If you’re looking for something or someone that might tip the scale this week in the playoffs, I’ve got a few ideas.
Matt Leinart: Remember him? He was supposed to start for the Arizona Cardinals at quarterback this season but a funny thing happened on the way to his being named the first-string QB. Leinart played poorly in the pre-season and vet Kurt Warner looked great. Warner has had a fantastic season. But what if Warner goes down when the Cards meet the Atlanta Falcons? It’s possible. Warner is old and prone to injury and the Atlanta “D” is extremely brutal. Leinart certainly knows the scheme but can he pull it off? I say “no.”
Groin Pull: The league’s premiere rusher, LaDainian Tomlinson, has a groin pull and has not practiced this week. It would be unusual if he didn’t play but he may not be 100-percent and that could affect the San Diego Chargers chances of being competitive against the Indianapolis Colts.
Age Versus Beauty: Another way to say this would be “experience versus youth.” Flacco, Rivers, Jackson and Ryan are all young, talented and fairly inexperienced (two are rookies). Rookie Flacco leads the Baltimore Ravens against veteran Chad Pennington’s Miami Dolphins. Rookie Ryan will QB the Atlanta Falcons as they take on old man Kurt Warner and the Cardinals. Three-year man Jackson will run the Minnesota offense as they host the vastly experienced Donovan McNabb and the Eagles of Philadelphia. Finally, Phillip Rivers, who has five years experience, leads the Chargers against the 11-year vet Peyton Manning. This first week is definitely newbies versus oldies. The grandpas have the advantage.
Weather: Guess what? It’s not a factor since the Vikings play indoors and the other three games are in climes that should be friendly. But in the second week of the post-season, the weather could be decisive. The Giants have home field advantage throughout the post-season and the Steelers should get to host a game too. Brrrrrrr!
Coaches: Tony Dungee certainly gives the Colts a big advantage. Experience, smarts and fine game management define his tenure. On the other end of the spectrum is John Harbaugh, the former secondary coach for the Eagles and the rookie head coach for the Ravens. He’s young but has a good head on his shoulders. Miami head coach Tony Sparano was of late with the Cowboys as their O-line coach and assistant head coach. His offensive coordinator is veteran Dan Henning. Together, they have put together one of the least predictable offenses in the NFL. Watch their trick plays—they work. The Philadelphia Eagles’ Andy Reid, like Dungee, possesses playoff experience. He’s got a cool mind. And although conservative, Reid knows the game inside out.
D-fence: Ravens, Falcons, Indy and Eagles all hold the edge this week in this area. If defense wins playoff games, then those teams will be your winners. Of course, a QB with a hot hand or a running back with a steamroller mentality may have something to say about that.
That’s my take on the upcoming weekend. Enjoy the games.