(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.


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Monday, January 14, 2008

Thoughts on the NFL Playoffs

It was great to see the Philadelphia Eagles' defense beat the Dallas Cowboys yesterday. Okay, so it was the Giants' personnel who did the damage, and they deserve tons of credit, but those were Jim Johnson's schemes the Giants were running. Giants' defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo was the Eagles' linebackers coach for years before getting the Giants' coordinator's job before last season. He did a great job this season, as did the Giants' defensive line.

What happened to the Cowboys in the fourth quarter yesterday? Their offensive line was on the retreat, they committed a bunch of stupid penalties, and when Tony Romo had TO wide open in the red zone he threw what only could charitably called a wounded duck that sailed over Owens head. Had that been Donovan McNabb or Eli Manning, they would have been pilloried for that throw. But I think that both of them would have made it.

Can the Packers' line give Brett Favre more time to throw than the Cowboys' line gave Romo late in the game? If they can, RW McQuarters will be exposed as someone who can't cover, and the Giants are banged up at defensive back. If they can't, well, Favre has been known to throw a loopy interception or two (remember the one in overtime about 5 years ago in the playoff game against the Eagles), and that could bode well for the Giants.

How great did the Giants' defense play yesterday given that they were on the field for long stretches at a time? That made the Giants' defensive effort all the more impressive, didn't it? The Cowboys sustained some long drives, but the Giants' defense held firm. We Philadelphians tend to route against New York, but in the end my son and I agreed that we were hoping that Romo didn't pull out a miracle in the end. The Giants deserved to win that game.

Did the Giants miss Tiki Barber this season? And what does Tiki think now? Of course, the Giants' defense is much better this season, and Eli Manning has improved (and perhaps Tiki's criticisms woke up Eli a bit and caused him to focus better). Then again, Tiki seemed to be too outspoken, and, since he was a leader on that team, others unwisely followed suit, and the team looked to be in chaos. Absent Tiki, the team looked more focused and didn't have a star player with a need to draw attention to himself (except by playing well).

Why did so many people think that Seattle was going to beat Green Bay in Lambeau Field? I suppose it's because Seattle gets only slightly more publicity than Green Bay, which is the smallest pro city and therefore otherwise doesn't get much attention. The Packers showed everyone how tough they are and that this season is no fluke.

Is Norv Turner for real? Is the Chargers' ownership saying "I told you so" about firing Marty Schottenheimer and replacing him with Norv Turner? Of course they are, wouldn't you? A.J. Smith, the GM, looks like a prescient man (calling him a genius would be going too far). I, for one, thought it was hubris to lock Smith up to a five-year deal before Turner proved he could win a playoff game with this team, but the Chargers are a white-hot 8-0 in their last 8 games with a great points differential. Will they beat New England? Not if LT and Philip Rivers aren't healthy.

They also serve who stand and wait. I think that Winston Churchill said this about many in England during WWII, but this really applied to Chargers' back-up QB Billy Volek. I don't know how much action he saw this year, but how many back-ups get into playoff games because of in-game injuries (as opposed to knowing they're going to start, the way Jeff Garcia did last year for the Eagles). Kudos to Volek, who played great and showed what a true professional he really is.

Why did T.O. have Tony Romo's back when he stabbed both Jeff Garcia and Donovan McNabb in the back when he was their teammate in S.F. and Philadelphia respectively? Is he mellowing with age, or what's going on there?

Who really would want to coach for Jerry Jones? What the bleep was he thinking by standing on the sideline very close to the coaches during the game? How can your key employees get anything done if you're looking over their shoulder? Prediction: Dallas finishes last in the NFC East next season and does not make the playoffs. By season's end, the two best teams in the NFC East were New York and Philadelphia, and the Eagles didn't even make the playoffs.

Whither Indianapolis? How come people aren't more shocked that they lost yesterday? Why do some people think that they're soft? They're only the defending Super Bowl champions.

Can anyone beat the Patriots? Well, J-Actionville gave them a game for a half, and all Tom Brady did in the game was complete 26 passes in 28 attempts. My guess is that if you can get him to go 14-28, you'd have a much better chance. Still, it's going to be hard for Norv Turner, his banged up skill position players and a warm-weather team to play a night game in the Boston area in the winter and win. As for the Super Bowl, I'll say what I have said before -- give Bill Belichick 2 weeks to prepare for anything, and he'll win.


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