Best weekend of football

John Turner
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The NFL's wild-card games are here and provide arguably the best weekend of football.

The tournament features 12 teams, and in five weeks only one team will be happy. This year's playoffs will have some intrigue - new overtime format, a 7-9 (won-lost) playoff team, former Pats having success in Kansas City, the legs of Mike Vick and the mouth of Rex Ryan.

The new overtime format is different than in the regular season and may force coaches to think differently. In the regular season, the first team to score wins. But, in the playoffs, if the team who gets the ball first gets only a field goal, the other team will now be given an opportunity to tie the game. If they don't, the game is over.

If the team who receives the ball first scores a touchdown, the game is over and the other team does not get a possession.

This new format may lead to critical decisions by head coaches. For example, what if the Ravens win the coin toss in overtime and decide to kick to the Chiefs, who end up kicking a field goal?

So now the Ravens get the ball and drive down the field and have a fourth-and-one on the KC 15-yard line. Does Coach Harbaugh kick the field goal to tie the game, which would now become sudden death, or does he try to pick up the first down and win it with a touchdown?

It will be interesting to see what coaches do. Believe it or not, some may elect to kick rather than receive.


Personally thank Bears

The Freak would like to personally thank the Chicago Bears' organization for playing all their starters against the Packers last Sunday. Who would have thought the Bears would keep their front-line players in for the whole game?

This gave the Giants at least a small chance of making the post-season, which unfortunately did not happen. For some fans out there, your team's season probably came down to one or two games.

For Giants' fans, it came down to not making a play within the last seven minutes of the game against the Eagles. If the defence makes one play, we would be talking about the Giants' chances in the playoffs. But that's football, that's the NFL and that's what makes the league great!


Pet peeve of the week

There's one thing about making one football guarantee during your career, but what happens when you make these regular guarantees that never come true?

Does this sound like Jets coach Rex Ryan, who continually makes guarantees every time the Jets are in a big game?

The last time Mr. Guarantee made a prediction, he said the Jets would beat the Pats in Foxboro. That game was over by the first quarter. Monday, Ryan said the Jets are only in this to win the Super Bowl.

Think about it first Rex before you open your big mouth. You have to beat Peyton Manning this week, next week MVP Brady and then most likely Ben Roethlisberger the following week - all on the road.

Sorry Rex, your front four can generate as much of a pass rush as The Freak and his three sons could together. The Jets get pressure on the quarterback by disguising blitzes. Well, the last time The Freak looked at film, these three stud quarterbacks will rip you apart if you blitz them all day.

So, from The Freak, good luck to you Coach Rex on your Super Bowl quest!


Stat of the week

There were 18 overtime games this season, and in 17 of those both teams each had at least one possession each in the extra period. Why this new overtime rule just for the playoffs?

There's no tomorrow in the tournament, and this is one way to even up the coin toss.


Coach Parcells' weekly quote

"Coaching is like being a jockey. A horse is never the same for all 16 rides. The jockey has to sense what is happening early on, and then adjust to it if he wants to get the most out of the horse that day."



Saints (11-5, road 6-2)

at Seahawks (7-9, home 5-3)

Seattle has a few things going for them. They have the loudest fans in the league, the Saints have to travel across the country, no good healthy running backs and a dome team playing outdoors in probably less than ideal conditions.

Well, that's all the 'Hawks have going for them as the Saints are miles ahead in every statistical category, and they still have the championship belt. The only possible way the Seahawks can win this game is to KO Drew Brees. Don't think the 'Hawks can do it. Saints win.


Packers (10-6, road 3-5)

at Eagles (10-6, home 4-4)

This is probably the best game of the weekend, but also the toughest game to pick.

The Eagles are only .500 at home and the Packers are not very good away from Lambeau. Both teams are mirror images of each other - they don't run the ball often, love to throw it down field, great receivers, athletic quarterbacks and used to winter weather.

Yes, the Pack beat the Eagles in Philly in Week 1. However, there is a big "but" as Mike Vick wasn't the starter back then. He did come in during that game when starter Kevin Kolb got concussed, and almost led the Eagles to a win.

So you can take that Vick comeback with a grain of salt as the Packers did not game plan for Vick. Nonetheless, their D had trouble containing him.

The blue print on how to contain Vick is out there - send your blitzers in the passing lanes, set your edges to contain him and make him roll or run to his right.

Easier said then done, but if the Pack can execute they will win as the Eagles' secondary will have trouble controlling their four-wide package with Jennings, Driver, Jones and Nelson.

In the end, Mike Vick makes one more play than Rodgers. Philly moves on.



Ravens (12-4, road 5-3)

at Chiefs (10-6, home 7-1)

Kansas City is the only surprise team in the playoffs this year and has only beaten one playoff team - Seattle. The Chiefs are always solid at home, but the Ravens are road tough and have more playoff experience than KC.

This will be a smash-mouth type of game as both teams love to run the rock. The Chiefs are the top rushing team in the league. This game's winner will be the team that doesn't turn the ball over.

The Freak sees safety Ed Reed making a couple of big plays in the secondary, which allows the Ravens to fly out of KC with a big win.


Jets (11-5, road 6-2)

at Colts (10-6, home 6-2)

Do you hear Manning talking about how they will win on Saturday night?

No, he just goes about studying film and preparing for the game. Even with all the injuries on offence, he still can put points on the board. The Colts love playing indoors on a fast track and will look for the mismatches against the Jets' safeties. Look for running back Joseph Addai and lesser-known wide receiver Blair White to have big games.

Peyton and the Colts move on while the Jets crash land in Indy.


Organizations: Ravens, Jets, NFL Giants Chicago Bears Seahawks

Geographic location: Kansas City, Seattle, Foxboro Indy

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