2008 NFL Playoffs – Wildcard Round Preview

(Philadelphia, Pa) — A wide-open 2008 NFL Season will continue this weekend with start of the playoffs.  As Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb said, “It’s an exciting time right now, it’s the NFL playoffs!  There are now 12 teams scratching to survive on the long road to Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa Bay, Florida.  It doesn’t matter how any of the teams got in the playoffs, all that matters is that the remaining teams are in the mix for the biggest prized in pro football.  It has been one wacky NFL season with many exciting storylines and I am sure the excitement will continue in the 2008 “Believe In Now” NFL post-season. 

One of the bigger stories from this weekend’s wildcard games is that two games will feature starting rookie quarterbacks.  When Atlanta’s Matt “Matty Ice” Ryan and Baltimore’s Joe Flacco take the field on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, it will be the first time in the Super Bowl era (since 1966) that two rookie quarterbacks have started a playoff game in the same year.   Ryan and Flacco will attempt to join former Buccaneers quarterback Shaun King (1999) and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (2004) as the only rookie quarterbacks to win a playoff game.  But Ryan and Flacco are not the only storyline worth tracking in the wildcard round.  Others storylines include: 

  • Three rookie head coaches (Dolphins Tony Sparano, Falcons Mike Smith, and Ravens John Harbaugh) making the postseason at the same time since 1992.
  • The 11-5 Dolphins, who matched 1999 Indianapolis as the only teams in history to make 10-game improvements from one season to the next.
  • The San Diego Chargers becoming the first team in NFL history to start 4-8 and make the playoffs.
  • The Colts making another tough run into the playoffs after starting their season at 3-4, winning nine straight games in the process — the Colts tied the all-time mark for the most consecutive victories (9) for a Wild Card team entering the playoffs.
  • The Vikings starting 1-3 and then winning five of their last six to win the NFC North.
  • The Philadelphia Eagles coming back from a record of 5-5-1 in late November to win four of their last five games to claim the NFC’s final playoff berth.

But as San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said, “We’re all 0-0 now”.  Truly every team has a chance as nine of the twelve teams in the postseason have double-digit wins and for the 13th consecutive season, five or more teams qualified for the playoffs that were not in the postseason the year — 7 teams including: Arizona, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Minnesota, Miami and Carolina.  There are no dynasty type teams in this year’s postseason mix, so anything is possible and hope abounds in all twelve playoff cities. If the 2008 NFL Regular Season has taught us anything, it showed that “On Any Given Sunday” any team can step-up their level of play to beat any other team in the parity-filled NFL (Remember the lowly Cleveland Browns knocking off the defending champion Giants way back in Week 6). Besides attaining the No. 1 seed in your conference is no guarantee of Super Bowl entry as surprisingly it has been fourteen seasons since the last time two No. 1 seeds faced each other in Super Bowl (1993 season, Buffalo vs. Dallas in Super Bowl XXVIII).

This year’s wildcard round features eight evenly matched teams, where no one really has any idea which team will advance.  Usually a good indicator of a potential winner in most playoff games is the “home” team, but for the first time that I can ever remember all four home teams in the wildcard round are considered home underdogs by Vegas.  I guess everyone still has images of the road warrior 2007 New York Giants winning Super Bowl XLII as they went 4-0 on the road including the Super Bowl on their way to an unexpected title.  My advice to everyone watching this weekend’s wildcard action is to pay very close attention to the winners as teams advancing from the Wild Card round have won the Super Bowl six times including the last three champions.  Last year, the NFC fifth-seeded New York Giants won three road games and then triumphed in Arizona over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.  Two years ago, AFC third-seeded Indianapolis accomplished the feat.  And three years ago, Pittsburgh became the first sixth seed to win a Super Bowl.

I usually like to look at the hottest teams going into playoff games as favorites, but every team in the wildcard round is entering the dance on a high note – Colts (9 game winning streak), Dolphins (5), Chargers (4), Falcons (3), Ravens (2), Eagles (1), Cardinals (1), and Vikings (1).

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