Wild Card Wrapup

Hurley Wins Top Wild Card Plays On Sunday With Cardinals (+2) over Packers and (Over 48) in that wild 51-45 Cards win. Loses With Patriots vs. Ravens.

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THE NFL WILD CARD WEEKEND IN REVIEW - HEY, THE CARDINALS' 51-45 OVERTIME WIN AGAINST THE PACK STEALS THE SHOW BUT THE RAVENS, COWBOYS & JETS ALL GOBBLE UP IMPRESSIVE DOUBLE-DIGIT WINS

By Jim Hurley:

Okay, so it took 3½ games this past weekend for things to truly "get wild" in the NFL Wild Card Round but let's just say Green Bay versus Arizona made up for a spate of rather dull tilts - upsets (see New York Jets over Cincinnati and then Baltimore over New England) or not (see Dallas over Philadelphia), the first three games of this past weekend's four tilts generated plenty of yawns and very little precious drama but things really heated up after halftime in Glendale and now we're left wondering once again ...
    
Are the here-and-now Cardinals on the path to getting back to a second straight Super Bowl or is someone else that just thrived on NFL Wild Card Weekend that is now ready/willing/able to make a monstrous post-season run?
    
As we reminded you in our most recent Jim Sez, in three of the past four years a team that won on NFL Wild Card Weekend wound up winning it all (the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers, the 2006 Indianapolis Colts and the 2007 New York Giants all won Super Bowl trophies after failing to earn first-round playoff byes) and what fans right now of the J-E-T-S, Cowboys, Ravens and Redbirds don't think this is "their year" despite the fact you do have to win that extra playoff game?
    
We'll examine all of this past weekend's NFL Wild Card Games shortly but now hear this:
    
Here's just some of the folks in the NFL you don't want to be in the next 24-to-48 hours:

  • Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers
  • Either QB Tom Brady and/or WR Randy Moss of the New England Patriots
  • Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid
  • Cincinnati Bengals QB Carson Palmer and WR Chad Ochocinco.

And much more about all of these gents in the game-by-game recaps but first this important reminder:

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will rock your NFL Playoff world with this weekend's NFL Divisional Playoff Games and do remember there's NBA and NCAA Basketball too when you call us daily at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or else simply when you log online right here.

And another important reminder: 

The number of football games are dwindling, and there is money to be made on basketball. We're demonstrating that on all our services now, none more so than the Private Line Club, an elite service that has now won TEN STRAIGHT. Our Hotline service enjoyed a 2-0 Sunday, picking up winners on Northwestern (+6.5) over Michigan outright, 68-62. Apparently linesmakers haven't picked up on the fact that the Wolverines are a two-man team behind Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims. We have picked up on that fact and gladly took free points. Hotline customers also won Denver over Western Kentucky. 

We won't tell you we never lose. Our special ACC release yesterday was Florida State (+4.5) over Maryland, and the Seminoles were 77-68 losers, in an effort that really disappointed us. But yesterday's a microcosm of the bigger picture--we may have our losses, but they are vastly outnumbered by the winners and we're rolling that money right back into the NFL Playoffs! You should be too!
    

NFL WILD CARD WEEKEND - THE GAME RE-CAPS
   
On Sunday, it was ...
   
ARIZONA 51, GREEN BAY 45 (OT) - No doubt there are a slew of hard-to-believe items that cascade right out of this game that set an NFL Playoff record for most points in a single game ... like when was the last time you saw a quarterback throw for 379 yards and pile up more touchdown passes (five) than incomplete passes (four)?
    
You better darn say that's amazing!
    
Arizona QB Kurt Warner - who finished this shootout at the OK Corral with 29 completions in 33 attempts - didn't even have to be on the field when the Cards won this one thanks to a sack-and-17-yard fumble return by DB Michael Adams and LB Karlos Dansby, respectively, but no question that Warner was the numero uno star of this game and that, in itself, is special considering he was missing WR Anquan Boldin (ankle/knee) for this entire post-season tilt.
    
All Warner did was carve up the Green Bay defense - you know, the unit that received league-wide praise for holding five of the Packers' last six opponents to 14 points or less - with a wide-out corps that snagged 19 completions with "third receiver" Early Doucet hailing down six balls for 77 yards and two TDs. Throw in the always-acrobatic WR Larry Fitzgerald (6 catches for 82 yards and two TDs) and the always-slippery Steve Breaston (team-high 7 catches for 125 yards and one score) and the Cards' offense did their part to make this one resemble a flag football game in the middle of the park.
    
Now, back to the aforementioned Capers who was busy taking bows in recent weeks while Green Bay was busy winning seven of its last eight regular-season games. The long-time defensive-minded coach - and first-year defensive coordinator of the Pack - was shown by the Fox cameras to be having some mini-fits in the press box (we thought his hairpiece might fly off at any moment!) as his unit forced only one Ben Graham punt and came up with only one quarterback sack while surrendering six touchdowns.
    
Okay, so the Cardinals' defense didn't exactly distinguish itself either here while allowing 493 yards to the QB Aaron Rodgers'-led attack (see his 422 yards passing with four TDs) but it's not as if 'Zona went into this game believing it was gonna shut down Rodgers and Company. The Packers were awfully chatty following last weekend's meaningless 33-7 Week 17 win against Arizona and led folks to believe that they would silence Warner here and smother the Cards' downfield pass-catchers - and meanwhile there were huge openings in the middle of the field where Arizona receivers roamed while awaiting Warner strikes and yet Capers and Co. did nary a thing about it to adjust.
    
Warner improved his playoff record to 9-3 lifetime - not bad for a guy rumored all week long ready to retire.
     
It's Mr. Capers who might want to think about his future.
    
Next up for the Cards is a trip to New Orleans this Saturday afternoon - and take note the current totals price is "only" 56 ½ points.

    
BALTIMORE 33, NEW ENGLAND 14 - You can go back to being daddy, Tom Brady!
    
The three-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback of the Patriots should have been a "stay-at-home" father this weekend - everyone involved with the Pats would have been better off if he had stayed at home instead of playing here and going belly-up against the hot-and-bothered Ravens who claimed they needed to start fast and then did just that with 24 first-quarter points.
    
Cha-ching!
    
Brady - who completed only 23-of-43 passes for 154 yards with three interceptions (and two TDs) - wasn't the only Patriots "villain" here but his lost fumble on a LB Terrell Suggs "strip sack" and then his second pick that set up RB Ray Rice's one-yard TD gave 3 ½-point underdog Baltimore a 17-0 lead just 11-plus minutes into this game and the rest was mere window dressing on both sides.
    
The energetic Rice - who rushed for 159 yards on 22 carries - bolted loose for an 83-yard TD run on the game's first play from scrimmage and thereby no doubt set the tone of this playoff tilt (maybe Pats head coach Bill Belichick now regrets his decision to kick off!) but it really came down to Brady's overall ineffectiveness that finally ended New England's 11-game playoff home winning streak.
    
And AWOL wide-out Moss wasn't much help to the Patriots' cause either!
    
In the end, Moss wound up with five catches for 48 yards - not much but phony stats still - and no doubt his late-season moodiness helped to sabotage New England's post-season. All the while the Ravens embraced their role as road warriors with LB Ray Lewis an absolute beast - just like the good ole days - and with Rice and RB Willis McGahee helping Baltimore crank out 234 yards rushing (a 4.5 yards-per-carry average).
    
No doubt the knee injury suffered last week by Pats slot receiver Wes Welker (NFL-best 123 receptions this year) hurt Brady and Company but a real silent killer here was the fact that New England receivers (mainly the oft-clueless Sam Aiken who finished with one catch for five yards before suffering a head injury) many times did not know where to line up as New England's offense was in a confused state for much of this game and looked totally unprepared - now that's not a trait normally associated with a Belichick-coached team, right?
    
Baltimore's next stop is Saturday night in Indianapolis - and something tells us Ravens' QB Joe Flacco (4-of-10 passing for 34 yards with one INT) may have to juice up those numbers if John Harbaugh's club is gonna be a road warrior again.
  
    
On Saturday, it was ...
    
DALLAS 34, PHILADELPHIA 14 - As fans witnessed all weekend long, there was a real "big bang" effect in these NFL Wild Card Games:
    
We talked about Baltimore's 24-point first-quarter explosion in Foxboro and don't forget Green Bay actually scored 21 points in the fourth quarter of that OT loss in the desert.
    
Here, the host Cowboys churned out a 27-point second quarter en route this blowout win that blew away talk of playoff jinxes (no post-season wins for Dallas since the 1996 season can now be stuffed in some garbage bin) and bad-luck head coaches (yes, Wade Phillips has now won a playoff game after four consecutive post-season losses).
    
Even oft-maligned QB Tony Romo blew away his past demons with a real crisp performance - he completed 23-of-35 passes for 244 yards with two TDs and 0 INTs and did a great job of calling audibles that allowed the ground game to counter all those predictable Philly blitzes.
    
Okay, so maybe it seemed that the 'Boys called that delayed draw play a gazillion times here but who's arguing with the results as RB Felix Jones (16 carries for 148 yards and one spell-binding 73-yard TD run) spearheaded a ground game that gained 198 yards and averaged 5.7 yards a pop.
    
Dallas controlled the ball to the tune of 426 net yards and ate up 39:34 while the Eagles' offense - save for one Michael Vick touchdown pass - was lost in space and 11th-year head coach Andy Reid looked dazed-and-confused after a second straight loss at "The House that Jerry Built".
    
And you thought sports talk radio in Philly was rough on Reid earlier this year when the Birds inexplicably lost at 14 ½-point underdog Oakland!
    
The talking heads will be having a proverbial field day considering the Eagles converted only 2-of-11 third-down plays (and went 0-of-2 on fourth downs), entered the red zone just once all the while the Eagles lost three fumbles and committed 116 penalty yards (okay, so Dallas was flagged for 14 penalties worth 112 yards).
    
The Eagles did win 11 regular-season games but maybe - just maybe - we're getting dangerously close to having this Reid/QB Donovan McNabb (see 19-of-37 passing for 230 ineffective yards) so-called "marriage" come to an end.
    
Next up for Dallas: A trip to Minnesota and a date with Brett Favre this Sunday. Fun, fun, fun stuff!
 
    
NEW YORK JETS 24, CINCINNATI 14 - Maybe Rex Ryan is right!
    
Maybe the first-year head coach of the J-E-T-S had something when he proclaimed prior to the start of this year's playoffs that his AFC East club "should be the favorite to win it all" - at least the outspoken boss-man of gang green backed up his pre-Bengals game chatter with a most convincing win that featured a rookie that nobody's talking about (see RB Shonn Greene and his 135 yards rushing) and a rookie that everybody is talking about (QB Mark Sanchez).
    
True, Sanchez handled both the frigid conditions at Paul Brown Stadium (see single-digit wind chills) and the Cincy defense as he completed 12-of-15 passes for 182 yards with one TD and no picks - and those numbers could have been even better had not butter-fingered WR Braylon Edwards dropped an easy first-half pass in the end zone.
    
Sanchez was cool and calm all game long as he operated behind arguably the best offensive line in the NFL - and it's time to put center Nick Mangold at the very top of the list for the best player at that position in the sport - and his Jets grabbed all the help they could get from a rotten Bengals offense that never did kick it into gear as QB Carson Palmer (18-of-36 for 146 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT) absolutely was dreadful with a slew of high/wide passes and big-mouth WR Chad Ochocinco (two catches for 28 yards) again proved he's more a class clown than anything else.
    
The forecast here is that Ochocinco - or Chad Johnson, if he does indeed return to his original name - should be sent packing from the Queen City while Palmer's intestinal fortitude also must be questioned.
    
P.S., Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis has now coached seven years here and has produced zero playoff wins. Ugh!
    
The Jets now get the extra prep day before playing in San Diego this Sunday - that will be about a 60-degree change in temps but Ryan doesn't wish to change this cocky club's mindset.
    
It's right where he wants it to be - swagger-licious is what it's called 'round Jets' headquarters.
 

NEXT: THE NFL DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS - AND A LOOK BACK

The NFL Wild Card Underdogs covered three-of-four games this past weekend (see accompanying chart below) and then note what happened in last year's NFL Divisional Playoffs (note all Home Teams in CAPS);

NFL WILD CARD '09 CHART

WINNER

SPREAD

LOSER

SCORE

NY Jets

+2½

CINCINNATI

24-14

DALLAS

-3½

Philadelphia

34-14

Baltimore

+3½

NEW ENGLAND

33-14

ARIZONA

+3

Green Bay

51-45

Now, here are last year's results in the NFL Divisional Playoff Round:

WINNER

SPREAD

LOSER

SCORE

Baltimore

+3

TENNESSEE

13-10

Arizona

+10

CAROLINA

33-13

Philadelphia

+4

NY GIANTS

23-11

PITTSBURGH

-6½

San Diego

35-24

As you can see, three-of-four dogs not only covered but won outright in the "second round" of last year's playoffs - just as what happened this past weekend in the NFL Wild Card Round.

NOTE: Get more NFL Playoffs coverage in our Mid-Week edition of Jim Sez.

22
Nov

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