Jan 5, 2008 

Bolts Need To Overcome History, Rivers And Norv


Tennessee is in poor health going into wildcard weekend. Their franchise QB Vince Young is a game-time call and they lost two wideouts this week. 

They beat Indianapolis last week to win the last playoff spot, but struggled against two halves of Jim Sorgi and Indy's second-stringers. To be honest, Cleveland versus San Diego looked far more exciting for an early January Sunday afternoon than the 10-6 Titans.

San Diego is the anti-Tampa of these playoffs. Their marquee screams the names of some of the biggest stars in football. Shawne Merriman and LaDainian Tomlinson. But, are we to guess that their overrated coach, Norv Turner, will be the man who gets San Diego over the playoff hump. They haven't won one since their Super Bowl run of 1994.

If Young can't start or reinjures his leg, backup Kerry Collins isn't such a bad thing. Many times backups are able to confound experts when they enter the game in relief because the opponents hasn't spent practice time on that player.

This is going to be a hard fought game because of numerous errors. San Diego's Philip Rivers does not warm the confident hearts of Charger fans and he might sink even farther in their minds.

Even with Rivers bungling the operation and the Chargers jinx coupled with the coaching of good ol' Norval, the Chargers still have Tomlinson's acute nose for the endzone and should comeback late in the game to win just as they did earlier in the season. CHARGERS 31-26


The Titans are seriously banged up at wide receiver and their starting QB Vince Young is day-to-day.

The Middle Tennessee newspaper takes the pity angle as the Titans are nine-point underdogs

Tennessee haven't won in seven games west of the Rockies since 2002, including five straight in California. San Diego is in Southern California. How unfortunate.


Tomlinson a Titanic defensive obstacle, San Diego Union-Tribune
Tennessee's Keith Bulluck discounted the fear the Titans have in San Diego QB Philip Rivers, but remember LaDainian Tomlinson's 146 yards against them, Dec. 9.

"His stock with Chargers fans selling most days somewhere between Ryan Leaf and Craig Whelihan", that pretty much illustrates the inconsistent play of Philip Rivers. He might not win the game by himself, but he could possibly lose it.

The Dec. 9 battle between these two teams was torrid affair. San Diego came back in the fourth quarter to beat Tennessee 23-17 in overtime. But a hit by Shawne Merriman on Vince Young is still being discussed.

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N.Y. Linemen Hold The Key To Beating The Bucs


Forget that the Buccaneers took the last game and a half off and finished 9-7 to get healthy. Tampa is the weakest team in the NFC playoffs. The team isn't built with stars, so the health and cohesion of this team is very important. 

There quarterback has a bad back, they have a running back nobody's ever heard about and their defense is undersized, or, to be nice; "speedy".

Tampa couldn't have picked a worst team, matchup-wise, than the Giants. It's hard to beat a team that is superior on both the offensive and defensive lines. 

On top of that, New York's Brandon Jacobs looms large in whether this game is a cake walk or a nail-biter. It's hard to imagine the hulking Jacobs not wearing down a Tampa defensive line that features a pair of linemen tipping the scales at less than 300 pounds.

Jon Gruden should have known better than to let up during the last two games of the season. There's something called momentum that a team under-experienced and lacking amazing talent needs in the postseason.

Undoubtedly, the Florida press is going to skewer Gruden for this decision after they fall in the playoffs. GIANTS 31-19.


Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will be coaching in his first playoff game. His unit is ranked seventh in the NFL and the players love him.

Not every quarterback can be like Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger. It took Peyton Manning four tries to win his first playoff game and papa Archie never made the postseason, so lay off Peyton's baby brother.

Jacobs is Bucs' worst nightmare, New Jersey Star-Ledger
The undersized Tampa defensive line could have major problems with the grinding running back Brandon Jacobs. As the article points out big back whittle small defensive down by the fourth quarter.


Bucs QB Jeff Garcia has beaten the Giants in two previous playoff matchups, including the momumental meltdown the G-Men endured against San Francisco in 2003.

Bucs Take Risky Approach in Build-Up to Playoffs, Miami Herald
Will Jon Gruden's Bucs suffer from resting regulars and losing the last two games of the regular season? Will there be a Giants letdown from fighting hard against New England in week 17?

Giant Threat, Bradenton Herald
New York's defensive line is strong and creative. Of there 53 sacks this season, 37 came from the front line. Can the young Tampa offensive line protect Jeff Garcia and make space for Earnest Graham.

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Jan 4, 2008 

Steelers Look To Return The Jags Favor


The boutique upset pick is Jacksonville over Pittsburgh. Is it really an upset? Las Vegas doesn't think so. It has the Jags by two points on the road.

The Steelers can't feature the run as they usually do this time of the year, but they can still get production from Najeh Davenport or whomever is left standing.

Can Ben Roethlisberger find Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes. Ward is clutch and there is no reason to believe he won't figure in some back-breaking first down late in the game.

The Jaguars have reason to be feared by the rest of the AFC. There defense is ferocious and as quick as their namesake, but can the offense led by David Garrard lift this team to the next round? The answer is less than a sure thing.

That Garrard threw only three interceptions a result of pin-point accuracy and decision-making or a deliberately safe offensive gameplan. What happens if the Jags are trailing by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter? Will he put the ball up for grabs or lead a comeback. It's a lot to ask of a quarterback who is steady, but virtually a system quarterback.

Boutique picks usually falter and the Steelers should avenge a poor performance against Jacksonville last month with a tough fought victory at chilly Heinz Field. STEELERS 17-9.


A bit presumtious since they still have to beat Pittsburgh at Heinz Field. Jacksonville's running game seems to be the main reason why so many think they can beat New England, but Pittsburgh was effective in stopping the run in the regular season.

Recasting the Rematch, Florida Times-Union
What will be different from last month's thrashing of the Steelers by the Jags? The weather will be better, but still cold. Steelers defensive coordinator, Dick LeBeau, will have a second try at stopping the Jags and Pitt has never lost two games at home to any team, ever.

New Role: Fear Factor, Florida Times-Union
Two years ago, the Jags were 12-4 and playoff punching bags. This year they're favored on the road in Pittsburgh and the team everyone wants to avoid. How did they get there? Better players, of course.


Meet the third-string tackle entrusted to protect Ben Roethlisberger's blind side against Jacksonville. Coach Mike Tomlin will "schematically" help Trai Essex. Sounds like trouble.

Steelers fill gaps on run defense, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
The league's number one defense has given up 494 rushing yards during the past three games. Is it just a lack of "gap integrity" or a harbinger of bad things to come Saturday night?

Don't forget Ben Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh is the bastion of physical running football, but this time around Big Ben and Hines Ward might have to lead them to the divisional round.

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Which Wildcard Will Emerge in Seattle?


The Seattle Times called the Seahawks chances as truly a wildcard, but this entire match-up is one.

Do you go with Washington and pin your chances on a journeyman comeback that seemingly sold his soul to the Devil and a team that's own strong safety is presumably in Heaven?

And which Seahawks team can we expect in the wintry and deafening Northwest? One looking to go all Air Coryell on the Redskins or one that surprises everyone and reverts to a power running game with Shaun Alexander?

Many loathe any inclusion of the 12th Man scenario, but sadly, this game may hinge on the raucous Qwest Field crowd making things difficult for Redskins QB Todd Collins. There's also a 13th Man involved--the weather, making a strong rushing game a priority.

The Skins had the league's fourth-best defense against the run and that should help them. These are the playoffs, though, and unless there a stronger factors than pure emotion and two even clubs, take the team with the overwhelming home-field advantage. SEAHAWKS 24-21.

The Skins may be riding the hot hand of Todd Collins, but the death of Sean Taylor solidified this team down the stretch.

Collins's Perfect Timing, Washington Post
He's been amazing off then bench for a coach famous for winning Super Bowl rings with second-stringers. But, c'mon. He's just like Peyton Manning? Really, Santana Moss! Also, speculation that injured QB Jason Campbell could play later in the playoff could be useful.

Substraction by Division, Washington Post
The great Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post is definitely writing with hometown 'Skins pompoms on, but he makes some interesting points. One, the Seahawks haven't played .500 team since week one. Second, they play in a weak division.


After dropping to 4-4 with a loss against Cleveland, Mike Holmgren said, "I'm going back to my roots." That meant throwing the ball at will. They made the playoffs, but don't discount that the lack of a running game made the switch necessary.

Despite what everyone says about the pass-first Seahawks they actually utilized their ground game statistically more than their opponents.

The Seahawks as an enigma. Columnist Jerry Brewer offers a less than glowing preview of Seattle's chances. At least, they're in playoffs?

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