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Wildcard Roundup

By Nick Ferraro

This weekend’s wildcard games left a lot to be desired. We saw one team win while compiling a total of 120 yards of offense, two complete blowouts, and a game that saw one of the key players knocked out on his team’s first passing play. The divisional round can only supply more drama. We should also see the class of the league rise to the top as we expect each of this weekends winners to be packing up their lockers by Monday.

Washington 17 Tampa 10
This was the most compelling of the wild card games. Tampa’s defense was impressive, but they couldn’t overcome their offense’s mistakes. Turnovers led to two early TDs for the Skins who had nothing going on offense. Tampa had the game tying TD in hand, but a perfect pass was dropped in the end zone Edell Sheppard. It was the biggest play, or non-play, of the game. The Skins visit the top-seeded Seahawks next week. If their offense doesn’t figure things out between now and then, the Skins will be in for a long sorry trip back to Washington.

Stats of the Game:
1. The Redskins were limited to just 25 yards in the air.
2. Tampa was 0-2 on 4th down including a late attempt from inside the Redskins 20-yard line.
3. Chris Simms completed a gaudy 25 of 38 passes, but averaged just 5.2 yards per completion.

Patriots 28 Jaguars 3
The Patriots smothered a woeful Jaguar offense to win easily in New England. The Pats started slowly, but had no reason to rush as the Jags were never a real threat. The Jaguars appear to be a 9-7 team dressed up to 12-4 by an enviable schedule that had them playing losing teams in eight of the seasons last nine weeks. The Chiefs or Chargers would have provided a much better showing. The Pats season will end next week in Denver as they play their first difficult game in quite some time.

Stats of the Game:
1. The Jaguars converted on just 1 of 12 3rd-down opportunities.
2. The Pats outrushed the Jags 118 to 87.
3. Of the Jaguars twelve wins, only three were against winning teams.

Panthers 23 Giants 0
The Giants appeared to be under the impression that they earned a bye week during the season. They were barely a part of the festivities on Sunday. The Giant defense figured to struggle a bit with the injuries they’ve sustained, but their offense was woeful. Eli Manning looked like a rookie, and Tiki Barber gained only 41 yards. The Panthers will see a much more capable team next week in Chicago, and they’ll fall in very physical and low-scoring contest.

Stats of the Game:
1. The Giants possessed the football for just over 17 of the sixty minutes of game time Sunday.
2. The Panthers manhandled NY with 223 rushing yards while allowing just 41.
3. Steve Smith caught 10 passes, which equaled the entire output of the Giant’s receiving corps.

Steelers 31 Cincinnati 17
The Steelers knocked Carson Palmer out on his first pass attempt of the game and pitched a second-half shutout on the road to advance. Palmer was 1-1 for 66 yards, but left the game with a serious knee injury that has to concern the Bengals for next year. Though many may argue the injury determined Cincy’s fate, the Steelers were still likely to prevail. The Steelers controlled the action with 144 yards on the ground while limiting the Bengals to 84. Palmer wasn’t playing defense. While Palmer’s absence and Jon Kitna’s ineffectiveness sealed the deal, the Steelers were the more complete team. The Steel men will have their hands full on Sunday with a well-rested Colts team that has taken some criticism over the last few weeks. The Colts figure to take advantage of a porous Pittsburgh secondary to advance to the AFC title game.

Stats of the Game:
1. The Bengals led the NFL in turnover ratio during the regular season, but were –2 Sunday and failed
to produce a Pittsburgh fumble or INT.
2. The Bengals couldn’t produce any pressure on Big Ben who completed 14 of his 19 pass attempts.
3. The Bengals had 90 yards in penalties while rushing for just 84.

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