What to watch for in the divisional round
After looking at game film, Gary Horton tells you what to pay attention to in the divisional round.
After breaking down film and critiquing the teams heading into this weekend, Scouts Inc. tells you what to pay attention to.
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Are the No. 1 seeds in trouble?
The Giants and the Titans are not entering the postseason on hot streaks, and both have flaws that could be exploited this weekend. Their opponents -- the Eagles and the Ravens, respectively -- are not intimidated and go into this weekend with tremendous confidence. The Giants' run defense struggled down the stretch and their passing game was inconsistent, so it remains to be seen whether the reigning Super Bowl champs will be able to turn it on. The Titans also were not as dominant at the end of the regular season, and you have to wonder whether they will be ready for the Ravens' physical play.
Each No. 6 seed has a good chance of pulling off an upset, but the Titans should be a little more worried because the Ravens can control the clock and dictate the tempo of the game.
Safety in numbersEach game this weekend features one of the best safeties in the NFL. Dominating safeties are few and far between, but Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Arizona are lucky to have one apiece in their secondaries. Steelers SS Troy Polamalu is a terrific blitzer and outstanding tackler with great range and instincts. Ravens FS Ed Reed is the best ball hawk in the NFL, with a lightning-quick first step and an uncanny ability to bait quarterbacks. Eagles FS Brian Dawkins is very good tackler and one of the best run-support safeties in the league. Cardinals SS Adrian Wilson is very underrated, but he is a game-changing blitzer and run-stopper and does it all for Arizona.
Every matchup this weekend features two teams that played each other, at least once, during the regular season. In Week 5, the Ravens lost to the Titans by three points after losing the lead with less than two minutes to play. In Week 8, the Cardinals lost to the Panthers by four points after coughing up a 14-point lead in the second half. In Week 11, the Chargers lost to the Steelers by one point after PK Jeff Reed kicked a game-winning field goal with 11 seconds left. The Eagles and the Giants already have played twice (Week 10 and Week 14), and each team won on the road.
This means that not only does each team have film on its opponent, but it also has a good sense of what trends and schemes to expect.
Gary Horton, a pro scout for Scouts Inc., has been a football talent evaluator for more than 30 years. He spent 10 years in the NFL and 10 years at the college level before launching a private scouting firm, The War Room.
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2008 NFL Playoffs
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COLUMNS/FEATURES• Wojciechowski: May the bitter team win
• Chadiha: McNabb lets good times roll
• Football Outsiders: Numbers Crunching
• Sunday Countdown: Predictions and more
• Clayton: First and Goal
• Garber: This Philly Story seeks proper ending
• Clayton: Peaking Steelers should advance
• Chadiha: Eagles will soar in desert
• Wojciechowski: Book Eagles for Tampa
• Football Outsiders: Any Given Sunday
• Football Outsiders: Quick Reads
CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES (Jan. 18)
Steelers 23, Ravens 14• Polamalu's INT return secures win
• Playoff page | AFC North blog
Cardinals 32, Eagles 25• Fitzgerald leads Cardinals to first Super Bowl
• Playoff page | NFC West blog ... East
DIVISIONAL ROUND (Jan. 10-11)
Steelers 35, Chargers 24• Walker: The Bus sparks Parker
• Williamson: Bolts need season-long urgency
• Recap: Steelers knock out Chargers
• More | AFC West blog ... AFC North
Ravens 13, Titans 10• Graham: Battered Ravens pass physical
• Kuharsky: Titans failed to answer critics
• Recap: Turnovers doom Titans
• Zoom Gallery
• Fleming: Can anyone stop the Ravens?
• More | AFC North blog ... AFC South
Cardinals 33, Panthers 13• Sando: Desert bloom for Arizona's faithful
• Sando: No denying Cards' makeover
• Yasinskas: Carolina's big plans fall apart
• Recap: Delhomme's 5 INTs doom Panthers
• Zoom Gallery
• More | NFC West blog ... NFC South
Eagles 23, Giants 11• Wojciechowski: Book Eagles for Tampa
• Mosley: Giants lost to better team
• Recap: Defense smothers Giants
• Zoom gallery
• Chadiha: Eagles' defense hitting stride
• More | NFC East blog
WILD-CARD ROUND (Jan. 3-4)
Ravens 27, Dolphins 9• Wojciechowski: Scary Ravens' D
• Recap: Ravens' defense overpowers Dolphins
• More | AFC North blog ... AFC East
Eagles 26, Vikings 14• Mosley: Eagles' run continues
• Recap: Westbrook, big plays carry Eagles
• More | NFC East blog... NFC North
Cardinals 30, Falcons 24• Sando: Cards' winning identity
• Recap: Strong second half powers Cards
• More | NFC South blog ... NFC West
Chargers 23, Colts 17• Williamson: 5-6 Sproles comes up big
• Recap: Chargers shock Manning, Colts in OT
• More | AFC South blog ... AFC West