2008 NFL Divisional Playoff Round Preview

(Philadelphia, Pa) – The “Elite Eight” round better known as the NFL Divisional Playoff Round starts the “real” games as far as I am concerned.  Most fans and media live for the hype of the NFL Conference Championships and Super Bowl, but you can put my hearty vote in for the NFL Divisional Playoffs as the most exciting portion of the league’s now year-round calendar.  The splendor of the divisional playoff round is that the four best teams from the NFL regular season, after a well-deserved bye week, finally get to enter the playoff fracas to take on pumped-up wildcard weekend upstarts.  The wildcard round usually does a pretty good job of removing some of the teams that I like to call “Frauds” from the playoff picture.  But if some frauds are leftover surely the divisional round will sniff them out.  The final eight usually brings out the best in teams leading to highly competitive games before the suffocating hype, pressure, and “big stage” mentality of getting to the Super Bowl sets in. 

The theme of the 2008 NFL Divisional Playoff round should be the same as one of my favorite ’70s films, “Let’s Do It Again”.  The film starred African American film icons Bill Cosby and Sidney Poitiere making a killing by prearranging boxing matches with all the marbles riding on a big payday rematch.  The word “rematch” fits perfectly as for the first time since 2005 all four divisional playoff games will be rematches from regular-season contests.  Of course having played and beaten a team in the regular season may cause a little “familiarity” psychological edge in game planning and dissecting tendencies. But playoff tenants of Strong Quarterback Play (i.e. Taking Care of the Football), Good Attacking Defense, a Balanced Offensive Attack based first in the Run, Sound Special Teams Play, Limiting Penalties/Turnovers, and just plain “Want-to” will be the key factors as to which teams move on to the Conference Championship round on long treacherous road to Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa Bay.  A final note regarding rematches, the aforementioned 2005 divisional playoffs produced some interesting results as 3 out of 4 regular season winning teams lost to their familiar foe in rematches.

Surprisingly all four home teams are favored this week by Vegas after a wildcard round where all four road teams were picked – last week the favored road teams were 2-2 with both winning Sunday.  Remember to watch for turnovers in all four games as nothing can put a dagger in a team’s playoff hopes quicker than turnovers, especially ones that go to the house – just ask the Dolphins (turned the ball over 5 times including two going to ‘The House’ in their wildcard loss to the Ravens last week).

Others storylines to follow in the divisional round include:

 Former Super Bowl QB’s Aplenty — Six of the eight Divisional Playoff teams start a quarterback who has previously started in a Super Bowl including all four NFC quarterbacks. The number of former Super Bowl thrower tops the previous NFL high from in 1993 when there were five.  (Cardinals QB Kurt Warner with the Rams, Giants QB Eli Manning, Eagles QB Donovan McNabb, Titans QB Kerry Collins with the Giants, Panthers QB Jake Delhomme, and Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger).

Being #1 Seed is not what it used to be — Attaining the No. 1 seed in your conference and home field advantage used to mean something back in the day, but in today’s parity-laden NFL there are no guarantees to Super Bowl entry.  Since 1990 only 17 of 34 number one seeds in the playoffs have made it to the Super Bowl with only 8 of those teams winning it all.  The last time two No. 1 seeds faced was in 1993 for Super Bowl XXVIII with Buffalo vs. Dallas.

The G-Men are the playoffs #1 Seed — The New York Giants are only the fourth Super Bowl champion to be ranked as the top seed in the following playoffs since the NFL moved to six playoff participants per conference in 1990 (1975 Pittsburgh Steelers won Super Bowl X; 1983 Washington Redskins Lost Super Bowl XVIII; 1989 San Francisco 49ers won Super Bowl XXIV; 1990 San Francisco 49ers lost in NFC Championship Game; 1993 Dallas Cowboys won Super Bowl XXVIII; 1998 Denver Broncos won Super Bowl XXXIII)

Ravens head coach and quarterback attempting to enter new rookie ground — Baltimore Ravens rookie head coach John Harbaugh and his rookie quarterback Joe Flacco can reach two milestones when they play the Tennessee Titans on Saturday.  Flacco can become the first rookie quarterback to win his first two playoff games and Harbaugh can become only the fifth rookie head coach to reach that mark.

Former Super Bowl MVP’s trying to lead their teams back to the promised land – There is no value that you can put on Super Bowl “experience” when it comes to the post season.  Luckily for certain teams they will have the services of players that got-it-done when it mattered most.  There are four Super Bowl MVPs remaining in the 2008 NFL playoffs (Arizona Cardinals QB Kurt Warner, Super Bowl XXXIV; Baltimore Ravens LB Ray Lewis, Super Bowl XXXV; Pittsburgh Steelers WR Hines Ward, Super Bowl XL; and New York Giants QB Eli Manning, Super Bowl XLII).


Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA).


One Response

  1. The Ravens really disrupted what Tennessee does best and taking out Johnson was more than helpful.

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