Wildcard Weekend in the Books

Certainly an interesting weekend of games.  A few quick thoughts:

New York 24-14 Cincinnati: Another week of preparation wasn’t enough to help the Bengals solve the Jets defense.  I think the bigger disappointment in Cincinnati needs to be with the defense, though.  Stuff the run and make Sanchez throw it 30+ times had to be the game plan, but the Jets were able to run the ball anyway.  When Sanchez did drop back he was excellent, very composed, in charge of his team, smart with the ball, and he delivered some nice throws.  This Jets team will not be an easy out.  The Bengals other disappointment of course will be with Shayne Graham.  They will have another kicker next season.  He just had a bad day, but the team won’t have much faith in him anymore, and the fans will be heckling him every time he misses an end of half 55 yarder, let alone heaven forbid anything easier.

Dallas 34-14 Phildelphia: Another week of preparation wasn’t enough for the Eagles either.  They still couldn’t handle the Cowboys defense.  The only play that worked when the game was still in doubt was the Vick play action pass.  Romo and the running game were both excellent for the Cowboys who break their playoff losing streak.

Baltimore 33-14 New England: Talk about a fast start! 83 yard TD run on the first play from scrimmage, then a strip sack that leads to another TD it was 14-0 before CBS even had a chance to show Bob Kraft’s box.  Julian Edelman was great in pinch-hitting for Welker, but no one else had a useful day for the Patriots.  Will be interesting to see if the ECMB is able to discuss how completely awful Tom Brady looked in this game.  How many interceptions did he end up with?  The Ravens defense didn’t give him much of a chance.  Flacco had a very shaky day too, but he didn’t need to do much.  I suspect he’ll need more production next week if they are to compete with the Colts.

Arizona 51-45 Green Bay (OT): Wow what a game!  Certainly not the kind of game I would have picked to end on a defensive score!  The story of the game looked like it would be Neal Rackers blowing the easy field goal to win it, especially when Green Bay won the coin toss in overtime.  And, it will still be a story as now you have to wonder if the Cards can rely on him down the road.  Both offenses put up insane numbers with great catches and not much defense, at least after Arizona got a couple early turnovers.

Will be interesting to see who the Super Bowl referee will be.  Assuming the NFL didn’t change things on me, it’ll be one of the guys that worked wildcard weekend.  So your options are Bill Leavy, Ed Hochuili, Gene Steratore, and Scott Green.  Public relations could play a role here and the NFL might want to give Hochuili another year or two distance from that San Diego/Denver game last season.  None of the crews had any serious gaffes that I perceived, though I thought Green’s crew let the Packers/Cardinals game get a bit chippy and could’ve made a couple calls they didn’t.  Steratore seemed to be lobbying for the assignment as he was definitely giving very full explanations on calls at New England, particularly his decisions on a couple challenges.  That is something the NFL likes at the Super Bowl because they know that game’s audience includes a number of very casual fans unfamiliar with the nuances of the game.  So I would say he has the inside track, although Bill Leavy has more experience.

So the Divisional Playoff schedule is known fully and is as follows:

Saturday January 16th 4:30pm on Fox 4. Arizona @ 1. New Orleans (Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, and Tony Siragusa)

Saturday January 16th 8pm on CBS 6. Baltimore @ 1. Indianapolis (Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf)

Sunday January 17th 1pm on Fox 3. Dallas @ 2. Minnesota (Joe Buck and Troy Aikman)

Sunday January 17th 4:30pm on CBS 5. New York @ 2. San Diego (Jim Nantz and Phil Simms)



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