Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Sports

January 2, 2013

NFL: All 12 playoff teams have flaws to fix

(Continued)

NFC:

—Atlanta: Ground(ed) game. The Falcons earned the top seed in the NFC despite ranking 29th running the ball. They made up for that lack of success and a 23rd-ranked defense thanks to QB Matt Ryan, who threw for 4,719 yards and 34 TDs even with spotty protection. Their loss to Tampa on Sunday, though, snapped an 11-game home winning streak.

"We really thought we were going to pull it off," cornerback Asante Samuel said. "But we have bigger fish to fry."

—San Francisco: The 49ers' kicking game is suddenly a big question mark for the two-time defending NFC West champions after David Akers' prolonged funk a year after his near-perfect season. Akers was just 29 for 42 this season and found himself in a competition with Billy Cundiff this week to see who will be kicking in the playoffs.

"Kickers go through, at times, slumps. You see a guy go through it and sometimes he'll come out of it quickly and sometimes it lingers a little bit," coach Jim Harbaugh said.

—Green Bay: The Packers also have problems putting the ball through the uprights, but coach Mike McCarthy has steadfastly stuck with Mason Crosby, who was a less-than-impressive 21 for 33 this season. During one stretch he missed 12 of 24, including all seven tries from 50 yards or longer. But he has made his last four, including two from 50-plus.

"These last two weeks I've been putting them through the uprights and that's what I've got to keep doing," Crosby said.

—Washington: The Redskins' bend-but-don't-break defense has been bowing so much it's bound to snap, right? Opponents converted third downs an NFL-high 44.2 percent of the time against the Redskins, who finished 28th in total defense and 30th in pass defense and had to rely on Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris to make up for all these defensive doldrums.

"We're good enough, right?" defensive tackle Barry Cofield said. "Good enough to get to the playoffs. Good enough to win seven games in a row."

—Seattle: The Seahawks were the only team in the league to go 8-0 at home. The problem is they're hitting the road in the playoffs, where they were 3-5. They won't have their ear-piercing crowd nor will they have history on their side Sunday at Washington. The Seahawks haven't won a road playoff game since upsetting Dan Marino in Miami after the '83 season.

"If you want to be a good team you definitely got to be able to win on the road," pass-rusher Red Bryant said.

—Minnesota: Yes, the Vikings have Adrian Peterson, but their passing game is putrid. They were next-to-last in the league in total yards passing and in yards per pass attempt, and until Christian Ponder completed a 65-yard pass on Sunday, they had just one completion longer than 45 yards all season, a 54-yarder on Nov. 11 against Detroit.

"He's definitely playing more consistent," Peterson said of Ponder. "He's playing faster football, not thinking as much as much."

When it's all said and done, one team will be left standing and celebrating, warts and all.

 

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