Thursday, January 3, 2008

In-Depth Wild Card Weekend Preview

Jaguars Category Steelers Reason
check Offense
Both teams want to run the ball, but the Jaguars have more of an identity. They are a running team, period.

Defense check Both are strong here, but a healthy Troy Polamalu allows Pittsburgh to make more big plays.

Special teams check The Steelers are better equipped to handle the footing if there are bad weather and field conditions issues at Heinz Field.
check Coaching
Jack Del Rio has the experience of being in the playoffs. In addition, he also has his team playing better right now.
check Intangibles
The Jaguars have finally manufactured enough big plays in the passing game in the absence of Jimmy Smith.
check Wild card
Jags' ability to get Maurice Jones-Drew the ball in space will cause trouble for the Steelers' LBs.
Overall: Jaguars
The Jags are among the few teams that match up well physically vs. Steelers.

Redskins Category Seahawks Reason

Offense check This team has gotten comfortable becoming one-dimensional with Matt Hasselbeck and the receivers.
check Defense
The front 7 has been pretty strong most of the year, but now the secondary is making more plays.
check Special teams
Antwaan Randle El has a history of making big plays in the playoffs.
check Coaching
Mike Holmgren is used to the big stage, but Joe Gibbs has his team on a roll right now.

Intangibles check As Tony Romo learned, Seattle can be a hard place for a visitor this time of year.

Wild card check Shaun Alexander is just two years removed from league MVP and is capable of a big game.

Overall: Redskins

This game will not be the kiss of death for the Redskins.

Titans Category Chargers Reason

Offense check The players and coaching staff have finally come to the realization that LT must keep getting the ball.

Defense check The Chargers have picked up their pass rush in the past four games, and the run defense now looks like it did last year.

Special teams check Darren Sproles gives the Chargers one of the most explosive return games in the league.
check Coaching
Jeff Fisher gets as much out of players as any coach, and he will have them ready for a physical football game.

Intangibles check We'll finally get to see how much of a difference it makes not having Marty Schottenheimer.

Wild card check Philip Rivers gets to prove he'll be a benefit and not a hindrance in a key situation.

Overall: Chargers

Albert Haynesworth is not 100 percent, and the Titans lack outside speed. If anything, the Madden curse should theoretically haunt this game.

Giants Category Buccaneers Reason
check Offense
They have the better running game and Plaxico Burress is getting healthier.

Defense check They can line up in man coverage at corner and pressure the QB without sending a lot of blitzes.
check Special teams
They keep throwing guys out on returns who can take it to the house.

Coaching check Jon Gruden is feeling less pressure and has a better history in big games.

Intangibles check The Giants might not be able to overcome the emotionally and physically draining game against the Pats.

Wild card check Conversely, the Bucs should go into this game well-rested and healthy.

Overall: Buccaneers

Tampa Bay's zone defense should confuse Eli Manning, forcing him into turnovers.

With help from Yahoo Sports and Cris Carter, this was one of the most detailed breakdowns of this weekend's NFL Wild Card games that I could find.

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