Posted on: January 4, 2009 12:48 am
Edited on: January 4, 2009 6:25 pm

NFL Playoffs -- Cardinals, Chargers win

I'm disappointed with the results of both of today's games, and I only went 1 and 1 on my predictions. I predicted the Falcons and the Chargers would win. Ah, well, there's always tomorrow.

The Cardinals and the Falcons really duked it out, but Arizona rode Kurt  Warner's arm to a 30-24 victory. Warner was 19 of 32 for 271 yards, with two touchdowns -- one each to receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin -- and one interception. Fitzgerald had six catches for 101 yards and the TD. Warner threw to nine different players, while running backs Edgerrin James and Tim Hightower combined for 22 carries for 96 yards, with Hightower also notching a touchdown. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan was 26 of 40 for 190 yards, two touchdowns -- one each to receiver Roddy White and tight end Justin Peelle -- and two interceptions. Ryan threw to eight different players, while running back Michael Turner was held to just 42 yards on 18 carries, but did score a touchdown. The turning point in this game came early in the second half when a handoff by Ryan was mishandled and popped right into the hands of Arizona safety Antrel Rolle, who ran the ball back 26 yards for a touchdown. Atlanta's offense appeared to be rattled by the play and never really recovered. Kudos to the outstanding effort this year by Ryan and the Falcons, and kudos to Warner and the Cardinals, who are moving on to Round Two against the Giants (?? -- remains to be seen, pending outcome of Eagles at Vikings) next Sunday.

Home-field advantage finally worked for the Chargers, as they drove for a field goal to tie the score at 17-17 in the waning moments of regulation and, while the Colts' defense suffered major mental lapses in the overtime, San Diego quarterback Phillip Rivers engineered a touchdown drive to seal the 23-17 victory. Rivers was 20 of 36 for 217 yards and an interception. But for San Diego, their primary weapon for the night was Darren Sproles, who had 23 carries for 105 yards, five catches for 45 yards, 106 yards on four kickoff returns, and 72 yards running back three punts, a total of 328 all-purpose yards, including the game-winning touchdown. Rivers threw to six different players, Antonio Gates being the most productive with eight catches for 87 yards. Running back LaDainian Tomlinson had five carries for 25 yards, but was only available for about the first half of the game because he was nursing a groin injury. For the Colts, quarterback Peyton Manning was 25 of 42 for 310 yards and one touchdown to receiver Reggie Wayne, who had four catches for 129 yards. Receiver Anthony Gonzalez had six receptions for 97 yards. Manning threw to six different players in the game. Running backs Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes combined for 20 carries and just 56 yards, while Addai did score a touchdown. San Diego won the toss going into the overtime, and the Colts defense appeared to lose its cool, racking up some costly penalties while the Chargers rolled into field goal range before Sproles broke loose on a 22-yard run to score the game winner. In spite of another fine effort from Manning, the Colts couldn't hold it together. Kudos to the Chargers, who move on to Round Two against the Titans Steelers (forgot about the reseeding -- see posts below!!) next Saturday.

Hey, I guess 1 and 1 isn't so bad. We'll see what happens tomorrow!

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