Lost Momentum Heading Into The Playoffs?

When teams lose heading into the playoffs, sometimes it's a very bad sign. Other times, it makes no difference. What about these teams...

Arizona, Cincinnati and Philadelphia were all steamrolled last Sunday by teams they will face in the first round of the playoffs this weekend. The Cardinals rested many starters, the Bengals rested some and Eagles fans can only hope their team played it close to the vest.

What they must do to reverse those outcomes varies widely.

Arizona is the only one of the three that can truly claim last weekend's game didn't prove anything. Quarterback Kurt Warner made only a token appearance and several key players were on the bench early, although coach Ken Whisenhunt has come under criticism for having wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin playing into the second half - with Boldin suffering an ankle injury.

The Cardinals featured a vanilla gameplan on both sides of the ball that was carried out primarily by backups. When they hit the field Sunday they'll have Warner flinging the ball out of a lot of spread formations and defensive coordinator Bill Davis will be firing off his blitz packages.

The Bengals can claim last Sunday's thumping at the hands of the Jets didn't mean much because the gameplan was simplified and players such as Cedric Benson and Robert Geathers didn't play. But they still have to be concerned by the way the Jets' manhandled them in the trenches on both sides of the ball. And with Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis largely negating Chad Ochocinco, quarterback Carson Palmer is going to have to prove he can complete downfield passes to someone else.

The Eagles have no excuse for their shutout loss in Dallas, other than the fact they got away from the running game far too early and let the Cowboys' pass rush take over. But Philadelphia's front seven was no match for Dallas' ground game, and the Cowboys will again attempt to dominate time of possession and create easy play-action situations for quarterback Tony Romo.

The Cowboys' defense has struggle in deep coverage at times this season, but Eagles coach Andy Reid must find better balance - to help his offensive line and to protect the defense from spending so much time on the field again.


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