Working off-schedule is kind of nice.
Without much of a news budget scheduled until march (draft madness, baby), we're pretty much going to freehand most of the writing. I see that as a good thing. Being serious get old after a while.
I'm gonna stay off-schedule, and just give you some of my uncensored, random thoughts on the match-ups this weekend. I shared my feelings on the Brady v. Flacco match-up coming up, I'll try to dig into the NFC game a bit too.
I have two older brothers, and I've often thought about what it would be like if both of us were (chuckle) head coaches in the NFL.
Everyone talked about the Harbaughs exchanging information in regards to upcoming opponents. I dismissed this as having anything of value because coaches do that all the time. Raheem Morris, the former Buccaneers coach, worked under Mike Tomlin on Jon Gruden's staff in Tampa Bay in 2005. You think they don't share information as well? Does the fact they aren't blood relatives make that scenario any more or less likely?
If anything, when I think of either of my brothers being at that level with me, I think more of the times I had to be the center while one completed the Super Bowl-winning touchdown pass to the other, or the times they'd play goal line stand, where I had to get in the end zone from a yard out against both of them.
I may give them some of my honest opinion, but I'm going to throw a red herring or two in there as well.
"Nah, don't worry about Ninkovich, run away from him, what happened against Denver was an aberration. And that bit with Hernandez in the backfield? Don't worry about it, there's no chance all they were doing was putting it on film so you think they'll run out of that formation next week. Sell out for the run, Ray Lewis can cover him in the open field, no problem."
It may not necessarily be with Hernandez, but look for the Patriots to stretch the Ravens defense out much like what Houston did. Granted, they don't have Arian Foster, and they aren't the greatest run-blocking team, but their linemen are quick and athletic, and setting up play-action off getting Baltimore's linebackers moving horizontally will open up a lot of room down the seam.
Clearly, the story in this game is Baltimore's defense vs. New England's offense, so the other side on both teams needs to come up with a few plays. With the Ravens offensive line falling apart, and the Patriots defense playing above the sum of its parts (which still isn't much), this will come down to Baltimore's ability to keep Flacco upright long enough to eventually hit one of the deep passes they insist on throwing. Conventional wisdom would suggest the Ravens would simply pepper the Patriots with even doses of Ray Rice and TEs Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta, but I'm done trying to apply common sense to Baltimore's offensive game plan.
Rest assured, though Tom Brady will not throw straight into tight high-low coverage multiple times the way T.J. Yates did. Remember that when you hear Ravens fans crying about the lack of coverage in their secondary. However, it may not matter, because if the Ravens defense is as good as everyone says it is, there's no reason they cannot dial up the kind of pressure needed to stop Brady.
As for what Brother John is saying to Brother Jim about the Giants:
"Make Nicks beat you. It's ok to cut him loose to eliminate Cruz. He's really not that strong, and can't really make big plays in traffic. He'll fumble, too, if you hit him square in the chest, so emphasize stripping the ball over putting him on the ground. Whitner can play on his own in the deep secondary, so tell your corners to go for the pick."
Donte Whitner nearly single-handedly cost San Francisco a win when they had no business losing. Yes, turnovers have been San Francisco's bread-and-butter all season, but there comes a point you need to recognize when an offense simply has a physical advantage over you. Whitner's lame attempt to go for the ball on the 7-foot-5 Jimmy Graham missed horribly, and Graham went for a 66-yard touchdown.
The Giants are going to try to run deep posts and digs on Whitner and take advantage of the good size and excellent strength of their receivers. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the Giants are added to the "best receiving corps in the game" conversation before this season is over. Nicks and Cruz are easily the strongest pair of receivers in the league, and they're emerging as the best playmakers as well.
Look for this to be a brutally physical match-up. San Francisco has the most aggressive defense of the remaining playoff teams, but as the Saints proved, over-aggression can be a problem in big games. Also, like the Saints proved, five turnovers means little, because, in the end, the team that goes the hardest for the longest is going to win. A true battle of attrition. And you know Mike Tomlin likes that.