A few experts suggested the Arizona Cardinals stay home and not bother going to Carolina to take on the Panthers.
The prevailing belief was the Card could throw like demons but not much else. They couldn’t run the ball. Nor were they much of a defensive outfit. They have done all these things.
So much for the “experts.”
Carolina, for their part, had much love lavished upon them. Strong running game (which they didn’t use for some reason), effective passing and a solid defense made them the second seed in the NFC. But not all observers were buying into the Panthers as a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
And if you fell in into the latter category, you weren’t surprised the Cardinals beat the Panthers (six turnovers?). Although the 33-13 scoreline probably did.
The X-Filesesque season of Philadelphia Eagles has not been canceled as they beat the New York Giants 23-11. Yes, 23-11. No it wasn’t played with CFL rules. Yes, it’s the only time in NFL history a playoff game finished by that score.
If you’re an Eagles fan your emotions were more volatile than…I got nothing.
If the Eagles do find their way to the Super Bowl they may want to consider sending a bouquet of flowers to the Oakland Raiders for without their improbable win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the last day of the season, Philadelphia doesn’t get into the playoffs. Funny how it all worked out.
At one point in the season, the Giants were the favorite to come out of the east among experts. Then again, given the the volatile ebb and flow of the paritized NFL they also had the New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys going places. Some early on even had the Buffalo Bills, Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins in the mix.
Like the Tennessee Titans, the Giants dominated the first half but trailed at half time 10-8. That rarely bodes well for teams when that happens. Although, I think the Titans were far more culpable in their lack of finish.
But about those Giants, the football world wondered: Who could stop them?
Now we know.
“They” say you need a great running game to win a Super Bowl. Interesting to see the top two seeds with powerful running games got beat by teams that essentially have strong passing games. Mind you the Eagles defense is stark raving mad.
In the AFC, the Tennessee Titans dominated but couldn’t make it count when it mattered in a 13-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Turnovers did the Giants in and they did the same thing to the Titans as they coughed the ball up three times.
Quirky fact: Ravens QB Joe Flacco is 20 for 45 or something in two games but he becomes the first rookie to win in their first two playoff games. So much for the “No rookie has ever won two playoff games”cry. As if there’s never a first in sports!
Baltimore’s defense looks more than scary. It looks terrorizing scary. I mean, Philly’s defense is superb and Pittsburgh’s is punishing, but the Ravens have the macabre feel of an Edgar Allan Poe story.
Speaking of the Steelers, they beat the San Diego Chargers 35-24. The Chargers, much like the Eagles, had a weird season culminating into an 8-8 record that gave them the AFC West title. Some division.
They then proceeded to beat a red hot Indianapolis Colts team in the playoffs. Next in line was Pittsburgh and the elements which the West coasters could not overcome.
Stat that stabs you in the eye: San Diego had the ball for 17 seconds in the 3rd quarter and mustered one first down.
There you have it: Philadelphia, Arizona, Pittsburgh and Baltimore are your final four.