NFL Playoff Preview: Saturday games

New York Jets at Cincinnati Bengals
4:30 pm ET

Last Sunday night, the Jets closed out the actual regular season history of “old” Giants Stadium the way the Giants wanted to the week before, turning a win-and-in situation into a rout against the Bengals, 37-0. The Jets and their # 1 pass defense held the Bengals to zero passing yards for the game. That’s right, ZERO passing yards. That’s not likely to happen again today, when the Jets visit the Bengals for a rematch that will determine who goes home and who moves on to the divisional round of the playoffs. Bengals’ head coach Marvin Lewis held RB Cedric Benson out of the Week 17 game, and only let QB Carson Palmer play a few series before letting some bearded guy named J.T. O’Sullivan take over. Lewis didn’t want to show too much, but what he may have shown in the process was that his team is fading fast and may have won games early in the season with smoke and mirrors. The Bengals’ defense is also solid, ranked #7 against the rush and #6 against the pass, but if they allow Thomas Jones and the Jets’ running game to control the clock again, this could very well be another dominant performance by the Jets. And don’t forget the way Jets’ all-world CB Darrelle Revis shut down WR Chad Ochocinco on the field and then on Twitter. The hotter Jets should prevail again, but either way, this is a game featuring two of the NFL’s best defenses, so it’s likely to be ultimately determined by who makes the least mistakes.

Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys
8:00 pm ET

For as surprising as the Jets’ thrashing of the Bengals was last weekend, the fact that the Cowboys shut out the Eagles may have been the biggest surprise of Week 17. Sure, the Cowboys have been on a roll since handing the Saints their first loss of the season a few weeks back, and haven’t given up a point since then. But the Eagles had won six in a row and were (insert cheesy line here like “flying high” or “soaring”). Despite having Brian Westbrook back, the Eagles have fallen to 22nd in the NFL in rushing offense and have been living by the big pass play most of the season, with second year WR DeSean Jackson changing games by himself on offense and special teams. The Cowboys, however, have beaten the Eagles twice this season, and their only losses came to the Giants twice (in games that could have gone either way), Denver, Green Bay and San Diego. They can run the ball (7th overall), pass with Tony Romo, Miles Austin and Jason Witten (6th overall) and they can stop the run (4th overall). The only blemish for the Cowboys is they are prone to big pass plays, but they seem to have remedied that recently, and with DeMarcus Ware coming off the edge, Donovan McNabb has to have eyes on the side and back of his head at all times. This game will certainly be close, and maybe come down to a field goal. And in that case, would you rather have David Akers or (gulp) Shaun Suisham as your kicker? That’s what I thought.

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So maybe Martz isn’t a miracle worker after all

J.T. O'SullivanMike Martz may be known as the “Mad Scientist” but he also should have another nickname: “The coach who can turn crap quarterbacks into 3,200-yard quarterbacks.”

Okay, so “crap” might be a harsh word. Marc Bulger wasn’t crap, he was more of a relative unknown, and Jon Kitna did have some productive seasons before his back to back 3,400-plus yard season. But Martz’s latest project, J.T. O’Sullivan, might fill the aforementioned use of the word crap.

O’Sullivan’s final numbers (16 of 28 for 256 yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs) in the Niners’ 29-17 loss to the Giants on Sunday weren’t bad, but don’t be fooled. He has zero pocket presence, bad footwork and his accuracy is below average. (And that’s putting it kindly.)

If O’Sullivan’s first half effort is any indication of his potential, than there’s no way San Fran should give up on former first overall pick Alex Smith. Not that Smith has quelled doubts that he’s a first round bust, but O’Sullivan isn’t the answer either. And Mike Nolan has to be the next head coach on the chopping block. (Enough with the suit, will ya?)

On a related topic but different note, this was a nice bounce back game for the Giants after their debacle on Monday night against the Browns. Eli Manning didn’t have an earth shattering performance, but he was solid and the G-Men got back to running the ball effectively again. I don’t know how much you can take from beating the 49ers at home, but again, they needed this after their loss to Cleveland.

NFL Week 5 Quick Recaps: Ocho Cinco fails to kiss Dallas star

Chad Johnson– Chad “Ocho Cinco” Johnson said earlier this week that he would kiss the Dallas star if/when he scores a touchdown against the Cowboys on Sunday. But Dallas held him to only 43 yards on three catches in their 31-22 win over the Bengals, so the only kiss he got to plant was on head coach Marvin Lewis’s face. You know that kid at a birthday party who does a couple of funny things, gets people’s attention, but then eventually becomes annoying? That’s where I’m at right now with Ocho Cinco.

– After getting destroyed by the Jets last Sunday, the Cardinals had one hell of a bounce back this week, beating the previously undefeated Bills 41-17. But ‘Zona has got to do something about its secondary. They gave up 56 points and allowed Brett Favre to throw six touchdown passes last week, and then proceeded to allow J.P. Losman to complete 15 of 21 passes for 220 yards and a touchdown today. That’s brutal. Losman hasn’t played in over a year and even when he did he was downright atrocious in most of his games. When J.P. Losman shreds you through the air, something’s up.

– Seven carries, two yards. That’s what Carolina held Chiefs’ RB Larry Johnson to in its 34-0 win Sunday. This coming just one week after LJ rushed for nearly 200 yards against Denver. Rightfully so, everyone talks about the Vikings’ run defense being so good, but take a look at what the Panthers have done against some of the best running backs the past couple of weeks: LaDainian Tomlinson – 97 yards. Adrian Peterson – 77 yards. Michael Turner – 56 yards. Larry Johnson – 2 yards. Wow.

Jay Cutler– Out of their three victories this season, the Broncos can be most proud of their 16-13 win over the Buccaneers on Sunday. They beat a quality opponent (unlike their Week 1 win over the Raiders), they didn’t need a controversial call to go in their favor (unlike their Week 2 win over the Chargers) and for the first time all year, they didn’t surrender 30-plus points defensively.

– So…who’s the real J.T. O’Sullivan? The one that threw for over 300 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions in a win over Seattle or the one that played Sunday and threw three picks against New England? (Although in O’Sullivan’s defense, he did throw three touchdowns in the Niners’ 30-21 loss to the Pats, too.)

– Did Laurence Maroney kick Bill Belichick’s cat one time at a team barbecue or something one time? For the life of me I can’t figure out why Sammy Morris continues to get more carries than Maroney.

– Gutsy, gutsy performance by Big Ben on Sunday night. The Jags couldn’t get any pressure on him early on, but when they started to get to him in second half, he hung in tough and delivered a huge win the Steelers. Just when you think Pittsburgh is going to crash with so many injuries in the backfield and along the offensive line, they step up and play a complete game like they did in Week 5. The final score wasn’t a good indicator of how much the Steelers actually dominated the Jaguars.

Brees, Saints cruise over 49ers 31-17

Drew Brees threw for 363 yards and three touchdowns as the Saints routed the 49ers, 31-17 in New Orleans on Sunday.

Drew BreesIt was over when …
Saints cornerback Tracy Porter intercepted J.T. O’Sullivan in the end zone with just under 10 minutes remaining and New Orleans leading 28-9.
Game ball
Running back Deuce McAllister had only two rushing attempts on the season but was more involved in the offense in Week 4, scoring his first touchdown of the year. McAllister finished with 83 total yards.
Key stat
O’Sullivan had two interceptions and lost a fumble, partly because of pressure caused by defensive end Charles Grant, who recorded two sacks and was a menace in the backfield. O’Sullivan was also sacked six times, and has now been taken down by opponents 19 times this season.
Saints receiver Lance Moore matched his 2007 touchdown total with a pair of scores. … 49ers running back Frank Gore was held without a touchdown for the first time this season. … Saints quarterback Drew Brees had his second three-touchdown game of the season. He had three touchdown passes against the Buccaneers in Week 1.

Apparently the Saints weren’t as bad as they played the past two weeks and the 49ers weren’t as good. When Lance Moore racks up seven catches for 101 yards and two touchdowns, you know you have issues in the secondary. Brees did whatever he wanted to San Fran’s secondary, which had played well against top wide outs Calvin Johnson and Roy Williams last week.

The Saints also did a nice job against J.T. O’Sullivan and the 49ers’ offense, which had played well the past two weeks. They gave up a fair amount of yardage threw the air, but a lot of that came after they had built a 28-9 second half lead, too. The Saints are now 2-2, but trail the Panthers (3-1) and Bucs (3-1) in the NFC South.

Mike Martz gets revenge on former team as 49ers blast Lions 31-13

Offensive coordinator Mike Martz helped his new team the San Francisco 49ers beat his former team, the Detroit Lions, 31-13 on Sunday.

It was over when…
Arnaz Battle recovered an onside kick with just over 6 minutes remaining and the 49ers holding a 15-point lead. Joe Nedney kicked a field goal with 4:25 left to take a three-score lead.
Game ball
Frank Gore rushed for 130 yards and a touchdown. His 27 attempts helped the 49ers control the clock in the second half, and his 33-yard run in the first quarter helped set up the 49ers’ first score.

Key stat
J.T. O’Sullivan was not sacked in 23 pass attempts, an almost unheard of streak in a Mike Martz offense.

The 49ers are 2-1 for the second consecutive year. … Rudi Johnson rushed for 83 yards and caught a 34-yard touchdown pass for the Lions after replacing rookie rookie Kevin Smith. … Quarterback Jon Kitna was shaken up toward the end of the game and had his right knee examined by the training staff.

The 49ers’ offense is starting to click. QB J.T. O’Sullivan was sharp, throwing for 189 yards and two touchdowns on 16 of 23 passing. Frank Gore was outstanding as well, rushing for 130 yards and touchdown. As long as the defense can hold its own, the 49ers can definitely compete in a weak NFC West, although it’s still hard to fathom that a J.T. O’Sullivan-quarterbacked team will make the playoffs.

New week, same results for the Lions. They got down early, Jon Kitna had zero time to throw and the defense was bad. Outside of Calvin Johnson, Roy Williams, Ernie Sims, Kevin Smith, Dewayne White and maybe Kitna, the entire roster should be blown up.

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