New York Giants 34, Carolina Panthers 28 OT
Great game. It is very apparent we watched the two best teams in the NFC square off. But it wasn’t a flawless outing, especially for the Panthers. After all, their front seven was thoroughly worn down by New York’s offensive line and running backs, and the receivers at times had trouble getting open against a stingy secondary.
Crazy as it sounds, I’m not so sure I would want the No. 1 seed. Think about it: during the flow of an NFL season, a team usually stays home for no more than two weeks in a row. But as the top seed in the playoffs, a team could stay home for up to a month. That is a completely different rhythm. And recent history suggests that the change in schedule can be a disadvantage. The last No. 1 seed to hoist the Lombardi Trophy was the ’03 Patriots.
The Panthers were creative in getting Steve Smith the ball early in this game, but once New York committed safety help, Carolina was content to go elsewhere. The Panthers have enough offensive talent to get away with this, but they might want to at least look for a big play from Smith once or twice a half regardless.
Corey Webster and Aaron Ross were both fantastic Sunday night.
Not enough attention was given to the fact that Ken Lucas’s pass interference in the end-zone late in this game marked the first pass interference penalty called against the Panthers all season. That is simply incredible – especially considering how physical the Carolina cornerbacks are.
Have you noticed that on the sideline during Giants game there always seems to be a bunch of ultra New Yorky-looking old guys who are sophisticatedly dressed as if they’re about to play chess at a public park? They’re the guys wearing rain coats and Scottish cashmere gill caps. Who are they?
Buffalo Bills 30, Denver Broncos 23
Watching Denver face San Diego on NBC primetime next week will evoke that morally iffy feeling you used to get when you stayed quite while witnessing your friend cheat on a test. It seems inherently wrong to watch these two middling teams play for such high stakes.
The best thing Denver has going for them next week is that they’re on the road. That way, when they blow what should have been an easy division title, they at least won’t get booed off the field.
To Denver’s credit, not many teams could handle the injuries at running back as well as they have. The Broncos didn’t run worth a darn in this game, but they were starting their sixth different running back on the season. Overall, Mike Shanahan’s team ranks a solid 16th in the league in rushing.
Mad props to the Bills for fighting back in a meaningless cross-country game in which they fell behind early. Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson were particularly impressive.
Washington Redskins 10, Philadelphia Eagles 3
The Eagles are like a hyperactive puppy or a rebellious ADD-riddled 12-year-old: the second you put down your guard and give them any sort of positive feedback, they disappoint you.
Philly is actually a fairly simple team to figure out: when Brian Westbrook is right, they’re good. When he’s not, they’re bad.
DeSean Jackson had one of those defining rookie learning experiences. And this time it did not involve him throwing the ball away before crossing the goal-line. The impressive young star dropped four passes on the day, including what looked to be a game-tying grab in the end-zone.
It’s an utter shock, and quite frankly, a disgrace, to hear Jim Zorn’s name mentioned amongst coaches on the hotseat. The first-year head man has done a semi-marvelous job with this team. Washington’s problem is that they’ve hit a wall, in part because their running back and offensive tackles got hurt. Can Zorn do better? Absolutely. But it’s up to Dan Snyder to give him the chance.
Atlanta Falcons 24, Minnesota Vikings 17
How is it that Minnesota was minus-four in the turnover battle on the afternoon, yet had an opportunity to tie the game on the final drive inside the final two minutes? Does that say more about the Vikings or the Falcons?
People will start to say it now, but please, let me at least try to be the first: as great as Adrian Peterson is, it’s clear the man has a fumbling problem.
It came in a losing effort, but the reversal of fortunes for Tarvaris Jackson could prove to be one of the most stunning stories of the 2008 season. Benched because of ineptitude in September, it seems the talented third-year pro has somehow managed to learn the West Coast offense, as well as develop game-management techniques and poise in the pocket just from standing on the sideline and watching Gus Frerotte the past three months.
Visanthe Shiancoe is also coming on extremely strong for Minnesota.
As for Atlanta, they’re officially the new sexy team in the NFC. Over the next few weeks, you’ll hear about how incredible Michael Turner – did you know that he’s L.T.’s former backup !!?? – has been, what a great job Mike Smith has done and how Matt Ryan is the next great signal-caller, ala Dan Marino or Ben Roethlisberger. It will get annoying, but at least all this hype is substantiated.
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