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Random Thoughts and Playoffs

As we enter Wild Card weekend in the NFL, the New York Jets offseason drama is already in full swing. Bill Cowher is out, and current playoff defensive coordinators Steve Spagnuolo (New York Giants) and Rex Ryan (Baltimore Ravens) are at the top of the Jets’ wish list, with former Denver Broncos head honcho Mike Shanahan in the mix. Of the three, Ryan might be the best fit since he employs the same 3-4 defensive scheme the Jets already have the personnel for. Spagnuolo has experience in the New York market, and could bring some of that blitzing Giants defensive strategy to the Jets, who sorely need a pass rush. Shanahan is the biggest name and could work the best with Brett Favre, however. All three coaches will be heavily pursued for each of the head coaching vacancies.
Meanwhile, there is dissension in the Jets locker room about Favre. The recent comments of Thomas Jones, Kerry Rhodes, and those who remain anonymous painted Favre as distant and aloof, a veteran quarterback who never formed a bond with his teammates. Of course, over the season, the Jets players defended Favre at every turn (as they should have for the sake of cohesion) and all they could talk about was how great it was to play with one of the all-time best quarterbacks. Not so now. If Favre decided to give it one more try, he better become THE leader in the locker room, garnering support from all of his teammates. A team won’t go anywhere if they are divided against their quarterback. Remember Jets fans, the offseason is only five days old, there’s a long way to go.
But its playoff time in the NFL. Let’s take a look at the Wild Card matchups.

Atlanta Falcons vs. Arizona Cardinals
These two birds have had their shares of woe throughout their histories, but things are looking up for each team. The Cards host their first playoff game in Arizona, led by their high-octane passing attack with receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquon Boldin, and quarterback Kurt Warner. Unfortunately, that’s all the Cardinals have. With no defense or rushing game, they will be hard pressed to control the temp against the Falcons. Atlanta running back Michael Turner should run all over the turf, and as long as Falcons rookie QB Matt Ryan doesn’t make any mistakes, expect the Falcons to fly into the next round.

Philadelphia Eagles vs. Minnesota Vikings
Everyone likes the Eagles in this game. That usually means pick Minnesota, but everyone is probably right on this one. The Vikings needed a last second field goal to top the Giants backups, how will they fare against the hottest team in the NFC? If you’re brave enough to back Tavaris Jackson, be my guest. The Eagles meanwhile resemble the 2007 Giants; a veteran team that has been close to the top before, only miss their opportunity and bottom out, only to rise again. This could be it for Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid. The tie in Cincinnati and McNabb’s benching in Baltimore were the low point. Can they take the road to the top? It can all start in Minnesota.

Indianapolis Colts vs. San Diego Chargers
If the Colts were playing any other team, they’d be a cinch to win. But the Chargers always play them tough, including knocking them out of the playoffs last year, despite injuries to LaDanian Tomlinson and Philip Rivers. The Chargers struggles all year, rallying to finish 8-8 and win the worst division in the NFL. After struggling early, the Colts won nine straight to finish right behind the Tennessee Titans in the AFC South. This might not be the best Colts team of the decade, but they might be the most determined. Likely NFL MVP Peyton Manning won’t let the Colts lose this one.

Baltimore Ravens vs. Miami Dolphins
Jets fans will watch this one and wonder what might have been. This matchup features two rookie head coaches in John Harbough for Baltimore and Tony Sparano for Miami. Can they hold on to the success that brought them this far. Will there be a road sweep in the first round? It will be interesting to see the battle of the Dolphins mistake free offense against the Ravens turnover happy defense. It’s hard not to like Baltimore, but as Jets fans are well aware, Chad Pennington has been underestimated before, only to quietly prove the doubters wrong. He’s beaten Peyton Manning and Drew Brees in the Wild Card round before, and he can add Joe Flacco to that list. It won’t be pretty, but Pennington and the Dolphins will eek out a win in Miami. And the Jets fans’ suffering continues…

Jason Levy


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