The Designed Rush, Wild Card Weekend: Rematches, Retreads but Playoff Football

On its face, it looks like a sorry slate for the first round of the playoffs. All four games are rematches of regular season games, three of which happened just days ago. The two NFC games are even in the same location. Still, it'll be interesting to see how Arizona and the Bengals fare after not taking their opponents seriously the week before. Does the extra exposure to their opponents give them an edge, or do the underdogs go in knowing they have already beaten the home team and can easily do it again? ↵

↵New York Jets at Cincinnati (Saturday, 4:30 p.m.) -- ↵

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↵Unless the Bengals' plan was to play possum for the Jets and show them as little as possible, they have something to worry about going into the opening game of the weekend. Even if that was the case, Cincy's offense has been mostly dreadful for the last month. They'll need to put up points to put pressure on a rookie QB making his first playoff appearance on the road. With Chad Ochocinco likely at less than 100 percent, that could be a tough task for a passing game that increasingly relies on him to make plays. ↵

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↵Philadelphia at Dallas (Saturday, 8 p.m.) -- ↵

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↵For some reason, the NFL really doesn't like this rivalry lately. The league flexed Cincinnati and the Jets in lieu of this game last week. Granted, both games ended up being lopsided shutouts, but the one in the Meadowlands was a horribly depressing slog of a game with one team playing mostly reserves in the second half. Way to close out the season with the worst primetime game of the year. The NFC East battle was at least entertaining all the way through. So what does the league do the following week? They stick it in the worst time slot of the weekend. Asinine. I have a feeling that this will probably be the game of the weekend. It's hard enough to call what happens in divisional contents, but one held a week apart in the same venue will be extra tricky. What we do know is that DeSean Jackson should probably just stop talking. ↵

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↵Baltimore at New England (Sunday, 1 p.m.) -- ↵

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↵As you'll recall and no doubt be reminded, the Ravens were a Mark Clayton dropped pass away from being the only team to beat the Patriots in Gillette Stadium this year. How well Julian Edelman can fill in for Wes Welker will be key for the Pats. Welker had an unspectacular stat day in the Week 4 win against Baltimore (6 catches for 48 yards) but it was clear that the Patriots offense was running more smoothly that week with him in than it had in the previous week when New England lost on the road to Denver. ↵

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↵Green Bay at Arizona (Sunday, 4:40 p.m.) -- ↵

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↵Arizona might be without Anquan Boldin and Calais Campbell. Boldin being out could be significant, especially if this turns into the shootout the NFL hopes it will. Should Philadelphia prevail on Saturday, the Packers would be playing for the right to advance to the second round, where they would get a third shot at the Vikings. I'm guessing Roger Goodell would be cool with that happening. ↵

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↵NFL Player/Figure Tweet of the Week ↵

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↵"Ravens offense is boring. If they win they will get beat in the 1st round of the playoffs." -- Bill Romanowski, Sunday ↵

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↵Because the Ravens totally won a championship with a whirlwind offensive attack in 2000. But you can forgive the original Romo for being upset that his cherished Raiders were losing on Sunday to Baltimore. And he may be right about the Ravens being one and done, but more so because their defense is not up to snuff than because their offense is banal. At least their offense has Ray Rice, who's been more exciting than any other player they have this season, Ed Reed included. ↵

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↵Truth in Advertising ↵

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↵Mmmm. A Taco Bell diet. That sounds good. I've been looking to shed some pounds. What's this? Disclaimers? ↵

↵"NOT A LOW CALORIE FOOD" ↵

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↵Whatevs. We can totally make this work. Tell me about the diet part, again. ↵

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↵"TACO BELL DRIVE-THRU DIET IS NOT A DIET PROGRAM. PAY ATTENTION TO TOTAL CALORIE AND FAT INTAKE AND REGULAR EXERCISE." ↵

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↵So what did this woman eat at Taco Bell during her diet regimen? Napkins? Bathroom soap? ↵

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↵Dispatches from Madden Nation ↵

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↵In case you're still playing a year or two outdated version of Madden online, those days will come to an end as of Feb. 2, as EA is ending online service for Madden 07 on Xbox 360, Madden 08 for Wii and PC and Madden 09 for Wii, PSP, PS3, Xbox 360 and Xbox 1 (they still make games for that?). I understand maintaining these servers costs the company money, but I don't think it's asking a lot to keep them running for one past iteration of the game. But then it's EA. We're just lucky they didn't put a Snickers ad in the press release. ↵

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↵A Delicious Bundle of Gripes ↵

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↵-- So long, Jim Zorn. We'll miss your many comical faces. And your team's comical special teams gadget plays. ↵

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↵-- It's a tight race to determine which defensive back was more embarrassed by a runner this season: Raiders safety Hiram Eugene on Sunday by Willis McGahee or Steelers corner William Gay earlier this year by Adrian Peterson. Tough call, but I still have to go with Gay. Getting stepped on after being trucked ensures he'll never not be taunted about that again. ↵

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↵-- You know, earlier this season, it was a given that Tom Cable would be fired, what with the punching assistants and all. But now that it's actually going to happen, I'm a little torn. The Raiders look to be on the verge of being a respectable team. Hell, they likely would've beaten the Ravens on Sunday had JaMarcus Russell not had to come in to hand the ball over a few times. The team had more than a few respectable victories over good teams this year. Couldn't have predicted I would come around on the guy in a few months, but Cable could have Oakland vying for a playoff spot next year. ↵

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↵-- Yet another reminder that when football players hit the wall, it's never a soft bump. Steelers linebacker James Farrior was a Pro Bowler in 2008 and one of the key cogs on the NFL's top ranked defense. At the end of a disappointing follow-up campaign, in which he still led the team in tackles, he's talking about how he's lost a step. Farrior showing his age was one of the reasons Pittsburgh's defense had trouble closing out games. In their first game against the Bengals, Farrior was burned badly on a short pass to Brian Leonard on a key 4th and 10. Maybe even a year ago, Leonard is brought down short and the Steelers win. But Leonard got by him and got the 1st, which kept an eventual winning drive alive. Just one of the many small things that, if they had gone differently, would have gotten the no-longer-defending champs into the playoffs. ↵

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↵-- Larry Fitzgerald claims he played the entire game Sunday against Green Bay because he was never told was supposed to come out, while coach Ken Whisenhunt said Fitzgerald was intent on scoring another touchdown. Gonna have to side with the player on this one. Even if Fitzgerald wanted to score again, why in the world would you let him stay out there the entire game when Anquan Boldin had already been hurt? ↵

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

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