1. When historians detail the arrival of Eli Manning as a franchise quarterback, they'll cite the seven-play, 71-yard scoring drive that closed the first half of Sunday's win over Dallas. That was big, but it was reminiscent of an eight-play, 85-yard scoring march that closed the first half of a loss to New England two weeks earlier. In both series, Manning was poised and accurate -- making smart reads and good throws.
Manning's consistency the past three games can't be overlooked. Heck, until now it was rare for him to string together two decent performances. His postseason success can't be ignored, either. Peyton won his second playoff game in his sixth year as the full-time starter; Eli won it in his third. The message is clear: It's time to lay off Eli.
|Standing between Junior Seau and the Super Bowl are the Chargers, his team from 1990 through 2002. (US Presswire)|
3. Those who insisted Norv Turner can't coach can leave the room. And they can take those guys throwing spitballs at general manager A.J. Smith with them. Maybe you didn't like last year's sacking of Marty Schottenheimer -- I know I didn't -- but it worked out, with Turner winning the divisional playoff game that Schottenheimer could not. That's not a knock on Marty; it's a tribute to Turner, who won a road game without his star running back and quarterback.
Smith can take a bow, too. He's the guy who acquired Billy Volek as insurance at quarterback -- saying you can never have enough depth at critical positions. He was right.
4. Seattle won't move forward until it finds a running game, which means it better improve its offensive line or find another running back. My guess? The Seahawks find another running back. Call Michael Turner, guys. After February, he's available.
5. Terrell Owens is the Cowboys' most dangerous receiver and scoring threat. So where was he on the last Dallas series? Tony Romo never threw to him, and that's wrong. You absolutely, positively must put the ball in the hands of your playmakers. That last pass can't be to Terry Glenn. It must be aimed at T.O. or Jason Witten.
6. I watched Romo unravel down the stretch, and I watched the Cowboys dissolve around him. Now I want to know why he and his teammates wilt every December and January, and I bet owner Jerry Jones does, too. Expect a week of grenades lobbed in the direction of Romo and his head coach.
7. Just wondering what linebacker Junior Seau thinks about playing his former team, the San Diego Chargers, again. I remember running into him years ago when he was with the Miami Dolphins, and we started talking about the Chargers. Every time he mentioned them he said, "We." When I reminded him that he wasn't part of "We" anymore, he corrected me. "I'll always be a Charger," he said. OK, fine, but now he must bounce them from the playoffs, and, yep, I like his chances. A lot. It's too tough for San Diego to knock off the first and second seeds in successive weeks -- especially with Tomlinson and Rivers hurting.
8. I don't like Michael Strahan's chances of getting through Green Bay tackle Mark Tauscher -- not after what Tauscher did to Seattle's Patrick Kerney. Tauscher's job was to keep Kerney off Brett Favre, but he went one better: He kept him off the stat sheet. Look at Kerney's tackles. He didn't have one.
9. I don't agree with the Monday morning quarterbacks who say Indianapolis should've kicked a field goal with 2:06 left. The Colts were down by four, and there was no guarantee they could shut down the San Diego offense. So Rivers and LaDainian Tomlinson weren't on the field; the Colts still couldn't stop Volek from driving 78 yards on them on the previous series. Tony Dungy made the right call.
10. Count me among those wondering if Dungy coached his last game. There's nothing left for him to accomplish. He won a Super Bowl. He took 10 of 12 teams to the playoffs. He just won his fifth straight division championship. And he has a family he misses. Let's see ... football vs. family. Sounds like an easy call to me. If Dungy leaves, the game loses its classiest citizen. There is no better man walking the sidelines than Tony Dungy.
What will be the Super Bowl matchup?
Chargers vs. Giants
Patriots vs. Giants
Chargers vs. Packers
Patriots vs. Packers
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11. One guy who should welcome Atlanta's hire of Tom Dimitroff as GM is Tennessee defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. He and Dimitroff worked together in Cleveland, which might help Schwartz in his bid to become a head coach.
12. Good move by the Chargers to keep Antonio Cromartie on their return teams. With the exception of Devin Hester, there is no one more dangerous in the open field.
13. After all these years, the tortoise continues to outlast the hare. Teams scoring first in the playoffs are 2-6, with only Seattle and the Giants bucking the trend.
14. I laugh when people talk about the difference Randy Moss made in Tom Brady. It's the other way around, folks. Brady resuscitated Moss' career, and if you want to know how Tom would do without the guy, look at Saturday's game. Moss caught one pass; Brady missed on only two of 28 and threw three TDs. Case closed.
15. Now that Jacksonville has a quarterback, here's its next move: Find a wide receiver with speed.
Five guys I wouldn't want to be
• Rivers. Bad enough he faces New England in Foxborough, but he must do it on two sore knees.
• Anyone in Atari Bigby's way.
• Bill Polian. Nobody takes the Colts' losses harder than their president.
• Wade Phillips. Great guy, but try explaining that 0-4 playoff record to Jerry Jones.
• Romo. Get ready for the attack dogs, big guy.
Just asking ...
• When do we start getting "Priceless Pep Talks" from Eli Manning?
• Is there any record Brady won't own when he's finished?
• What does Seattle do with Shaun Alexander?
• Philip Rivers or Eli Manning?
• Was that the beginning of the end for Marvin Harrison?
Five things I like
• Whiteouts at Lambeau Field.
• A truce on Eli. Finally, we can stop debating what's wrong and start acknowledging what's right.
• Chris Hanson's job. Yep, I want to punt on a team that has Brady as its quarterback.
• Brady at home for the playoffs. Simple: The guy never loses.
• The job by San Diego defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell. Yeah, he had a tough act to follow. But he's still standing, and Phillips is not. Plus, all Cottrell's defense did this season was intercept Peyton Manning eight times. Wow.
Five things I don't
• Marcus Pollard's hands.
• Seattle in a road playoff game.
• Bob Sanders' taunt of kicker Nate Kaeding. I don't care that they're ex-teammates. Very uncool and very stupid. If you play for Dungy you should know better.
• Tom Coughlin's challenge of Owens' touchdown. It wasn't even close.
• Romo in December and January. He's 4-7 overall and 0-2 in the playoffs.