This has been one of the most unpredictable seasons in the NFL that I can remember. Nothing was a given this year. There was no such thing as a sure thing. And if you didn’t believe that before, this past weekend of football should have been pretty convincing. In fact, in the few years that we’ve been playing Madden NFL to predict the playoffs, I can’t think of a time when we were wrong about every prediction, but this year we were (so far). From the end result to how the games were played out, there wasn’t much that Madden 11 got right for Wild Card Weekend, which is also something I would have never predicted:
[Update] Saints 36, Seahawks 41: Everyone discounted the Seahawks, and obviously that was a mistake. There are somethings you just can’t sim in a football video game. Things like crowd noise and the mentality of an underdog team that believes they can win. In a computer simulation like Madden that goes by the numbers, of course the Saints are going to win. Factor in all of those intangible variables and it’s anyone’s game, especially in the playoffs. The Seahawks certainly proved that. I also think the whole debate over the seeding system is relatively moot at this point. Didn’t the better team win? Apparently the Seahawks deserved the homefield advantage they earned as a division winner. Would things have been different if they played in New Orleans? Maybe. But if the Saints were truly the better team, should it have mattered? (It didn’t for several other road teams this weekend.) Brees still had the big day we predicted, actually outdoing our predictions with more yards, 404, but fewer TDs, 2. Hasselbeck, however, had a career day. 22 of 35 for 272 yards, 4 TDs and 1 INT; all in a game that mattered the most, not bad at all. Bush didn’t have the impact we predicted, only contributing 12 yards on the ground and 37 yards receiving. Meanwhile Lynch was a monster, especially during his soon to be legendary TD run where half of the Saints defense couldn’t bring him down. Lynch ended the day with a spot in NFL highlight history, 131 yards and 1 spectacular TD. In truth, the Saints defense lost this game. I’ve never seen so many wide open targets for a QB. I could have made some of those completions, albeit with a Nerf football, but still with someone that wide open I could have done it. The secondary was almost none existent for the Saints, and Hasselbeck took advantage of that for 4 TDs. Well, that’s what makes the NFL so compelling, you never know when someone is going to have a game of a lifetime. Congrats to the Seahawks, now the question is if they can truly make something great out of their story and take it all the way to the Super Bowl (which by the way, if they did and lost, their record would finally reach .500 at 10-10, weird huh?)
New Orleans vs. Seattle - Saints 48, Seahawks 7: Everyone’s saying that one of the biggest surprises of this year’s playoffs would be if the Seahawks somehow found a way to beat the Saints. The reason that would be such a huge surprise is because it’s so unlikely. Our Madden 11 sim certainly didn’t seem to think it was all that likely as New Orleans pretty much had this game wrapped up the third quarter. It didn’t start so well for the Saints. They muffed a punt after forcing Seattle three and out, and the Seahawks took advantage of the field position and got the first TD. However, Brees and the Saints put together a scoring drive of their own before the first quarter was over. Then, they were the only ones to score at all in the second. Two touchdowns and one field goal before halftime put them comfortably ahead. The Saints offense was firing on all cylinder while the Seahawks, well, they were having trouble. By half time New Orleans had 223 yards of offense while Seattle had amassed only 44 yards. Things didn’t improve in the third. New Orleans posted two more scoring drives and got the running game going when Bush burst free for a 42 yard TD. The Seahawks missed a 48 yard field goal, and Hasselback threw an interception on a drive that was starting to look promising, which the Saints turned into three points. New Orleans got one more TD in the fourth as Bush again burst free for a big gain, 69 yards, and the Seahawks ended the day with an interception. In the end, New Orleans posted 485 yards of offense on the Seahawks, while they were only able to scrounge together 156 yards. Brees had a stellar day, 17 of 26 for 316 yards and 4 TDs. Bush made up for the loss of Thomas and Ivory with 153 yards and 2 TDs. New Orleans also had three receivers with over 70 yards, and two with two TD catches. Meanwhile Hasselback ended his day with 13 of 36 for 163 yards 1 TD and 2 INTs. The Saints came marching in and said “Who Dat”, the Seahawks had no answer.
[Update] Packers 21, Eagles 16: This loss was not on Michael Vick. Yeah I know he under threw that final pass that was picked off in the endzone, but that wasn’t where the game was lost. What about those missed Ackers field goals? Those two misses alone could have changed the game had they been made. The fact is the Eagles had lots of opportunities in this game but couldn’t capitalize on them. The Packers missed a few as well, Jenning had some big time drops, but in the end they took advantage for more chances than the Eagles did. Rodgers did the opposite of what we predicted, getting 3 TDs instead of 3INTs while throwing for 180 yards, which was a bit less than our prediction. Vick, meanwhile, performed almost exactly was we predicted with 292 yards 1 TD and 1 INT. The big difference was the fact that the Packers found a running game, with rookie Starks rumbling for 123 yards while McCoy for the Eagles was only able to pick up 46-yards on the ground for the Eagles.
Green Bay vs. Philadelphia - Packers 20, Eagles 26: This is perhaps the most hotly anticipated game of the weekend other than the Colts/Jets rematch. The Pack played tough to get into the playoffs, and Eagles looked like they were off a step in their final couple games. However, the Eagles were able to get it together while Rodgers and company were flustered and flailing throughout this game. It didn’t start well for the Packers. They fumbled a punt after forcing the Eagles three and out, but their defense held even when the Eagles tried to fake punt it but couldn’t convert. Green Bay then were able to punch it into the endzone with a 15 yard rush. Philly missed another fourth down conversion on fourth and short early in the second, but Rodgers threw his first pick of the game on the Green Bay 20-yard line. The Eagles had to trouble converting that into 7-points with a 13-yard TD pass to Cooper. Then Green Bay fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and again the Eagles were able to convert that to points with a 31-yard TD pass to Avant. However, Green Bay kept it together on their next drive and were able to hit a 55-yard field goal to keep the score tight, and then on their next possession were able to get a 23-yard TD pass to Jackson, but Philly ended the half with a field goal to keep the game tied at the half. Opening the third quarter, Rodgers threw another interception which Philly turned into three points, but the Packers were able to rally again and get a field goal of their own before the quarter ended. It looked like the Eagles would go up by a touchdown early in the fourth, but the Packers intercepted it…only to turn the ball right back over on the third INT of the day for Rodgers. The Eagles got a field goal, the Packers couldn’t convert on fourth down or stop the Eagles running game, and as the clock ran out the Eagles kicked one last field goal for the win. It was a rough day for Rodgers, 15 of 34 for 225 yards 1 TD and 3 INTs. The Packers had little running game to speak of, but Jenning tried to make up for that with 118 yards receiving. Vick, meanwhile, stood in the pocket most of the game and hit 13 of 25 for 213 yards 2 TDs and 1 INT while McCoy added another 88 yards on the ground and helped control the clock. Obviously the turnovers were the story of this game, and Vick mad fewer mistakes than Rodgers to help them get the win in a competitive Wild Card game.