Home Team Advantageous Only For Steelers
What a difference a week makes!! The opening Wild Card bracket of the NFL playoffs had all four visiting teams favored with half of them winning on Sunday and the other two losing to the home team on Saturday.
Last weekend in the Divisional Playoffs all four home teams were coming off a first-round bye and were supposedly fresh and also favored to win, with only the Pittsburgh Steelers obliging the Las Vegas Boys.
In Saturday’s first game the top-seeded Tennessee Titans of the AFC met six-seeded Baltimore as a three-point favorite. Although the Titans won the statistical battle, unfortunately they lost the war 13-10, ironically by the point spread that favored Tennessee.
Saturday’s nightcap was supposed to be an even bigger rout as the Carolina Panthers were favored by a whopping 9_ points over the upstart Arizona Cardinals. Throw in the fact the Panthers had won EVERY home game during the regular season and it’s hard to figure how the Cardinals ambushed them 33-13.
It was the same story in Sunday’s noon opener as the defending World Champion New York Giants were a four-point favorite over the Philadelphia Eagles, who had to sweat a couple of teams being upset and then whip the over-rated and highly-favored Dallas Cowboys to even earn the final wild card slot in the NFC.
The Eagles’ defense pressured the Giants to make several fatal mistakes and turnovers, humiliating the team favored to reach Super Bowl XLIII with a convincing 23-11 upset win at the Meadowlands, the first game in NFL history to ever end with a 23-11 score.
However, in the 3:45 p.m. finale the 6_-point favored Pittsburgh Steelers outclassed the visiting San Diego Chargers in every phase of the game and rolled to an impressive 35-24 win to run their home playoff record to an impressive 11-1.The Steelers boast the NFL’s best home-field record since the 1970 NFL merger.
San Diego was without start running back LaDainian Tomlinson who was sidelined with a groin injury.
The television announcers were dumbfounded about the subpar performances of the three losers, stating they had two weeks to get all their players healthy and rested thanks to the bye week during the wild card playoffs.
This Korner believes that teams like Tennessee, Carolina and the New York Giants who clinched playoff berths with still two or three weeks left in the regular season, lost the most important ingredient in sports—momentum—while resting some of their regulars the final couple of weeks.
Baltimore, Arizona, Philadelphia and even the Steelers had to win during the final month of the season just to get into the playoffs. They came into the playoffs with bumps and bruises, but they also brought plenty of momentum with them to the post-season and that’s why they are still playing for a berth in the Super Bowl.
And if you will recall in last week’s Korner we Fearlessly Forecast Baltimore and Philadelphia pulling off huge upsets over the two No. 1-seeded teams along with Pittsburgh’s win over San Diego. Of course we also said Oklahoma would upset Florida, but that’s another story.
Last weekend turned out to be the first time in National Football League playoff history that the top three seeds failed to make it to the Conference Championship Series. It also marked the first time since 1971 that three road teams won on the same weekend in the NFL playoffs.
And the Eagles have a chance to follow in the footsteps of last year’s New York Giants and the Steelers in 2005 who both won Super Bowls as wild cards by winning all their games on the road.
The Baltimore Ravens are following the same course as when they won their last
Super Bowl in 2000 by beating Miami in the first round and upsetting Tennessee on the road in the second to earn a berth in the AFC Championship Game.
But the Ravens already lost twice this season to their upcoming foe, the Pittsburgh Steelers, by scores of 23-20 in overtime and 13-9 on Dec. 14. These two teams will meet in the second game Sunday at 5:30 p.m. on CBS at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh in what should be a low-scoring, hard-hitting defensive battle.
Sunday’s NFC Championship Game at 2 p.m. on FOX also is a rematch that was won 48-20 by the Eagles in Philadelphia. But this game will be played in Arizona and has the distinction of being sold out in six minutes after the Cardinals won Sunday.
This Korner looks for Super Bowl XLIII to be a battle of the wild cards between Baltimore and Philadelphia. We’re picking the Ravens to upset the five-point favored Steelers 17-13 and three-point favorite Philadelphia to stymie Arizona 28-20.
KWICKIES…We’re sorry that former West Orange-Stark baseball phenom John Patterson announced his retirement from Major League baseball last week. Big John pitched for six years in the big leagues, compiling an 18-25 record and a 4.32 earned run average. The 30-year-old right-hander failed to adequately recover from nerve damage in his right forearm after posting a 9-7 record and a 3.13 earned run average during the 2005 season.
The Lamar men’s basketball team opened Southland Conference play with a solid 76-65 victory over Southeastern Louisiana Saturday night at the Montagne Center in Beaumont. It was the Redbirds’ 20th straight win at home over a two-season span as they improved to 10-4 for the season.
The Dallas Cowboys completed Step One of their housecleaning program by saying goodbye to troublesome Adam “Pacman” Jones last week, who committed the ultimate sin for a player—he didn’t produce. But Pacman remained positive after the move and said he’d return to the NFL and even suggested it might be with the Cowboys. And with owner Jerry Jones’ penchant for trying to keep the criminal element in the silver and blue uniforms by giving them second, third and fourth chances, the idea may not be that far-fetched.
Philadelphia Eagles’ place kicker David Akers booted three field goals in Sunday’s 23-11 NFC Divisional Playoff victory over the New York Giants to extend his NFL record to 18 straight in the post-season. He did it in the gusting, swirling frigid winds that plagued the Meadowlands throughout the entire game Sunday afternoon.
JUST BETWEEN US…Congrats are in order for former West Orange-Stark stand-out Earl Thomas for getting his third Freshman All-America honor last week when the Football Writers Association of America named him to its team. The Texas Longhorn safety also had been selected to the College Football News and Sporting News Freshman All-America teams, plus was an honorable mention All-Big 12 selection. Thomas set a Texas freshman record with 17 pass breakups and had two pass interceptions which tied him for fourth on the Longhorns’ list for freshman.