Saturday Playoff Previews

Steve O Speak

Running to Victory:

The Jets and Bengals will meet up for the 2nd straight week, though this time the Bengals will the home team, and will hope for a different result. Last week they got absolutely demolished 37-0. Now the most ardent Bengals fan will tell you that they played a ‘vanilla’ game and they rested their starters in the 2nd half. What they forget to mention is that Carson Palmer has had some bad performances in recent weeks (even if you excuse Sunday night’s debacle) against the Browns, Vikings and Chiefs. Now you can understand Vikings game, they were on the road, and Minnesota is a pretty good team. But struggling against the Browns and Chiefs is a bit more problematic, those are the two worst teams in the AFC this season (they also lost to Oakland earlier this year). What’s more, is it wasn’t just Palmer who has struggled some, their running game has come to a halt of late, and their defense isn’t dominating like it did earlier in the year. The one saving grace for the Bengals is they face the New York Jets and rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez.

One dimensional doesn’t even describe the Jets offense right now, as all they truly do is run the football (the only positive is you know you can run some play-action passes against the Bengals today). While we’ve seen our fair share of run-oriented teams with a strong defense make the playoffs in recent years, and the Ravens, Steelers (in 2005), and Bears all went to the Super Bowl, none of them compare to the Jets this season. Mark Sanchez has a bright future, and may one day end up being a franchise quarterback. That day won’t be today, as the Jets know the more passes Sanchez attempts the lower the teams chances of winning are. And it wouldn’t shock me in the least if Wildcat quarterback Brad Smith dusted off the old arm and put the ball in the air a few times.

The fact is I don’t think the Jets will need to throw the ball too many times, as I see their running game having no problems carrying the load today against the Bengals. The Bengals defense has fallen off as the season has worn on, and the Jets have too many weapons running the ball with Thomas Jones, Shonn Greene, and Brad Smith all figuring to get their share of carries. The Jets also have one of the league’s best offensive lines, who have opened up big holes all season for Jets’ runners. With that kind of ground game, I think the Jets will call a couple play-action passes and a few screens to keep the defense somewhat honest. Outside of that I think New York will keep on running it until the Bengals show they can stop it.

It will be up to the Jets defense to keep the Bengals from scoring and give the offense some short fields to work with. I see their defense having no trouble either task. The Jets were first in the league in points allowed, total yards and passing yards (thank you Darrelle Revis). Their rush defense was 8th and quite a force as well. To see just how dominate the Jets passing defense was, one only needs to look at this stat: The New York Jets had the 31st ranked passing offense (in terms of yards) yet in 10 out of their 16 games had the top passer of the game (Sanchez 9 times, Clemens once). Of the 6 games where they didn’t have the top passer (solely in terms of yards, not interceptions) the QB’s that beat them were Brady twice, Brees, Henne, Garrard and Manning. That is pretty impressive considering only Brady threw for over 300 yards (in the 2nd game) and in the first game against Brady he had bad overall numbers just enough yards over Sanchez. I think the Jets defense puts up another great performance and shuts down the Bengals 24-13.

By Fanspeak Contributing Writer Geoff Nelowet:

Can Tony Romo Finally Win a Playoff Game?

Not only is this an NFC East divisional rivalry, but also this is a rematch of just last week’s meeting. Dallas trounced Philly 24-0 at home days ago, and it culminated in a season sweep over the Eagles. Last weekend’s contest determined the winner of the NFC East, and gave Dallas home field for the opening round of the playoffs.

The Cowboys have been up-and-down this season, and they have been a bit unpredictable, but they are a talented group that has come together at the right time. The Cowboys finished the season beating New Orleans, Washington and then Philly when many people had written them, as they had collapsed late in the season so many times before.

Unfortunately for the Cowboys, there is still plenty of time left to collapse, and Tony Romo is still working on his first playoff victory. Should the Cowboys lose, there will be a lot of talk of Romo’s inability to pull out wins in the playoffs, which may be unfair and results-oriented, but that is criticism that comes with being a quarterback.

With that in mind, this is arguably Romo’s biggest game as a pro. He is going up against a team that he has already taken down twice this season. He beat the Eagles only a few days ago, and this playoff game is essentially a replay. The only difference is that it is the first game of the playoff tournament, and anyone that thought Romo was incapable of carrying a team in the playoffs will now have much more ammunition if the Cowboys lose.

If it has not been made clear yet, the Cowboys losing to the Eagles is a definite possibility. The Eagles have one of the most talented offensive teams in the NFL, and when Donovan McNabb connects on his deep plays – mainly to DeSean Jackson – they are virtually unstoppable. The Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints, are waiting for the winner of this game, will most likely be rooting against the Eagles because they are team nobody wants to face – even the Cowboys.

The Eagles will avenge both losses earlier this season, and they will hand Dallas yet another devastating and frustrating playoff loss that will re-open the “Romo can’t win in the playoffs” talk. Final score: Philly 30 Dallas 21

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