So we actually got some right this weekend. In fact, if the Ravens hadn’t blown it by dropping some easy passes, we might have had even more predictions turn out accurately. As always, I guess it’s just hard for a game like Madden 11 to sim some of those intangibles such as emotions running high, grit and determination, getting nervous when you know you need to make a big play and so on. But that’s what makes the NFL so much fun to watch, you just never know what’s going to happen from one week to the next, and on any given Sunday, anybody can be the hero or the goat. In any event, our predictions this year are at an all time low 2-6, and but for a few key plays, could have been 3-5. We probably won’t even get to .500 this year, but it’s still been some great football. Here’s how things ended up this weekend.
[Update] Ravens 24, Steelers 31: This was the Ravens’ game to lose, and for some reason, they decided to do just that; lose. They had the Steelers down 21-7 at the half, and came back in the second-half to bumble away the lead and the win. I don’t know what happened, but the simple fact of the matter is they blew. Receivers dropped key passes. Players couldn’t hang on to the ball. The offense suddenly forget how to execute plays. The defense forgot how to defend, even on 3 and 19. It was a debacle in the second half, and it cost the Ravens a game that was theirs to lose. Flacco actually performed pretty close to his Madden counter-part, going 16 of 30 for 125 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. Rice had 36 yards rushing, we predicted 32. Yet despite all of this, just as in our sim, they could have won the game, but for a couple key drops by the receivers this would have been a different game. Meanwhile Roethlisberger went 19 of 32 for 226 yards for 2 TDs, which was slightly more yardage and two more TDs than predicted. Mendenhall had just a bit more yardage than predicted, but he also had two TDs. It’s funny, actually. Stat wise this game was pretty close to the Madden prediction, but the outcome was different. It just goes to show why big time players are paid big money to make big plays, and the big difference it can make when they don’t.
Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh - Ravens 9, Steelers 7:
The defenses in this game were absolutely stifling. Very little was gained on the ground by either team, and even through the air they had a hard time moving the ball. Early in the first, Flacco threw an interception on a promising drive that could have scored, but the Ravens defense kept that from turning into points. Other than that, both teams traded punts throughout the first quarter. The Ravens opened the second quarter with a 31 yard field goal, and then ended it with another 22 yard field goal. Again, most of the quarter was spent with the teams trading punts after drives either when three and out or stalled before getting into scoring position. At the end of the first half, the Ravens had just 100 yards of total offense while the Steelers had 69 yards. In the third, the Ravens were able to get yet a third field goal from 31 yards, but the Steelers finally put together a scoring drive of their own after Mendenhall broke free for a 14 yard scamper into the endzone. In the fourth it looked like the Ravens were going to seal the deal with a TD of their own, but that turned into another interception for Flacco. With little time left, the Steelers were able to get into position for along, 51 yard field goal to take the lead, but missed it wide right. Both defenses were at their best, and while the Ravens missed a couple of big opportunities, their field goals ended up being just enough to get the win. Roethlisberger went 15 of 31 for 203 yards, while Flacco went 11 of 26 for 164 yards and 2 INTs. Both Rice and Mendenhall struggled on the ground, only getting 36 yards and 31 yards, although Mendenhall did have 1 TD. Meanwhile Ward and Hooshmandzadeh had big days, with 109 yards and 119 yards.
[Update] Patriots 21, Jets 28: Well I guess Madden knew exactly what it was talking about in this one. I was so convinced it was wrong I even ran the sim twice but still got the same outcome. Well the Jets proved that Madden 11 knew what it was doing as they shocked the Pats in Foxboro. Sanchez went 16 of 25 for 194 yards and 3 TDs, while Geene and Tomlinson combined for over a hundred yards on the ground and a TD. Brady, although he didn’t have the three INTs predicted, did throw on pick while going 29 of 45 for 299 yards, and he also had 2 TDs. Surprisingly, the Pats were also able to get 89 yards on the ground. However, the Jets’ suffocating secondary kept New England from getting down the field and into the end zone, which is exactly what they did in our sim. They were also able to sack Brady 5 times. Bottom line, if they can do the same to Roethlisberger and his receivers next weekend, the Jets may be on their way to the Super Bowl.
New England vs. New York - Patriots 27, Jets 34:
In the spirit of full disclosure, I actually ran this sim twice and got the same result. After the first game I figured there was no way Brady would throw three interceptions, so I did it again…and he threw three interceptions. Somehow that Jets secondary kept making crazy, acrobatic moves with hands that had super-glue while the Patriots secondary could get hit right in the hands and still drop the ball. It was pretty lame, but I suppose anything is possible in the NFL, even Brady throwing 3 picks at home. New York got off to a fast start in the first quarter with a 57 yard run by Tomlinson, but other than that, the first was fairly uneventful. New England started the second quarter with an 18 yard field goal after being stopped on the 1 yard line by the Jets defense. The Jets were then able to break another big run by Tomlinson, as he rumbled 38 yards for a TD. However, the Patriots got a spark on the ensuing kickoff as Tate ran it back 95 yards for a TD. The Jets were only able to get a field goal on their next drive, but unfortunately for the Patriots, Brady threw his first of three INTs as they tried to respond with a score of their own. The Jets then got another field goal, this one from 44 yards, and New England ended the half with a 31 field goal of their own. The Patriots started the second half with the ball, but Brady threw his second INT on while trying to convert for a first down. The Jets wasted no time turning that into points with a 1 yard TD run by Greene. However, the Patriots weren’t out of it yet as Brady hit Branch for a 54 yard TD pass. The Patriots opened the fourth with a 30 yard TD to Gronkowski to tie the game, and when the Jets missed a 44 yard field goal, suddenly the Patriots had a chance. However, a sack moved them out of field goal range, and the Jets steadily moved down the field only to have Holmes somehow get behind the defense with just 30 seconds left and Sanchez hit him for a 53 yard TD. It was a hard fought game for the Patriots, but ultimately they came up short. Intense pressure on Brady kept him off-balance and a sure-handed secondary was able to create turnovers. Brady when 19 of 35 for 341 yards, 2 TDs and 3 INTs. Meanwhile, Sanchez hit 14 of 23 passes for 321 yards and 1 TD. On the ground the Patriots had basically nothing, while Tomlinson rumbled for 125 yards and 2 TDs. Holmes had 6 catches for 201 yards and the game winning TD, while Branch for the Patriots had 6 catches for 139 yards and a TD. Turnovers were the story of this game. The Jets forced the Patriots to make mistakes and then capitalized on them. If there ever were a formula for success against Brady and the Patriots, that would be it.