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NFL Divisonal Round Notes

January 12, 2012

The city of Baltimore hosted the first divisional round playoff game after the AFC/NFC configuration was implemented in 1970. With John Unitas (once called “Yoonitass” by Bennett Cerf on the great television show, “What’s My Line”) at quarterback, The Baltimore Colts defeated the Cincinnati Bengals in that game en route to a Super Bowl triumph. When The Baltimore Ravens take the field to play the Houston Texans in the earlier Sunday game this week, 165 divisional games will have been played without the city of Baltimore hosting a winning game for their team. Since that first divisional game, The Colts lost divisional home games vs Pittsburgh in 1976 and Oakland in 1977. The Ravens lost a home divisional playoff game to the Indianapolis Colts in 2006. The Colts went on to win the Super Bowl. The Ravens, whose records really should include those of the Cleveland Browns, have played 11 of their 13 non Super Bowl playoff games on the road. They are (2-4) in divisional round games, which includes a win at Tennessee en route to their Super Bowl win after the 2000 season. Meanwhile the Houston Texans are in just their 2nd playoff game, the first was last week.

The finale of the divisional weekend takes place in Green Bay as the defending Super Bowl Champion Packers, who are 15-1 meet the (9-7, regular season) but ever dangerous (see the 2007 season when they won 3 road playoff games and then beat undefeated New England in the Super Bowl), New York Giants. Fifty years earlier these two teams met at the same field (then I believe still called City Stadium and now named Lambeau Field after Packers’ legend Curly Lambeau) and Green Bay under coach Vince Lombardi and with star running back Paul Hornung granted a weekend pass from the Army Reserves by President John Kennedy, eased to a 37-0 victory. The next year, Jerry Kramer kicked 3 field goals to provide the difference as The Packers won 16-7 on a bitterly cold day at Yankee Stadium. A third field goal attempt, this one successful unlike the first two potential game winners by current  Giants placekicker Lawrence Tynes, lifted the Giants to an overtime triumph at Green Bay in the 2007 NFC Title game. As cited above, The Giants went on to win the Super Bowl. Green Bay won the NFL Championship Game vs the Giants in both 1939 and 1944, while The Giants prevailed in the 1938 game. The Packers are hosting a divisional round game for only the 4th time. They won the previous three and are (5-6) in the divisional round playoffs. The Giants are(4-5) in this round, (1-4) on the road. The winner of the Giants’ divisional round game has gone on to win the Super Bowl six times. The Giants have done so three times (1986,1990 and 2007) while the 49ers twice (1981 and 1984) and The Bears in 1985 also went on to win it all after  beating the Giants in the divisional round.

When Bill Belichick and John Fox meet in Saturday night’s playoff game, I believe it will be only the second time that coaches who met in a Super Bowl(Belichick’s Pats won by 3 points vs Fox’ Carolina Panthers in the 2003 season Super Bowl) will be meeting in the divisional round playoffs. The other time George Seifert’s team, the Niners again beat Dan Reeves team, this time the Giants in the 1993 divisional round. Seifert’s Niners beat Reeves’ Broncos in the 1989 season Super Bowl. Fox’ current team is the Denver Broncos. Finally early in Alabama University’s easy BCS Title game win vs LSU,  I noticed Alabama had a player named Hanks (Darius Hanks ,who had receptions of 9 yards or more on four of the 5 Alabama field goal drives). Recall Tom Hanks’ as Forrest Gump played for a coach who was undeniably supposed to be Bear Bryant at Alabama in the movie. Truth, fiction, notes and enjoy the games.

Andy B

Johnny "Yoonitass" Unitas

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