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NFL playoffs: Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints eye glory

The Sport Review's Iarla Duignan returns to take a look at all the latest news from across the pond

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Superbowl champion lies in the NFC

Too many questions remain for the teams in the AFC to have a clear favourite in the conference. Injuries and inconsistencies have plagued all the teams throughout the season.

The New England Patriots have the best record and have the experience of winning multiple Superbowl championships in their ranks. However, they did not defeat a single team with a winning record this season – a record that will obviously have to change in the playoffs.

The Baltimore Ravens have been inconsistent all year, losing to four teams that missed the playoffs and they have gotten inconsistent play from their offense, led by quarterback Joe Flacco.

Injuries have plagued the Houston Texans all season and lost both their first and second-string Quarterbacks, along with missing their best player on both defence and offense in Mario Williams and Andre Johnson. As a result, they have lost their last three games and will probably not have enough in the playoffs.

Injuries are also starting to sneak up on the ever-dangerous Pittsburgh Steelers and their Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger isn’t at 100 per cent.

Despite defying the critics and performing admirably, this season may be too soon for miracle-maker Tim Tebow and rookie Andy Dalton and their respective teams Denver Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals.

The two best teams appear to be in the NFC, Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints. Both teams have been near flawless this season and despite the odd hiccup, have steam-rolled the opposition. They sport the two best players in the league this season, in Quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees.

Assuming they will negotiate the teams in between, they will meet in the NFC Championship Game and it may be the biggest game of the year. It will be a must-see game as the points will be piled in what is likely to be a shoot-out. They met in the first game of the season back in September and it did not disappoint as the game came down to the last play when running back Mark Ingram was stopped by the Packers defence on the 1-yard line as the Superbowl Champions held on for a 42-34 victory.

It may not the showpiece event of the season, but the NFC Championship Game may determine the Champion in the NFL.

Offense wins championships

The saying ‘defence wins championships’ may no longer ring true in the NFL. Due to rule changes, it has become increasingly hard to stop a high power offense. As a result quarterback’s numbers are on the rise: Matthew Stafford, Tom Brady and Drew Brees all surpassed 5000 passing yards this season, a plateau reached only twice before this season in the history of the game. If Aaron Rodgers had not been rested in the last game of the season, he would have likely made it four. Added to that, three quarterbacks surpassed 40 touchdown passes on the year, a feat accomplished by only five players before this year.

In the past, a good defence was necessary for a team to compete, to stop the offence at crucial times. The Baltimore Ravens won the Superbowl in 2001 with a defence that carried a limited offense to victory. With the defensive restrictions in place, we may never see a team win with that philosophy again. The number one seeds in both conferences, the New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers, have the two worst ranked defences in the league, giving up over 400 yards a game. Both teams are scoring over 30 points a game and have overwhelmed teams with all their attacking weapons.

This is not to dismiss the defence completely, the Packers rely on timely plays from their defensive playmakers, such as Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews, to create turnovers and stop other teams to get the ball back in Rodgers hands. Five of the twelve playoff teams are in the top ten for points allowed per game, so defence can still win games, but the question remains; will they be able to stop the high-powered offences they will face in the playoffs?

Injuries are piling up in the NBA

There was a worry when the lockout ended that a short pre-season and a schedule in which teams have to play every second game that players would pick up injuries. Just two weeks into the season, the fears appear to be materialising as stars are picking up injuries on a regular basis.

Miami Heat’s star duo of Lebron James and Dwyane Wade became the latest casualties as they sat out Thursday night’s victory over the Atlanta Hawks.

Manu Ginobili and Zach Randolph have picked up long-term injuries that will hamper their teams, who both have playoff ambitions. Stephen Curry, Eric Gordon, Kobe Bryant, Jason Kidd and Brook Lopez have also picked up injuries in this young season.

Let’s hope the injuries don’t continue to mount up, or else they could hinder a season that promises a lot.

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