The Designed Rush, Divisional Round: The Best Weekend of the Year

Wild Card weekend was a letdown for those waiting for quality playoff football, save the grand exception of Sunday afternoon's epic shootout between the Packers and the Cardinals. The Bengals, Patriots and Eagles were clearly outmatched in their respective losses and gave little indication that they would even hang around in the second half. Even when the Bengals teased a possible comeback, Shayne Graham shanked what seemed like 23 field goals. ↵

↵Thankfully this weekend looks very promising, not to mention offers just one rematch from a regular season game. And it's not even in the same venue! Who knew they did that anymore? Kidding aside, all four games present intriguing contests that have the potential to be very good. ↵

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↵Let's hope so, because these are the best two weeks in the NFL calendar, where the top teams fight it out without the crushing hype and delay that dogs the Super Bowl. ↵

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↵Arizona at New Orleans (4:30 p.m., Saturday) -- ↵

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↵Aside from Packers fans, no one has to be more upset that the Cardinals were able to close out their win over on Sunday than the Saints. Does anyone want to play Kurt Warner in the playoffs on the verge of retirement? Likely not. Especially a Saints team that ended the season in something of an offensive slump. I don't think New Orleans would be able to generate the type of comeback that the Packers were able to do in the second half unless the week off did them a world of good that no one could possibly foresee. ↵

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↵Baltimore at Indianapolis (8:15 p.m., Saturday) -- ↵

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↵As much as the Ravens dominated a surprisingly listless Patriots team, the fact that Joe Flacco looked hobbled and ineffective bespeaks bad things for their chances in Indianapolis. Granted, Flacco didn't need to make any plays for Baltimore to close out the Patriots. Tom Brady was too busy obliging their defense to four turnovers. I'm comfortable in saying the Colts won't be quite so generous. Flacco may be 3-1 as a starter in the playoffs, but he's yet to play a good game in the postseason. Unless Ray Rice goes absolutely nuts (and he might), Flacco might need a great one to upset Indy. ↵

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↵Dallas at Minnesota (1 p.m., Sunday) -- ↵

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↵Dallas is simply playing really inspired football the last few weeks. Granted, it's easy to be deceived by a team rolling twice through a division foe who they seem to have the number of. In general, though, it looks like it's coming together for the Cowboys. Heck, even Roy Williams looks competent. The Vikings nipped their late December slide in the bud with a dominating win over the Giants in Week 17, but it's difficult to tell if that was a mirage performance against a Giants team that looked like it just gave up down the stretch or if the Vikes really put things together. While it'll also be the most hyped, it might also be the most intriguing game of the weekend. ↵

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↵New York Jets at San Diego (4:40 p.m., Sunday) -- ↵

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↵I realize it's a West Coast game, so if the NFL was going to put it on Sunday, it had to go in the later timeslot. Still, I'm surprised the league chose the Jets and Chargers for the marquee position to close out the weekend. The scheduling folks must be buying into the brash Rex Ryan talk that his team should be the favorites going forward. The Chargers run defense is vulnerable (20th in the NFL in the regular season), so the Jets have a chance to keep the Chargers potent attack off the field for long stretches of the game, which is basically what they're going to have to do. Also, Braylon Edwards might want to catch at least one of the bombs that hits him in the hands in the end zone. ↵

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↵NFL Player/Figure Tweet of the Week ↵

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↵"#ihatewhen a girl buy u something cheap for your birthday and when hers come she ask for a louie bag! #killsme!!!" - Mike Sims-Walker, yesterday. ↵

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↵Yes, I suppose that is annoying. And granted Sims-Walker hasn't (yet) been awarded with a rich contract by NFL standards. But he's still in better position to get a Louie bag for his girl than I am for mine. Sorry, honey, I think you know what you signed on for when you agreed to go out with a blogger. Just be happy I only wear track pants 80 percent of the time. ↵

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↵Truth in Advertising ↵

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↵I was browsing around YouTube this morning and found a batch of recently loaded Brett Favre ads for Starter that I hadn't seen before. My guess is they'll most likely debut on TV during the games this weekend. The premise is an obsessive neighbor who manages to drop some obscure statistic about Favre and how awesome he is prior to ticking off some line about an uninspired line of Starter athletic shoes. I'm just yawning like a kid out here. Though it is funny that both Romo and Favre are now endorsing Starter. Who will an irrelevant company be pulling for? ↵
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↵Dispatches from Madden Nation
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↵Disappointed with early sales figures for Madden 10, on a conference call yesterday EA CEO John Riccitiello vowed for a "new and innovative take" on Madden, a statement which exactly cause me to hold my breath. Even when the game meets sales expectations, the company pretends like it's going to make major alterations, only for a minor wrinkle to result. And by January, the game development is already well underway. So any such innovations would have needed to be brainstormed by now. Hopefully the guy is right, but I wouldn't expect any new takes on anything more than marketing at this point. ↵

↵A Delicious Bundle of Gripes ↵

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↵- I agree that the non-call on the Aaron Rodgers facemask was an unfortunate coda to an otherwise incredible game between Green Bay and Arizona. At the same time, Aaron Rodgers had been holding the ball near his face when Michael Adams jarred it loose, only to get a finger on Rodgers' facemask on the follow through. The ball is out before Adams ever makes contact with the helmet. I'm not saying that it still wasn't a critical missed call, but in a way, I'm happy that Rodgers was not bailed out for fumbling, only because a defender accidentally hit in the head after immediately after the fact. Especially when Rodgers had just missed a wide open deep pass that would have won the game for the Packers. ↵

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↵- I don't have a huge issue with Charles Woodson taking the Defensive Player of the Year Award instead of Darrelle Revis, even though I would have voted for Revis. Voters love numbers and that criteria decidedly favors Woodson and his nine interceptions, four forced fumbles and two sacks in the regular season. Of course, like all figures associated with secondary play, it all determines how often quarterbacks try to test them. By this more important standard, Revis, who did not allow an opposing receiver to gain more than 70 yards in any game this, is the more deserving. But that is the reality of postseason awards in the NFL. You might disagree with their methods. Rest assured I do as well. But it's the reality, for better or worse. ↵

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↵- In addition to these guys fighting after the Cardinals-Packers game, we've got two pathetic examples of domestic violence in the wake of NFL games. A 27-year-old Cowboys fan claims she was cut in the face at a convenience store last Friday by an Eagles fan because she was wearing a Tony Romo jersey. Meanwhile, a man in Wisconsin grabbed his wife around the neck because he was ornery after the Pack's loss. He was arrested. ↵

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↵LaDainian Tomlinson might be a shell of his former self as a running back, but if you ask me, this is the greatest thing he's ever done. Here's an interview L.T. did on the dance, which oddly enough was filmed two years ago. It turns out the video is a viral ad for Nike. ↵

↵- Steve Breaston pulled a Razor Ramon TD celebration last Sunday, to the delight of older pro wrestling fans everywhere. No doubt Vikings fans will be looking for a hint of the Berserker out of one of their receivers on Sunday. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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