Saturday, January 06, 2007

Vince Lombardi Trophy: Who Wants It? [J. Mark English]

What a difference a year makes. Last year the Pittsburgh Steelers were set to make history by becoming the first sixth seed team to win a Super Bowl. This year, Bill Cowher, will ride into the sunset, retiring yesterday. Last year the Jets were a miserable team in shambles. This year they are one of the most disciplined teams in the league with a serious shot at upsetting the Pats in Foxboro. We could keep going, but instead I'm going to allow writers from other blogs set you up for each team heading into the playoffs, as we approach the road to the Super Bowl:

Baltimore Ravens - The Ravens Locker sets you up with the comfort level zone with the Ravens quarterbacks: Many thought that the Ravens might be weak at the QB positon this season. Kyle Boller had been inconsistent early in his career and Steve McNair had the look of a washed-up and beaten up QB, but boy did those guys prove alot of critics wrong with their play this season...McNair started all 16 games for the Ravens this season and he completed 295 of 468 passes (63.0%) for 3,050 yards with 16 TD passes and 12 interceptions. He complied a QB rating of 82.5. McNair didn’t run as well as he used to as he carried the ball 45 times for 119 yards (2.6 ypc) with a TD. McNair was the missing ingredient for the Ravens offense. Without him, the Ravens wouldn’t even be a playoff team. For his career now, McNair has played in 155 games (147 starts) and he has completed 2,600 of 4,339 passes (59.9%) for 30,191 yards with 172 TD passes and 115 interceptions. McNair has a career QB rating of 83.2. McNair also had carried the ball 659 times for 3,558 yards (5.4 ypc) with 37 TD runs in his career.

Chicago Bears - Windy City Gridiron talks of Lovie Smith and his contract renegotiations: I have just read that a deal may already be in place and the Bears and Coach Smith are just waiting for the proper time to announce it. - On of the stories that got buried in tall the starting QB talk in Chicago, but still got significant press time is that of Coach Lovie Smith being the lowest paid coach in the NFL. There are currently 3 coordinators making more than Smith. That is about to change. The Bears and Smith's reps have opened up 'aggressive' negotiations and a deal could be reached before season's end.

Dallas Cowboys - The 'Boys Blog takes a deep look into what Parcells will be looking to do against the Seahawks: Bill Parcells spoke about the familiarity the teams have with one another, since they played in the ‘04 and ‘05 regular seasons and in the preseasons as well. This will be the fifth time Dallas lines up against the Seahawks the last three years. The Seahawks are a different team than the one that rolled through the NFL last year, racking up a leading 452 points. This year’s model scored 117 less, or 7.3 fewer points per game. Injuries to QB Matt Hasselbeck and RB Shaun Alexander are most cited, but the bigger reason for the letdown appears to be the talent erosion on their offensive line.

Seattle Seahawks - Mike Sando of the Seahawks Insider reflects on being in the playoffs: One of the things my wife enjoys is surprising die-hard fans with her uncanny knowledge of all things Hawks. It's not really uncanny given that she's married to a beat writer, but it sure seems uncanny to men who aren't accustomed to women knowing more about their football team....The latest example: The checkout line at the market this morning was filled with people decked out in Seahawks gear, same as it was for playoffs last season. Guys were talking among themselves about the game when one of them wondered aloud who the Seahawks might play if they were to beat Dallas tonight. Out of the blue my wife chimes in with, "Chicago or New Orleans." The guys wheel around to find the only person in line not wearing Seahawks gear, the last person they expected to have the definitive answer....A while back, the stockers at the market were trying to figure out various playoff scenarios. They were wondering who the 49ers played that week, given that a 49ers loss would hand the NFC West title to Seattle. "Denver," said the female shopper walking down the aisle.

Kansas City Chiefs - Jon Yoon has the inside info on the defense that the Chiefs will be using over at the Kansas City Chiefs Blog: When the Colts pass the ball: Who's the key to getting this defense to play well against the Colts? Damon Huard. What? Yeah, you heard me. Damon Huard. The Chiefs have had Huard playing Peyton Manning all week in practice. And, if you'll recall, he was so good at this role that he won a game ball from Bill Belichick....The Chiefs must get to Peyton Manning. The pass rush was pretty outstanding early against the Chiefs the last time they played. They will need to get to him if they expect to win this game. Get the happy feet going. The key to the Chiefs' success is making 1 or 2 stops. It has nothing to do with shutting Peyton Manning down. They will need to stop Peyton and stop him early which should allow the Chiefs to establish a rhythm on offense.

Indianapolis Colts - Stampede Blue is ready to bring a new oppurtunity for Peyton Manning to rewrite his playoff history: Well, they are here folks; finally here. The 2006 playoffs have arrived! In a way, we have all waited for these since... well, since last year this time. We've gotten to blog all season about this team, from free agency to the draft to training camp to pre-season to games. And now, we have our playoffs....I'm glad the first game is against a team like the Chiefs, mainly because Chris at Arrowhead Pride does such a nice job covering them. Please check out his blog during the course of the game to see what Chiefs fans are talking about....As far as injuries go, Dallas Clark will play at TE, just like last week against the Dolphins. Bob Sanders will also play! You all know what a big boost that could give. Expect to see guys like Rob Morris, Robert Mathis, and maybe even Cato June on special teams coverage. We might even see a bit of a wrinkle on offense and/or defense since Dungy closed practice all week for the first time since the 2003 playoffs....Like you, I'm excited. I'm excited to see how this team goes out there and plays in light of all their injuries, their past playoff lapses, and just the fact that, once again, they are hosting a playoff game. No matter what, it should be a great game.

New York Jets - Michael David Smith of the New York Jets Blog, the FanHouse, sets us up for the showdown of the coaches in New England: I wouldn't bet against Tom Brady in the playoffs unless he was facing a far superior team, and I don't think the Jets are quite that. And it should be the running game that does it for the Patriots, as the Jets struggle a little bit against the run, especially against guys who can stretch them out wide, like Maroney. Also, because it wouldn't feel right to get to a preview without mentioning it, Eric Mangini and Bill Belichick don't like each othere. There. I'll let Jim Nantz fill you in on the rest....Apparently, I can't say this enough: Man-boobs Mangini is a freakin' genius. When he's not giving Bill Belichick the business, he's willing a seemingly hapless team to the playoffs. And before the season, he was doing some pre-draft finagling that, in hindsight, seems, well, very prescient.

New England Patriots - Jeff of the Patriots Blog gives an injury update to the two battle tested teams: Several players on the Pats injury list. As expected, Rodney Harrison is out for this game. Bam Childress, Kevin Faulk, Ben Watson, Vince Wilfork, and Chad Scott are all listed as questionable. Tom Brady, Ellis Hobbs, Richard Seymour and Mike Vrabel are listed as probable. Do you think Brady has been listed as Probable as long as he’s been playing? He’s never coming off that list. Maybe it’s a superstition BB has. I bet Bernie Kosar lived on the Browns Injury Report....The Jets have a ton of players hurt for Sunday’s game. BJ Askew, Kevin Barlow, David Barrett, Laveraneus Coles, Andre Dyson, Nick Mangold, Brandon Moore, Kerry Rhodes, and Dewayne Robertson are all Questionable. Matt Chatham, Cedric Houston, Chad Pennington, Eric Smith, and Bryan Thomas are listed as Probable.

New York Giants - Giant Football Blog prepares for the departure of several players should the Giants lose: Up on the board was a list of all the veteran players, and next to their names was the number of playoff appearances for each of them. Bob Whitfield: 15 years in the league, six playoff games. Antonio Pierce: Six years, no playoff games. Tiki Barber: Nine years, six playoff games. Jeff Feagles: 19 years, five playoff games....Giants coach Tom Coughlin wanted to make certain the message was seen and heard, loud and clear: Only the foolish take this opportunity for granted. "You got taken aback. Being in this situation, it's something you can overlook," rookie defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said.