NFL report: Super Bowl QBs Aaron Rodgers and Eli Manning set for playoff showdown
Aaron Rodgers won’t be the only quarterback in Green Bay this weekend who knows how to “run the table.” Eli Manning has gone streaking, too, for the New York Giants.
In fact, Super Bowl runs in the 2007 and 2011 seasons took the Giants through Lambeau Field each time. Two of the league’s marquee franchises meet again in Titletown when the Packers host the Giants in an NFC wild-card game on Sunday.
“We just know what it takes to win, and obviously the feeling of being on the other side of that, which we’ve had,” Rodgers said about the importance of postseason experience. “We’re pretty hot right now and usually the teams that are hottest and can stay healthy are the teams that are there at the end.”
The NFC North-champion Packers (10-6) roll into the playoffs on a six-game winning streak. They haven’t lost since Rodgers said he thought that Green Bay could “run the table” after falling to 4-6.
In some ways, this season has a similar feel to the Packers’ wild-card run in 2010, when Green Bay also finished the regular season 10-6 and overcame a slew of injuries to win the Super Bowl.
Rodgers is leading the way again: fifteen touchdown passes and no interceptions during the six-game winning streak.
A master at extending plays playing behind a good offensive line, Rodgers is giving receivers time to get open and delivering laser-like throws.
“I just see a guy that’s playing with an edge and he’s playing with a killer instinct,” first-year Giants Coach Ben McAdoo said.
McAdoo should know. He was an offensive assistant under Packers Coach Mike McCarthy from 2006-13 before a two-year stint as Giants offensive coordinator. McAdoo has seen up close what Manning and the Giants (11-5) can do at Lambeau.
The Giants beat the Packers 23-20 in overtime in the NFC title game on Jan. 20, 2008. They won 37-20 on Jan. 15, 2012 in the divisional round, defeating a heavily favored Packers team that finished 15-1 in the regular season.
That year was the last time the Giants were in the postseason. Their four-year playoff drought is over after relying on the stingiest defense in the NFC (17.8 points per game) and the playmaking ability of receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
“Feels good to win games during the regular season, and to be in this position,” said Manning, who turned 36 on Tuesday. “You definitely want to take advantage of it. You don’t know if you get more shots. You know how hard it is after these last years, how hard it is to get here.”
Bell is healthy and ready to go
When the AFC North champion Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5) sprint out of the tunnel Sunday to face the Miami Dolphins (10-6) in the wild-card round at not exactly tropical Heinz Field, Le’Veon Bell will be at the front of the pack: healthy, hungry and totally hyped for his long overdue playoff debut.
“I am obviously going to be excited, anxious and pumped-up, and I need to keep my energy up, have my teammates feed off my energy, and let them know how important this game is to me,” said Bell, who averaged an NFL-high 157 yards from scrimmage in 2016.
Bell’s not the only one. For the first time since their last trip to the Super Bowl six years ago, the Steelers enter the postseason with all their bold-faced names available, most notably wide receiver Antonio Brown and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
“There’s no excuses,” guard David DeCastro said.
Five-time Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake has never been to the playoffs. Five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh has never won a postseason game.
They’ll anchor the Miami Dolphins’ front four and try to apply the sort of pressure on Roethlisberger that helped Miami beat Pittsburgh in Week 6.
The 305-pound Suh laughed when asked if defensive tackles get butterflies in such situations. “I had butterflies the first time I was on Heinz Field my rookie year, when I played my first preseason game,” he said. “But I definitely won’t have them this time around.”
The San Francisco 49ers’ cross-country coach and general manager search landed in New England on Saturday where the team interviewed Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels for the head coach’s job.
Team CEO Jed York has been meeting with candidates for both jobs all week as he seeks to replace coach Chip Kelly and general manager Trent Baalke following a 2-14 season that tied the worst mark in franchise history.
York said the primary goal in the search is finding a coach and general manager who can work well together. The Niners got rid of coach Jim Harbaugh following the 2014 season in part because of conflicts with Baalke.
Meanwhile, Denver Broncos GM John Elway tweeted Saturday that he “spent the morning with Kyle Shanahan in Atlanta. He’s very bright coach who’s had a tremendous year and has a great future.”
The question is: Will that future be in Denver, where his father, Mike Shanahan, was the Broncos coach from 1998-2008?
Elway and his small search committee met with Shanahan, the 37-year-old Falcons offensive coordinator, a day after interviewing Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub , 54, in Kansas City.
Elway is searching for a coach after Gary Kubiak’s resignation Monday over health concerns a year after leading Denver to a Super Bowl trophy.
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