Tag:AFC
Posted on: December 29, 2008 9:55 pm
Edited on: December 30, 2008 12:46 pm
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NFL: The table is set; three hot seats catch fire

The Wild Card round of the 2008 NFL playoffs are set, and there are some fine matchups in line.

The Seeds

                     AFC                                                                                 NFC

1 --               Titans                                                                              Giants

2 --               Steelers                                                                          Panthers

3 --               Dolphins                                                                         Vikings

4 --               Chargers                                                                        Cardinals

5 --               Colts                                                                                Falcons

6 --               Ravens                                                                            Eagles

The Wild Card Matchups

                      AFC                                                                                  NFC

SAT              Colts at Chargers                                                          Falcons at Cardinals

SUN             Ravens at Dolphins                                                      Eagles at Vikings

I believe the NFC games are easier to predict than the AFC games in this round. The Falcons have been playing heads-up ball lately while the Cardinals have limped into the post-season after claiming the championship in one of the weakest divisions in the NFL. I think the Falcons take this one. And the Eagles are on fire. Granted, they took apart a faltering Cowboys team, but Philadelphia is firing on all cylinders. It took all the Vikings had to get past the Giants by one point. I'm not sure the Vikings can handle the Eagles at full strength. I'll go with the Eagles in this one.

The AFC matchups are more intriguing. The Colts are riding a nine-game win streak, but the Chargers, who are on a four-game win streak of their own, have a huge chip on their shoulders and are playing much better than their record indicates. Being from and living in Indiana, and since my Bengals didn't even come close, I'll be rooting for the Colts, but I think I'll be prepared to be disappointed. I call this one a toss-up with a slight edge to the Chargers for home-field advantage.

Of all the games this coming weekend, I think the Ravens/Dolphins matchup is the most intriguing. Miami is riding high on the wave of an 11-5 season after an abysmal 1-15 campaign last year. They had to beat the Jets this past Sunday to get in. They played effectively and efficiently and got the job done. For the Dolphins, this will come down to mental toughness. For some players, the game against the Jets may have been the playoffs, do-or-die to make the postseason, but, on the good side, the Dolphins come into the game on a five-game win streak. There could be a letdown coming, a letdown they can't afford against a Ravens team that also squeaked their way in, but which also has a lot of playoff experience on the team. Typically, a rookie quarterback could be a weak link under playoff pressure, but Ravens QB Joe Flacco has grown into the position this year and has shown poise beyond that of a typical rookie QB. If the Ravens' defense can handle the flair that the Dolphins' offense may try to throw at them, they should win this game. Behind that defense and with more playoff experience, I'll give the Ravens a slight edge in this game, in spite of home-field advantage for the Dolphins.

Three head coaches early casualties . . .

Browns' head coach Romeo Crennel, Jets' maestro Eric Mangini, and Lions' ringmaster Rod Marinelli were all three shown the door today. Crennel's Browns were 4-12, Mangini's Jets were 9-7, but flamed out toward the end of the season when they looked like sure locks for the playoffs, and Marinelli's Lions set an NFL season record by going 0-16, a mark that will be hard for the hard-luck franchise to live down considering recent years and recent events.

Now, fans are left to wonder where these three will land and who will take their places on their former teams. There are still a limited number of jobs, a limited number of candidates and a limited number of teams, so it's likely Crennel, Mangini and Marinelli will end up somewhere, perhaps even as head coaches again, though it may take a couple of years. The better question is who will take their places -- who might be lured from somewhere else, who might be lured out of retirement, or who might be willing to take a chance on reviving some franchises that have fallen on rough times and want to find a spark to get them going again.

Posted on: December 16, 2008 8:05 pm
Edited on: December 17, 2008 8:03 am
 

T.J. goin' Bowling? AFC North heavy hitters

He's ninth among all AFC wide receivers and 18th overall among receivers in the NFL, with 92 catches for 904 yards (average of 9.8 yard per catch) and four touchdowns. He's poised to join a special group of receivers with consecutive 100-catch seasons during their careers. He needs eight in the season's remaining two games. He leads the NFL in third-down catches with 31. He has been a standout on a less-than-mediocre Bengals team this year, giving his best effort every week and working hard to keep morale up on a team stumbling toward the finish line of the 2008 regular season.

T.J. Houshmandzadeh was named today as a second alternate among AFC wide receivers going to the Pro Bowl on February 8 in Honolulu, Hawai'i. Housh went to last year's Pro Bowl and was the first Bengal to score two touchdowns in the NFL's equivalent to Major League Baseball's All-Star Game. Starting wide receivers for the AFC are Andre Johnson of the Texans and Brandon Marshall of the Broncos. Reserve wide receivers are Reggie Wayne of the Colts and Wes Welker of the Patriots. For T.J. to get the call, two among the starters and reserves at receiver would have to decide not to go to Hawai'i.

In a story by Geoff Hobson on the Bengals official website, Housh showed disappointment, but was resolute that he would make it back to the Pro Bowl next year, whether he's wearing a Bengals' uniform or another team's colors.

"That's OK. I'll go next year. I'll go next year wherever I am," said Houshmandzadeh.

Here is a link to the story on the Bengals' website:

http://www.bengals.com/news/news.as
p?story_id=7387

Housh's comments pour fuel on the flames of speculation that he won't be back on the Bengals next year. Rumor has it that he and the team are far apart on the numbers for a new contract for T.J., who becomes a free agent in 2009. Many fans believe he is important to the success of the team next year and in the near future, but that he is not necessarily essential to that success. T.J. has said he does not believe the Bengals will put the franchise tag on him.

For this writer, I believe it is critical to bring Housh back. The Bengals need to step up to keep his leadership, his attitude and his talent in the fold. The team's wide receivers need a veteran example to follow into the future, and I believe he is that example.

Congrats, T.J., and better luck next year, wherever you may be (here's hoping it's with the Bengals).

Around the AFC North . . .

Here are lists of the players from the Ravens, Browns and Steelers who made it to the Pro Bowl as starters and reserves.

Ravens -- Fullback Le'Ron McClain (starter), Linebacker Ray Lewis (starter), Safety Ed Reed (starter), Special Teamer Brendon Ayanbadejo  (starter), Linebacker Terrell Suggs (reserve)

Browns -- Offensive Tackle Joe Thomas (starter), Defensive Tackle Shaun Rogers (reserve)

Steelers -- Linebacker James Harrison (starter), Safety Troy Polamalu (starter), Linebacker James Farrior (reserve)

Congrats to all the picks from the AFC North. I hope I didn't miss anyone, but if I did, I hope someone will point out the oversights. I haven't had time to look up the Ravens, Browns and Steelers who may be among the alternates, so if you know those, too, post 'em up!

GO, BENGALS!!

GO, AFC NORTH!!

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com