When San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick scampered 56 yards for a touchdown on Saturday night against the Green Bay Packers, it not only put his team ahead for good, but cemented one of the best all-round displays by a first time playoff quarterback.
Nothing seems to faze Kaepernick. He plays with tremendous confidence. So much so that the early setback of an interception ran back for a score, on only the second play of the game, failed to take the wind out of his sails.
Instead what we witnessed after was something that we have become more used to seeing from more accomplished players in his position. The fact that outdueled Tom Brady earlier in the season is testament to his play, and on this wild night in the Bay Area he again rose to the occasion and beat another established playcaller, Aaron Rodgers.
This game was always going to be test of the young QB. His first playoff start. The pressure of carrying the Niners legacy on his shoulders. Having to again justify his coaches’ decision to put him in the game, over the more experienced Alex Smith.
With the Wild Card weekend firmly behind us, and lets face it, it wasn't’t that wild, what does the Divisional Round hold in store for us?
First up on the schedule is the Baltimore Ravens visit to Denver to face the Broncos. Last week the Ravens fairly dominated the Indianapolis Colts in team leader Ray Lewis’ last home game. He was his usual self in his return from injury being at the heart of the play, even when directly not involved taking down the opposition. Will his talismanic presence be enough to stop the steam rolling Broncos? Theres no doubt that a team on an eleven game win streak will take some stopping, especially one that is driven by future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning. For Lewis and the Ravens the party is over when the lights go out Saturday evening. Given how the Broncos are taking apart teams in their run, they should see off the Ravens by at least two scores.
Not even enough for a first down.
That’s what separated Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson from setting a new single season yards record. He finished on 2,097. A mark which left current record holder Eric Dickerson thankful. He wasn’t quite ready to let his 28 year old standard be broken by the NFL’s best back of recent years.
Adrian Peterson could well gain the NFL Most Valuable Player award, given that he achieved the second best season practically a year to the day he suffered a potential career ending knee injury. He really is head and shoulders above the other backs in the league today.
The question has to be asked then. If Peterson wasn’t playing right now, who would be the best running back in today’s NFL?
There are many pretenders to the crown and over the next two or three seasons we will see if they have the stamina to stay the course.
There will be no place to hide this coming Sunday night. One team will hold its nerve; the other will look upon the season as a disappointment having come so far.
The NFC East has once again come down to the final game. Indeed, it the final game and puts an end to another dramatic National Football League regular season.
Last year you may recall that Dallas Cowboys stumbled their way through the final month to end up losing out to the New York Giants, in a winner-takes-all match. This season they have been the hunters, not the hunted, and have the chance to prove all doubters wrong.
The Washington Redskins (9-6) host the Cowboys (8-7), in a game that will decide the division and who goes into the postseason as number four seed in the National Football Conference. Advancing to host either the free-scoring Seattle Seahawks, or the see-sawing an Francisco 49ers.
The New Orleans Saints (6-8) march into Cowboys Stadium Sunday afternoon, to play the Dallas Cowboys (8-6). The Saints are no longer in playoff contention, unlike their opponents who are in the thick of the chase.
Jason Garrett’s team seem to have turned a corner. They are riding a three game win streak, and are tied at the top of the NFC East standings alongside a surging Washington Redskins, and a stumbling New York Giants. So going into this game they have everything to gain, and lose.
New Orleans will look to end the season on a high note, and possibly end the year an even 8-8, which after the terrible start to the season would be quite an achievement. With quarterback Drew Brees in control of the offense, they are still very capable of putting up huge numbers. Both in yardage and on the scoreboard, as the unlucky Tampa Bay Buccaneers found out last weekend when shutout 41-0.