By Clark Judge
Talk of Fame Network
It’s beginning to look like 2010 all over again.
At least it is in Green Bay where the Packers are running the table at just the right time – just as they did in 2010. OK, so they were a wildcard then, and they’re a division champ now. Big deal. They have the same quarterback, and that’s what matters.
Bottom line: The Packers are as hot now … no, hotter … as they were then when they went into Atlanta and knocked off the NFC’s No.- 1 seed. Fast-forward to 2017, and they go into Dallas and knock off the No.- 1 seed again with a last-second field goal.
It’s deja vu … or deja view … all over again.
But back then … back in 2010 … the Packers were 8-6 when they were on life support. Aaron Rodgers was hurt, and the club was limping to the finish line. But Rodgers recovered, so did the Packers and the rest you know. They won their last six – including Super Bowl XLV.
This season they were 4-6 when they were listed as DOA. Rodgers got hurt again, the team was going nowhere and then … yep, then Rodgers did what he does best — talking fans off the ledge, living up to bold statements and playing like the Aaron Rodgers of 2010 so that now … well, now we have another Green Bay-Atlanta front-end collision waiting to happen.
They two met in Atlanta earlier this year, and the Falcons won 33-32. I’d expect something similar — because tell me how the Falcons stop Rodgers and how the Packers stop Ryan. They won’t. They can’t.
All I know is Atlanta better hope it’s not 2010 all over again.
(Aaron Rodgers photo courtesy of Green Bay Packers)
HOW DO THE STEELERS SOLVE BRADY?
Now comes the hard part for Pittsburgh. Next stop: Tom Brady, and good luck.
It’s not just that Brady has been good against the Steelers; it’s that he owns them, and you can look it up. He’s 9-2 against them, including a victory this season, with 26 touchdown passes and three interceptions. Plus, he’s 5-vs. Mike Tomlin, with six straight passer ratings of 100 or better.
Need more? The Steelers haven’t intercepted him since 2005, with Brady throwing 19 touchdown passes in the meantime, and they lost twice to him in the playoffs … both times in the AFC championship game and both times in Pittsburgh. What’s more, they’re 0-4 vs. Brady in Foxboro, with the Patriots averaging … averaging … nearly 37 points per.
Forget that Brady is 16-3 at home in the playoffs and 4-1 in Foxboro in AFC championship games. He’s absolute money … or at least he has been … against the Steelers. Your move, Pittsburgh.
(Tom Brady photo courtesy of New England Patriots)
(Matt Ryan photo courtesy of Atlanta Falcons)
- Just a hunch, but Matt Ryan wins the league MVP award … and not because of his performance vs. Seattle. Nope, ballots were collected over a week earlier. But Ryan was part of an offense that produced over 500 points (540, to be exact) — something that, prior to this season, happened in the NFL only 16 times. Nine times the quarterback of a team scoring 500 or more was chosen league MVP – with Cam Newton the latest – and twice the award went to a running back on his team. With no back competing for attention on Ryan’s Falcons, he should be the favorite.
- Big problem for Green Bay: The pass rush. The Packers didn’t have one vs. Dallas, and you saw what happened. I can only imagine what Ryan does if the Packers pressure him as they did … er, didn’t … Dak Prescott. Remember, he had a season-high 28 completions against them earlier this season.
- FYI: Rodgers is 0-3 vs. Dan Quinn defenses, either in Seattle or Atlanta, with six touchdowns, three interceptions and seven sacks.
- The Patriots are appearing in their sixth straight conference championship game, and that’s more than an NFL record. It’s astonishing, especially in a salary-cap era. Oakland appeared in five straight in the 1970s, but that was two decades before we had a cap. Philadelphia appeared in four consecutive games from 2001-2004, and I thought that was remarkable. It was. But this? This is incomparable.
- I’ll be honest: I’m pulling for New England to win it all. Reason: I want to see commissioner Roger Goodell have to suck it up and hand the trophy to Tom Brady.
- Prediction: We won’t see Goodell in Foxboro next weekend. He was in Kansas City Sunday. So he’ll almost surely be in Atlanta next weekend, keeping his Foxboro shutout streak intact since he dreamed up Deflategate.
- That was an all-star group of officials in Dallas? Uh-oh. Houston, we have a problem.
- No question the Dallas-Green Bay game was epic … one we’ll remember for years. But there’s another reason it was unforgettable: The previous six NFL games weren’t, with none closer then 13 points and an average margin of victory of 18.
- You gotta feel for Dak Prescott. He was terrific when it mattered most. But, in the end, it’s another one-and-done for the Cowboys. That makes them 2-8 in the playoffs the last 20 years.
- Here’s why those heroics were so special for Mason Crosby: The Packers’ kicker had been 0-4 on potential game-winning or go-ahead field goals of 50 or more yards in the fourth quarter or overtime. Then he nails a 56-yarder and 51-yarder. Make Crosby the Comeback Player of the Day.
- Not sure whose demise was more abrupt: The Cowboys or Ringling Brothers.
- Don’t tell me that Cleveland doesn’t know how to build a playoff team. The Browns let Alex Mack and Taylor Gabriel go to Atlanta.
- Give me the “over” in the NFC championship game. Atlanta scored 33 or more points in their last five games; Green Bay has 30 or more in its last six. Something has to give … and it’s the “over.”
- Nobody will have a longer offseason than the Chiefs’ Eric Fisher. It was his holding call that negated a game-tie two-point conversion and will keep him awake at night.
- Too bad the Chargers stink. I want to see them host the 2017 AFC championship game in a 30,000-seat stadium.
- In their last four road games, Seattle was outscored 111-60, beating only San Francisco. In their last two playoff games on the road, both divisional contests, they surrendered 67. Translation: Have Legion, Won’t Travel.
- Biggest loser in the Chargers’ move north? Raiders’ fans in Los Angeles. CBS is obligated to show the Chargers, not the Raiders. Only solace for Raider Nation: They get to see their team up close and personal once a year.
- Smart move by New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to pass on the San Francisco job. A) It’s a dysfunctional organization; B) there is no GM and C) you don’t go unless you can take the quarterback with you.
- Question for Jason Garrett/Scott Linehan: It’s third-and-2, and you’re driving for a score. You have Ezekiel Elliott in the huddle, yet you throw the ball. Why?
- Memo to Antonio Brown: Not sure it’s a good idea to post that post-game pep talk by your head coach. Memo to Mike Tomlin: You better “be ready for their (Patriots’) ass.”
WHAT WE LEARNED …
Seattle’s season ended the moment Earl Thomas bowed out.
Atlanta’s defense … no, Pittsburgh’s defense … no, New England’s defense … is better than we think.
Green Bay better find a pass rush in the next week.
Dak Prescott can handle the pressure of the playoffs.
James Harrison is ageless.
Andy Reid and timeouts go together like Angelina and Brad.
… AND WHAT WE DID NOT
How seriously Julio Jones is hurt.
Why anyone thought investing $72 million in Brock Osweiler was a good idea.
Why the Patriots struggle coming off of byes.
How quickly the Green Bay defense would’ve folded had that game gone to OT.
What’s next for Tony Romo.
Who or what can slow down Le’Veon Bell.
THE WEEKEND’S HALL OF FAMER
GREEN BAY QB AARON RODGERS. There is nothing more to say about the guy. He’s playing at another level, one we seldom have seen in any season. He makes big plays. He makes smart decisions. And he rarely makes big mistakes. But he made one of the most memorable plays of any season when it mattered most – a 35-yard sideline dart to Jared Cook when Rodgers was flushed out of the pocket, rolling to his left, which is a difficult throw for any quarterback. But not for Aaron Rodgers. And talk about the right time and place. It was third-and-20, and there were three seconds left on the clock when Cook made the catch. “It was a great throw by Aaron,” he said. It usually is. As the ad says, Aaron Rodgers is on fire. Somebody call the fire department.
THE WEEKEND’S HALL OF SHAMER
HOUSTON QB BROCK OSWEILER. The Texans signed him to a big free-agent contract to solve their quarterback problem, but let’s be honest: They’re no better off now than they were a year ago when they bowed out of the playoffs with Brian Hoyer. Granted, they won a game. Terrific. But Osweiler threw 40 times vs. New England, averaged under five yards per attempt, never had a completion of 20 or more yards and threw three second-half interceptions. If he were just ordinary, Houston might’ve had a chance to pull the upset. But he stunk, and what’s new?