Next week will be pivotal NFL playoff games, pitting the No.1 and No. 2 seeded teams in the NFC and AFC against the survivors of Wild-Card weekend.
The Saints and Chargers, the respective NFC and AFC sixth-seed teams, made it to the next round, giving a new meaning to the phrase “just get in”–to the playoffs.
Divisional Playoffs: Saturday, Jan.11:
New Orleans at Seattle, 4:35 p.m. (FOX)
Indianpolis at New England, 8:15 p.m. (CBS)
Sunday, Jan. 12:
San Diego at Denver, 4:40 p.m. (CBS)
San Francisco at Carolina, 1:05 p.m. (FOX)
Conference Championships: Sunday, Jan. 19:
NFC, 6:30 p.m. (FOX)
AFC, 3 p.m. (CBS)
Pro Bowl: Saturday, Jan. 26, in Honolulu:
Super Bowl: Sunday, Feb. 2, at East Rutherford, N.J.
TBD, 7:30 p.m. (NBC)
AFC champion vs. NFC champion, 6:30 p.m. (FOX)
The NFL scores for the first Wild-Card games this weekend have been compiled:
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS, 23, GREEN BAY PACKERS, 20
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS, 27, CINCINNATI BENGALS, 10
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 45, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 44
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 26, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 24
RENTON, Wash. (AP) — As the newest starter in the Seattle Seahawks secondary, cornerback Byron Maxwell had plenty of time earlier in his career to be an observer.
What he noticed about his teammates on the back end of Seattle’s defense was a desire to be great in practice that transferred to the playing field.
“Guys around here they just want that. They want it. They want to be successful. They want to be great,” Maxwell said. “You’ve got two dudes who argue, Earl (Thomas) and (Richard Sherman). They go at it. They’re passionate about it. They want to be the best in history.”
Seattle finished the regular season with the best pass defense in the NFL and one of the best in the past decade. They gave up 172 yards passing per game, grabbed 28 interceptions and had an opponent passer rating of 63.4, one of just 15 teams since 2000 to hold opposing passers to a rating of 65.0 or less.
The Seahawks’ best performance came in Week 13 against New Orleans, holding Drew Brees to one of the worst games in his career in Seattle’s 34-7 blowout victory. Brees threw for just 147 yards in the loss, the fewest for him in any game since the 2006 season.
Now comes the challenge of duplicating that success in Saturday’s NFC divisional playoff game against the Saints, knowing that Brees, coach Sean Payton and the rest of the New Orleans offense will try to counter what Seattle does so well.
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Growing up, Andrew Luck kept trying to emulate the quarterbacks he watched on Sunday afternoons, guys like Peyton Manning and Phillip Rivers.
And Tom Brady.
Now, the 24-year-old franchise quarterback is all grown up and about to face his next big test — trying to beat Brady on his home turf with a trip to the AFC championship game on the line.
“I think there are so many quarterbacks that do so many great things that as a quarterback you’d like to watch all of them and say, ‘They do this so well,’ and see if you can do that,” Luck said Tuesday.
His next chance comes Saturday night when the Colts (12-5) travel to New England (12-4).
Luck has already done his part to live up to the seemingly impossible standards that came with replacing Manning in Indy. The two-time Heisman Trophy runner up spent two college seasons being called everything from the most polished college quarterback since Manning to the most promising quarterback prospect at Stanford since John Elway.
Luck just focused on playing his game and the results have been impressive.
He has thrown for more yards (8,196) in his first two seasons than any quarterback in NFL history. His 22 regular-season wins rank No. 2 to Russell Wilson among all second-year quarterbacks since 1970, and with nine career TDs rushing, he already ranks fourth on the franchise’s career list behind only Manning (17), Bert Jones (14) and John Unitas (13) — all previous MVPs
Even when it comes to measuring up to Manning, Luck has done remarkably well.
In October, he beat Manning in their first head-to-head meeting. And after rallying Indianapolis (12-5) to the second-greatest comeback in playoff history last weekend, Luck’s first postseason win came four seasons sooner than Manning’s. A win over the Patriots (12-4) would give Luck the same total of playoff wins over Brady than Manning — one. But that’s not what motivates Luck.
“He studies so much tape and prepares himself so well that he’s able to identify and see things, even if it was a year ago,” coach Chuck Pagano said. “He’s got that, probably what Tom has and what Peyton has and all the great ones have, is the ability to identify and see things and put things behind him and move on.”
In the first meeting the Seahawks were strong in two areas. They got significant pressure on Brees with their defensive line to disrupt timing. The Seahawks also didn’t allow deep throws over the top, forcing Brees to choose secondary targets on short passes.
Brees wasn’t able to find openings in a Seattle secondary that features three All-Pro selections — Thomas and Sherman were first-team picks while strong safety Kam Chancellor was a second-team choice — and was dominant the final nine games of the season.
Only once over the final nine games did Seattle allow a team to have more than 200 net yards passing. That distinction belonged to Minnesota, which finished with 204 yards passing in a game Seattle led 41-13 early in the fourth quarter before giving up a late score in a 41-20 win.
“We are just situationally aware,” Sherman said. “We study together as a group, as a defense. We study concepts. We study plays. We study tendencies, quarterbacks, their movements. We are really a very disciplined film-watching football team.”