FOX: Steelers Will Squeak By, Cards Will Fall

January 10th, 2009

By BOB FOX analyst Bob Fox takes a weekly look at the playoff picture. Fox writes for numerous sports publications. He brings an insightful take on the road to the Super Bowl. Fox picked three of four winners last week. playoffs analyst Bob Fox stays on the Eagles bandwagon, where he's been for months. Fox was 3-1 in last weekend's games. playoffs analyst Bob Fox stays on the Eagles bandwagon, where he's been for months. Fox was 3-1 in last weekend's games.

If the divisional round of the NFL playoffs is anything at all like the Wild Card round, then hold on folks, it’s going to be a wild ride. Last weekend, two road teams won, and I expect at least two to win this weekend.  This is the round that will take a team one step away from getting to the Big Dance — Super Bowl — right here in Tampa. Also, remember one thing this weekend as you watch the games, the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants were a No. 5 seed last year.

Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers
The Cardinals surprised me last week against the Falcons at home, not because they threw the ball well, but because they ran the ball well and effectively stopped the vaunted Atlanta run game behind Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood. The Cards will face a very stiff test this weekend as they will face another two headed monster in the ground game, as the Panthers bring DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart out to try and churn up big yardage. Bucs fans remember the damage that both Williams and Stewart did on a Monday night not long ago as they both had over 100 yards rushing against Tampa Bay. The Panthers also have the crafty Jake Delhomme at QB and WR Steve Smith just always seems to make huge plays at the end of games. The Cards will try and counter with a resurgent Edgerrin James at RB and also Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin at WR.  Both Fitzgerald and Boldin both had touchdowns on long pass plays last weekend, but Boldin is listed as questionable because of a hamstring injury. Bottom line, I see the Panthers holding serve at home behind their strong run game, and also the big play ability of Smith.  The Cards offense will put up points from the passing game, but it won’t be enough to take a bite out of the Panthers.

Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants
This game will be the rubber match between these two NFC East rivals, as both have beaten each other this season. The Giants do seem to be affected by the Plaxico Burress suspension, as their offense doesn’t seem to have the same balance.  Yes, the G-men still have bruising Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward to run the rock (both ran for over 1,000 yards in 2008), but the absence of Burress has hurt the passing game somewhat. The Eagles will try and put as many men in the box as possible, similar to what they did in Minnesota vs. Adrian Peterson and the Vikings, plus still use their exotic blitz packages in the passing game. The Philly offense will be once again led by QB Donovan McNabb and RB Brian Westbrook. I expect both to once again have big games. The Eagles won their game against the Giants in 2008 in New Jersey, and I think that they will once again find a way to beat their nemesis on the road. Like all games, turnovers will be a big key in this game, as will special teams play. 


Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans
Nobody has impressed me more than the Baltimore Ravens in the NFL playoffs thus far.  The Ravens defense is SCARY good, paced by S Ed Reed and LB Ray Lewis. I also want to send a shout out to S Jim Leonhard of the Ravens, who also has been making some key plays for the Ravens defense and also is a fine punt returner. Baltimore’s offense has been very steady lately behind rookie QB Joe Flacco and tough WR Derrick Mason, plus a nice ground game led by Le’Ron McClain and Willie McGahee. But the Titans are the No. 1 seed in the AFC for two big reasons: an excellent defense and a nice ground game led by Chris Johnson and Lendale White. Veteran QB Kerry Collins has been unspectacular, but effective. Both teams have excellent special teams. I expect this one to perhaps come down to a field goal, and I think the veteran Baltimore defense has the edge in making a big play that will be the difference-maker.

San Diego Chargers at Pittsburgh Steelers
The Chargers are a perfect 2-0 in Pittsburgh in playoff games  The last time Ben Roethlisberger played a game after suffering a concussion, he was terrible.  Still, albeit with apprehension, I like the Steelers to win in a close game. The Chargers almost won again in the 2008 regular season in Pittsburgh.  I think they will have a chance again behind QB Phillip Rivers, RB/KR Darren Sproles and TE Antonio Gates. It looks like RB LaDainian Tomlinson will miss the game with a severe groin injury. But the Steelers have an excellent defense behind folks like LB James Harrison (The Associated Press 2008 Defensive Player of the Year) and S Troy Palamalu. Big Ben has some weapons as well on offense with WR’s Himes Ward and Santonio Holmes, plus RB Willie Parker seems to be playing better as of late, with Mewelde Moore as another option for toting the rock. I think either team could win this game, but I will give the edge to the Steelers because of more playmakers on their defense.

Comments are closed.