Rob’s Raw NFL Recap (and Picks) – Divisional Round

This week, Rob hits the campaign trail before recapping a wild weekend of divisional action and making his Super Bowl picks.

Before we get to the recap of the divisional round of the playoffs, allow me to take a few paragraphs to advocate for a man who consistently struggled making it this deep in the playoffs despite winning 200 regular season NFL games.

That’s right. I’m on the campaign trail for Marty Schottenheimer.

In case you haven’t heard, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have interviewed Marty regarding their head coaching position.

If I’m the Bucs, I hire the former Browns, Chiefs, Redskins and Chargers coach.

Yes, he’s 68. Yes, he’s got an awful 5-13 playoff record. So I get why people would be skeptical.

But like I said, the man has 200 wins in the NFL. Only five coaches in the history of the league have more. He’s won 61% of his games, better than Super Bowl-winning contemporaries Bill Parcells, Mike Holmgren, and Tom Landry.

While you look at his 5-13 playoff record as putrid (and it is putrid), I look at it like this: he’s taken 13 teams to the playoffs. Only three coaches have taken more teams to the postseason.

As a DC sports fan, I can tell you with all seriousness that I think the Redskins would have been far better off in the long run (maybe even a Super Bowl champion) had they given Marty more than one year to turn around the Skins. That ’01 team was 8-3 in their last 11 games and was the first team in NFL history to go 0-5 and then win their next 5 games.

In one season, he changed the culture within that locker room. Gone were the entitled prima donnas that helped tank the “Fortune .500″ team of the year prior, in were the low-priced overachievers (well, at least with Washington) like Tony Banks and Ki-Jana Carter.

I don’t typically agree with a coach “buying the groceries”, but I certainly would have trusted Marty’s front office acumen over Vinny Cerrato’s.

But I digress.

The point is if Marv Levy can coach a team to four Super Bowls in his late 60s, then Marty can turn around a young, talented Bucs team that appeared to be on the verge of being a playoff contender. Furthermore, if his proteges Bill Cowher and Tony Dungy–and a contemporary like Tom Coughlin–can win Super Bowls after posting losing playoff records (and earning the “wins in the regular season, can’t get it done in the playoffs” label), then so can Marty.

So here’s hoping that Tampa or another team looking for organizational stability will give the old man a shot. Because, as we know, all it takes is a gleam.

And now, we hit the recap and look ahead to my picks for next week:

Saints 32
Niners 36

If you would have told me New Orleans would put 32 points on the San Fran defense, I’d have said “Good luck to the Saints in the NFC title game”. Between turnovers and bad gambles on defense, it’s hard to pinpoint a single unit to blame for this loss. This is a “team loss” in every sense of the phrase.

I also would have congratulated New Orleans on advancing if you told me there would be a shootout at Candlestick Park. I didn’t think the Niners were capable of winning in that fashion, yet Alex Smith proved himself to be more than just a game manager. Give credit to that coaching staff for getting all three phases of the game to play at their best when it mattered most.

Broncos 10
Patriots 45

Tebowmania is OVER! And nobody summed it up better than a buddy of mine:

“Katt Williams said it best: A Chrysler 300 looks like a Bentley only until you roll up next to a Bentley at a (traffic) light. Mr. Tebow, meet Mr. Brady.”

With all the talk of the Giants turning back the clock four years, it looks more like the Pats are the ones playing at their ’07 form–but with a dash of the ’06 Colts. New England’s offense appears to be every bit as explosive as their 2007 incarnation, and if the defense can keep playing like they did Saturday night then they’ll complete the most dramatic regular season-to-playoff turnaround we’ve seen since the 2006 Colts D went from the 32nd-ranked unit to a stout and formidable squad. My AFC Super Bowl pick still looks strong.

Texans 13
Ravens 20

Probably doesn’t hurt any less, but Houston should take heart that they got this deep in the playoffs and played Baltimore this close despite having to trot a 3rd-string, rookie QB onto the field. With better health and better luck, optimism should run high in Houston going into the 2012 season.

Joe Flacco can exhale, but he’s not out of the woods yet. Beating a shorthanded Texans team in your own backyard is one thing; going into Foxborough and knocking off a seemingly revitalized Patriots squad is another. So unless Ray Rice goes for 200 yards next week, passing for 176 yards won’t cut it against Tom Brady and company.

Giants 37
Packers 20

Boy, history has a funny way of repeating itself, huh? The underdog Giants go into Lambeau Field and beat the top-seeded Packers for the second time in five years. Let’s just sum it up this way: if you have an elite QB, the New York pass rush will be his Kryponite. Now let’s see if they can stop a run-heavy attack in San Fran.

If you think the above Ode to Marty is a way of me glossing over my Super Bowl pick going buh-bye, then you’re only half right. I wrote that before the game, so it wasn’t by design–but I am glad I didn’t have to start this post eulogizing my streak of picking NFC winners. Speaking of eulogies, it’s hard not to wonder if you can hang this loss on the fragile Packer psyche going into this matchup in the wake of offensive coordinator Joe Philbin tragically losing his 21 year-old son. Football matters a lot less when dealing with things of such a solemn nature, and the Packers are human–even if we forgot that after their 15-1 regular season tear.

Like the Packers, I must carry on. So in that spirit, here’s my revised Super Bowl prediction:

Giants at 49ers

I refuse to jump on the Giants bandwagon. Not just because that’s an unthinkable sellout coming from a Skins fan, but because they’re still a 9-7 team that got swept by the aforementioned Redskins and lost badly at home to a mediocre Seattle team. Hard to trust a team that shit the bed for almost half the year. So if I have a choice between that team and a squad playing at home that runs the ball enough to negate New York’s strength (rushing the passer) and has a defense capable of containing the red hot Eli Manning, then I’m taking the latter.

The pick: Niners 23, Giants 21.

Ravens at Patriots

So if I’m taking Jim Harbaugh’s Niners, then I’m taking his brother John’s Ravens to meet him in Indy, right? Wrong. There’s a lot to like about Baltimore’s team–and their chances to win it all. But like Michael Corleone at the end of The Godfather, Tom Brady is settling all family business this year. So it’s only right that he avenge that awful loss to the Ravens two years ago and then go to the Super Bowl and take down the Giants. Only I didn’t pick the Giants to win Sunday, so he’ll have to settle for a Niners team he grew up rooting for. Besides…I gotta stick to my Super Bowl prediction, right?

The pick: Pats 27, Ravens 20.

Rob Woodfork writes for TheFanManifesto. Follow us on Twitter.

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