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Jan. 15, 2005

NFL playoffs: Week 2

by Isamu Bae, Page Editor and Pratik Bhandari, Page Editor
Divisional Playoff
Matchups Izzy Pratik
New York Jets at Pittsburgh Steelers
St. Louis Rams at Atlanta Falcons
Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles
Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots
New York Jets at Pittsburgh Steelers Saturday, 4:30 p.m. - CBS
Key Points: For the Jets to win...
  1. Don't let the Bus keep rolling. While the freshest Steeler RB may be Duce Staley, the Jets must remember to take Jerome Bettis into account. The number of carries Bettis will receive is unknown, but given his extreme success this season, it would not be surprising to see the Bus get crucial carries down the stretch- especially against a worn-out defense. If the Bus is allowed to get rolling, it could be a slow, agonizing loss.
  2. Build on the pseudo-success of the last game, but don't let it get into their heads. The worst game the Steelers ever played this season after starting Big Ben came against the Jets. Therefore, the Jets have something to build on, right? Right and wrong. The Jets may have stumbled onto something in their previous game, thus coming out with a very close loss. However, there are many teams who have come close in the regular season and end up being blown out in the playoffs. The Jets cannot let up their guard just because they have confidence few other teams have.
  3. Keep on bombing the ball. If there is any problem in the Steelers' defense, it is at the secondary. The cornerbacks are good but not great, especially when it comes to deep passes, where they are just horrible. Their secondary has gone through, essentially, only one move since the Cleveland Browns lit them up for over 400 yards passing two years ago in the playoffs. Jets' QB Pennington is not known for his arm, but he'd better get used to lobbing them to speedy playmaker WR Santana Moss.
  1. Stop the Steelers running game. The Jets have to force Roethlisberger into beating them rather than allowing him to get comfortable by just handing the ball off to Jerome Bettis or Duce Staley. The best way to do this, of course, is to get a lead and make the Steelers abandon their running attack. By making the Steelers offense one-dimensional, it gets much easier to stop their wonderful wide receiving corps.
  2. Keep the number one defense off-balance. At the moment, the Jets don't have the talent on offense to truly scare the Steelers defense, so the only hope for them lies upon Herman Edwards capable shoulders. Edwards needs to mix up his running and passing plays such that the Steelers defense can't key on what the Jets are doing.
  3. Toss the ball deep and pray. The Pittsburgh secondary is one of the weakest links of the whole defense, but it is still pretty formidable. For the Jets to win, however, they will need a lot of big plays from Santana Moss. Chad Pennington needs to be careful with the deep ball, making sure it won't be intercepted, but he needs to keep putting it up there because if they don't connect on at least one of them, it's all over for the Jets
Key Points: For the Steelers to win...
  1. Don't make Big Ben carry the team. For as much success and hubbub QB Ben Roethlisberger has had this season, there are two key factors that must not be forgotten. First, he's a rookie, and as superhuman he may seem, not even Dan Marino could lead his team to the Superbowl in his rookie season. Second, he is simply not a Dan Marino when it comes to passing. Yet. He will make the crucial passes, convert the key third downs, do whatever you want come crunch time, but he cannot carry a team. Coach Cowher must not forget that.
  2. Feed the ball the Randle El. Starting WRs Hines Ward and Plaxico Burress have turned many heads throughout the past few years because of their talent. After a down year in 2003-2004, the duo returned to supremacy in 2004-2005, cementing their place as one of the best starting duos in the league at the position. The Steelers' aerial trump card is not the two, however, and is instead slot receiver Antwaan Randle El. Randle El likewise turned some heads back to him after a 150+ yard performance against the New York Giants. He is their key playmaker who causes matchup problems, as being a former QB allows him to decipher coverages much better than many other receivers.
  3. Keep the Steel Curtain on the Jets. The Steelers were among the best in sacks this year. Barring any injuries during the game, this is something that is expected to continue. Pennington is not exactly the most calm quarterback in the world, as he tends to force some bad passes under fire. Stopping RB tandem Curtis Martin and LaMont Jordan is also important if the Steelers hope to contain the potentially explosive offense.
  1. Run the ball. As long as the Steelers can keep taking time off the clock by having Big Ben turn around and hand it to either Duce Staley or Jerome Bettis for more than three yards a carry, they should win the game.
  2. Don't underestimate the Jets. I think the most dangerous thing that the Steelers can do this week is to laugh off the Jets as nothing more than a warmup for their matchup with either New England or Indianapolis. If they give the Jets even an inch, Herm Edwards will exploit it. Pittsburgh needs to maintain its focus and worry about next week's game next week.
Key Matchups
  1. RB Curtis Martin vs. Steeler's D led by James Farrior
  2. RB Jerome "The Bus" Bettis and RB Duce Staley vs. The Jets defense led by Jonathan Vilma
St. Louis Rams at Atlanta Falcons Saturday, 8:00 p.m. - FOX
Key Points: For the Rams to win...
  1. Don't let Vick run. This is on top of most key point lists for any team against the Falcons, but it is especially important for the Rams, who gave up a 100 yard rushing game to Vick. It's bad enough when a runningback takes off for 100 yards against you, but when a quarterback?
  2. Lock down Alge Crumpler. The Falcons have no passing attack. Ok, maybe they do, but it comes in the form of one player: TE Alge Crumpler. Crumpler caught almost a third of all catches by his team, meaning the Rams have to lock down Crumpler or the Falcons actually do have a semblance of an aerial attack.
  3. Stop the Falcon's front four. The Rams have had problems on the offensive line all season due to injury, so it comes as to no surprise that, against one of the top front fours in the league led by DE Patrick Kerney, this could be a problem. QB Marc Bulger is prone to mistakes, especially when hurried. It will be up to the Falcons' pass rush to apply pressure to Bulger or their weak secondary will be chewed up by the Rams' track stars.
  1. Big Plays! As they showed against the Seahawks, the Rams are a big play offense. Facing a team with a weak secondary, like Atlanta's, bodes well for the Rams playmakers. Also, being on turf helps to make their outstanding receivers even more dangerous as they don't have to worry about unsure footing at all.
  2. Don't get Vick-timized. The Vikings live and die on the legs and left arm of Michael Vick. He is basically a superstar with a lot of role players around him. His ability to break out of the pocket and scramble is absolutely ridiculous and there are very few people in the NFL that can run with him step for step. If the Rams are to win the game, they need to make his teammates beat him. I mean, Warrick Dunn and T.J. Duckett aren't all that scary, and even Peerless Price has been mediocre at best in the starting wideout position.
Key Points: For the Falcons to win...
  1. Slow, hamper, do something to the Rams' receivers. Being in an indoor stadium is a double-edged sword for the Falcons. While it makes Vick extremely deadly, it also makes the Rams' receivers extremely deadly. It will be up to the front-four to pressure Bulger, but it will also be the duty of the secondary, especially rookie CB De'Angelo Hall, to not allow the receivers to run wild.
  2. Get the receivers involved. For the record, the Falcons receivers combined for barely more catches than Tory Holt alone. That's not good. Teams will always converge on TE Alge Crumpler, so there is added pressure for the receivers to make big plays down the field to stop the safety from helping the linebacker.
  3. Run the ball down the Rams' throat. Another way of forcing the safeties to play the run instead of the pass is to keep running. The Falcons' have quite a trio of runners. RBs Warrick Dunn and TJ Duckett as well as Vick himself. Dunn and Duckett are polar opposites in running, creating some nice rhythm changes that tend to befuddle the opposing defenses. Although the statistic is skewed by Vick, the Falcons led the league with 5.1 yards per carry. That will force the Rams to wiggle off of Crumpler and play the run a lot.
  1. Stop the big plays. The Falcons should look at last week's game against the Seahawks as an example of what not to do against the Rams. The Seahawks gave the wide receivers way too much of a cushion and they didn't finish off their tackles, letting short screens that went nowhere end up gaining 15-20 yards.
  2. Role players need to step up. St. Louis' main concern on defense will be No. 7, so everyone else has to realize that and take advantage of it. Warrick Dunn, T.J. Duckett and Peerless Price must all step up. And don't forget Alge Crumpler who will need to catch some passes so as to take some pressure off of Vick.
Key Matchups
  1. QB Michael Vick vs. Rams defense led by Leonard Little
  2. CB De'Angelo Hall vs. WR Tory Holt
Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles Sunday, 1 p.m. - FOX
Key Points: For the Vikings to win...
  1. Feed Burleson and Robinson the ball more. With Moss limping, pressure will be on WRs Nate Burleson and Marcus Robinson to perform. They've stepped up to the tasks for multiple games this season, so it is not out of the question to expect the same from them. The big problem is that Burleson will be facing perhaps the toughest cover corner he's faced all season- save for week two, when he played… the Eagles. Neither a healthy Moss nor a healthy Robinson really did much against the Eagles' secondary that game.
  2. Stop Westbrook. Redskins' defensive coordinator was asked this season to name the toughest Eagle to defend. The answer was not WR Terrell Owens but RB Brian Westbrook. Westbrook is so versatile it causes nightmares for opposing defenses. He is a shifty runner as well as a speedy receiver, leading to trouble if the Vikings try to cover him with a linebacker. Especially one of their linebackers. I don't know how the Vikings plan to shut him down, but it is definitely the key to the game.
  3. Keep this miraculous streak going. It's not just a win streak, but it's a possible streak of winning outdoors! They won one against the Packers last week- just the second in like 20 tries. Now they'll have to make it two in a row.
  1. Randy, Randy, Randy Keep throwing to him and sooner or later, he'll be mooning the fans in Philadelphia as well.
  2. Protect Culpepper I don't care how big he is or how strong he may be; he still won't be able to escape the clutches of defensive tackles and defensive ends all the time. Besides, every time the Eagles get the ball, they will eat up the clock with their running game and stop the Minnesota offense from getting some much-needed points.
Key Points: For the Eagles to win...
  1. Focus the offense around Westbrook. Even with Terrell Owens, the Eagles focused their offense around Brian Westbrook. The last time the Eagles lost a playoff game, Westbrook was out with an injury. Now, without Terrell Owens, with the pressure mounting, it will be up to the Eagles coaches to come up with creative ways to get the ball to Westbrook, as there will be little help from the receivers led by… Todd Pinkston?
  2. Close down the Culpepper Show. Culpepper's monster season continued last week with a four TD zero pick game against the Packers. He will look to continue that against the Eagles. The pressure will be on the young secondary led by Lito Sheppard to close the door on Culpepper's season. Whether they can do that or not will go a long way towards determining the game.
  3. Don't be flat. It's been well over a month since the Eagles last played a meaningful game. That could be bad news for the Eagles, who could very well be the most flat team in the NFL. Especially disconcerting is that McNabb has never played a game without Terrell Owens this season. Was Andy Reid's gamble in resting his players for a month the right choice?
  1. Stay on offense I know Philly's defense is good, but don't tell me that Lito Sheppard and Brian Dawkins can contain Moss for a whole game. In fact, the best way to play defense against the Vikings is to not give them the ball. Without T.O., the Eagles don't really have a dynamic passing attack anyway so expect a lot of time-consuming runs by Brian Westbrook.
  2. Don't be rusty Philadelphia hasn't played a meaningful game in over a month and you have to wonder if that has any detrimental effects on the players. Yeah, they may get to rest and recover, but all that time off also means that when they play again, they won't be as sharp as they should be.
Key Matchups
  1. RB Brian Westbrook vs. Vikings LB corps of Chris Claiborne, EJ Henderson and Donterrius Thomas
  2. Eagles secondary led by S Brian Dawkins vs. Vikings receivers led by Randy Moss
Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots Sunday, 4:30 p.m. - CBS
Key Points: For the Colts to win...
  1. Don't let the field mess them up. In a slick move, the Patriots let the field become a marsh by making it weather the snow and storm through the week. This will give the advantage to the Patriots, as this hampers the Colts' receivers. That cannot be used as an excuse for the Colts, who must still continue their air raid, bad field or not.
  2. Protect Manning. The Patriots will rush defenders from all over the place, putting a premium on the Colts' offensive line to stop the rush. They've done that well this season, allowing just 14 sacks. One of them, however, came on a crucial play in week one against the Pats.
  3. Try to stop it from becoming a shootout. As strange as it may seem, the biggest problem for the Colts may be if the game becomes a shootout. As great as Manning is, his defense is just not as good as the Pats' defense, and Tom Brady has the skills and composure to match Manning score for score. In the long run, that means bad things for Manning, who will be facing a much tougher defense than Brady is.
  1. Perfect Peyton Manning must be absolutely perfect in this game because any mistake against the Patriots gets magnified a thousand-fold as they have Tom Brady and Corey Dillon on offense waiting to capitalize. Manning needs to play like he did against the Broncos. The good thing for him is that he now faces a weak New England secondary that no longer has the services of their best playmaker, Ty Law. Furthermore, the rule changes aroundthe NFL this year were made because of last year's game where the Patriots manhandled the Colts receivers and made them completely ineffective. The refs in this game will be extra vigilant about pass interference so the Colts should definitely take advantage of that.
  2. Beat the ghosts All year long, the one thing that people have been saying about Manning is that he can't beat the Patriots. Now, he's got to put all of that aside and try to overcome it, because the longer he fails, the harder it'll be to beat.
Key Points: For the Patriots to win...
  1. Rush Manning with the cornerbacks. One thing the Patriots might want to remember is that the man who sacked Manning the most was not a defensive lineman nor linebacker nor safety. Rather, it was Texans' rookie CB Dunta Robinson, who showed that the Colts have trouble picking up fast, outside blitzes. Belichick probably won't be too scared to pull the trigger on such plays, given their secondary won't take a hit from rushing their CBs anyways.
  2. Use Dillon for all his worth. The most quiet off-season team change was Corey Dillon going to the Pats for a second round pick. A second rounder! Forget the fact that he's over 30, the man almost ran for more yards alone than Kevin Faulk and Antwain Smith last season! The Colts' defense has been weak against everything, and to keep the ball out of the Colts' offense, Dillon must show the world that he is not slowing down at all.
  3. Confuse Manning. If there is anything Belichick is great at doing, it is as confusing the quarterback. Even the great Manning. He'll have to be up to his tricks again if he wants his team to have a chance with such a depleted secondary.
  1. Keep Manning off the field He can't hurt you if he's not playing. Expect New England to line up in a power formation and run it all day long, with the odd pass thrown to a tight end to keep the defense honest.
  2. Keep it close As long as the game doesn't turn into a blowout, chances are the Pats will win. Let's face it, they have one of the best kickers in the league and they have a quarterback who is calm and collected in the two-minute drill. Just by staying close with the Colts throughout the game, the Patriots dramatically improve their chances of winning.
Key Matchups
  1. QB Peyton Manning vs. Coach Belichick and Def. Coord. Romeo Crennel
  2. RB Corey Dillon vs. Colts defense led by David Thornton

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  • u suck on January 20, 2005 at 11:07 AM
    this article is crap. u guyz need to do a better job and go into more detail. u cant always throw the ball. the vikings can run it too. They also need to try out a trick play or 2 like a fake field goal. Moss sholdve stayed on the field, caught the TD, and then take the flag and at least give them another shot at the field goal
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