The theme of this weekend's opening round of playoffs could be "Familiarity Breeds Contempt". Each of the four games this weekend feature teams that have played each other frequently over past few seasons.
The Sunday matchups (New York Jets @ New England Patriots and New York Giants @ Philadelphia Eagles) both feature division rivals squaring off against each other for the third time this season, both games feature teams that split their regular season matchups, and in all four of those games the home team lost. That stat notwithstanding, the home teams hold a distinct advantage in each of these games and I expect both New England and Philadelphia to advance.
The Saturday matchups (Kansas City Chiefs @ Indianapolis Colts and Dallas Cowboys @ Seattle Seahawks) feature teams who have faced each other several times over the past few seasons. The Chiefs and Colts have squared off 6 times since 1995 (including two in the playoffs), all six have been in Kansas City, strangely enough, and with the exception of one regular season meeting in 2004, the Colts have won all of them. This year, the home field jinx will be on the other foot and the Chiefs will pull off the upset in Indianapolis
The Cowboys and Seahawks last two meetings have been quite memorable. In 2004 the teams met in Qwest Field on Monday Night in a thriller that featured a last second score by the Cowboys. In 2005, the Seahawks exacted revenge at Qwest Field with a last second Josh Brown FG to win. With these two games as a benchmark, the first postseason meeting between Dallas and Seattle ought to be a thriller. The key matchup here is first year starter Tony Romo vs. the injury depleted Seattle secondary. Ben Roethlisberger notwithstanding, playoff rookies usually falter and I'll take the reigning NFC Champs at home over "the anointed" Tony Romo led Cowboys.
As for our bye week teams; two of them (San Diego Chargers and New Orleans Saints) enter the bye week looking sharp on both sides of the ball and two of them (Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears) enter the bye week with stout defense and some question marks on offense. Of all the teams with the bye, the Chicago Bears are easily the most vulnerable with Rex Grossman posting a zero passer rating against the poor Green Bay defense last week and the once dominant Bear defense looking quite ordinary over the past few weeks.
NOTE: This week, you're
going to hear pundits say over and over and over that "Defense wins Championships".
I've railed against this cliché for years now, and 2006 has, once again,
proven that age-old chestnut to be less-than-accurate. Of the NFL's top five
defenses, exactly two made the playoffs; Baltimore (1) and Chicago (5). Of the
NFL's top five offenses, all five made the playoffs. I'm guessing that's because
it's easier to score with the offense, and scoring points is how you win games.
The Bolts have won ten in a row, went undefeated at home and are the only team with a top ten offense and defense this year which puts them head and shoulders above the rest of the NFL.
A quarterback playing lights out, two homerun threats in the backfield and the deepest WR corps in the NFL make New Orleans the team that nobody wants to face in the NFC.
The offense may not have enough to go all the way, but the defense will keep the Ravens close. One thing is for sure, Steve McNair can win games late in the fourth quarter when given the chance.
Philadelphia has won 5 straight to catapult themselves into the NFC East crown and the number three seed. Momentum is king in the postseason, the Eagles have a whole truckload of it.
The Patriots knocked off the Titans last week, something that the Colts, Giants and Eagles couldn't do. Now let's see if they still have some Playoff magic left in the tank.
Does anyone think giving the inconsistant Rex Grossman a week off is a good thing for the Bears? Me neither.
The Seahawks would have fared better in the rankings if they weren't down three cornerbacks. It remains to be seen if they can overcome yet another injury hurdle.
The Broncos loss on Sunday not only put Kansas City in the playoffs, but matched them up against the woeful Colts run defense. I'll eat my hat if Larry Johnson doesn't get 40 carries this weekend.
Indianapolis will face Larry Johnson in the first round, not the scenario they hoped for. On the other hand, the Colts have eliminated the Chiefs the last two times they've met in the postseason.
Tony Romo may have won the Pro Bowl popularity contest but he still has a lot to prove as far as production is concerned. He can take a huge step forward by beating the Seahawks at Qwest Field.
The Jets are the least talented team in the Playoffs this year, but they are playing with heart and determination, which makes them a very dangerous team, indeed.
The polar opposite of the Jets, the Giants are loaded with talent but have zero heart and determination. Well, other than Tiki Barber, who, in case you've been under a rock the last few weeks, is hanging them up at the conclusion of the season.