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How Outsports saw the wild card round

Eli looks sharp, Young does not. Voter who didn't vote for Brady should be disbarred

How Cyd saw the week
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I sincerely hope the Associate Press takes the League MVP voting rights away from the lone person who voted for Brett Favre over Tom Brady as the 2007 MVP. A legitimate argument could have only been made this season for Brady or teammate Randy Moss. But in voting for Favre, Cooney should be admonished and stripped of his voting right for displaying terrible judgment and lack of football acumen. His vote belongs with my partner's mom's sister's mechanic in Marquette, Mich.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, that person was Frank Cooney.

How deserving was Brady of the award? Sports Illustrated said: "For all their achievements, past Most Valuable Players John Unitas, Dan Marino and Joe Montana never had a season like Tom Brady's 2007."

How Jim saw the week
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A look at the divisional playoffs, with a caveat that I went 1-3 picking winners in the wild card round (but 3-1 vs. the pointspread):

AFC

Jacksonville (12-5) at New England (16-0), Saturday, 8 p.m. EST: The weakest part of the Jacksonville defense is against the vertical passing game (Pittsburgh threw for 342 yards in the wild card game) and this is the strength of the New England offense. Randy Moss will have a field day abusing the Jaguars secondary. The Jaguars will have success running against the aging Patriots linebackers, but I can’t see them manufacturing enough points to slow down the Pats. It will be close at halftime before the Pats pull away. Patriots 31, Jaguars 13.

Looking at the two quarterbacks side-by-side:

  • Tom Brady threw for 651 more yards, leading the league with 4,806.
  • Tom Brady threw 22 more touchdowns for an NFL record 50.
  • Tom Brady's completion percentage was 3.4 points higher than Favre's, leading the league with 68.9%.
  • Tom Brady threw 7 fewer interceptions than Favre.
  • Tom Brady's quarterback rating was 21.5 points higher than Favre's, leading the league with 117.2, the second highest mark ever.
  • Tom Brady went 16-0 as a starter, three victories better than Favre's 13-3.
  • Tom Brady's yards-per-attempt was .5 better than Favre's, leading the league with 8.3.
  • Tom Brady will win the Super Bowl. Brett Favre will not.
The only numbers that Favre had that were higher than Brady were those for interceptions and losses - numbers you don't exactly want to have high.

Jon Cooney's vote was an embarrassment to himself and his profession. He can be reached at JCooney@sportsxchange.com.

A look at the upcoming playoff games:

Jacksonville at New England (cloudy, 35 degrees). This is the Super Bowl. The two best teams in the league. The Jags have so much talent, they would beat any other team in this game. But I think they will have a terrible time defending the pass (look for Welker to have a monster game underneath). How well Fred Taylor finds the tiniest of holes (which he did against Pittsburgh) will determine how close this game is.

San Diego at Indianapolis (piped-in noise, 80% chance of questionable calls, 70 degrees). For the first time in many years, I'll be cheering for the Colts. The Chargers have, in the last 12 months, become the most obnoxious group of front runners since the Baltimore Ravens. They talk, they strut, they do their stupid little dances, they whine when they lose. I'm jealous that the Colts get to be the team to knock them out of the playoffs. Um (and please, Lord, forgive me for this) Go Colts!

Seattle at Green Bay (cloudy, 49 degrees). I've underrated Green Bay all season, so keep that in mind. I think the weather will benefit Seattle. It's supposed to be no precipitation and high 40s. The Seahawks did an incredible job of stopping the Redskins' rushing attack this past weekend; if they can do just half as well against Ryan Grant as they did against Clinton Portis, Favre is going to have to lift the team on his shoulders, and I don't trust that pressure on him one bit.

New York Giants at Dallas (sunny, 54 degrees). I am really impressed with what the Giants have done this season. They do not have a very good team (though, you don't need one in the NFL anymore). But, they played fantastic in the last three quarters of their wild card game, and Eli looked great. Here's the flip side. The mojo has left Dallas, and that's a big intangible problem. If Dallas wins, it will be because of Marion Barber, not Tony Romo.

San Diego (12-5) at Indianapolis (13-3), Sunday 1 p.m.: The Chargers beat the Colts, 23-21, in Week 10, but that game was in San Diego and the Colts were missing nine starters a week after their war with the Patriots. In addition, Peyton Manning threw six interceptions, yet the Colts would have won if Adam Vinatieri made a chip-shot field goal. The Colts are much healthier this time and their offense will be much more efficient (Manning is more likely to throw six TDs than six picks again). The Chargers and QB Philip Rivers need to get off to a quick start or it will be a long day and their defense needs to pressure Manning to have a chance. I don’t see it happening. Colts 27, Chargers 17.

NFC

Seattle (11-6) at Green Bay (13-3), Saturday, 4:30 p.m.: The Seahawks best chance for an upset rides with reviving a running game that has stalled. If Matt Hasselbeck has to throw it 40 times against the aggressive Green Bay defense it will be a long day for Seattle. The Packers are balanced on offense and I love their young defense. The forecast calls for temperatures in the upper 20s with snow flurries, perfect for Green Bay. Packers 27, Seahawks 20.

New York (11-6) at Dallas (13-3), Sunday, 4:30 p.m.: The Cowboys won both regular season matchups and one of the more tiring clichés is that “it’s tough to beat a team three times in a season.” Not true – since the merger in 1970, teams that won the first two meetings in the regular season are 11-6 in Game Threes, so it’s a more than an even-money bet. The key for the Cowboys will be the health of wideout Terrell Owens. If he is healthy, the Boys have too much offense for the Giants to contend with. If Owens is ailing, Eli Manning is playing well enough for New York to pull the upset. The Giants have won eight in a row on the road since losing Week 1 at Dallas. I sense T.O. will be enough of a factor. Cowboys 30, Giants 21.

How’s that for daring – I took all four home teams and favorites! In order of best-to-worst chance for an upset: Seattle, New York, San Diego, Jacksonville.

ELI’S COMING: Of the eight quarterbacks in the wild card round, only Eli Manning did not throw an interception. Who would have thunk it? Jacksonville’s David Gerrard threw three all season and two against the Steelers. Washington’s Todd Collins had not thrown one in 10 years(!), but had two returned for scores against Seattle. Shows you what a different animal the playoffs are.

I was happy for Manning, who takes way too much abuse for the Giants’ failures (but that’s what you get for playing in New York). He looked terrific against Tampa a week after throwing four touchdowns against the Patriots. He seems to play better on the road, likely because he is not booed every time he throws an incompletion.

YOUNG REGRESSING: In contrast to Manning, Tennessee’s Vince Young looks like he took a step backwards this season. It is not a good sign for the 2006 No. 3 pick overall and a “savior” to toss 17 interceptions and only nine TDs in his second season. Under Young, the Titans really struggled to score points – they got 10 in Week 16 against the Jets, 16 in Week 17 against mainly the Colts’ backups (and Kerry Collins was responsible for three drives that yielded nine points) and only six in the 17-6 wild card loss to San Diego.

Whether it is by design or due to a sore quad, Young is more of a pocket passer and that is not where he excels. He makes poor decisions and is not very accurate. It does not help that he has mediocrities at receiver but I am not sure he would be that much better throwing to Randy Moss, Reggie Wayne and Antonio Gates.

The Titans played brilliantly on defense and pitched a first-half shutout against the Chargers on Sunday. Young, though, was able to only manufacture six points and the Chargers finally wore out the Titans valiant D. Year 3 next season should be Young’s make-or-break season.

HELPING HAND: The game-clinching TD in San Diego’s win came when LaDainian Tomlinson scored on a 1-yard run on fourth down in the fourth quarter to make it 17-6. LT jumped and was met short of the goal line by the Titans. On second effort, he managed to get the ball across the goal. What surprisingly went unnoticed by CBS at the time and on coverage I saw later on ESPN and the NFL Network was that LT was pushed upright as he was falling backwards by teammate Brandon Manumaleuna, a 288-pound tight end.

LT’s momentum on the first hit was backwards and had it not been for Manumaleuna’s push, he would not have been able to right himself and get the ball across. I was puzzled as to why aiding a runner in such a way is not a penalty until I found this explanation in the Chicago Tribune from former NFL ref Jerry Markbreit, in a 2003 column:

“The NFL rulebook says that no offensive player may assist the runner, except by individually blocking opponents for him. However, the foul is only called when teammates lift the runner from the ground after he has fallen and knocked down by contact, or are in front of him and actually pull him forward. It is too difficult to determine whether the action by teammates behind the runner is actually aiding the runner, because the players are bunched so closely together that one would be guessing. One of the cardinal rules of officiating is never guess; you must be absolutely sure before the flag is thrown.”

FRAUDS: I had written weeks ago that Tampa Bay was a fraud playoff team and they sure looked it against the Giants. What a boring, dink-and-dunk offense the Bucs run (I might have a stronger arm that Jeff Garcia). I spent most of the second half talking down my Christmas teams and there were few times I felt compelled to stop and watch. If this team played in the AFC, the Bucs would have finished 5-11. They have a decent defense but zero offensive imagination and few playmakers; they are lucky they play in a crap division.

STEELERS CHOKE: For those that care, I ranted on our blog after the Steelers rallied from a 28-10 deficit only to fall 31-29 to the Jags on Saturday (check it out here).

HOTTIES UPDATE: The guy in the Jeep “Rock Me Gently” commercials is gorgeous, but even I got a little tired of seeing it three times in 10 minutes during the Titans-Chargers game. … Ed “Guns” Hochuli refereed the game in San Diego, where it was a chilly (by SoCal standards) 55 degrees and rainy, but that did not stop him from wearing a tight, short-sleeved ref’s shirt. Ed has his priorities in line and one of them is showing off for all his fans. … I watched the Saturday games at my friend’s J.P.’s and at halftime of the Seattle-Washington game we popped in his “Dieux de Stade” French rugby video. We got so engrossed in hot bod after hot bod that we lost all track of time and turned the game back on with six minutes having elapsed in the second half. It was well worth it.