These teams won’t be a part of it
Contrary to the evidence in Seattle, when Romo came undone in a day, this NFL playoff business can be remarkably simple sometimes. Nearly 30 years ago, Frank Sinatra predicted the losers of Sunday’s two wild-card games.
New York, New York.
Start spreading the news, the Jets and the Giants left the Super Bowl tournament on the same day, in less than eight hours, totaling no more than a combined eight quarters.
New York has seen shorter and more disappointing postseason runs, but none that didn’t involve Alex Rodriguez.
For only the second time, the Jets and the Giants had playoff games on the same afternoon. In 1981, the setting was eerily similar -- the Jets taking on a division rival, the Giants playing at Philadelphia.
But that day, the Big Apple earned a split. The Jets lost to the Buffalo Bills, but the Giants scored an upset over the Eagles, notable in that a team quarterbacked by Scott Brunner defeated a team quarterbacked by Ron Jaworski.
The 2006 Giants looked at that long-ago result and drew inspiration.
Yes, there was hope for Eli Manning after all.
It didn’t happen this time, and it wasn’t all down to the quarterbacks, although they contributed.
In New England, Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes for the Patriots in a 37-16 victory over the Jets.
In Philadelphia, Jeff Garcia passed for a touchdown and did not commit a turnover as the Eagles beat the Giants, 23-20.
In both cases, New York was outgunned at the key offensive position.
Brady is 11-1 in playoff starts; Chad Pennington is 2-3.
Garcia is 6-0 in his last six starts; Manning is 2-7 in his last nine.
That was one way to handicap these games correctly, but there were others.
* Home field: The Patriots and Eagles held the advantage.
* Recent track record: The Patriots and Eagles played in the 2005 Super Bowl. The Giants played in the 2001 Super Bowl but had not won the big one since the 1991 game -- and needed to play the luckless Bills to do that. The Jets won their lone Super Bowl appearance, in 1969, swapping almost 40 years of frustration for one Joe Namath guarantee.
* Coaches: The Eagles had Andy Reid, familiar with this territory; the Giants had Tom Coughlin, who survived mutiny this far but perhaps not much longer. The Patriots had Bill Belichick, who lost his last encounter with the Jets’ Eric Mangini -- and was nostril-flaring determined not to let it happen again.
Did you see how Belichick, amped with adrenaline, cracked back on a photographer while plowing his way through a postgame scrum to bear hug Mangini, who served as Belichick’s defensive coordinator?
Did you notice how Belichick didn’t hug Mangini the last time the Patriots and Jets played, a 17-14 Jets victory at New England on Nov. 12?
Did you notice how Belichick wanted nothing to do with Mangini after that Week 10 defeat?
Does that speak volumes about Belichick? Boorish in defeat, he thinks nothing of knocking aside a cameraman to pose for a post-victory photo-op for the benefit of other cameramen.
Beware, San Diego Chargers. Belichick is focused, he’s fired up, he’s on a roll. And Marty Schottenheimer hasn’t won a postseason game since 1993.
Anyone for a rematch of the 2005 Super Bowl?
In all likelihood, New England and Philadelphia are two road victories away -- the Patriots probably needing to win at San Diego and Baltimore, the Eagles at New Orleans and Chicago. But it isn’t outrageous to imagine it, not with New England’s postseason reputation and Philadelphia’s standing as the NFC’s hottest team.
The Eagles aren’t flashy. They once had it, but lost it last off-season to the Dallas Cowboys. And we saw how far Terrell Owens took the Cowboys.
The Eagles specialize in the details, a quality that cannot be overestimated in the playoffs, as we saw this weekend on last-play field-goal attempts at Philadelphia and Seattle.
The Eagles need a 38-yard field goal to beat the Giants. The snap is good, the ball is down, David Akers delivers.
The Cowboys need a 19-yard field goal -- no longer than an extra point -- to beat the Seahawks. The snap is down, the ball is bobbled by Tony Romo, kicker Martin Gramatica looks like Charlie Brown after Lucy jerks the football away. The Cowboys lose, 21-20.
Who would have thought that Koy Detmer would prove a more valuable player this postseason than Romo?
Detmer, the holder for Akers’ winning field goal, came through in the clutch, adroitly handling a rain-slicked football to put in position for a successful kick.
And Romo pulled a Romo, to coin the new NFL glossary term for botched snap from center.
Curiously, the Cowboys and the Cincinnati Bengals, two preseason Super Bowl contenders, had their playoff hopes dashed in similar fashion. In Week 16, the Bengals lost to Denver, 24-23, on a blown snap on a last-second extra-point try.
This is conclusive proof that football gods do indeed exist, and they finally got together to concoct a way to shut up Owens and Chad Johnson for a while.
Home teams went 4-0 this wild-card weekend, returning some normalcy to the first round after home teams went 1-3 last season.
The Indianapolis Colts completed the hometown sweep with a 23-8 demolition of the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday. This game was supposed to be the best chance for a road-team victory, Kansas City bringing Larry Johnson to the RCA Dome for a fully expected romp through the Colts’ pylons-in-pads defense.
Instead, there was an upset.
Shocker! The Colts hold Johnson to 32 yards in 13 carries and limit the Chiefs to 44 total yards rushing. Next: Bring on Jamal Lewis!
In a thematic twist that most certainly and definitely will not get overworked in the next six days, the Colts return to Baltimore, whence they came, for a divisional playoff game against the 13-3 Ravens.
So it should be a fun week. We don’t often get these prodigal returns during the playoffs.
The Tennessee Titans at Houston would be interesting, except the Texans are 24-56 all-time.
The Arizona Cardinals at St. Louis would be intriguing, except the Cardinals are the Cardinals.
The Oakland Raiders returning to Los Angeles is a playoff game we’d like to see, but the Raiders just went 2-14. And even if the Raiders had made the playoffs, they would have no one in L.A. to play -- except, maybe, the USC Trojans.
The early line on that one: USC by 13 1/2 .
NFC WILD CARD
* AT SEATTLE 21, DALLAS 20
* AT PHILADELPHIA 23, N.Y. GIANTS 20
* Philadelphia at New Orleans,
Saturday, 5 p.m., Channel 11
* Seattle at Chicago,
Sunday, 10 a.m., Channel 11
NFC CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP
* Jan. 21, Channel 11
AFC WILD CARD
* AT INDIANAPOLIS 23, KANSAS CITY 8
* AT NEW ENGLAND 37, N.Y. JETS 16
* Indianapolis at Baltimore,
Saturday, 1:30 p.m., Channel 2
* New England at San Diego,
Sunday, 1:30 p.m., Channel 2
AFC CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP
* Jan. 21, Channel 2
* Feb. 4, at Miami, 3 p.m., Channel 2