Monday, January 4, 2010

Three Instant Rematches

NFL playoffs have frequently featured rematches of regular–season games. Some first–round playoff games have even wound up being rematches of regular–season finales.

But I can't remember a time when three first–round playoff games were rematches of regular–season finales.

Nevertheless, that is the situation we have this year.

One of next weekend's games is between two divisional rivals — Dallas and Philadelphia. When that has happened (and it has happened from time to time), you knew it was a rematch because divisional rivals play each other twice during the regular season. The fact that they faced each other in the final week of the season was coincidental.

As it turned out, though, they'll be playing each other in the same place — Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. As division champs, the Cowboys earned the right to host the first–round game. As the sixth seed, the Eagles know they will have to win three straight games on the road to get to the Super Bowl.

The other first–round game in the NFC also is a rematch of one of Sunday's games, but it is not a pairing of divisional rivals. Green Bay whipped the defending NFC champion Arizona Cardinals on Arizona's home field, 33–7. Because of that, Green Bay finished the season with a better record than Arizona, but, because the Packers are a wild–card team, they must return to the desert to play Arizona next weekend.

In the AFC, the New York Jets whipped a listless Cincinnati Bengals team in the Meadowlands Sunday night but now, since the Jets are a wild–card team and the Bengals are a division champion, must travel to Cincinnati for the first–round playoff game.

Actually, all four of next weekend's playoff games are rematches from the regular season, but that other game, between Baltimore and New England, is a rematch of a game that was played three months ago, back in early October. It was, however, played in the same place where the teams will meet this weekend — Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.

I'll be back later this week to share my thoughts on this weekend's games.

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