Archive for the ‘ Previews & Reviews ’ Category

The Superb Owl (Allegedly)

Brett who?

Well wasn’t that good! For the fourth year in a row we were treated to a close, exciting Superbowl between two teams giving it their all.

The UKNFL team could have been found at the Superbash selling jerseys, discovering the free bar and asking NFL players about the future of their franchise but in reality all those japes were just a sideshow to a great game that ended an utterly mental, yet brilliant season of NFL.

There’s no need to go into great play-by-play detail, that will be done far better in numerous places but just leave you with a few, very tired thoughts.

Whilst Big Ben couldn’t quite finish it off with a late scoring drive, this has to go down as a great Superbowl, momentum repeatedly shifted from team to team, especially in the second half, and for once, the final blow was not Big Ben’s (allegedly) . After a start from the Packers that seemed to leave the Steelers stuttering over their lines like Gareth Gates on opening night (We really need more people with stammers, Gates is an easy, early 2000s examples that does not reflect the normal elegance of my prose), the injuries that have dominated the Packers season reappeared and gave the Steelers a sniff. It was at this point that a more inexperienced side than Pittsburgh may have crumbled, but Mike Tomlin’s men scored a crucial touchdown late in the first half and when they opened up the second half by cutting the deficit to 4 the momentum seemed to have swung away from Green Bay and an unlikely comeback suddenly seemed inevitable.

The spirit in the Packers team cannot be undermined though and the scenes of Clay Matthews being fired up by his linebackers coach may prove to be one of the defining images of Superbowl XLV (aside from the quasi-communist show (with added neon) at half time), and a talk that inspired Clay to hit Rashard Mendenhall forcing him to fumble, stopping a Steelers drive that looked destined to give them the lead and instead giving Aaron Rodgers the chance to lead his team downfield to put them 11 point up, a difference that, despite being cut to 3, ultimately proved decisive.

Before praising the virtues of Rodgers and the Packers, a quick word on the Steelers. They remain one of the most impressive franchises in the league. Big Ben has now reached 3 Superbowls, and despite a disappointing first half, the way he got his team back into shows how good a player he is. Mike Tomlin has continued the Steeler tradition of creating a team that is tough to beat and one with hearth to match their undoubted ability, and even managed to perform at half time. Whilst they fell short on the final drive (against the second best defense in the league don’t forget) they will once again start next season as contenders, presuming Big Ben is kept under house arrest in the off-season, allegedly.

As for the Packers, well all season I have struggled to spell Aaron Rodgers’ name, but I can now confirm it is spelt MVP. A superbly efficient performance from Rodgers who, despite a wobble in the 3rd quarter and a set of receivers with more balls dropping than an all boys high school, recorded over 300 yards and 3 touchdowns, coming up with a number of big plays when it really mattered. For a player whose career started in the shadow of Brett Favre, this will looked back upon as the season where Aaron created his own, less perverted, shadow. The whole Packers team deserves credit, after a shaky start to the season and loss of key offensive playmakers Finley and Grant, they found form when it mattered most. And then just as they appeared to be on the cusp of the championship, the injuries struck again to key receiver Donald Driver, last season’s defensive MVP Charles Woodson, and seemingly every other member of their secondary. But they stuck to it, when the going got tough, they kicked Billy Ocean and Boyzone in the face and got going.

The Packers are one of the most impressive squads, teams, and franchises in the league, an entertaining team to watch with a number of likeable players and charismatic fans, few therefore (apart from Steeler fans, naturally) will begrudge them this victory, their first since 1996, and one that could lay the foundation for a dynasty over the coming years. For Mike McCarthy, a coach that does not get the plaudits he deserves, his achievement to create a team that could cope with all these injuries is remarkable, as was his ability to keep his team’s collective head together, when Big Ben appeared to be in control. The Packers, from a tiny city, punched above their weight impressively, the anti-Big Ben. (Allegedly)

So a great Superbowl, a great season, and not a bad first season for UKNFL. Thanks for all your support, we’ll be all over the draft, and who knows, hopefully we might have a next season! But for now, the last word goes to Commissioner Goodell, Vince Lombardi is coming home!

Jamie Cutteridge

It all comes down to this….

This is what it’s about. The previous 20 weeks of football, the months of training, the years of hard work comes down to this Sunday night, one game, a ridiculous amount of viewers, a halftime show that no-one wants and only one winner. You’ve read our previews on the site, and this sunday is one of the toughest Superbowls to call for a long old time as two of the most famous franchises in the game, the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers face off.

Both teams have the ability to rack up a load of points, and both can strangle the opposition to stop them scoring. Both quarterbacks can extend plays with their legs and both have defensive playmakers to turn an entire game on it’s head. You might give the Steelers the edge in the running game, but the Packers sets of recievers and explosivity on defense can balance the scales. The Steelers have experience, the Packers have the joy of youth. The Steelers have  very few friends outside their team and are full of characters that divide opinion, the Packers have a fresh-faced, all- American QB. For two teams to similar, they seem to be the complete opposite of each other.

The UKNFL team is split (as you may have heard on the podcast or picked up from the previews below). David is backing the Steelers, Andy the Packers. I am sitting on the fence. It will be close, very close, and actually, I don’t care. I don’t care about who wins because the Superbowl is all about the winning for those involved, but all about the event for those not. This sunday, I’ll be supporting the game, I’ll be enjoying myself, and shouting at the top of my voice for as many points as possible.

We’ve had an amazing season, in the league and for us at UKNFL so lets hope this season gets the Superbowl it deserves.

GO FOOTBALL!

Jamie Cutteridge

(Ok, Steelers by 3)

Superbowl Preview: The Pittsburgh Steelers.

How They Got Here

Out of the AFC, the Steelers aren’t often left out of most people’s picks at the start of the year, whether to win their division, the conference, or go all the way. This season, the off-season antics of ‘Big’ Ben Roethlisberger (shown above, and I think the picture says it all) meant they would be without their MVP quarterback for the first four games of the season, and many thought an 0-4 start was on the cards and little more was to follow.
Cue Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch papering over the cracks with a little help from an exceptional running game to start 3-1 and prove all the doubters wrong. Big Ben returned, and the Steelers never really looked back. Defeats followed to the Patriots, Jets, Saints in addition to Batch’s defeat to the Ravens in Week 4, but it could be argued that all four of their losses came to playoff-bound teams during a difficult season.
During the regular season, the Steelers beat the Ravens in a crucial game which essentially decided who would top the AFC North. In the playoffs, it looked like the Ravens would have their revenge, taking a 21-7 lead into half-time.  At the crucial time, however, the difference between a Superbowl-winning quarterback and a shaky one was exposed, as Flacco fell to pieces and the Steelers scored 24 points with little reply to win the game 31-24. In the AFC Championship game against the New York Jets, exactly the opposite applied. The Steelers scored 24 unanswered points to obliterate the Jets in the first half, before failing to score any at all in the second, leaving the Jets to get within inches of a remarkable comeback. The game ended 24-19, with the Steelers advancing to Texas Stadium for the season’s showpiece: Superbowl 45.
The Strengths
Firstly, the experience of the Pittsburgh Steelers cannot be underestimated. Big Ben is a young quarterback in relative terms, but already has two Superbowl rings. Many of this Steelers side return from the team that defeated the Arizona Cardinals two years ago, and some even return from the side that defeated the Seattle Seahawks in Superbowl XL. The Packers have little of this experience, with only Charles Woodson playing a big part in a previous season-ender, and on the big stage on Sunday night, this could very well played in the Steelers hands.
There’s no denying that an enormous strength for the Steelers is their…strength! From a quarterback who is one of the biggest and toughest in the league, to a frankly brutal defense, Pittsburgh will see themselves as one of the few teams who can match the Packers pound-for-pound if the game should turn into a dogfight.
The Weaknesses
An issue for the Steelers in any game, and Sunday is no different, is their possible indiscipline. Linebacker James Harrison, outstanding as he is, has been faced with more fines for illegal hits this season than anybody, and isn’t keeping quiet about his indignation at the issue. No matter what Harrison thinks of the rules, they will remain the same against the Packers, and if the Steelers pile up the penalties against a team like Green Bay, they will be punished.
Maurkice Pouncey’s absence from the Steelers offensive line could also present a problem to Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh offense. Pouncey has a slight ankle sprain and is extremely doubtful to play on Sunday night, and any team leaving a Pro Bowl center out of their side may be prone to slip-ups in a high-pressure environment.
Key Players
You simply cannot look past the afore-mentioned Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback. Ben’s previous two Superbowls were poles apart in terms of performance, having an uncharacteristic yet successful day against the Seahawks in XL, and a game-winning 256 yard, 93.6 rated day against the Cardinals in the thriller that was Superbowl XLIII. This polarising quality that Roethlisberger displays both on and off the field has been particularly apparent in two particular microcosms against the Jets and the Ravens. Dreadful for one half, great for another, and if he were to put in a performance like the one against the Seahawks against Green Bay on Sunday, the Steelers could very well be in trouble. As the first four games of the season showed, they can survive without Ben, but having him at full-strength makes life a hell of a lot easier.
The figurehead of one of the league’s greatest defensive systems is flaxen-haired Troy Polamalu. With seven interceptions in an injury-blighted season, Polamalu is back, fit and ready to rumble. Superbowl XLIII saw one of the most memorable interceptions in Superbowl history, with the safety intercepting a Kurt Warner pass in his own end-zone, before running it back 97 yards to change the entire momentum of the game going into half-time. Aaron Rodgers began to look shaky after bursting out against the Bears two weeks ago, and if any passes go astray, Polamalu will certainly be around to scoop them up. He is a magnet for the ball, a big-game player and could negate the serious passing threat the Packers possess.
The Steelers Will Win If…
…they can find a way to make Rodgers wobble early on. Considering he’s a relatively young quarterback in his first Superbowl, an early pick or an early roughing-up could see the Steelers take control of the game. Similar mental fortitude will need to be displayed by Roethlisberger in keeping a lead should the Steelers go ahead. They almost let the Seahawks back in in 2006, and the Cardinals were inches away from a fantastic comeback in 2009. After the Jets made everyone in Steel-town nervous two weeks ago, gripping a lead by the scruff of the neck will be vital for Pittsburgh. Finally, variety is required. Whilst Starks and Kuhn have performed for the Packers on the ground in recent weeks, their game remains relatively one-dimensional. If the Steelers can mix it up between the pass and the rush, the Packers will work harder, and a tough Steelers will see the game out.
David Dickson.

NFC Championship Preview – Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears

So here we – championship weekend. And for the first time since 1990, we have a division rivalry game for the NFC championship – the Packers at the Bears. I cant quite believe we’re here already, the season goes far too fast. It does seem to just get better and better the closer you get to the Superbowl though, so strap in this weekend, it’s going to be a screamer. Lets take a look at the NFC side.

Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears

The Green Bay/Chicago rivalry is the longest standing rivalry in the NFL, stretching back to 1921 and after this weekend will stand at 182 games. Honours were even in the regular season, with Chicago winning 20-17 back in September and the Packers getting their revenge (and a ticket to the playoffs) with a scrappy 10-3 win in week 17.

That, of course, will not matter. It is the playoffs after all, whatever we could take from those 2 games about this matchup is ancient history – these are 2 different animals now.

It seems like Green Bay has caught the playoff momentum bug, and they’re looking very tough to stop now. Last week, the Packers brushed aside the Atlanta Falcons (in the Georgia Dome) like they were a fly causing a nuisance. Aaron Rogers was in stunning form, playing what was possibly the best game of his career. Rogers only missed on 5 of his 36 pass attempts and accounted for 4 TDs (3 passing, 1 rushing) in a 48-21 crushing. Rogers definitely seems to have that big game mentality needed for the playoffs. The only thing that kept him from making a longer run in last years post season was being outgunned by the great Kurt Warner.  The big question for the Packers will be if he can maintain that playoff-form going against a Chicago team that knows them very well.

On the Bears side, they must be quite scared as they watch the footage from that Atlanta game, but they will come into this game knowing they have a defence capable of slowing down Rogers & co. What will be vital for Chicago is getting Green Bay’s running game shut down early. Forcing Rogers to pass more doesn’t sound ideal for anyone, but if they can handle the run with their front 4 (defensive line, for those of you still on the jargon learning journey!) and expect the pass, that’ll make life a whole lot easier for them as a defensive unit.

Offensively, the Bears are going to have to be at their absolute best in this game. Jay Cutler has had an up & down year, but the good news is he has got better as the seasons gone on, and last week against the Seahawks he threw for 2 TDs and rushed for 2 more. However, Green Bay, of course, are not the Seahawks. Chicago got the job done last week, but they’re simply going to have to be better this Sunday night.

If its true (and I believe it is) that the Packers offence is at their barnstorming playoff best, then theres every chance this turns into a shootout of the kind we saw last year (Arizona Cardinals & Green Bay Packers), and you just cant shake off the niggling thought that Jay Cutler just wont be able to keep up with that kind of firepower.

Players to Watch

He’s one of our favourite players here at UKNFL. He doesn’t see the ball anywhere near as much as some of your household name running backs (Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, etc) but he’s been a key part of a Packers offence that lost their starting RB in week 1. I am of course talking about fullback, John Kuhn. He’s not your typically explosive player, he’s not going to scamper for a 70 yard TD, but he’s such a workhorse in the Packers offensive lineup that none of that matters. As his leading blocker, it was Kuhn that was largely responsible for James Starks 123 rushing yards against Philadelphia. Last week against the Falcons, he touched the ball 4 times (2 carries, 2 catches). 2 of those touches resulted in touchdowns. When the Packers get within 10 yards of the goal line on Sunday, thats when you watch for him. And its likely that not long after you’ll see our Twitter feed loaded with KUUUUUHHHHNNN hash-tags.

I mentioned earlier about the Bears having to stop the run early, preferably using little more than their D-line. A huge part of this will be Julius Peppers. The perennial pro-bowl defensive end is getting on in years a bit now, but he’s still a vicious edge rusher, and plays the run just as well as he can rush the QB. He may have as big a job as anyone this weekend. If Chicago can eliminate whatever rushing game the Packers want to play, Peppers next task is getting after Aaron Rogers, and if he can shake him up a bit that’ll will greatly increase the chances of a Bears win.

Predictions

This is a really difficult one to call. I just can’t tell which Bears team (more specifically, which Jay Cutler) is going to show up. When it comes down to it, I think the Packers will be too much for the Bears in both the offensive & defensive phases of the game.

Green Bay Packers by 10.

 

Andy Stuart

The Playoffs- Divisional Round- Predictions

Remember last week when Jamie and David told you exactly how the playoffs were going to go? Yeah, about that….. Jamie hit 2 out of 4 (Ravens and Packers) whilst David hit just 1(Ravens). Andy was in another country, unaware of even what games were happening so he gets no points. So this week, rather than looking all the way into the future, here are our predictions for this weeks games.

Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers

David: Steelers

Jamie: Steelers

Andy: Ravens

Green Bay Packers @ Atlanta Falcons

David: Falcons

Jamie: Packers

Andy: Packers

Seattle Seahawks @ Chicago Bears

David: Bears

Jamie: Seahawks (Once bitten….)

Andy: Bears

New York Jets @ New England Patriots

David: Patriots

Jamie: Patriots

Andy: Patriots

So there you have it folks, once again we are ready and prepared to look very foolish come monday morning. Until then be sure to check out our live coverage on twitter (@UKNFL) and stick you predictions for the weekend below.

Divisional Playoffs – AFC Preview

And so, the AFC Divisional games come down to, quite aptly, 2 big division rivalries. Both for the 3rd time this year, the Jets face the Patriots, while the Ravens head to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers.  Throw out any previous numbers or predictions – its the playoffs, its personal, it’s going to grit-your-teeth tight. Buckle up for what could be another couple of hugely entertaining games.

Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers

Saturday 15th, 9:30pm

“I hate playing the Ravens.”

You can’t blame Big Ben Roethlisberger for feeling this way. The Ravens have always been one of those hard nosed defences that QB’s hate to go against. Their defence is dangerous at all 3 levels – D-Line, linebackers & secondary. One ray of hope that Roethlisberger may be clinging to is that there is a chance Ed Reed, the Ravens pick-machine Free Safety, misses this game for personal reasons.

Baltimore arent exactly slouches on the other side of the ball though. While perhaps not explosive, they can certainly put points on the board, and with big time play makers like Ray Rice & Anquan Boldin you can’t simply say they’re a one dimensional team.

Pittsburgh are a team made in the same mold. Their defence is mighty. Their offence compliments the D well enough to win games. Lots of games. Like the Ravens, they have some solid playmakers on the attacking side of the ball, Rashard Mendenhall (1273 rush yards) & Mike Wallace (1257 receiving yards) can feasibly score from anywhere on the field, and you cant take anything away from Big Ben either, especially at this point in the season – He’s won 2 superbowls already, don’t forget.

Despite this, both defences are good enough to stop the offences they are facing. As such, this game is undoubtedly going to be won in the trenches. This one could get nasty.

Ones to watch

Ray Lewis. The 15 year veteran linebacker is quite simply the heartbeat of the Ravens. There are few in the league who match his intensity on the field, and he backs up his talk with consistent play. He’s also one to step up his game in the playoffs. If you’re one of those who finds it difficult to get excited by defensive play, keep an eye on #52. It’s hard not to be fired up by his energy, even through the TV.

Staying on the defensive side of the ball, there may not be a player in the leage who polarises his team as much as Troy Polamalu does for the Steelers. He anticipates the game so well, and it’s for that reason that he is so often able to come up with those game-changing plays – picks, forced fumbles, sacks, etc. You can expect him to leave this game with at least one big number on his stat line. Big Ben may hate playing the Ravens, but I cant imagine Joe Flacco enjoys it too much either when he looks up and see’s Troy lurking.

Prediction

It’s not going to be high scoring. Despite 2 decent offences, it will likely be a defence dominated game. Pittsburgh will be fresher, Baltimore have some good momentum. In truth I think the Steelers are the better team, but I’m going with the Ravens on this one. Not by much though. Baltimore by three.

New York Jets @ New England Patriots

Sunday 16th, 9:30pm

If you’ve been paying attention to the media coverage of this game, you’ll have seen some cracking trash talk. Rex Ryan is always good for it, claiming that this game is all about Rex Ryan vs Bill Belichick and calling out Tom Brady for having poor work ethic (comparatively to Peyton Manning). Pretty bold for a man who’s team was beaten 45-3 last time these teams faced off. Still, you have to love it. Even Antonio Cromartie got in on the action: “Tom Brady? He’s an asshole, f*** him.”

Fun though it is, in reality the Jets have a huge task on there hand if they want to make it to the championship game. The Patriots are undoubtedly the favourites for the Superbowl, and they are playing wonderful football. Brady has had a magnificent season – 3900 yards, 36 TD’s and only 4 INTs. Thats about as close to perfection as it gets in the NFL, and he has this very youthful team working with such efficiency it looks like you’re watching veterans.

The Jets are also a very good team. On paper, they’re probably better than the Patriots at most positions (excluding QB), and I wouldn’t expect a repeat of that week 13 thrashing. They’re going to need all they’ve got to win it though, and I expect the deciding factor will be if Mark Sanchez is in the mood to put up points. We’ve seen a few times this season the Jets offence simply not clicking – Only 9 points against Baltimore, none against the Packers and 6 against Miami. That wont fly against New England, and despite having one of the best defences in the league, I think they’re going to need to put 30 points on the board to upset the Patriots.

Ones to Watch

LaDanian Tomlinson is a vastly experienced back, and has enjoyed a solid return to form with the Jets this year, however, it is his backfield partner, Shonn Greene that could be the game changer in this one. He didn’t put up huge numbers in the regular season while sharing carries with LT, but he exploded in the playoffs last year, and I can see him doing the same again.

For the Patriots, I’m going to be a little more obvious. If you can get past the hair, watching Tom Brady play quarterback is like watching a surgeon at work. He’s made so few errors this season and I expect that form to continue here. Like him or not, you have to appreciate he’s one of the best to play the game and a certain future Hall of Famer. Sit back and enjoy him at work.

Prediction

As I mentioned, the Jets are going to have to be faultless to get by the Patriots in this game. I don’t think they will be. I can see this one getting really personal, and though I think it’ll be quite high scoring (relatively to Ravens – Steelers…), but ultimately Tom Brady will play better than Mark Sanchez. Patriots by 10.

Andy Stuart

The Playoffs- NFC Wildcards

The Passion of the White(hurst)

It’s Playoff Time! It’s RUDDY PLAYOFF TIME. The sleep is getting more deprived, the games more frantic and overtime more complicated. We at UKNFL are upping our coverage for the most important and exciting time of the NFL season with previews and live coverage of every game (as well as some pre-superbowl coverage FOR YOUR EARS), and here we’ll start by looking at the NFC wildcard games this weekend, with an AFC one to follow. (Just as a sidenote, I’ve written a less comprehensive preview of the weekend with some betting tips for Talking Sports here).

The two NFC games this weekend couldn’t come with more different expectations.

New Orleans @ Seattle

Surely, surely this game is no contest. A wilcard team playing a divisional champion. The Champion of one of the most competitive divisions playing the runner up in a division whose winner has looked certain for most of the season, like I said, no contest. I of course jest, despite being lower in the NFC seedings (and hence facing a trip to Seattle) the Saints have won 4 more regular season games (in a far tougher division) than the Seahawks and start this one as heavy favourites.

Despite a stuttering start to year, perhaps a product of the perennial ‘Superbowl Hangover’ (Copyright- Every lazy NFL journalist or writer) the Saints ended the season on fire and were only kept from the top of the NFC South by an astonishing season by the Atlanta Falcons. Drew Brees continues to lead a high-powered offense that has been bolstered this year by running back Chris Ivory, who took on a significant amount of the workload after injuries to Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush. Unfortunately, Ivory and Thomas’s seasons are over following injuries so Heismann Trophy winner (though now stripped of his award) Reggie Bush will need to step up, and will be supported by Julius Jones. Their defense, explosive in it’s turnover-ability last year has taken on a more solid look this term and has stifled opposing offenses, relying less on the spectacular.

The Seahawks on the other hand only secured their playoff place with a turgid win over the St Louis Rams on Sunday night, which put them on top of the NFC Worst (West), becoming the only divisional champions in the league’s history with a losing record (7-9). Charlie Witehurst led the Rams to their weekend way but may be replaced at quarterback by expected starter and 3-time Pro-Bowler (and figure of South Park fun) Matt Hasselbeck. Their running game has struggled all season (putting up the second-least amount of yards in the league), and whilst the defense contained Sam Bradford and the Rams at the weekend, over the rest of the season they have only the 25th best De in terms of points conceded. In fact, only their special teams have stood out, with the side returning 3 kickoffs for touchdowns.

Ones to Watch

For the Saints, well, just about look at anyone on the offensive side on the ball. With a pair of explosive runners, a wide array of recievers they can hurt you in just about any way. The unit is spearheaded by Superbowl MVP Drew Brees, who, despite less impressive numbers than last year, continues to mature, and now has both the experience, and the ring, that a Superbowl win brings. He’s got so many options to hurt you with, it seems impossible to concieve the Seahawks controlling them all. The only way Seattle win this is by Brees having an off-day of the Seahawks finding some improbable way to shut him down.

In Seattle, the brightest spark for them this term has been kick returner and running Leon Washington. In one of the most spectacular performances of the season, Washington returned two kickoffs for touchdowns against the Chargers earlier this season for a total of 200 yards. He remains a threat to give Seattle good field position when he has the ball in his hands. Whilst he has lost all possibilities of carries to Lynch and Forrsett, his explosive nature in special teams means he is one to watch.

Prediction

I do not think it’s too strong to say that only a fool would bet against the Saints in this game, and I am no fool. The Saints look stronger in every department, despite crucial injuries in the running game,  and in reality this game may be over by halftime. Saints by 17.

Green Bay @ Philadelphia

This game looks far tighter to call. Both teams ended the regular season with 10-6 record but due to the Packers being in the same division as the impressive Chicago, and despite beating the Eagles in week 1, Green Bay find themselves as bottom seeds in the NFC, and facing a trip to the 3rd seeded Philadelphia Eagles.

The Eagles started the season with Kevin Kolb as starting QB, but after he was injured in an opening defeat to the Packers, the walking redemption-story Michael Vick came in, and despite a 3-week injury layoff, impressed enough to become the Eagles started. Vick mixes up some impressive deep passing (especially to rapid wide reciver DeSean Jackson) with the kind of speed that would send Wil E Coyote ACME anvil storehouse. Vick, combined with emerging running back Lesean McCoy, has created one of the most exciting and explosive offenses in the league, and, despite losing their last two regular season games, one that will be feared by all 12 teams still in the running. The Eagles weakness this season has been their defense which has only been the 21st in the league in terms of points, and is the worst in the Red-Zone.

Facing them will be a Packers unit with one of the most one-sided offenses in the league. Aaron Rodgers has continued to impress whilst stepping into Brett Favre’s shoes (in a strictly on-the-field sense) but have struggled to run the ball since the early-season injury of starting running back Ryan Grant. This despite the best efforts of full-back and UKNFL favourite John Kuhn, who aside from jumping over half of the league, has chipped in with some useful scores late in the season. Rodgers has carried the Packers, and with targets such as Donald Driver and Greg Jennings, it’s easy to see how this has been successful. The Pack have been even more impressive on the other side of the ball, conceding less points than anyone other than the Pittsburgh Steelers. Previous defensive MVP Charles Woodson has starred whilst contender for this years award Clay Matthews has caused opposing QBs problems all season.

Ones to Watch

For the Eagles, it may be obvious, but Michael Vick, has provided THE story of the NFL season. After serving a prison sentance for, erm, a dog-related crime (no, not THAT sort of dog related crime) Vick has exploded back in his first season as starter and provides such a varied threat that he’s a nightmare for opposing defensive co-ordinators. On one monday night against Washington Vick seemed to beat the team by himself through the air and on the ground and a similar show would dump the Pack out of the playoffs.

Looking to stop Vick, will be Clay Matthews. Aside from having the second best hair in the league (behind Tom ‘heart-throb’ Brady) the second-year linebacker has had a breakout season, gaining 13.5 sacks, as well making 60 tackles and forcing 3 fumbles. Offensive co-ordinators the league over need to come up with gameplans purely to deal with him and the matchup between him and Vick will be key to deciding the outcome of this game.

Prediction

This matchup is so close, both passing attacks are dangerous and whilst the Packers have the defensive edge, the Eagles can outrun them. Ultimately I think the Packers ability to deal with Vick will be crucial and will see them sneak home. Packers by 3.

Whilst the two games look contrasting, it promises to be an exciting weekend in the NFC Wildcards. Both games are well worth a watch and we’ll be covering them live on twitter- @UKNFL. Dave will be here soon with his preview of the AFC matchups.

Jamie Cutteridge