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Sunday, January 08, 2006 

Wild Card Wrap

A few thoughts on this weekend ...

Saturday's games were decided by big plays. The Patriots failed to capitalize on a first-half fumble recovery, and Deion Branch let a Tom Brady pass go through his hands just before halftime. But in an eight minute span starting late in the third quarter, New England cashed in on more Jacksonville mistakes. While Benjamin Watson's fumble and subsequent recovery by Andre Davis was partially luck, Watson's 63 yard rumble down the sideline and Asante Samuel's INT return were the result of poor tackling and execution by the Jaguars. In the early game, Tampa's defense gave the Bucs plenty of opportunities, but Edell Shepherd dropped a game-tying touchdown pass in the final minutes.

On Sunday, Carolina was very impressive against the Giants, shutting down Tiki Barber and rattling Eli Manning. At one point in the second half, Manning had completed just 8 passes while he had been intercepted 3 times. The playoff experience of the Panthers served them well, while the Giants looked out of sync the whole game. Manning's performance continued a trend - three young QBs (Leftwich and Simms being the others) playing unevenly at best and throwing key interceptions.

Unfortunately, we didn't get to see how Carson Palmer would have handled the pressure of his first playoff game. Palmer's knee injury on the second play of the game ended the Bengals season - even though I thought the Steelers were going to win anyway. The Bengals got an emotional lift when backup Jon Kitna initially played well in relief, but as the Steelers offense started scoring in bunches, their defense stiffened and smothered the Bengals, especially in the second half.

We'll see how many of these winners are still standing after next weekend - if history is any guide, I'd expect 3 of them to lose.

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