The Playoffs Are About QBs: Rodgers vs. Kaepernick

The NFL playoffs always come down to quarterback matchups. Let’s look at these guys head-to-head, next up, Aaron Rodgers vs. Colin Kaepernick, AKA, Green Bay vs. San Francisco.

Shoes to fill:

  • Rodgers: One of the greatest QBs of all time
  • Kaepernick: Alex Smith
  • Advantage: Rodgers

Pitching:

  • Rodgers: State Farm Insurance
  • Kaepernick: 92 MPH fastball
  • Advantage: Kaepernick

Doppelganger:

Checkdowns:

  • Rodgers: Discount, doubled
  • Kaepernick: Generally go to Delanie Walker
  • Advantage: Rodgers

Crappy hometown:

  • Rodgers: Chico
  • Kaepernick: Turlock
  • Advantage: Neither

Career playoff losses:

  • Rodgers: Two
  • Kaepernick: Zero
  • Advantage: Kaepernick

In a huge upset, Kaepernick beats Rodgers 3-2-1 (you know Kaepernick loves ties). This is rigorous science and has nothing to do with my being a giant 49er fan.

Packers at 49ers: Bookends

by @steven_lebron

These two teams met in Week 1 of the regular season, with San Francisco winning 30-22 in Lambeau Field. The game was not as close as the final score indicated. Let’s use what happened in that game to give us a sense of how these two teams have changed since.

Expectations coming into the season: Many people expected the 49ers to regress from their performance from last year, though few thought they would have much challenge from the rest of their NFC West counterparts. They were wrong on both. The 49ers retained all their starters on defense and that group came up big. A mid-season quarterback change from Alex Smith to Colin Kaepernick has worked for the most part, though it will be the defense and special teams that will decide how far the 49ers go in these playoffs.

As for the Packers, they were coming off a historic regular season tainted by a home playoff loss to the Giants. The Week 1 loss to San Francisco surprised some, and Green Bay would get off to a slow start before turning it around, and have rounded into a popular pick as Super Bowl contenders again.

David Akers kicks 63-yard field goal: He did in the first game, one of three in the first half, to give the 49ers a 16-7 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish. The rest of the season hasn’t gone as well for Akers, and now he is competing with the Billy Cundiff for the starting kicker spot. The last thing you want is a question mark at that position in the post-season. We’ll see if that comes back to haunt the 49ers.

Randy Moss catches first touchdown pass of the season: At the start of the season, many were thinking about how the Smith-Moss combination would ignite the team’s offense. Now, it’s Kaepernick-Crabtree with a heavy dose of Gore, who’s quietly put together yet another great season. We’ll see how Kaepernick does in his playoff debut.

James Jones catches a touchdown late in the game: And went onto lead the league in touchdown catches this season. The Packers — like the Saints last year, like Warner’s Rams before that — are the sexy pick. They have Rodgers, they have their full set of wide receivers back, and a defense that bends but doesn’t break.

But the home field will make a difference, the 49ers defense — if healthy — will give them an edge — and we’ve seen this year how Rodgers can be taken out of a game when his offensive line can’t protect him (see: at Seahawks, at Giants and their first matchup against San Francisco).

And too often, we get caught up in the team that we remember most recently, the teams that played in the wild card week, and forget how the other teams actually earned their byes. There’s a bias there, this one is a close call, but I like the way this 49ers team is built, and I think when you put it all together, they’re the better overall team.

49ers win 27-21.

What does everybody think?

Winners and Losers: Wild Card Round edition

by @steven_lebron

So, that wasn’t the most memorable weekend of football, was it? Still, we’ve got several interesting match-ups set up for next week, and who will ever forget Ray Lewis’s final pre-game dance in Baltimore?

Onto the winners and losers of the wild card round:

Winners

The Green Bay Packers as contenders: The defense figured out a way to bottle up Adrian Peterson in their third game against the superhuman running back in the last six week and Aaron Rodgers was efficient in spreading the ball around (completions to 10 different receivers). Experience counts in the playoffs, and even though it was against an inferior opponent, the Packers reminded everyone why even with an uneven regular season, they’re still going to be a tough out in these playoffs. I can’t wait for Green Bay-San Francisco next week.

Peyton Manning and Tom Brady: Anything can happen in the playoffs, but I imagine the two quarterbacks were texting each other throughout the weekend marveling at the level of competition that the AFC teams displayed. We’re still on track for an AFC Championship Game showdown between these two in Denver.

Arian Foster: Most rushing yards by a running back in his first three career playoff games in NFL history. By the way: undrafted.

Christian Ponder: Nothing like a bad performance from your back-up QB to enhance your own value by default. Although I think the Vikings would be wise to explore the free agent and trade market for a quarterback this off-season.

Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks in general: The numbers weren’t spectacular for Wilson, and there was no 50 point performance from the offense this time around. But down 14-0 on the road in the first quarter, all the questions came back: were these Seahawks just a great team at home? Is this team capable of playing from behind? Wilson answered that with two key drives in the first half to get the game back to a manageable 14-10 deficit. Also, even though he had a key fumble, Lynch was spectacular on the day (137 yards, and the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter). The Seahawks defense also tightened up after the early deficit. That was an impressive win, by Seattle. They struggled early in a hostile environment, made mistakes throughout, and still walked out with a double digit win. It’s the type of win that will have people debating all week long whether they might just be able to go into Atlanta and give themselves a great chance at the upset.

Ray Lewis: A great final home game send-off for the future Hall-Of-Famer. Oh, and he got a shoutout from Kobe Bryant’s brand new Twitter account.

Losers

The Cincinnati Bengals franchise playoff drought: Saddest stat I read all week was that the Bengals had not won a playoff game since 1990, and since that time, every team in the league has won a post-season game (Browns? Yes. Jaguars? Yes, shouts to Mark Brunell, Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell. And the list goes on). Marvin Lewis is now winless in four playoff games and, Andy Dalton, what exactly is his ceiling? Joe Flacco? Matt Schaub? I suppose that’s not entirely bad, since both those guys are still playing next week.

Joe Webb: If you follow the Vikings, or just football in general, you’ve heard whispers about Joe Webb and his freakish athletic ability, pretty best summed up by this video of him jumping over 7 dummies at the NFL combine. But on Sunday, pressed into action, he showed that there’s still a lot to go for him to be a competent quarterback.

The end of great regular season narratives: Time to tuck away #CHUCKSTRONG, and wonderful seasons from Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Adrian Peterson. But they’ll be remembered.

Football fans with Jets fatigue: Just when we thoughts Jets drama was behind us for at least a few weeks, we had to read all about Rex Ryan’s curious tattoo this week. The Jets aren’t just insufferable, they’re inescapable.

The Redskins: So, Washington fans, this is precisely why the Nationals took so much precaution with Stephen Strasburg by leaving him off the post-season roster, right? It was painful seeing Robert Griffin III out there on one leg, I mean, your knee isn’t suppose to bend this way, is it? With much chatter about whether Dr. James Andrews actually allowed Griffin to return to a game in December when he suffered his initial knee injury, coach Shanahan went ahead and risked further damage to his franchise, the investment that made the Redskins a topic of conversation again in football this year. We’re crossing sports for comparisons, but this reminds me of when the Blazers allowed Brandon Roy to return, and while that alone might not have cause the injuries that eventually forced him to retire (he’s since returned, but is on the injured list again), it does show what the long-term repercussions are when you don’t safeguard your best assets. Let’s just hope that we’ll see the same RG3 again next year. Also, Dan Snyder, let’s improve the field conditions just a little bit can we?

Who were your winners and losers?

Vikings at Packers: The Quarterback Is King

by @steven_lebron

Something hasn’t felt right about the Packers this season. I suppose some of that blame should go towards how well they’ve played the past two seasons, in which they won a Super Bowl and followed that up with a 15-1 regular season in which Aaron Rodgers and the offense put up historic numbers.

And then, they lost at home as the top seed, and started this season with a defeat at Lambeau to the 49ers, stumbling along the way to the Colts, to the replacement refs in Seattle and failed to show up in a statement game against the Giants (who aren’t even in the post-season, crazy league I tell you).

But check the starting quarterbacks in the divisional round this weekend: Matt Schaub, Andy Dalton, Christian Ponder, Russell Wilson, Joe Flacco, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III.

And then: Aaron Rodgers.

When it comes to experience and skill, there’s no question who the best is for this week at least. The quarterback is king in the playoffs — and even though we might need to start a Kickstarter to get Rodgers a competent running back, and a way to keep his receivers healthy all at once — and Rodgers wears the crown for this week.

In what felt like an underwhelming season, Rodgers went for 4,295 yards, a 67.2% completion rate, and a ridiculous ratio of 39 touchdowns against 8 interceptions (reminder, last season: 45 touchdowns, 6 interceptions, a higher completion percentage and over 400 more yards in passing. He sat Week 17 too, and got Matt Flynn paid. Great player, greater teammate).

He has a Super Bowl, but not a home playoff win at Lambeau yet.

With much respect to Adrian Peterson — who’s already put up two great games against the Packers this season — unless Minnesota can get Rodgers out of his comfort zone, none of the Packers’ flaws will matter for this week.

Mason Crosby misses three field goals, the defense allows Peterson to run all over them, and yet, only one player may matter.

34-17 Packers.

What does everybody else think?

The NFL’s reigning MVP, ladies. 

The NFL’s reigning MVP, ladies. 

(Source: ameriqueen)

362 yards. 2 TDs. 1 INT. 81.0 Passer Rating.
Game winning drive over Green Bay.
CHUCKSTRONG indeed.
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

362 yards. 2 TDs. 1 INT. 81.0 Passer Rating.

Game winning drive over Green Bay.

CHUCKSTRONG indeed.

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

"Welcome back. Coulda used you last week."
- Aaron Rodgers
(Photo by AP Photo/Tom Lynn)

"Welcome back. Coulda used you last week."

- Aaron Rodgers

(Photo by AP Photo/Tom Lynn)


Before we get into that, some stuff just needs to be said. First of all, I’ve got to do something that the NFL is not going to do, and I have to apologize to the fans. Our sport is generated, a multi-billion dollar machine, by people who pay good money to come watch us play. And the product on the field is not being complemented by an appropriate set of officials. The games are getting out of control. Like I said in the first week, I’m OK with replacement refs as long as they don’t have a direct impact on the game. Obviously last night there was a direct impact on the game on multiple plays. But my thing is I just feel bad for the fans. They pay good money to watch this. The game is being tarnished by an NFL that obviously cares more about saving some money than having the integrity of the game diminished.

- Aaron Rodgers

Before we get into that, some stuff just needs to be said. First of all, I’ve got to do something that the NFL is not going to do, and I have to apologize to the fans. Our sport is generated, a multi-billion dollar machine, by people who pay good money to come watch us play. And the product on the field is not being complemented by an appropriate set of officials. The games are getting out of control. Like I said in the first week, I’m OK with replacement refs as long as they don’t have a direct impact on the game. Obviously last night there was a direct impact on the game on multiple plays. But my thing is I just feel bad for the fans. They pay good money to watch this. The game is being tarnished by an NFL that obviously cares more about saving some money than having the integrity of the game diminished.

- Aaron Rodgers

I miss the NFL already. 

(Source: jullie-anne)

“It’s so impressive when you watch a team that can string together that many victories going all the way back to last season. It really tells you what the character and the make-up of the players on that team are. So them getting off to the start that they’ve gotten off to is very impressive. And the way Aaron’s playing, it’s impossible to play the quarterback position any better than he is playing it right now.”
- Tom Brady on Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

“It’s so impressive when you watch a team that can string together that many victories going all the way back to last season. It really tells you what the character and the make-up of the players on that team are. So them getting off to the start that they’ve gotten off to is very impressive. And the way Aaron’s playing, it’s impossible to play the quarterback position any better than he is playing it right now.”

- Tom Brady on Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

"Look at our biggest play from our last drive of the Super Bowl. We’re only up by three, and on third and 10, we run Greg Jennings down the middle of the field and connect for a 31-yard gain. If you look at that play on the game film from the end zone, Steelers corner Ike Taylor gets his pinky on the ball and changes the trajectory but not enough to make Greg drop it. If Taylor gets one more knuckle on the ball, everything changes. An inch one way or the other and it might be a totally different outcome in the Super Bowl. Afterward, everybody was like, "How did that happen?" But that’s a play we’ve worked on for years. Years. That’s where all this comes from — to be able to step into that throw, with seven minutes left in the Super Bowl, up by less than a touchdown, knowing it’s third down and you have to make a play. I’ve thrown that ball to Greg, that same exact ball, 100 times in practice. Same exact route. So when I break the huddle, that’s what’s flashing in my mind. I’ve completed this throw in my mind 1,000 times before the ball even leaves my hand."
Aaron Rodgers via ESPN Magazine


- steven lebron

"Look at our biggest play from our last drive of the Super Bowl. We’re only up by three, and on third and 10, we run Greg Jennings down the middle of the field and connect for a 31-yard gain. If you look at that play on the game film from the end zone, Steelers corner Ike Taylor gets his pinky on the ball and changes the trajectory but not enough to make Greg drop it. If Taylor gets one more knuckle on the ball, everything changes. An inch one way or the other and it might be a totally different outcome in the Super Bowl. Afterward, everybody was like, "How did that happen?" But that’s a play we’ve worked on for years. Years. That’s where all this comes from — to be able to step into that throw, with seven minutes left in the Super Bowl, up by less than a touchdown, knowing it’s third down and you have to make a play. I’ve thrown that ball to Greg, that same exact ball, 100 times in practice. Same exact route. So when I break the huddle, that’s what’s flashing in my mind. I’ve completed this throw in my mind 1,000 times before the ball even leaves my hand."

Aaron Rodgers via ESPN Magazine

- steven lebron

WHO GON STOP ME, HUH?