1. The assumption is that the Eagles bury Arizona next week, mostly because they buried the Cards on Thanksgiving Day. But I'd be careful. The Cards lost that game on a short week when they had to travel across country. Plus, they're a different team at home, and so is their quarterback. Kurt Warner has 19 touchdown passes and six interceptions there; 15 touchdowns and 10 interceptions on the road.
|Yeah, it's safe to say that Ken Whisenhunt is earning his money in Arizona. (Getty Images)|
3. At least Edgerrin James isn't fading away. He has 230 yards rushing in his last three games; he had 166 in his previous 13. I smell a contract drive at a new address.
4. That does it. Officials are missing too many delay-of-game penalties, including three in the November Pittsburgh-San Diego game. Now we have the biggest play in Baltimore's game-winning drive against Tennessee occurring after the play-clock expired, and, I'm sorry, I can't accept the "natural delay" explanation -- especially after someone said the ball was hiked 1.35 seconds after the clock wound down. So it's time to make a change. From now on make delay-of-game calls subject to reviews by replays. It would take a nanosecond to determine. Either you got the snap off, or you didn't. So do it.
6. Maybe Baltimore's John Harbaugh should've pulled more votes for Coach of the Year. All he did was get this far with 19 players on injured reserve, a rookie quarterback and a defense that lost a league-high 46 games by starters to injuries.
7. My respect for Baltimore GM Ozzie Newsome just grew more. In the 2008 draft he wanted to trade up for quarterback Matt Ryan, but it didn't work out. So he traded up to take quarterback Joe Flacco at the 18th spot. Yahtzee! Some teams spend decades looking for a franchise quarterback. Newsome found two in the same draft. "That's why he should've been the Executive of the Year," an NFC general manager told me last week.
8. Maybe it's not such a good thing to be the top seed in the playoffs. With Tennessee and the Giants bowing out that makes it 15 consecutive years the No. 1 seeds in the AFC and NFC don't meet in the Super Bowl. The last time it happened? Try 1993 with Buffalo and Dallas.
9. Let's be honest, Giants fans: Eli Manning didn't kill your club; Plaxico Burress did. When he shot himself in a nightclub he escaped without serious injury, but his teammates didn't. The Giants were 1-4 after suspending him for the season. Have a nice life, Plax.
10. The Steelers are the best of the four teams left, but here's what makes me nervous: Dating back to 1994 they're 1-4 when home for the AFC Championship Game.
11. Enjoy it while you can, Willie Parker. There will be no 100-yard game against Baltimore. The Ravens haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher the past two years, and Parker knows it. He ran for 47 in his only appearance against them this fall and 42 in his only appearance against them a year ago.
12. Just a hunch, but the next underpass in or around Charlotte gets named after Jake Delhomme.
13. Look at it this way, Carolina. Now you have months to figure out how to cover Larry Fitzgerald. Let's see, if there's no Anquan Boldin on the field whom do you make sure doesn't beat you? Steve Breaston? Jerheme Urban? Oh, wait ... Larry Fitzgerald. Why did it take one half to get that message to the Panthers?
14. The more I see of Baltimore safety Jim Leonhard the more I can't understand how Buffalo let him get away.
15. No truth to the rumor that Pacman Jones will star in the opening episode of Fox's Lie to Me.
Five guys I wouldn't want to be
1. San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson. He spent the Bolts' last two playoff finales watching from the sidelines. Now, get ready to spend the offseason answering another round of questions, L.T.
2. Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher. You win your first 10, have the best record in the league and can't make it past one playoff game? Baltimore didn't beat Tennessee. The Titans beat themselves.
3. Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme. Turning 34 is not supposed to be this tough. I swear, I never heard of a quarterback apologize in the huddle for his performance, but that's exactly what Delhomme did in the fourth quarter.
4. Referee Terry McAulay. Next Christmas, he gets a watch.
5. Eli Manning. There was a lot of booing at Giants Stadium, just like the old days. The honeymoon may be over. Again.
Just asking but ...
• What happens first -- a balanced budget or the Cardinals in a Super Bowl?
• How do you pick up a flag after calling pass interference?
• Why does it take three quarters to get the ball to Steve Smith?
• Who was worse -- Eli Manning or Jake Delhomme?
Five things I like
1. Ben Roethlisberger in any job. He throws. He runs. He blocks. He punts. He wins.
2. Philadelphia's Asante Samuel in the playoffs. The guy is always around the ball, which is why Philadelphia spent a gazillion bucks on him. Seven interceptions in his last 10 playoff games? Yep, I'd say he's worth it.
3. Pittsburgh's pass protection. It's been bad all season, but it wasn't bad on Sunday. As a matter of fact, on the seventh day it was the Chargers' pass rushers who rested.
4. Ken Whisenhunt as a motivator. I don't know what the Arizona head coach told his players before the weekend, but I do know he thought they could pull the impossible -- which is to win in the East. Carolina hadn't lost at home; Arizona hadn't won in the East. A blowout was predicted, and a blowout happened. I want Whisenhunt in charge of the next bailout.
5. Jim Johnson's defenses. It doesn't matter where he coaches -- on the sidelines, in the booth -- Johnson's defenses always attack their opponents. It just happens that they're attacking so effectively that running back Brian Westbrook called this year's edition the best he's ever seen. All I know is I like Johnson, who took former pupil Steve Spagnuolo to school Sunday after he was forced upstairs because of a bad back. "I've got the best defensive coach in the NFL," said coach Andy Reid.
Five things I don't
1. Donovan McNabb picking up the phone on the Giants' sidelines after running out of bounds. That's something you'd expect from T.O.; not McNabb. "Sometimes I don't know what goes through that guy's head," said Fox analyst Troy Aikman. McNabb said he later apologized to coaches and teammates. "I've been having a great time out there," he said, "but I did something I shouldn't have done."
2. San Diego's pass rush. Yeah, I know: What pass rush?
3. Tom Coughlin challenging the spot on a third-down Derrick Ward carry. I saw the replay, and while Ward was over the 45-yard-line it was clear the ball was not. And that was before Coughlin challenged. If you challenge a call in the second half, you better not be wishing and hoping. Coughlin was. Scratch another timeout.
4. Carolina's play-calling. The Panthers abandoned the run way too soon. After falling behind 17-7 they called 31 pass plays and seven runs. Talk about dialing 911.
5. The Giants' pass rush against Philadelphia. A year ago they had 15 sacks in two games. This year they had none in three. OK, so a year ago they had Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan, too. Still, the Giants are better than that. Or should be.
Numbers, numbers, numbers
0 -- Sacks of Joe Flacco in the playoffs
1 -- San Diego plays in the third quarter
9 -- Jake Delhomme interceptions following byes this season (four against Oakland, five against Arizona).
13 -- Touches by Carolina's DeAngelo Williams. Are you kidding me?
15 -- San Diego yards rushing
23 -- Arizona points off Carolina turnovers, including 17 in the first half.
105 -- Combined yardage rushing by Michael Turner and DeAngelo Williams vs. Arizona in the playoffs
0-2 -- The Mannings in this year's playoffs
+ 7 -- Baltimore in the takeaway/turnover in the playoffs
Five guys to watch next weekend
1. Pittsburgh wide receiver Hines Ward -- The bounty hunters are back in town.
2. Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner -- That sound you hear is the next pass rush.
3. Baltimore safety Ed Reed -- I dunno, just because everyone should be watching him.
4. Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb -- Last time he faced Arizona he had four TD passes.
5. Philadelphia running back Brian Westbrook -- Last time he faced Arizona he had four TDs.