The post-season is here. After one of the better NFL seasons in recent memory where records were broken, miracles happened, and a guy did a flip into the endzone and landed it, it’s time to see who will reign as champion. The Packers certainly seem like a lock, but there are plenty of talented teams in the post-season. The Saints look strong, the Raven actually get a chance to play at home, the Lions could be unpredictable…ahhh, this is why I love football. So who’s winning and who’s going home? Let’s take a look in the magic crystal ball of Madden NFL 12 and see what we can see.
New York 14, Atlanta 28 - The Giants were able to find their way into the post-season once again, but more than usual, people just aren’t sure which team will show up; they’re just so inconsistent. Meanwhile, the Falcons struggled much more than they did last season, but maybe that adversity will serve them better in this playoff run than the easier route they had last time.
The first quarter for this game was a bust. Neither team did anything but punt, and in the playoffs, you need to make the most of every possession. The second quarter, however, saw an explosion. The Giants got things going with a good drive that ended with a 3 yard TD reception by Ballard. The Falcons, however, weren’t about to be outdone, and they started their next drive with an 80 yard bomb to Jones for a quick TD.
The Giants came out ready to respond, but Bradshaw dropped the ball; literally. The Falcons recovered, drove down the rest of the field and Turner rumbled in for a 2 yard TD. Things weren’t completely out of control for the Giants yet, but a desperate Eli tried to force the ball down field only to have it picked off. The Falcons took advantage and ended another drive with a TD on a 4 yard pass to White. The Giants punted on their next possession, and the Falcons ended the quarter with another TD drive with an 18 yard pass to White. That’s 28 points by Atlanta in just one quarter, plus at TD by the Giants. Just about all the scoring in this game took place right here.
The Giants got the ball to start the third, and their first drive of the second half came up short with a missed 48 yard field goal. However, the defense stepped up on the next series, containing the run and sacking Ryan, forcing them to try for a field goal from 43 yards, which they also missed. With the ball back in their hands, the Giants took the rest of the third and a good chunk of the fourth to drive down the field and get into the end zone on a 15 yard pass to Cruz. Then, the defense did their job again, sacking Ryan twice in a row and forcing a third and forever that Atlanta couldn’t convert. The Giants had the ball and a chance, but Manning threw another pick with time winding down, and that was it.
Manning went 15 of 31 for 173 yards, 2 TDs and 2 INTs while Ryan played well with 13 of 18 for 207 yards and 3 TDs. Bradshaw rumbled for 62 yards on the ground, Cruz had 76 yards and Jones came up big with 101 yards and a TD. It was just that one quarter that the Giants D couldn’t contain Atlanta, but they did for the other three. With an uneven offensive performance, it wasn’t enough. So which Giants and which Eli will we see this weekend? I’m sure they’re hoping it isn’t the one Madden 12 is predicting.
Detroit 24, New Orleans 21 - Okay, everyone thinks the Saints will walk away with this one, but that’s what we thought against Seattle, and we all know how that turned out. Plus, Detroit is a better team than those Seahawks. The can score, they went toe-to-toe with the explosive Packers offense, and this game may be closer than many think. Brees and the Saints offense are potent, but this isn’t a gimmie against the Lions.
The Saints came out flat in the first quarter, and like I said, in these games every moment counts. More than anything, it’s their slow start that did them in during this game. Detroit didn’t start slow. They came out firing and hit, who else, Calvin Johnson Jr. for a 61 yard TD on their first possession.
Brees and the Saints tried to get back into at the start of the second, but instead they got intercepted. Detroit turned that around for three points on a 21 yard field goal, which was good for the Saints. But fortune just wasn’t on their side, as on their next series the Saints fumbled the ball, Detroit scooped it up and jogged into the end zone. But this is Drew Brees and the Saints we’re talking about. They finished the first half with a strong drive that ended with a 27 yard TD pass to Graham.
The Saints came marching right back in the third with another scoring drive that ended with a 2 yard TD pass to Colston. The Lions looked frazzled, which probably helped lead to a Stafford interception. Brees and the Saints took advantage and scored on a 21 yard TD pass to Ingram. The game now had an entirely different feel going into the fourth. The Lions looked like they were going to regain control, but Stafford over threw his tight end in the end zone, which resulted in another New Orleans pick. The Saints now had the lead and the ball, and the ran off as much time as they could, but eventually had to punt it back to Detroit. With just over a minute left, the Lions began what could be their final drive of the season. Stafford hit receiver after receiver, and with just 12 seconds left, who else but Johnson should find the end zone on a 16 yard TD pass. Just like that, the Lions got the win, stunning the Saints who were sure to rue that wasted first quarter when they did absolutely nothing.
Stafford when 11 of 22 for 252 yards, 2 TDs and 2 INTs. Johnson was the main target for most of that yardage, with 226 yards and 2 TDs. Brees, meanwhile, went 13 of 25 for 164 yards, 3 TDs and 1 INT. This game is sure to have lots of scoring, some big plays, and will probably come down to the wire just as predicted. Can the Lions give the Saints their second playoff upset? I don’t see why not.