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- Ian's Wildcard Weekend: Big names set to end their seasons on a low

Ian Hetherington January 4, 2007
Ian Hetherington
NFL Columnist

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Kansas City Chiefs vs Indianapolis Colts
The key men here are Larry Johnson for the Chiefs and Peyton Manning for the Colts. What could swing this one way or the other is how their team-mates perform in the passing and running games respectively. Trent Green had another shaky game against the Jags, as he put up a touchdown but also got picked off twice, before leaving the game for Damon Huard. The Indy run defence was less than spectacular but worryingly their run D was porous once again. Still, they’re at home where they’ve yet to lose this year and they’re against a team that only got into the playoffs through unlikely defeats for other teams anyway. Though the Chiefs won’t let that worry them, and they’ll play this one hard, but stopping Manning is the key for them, and if he is indeed getting back to business then that might be out of their hands. LJ will give the Colts a torrid time, and they’ll suffer a few scares in this one, but they’ll come through it in the end.

Dallas Cowboys vs Seattle Seahawks
When a penalty called back the ‘Boys after a defensive touchdown on the first play of the game, they should have known it was gonna be one of those days. The important thing for Dallas to remind themselves of going into this game is that Tony Romo doesn’t have some divine right to perform well and he’s going to need more help from the running game than he got against Detroit, and more of the same from T.O. For Seattle’s part, they may have beaten Tampa Bay quite handily in their last outing, but that can’t disguise a team that’s struggling to find performances at the moment. The important issue is for Hasselbeck and Alexander to try and shrug off the problems of this season and concentrate on the game in hand. Whether they can do that against a lively Dallas defence is a different matter, and for my money the last results of these two teams should be ignored. We know they’re both far from perfect, so it’s about how they’ll do on the day. Romo should do better in his first playoff game, he’ll cut out some of the mistakes and in a game of reasonable defending I think it’ll be Dallas who break through offensively more frequently. Dallas to win by ten points.

New York Jets vs New England Patriots
New York, whether you can believe your eyes or not, have done very well to get here and they did beat New England last time around, but the fairy tale they’re aiming for isn’t going to happen. Tom Brady and Co. have kicked it up a gear after a humiliating 21-0 defeat in Miami and are one of the teams going into the playoffs (along with the Jets, to be fair) with some real momentum behind them. Two forty-point hauls in three games is a real signal of intent of the belief and ability in the camp. The Jets have been doing well too, they have three wins against similar level opposition to the teams the Pats beat, and this will give them the much-needed confidence to try and go to Foxboro to try and face the big team and win. I can’t see it, however, as I don’t think there’s an area of their game where the Jets convincingly outshine New England. It’ll be a tough game, most likely, and nobody will get steamrollered, but New England are experienced when it comes to motivating themselves and preparing themselves for big games, and they’ll show that once again as they head into the playoffs proper, I’d say against the Chargers…

New York Giants vs Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles are soaring (sorry), while the Giants are coming into this one off the back of a good win against Washington (including a fantastic performance from Tiki Barber, who got three touchdowns to quadruple his season tally.) Unfortunately, much as I generally like the Giants, I don’t think there’s anything pointing to a victory for them here. Philly have been consistently getting the job done in recent weeks, whereas the Giants are finding it difficult to be consistent in any department. Barber hasn’t been getting enough touchdowns (though last week may be a sign that he wants to go out on a serious high), Eli Manning isn’t performing as he ought to be and that’s symptomatic of the entire team. Short of something spectacular from Barber or a rejuvenated showing from Manning, the Eagles should get the win here with a solid performance and a healthy margin of victory under their belts.

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