Posted on: January 4, 2009 9:20 pm
Edited on: January 5, 2009 7:11 am

NFL: Flyin' the birds - Ravens, Eagles advance

Today, I was 2 for 2, so I'm 3 for 4 in my prognostications overall so far. Not too bad. Today's winners are the Ravens and the Eagles. Now that the Wild Card games are finished, the "predicting" gets even harder.

Ravens at Dolphins -- The Ravens' defense played just the way I thought they would, making life miserable for Dolphins' quarterback Chad Pennington while Baltimore posted a 27-9 win this afternoon in Miami. Pennington was 25 of 38 for 252 yards and a touchdown, but the relentless wrecking crew that is the Ravens' defense picked Pennington four times, a Miami post-season record, one of which picks was returned for a touchdown by Baltimore defensive stalwart safety Ed Reed. Pennington also was sacked three times. As an indication of just how well the Ravens' defense played, the Dolphins won time of possession (33:26 to 26:34) and first downs (18 to 16) and still were overwhelmed. Miami had a combined 21 carries for 52 yards in the game. The Dolphins managed one touchdown on a 2-yard Pennington pass to running back Ronnie Brown in the fourth quarter. A 19-yard Dan Carpenter field goal in the first quarter accounted for the remainder of Miami's scoring. Pennington threw to seven different players, including running back Patrick Cobbs, who had four catches for 55 yards. Ravens' quarterback Joe Flacco was 9 of 23 for 135 yards, with no interceptions, and also had a 5-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Flacco was not sacked in the game. Matt Stover had two field goals and Le'Ron McClain added an 8-yard rushing touchdown to round out the Ravens' scoring. Five Ravens combined for 33 carries for 151 yards. To the credit of the Dolphins, the team never gave up. Congratulations to the team and their management for turning around a 1-15 season just last year into an 11-5 year ending in a playoff appearance. And congrats to the Ravens, who move on to play the Titans next week in Tennessee.

Eagles at Vikings -- Through most of this game, it felt like the Vikings would keep it close, then win it in the fourth quarter. The score was 16-14 Philadelphia heading into the fourth quarter. Neither team had scored in the third quarter. Then, midway through the fourth quarter, Eagles' running back Brian Westbrook, who had not been effective up to this point in the game, broke a long run after a short pass from Donovan McNabb, scampering 71 yards to paydirt. That made the score 23-14. In the last minutes of the quarter, Eagles' kicker David Akers would notch his fourth field of the game to cap the scoring and put the exclamation point on a 26-14 victory for the Eagles. McNabb was 23 of 34 for 300 yards, one touchdown and one interception. McNabb threw to eight different players. The Vikings' defense sacked McNabb three times, but could not stop him from piling up the yards. Eagles' cornerback Asante Samuel accounted for the team's other touchdown on a 44-yard interception return. Vikings' quarterback Tarvaris Jackson was 15 of 35 for 164 yards and the interception. Running back Adrian Peterson accounted for all of Minnesota's scoring with touchdown runs of 40 yards and three yards. Peterson had 20 carries for 83 yards, and running back Chester Taylor had 12 carries for 48 yards. Jackson threw to six different players. He was sacked once. Congratulations to the Vikings, who finished strong after a tough season. And congrats to the Eagles, who move on to play the Giants next week.

Around the NFL . . .

Next weekend's playoff matchups


AFC -- Ravens at Titans                NFC -- Cardinals at Panthers


AFC -- Chargers at Steelers        NFC -- Eagles at Giants


P.S. Thanks to fellow blogger iamyo for reminding me about the reseeding. It's a pain in the butt and confusing, but I guess it makes sense.

Posted on: December 29, 2008 9:55 pm
Edited on: December 30, 2008 12:46 pm

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.

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