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News » The waiting game

The waiting game

The waiting game
The waiting game

The NFC's top two seeds, the Panthers and Giants, can only hope there are good things to come after their hard-earned playoff byes. It's a sure bet the Giants know the potential trouble in having the weekend off - where momentum can be lost and gained in other places.

The Giants were, after all, the No. 5 seed in the postseason a year ago. The won their wild-card game in Tampa, Fla., then beat Dallas after the Cowboys' week off. They followed that by beating Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game, at Lambeau Field, and the previously undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

"We know that intensity is going to have to get picked up next week when everything counts and everything is you are either in or out," Giants quarterback Eli Manning said this week.

Working for Carolina and New York this time is the fact they have the ultimate hole card of stability - two of the league's most powerful rushing attacks. And nothing cures a case of playoff nerves like pounding the ball at a defense.

The Giants have two 1,000-yard rushers in Derrick Ward and Brandon Jacobs. And the Panthers' duo of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart combined for 2,351 yards, the highest total by two running backs on the same team in 24 years.

Strong rebound

On Nov. 23, Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb finished a half of Football against the Baltimore Ravens 8-for-18 passing for 59 yards and two interceptions.

That produced a not-so-robust passer rating of 13.2, which is the result of a complex mathematical formula that adds up to not good.

So, Eagles coach Andy Reid made some big waves and benched his franchise quarterback for the second half. McNabb's replacement, Kevin Kolb, fared no better (10-for-23 passing for 73 yards and two interceptions) in what eventually became a 36-7 loss.

But for as much heat as Reid took for the move and as bruised as McNabb's ego might have been, it seems to have worked. Since then, the Eagles are 4-1 and McNabb has completed 64 percent of his passes to go with nine touchdowns and only one interception.

After the Eagles' 44-6 win against Dallas on Sunday that launched them into the playoffs, McNabb said, "They've thrown me out, ran over me, spit on me, but you know what, I continue to prevail. I kept my chin high, staying positive and making sure that the guys in this locker room understand that if given the opportunity, we would take full advantage of it . . . and if anything worked in our favor with all these scenarios, I would not let them down."

Injury update

Vikings defensive tackle Pat Williams, who helped the team to its No. 1 ranking against the run in the regular season, missed the past two games because of a fractured shoulder blade. But he is expected to play Sunday against the Eagles. Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Boldin, one of the three 1,000-yard receivers Arizona had this year, missed the final two games of the season because of a sore shoulder, but he is expected to play against the Falcons today. Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said this week the decision to rest Boldin down the stretch had been a wise one.

Falcons defensive end John Abraham was held out of practice Wednesday and Thursday because of thigh and shoulder injuries but is expected to play today.

Hit it

Thirteen quarterbacks were sacked more than Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner this season. And Warner's 26 were well behind the likes of league leader Matt Cassel (47) of New England and the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger (46), but nobody takes more punishment to get the ball away than Warner.

Abraham said this week he believes nobody in the league took more hits than Warner. And averaging 37 passes a game - Warner was third in the league in attempts, with 598 - defenses get plenty of chances to pound away.

But Warner is used to it and doesn't rattle easily. Three of his receivers topped 1,000 yards, and he closed the regular season with a four-touchdown game.

The real issue might be if the Falcons can find somebody other than Abraham to get to him. Abraham's 16.5 sacks represented 50 percent of the team's 33 sacks. No other Falcons player had more than four this season.

So if the Cardinals keep Abraham from their quarterback, the chances of getting the ball where they want it to go rise markedly.


* The Falcons went to Arizona on Thursday and practiced in the Phoenix area Friday.

* Blame it on the economy, but the Vikings had 11,000 tickets to the game Sunday available as late as Wednesday after 45 percent of their season-ticket holders reportedly refused the opportunity to buy playoff tickets. The NFL gave them an extension, to 2:30 p.m. MST today, to avoid a TV blackout, but as of Friday afternoon, 3,100 tickets still were unsold. By the end of business Thursday, the Cardinals still had 2,400 tickets available to their game today.

* The Cardinals are expected to give running back Edgerrin James some work today. James bristled at times this season after being pushed down the depth chart so rookie Tim Hightower could play. But after Hightower had 102 yards rushing Nov. 2 against St. Louis, he hasn't rushed for more than 35 yards in any game since. James had 100 yards rushing on 14 carries in the Cardinals' season finale, against Seattle.

He said it

"Of course. Everybody in New York and everybody in our organization will be very interested to see what happens."

Antonio Pierce, Giants linebacker, on whether he will watch the games this weekend.

Numbers game

29players on the Vikings' 53-man roster are making their first playoff appearance.

Rolling thunder

Twelve of the 17 rushing games of 160 yards or more this season came from seven NFC backs. Five of those backs are in the postseason. The seven:

160+ Running back Team games

Adrian Peterson* Vikings 3

DeAngelo Williams* Panthers 2

Michael Turner* Falcons 2

Steven Jackson Rams 2

Derrick Ward* Giants 1

Clinton Portis Redskins 1

Brian Westbrook* Eagles 1

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: January 3, 2009

Stefan Rodgers Name: Stefan Rodgers
Position: OT
Age: 26
Experience: 1 years
College: Lambuth
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