Well, compared to last year's opening weekend, the 2007 playoffs got off to a relatively ho-hum start. Just about everybody thought at least 3, if not all 4 home teams would prevail, and that's just what happened.
It's too bad the Kansas City Chiefs wouldn't have been able to move the ball against D-1 AA Montana State last night. Their offense for the first 35 minutes or so of Saturday's game was pathetic. Trent Green looked 45 years old in the pocket, Larry Johnson couldn't shake a Colts defender if his life depended on it, and Herm Edwards had one of those Art Shell like blank stares on his face throughout the entire 1st half.
Peyton Manning aagain showed why it's never smart to bet on the Colts during the playoffs. Manning threw three picks, two of which were intercepted by Ty Law on terrible throws. Maybe they were mixups on the part of Marvin Harrison, but how often do those two fail to be on the same page during the regular season? I know, almost never. Saturday, they were totally out-of-synch, and if the Chiefs offense had been able to capitalize on any of the 3 INTs, the game very well could have come down to the wire. Instead, the lame Colts won and will travel to take on Baltimore next weekend. As for the Chiefs? Well, they were pretty lucky to be there in the first place. It cetainly wasn't a disappointing season for the Chiefs, but no organization or its fans is truly content with a 9-7 record and 1st round exit from the playoffs. Are they?
Saturday night was probably the game most of America was interested in. The drama-queen Cowboys versus the defending NFC Champions. Neither team was playing good football heading into the matchup, and most figured it would be decided at the wire. Vegas had the opening line at -3 for Seattle, but bettors poured their money towards Dallas and the line moved to -1 for the Seahawks.
Poor Tony Romo. The toast of the town..heck, the toast of the entire NFL a month or so ago, Romo essentially ended his team's season on one of the more fundamental plays in football: the snapper-holder exchange. A heart-breaking ending to one of the more topsy-turvy seasons any one team has endured in this league in recent memory. What next for the Cowboys? Will Parcells be back? What about T.O? What about Romo? Is 'America's Team' (are they really still America's team?) ready to put its faith in Tony Romo after the way he performed this last month of the season? After the way he cost his team with a botched hold in the most critical moment of the football game? I'd rather not be inundated with gossipy Cowboys' stories, but that's where we're headed this offseason. Buckle up if you're a Cowboys fan.
Sunday's early game featured an interesting coaching matchup between Bill Bellicheck and Eric Mangini. Most people remember Bellicheck snubbing Mangini after the Jets beat the Patriots last time around. Classless move by him if you ask me. Are you really bitter that one of your assistants took the opportunity to be a head coach in the biggest market in the NFL?
It was obvious both Mangini and Bellicheck were out to prove their coaching acumen Sunday. Mangini employed a no-huddle offense to negate some of the defensive wizadry of Bellicheck; the mentor wore his heart on his sleeve perhaps more visibly than any game in recent memory.
In the end, New England was able to put the Jets away with two critcal 2nd half turnovers. The Asanti Samuel pick-6 was the backbreaker, but Pennington's deflected backwards pass to Brad Smith was the true difference maker in Sunday's game.
The Jets were driving down just one score. They had achieved some success that drive running the ball with Leon Washington. The rookie had runs of 11 and 19 yards on the drive, and Pennington had picked up an additional 1st down on a pass on the perimeter. It wouldn't have surprised me if the Jets had marched all the way down the field for either a TD or FG, but instead, Roosevelt Colvin knocked down the backwards pass and some fat guy named Wilfork picked up the ball and rumbled down near the NYJ 20. Brady capitalized to extend the lead to 14 and the game was all but over.
We all knew the Jets were a 1,000,000:1 longshot to do anything in these playoffs, but I'll still give them credit for a solid season. Did they have the easiest schedule in the history of the NFL to make it to the playoffs? You better believe it. Did they take care of business and beat who they were supposed to beat to get there. Yes, again. Just one year removed from a 4-12 season, Mangini & Co. deserve a lot of credit for instilling a winning attitude for the franchise. I don't think they're going to be talented enough to contend for a Super Bowl in the next 3-4 years, but so long as they have Pennington at the controls, this team's going to be in a lot of games for years to come.
Wild Card Weekend wound down with a intra-divisional matchup between the floundering NYG and the surging Philadelphia Eagles.
I actually though the Giants might win this game. Even though all signs pointed towards Philly winning this game, I thought it was absurd that Philadelphia was nearly 3:1 favorites in this game.
The Giants squandered some opportunities to build a comfortable lead early in the ball game...it came back to haunt them. Barber had a solid first half running the ball, almost eclipsing the 100-yard plateau in the first two quarters. But, it was clear that if the Giants were going to win this game, they would have to depend on Manning in the 2nd half. While not terrible, Manning was a notch below mediocre in the 3rd quarter before stepping it up a bit once desperation mode set in during the 4th.
In the end, it was the Eagles who were a bit better prepared, a bit more hungry, and a bit more explosive. Brian Westbrook. What can you say. The guy gets overlooked constantly when people discuss who are the premier running backs in the NFL. Sure he's not able to pound it inside 27 times a game ala Larry Johnson. But, when you need a play...when you need a broken tackle on 3rd and long...when you need a big play to get the crowd back into the game, Westbrook responds. His 49-yard TD in the 2nd quarter all but ended the momentum the Giants were enjoying, and the game was never quite the same afterwards.
One week down, three more to go. The playoffs are just getting started, and although the Steelers are not in the picture, there's still some good stories out there.
Can the Saints keep their magical season alive and take down the high-flying Eagles next Saturday at the SuperDome? Can Peyton Manning shake off the post-season demons and lead the Colts to victory against the vaunted Ravens defense?
What about Rex Grossman and the Bears? Are the Seahawks back on track and ready to make another run at the Super Bowl, or are the Bears for real this time and ready to hold-serve at Solider Field?
We'll see. It should be fun.