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After the first weekend of the playoffs, the Final 12 have been whittled down to 8, and the postseason drama is just beginning to heat up. It's win or go home, and now the top 2 teams in each conference (including the Only Team To Go 16-0 In The Regular Season™) join the fun on the road to the Super Bowl... But you don't have to wait until Saturday and Sunday to take in these compelling showdowns -- I'm going to run a COM-vs-COM sim of every matchup ahead of time using Tecmo Super Bowl, to give you the 8-bit lowdown on which teams will survive to play again and which teams will be starting their vacations early.
But first, a few things I wanted to point out:
- For all of those who have been asking, the basic version of the rosters I'm using can be found here, and you need an emulator to play the ROM, so pick up Nestopia here.
- Again, thanks be to Greg the Ex-'Burgher, for originally doing something like this two years ago, and for introducing me to the wonderful world of the TSB Repository.
- Also, special shout-outs to Deadspin and The Globe for continually linking to these vids and articles -- it's nice to know people are enjoying the sims!
- Finally, feel free to point out any roster flaws you see, so that I can fix them before the next batch of games. For instance, someone pointed out last week that I (incorrectly) had Mike Carney as Jacksonville's kicker, so now the Jaguars are back to having Josh Scobee at K. Little things like that really make the game more enjoyable to me (and, hopefully, the viewers), so please keep letting me know if I've made a roster mistake.
Okay, now we can discuss the games. Last time around, Tecmo bounced back nicely from a poor showing in Week 17 to pick 3 of the 4 Wild Card games correctly, and I think it's going to do a similar job this weekend. As usual, for each game I'll tell you what Tecmo's simulated score was, and also what I think the outcome will be -- but I make no guarantees as to the accuracy of either. Accompanying each game is the "Matchup Breakdown" chart, which is based on a percentile ranking of each team using Football Outsiders' DVOA metric -- remember, it is a measure of a team's real-life strengths and weaknesses, and has nothing to do with Tecmo per se. But I thought it would be cool to include nonetheless. Enjoy the games, people!
GAME OF THE WEEK: Jacksonville vs. New England
First HalfSecond Half (Note: I have no clue why Jacksonville's uniforms are red and yellow. I like to think that they found some old Joe Montana-era 49ers unis and decided to sport them for some good playoff luck. Whatever the reason, it worked for them last week!) Game Summary: After a two-week layoff, the undefeated New England Patriots returned to action against the upstart Jacksonville Jaguars with an AFC Championship Game appearance on the line. Jacksonville, with their power running game and mistake-free aerial attack, seemed custom-built to defeat the mighty Patriots, and they had passed their first tough playoff test against Pittsburgh a week earlier. Still, the Pats immediately thwarted the Jaguars' plan to play mistake-free football when Rodney Harrison picked off David Garrard on Jacksonville's second offensive play, an INT that would eventually set up a Patriots field goal. Garrard struck back quickly, though, connecting with Dennis Northcutt to give JAX the lead at the end of the 1st quarter. The 2nd quarter was full of mistakes (Tom Brady lost a fumble and Garrard was picked twice more by Harrison), but featured one big offensive play -- a huge Brady-to-Randy Moss TD that put New England up 10-7 at the half. On the first drive of the 3rd, the Pats used a big run by Laurence Maroney to set up another Stephen Gostkowski FG, making the score 13-7. On the ensuing drive, Garrard made a daring escape from pressure in his own end zone, sparking a long Jacksonville march downfield that ended with Maurice Jones-Drew running it in to give the Jags a 14-13 lead. But the Patriots proved once again that their talent is only matched by their resiliency, as Brady led the team down the field to set up a go-ahead FG by Gostkowski. Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio decided to punt on the next drive, hoping that his defense could give them the ball again with time enough to score, but a Patriot first down meant the Jaguars' last hope was a punt return with 0:31 left in the game. Northcutt took the kick, motored upfield and shed several tacklers, but was tracked down before he could score, and the game was over. The Patriots didn't win pretty -- as has often been the case in the season's second half -- but they made the plays when they had to, and advance to the AFC title game. 16-14 Patriots, final score. My Prediction: New England 31, Jacksonville 17. San Diego vs. Indianapolis First Half Second Half Game Summary: Indianapolis was heavily favored going into this matchup, but with Marvin Harrison still limited by a knee injury, the Colts came out of the gates sluggish on both sides of the ball, settled for too many field goals in the red zone, and were dispatched by the Chargers fairly handily in a game that wasn't as close as the final score would suggest. On San Diego's side, their defense hassled Peyton Manning constantly, never giving him time to throw, and forced an INT early in the game that allowed the Chargers to go up 14-0. Meanwhile, LaDainian Tomlinson looked like the second coming of Bo Jackson, racking up 87 yards on only 9 carries to go with 3 total touchdowns, and Philip Rivers limited his mistakes and threw 2 TDs. Next week, San Diego will face New England in the AFC Championship Game, a rematch of last year's ultra-close Divisional game (which the Pats won 24-21). 28-20 Chargers, final score. My Prediction: Indy 28, San Diego 24. NY Giants vs. Dallas First Half Second Half Game Summary: The Giants, coming off of an upset win at Tampa Bay in the Wild Card round, looked to continue their momentum against the Dallas Cowboys at Texas Stadium... And they're still looking. Just like the other two times these teams faced each other this season, the Cowboys broke the game open in the second half en route to a decisive victory. Unlike the previous two matchups, though, Dallas did it on the ground, racking up 198 rushing yards (153 by Marion Barber III) and four rushing touchdowns. Embattled Giants QB Eli Manning played almost as well as he had in New York's November 11 game against Dallas (3 TD, 1 INT), but the result was the same in both outings -- a Giants loss. 40-21 Cowboys, final score. My Prediction: Dallas 31, New York 21. Seattle vs. Green Bay First Half Second Half Game Summary: It's rare for Tecmo to produce an unmitigated red-assed beatdown in a COM-vs-COM simulation, but that's exactly what you had in the Green Bay-Seattle matchup. In a portent of things to come, Charles Woodson and Aaron Rouse intercepted Matt Hasselbeck on the Seahawks' first and second drives, respectively, and it would definitely be that kind of day for Hasselbeck... He was picked off three times and only completed 40% of his passes for 85 yards, numbers that are completely understandable when you realize what kind of pressure he was under -- he was sacked 10 times, an astronomical number for a non-lurching COM-vs-COM sim in Tecmo, and hurried on countless other occasions. Meanwhile, Brett Favre added to his legacy with an outstanding game (258 yards, 3 TD), and Greg Jennings added 118 receiving yards in the win. The victory gives Green Bay their first NFC Championship Game appearance since the 1997 season, and sets up a rematch of the 1995-96 NFC title game. 37-6 Packers, final score. My Prediction: Green Bay 27, Seattle 17.