Rich Tandler's five thoughts possibly related to the Washington Redskins and other matters:
5. Although the Patriots are one of the best teams in the NFL, their path to the AFC title game has been highly suspect. They went the whole year, including the playoffs, without beating a team that finished with a winning record. Their defense ranked 31st in the NFL. They are a one-trick pony although that trick is pretty impressive with Brady throwing to Gronkowski and Hernandez and Welker. The Ravens have played nine games against teams that finished with a winning record and they went 8-1. Their offense is middle of the road but they were 15th in yards and 12th in points. That ranking is due at least in part to the difficult slate they faced. I’m going to say that Baltimore finds a way to contain Gronk and heads to Indianapolis (presumably not in Mayflower moving trucks). Ravens 24, Patriots 21
4. They’re saying that the Giants are the hot team in the playoffs but the last time I checked the 49ers also have won four in a row. While New York’s defensive front four may be the single strongest unit in the game, I’d take the Niners’ defense from front to back in a heartbeat. I’m certainly on the offense can win championships bandwagon but I think that the 49ers have enough offense and the better defense and that will give them the win today. 49ers 19, Giants 14
3. Earlier this week in this space I mentioned that there were some issues with 49ers fans crossing the line from good-natured ribbing of Saints fans at last week’s playoff game at Candlestick Park to harassment via screamed threats and obscenities. The police have come up with a clever plan to do something about it. They will have undercover cops dressed as Giants fans and they will be slapping the cuffs on Niners fans who cross the line. They also will have additional security cameras and security in the stands. Kudos to the San Francisco police for responding to what happened last week.
2. It appears that the Redskins coaching staff will go to the Senior Bowl short a couple of coaches but it probably won’t be a problem. I figure that former Bills linebacker Jim Haslett will have no problem coaching the LB’s in place of Lou Spanos, who has left to become UCLA’s defensive coordinator. And Kyle Shanahan, who played wide receiver at Texas, will fill in for the departed Keenan McCardell coaching the receivers. There isn’t a lot to coordinate in these all-star games; the rules and short preparation time keep the schemes very vanilla on both sides of the ball.
1. The NFL is holding voting for its play of the year. One of the 20 plays nominated is Roy Helu hurdling a hapless Seahawk on the way to a 28-yard touchdown run. And it’s OK if you don’t want to be a homer and you want to vote for, say, the Bengals’ Jerome Simpson’s head-over-heels touchdown leap. You can rank the top 10 plays so that you can put Helu’s jaw-dropping run in its proper place.