Free Agency for the Falcons does not begin until March 13, and my colleague Jamie Kelly has done a great job covering our offensive and defensive coordinator situation for us. As a result, there is not a whole lot of breaking news out of Falcon land. I figured I would cover the previews of the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
But first I thought I would like to share my thoughts on the Falcons potential switch to a 3-4 defense. I think we have great linebackers to play inside linebacker, and one, Weatherspoon, who could also play outside linebacker. The challenge would be to find the Clay Matthews-esque OLB who could pass rush only, and a big 3-4 nose tackle, who the Falcons definitely do not currently have on their roster. If the Falcons were to think totally outside the box and make the switch, a good defensive coordinator hire would be Georgia’s DC, Todd Grantham. He denied the potential of joining the Falcons staff, but he would be my target were the 3-4 switch made. Now, follow the jump to read my preview of this weekends’ divisional round.
The first game up will be San Francisco Vs. New Orleans. The matchup pits a very hard nosed, defensive minded, ball control 49ers squad against the red hot (S)Aints high flying offense. The 49ers have been extremely good against the run, which is something the Saints do not do very effectively. The Saints offense may be the 6th ranked rushing attack in the NFL, but the numbers do not tell the whole story. With Drew Brees distributing the ball so well to so many receiving weapons on the outside and in the backfield, it forces the defense to spread out to try desperately to defend it. In those situations, it is easy to run the ball when the defense only puts six men in the box. The Saints pass, and set up the run. That success on the ground game will be over very soon, as San Francisco will not allow anything to New Orleans on the ground. That being said, Drew Brees is still very good and is dangerous without much of a run game. The 49ers will try to run the ball and control the clock, but the first time they turn the ball over, the game will be over. The 49ers look alot like the Falcons offense with lesser weapons at wide receiver and a below average QB as opposed to Matt Ryan. My prediction is Saints 34- 49ers 17. But don’t get me wrong, Ill be rooting my butt off for San Francisco, who looks alot like the Seattle team from last year….
Perhaps the worst matchup of the weekend, Denver will travel to New England. People continue to doubt Tim Tebow in the situations where it looks least likely he will succeed, but he proves his critics wrong alot of the time. This will not be one of those games. I predict the Tebow will be able to throw, run, and make this a game for the first half before the Patriots offense takes advantage of the defense and takes over. Tebow will put up a lot of yards against New England, but it won’t be enough. The true keys for Denver to possibly win this game are Willis McGahee, and the Broncos’ outside linebackers Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller. If the threat of Tebow running the read-option can give McGahee holes to run through, setting up Tebow runs and passes, the offense can get the job done on this Patriots defense. Those pass rushing linebackers need to get to Brady early and often, getting sacks, forcing fumbles etc. I also think that is alot to ask of this Denver team The Patriots will make it to the AFC Championship game. Patriots 45- Broncos 20.
Ravens Vs. Texans is the game I am the most excited about this weekend. The Texans lost Mario Williams, Matt Schaub, and Matt Leinart for the seaon. In the end, T.J. Yates stepped up, won a bunch of ball games, and the Houston defense has been the #1 defense in my eyes. I saw them firsthand against the Falcons, and can attest to the firepower on this defense. The offense has been run through Arian Foster and Ben Tate, but with such great running Yates has been able to play action and hit on several big pass plays in each game. The Ravens have a good, but aging defense. They will probably do a good job against the Texans, but I still see them giving up several rushing touchdowns. Yates only needs to hit on a couple throws to keep the defense honest. On the Ravens side of the ball, Ray Rice is one of the best all round backs in the league. But I feel confident this Houston defense can contain them with their size and strength. This is going to force Joe Flacco to throw against the secondary, a secondary that is much improved with the signings of Jonathan Joseph and Danieal Manning. Houston will step up, pressure Flacco into bad throws, and the secondary will hold up in coverage. Flacco and the Ravens will have a long day. Texans 23- Ravens 17.
The Packers Vs. Giants matchup is the most intriguing of the weekend. The Giants are probably the team in the playoff who is most likely to be able to disrupt the Packers offensive attack. Not only can they rush the passer effectively with just 4 down linemen, but they have a passing attack that can torch an awful Green Bay secondary. Aaron Rodgers hasn’t played in about 25 days, and it is possible that his timing in the offense will be off. If it is, the Giants will have to capitalize early on any mistakes Green Bay makes, because I am sure Rodgers and his recievers will be hitting on all cylinders by the time the second half rolls around. While the Packers secondary give up a whole lot of yards, they are very good at creating turnovers, and it may only take one to make the difference in the game. New York will compete most of the game, but Green Bay will win a close one. Packers 42- Giants 38.