Snap Judgments: Wild Card round
The Ravens look poised to play deep into this year's Super Bowl tournament
Darren Sproles has been the Chargers' best play-maker for most of the season
This is the ninth straight year the Super Bowl champ won't include the league MVP
MINNEAPOLIS -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we wrap up the first three games of what is somewhat inaccurately called the NFL's wild-card weekend from a raucous and purple-bedecked Metrodome ...
After watching Baltimore's takeaway-happy defense dismantle the Dolphins, and the Ravens running game do its usual workmanlike job all day long, I'm more convinced than ever that John Harbaugh's club is poised to play deep into this year's Super Bowl tournament.
I like how the Ravens match up next week against the Titans in Nashville, and I can guarantee you Tennessee quarterback Kerry Collins wasn't hoping to see Baltimore again this season. In their Week 5 matchup in Maryland, Collins had one of his roughest outings of the year, and that was before the Ravens defense really hit its stride.
To repeat myself, it's a bit like watching a rewind of Baltimore's 2000 Super Bowl drive. So far, so good on my Ravens-Giants pick for Super Bowl XLIII. Baltimore-New York, the rematch, 50 years later.
Like plenty of his brethren, Miami head coach Tony Sparano spent last week asking his underdog Dolphins: Why not us? Why not the Dolphins making a deep run into the NFL playoffs?
Here's why: Miami, as good a story as it was this season, is a team that overachieved just to get here, with the considerable help of a less-than-grueling schedule down the stretch. Drawing Baltimore and its defense right off the bat did the Dolphins' points-challenged offense no favors whatsoever.
Two more picks by Reed on Sunday gives him a league-best 11 this season in 17 games. Any quarterback who dares to throw anywhere near Reed these days is just being masochistic.
What a fourth-quarter momentum killer that 19-yard loss on an end around by Ted Ginn was for the Dolphins. Until that point, Miami looked intent on making a game of it against a Baltimore team that seemed to be wearing down in the South Florida heat.
Joe Flacco gets the win in his NFL playoff debut (on the road no less), but it'll take more than a 2-of-7, 14-yard second-half passing performance to get it done against the Titans defense next week. Of that I'm fairly certain.
But you have to give it up for the unflappable Flacco, who's the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to win his first playoff start on the road.
I can't say that I'm surprised that Miami's Chad Pennington threw away that Cinderella slipper he's been wearing all season. Baltimore's defense has made dozens of quality quarterbacks look positively dreadful through the years.
Still, four interceptions and a fumble lost by a Dolphins team that had just 13 turnovers (with seven Pennington picks) all season? That's an offensive self-destruction on a level I'm not sure anyone could have imagined for Miami.
Do you realize Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron won twice as many games this season in Miami for Baltimore (two) as he did last year as the Dolphins head coach?
Could we please all stop talking about how the league should seed strictly by record and shouldn't give division champs an automatic home playoff game as if it's a new topic? It's as if no one even remembers that this debate raged early last offseason and was thoroughly hashed out at last March's NFL annual meeting. I'm in favor of seeding by record, but the verdict among NFL clubs was pretty resoundingly in the opposite direction. And I don't expect that to change overnight.
The NFL's competition committee last spring didn't even get to see its proposal voted on by owners because it had canvassed the room and knew it didn't have anywhere near the needed 24 "yea's" for passage. It withdrew a proposal that would have wild-card teams with better records playing host to division winners -- meaning Saturday would have featured the Cardinals at the Falcons and the Chargers at the Colts -- and tabled the issue.
"There is the historical idea that a division champion should have a home game,'' said Falcons team president and competition committee co-chairman Rich McKay, who no doubt would lobby even harder for a change in rules today, after Atlanta's defeat.