Wild Card Wrapup

Hurley wins with Alabama (-9.5) 42, Notre Dame 14 - loses Under
Cashine Basketball 2-0 Again on Monday - 6-0 last 3 Days


By Jim Hurley:


Last Saturday, it was ...

HOUSTON 19, CINCINNATI 13 - Hey, it was like a guy in Las Vegas playing blackjack and "taking a hit" till he got to 19!
Four field goals by Texans kicker Shayne Graham - yes, ironically enough, a former Cincinnati Bengals kicker - plus a one-yard touchdown run by RB Arian Foster (see a whopping 32 carries for 140 rushing yards) gave Houston all the points it needed here in this hold-your-breath home win/cover but from the what-might-have-been department was that overthrown pass into the end zone with 2:54 remaining by Cincy QB Andy Dalton intended for wide-out A.J. Green or it's likely this whole AFC Playoff picture would have been different.

And that's the crux of this one: Dalton - who finished a dismal 14-of-30 for 127 yards with 0 TDs and 1 INT - just didn't/couldn't make the big play when it mattered whether it's because J.J. Watt was getting in his grill or because the ground game really never got untracked either.

The $64,000 question for Houston is how on earth do you basically win a home playoff game by "one play" - the Dalton incompletion - when you out-yard your opponent 420-to-198 and than afterwards tell everyone (and we're talking to you, coach Gary Kubiak) that nobody panicked in the locker room after this late-season swoon.

Are y'all gonna panic now that you're heading to Foxboro where you lost 42-14 back on December 10th?

GREEN BAY 24, MINNESOTA 10 - No doubt the air came out of the bubble for this game when it was announced a couple of hours before kickoff that Vikings QB Christian Ponder (elbow) would not play in this night-time Lambeau Field tilt and thus Minny RB Adrian Peterson really had a reason to believe this to be a "me-against-the-world" mentality.

Peterson banged his way for 99 hard yards via the ground game but substitute QB Joe Webb was truly lost in space as he finished with an 11-of-30 passing line for 180 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT and Minnesota never did put up much of a fight but here's what the Packers need to consider after winning their first playoff game since the Super Bowl triumph over Pittsburgh two years ago:

It's nice that Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers (274 yards passing with 1 TD and 0 INT) spread the wealth around with completions to 10 different players but doesn't it seem that he's still a bit of synch with the likes of Jordy Nelson (3 catches for 51 yards and a hurt knee late) and TE Jermichael Finley (one reception) both true non-factors lately.

After the game Rodgers told the NBC folks that he was bothered by the fact the Pack sputtered for much of the third quarter when they "should have put the game away" and you wonder if GB head coach Mike McCarthy doesn't tie up some of these loose ends in practice this week will Green Bay be haunted by some sloppy play in Saturday's game in Frisco? Just sayin'!

On Sunday, it was ...

BALTIMORE 24, INDIANAPOLIS 9 - Count us among the folks who could do without all the gyrations by Ravens' soon-to-be-retired MLB Ray Lewis:
The dude's headed straight for the Hall of Fame in Canton, we know, but couldn't he tone it down on the dance floor as John Harbaugh's club looks to make a run in these AFC Playoffs?

The stat sheet says Lewis finished with 13 tackles - he also badly misplayed a potential interception and looked like an old man while bobbling the QB Andrew Luck pass - but here we go nitpicking about the winning side as RB Ray Rice lost a pair of fumbles (after not losing a single fumble in the 16-game regular season) and the complexion of this game really could have changed if not for the great hands of Baltimore WR Anquan Boldin (5 catches for 145 yards and one 18-yard scoring grab) who was easily the best player on the field Sunday afternoon.

The Ravens' defense did apply major heat to the aforementioned Luck (sacked three times in all) but both Colts WRs Reggie Wayne (9 catches for 114 yards) and rookie T.Y. Hilton (8 grabs for 66 yards) made the Baltimore secondary look sickly at times and we're quite sure the Denver Broncos' wide receivers sat up and took notice!

SEATTLE 24, WASHINGTON 14 - Let the controversy rage as to whether or not the Redskins should have yanked injured rookie QB Robert Griffin III (knee) from this game earlier but at least acknowledge this fact: Seattle spotted Washington a two-TD lead in the first quarter and than got physical with everyone on the field - and not just Griffin. The Seahawks' stop unit famously allowed only 74 offensive yards in the final three quarters of play as their brutish secondary intimidated the 'Skins wide receivers (WR Josh Morgan short-armed more than a few passes, folks) and punished a Washington O-line that all of a sudden lost its macho-ness after scoring drives that covered 80 and 54 yards.

Safe to say that if Seattle didn't spit up the football down by the goal line - a rare bad play by RB Marshawn Lynch (132 yards rushing and one score) than this could have really wound up a lopsided result but even if victory the Seahawks experienced some low moments with PK Steve Hauschka hurting (wouldn't expect him to play this weekend in Atlanta) and DE Chris Clemons (left knee) went down in the third quarter and never returned and without his presence inside the Georgia Dome this weekend the 'Hawks have some problems.

(home teams in CAPS)
HOUSTON - 4 Cincinnati 19-13
GREEN BAY - 11 Minnesota 24-10
BALTIMORE - 7.5 Indianapolis 24-9
Seattle - 3 WASHINGTON 24-14

NOTE: Catch our NFL Divisional Playoff News & Notes all week long right here in Jim Sez!

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