If you are a football fan, you have heard the old phrase “defense wins championships.” The Baltimore Ravens really made that a point when they won the Super Bowl in 2000 behind what some call the best defense in league history and a borderline inept offense. Now, more than a decade later, the league has migrated to a more offensive style. Passing numbers have never been as high, and various league records have fallen in recent years, many right here in New England.
But even with these offensive trends, it is still a great defense that will bring home a championship under most circumstances. Just look at the final four teams remaining this season. They are all ranked in the top six for points allowed, with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers being the top two. As for total yardage allowed, which is the criteria by which NFL defenses are ranked, only the Chicago Bears, who are ranked ninth, were outside the top five.
So knowing that defense is still what wins in the NFL, is it any surprise that the top seeds in each conference will be watching the championship games on Sunday? Both the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots had great scoring defenses, in fact, they are the two who are missing from the top six, but when you look deeper you will find that they are not nearly as strong as the others.
In yardage allowed the Falcons and Patriots ranked 16th and 25th respectively, which will not get the job done in the playoffs in most years. They were both teams who relied on turnovers and employed the “bend but don’t break” strategy. Defenses like that have won before, such as the New Orleans Saints last season, but most of the time it takes a truly strong defense, one that can stop the league’s best offenses in their tracks, to win a championship. Neither the Falcons nor the Patriots had that. Now they have to sit at home and watch four teams that do fight for a chance to play in the Super Bowl.
The National Football League just recently confirmed all 2011-12 regular season home and away matchups for each of the league’s 32 teams with official dates to be determined. The AFC East will primarily face teams in the AFC West and NFC East. Along with the usual opponents within the Division, the New England Patriots will play host to the Chiefs, Chargers, Cowboys, Giants and Colts at home and challenge the Broncos, Raiders, Eagles, Redskins and Steelers on the road.
The Patriots are currently taking the long weekend to rest up and prepare for their first post-season contest set for Sunday, January 16th. They finished the regular season at 14-2, earning a bye in this week’s wild card round and home field advantage en route to Super Bowl XLV. Depending on how certain wild card matchups play out, New England will welcome either the New York Jets, Baltimore Ravens or Kansas City Chiefs in the second round. Purchase your New England Patriots playoff tickets with us at AceTicket.com!
The Cleveland Browns made headlines yesterday when they fired head coach Eric Mangini after two 5-11 seasons. Mangini was the only coach to be fired on what is usually referred to as “Black Monday” in the NFL, as it is the first day after the completion of the regular season and a day when numerous coaches are normally fired after sub-par years.
“We want to win here. We do not win enough,” Browns president Mike Holmgren told the Associated Press after the move was made. Winning has been rare in Cleveland since the Browns returned to the NFL in 1999. The team has only played in one playoff game, a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2002, and only had two winning seasons (2002 and 2007) during that stretch.
The move comes despite the Browns apparent improvement this season, especially on the defensive side of the ball, and signs that they may have found their quarterback and running back of the future in Colt McCoy and Peyton Hillis. Despite the progress, Mangini was likely done in by the team fading down the stretch. They finished just 2-6 after upsetting the Saints and Patriots in back to back weeks. Ironically, it was the stretch run last season that may have saved Mangini’s job, as the Browns won four straight games to end the year at 5-11. That 5-11 record was a success, this one wasn’t.
The New England Patriots are in prime position to produce another successful playoff campaign following their Week 16 victory over the Buffalo Bills. They have solidified home field advantage throughout the playoffs, winning their eighth AFC East Division title in eleven years. The New York Jets currently hold a 10-5 regular season record to notch one of the Wild Card spots. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens are still battling for the AFC North but will find themselves in post-season play regardless.
The Indianapolis Colts can clinch the Division with a win over the Tennessee Titans. They can also earn a playoff berth if their rival Jacksonville Jaguars fall to the Houston Texans on Sunday. The Kansas City Chiefs have already locked up the AFC West at 10-5. New England will have the opportunity to fine tune next weekend against the Miami Dolphins before they prepare for the AFC Divisional round two weeks later.
Quarterback Tom Brady is currently the favorite to win the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award. He was just recently named to start in this year’s Pro Bowl, marking the sixth Pro Bowl of his 11-year career. He enters Week 17 with 3,701 yards passing and an NFL-leading 34 touchdowns. Defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, linebacker Jerod Mayo, cornerback Devin McCourty, left guard Logan Mankins and safety Brandon Meriweather were also named to represent the Patriots in the Pro Bowl. Don’t miss your chance to witness New England Patriots post-season football at Gillette Stadium! Tickets are now available!
The New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs, and Philadelphia Eagles have emerged to claim their respective Divisions with one week left in this year’s NFL regular season. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens are tied at 11-4 in the AFC North looking ahead to Week 17 contests against the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals. The Indianapolis Colts are currently atop the AFC South Division with the Jacksonville Jaguars one game behind. The New Orleans Saints just put themselves back in contention for the NFC South after defeating the first place Atlanta Falcons Monday night. Check for all NFL Week 16 scores below!
Thursday, December 23, 2010Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Carolina Panthers 3 – The Steelers posted 17 points in the second quarter while holding the Panthers scoreless through the first three quarters.
Saturday, December 25, 2010Arizona Cardinals 27, Dallas Cowboys 26 – Jay Feely split the uprights with five seconds left for the Cardinals to edge Dallas by 1 on Christmas Day.
Sunday, December 26, 2010New England Patriots 34, Buffalo Bills 3 – Tom Brady tossed three touchdowns while extending his streak of attempts without an interception to 319. (more)
The New England Patriots will have a chance to lock up the AFC East and also clinch a first round bye and home field advantage though out the playoffs with a win against the 4-10 Buffalo Bills when they travel to Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday afternoon. When the two teams last met in week 3, the Patriots battled to a 38-30 win in a game that was much closer than expected. Patriots receiver Randy Moss caught two touchdowns, and unknown newcomer Danny Woodhead scored his first touchdown as a Patriot. Oh how times have changed!
For Buffalo, career backup quarterback and Harvard alum Ryan Fitzpatrick made his first start of the season and threw for 247 yards and two touchdowns in the loss, including one to Stevie Johnson. Both players have gone on to enjoy solid seasons, despite the team’s lack of success. However, the team’s poor record doesn’t reflect the way they have played towards the end of this season. They have played hard for a full 60 minutes in every game of the season, and will continue to do so for the rest of the campaign; a rare feat for a 4-10 team in the NFL.
It is for that reason, along with the previously mentioned Fitzpatrick and Johnson, that this could be a dangerous game for the Patriots. Johnson, who is perhaps best known for blaming God after dropping a pass in overtime against the Pittsburgh Steelers, is one of the breakout players of 2010. He currently leads the team with 72 catches for 943 yards and 10 touchdowns. If the Bills are going to have a chance this week, Johnson will have to have one of his best games of the season.
This could be a problem for Buffalo, as he will likely see plenty of Devin McCourty, who has the ability to shut down almost anyone in the NFL. If McCourty is able to put Johnson in check, the rest of the Patriots defense will be able to zero in on running back Fred Jackson, who has become the team’s workhorse. Jackson has been used in both the running and passing games, but has been shut down in recent weeks. The Patriots should be able to do the same, but even if they do, they will see a heavy dose of Jackson. (more)
The 2010-2011 NFL playoff picture is starting to shape up after a number of thrilling contests this past weekend. Philadelphia wide receiver DeSean Jackson provided the final score with a kickoff return on Sunday, concluding the 28-point fourth quarter comeback to edge the New York Giants. Chicago wide-out Devin Hester also made highlights Monday night with a punt return for his NFL record 15th career return in Monday night’s 40-14 win over the Minnesota Vikings.
The New England Patriots were able to hang on to defeat the Green Bay Packers for their 12th victory of the season. The Atlanta Falcons are the only team to match the Patriots at 12 wins after demolishing the Seattle Seahawks on the west coast. Check for all NFL Week 15 scores below!
Thursday, December 16, 2010San Diego Chargers 34, San Francisco 49ers 7 – San Diego posted at least one touchdown in all four quarters en route to a decisive victory at home.
Sunday, December 19, 2010Cincinnati Bengals 19, Cleveland Browns 17 – Cedric Benson rushed for 150 yards and one TD from 31 carries to end Cincinnati’s 10-game skid.
Dallas Cowboys 33, Washington Redskins 30 – The Redskins rallied for 16 points in the final 12 minutes but failed to capitalize from there.
Tennessee Titans 31, Houston Texans 17 – The Titans ran up the score early with 21 points in the first block.
Indianapolis Colts 34, Jacksonville Jaguars 24 – Peyton Manning and Austin Collie connected for two TD’s to lift Indianapolis atop the AFC South. (more)
After yet another convincing win, the New England Patriots will look to continue rolling towards the playoffs when the Green Bay Packers come to Foxboro on Sunday night. The Patriots (11-2), became the first team to clinch a playoff spot after their complete dismantling of the Chicago Bears (9-4). The Patriots’ next test comes in the form of the 8-5 Packers, who missed out on a golden opportunity to take a share of the lead in the NFC North by losing to the Detroit Lions 7-3.
Perhaps an even more devastating loss is that of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers left in the first half of Sunday’s game with a concussion, his second of the season. Matt Flynn relieved Rodgers, but was ineffective at-best, throwing for 177 yards and an interception and no touchdowns. Rodgers’ status for the game is unknown, but if the Packers are going to have a chance they will need him under center. Rodgers is the fourth highest rated quarterback in the NFL at 98.5, and has thrown 23 touchdowns with 10 interceptions.
Flynn has yet to throw a touchdown in his career, and has a career completion percentage of 54.3. That won’t get it done against a Patriots defense that is drastically improving and is developing a knack for forcing turnovers. One potential issue for the Patriots, especially if Rodgers plays, is the health of cornerback Devin McCourty, after leaving Sunday’s game with a rib injury. McCourty has emerged as not only a candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year, but also as a true shutdown corner and one of the key parts of the team’s defense. (more)
The New England Patriots once again proved that the road to the AFC East runs through them following Monday’s 45-3 romping over the New York Jets. Matt Ryan and his Falcons were able to score 14 points in the fourth quarter to get past the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, ranking Atlanta as only team to match the Pats with a 10-2 regular season record. The Pittsburgh Steelers came up big with a win over the Baltimore Ravens to take control of the AFC South. Check for all NFL Week 13 scores!
Thursday, December 2, 2010Philadelphia Eagles 34, Houston Texans 24 – Michael Vick led his Eagles downfield for two touchdowns in the final block to win at home.
Sunday, December 5, 2010New Orleans Saints 34, Cincinnati Bengals 30 – The Saints caught Cincinnati’s D-line off guard on fourth and 2 with 34 seconds left en route to scoring their game winning TD.
Chicago Bears 24, Detroit Lions 20 – Chicago scored in all four quarters to notch their ninth win of the season.
Green Bay Packers 34, San Francisco 49ers 16 – Aaron Rogers completed 21 passes for 298 yards and three touchdowns. (more)
The New England Patriots will look to avenge an early season loss at the Meadowlands when they face the rival New York Jets on Monday Night at Gillette Stadium. Both teams come into the game at 9-2, tied for the best record in the NFL, along with the Atlanta Falcons. Despite their records, the game could end up meaning the difference between home field advantage throughout the playoffs and a first round road game, as the team that loses the division race would end up as the fifth seed at best.
With all of that on the line, it would make the loss a devastating blow to either team, but it would be more crushing to the Patriots. If the Jets win, they will have gone 2-0 against the Patriots and will own the tiebreaker, meaning New England will have to finish with a better record than them to take the division crown. To do this, they would have to gain two games on the Jets in the final four weeks of the season. It wouldn’t be impossible, just highly improbable.
When the teams finally meet on Monday Night, they will have a completely different look than they did in their first meeting way back in week two. Obviously, the Patriots have gone through some monumental changes, after the trade of Randy Moss and the subsequent re-acquisition of Deion Branch. The moves, combined with a change in offensive philosophy, has them looking more like the teams of the Super Bowl years, at least on one side of the ball.
As for the Jets, when they came into the first meeting they were without top receiver Santonio Holmes, had a hobbled Darrelle Revis, and had a huge question mark at quarterback with Mark Sanchez. Since then, Holmes has returned from suspension, Revis is healthy, and Sanchez has shown to be a solid quarterback.
Both teams are better than they were early in the year, but have the Patriots made up enough ground to close the gap and pick up a win that will change the course of the season for both of these franchises? Find out Monday night. Patriots vs. Jets tickets are now available!