Silverman: Divisional Playoffs Should Be A Huge Turnaround From Wild-Card Blahs
By Steve Silverman-
(CBS) The Wild-Card weekend represented some of the worst playoff football seen in many years.
It wasn’t just the quarterback play, but that was clearly a big part of it.
Going into the weekend, it seemed like the Cincinnati-Houston game was going to be a bit of a yawner, but the other three games all had compelling aspects.
The Bengals and Texans lived down to the expectations, but the other games all seemed to follow suit.
I’m sure it’s an aberration because the divisional playoffs are almost always compelling, but the Wild-Card was simply an abysmal weekend.
While the Texans came away with a 19-13 win and Matt Schaub’s numbers appeared decent – 29-of-38 for 262 yards – the Houston quarterback is almost certainly going home after this weekend.
Schaub looked unsure for the majority of the game and it didn’t look like he had a prayer of completing a pass greater than 15 yards.
Schaub played sensational football through the first half of the season, but he seemed to get worse as the season moved along. Now Schaub has to try to stay on the same field as Tom Brady, who is not going to shrink in a playoff game.
This game may be over before it starts.
The Packers were not challenged by the Vikings. Minnesota appeared to be in over its head with Christian Ponder at quarterback. However, when Ponder was sidelined by bursitis, the Vikings simply had no chance with Joe Webb at quarterback.
Webb appears to be a practice-squad player. He is not an NFL quarterback. At least not until they legalize the bounce pass in the NFL.
The Ravens slowly pulled away from the Colts and that was wise strategy. If Andrew Luck had the ball in hands and his team was within a touchdown in the final period, the Colts would have had a great chance to pull out that game.
But the Ravens played their best defensive game of the season as they both welcomed Ray Lewis back and said goodbye to him in the final home game of his career. The Colts could not get the ball in the endzone even once, and Luck had no chance to work his magic.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco did not have a great numbers game – 12-of-23 for 282 yards with 2 TDs – but he looked better than he has through much of the second half of the season. Still, it’s hard to see the Ravens winning at Denver this weekend.
The Redskins appeared to use the momentum they had after beating Dallas in the regular-season finale as they opened their playoff game with the Seahawks. However, a 14-0 lead really meant very little as it became obvious that magical rookie Robert Griffin III was not healthy.
His left knee did not give him any explosion as he moved in the pocket or when he attempted to run. The Redskins’ offense simply ground to a halt and the Seahawks went by to record a 24-14 victory.
Mike Shanahan had no business letting RGIII remain in the lineup. There were many points that Shanahan could have taken him out of the game and replaced him with a healthy Kirk Cousins. However, when RGIII ran to the sidelines in the third quarter while dragging his non-bending left leg, that should have been it.
Forget about the postgame palaver about RGIII wanting to stay in the lineup. He’s a rookie. He’s the team captain. He’s a great player, but he doesn’t have the temerity to stand up to Shanahan at this point in his career.
Remember, Shanahan was the coach who forced a migraine-blinded Terrell Davis to go on to the field in the Broncos’ Super Bowl XXXII win over the Packers so John Elway could carry out a more realistic fake.
Shanahan doesn’t “allow” injured players to opt out of the game. That’s why RGIII soldiered on until his knee failed him and he was dragged off the field.
Hopefully, the injury is a partial ACL tear and not a full tear. He will play in 2013 with a partial tear; he won’t if it’s a full tear.
The best of the divisional playoff matchups may be the Packers and the 49ers. The Packers have the advantage at the skill position with Aaron Rodgers playing at the top of his game and the Green Bay receiving crew of Greg Jennings, James Jones and Jordy Nelson getting open.
But the 49ers are the tougher and more physical team, as they proved when the two teams met in Week 1.
The divisional playoffs often represent the most exciting NFL weekend of the year. That should be the case again this time around.
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman was with Pro Football Weekly for 10 years and his byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Playboy, NFL.com and The Sporting News. He is the author of four books, including Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Football — The Top 60 Players of All-Time. Follow him on Twitter (@profootballboy) and read more of his CBS Chicago columns here.