Tom Brady and the Pa­tri­ots look to avoid a mas­sive up­set against the Tex­ans

The Globe and Mail (Prairie Edition) - - GLOBE SPORTS -

The top-seeded New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots and Dal­las Cow­boys join the Su­per Bowl tour­na­ment with a golden vet­eran and sur­pris­ing rookie lead­ing their re­spec­tive of­fences into the di­vi­sional round of the play­offs.

The Pa­tri­ots (14-2) play host to the Hous­ton Tex­ans (9-7) on Satur­day favoured by a whop­ping 16 points, but quar­ter­back Tom Brady is tak­ing noth­ing for granted with a trip to the AFC Cham­pi­onship on the line.

“There’s a lot of fo­cus and at­ten­tion and you’re putting a lot of con­cen­tra­tion into each play be­cause you’re not promised next week,” Brady, a four-time Su­per Bowl win­ner, told re­porters about pre­par­ing for the de­fen­sive-minded Tex­ans.

“We have to go earn that,” added Brady, who has been on a mis­sion af­ter miss­ing the first four games of the sea­son on a sus­pen­sion stem­ming from the De­flate­gate flap of two years ago.

Hous­ton will start backup quar­ter­back Brock Osweiler.

Dal­las (13-3), whose suc­cess and pop­u­lar­ity from the 1960s through the 1990s earned them the nick­name of “Amer­ica’s Team,” will rely on a one-two rookie punch of run­ning back Ezekiel El­liott and quar­ter­back Dak Prescott against the Green Bay Pack­ers (10-6) on Sun­day.

“It’s a big game, win or go home,” said Prescott, whose team is favoured by 41⁄ points. “Just be

2 our­selves. Run the ball well, pass the ball well. When it comes to­gether we’re a re­ally tough team.”

The Cow­boys, aim­ing to reach their first Su­per Bowl in 21 years, will pit their bal­anced at­tack and sound de­fence against an aerial show trig­gered by quar­ter­back Aaron Rodgers, whose Pack­ers have won seven straight games.

Rodgers will be with­out top tar­get Jordy Nel­son, side­lined by bro­ken ribs, but even with­out him they outscored the New York Gi­ants 24-7 in the se­cond half of last week’s 38-13 vic­tory.

The Pack­ers-Cow­boys win­ner meets the sur­vivor of Satur­day’s game be­tween the At­lanta Fal- cons (11-5) and Seat­tle Sea­hawks (10-5-1), who are five-point un­der­dogs.

In a game con­trast­ing a po­tent of­fence and a hard-hit­ting de­fence, At­lanta quar­ter­back Matt Ryan will try to pierce a Seat­tle de­fence dubbed “The Le­gion of Boom,” which is miss­ing peren­nial Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas to in­jury.

In a vir­tual toss-up, AFC West cham­pi­ons Kansas City Chiefs (12-4) are one-point favourites against the vis­it­ing Pitts­burgh Steel­ers (11-5) on Sun­day.

The Chiefs de­fence, with a league-lead­ing 33 turnovers, will face two-time Su­per Bowl-win­ning quar­ter­back Ben Roeth­lis­berger.

Roeth­lis­berger, deal­ing with an in­jured right foot, runs an ex­plo­sive at­tack fea­tur­ing run­ning back Le’Veon Bell and re­ceiver An­to­nio Brown.

Cit­ing pub­lic safety con­cerns in the face of a po­ten­tially crip­pling ice storm in Kansas City this week­end, the NFL moved Sun­day’s play­off game at Ar­row­head Sta­dium to an 8:20 p.m. East­ern start.

The league said in a state­ment that chang­ing the game time, which was orig­i­nally 1:05 p.m., would al­low au­thor­i­ties to clear roads and im­prove driv­ing con­di­tions. The worst of the freez­ing rain is ex­pected to start late Satur­day night and con­tinue into Sun­day morn­ing and early af­ter­noon.

Al­though snow­storms in the past have prompted the league to change the site and days of reg­u­lar-sea­son games – the Min­nesota Vik­ings had three games af­fected in 2010 alone – the NFL says it be­lieves this is the first time a post­sea­son game has been shifted since 1932. That year, a bl­iz­zard forced the first play­off game, be­tween the Chicago Bears and the Portsmouth Spar­tans, to move in­doors, to Chicago Sta­dium from Wrigley Field. That game, ac­cord­ing to the Pro Foot­ball Hall of Fame, was played on a field with al­tered di­men­sions – 80 yards long and 10 yards nar­rower.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.