Divisional Round Match-ups.
The Divisional Rounds are generally considered to be the most exciting week of the NFL Season (I think I might have said that last week), with the 4 games between the top 8 teams in the league. This year looks like no exception, with at the very least a great QB match-up in each game. But what about the other battles? I wanted to dig deeper into the Divisional Playoff games & look at a few of the less obvious position & player contests that could have an effect on this game. In this I limited myself to 2 rules: NO QUARTERBACKS & I must never use the word ‘X-Factor’. Anyway let’s take a look at some of the players that could decide this game.
Vince Wilfork Vs. The Ravens Interior
One of the biggest factors for this game could be whether Eugene Monroe is ready to return. Monroe is a so-so Left Tackle, but the implications for him not playing could seriously affect how the Patriots Defence line up. If Monroe is good to go, the Ravens can move James Hurst to Right Tackle & push Marshal Yanda back in at Guard, meaning the Patriots biggest (& I mean that literally), Defensive Weapon, Vince Wilfork has a much harder time, going up against the best Guard Duo in the league. If Monroe isn’t fit, Hurst stays on the Left, Yanda sticks it out at Right Tackle & Rookie John Urschel sticks it out at Right Guard & Wilfork has a much easier time. Wilfork has been one of the more underrated players this year, despite his play not being backed up with stats. Wilfork has recovered from a ruptured Achilles & after only playing 4 games last Season, he has played a high percentage of Defensive snaps this year & played well, being his usual disruptive force & doing the job of 2 players often taking on 2 Offensive Linemen, meaning that the Patriots can spend a good chunk of time in Nickel. If Monroe plays, there is a good chance the Patriots have to line up in base, making Browner & Revis’ job a little harder. If Monroe doesn’t, you have to think Wilfork can take on Zuttah & Urschel, giving the Pats more of a chance to Line up in Nickel. Eugene Monroe’s injury might not seem that important, but it likely changes the entire way the Patriots Line up on Defence.
Vontae Davis Vs. Emmanuel Sanders
Okay so here you might be firing up Twitter to give me all kinds of grief about how the potential no. 1 Corner in the game will almost certainly be lining up against Demaryius Thomas, the no. 1 Receiver. Well so far this Season Davis has only lined up on the no. 1 Receiver 20% of the time, compared to the 50% of the time he’s lined up on the no. 2. If you want more proof, in game 1 this Season against the Broncos, he spent the majority of the day facing Sanders & did a pretty good job, allowing just 1 catch for 5 yards. With Davis lining up against Sanders that leaves, Julius Thomas & Demaryius Thomas. Laron Landry would surely be the player to take on Julius Thomas, leaving Demaryius Thomas as the (nearly said X-Factor), potential Receiver that could be on for a big game. Basically I think Sanders struggles in this game, but I don’t think the Colts Secondary can keep up with Broncos Weapons. This seems obvious but in comparison to the last game, where the Bengals were down to the bare bones at Receiver, this is going to be completely different, especially with the Colts generally sticking with base personnel on Defence, which worked against Hill last week & could stop Anderson this week. What we could see this week is a game where Manning is forced to throw the ball, which might make for an interesting game & potentially a shootout. If that happens, all bets are off.
Luke Kuechly & Thomas Davis Vs. Marshawn Lynch & Russell (Yes I know I said no QBs) Wilson
Okay so maybe one QB, but I want to talk purely about his Running ability & how it’s going to be effected by 2 of the most talented Run stuffers in the league. Kuechly & Davis have been unreal this Season, well they were unreal last Season… This year I suppose is just more of the same. Thomas Davis might be one of the most ridiculous athletes in the league. He’s had ACL Surgery 3 times & at the age of 30 is still one of the most explosive players in the league. Standing in line with him is another of the most explosive players in the league & although not getting the same critical acclaim as he did last year, I honestly think he’s played better, kinda like JJ Watt last Season. Anyway these 2 will have their work cut out with Star Lotulelei now out for the post Season, giving the Seahawks a chance to run on the interior. When you look at Lynch’s preferred Running Lanes, it’s all over the place; he can take advantage of pretty much any weakness on the Defensive Line. Without Lotulelei, it will be up to Kuechly to make sure he doesn’t break off any huge runs, taking advantage of an obvious weakness. It’s the same with Wilson on the outside. Kuechly & Davis will be expected to slow down Wilson’s runs. Truthfully I don’t think there is a better Line-backer to do it. These 2 are everywhere. In the game 9 this year, the last time they played each other, the Panthers successfully stifled this Offence & forced Russell Wilson to throw, which if these 2 are on form he’ll have to do. The last time they played though, the Panthers Secondary didn’t have the momentum they have now. If the Panthers can take advantage of this, this time, it will come down to who makes the most mistakes.
Micah Hyde Vs. Cole Beasley
This is hypothetical, but it’s a match up that makes sense. Both of these players have gone under the radar as potential game changers. Beasley has been a consistent chain mover. He doesn’t get too many snaps, but he’s done a good job coming on when needed & getting a quick first down. Beasley also has done a good job at getting yards after the catch & taking advantage of physical mismatches. Micah Hyde has probably done his best work on Special Teams this year, but with an abundance of talent on this Cowboys Offence, you have to think he’ll see the field an awful lot. Hyde has proved himself this year as a great Tackler, which is something he will need to do to slow down a very mobile Cowboys Offence, more specifically the diminutive Beasley. This could be a very interesting match-up…potentially.
& that’s my match-up’s to look out for. If you want an in-depth look at the games, check out fellow Gent @dylanbaker1986 & his write ups on these games, oh & obviously check out the podcast!
Anyway, enjoy the games folks