CNNSI.com NFL Playoffs 2001 NFL Playoffs 2001


 

Divisional Round

Postseason field to be cut in half after weekend's games

Posted: Wednesday January 16, 2002 2:24 PM

 
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By B. Duane Cross, CNNSI.com

Proving once again that in the NFL, every club starts the season with the chance to improve, the eight teams in this weekend's Divisional playoffs upped their collective record from 73-55 in 2000 to 94-34 this year.

In the first game of the weekend, it will be a homecoming, but the hosts may not be too hospitable. Philadelphia travels to Chicago (4:30 p.m. EST Saturday), and at least some of the people at Soldier Field will be rooting for the Eagles. Philly QB Donovan McNabb was born in Chicago, raised in nearby Dolton, and was an All-American high school quarterback at Mt. Carmel High School on the southside of Chicago. Saturday will be his first start as an Eagle in his hometown (although he did run one play -- and was stuffed for a loss at Chicago's 4-yard line -- at Soldier Field as a rookie on Oct. 17, 1999).

Divisional Schedule
All times EST
Game  Date  Time 
@   Jan. 19  4:30 p.m. 
@   Jan. 19  8 p.m. 
@   Jan. 20  12:30 p.m. 
@   Jan. 20  4 p.m. 
 
 

In Saturday's primetime matchup, it will be the oldest of the remaining eight playoff quarterbacks against the youngest when New England plays host to Oakland (8 p.m. EST). The Raiders, the only team this year to repeat as division champions, are directed by 14-year veteran Rich Gannon, the first Oakland QB to lead the AFC in passing (95.5) since Ken Stabler (103.4) in 1976. Tom Brady, having thrown all of three passes as a rookie in 2000, took over for injured starter Drew Bledsoe when the team was 0-2 and proceeded to lead it to wins in 11 of its next 14 games -- and the Patriots' first AFC Eastern Division title since 1997.

Sunday's early game -- Baltimore at AFC Central champ Pittsburgh (12:30 p.m. EST) -- is the lone contest in the playoffs so far between division rivals. It also will be the 47th time since 1970 that two teams have met three times in a season; the home team is 30-16 in those games. It's also a meeting of the league's top two defenses: Pittsburgh (258.6 yards per game, featuring Defensive Rookie of the Year LB Kendrell Bell and Pro Bowl LB Jason Gildon) and Baltimore (277.9, with Pro Bowl selections DT Sam Adams, LB Ray Lewis and S Rod Woodson).

The final matchup of weekend could be an explosive one. It's a meeting of arguably the two most accomplished QBs in the game today when Green Bay travels to play at St. Louis (4 p.m. EST Sunday). It will be a meeting of two players who have won five of the past seven MVP awards, Brett Favre (1995-97) and Kurt Warner (1999, 2001). "You admire a guy like Favre who's that great an athlete," says Rams TE Ernie Conwell. "You're playing a guy who's destined for the Hall of Fame. At the same time, that admiration is going to end when the ball is kicked off Sunday."

Philadelphia @ Chicago -- 4:30 p.m. EST Saturday
Bears lead series 25-7-1 (including playoffs). Chicago won 13 games for first time since 1986. The Bears make their first postseason since 1994, and play host to a Divisional game for first time since '88 (20-12 win vs. Philly).
Oakland @ New England -- 8 p.m. EST Saturday
Raiders lead series 14-13-1. Patriots are the 10th team in NFL history to overcome an 0-2 start to win the division. The past two clubs to accomplish this feat (1996 Patriots, 1993 Cowboys) advanced to the Super Bowl.
Baltimore @ Pittsburgh -- 12:30 .m. EST Sunday
Steelers lead series 8-4. Five of the past six meetings have been decided by seven points or less, and the road team has won the past six. Ravens are the only franchise in NFL history to win its first five playoff games.
Green Bay @ St. Louis -- 4 p.m. EST Sunday
Rams lead series 43-40-2. Packers are tied for third all-time with 23 postseason victories. St. Louis is in its 25th postseason, tying the N.Y. Giants for second-most all-time.

Safe at home
Bears QB Jim Miller has a 6-2 career record at Soldier Field. He is 11-2 as the starter this season, including a 5-1 mark at home. Miller also had career highs in passing yards (2,299) and touchdowns (13).
Catch you later
Raiders WR Jerry Rice has NFL career playoff records for receptions (133), receiving yards (1,994), 100-yard receiving games (8) and TD catches (20). He also has a catch in 24 consective postseason games, also a record.
Slash attack
Steelers QB Kordell Stewart, who has won 17 of his past 21 starts, passed for 569 yards with a 61.8 completion percentage and three TDs for a 103.1 rating in two games vs. Ravens this season.
Moving on up
Packers QB Brett Favre ranks seventh all-time with 3,659 career playoff passing yards, and needs 205 to pass Terry Bradshaw (3,833), Troy Aikman (3,849) and Jim Kelly (3,863) for fourth place.

Flattery: On the run
New England is 8-1 when RB Antowain Smith has a TD run. Nine of his 12 TD runs this season came at Foxboro Stadium, and he has 15 TD runs in the past 17 games. The Patriots are 4-0 when he rushes for 100 yards.
Flag: Firing line
So, the Glazer family believes Bill Parcells can take Tampa Bay to the promised land. ... Well, good luck, Bucos. And think cool thoughts when, in three years, "Tuna" has swum away and the franchise is in salary-cap hell.
Flattery: Get on 'The Bus'
Steelers RB Jerome Bettis has 317 rushing yards and three TDs in four playoff games with Steelers. He needs 164 yards to pass Rocky Bleier for second-most rushing yards in club postseason history.
Flag: Go for it
In the key stats department, St. Louis tops Green Bay in seven of 12 categories. However, the Packers' Josh Bidwell has a 42.5-yard average per punt, something the Packers may be doing a lot of Sunday.

Users sounded off on which 2001 non-playoff team is most likely to make the postseason field next season:

Colts -- Without Jerome Pathon and Edgerrin James most of the year, they still had the No. 2 offense. Some improvement on defense and they'll be dangerous.
Greg, Bloomington, Ill.

Vikings -- I can all but guarantee Minnesota making the playoffs: a healthy Daunte Culpepper, getting rid of the bad attitude that is Cris Carter and giving Jake Reed some time at No. 2, and Mike Tice, someone who can deal with Randy Moss.
Pat, Cornwall, Canada

Lions -- Mike McMahon is the next great QB, and when Terry Fair, Ron Rice, and Stephen Boyd are healthy, the defense will be back in their top form!
Dustin, Nampa, Idaho

Bronocs -- Denver gets back on track next year with a healthy Terrel Davis and fit-again Ed McCaffrey.
John, Toronto, Canada

Cowboys -- No team in the league this year played with more heart than the 'Boys. Look for Quincy Carter to mature, and Dallas to reign again.
Jeff, Clearwater, Fla.

Chiefs -- With the NFL's leading rusher, Priest Holmes, the only thing this team needs to jump in to the playoffs is one more impact player.
Josh, Kansas City

Seahawks -- Mike Holgrem has quite a few offseason decisions to make: Trent Dilfer or Matt Hasselbeck; Ricky Watters or Shaun Alexander. With their hybrid form of the West Coast offense, both backs are powerful runners, and Dilfer is a sure winner. The Seahawks' defense has really stepped it up, too.
James, Springfield, Va.

Bengals -- I think Cincinnati ended its season well, including a victory over potentially Super Bowl-bound Pittsburgh. Cincinnati reminds me of Baltimore before it went to the Super Bowl. Look out for them.
Jean, Wilmington, N.C.

Cardinals -- They flirted with .500 at the end of the season, but next year look for Jake Plummer and David Boston giving them a playoff run.
Istiaq, Oshkosh, Wis.

This week's topic: Who was the most disappointing rookie in 2001?


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