Playoff Insights

Eli will be a key factor

Saturday

Washington @ Seattle, 4:30 PM. With Seahawks RB Shaun Alexander in a limited role with Maurice Morris, Matt Hasselbeck has opened up his receiving core under a smart Holmgren offense. Engram, Hackett and Burleson are reliable, Hasselbeck’s star receiver, Deon Branch (right calf), is a game time decision. It allows an inspired Redskins’ secondary to step up at Qwest Field. Clinton Portis should shine and be prepared to introduce himself and the Redskins to glory in the playoffs once again. If the Seahakws D, Lofa Tatupu and Deon Grant hold their side of the field they can ruin Todd Collins’ play and chances of getting Cooley and Moss going. Whoever controls the trenches should control the turnover game as both coaches know they need to be right on against their veteran foe.

Jacksonville @ Pittsburgh, 8:00 PM. Big Ben Roethlisberger and Najeh Davenport are prospering under Mike Tomlin’s excellent overall coaching job. LeBeau’s Steel Curtain needs to put a halt to the Jaguars run game led by Fred Taylor and MoJoDrew’s speedy wheels. The Jags offensive and defensive lines have been manhandling opponents, but they face a real challenge in the Pittsburgh Defense. LBs Jerome Harrison and Clark Haggans can cause havoc on David Garrard and his passing game. Garrard has a long history of throwing too high while under pressure, and his inconsistency can turn into easy pickings for Ike Taylor and Troy Polamalu. The Steelers have the team to slow the Jags, and it may come down to who’s QB has the best game. Can Garrard keep up with Big Ben and Tomlin’s great play-calling? It’s a question to be answered Saturday night at Heinz Field.

Sunday

NY Giants @ Tampa Bay, 1:00 PM. The discipline and diehard Buccaneers slowed down on their way into the playoffs, but their veteran presence should boost them offensively and defensively over the Giants at Raymond James Stadium. Bucs QB Jeff Garcia, WRs Ike Hilliard and Joey Galloway can disturb an inconsistent Giants secondary while RB Ernest Graham will try his best to create some space between a proven Giants Dline. Filling in for Caddilac Williams, Graham has played very well but he must protect Garcia in order for the Bucs to get in a grove against Osi and Starahan’s gang. Sheli Manning will have a rough time passing to the gimp Plaxico Burress against Ronde Barber, and the Giants RBs have to pound the age into Derrick Brooks and the vet Bucs D to prove any effectiveness.

Tennessee @ San Diego, 4:30 PM.
The Titans’ #5 Defense and QBs Vince Young and Kerry Collin’s emergence to win have carried the Titans into the playoffs after missing out last season. On the other hand, Chargers RB LaDanian Tomlinson and TE Antonio Gates will be awaiting for a good game by the injured QB Phillip Rivers (knee). Rivers will need to manage Norv Turner’s offense and avoid turnovers. Titans DE Kyle Vanden Bosch and DT Albert Haynesworth could definitely cause mayhem against Rivers and LT’s blocks in LT Marcus McNeil and LG Kris Dielman, who’ve stepped up to their challenges this season, but suffered against the Titans. It’ll be a great battle worth watching at Qualcomm Stadium Sunday afternoon.


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