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Eye in the sky
Veteran player evaluator Wiggin dissects wild-card games
Posted: Thursday December 28, 2000 7:53 PM
Updated: Friday December 29, 2000 11:12 PM
Donovan McNabb finished second to Marshall Faulk in the league's MVP voting. Tom Pidgeon/Allsport
Paul Wiggin, the Minnesota Vikings' director of pro personnel, will have a keen eye on this weekend's playoff games. Wiggin, who has spent more than 40 years in the NFL, is responsible for league-wide player evaluation and advance scouting of opponents. Wiggin breaks down the wild-card matchups for CNNSI.com:
Colts at Dolphins
The Colts will beat the Dolphins if ... they can balance out their offense against a strong Miami defense. This is a game featuring an unstoppable offense playing against a defense that doesn't give up much. Indianapolis has to maintain its rhythm of running and passing, and if it does that, the Colts have enough firepower on offense to offset Miami's defense. Plus, I like the way the Colts' defense has been playing the past three games. They've found themselves.
The Dolphins will beat the Colts if ... they stop the Colts' high-powered offense by taking away their quick-rhythm passing game. The Dolphins' offense isn't going to win this game for them, their defense is. The offense just has to keep them from losing. Jay Fiedler is a little beat up, but his game is to not do dumb things. He's going to complete 53 percent of his passes and not have big numbers, but his quarterback rating will be decent and he won't have many interceptions. He just can't afford to screw things up.
Rams at Saints
The Rams will beat the Saints if ... the Saints allow it to be a track meet. The Rams have the best track team in the game, and that's why the Saints lost last week. Just look at the total yardage (474-269). No one in the NFL is playing better right now than Marshall Faulk. He's the most complete weapon. He can do everything. Kurt Warner struggled a little in his first game back from injury, against Carolina, but since the Vikings game, he has been the special player that he has been for two years now.
The Saints will beat the Rams if ... they get a miracle. No, that's not right. It's interesting because I think the Saints have enough defense and can challenge a team enough with schemes to have a chance to win. But they're going to have to do it with their defense. They've got to stop the Rams' track stars. They have to reduce the game to their terms and let their offense work. Aaron Brooks has to make a few plays in that kind of get-rich-quick offense that they have, and he didn't make many last week.
Broncos at Ravens
The Broncos will beat the Ravens if ... they play like the complete team that they are. That's what allows them to win. They don't rank first in any category, yet their package is more complete than most teams. I think if Brian Griese plays, rather than Gus Frerotte, their chances dramatically rise. He's done everything they could have hoped for and more. Head coach Mike Shanahan is something of a quarterback guru. He's got some Bill Walsh in his blood. No one ever thought Griese would amount to much and he has.
The Ravens will beat the Broncos if ... they do what they do best -- play suffocating defense and hope that Trent Dilfer can get something done for them. He did nothing last week. It was incredible. And that can't happen. You're not going to beat Denver that way. The Broncos have enough on offense that you're not going to shut them out. For Baltimore to win, it has to generate some offense.
Buccaneers at Eagles
The Bucs will beat the Eagles if ... they keep Donovan McNabb from making first downs. He's a master of making first downs. He makes more first downs probably than anybody in football. I can't believe how many times he moves the chains by himself. McNabb is as important to that team as any player is to any team in football. The Bucs have to minimize him, and if they do that -- even though the Eagles are a good team defensively -- that will be enough.
The Eagles will beat the Bucs if ... they match Tampa Bay's defense and let McNabb do it for them on offense. The thing is, McNabb is going to have to be better than the combination of Shaun King, Warrick Dunn, Mike Alstott and Keyshawn Johnson. He's one man who'll have to offset what four guys can do, and he might be able to do it. That's how good he is. I was so impressed with him last week, and they were playing for very little against Cincinnati. He can do an awful lot of things for a team.