Sportspinion: beating the Patriots

It’s NFL playoff time. An exciting time when the regular season is behind us, where every game is a clean slate and the only thing that matters is winning. Wild card weekend did not disappoint after some big upsets and close finishes last Saturday. It was certainly wild with the elimination of both of last year’s Super Bowl teams the Colts and the Saints. More surprises may come, but favourites like the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots could prove hard to beat.

The Seahawks stunned the defending Super Bowl champions 41-36 in the NFC Wild Card game on Saturday. The Seattle Seahawks went into the playoffs with an unimpressive 7-9 record, but surprised the Saints with an impressive performance by quarterback Matt Hasslbeck. A solid Seahawks offensive line allowed them to defeat the fourth-ranked defence of the Saints. The Seahawks will now face the Chicago Bears in the NFC divisional playoffs next Sunday.

Last weekend we saw an impressive performance by the Baltimore Ravens in their 30-7 defeat of Kansas City. Baltimore’s defence forced five turnovers and quarterback Joe Flacco completed two touchdown passes helping them to the win. The Ravens will play their AFC north rival the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday. The Ravens look like definite contenders with their always solid defence and an offence that is finally looking like it’s capable of challenging playoff competition.

Wild Card weekend can tell us a few key things about next weekend and the possible Super Bowl contenders. The favourite team going into the playoffs is the New England Patriots, who have put in an impressive display of eight consecutive wins with substantial margins of victory. The Patriots are once again looking like they are in championship form. They may be without all the big name players, but they have a valuable weapon in franchise quarterback Tom Brady and in the playoffs the quarterback is key. Though they don’t possess big name offensive stars such as Randy Moss, they added veteran depth, saw rookie players step up and gained offensive players ranging from tight ends to running backs.

So the big questions on everyone’s mind is who can defeat the New England Patriots? Is it possible? Do any other teams stand a chance? And how does one go about beating the Patriots? These are the questions that the other seven remaining playoff teams hope they can answer.

Key to defeating the Patriots is their defensive weaknesses — though New England’s defence is smart and pragmatic there are holes in the Patriots’ defence, ranked 25th overall in the league. Any team wishing to have a chance of defeating the well-coached, smart and pragmatic Patriots will have to be patient when figuring out their defensive weaknesses and capitalizing on them. This is something the New York Jets hope to do when they play the Patriots on Sunday. The other major key is offensive production. When you are playing Tom Brady and his offence, you must score points to stand any chance of staying in the game. The key for any team hoping to beat the Patriots is to hold onto the ball, use the running game, wear out the defence, score, and most importantly, keep Brady off the field.

Wild card weekend showed that the playoffs are a whole new ball game, that regular season records don’t matter and that anything can happen. The Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets, Green Bay Packers and other teams that have survived the first round of the playoffs they will have to show that they have what it takes in order to take on division favourites including the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots. Teams like the Patriots do not lose the game by making mistakes, they must be beaten. This will take smart football. We will see which teams have it in them and who is going home next weekend. Stay tuned during the playoffs anything can happen.

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