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Top seeds advance to second-round matchups
Posted: Wednesday January 03, 2001 2:12 PM
By B. Duane Cross, CNNSI.com
What more could fans want? The top four seeds in each conference will square-off this weekend in the Divisional round of the 2000 NFL Playoffs.
At Minnesota, the NFC Central champion Vikings play host to NFC West champ New Orleans. Minnesota lost its final three regular-season games, and the Vikings are treating that streak as a motivating factor. "An old veteran once told me, 'A man has not been introduced to himself until he has been introduced to adversity,'" Minnesota Pro Bowl center Matt Birk said. "I think that kind of fits here." The Vikings would be the first team to win a Super Bowl after losing its last three regular-season games.
At Oakland, the AFC West champion Raiders welcome AFC East champ Miami. Oakland QB Rich Gannon is a 35-year-old, 13-year NFL veteran who had been with three teams before coming to the Raiders last season. This year, he led them to their most wins since 1990. "Here's a guy that needed an opportunity to become a starter," said Raiders head coach Jon Gruden, only two years older than Gannon. "He brings our team a lot of intangibles that I can't even begin to get into."
At Tennessee, the AFC Central champion Titans play host to the only team to win at Adelphia Coliseum, division runner-up Baltimore. Titans head coach Jeff Fisher is pleased to have home field advantage throughout the playoffs, but knows it provides no free ticket. "With home-field, you only have to win two rather than three to get to the big game," says Fisher. "But playing at home doesn't guarantee you a win. It guarantees you a chance to win."
At the Meadowlands, the NFC East champion New York Giants welcome division rival Philadelphia. The Giants handed the Eagles their two worst defeats of the season, 33-18 on Sept. 10 and 24-7 on Oct. 29, and have won eight consecutive against Philly. "I'm glad they've dominated us so far," Eagles running back-kick returner Brian Mitchell said. "They're going to think it's going to be easy. But this is a much better team than the last two times we played them."
| Green with envy |
Minnesota is making its fifth consecutive postseason appearance, the longest active streak in the NFL. The Vikings have been in the playoffs in eight of nine seasons under head coach Dennis Green.
| Back to the future |
On Saturday, Oakland will host its first postseason game since Dec. 28, 1980, a 27-7 victory against Houston. However, Miami has won three of the past four games in Oakland.
| Streaking |
Baltimore has won eight consecutive games, the longest current streak in the NFL, while Tennessee has won 11 of its past 12 games in December and January, including a 3-1 showing in the 1999 playoffs.
| Long time coming |
Philadelphia is looking for its first Divisional victory since Jan. 1, 1981 (31-16 against Minnesota), while New York is playing host to its first divisional game since Jan. 13, 1991 (31-3 victory against Chicago).
| Flattery -- Three head coaches -- New Orleans' Jim Haslett, Baltimore's Brian Billick and Philadelphia's Andy Reid -- each won their first postseason game, and now trail Tom Landry's all-time mark by 19. |
| Flag -- Indianapolis' Jim Mora lost his sixth consecutive postseason game. His 0-6 mark is the all-time worst among coaches with at least five playoff-game appearances.
| Flattery -- Miami RB Lamar Smith carried the ball a postseason-record 40 times for a Dolphins-record 209 yards and scored two touchdowns as Miami beat Indianapolis 23-17 in overtime. |
| Flag -- St. Louis failed to become the eighth team to repeat as Super Bowl champion. ... With that defense (471 points allowed), the Rams were lucky to make the postseason. |
| The Raiders (10-2 all-time postseason record at home) are aiming for their first AFC Championship Game since 1990, and have won the past four playoff games in Oakland. || |
| New Orleans (No. 3 in total defense) was 7-1 on the road this season, while Minnesota (No. 5 in total offense) was 7-1 at home.
| Tennessee was tops in the NFL with an average 33:48 time of possession. Baltimore was No. 2 with 33:19, helped by a defense that allowed an NFL-fewest 27 red-zone trips. |
| Philadelphia QB Donovan McNabb is the first Eagles quarterback to start all regular-season 16 games since Randall Cunningham in 1990. |
| Miami at Oakland (12:30 p.m. EST Saturday) -- Dolphins must find a way to corral QB Rich Gannon (led AFC QBs with 529 rushing yards), while the Raiders will be pressed to stop Miami DEs Trace Armstrong (16 1/2 sacks) and Jason Taylor (14 1/2).
| New Orleans at Minnesota (4 p.m. EST Saturday) -- If there's a postseason mismatch, this could be it. But isn't that what the Saints have thrived on all season? Vikings hope defense makes more than a token appearance. |
| Baltimore at Tennessee (12:30 p.m. EST) -- Hail the conquering heroes -- and at Adelphia Coliseum, that's the Ravens. Despite what Titans head coach Jeff Fisher says, Baltimore wasn't the first choice of opponent. |
| Philadelphia at N.Y. Giants (4 p.m. EST) -- Watch this one for the WWF-type possibilities. The Eagles and G-Men do not like each other, and after a week of trash talking, this one could get really interesting. |
| Proving once again that, in the NFL, every club starts a season with the chance to improve upon its record of the season before, the eight teams that will compete in this weekend's Divisional Playoffs improved their collective record from 63-65 in 1999 to 92-36 this year.