinn’s job.   Don’t get excited and start thinking playoff possibilities because I’m not sure a 9-7 finish would get them in.

That’s all of my thoughts on football this week.

 

 

 

 

Monday Morning Quaterback

Here are some of my thoughts about football games that were played over the weekend:

Warner Robins broke open a close game against Thomas County Central on Friday Night for a 45-10 win to remain unbeaten in Region 1-AAAAA. The Demons will travel to Bainbridge this week in a rematch of last year’s AAAAA state championship game. Yeah, that one is still difficult to think about.

The Northside Eagles were shutout by the Lee County Trojans 35-0 in their game. Losing to Lee County wasn’t too much of a surprise but the fact that Northside has been shutout for the third straight week is the bigger story. The Eagles have not been held scoreless in three consecutive games since 1971. At 3-5 they are also close to missing the playoffs for the first time since 1991.

After a surprising win over Campbell in their season opener, the wheels have come off of Villa Rica‘s season. They lost 41-3 to Hiram on Friday. The Wildcats are still looking for their first region win.

On Saturday, Georgia beat Kentucky 21-0 in a rainy, sloppy game. I don’t think the win helped the Bulldogs much in the national rankings. The stat from the game that caught my attention was that Jake Fromm was 9-of-12 for just 35 yards passing. I know that the weather had a lot to do with it but I think Fromm has become one of those quarterbacks who is said can “manage” a game which means his passing isn’t going to beat you. The Bulldogs now prepare to play Florida in two weeks which will be a huge game in the SEC East.

The Tennessee Titans held on to beat the Los Angeles Chargers 23-20 Sunday. It took 10 minutes to play the final 39 seconds of the game after three video reviews which reversed the Chargers scoring the game winning touchdown. On the final one, the Chargers’ Melvin Gordon was stripped of the ball before breaking the plane of the goal line. Well, honestly the Titans should have never been in that position had they not went for it on 4th down just past midfield. That was a dumb call.

The Atlanta Falcons were routed 37-10 by the Los Angeles Rams at home to fall to 1-6 on the season. QB Matt Ryan left with an ankle injury. Matt Shaub came in and played well but the Falcons have a horrible defense. Falcons’ Owner Arthur Blank still says he has confidence in Dan Quinn as coach but I don’t know how much confidence you can have in someone who was supposed to be a defensive guru. I’m thinking the confidence is a little shaky right now.

From Falcons to Titans: One Fan’s Transition

Falcons-TitansFor most of my life my favorite NFL team was the Atlanta Falcons.  I think you can clearly pick out the key word in that last sentence.

Since moving to Nashville, Tennessee in 2014, I have slowly transitioned to having my allegiance changed to the Tennessee Titans.  My allegiance was confirmed yesterday while I was watching the Titans-Falcons game yesterday.  I could sense I was pulling for the Titans.

The Falcons have been a disappointment.  I think the final straw was the historic collapse in Super Bowl LI when the Falcons blew a 28-3 lead to lose to the New England Patriots.  I sensed my loyalties making the shift after that game.

There were some good moments – but there were many disappointments.  Before the stunning failure in the Super Bowl, the lingering pain was from the 1980 NFC Divisional Playoff game when the Falcons folded against the Dallas Cowboys.  Unlike SOME fans, I was never a “fair weather” fan.  With the Falcons you couldn’t be one of those because there wasn’t much “fair weather” to enjoy anyway.  There were many lean years but I hung in there with them.

There were a few happy moments such as the 1998 NFC Championship Game when the Falcons stunned the heavily-favored Minnesota Vikings for their first trip to the Super Bowl.  I watched the game from the conference room at the office where I worked because my former in-laws were visiting that weekend and they did not want to watch a football game so I decided that I needed to “work” that day.   When Morten Anderson kicked a 39-yard field goal in overtime to win the game, I was laid out in the floor overcome with emotions.

Another highlight that stands out in my memory was in a game between the Falcons and New Orleans Saints.  It was in 1978 and the Falcons were down 17-13 with 19 seconds left in the game.  Falcons’ quarterback Steve Bartkowski aired what they call a “Hail Mary pass” down to the end zone.  The ball was tipped by Falcons receiver Wallace Francis into the hands of his teammate Alfred Jackson to give the Falcons a 20-17 victory.  That win propelled the Falcons to their first playoff appearance.

I even wrote to the Falcons years ago asking them to please change their logo from that of the Falcon with its wings in a down swing motion.  I thought that image set the tone for negativity.  They eventually did alter the logo slightly a few years ago but I’m sure it had nothing to do with my suggestion.

So, now I have transitioned to the Tennessee Titans.  Some would say it’s not much better.  Probably not.  The Titans have not been the model of consistency in recent years.  They have a record of 34-50 since I have lived here and one playoff win.  I needed a change.

I do still cheer for the Falcons when they are playing anyone else but it is no longer a dilemma when they play the Titans.

Yeah, I could probably do like most do and cheer for the Cowboys or Patriots.  It’s always funny to see the Cowboy “fans” come out when the team is playing well as if they had always been a fan of the team.  It’s easy to be a fan when a team is winning.  It’s even tolerable when they have bad seasons but it’s agonizing when they are losers more than they are winners.

It’s a game.  That’s all it is anyway.  It isn’t going to matter which team I support.

 

 

 

Titans’ Season Is Sacked

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Titans give up one of their six sacks against the Texans

They have a saying around here when the Tennessee Titans play to “Titan Up” but after last night’s embarrassing loss to the Houston Texans I think all the screws have come off on the 2018 season.

My rant follows….

This is a team that had lots of promise coming into this season.  New coach.  New uniforms.  New attitude.  The Titans came off a surprising playoff run in 2017 with a win over the Kansas City Chiefs.  The 2018 season has not lived up to that promise.

I may not be an expert in football knowledge but I am experienced in following frustrating teams having been an Atlanta Falcons’ fan for most of my life.  It ended with that Super Bowl collapse against New England.  I moved to Nashville in 2014 and have gradually adopted the Titans.  Once again, I am dealt with yet another frustrating NFL team to follow.

Last night the Titans jumped out to a 10-0 lead.  It didn’t last long.  Then came “the call” in the 2nd quarter when the Titans had the ball at the 3-yard-line and decided to go for it on 4th-and-inches.  In a call no one in the football play calling universe can explain, QB Marcus Mariota handed the ball off to Tight End Luke Stocker for his FIRST NFL carry and was stuffed.  On the very next play, Lamar Miller burst through the Titans for a 97-yard touchdown run.   After that, the Titans were done.  Mariota had to scramble for his life the rest of the game and was sacked six times.  I wanted them to take him out and put in another quarterback.  He was getting killed back there.

Some glaring weaknesses which have hurt the Titans all season.  Weak offensive line, inconsistent running game and terrible pass defense.

The offensive line has given up a boat-load of sacks this year.  They lead the league with 39 sacks.  In their game against the Baltimore Ravens on October 14th, the Ravens had a record number of sacks in the game.  I don’t care who you hire as an offensive coordinator, if you can’t give the offense time no play is going to work.  The Titans signed Dion Lewis in the offseason to help with the running game but just because Lewis had previously been with the New England Patriots doesn’t mean much.  If he was good they would have kept him don’t you think?  Same is true for cornerback  Malcolm Butler.   Derrick Henry is a good running back but he isn’t consistent.  He has flashes of greatness but not enough.  The Titans really need a solid running back.

The Titans have had their moments.  They beat the Super Bowl teams from last season but then get blown out by the Colts and Texans.  I would have to relive a Dennis Green interview of the past and say the same thing about the Colts and Texans.  They aren’t as good as people think they are.  Plus the AFC South is a very weak division.

And playoffs?  You want to talk about playoffs?  Again I have to summon up an old clip from Jim Mora when I think of the Titans’ chances of making the playoffs.  No, they aren’t mathematically eliminated but I think they might as well be.  They are currently seventh in the wildcard race.  They are now three games behind division-leading Houston.  The Titans play four of their last five games at home.  I have no confidence that they can go 5-0 which is probably what they need to do to make the playoffs.  Their remaining opponents are the Jets, Jaguars, Giants, Redskins and Colts.  I don’t feel good about any of these games.  Having followed frustrating teams before I would say it will go like this:  The Titans will beat the Jets and Jaguars but then fall flat against the Giants.  That would make their record 7-7 and needing to win their final two games against the Redskins and Colts.  By then, even a remote possibility of a 9-7 record would not be enough when it comes down to tiebreakers against teams who are ahead of them in the wildcard standings.  All of their losses so far have been to teams in the AFC.  That’s not going to help.

I’m done.  I’m not putting myself through it.  Let’s go Preds!

 

Titans Reveal New Uniforms and…

Under the category of “nothing to see here” the Tennessee Titans of the National Football League (NFL) had a big to-do about the “evolution” of their new uniforms. Aside from the clandestine-like leak of the information prior to the big reveal, it was basically insignificant changes.

Different font and some color changes with the biggest change from white helmets with the Titans logo to a dark helmet with the same logo.

I’m okay with it. Just not wowed by it.

Of course with all this hoopla about a uniform change I think back to a high school coach in Georgia who was once asked about his team wearing new pants color for an upcoming game. He said that he never saw a pair of pants make a play or tackle anyone. Same is true for these publicity stunts of uniform changes. I will have to give the Titans some credit for not doing something stupid like going to gold uniforms.

So will the Titans look pretty? Maybe. Will it affect the way they play on the field? Not at all. Those nice new uniforms will get dirty just like the old ones. No one will care if they changed to blue, black or periwinkle if they win a Super Bowl. No one will give credit to the new font or color variations.

I think back to some of the other NFL teams who had uniform changes;

Atlanta Falcons – I didn’t like the Jerry Granville era when the Falcons were all black. I did like it when they decided to alter the Falcon logo where the Falcons’ wings weren’t completely in a down flap.

Cleveland Browns – Yep, they made a change but no one noticed.

Denver Broncos – I loved the old look with the Bronco bursting through the D. I still have problems with the new look.

Miami Dolphins – Never likes the change and I don’t believe the team has been much of a winner since the change.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – I go back and forth on this one. I liked the old Bruce the Buccaneer logo but not so much the orange.

Seattle Seahawks – Lime Green jersies. Need I say more?

So it remains to be seen how the Titans’ change will affect anything.

Titans Have No Chance Against Brady in Bah-ston?

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Do The Titans Stand A Chance Against Tom Brady’s Patriots?

Yesterday I heard the following conversation in the hallway to my office:

“Do you think the Titans have a chance against Brady?”

“Not gonna happen my friend.  They gotta go up to Bah-ston to play the Pats.  No way they gonna win against Brady.”

It was clear with the respondents thick New England accent that he is pretty certain that the Titans might as well stay in Nashville instead of wasting time playing in the American Football Conference Divisional Playoff game at New England this Saturday.

The Titans advanced to this playoff round after “upsetting” the Kansas City Chiefs, 22-21, in last week’s Wildcard Playoff game in Kansas City.  They called that one an upset but not many people were surprised about it.  It’s a little different this week.

The defending Super Bowl champs are 100 point favorites in the game.  (Actually, it’s 13.5)

I have read this week any thoughts on any possibilities of how the Titans could pull off one of the biggest upsets in NFL playoff history this weekend.  Here are some of the ideas of how it could happen:

  • Tom Brady gets injured
  • Marcus Mariota has the best game of his career.
  • Patriots turnover the ball five times.
  • Derrick Henry gets 200 yards rushing.
  • Titans’ defense totally plays beyond their ability.

Yeah, doesn’t look very hopeful to me either.

I’m sure the most diehard Titans’ fans have the faith but you’d compare them to people who still believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.  Sure, there’s always a chance.  Upsets happen.  The NFL hasn’t had one in a while.  In fact, I wondered about NFL upsets in the playoffs.  Here are the five biggest upsets in NFL playoff history:

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars 30, Denver Broncos 27 – 1996 AFC Divisional Playoffs:  No one saw this coming.  The Jaguars had made the playoffs in their second year of existence and played the Broncos who were 13-3.  The Broncos jumped out to a 12-0 lead but missed both extra point attempts.  The Jaguars came back to dominate the Broncos.
  2. Seattle Seahawks 41, New Orleans Saints 36 – 2010 NFC Wildcard:  The Saints were the defending Super Bowl champions.  It was a quirky situation since the Seahawks were hosting the playoff game with a 7-9 record as champions of a weak NFC West.  Seattle RB Marshawn Lynch punished the Saints with 131 yards in perhaps the best game of his career.
  3. Atlanta Falcons 27, Green Bay Packers 7 – 2002 NFC Wildcard:  It was all you heard before this game – “Green Bay had never lost a playoff game on the frozen tundra” – The Falcons dominated the Packers as Green Bay turned the ball over five times.  Brett Favre had a complete meltdown in the game.
  4. Los Angeles Rams 21, Dallas Cowboys 19 – 1979 NFC Divisional Playoffs:  The Cowboys came into the game with an 11-5 record and had played in the two previous Super Bowls.  The Rams were 9-7 but QB Vince Ferragamo played lights-out in the game with two touchdown passes in what was Dallas Cowboys’ QB Roger Staubach’s last game.
  5. New York Giants 15, San Francisco 49ers 13 – 1990 NFC Championship Game:  The 49ers were the dynasty at the time and were expected to return to the Super Bowl.  With just over two minutes left in the game, 49er RB Roger Craig fumbled the ball which was recovered by Giants’ LB Lawrence Taylor to set up the game winning field goal by Matt Bahr.

There were many games to choose from but these stood out from the lists.  Some of the common factors which led to upsets in NFL playoff games were:

  • An NFL star player had the worst game of their season or career.
  • Favored team had at least five turnovers.
  • Player on underdog team had a career game.

So with the Patriots as a 13.5 point favorite this weekend, what are the top five point spreads in NFL playoff history (including Super Bowls):

  1. 19 points – San Francisco 49ers vs. San Diego Chargers (Super Bowl XXIX) – 49ers won 49-26.
  2. 18 points – Baltimore Colts vs. New York Jets (Super Bowl III) – Jets upset the Colts 16-7.
  3. 16.5 points – Minnesota Vikings vs. Arizona Cardinals (1998 NFC Divisional Playoffs) – Vikings won 41-21
  4. 15.5 points – San Francisco 49ers vs. Chicago Bears (1994 NFC Divisional Playoffs) – 49ers won 44-15.
  5. 15 points – Dallas Cowboys vs. Atlanta Falcons (1978 NFC Divisional Playoffs) – Cowboys won 27-20.

With the New England Patriots seemingly just using this week’s game against the Titans as a warmup for their AFC Championship matchup with Pittsburgh in two weeks, I wondered about the last times that New England had suffered an upset in the NFL Playoffs:

  • 2012 AFC Championship Game – Lost to Baltimore Ravens 28-13.
    • Patriots were 7.5 point favorites
    • Tom Brady was “un-Brady like” with two interceptions.
    • Patriots had 3 turnovers vs. none for Ravens.
  • 2010 AFC Divisional Playoffs – Lost to NY Jets 28-21.
    • Patriots were 9.5 point favorites
    • Brady was sacked 5 times for 40 yards
    • Jets QB Mark Sanchez outplayed Tom Brady.  He completed 16 of 25 passes for 194 yards and three touchdowns.
  • 2009 AFC Wild Card Game – Lost to Baltimore Ravens 33-14.
    • Patriots were 4 point favorites
    • Ravens outrushed the Patriots 234-64.
    • Patriots had four turnovers.
    • Ravens got off to fast start with 83-yard TD on first play

The New England Patriots are 7-1 against Tennessee.  The only win for the Titans came on December 16. 2002 in their first-ever meeting in Nashville.  The Titans won 24-7.

The last time the Titans played the Patriots in the postseason was in January 2004.  Patriots’ Kicker Adam Vinatieri gave New England the win with a 46-yard field goal with less than five minutes left for a 17-14 win.  Another note about that game – it was the coldest game in Patriots’ history (4 degrees with minus 10 degree wind chill at kickoff).    This Saturday’s forecast predicts a rainy day with temps around 19 at kickoff.

Most of the football world expects the New England Patriots to easily dispatch of the Tennessee Titans and continue toward another Super Bowl trophy.  All signs point to that.  Every NFL expert gives the Patriots the green light this weekend.  Funny thing about the game of football, it’s not played with a round ball.  It bounces funny (even without deflate gate issues).   These are the kinds of games that set the stage for the term “upset”.   No one expects.  Patriot-haters secretly hope for it.

If there’s one thing I have learned in all the years of watching football is that you can never assume anything.  Just when you think you have it figured out, something happens.  This could either be the biggest upset in the NFL playoffs in recent years or the Patriots will do exactly what everyone expects to happen.

You’re playing against Brady in Bah-ston, Titans have no chance right?

My Top Five Super Bowl Games

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This weekend will be the 51st game of the Super Bowl.  The Atlanta Falcons will play the New England Patriots for the title on Sunday.  Today, I am looking back at the top five Super Bowl games I have watched.

I’m not quite old enough to remember the first Super Bowl, which was not yet known by that name when Green Bay defeated Kansas City.  That was in 1967 and I was two years old.  The first Super Bowl that I remember watching was 1977 when the Oakland Raiders beat Minnesota 32-14.

Looking back, here are my favorite games:

XX – Chicago Bears 46, New England Patriots 10 

Yes, it was a huge blowout but I was all about the Super Bowl shuffle, Refrigerator Perry running the ball and Walter Payton finally winning a championship.  The Patriots stunned everyone by getting to the game for the first time.   They have been back a few times since then.

XLIX – New England Patriots 28, Seattle Seahawks 24 

I didn’t really like either of these teams but of the two, I liked the Patriots more.  It will always be a mystery why Pete Carroll decided to go with a pass at the New England 1-yard line with 26 seconds left.  Malcolm Butler intercepted Russell Wilson’s pass to save the game for the Patriots.  We will never know why the Seahawks didn’t give the ball to running back Marshawn Lynch.  Conspiracy theories over this abound.  The Patriots were fresh off the “deflate gate” win in the AFC Championship Game.

XXV – New York Giants 20, Buffalo Bills 19

This was the first close game in several years.  Buffalo’s kicker Scott Norwood missed a field goal in the closing seconds.  This was the first of four straight Super Bowl appearances – and losses – by Buffalo.  Giants running back Ottis Anderson was the game’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) as he had 21 carries for 102 yards and one touchdown.

XXXIV – St. Louis Rams 23, Tennessee Titans 16

It was indeed a game of inches as Tennessee Titans receiver Kevin Dyson was stopped one yard short of the goal line as time expired to give the Rams their first Super Bowl title.  The Rams were lead by a potent offensive attack lead by Kurt Warner.  The Rams jumped out to a 16-0 lead but it took a game saving tackle by Rams linebacker Mike Jones in the end.   This was probably one of the most exciting games on this list.

XIII – Pittsburgh Steelers 35, Dallas Cowboys 31

We will always wonder how this game would have turned out if Cowboy’s tight end Jackie Smith had not dropped a pass in the end zone in the third quarter with the Cowboys trailing the Steelers 21-14.   Dallas had to settle for a field goal.  That point differential was crucial in the end.  The Steelers went up 35-17 in the fourth before the Cowboys rallied to close within 35-31 with 22 seconds left.

Another close one this year?

According to Madden NFL, the video game predicts that the New England Patriots will beat the Atlanta Falcons 27-24 in another close game that comes down to the final seconds.