Silver Chips Online

NFL Divisional playoffs

Rematch week?

By Pratik Bhandari, Page Editor, Abe Schwadron, Online Managing Editor and Phillip Allen, Online Managing Sports Editor
January 14, 2006
Every single game this week is a rematch of a regular season game...how weird is that? The Redskins are still alive this week...let's hope that they'll be here next week too.
From left to right: Josh, Abe, Phil and Pratik. Zoe Norvell
From left to right: Josh, Abe, Phil and Pratik.

Washington Redskins at Seattle Seahawks
Saturday, January 14, 2006 - 4:30 p.m. on FOX

The Word: The Seahawks seek revenge at home after the Redskins put them away in over-time in week four.

Offense: Both teams live and die by the run. MVP Shaun Alexander amassed over 1700 rushing yards to take the title this year, not to mention the 28 TD's he scored to break the all time record. On top of that, they may have the most underrated QB in the league with Matt Hasselbeck waiting to throw it deep on play action. Though they sputtered last week the Redskins offense can be prolific. With a healthy Clinton Portis banging first downs up the gut, the field should be open for Mark Brunell and Santana Moss to burn the Seattle secondary over the top. Production from Chris Cooley and back up running back Ladell Betts should also have an impact.

Advantage: Seahawks

Defense: Both defenses will have their hands full stopping the run, a task they have both managed well. The front seven of Seahawks is solidly anchored by defensive end Rocky Bernard and has held opponents to only 3.6 yards per rush attempt. They also have gotten to the quarterback consistently with a league leading 50 sacks. The Seattle secondary can be burned for quick scores, a problem they will have to address playing against speedster Santana Moss. The Redskins defense is amazing across the board. They essentially brought the team into the second round holding the Bucs last week to ten points while scoring six themselves. Their one flaw is allowing an average of 4.1 yards per carry to opponent rushers. Greg Williams will have to address this if he hopes to stop Alexander.

Advantage: Redskins

Player to Watch: Santana Moss, WR Washington After catching two balls in his playoff debut, Moss will be ready to break out against the Seahawks. With no defensive player in the secondary with the speed or skills to handle Santana one-on-one, Seattle will either have to double him or watch him torch them over and over again. Look for at least two deep game changing plays where Moss ends up behind the safeties. They know he'll be looking to get open deep but there is only so much you can do.

Bottom Line: The Redskins are a more cohesive unit overall. Though they did have trouble moving the ball last week, they will learn from their mistakes and be ready on Saturday. Alexander will do some damage but it will be nothing compared to what Brunell, Moss and Cooley do to the Seattle secondary.

Prediction: Redskins 30, Seahawks 24

New England Patriots at Denver Broncos
Saturday, January 14, 2006 - 8:00 p.m. on CBS

The Word: Last year's Super Bowl champions take on the Broncos at Mile High.

Offense: As usual, the New England offense will go as Tom Brady goes. Last week, he got great production from TE Ben Watson. Also, the wide receivers were consistently able to get behind the weak Jaguar secondary. Denver's offense has always relied on the run to set up everything they do. The unique zone-blocking scheme has churned out 1000-yard rushers with miraculous consistency. The run is what sets up the play action deep pass, opens up holes in the secondary and ultimately wears down the defense so that the backs can take over late in the game.

Advantage: Broncos

Defense: Both defenses are great. Not good, great. Teams rarely get this far in the playoffs without a dominating D. That being said though, New England's defense simply has that extra intimidation factor that isn't associated with the Bronco's D. Denver's defense is simply a notch below their counterparts on the opposite sideline.

Advantage: Patriots

Player to Watch: Kevin Faulk, RB New England With Corey Dillon banged up and moving about as quickly as molasses, Faulk will be a key component of the Patriot's offensive attack. If he can give New England some semblance of balance, then it will only be that much easier for Tom Brady to pick apart the Broncos.

Bottom Line: Last time the Patriots played the Broncos, the Broncos won quite handily. But the Patriots were playing without Tedy Bruschi and the rest of their defense was banged up. This time around, Tatum Bell shouldn't be able to run for 114 yards on only 13 carries. Ultimately, the improved New England defense will be the death knell for the Broncos.

Prediction: Patriots 24, Broncos 21.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Indianapolis Colts
Sunday, January 15, 2006 - 1:00 p.m. on CBS

The Word: The Steelers whipped up on a Carson Palmer-less Bengals team, while the Colts lied in wait, not playing a meaningful game in over a month.

Offense: Is there any offense in the NFL more complete than Peyton Manning's Colts? This two or three year run by the Colts could put them down in history as the best offense in the history of the NFL. They are simply that good. Edgerrin James is a big, bruising back with top end speed. Their third wide receiver, Brandon Stokeley, could be the starting wideout on some teams. People don't talk about stopping the Colts, they only think about containing the damage. The Steelers are no slouches on offense, but frankly, they simply can't compare to the Colts in this regard.

Advantage: Colts

Defense: The single biggest reason why the Colts won 13 straight and why they are finally considered Super Bowl favorites is their marked improvement on defense. Dwight Freeney, Cato June, Bob Sanders and company have capitalized on Coach Tony Dungy's Cover 2 defense and swarm to the ball like piranhas. The Steelers have always been known for tough, hardnosed D and this year is no different. Safety Troy Polamalu terrorizes wide receivers and running backs throughout the league with his vicious hits and cavalier disregard for safety. But, the secondary can be taken advantage of if the offensive line can slow the ferocious pass rush the Steelers bring.

Advantage: Colts

Player to Watch: Troy Polamalu, S Pittsburgh Polamalu's play will be the key to slowing down the Colts offense. He will have to help out at the line of scrimmage against James on every running play and also drop back and terrorize receivers over the middle on pass plays.

Bottom Line: The Colts have simply looked too good the whole season to pick against them now. Manning, in particular, has been playing like this is the year that he will finally win the Big One and put all his doubters to rest.

Prediction: Colts 35, Steelers 17

Carolina Panthers at Chicago Bears
Sunday, January 15, 2006 - 4:30 p.m. on FOX

The Word: Carolina tries to avenge a 13-3 loss to the Bears in November after a 23-0 stomping of the Giants. Both teams come into the game boasting top-3 defenses and the intent to run the ball right at their opponent.

Offense: WR Steve Smith (1563 yards, 12 TD's) has lit up NFL defenses all season, and caught 14 passes for 169 yards against the Bears in the teams' first matchup. Panthers RB DeShaun Foster ran over the Giants last week for more than 100 yards rushing and QB Jake Delhomme is a playoff veteran. As for the Bears, starting quarterback Rex Grossman has started just one game this season (7 in his career) and has never seen the field in a playoff game. A trio of running backs will look to carry the load for Chicago: Thomas Jones, Adrian Peterson and Cedric Benson. Grossman will look to WR Muhsin Muhammad as a downfield threat, but ultimately the Panthers' offense has more experience, talent and a downfield threat.

Advantage: Panthers

Defense: Both the Bears and the Panthers have scary, intimidating defenses, meaning this game will be low-scoring and may hinge on a few big plays (or, more likely, mistakes). The Panthers hold their opponents to less than 100 yards per game rushing, and have allowed just 16 points per game on the year. Julius Peppers, Mike Rucker and Brentson Buckner will force Grossman out of the pocket, while their physical and aggressive cornerbacks like Chris Gamble will jam the Bears' receivers at the line of scrimmage. But if there is a playoff team still alive in the playoffs with a stiffer defense than Carolina's, it's the Bears'. Chicago gives up just over 12 points per game, tops in the NFL, and their aggressive schemes stumped the Panthers the last time the two teams met. Delhomme was sacked eight times in the teams' first meeting, so expect a pass rush from the Bears. Brian Urlacher, Charles Tillman, Lance Briggs, Mike Brown and Nathan Vasher lead the D that could take the Bears all the way.

Advantage: Bears

Player to Watch: Rex Grossman, QB Chicago The fate of this matchup may rest squarely on Grossman's shoulders. If he can get the ball downfield and make the Panthers' defense back off the run, the Bears will be able to put points on the board. If not, any points the Panthers put up could be enough for the win. Grossman's inexperience in the playoffs (and the NFL, for that matter) is the X-factor.

Bottom Line: The Bears stingy defense will keep the pressure on Jake Delhomme and shut down the Panthers' running game. But the key in this game is where it's being played. Chicago holds opponents to less than eight points per game at home. Grossman will play just well enough to help the Bears to a hard-fought victory.

Prediction: Bears 17, Panthers 13

http://silverchips.mbhs.edu/story/6106