Sunday, January 11, 2009

An Astonishing Weekend

No matter which teams you were pulling for in the NFL playoffs yesterday and today, it was truly an astonishing weekend.

Things got started yesterday with the Baltimore Ravens' hard-fought 13-10 win over the Tennessee Titans and continued with the Arizona Cardinals' comparatively easy 33-13 triumph over the Carolina Panthers.

Then, today, the Philadelphia Eagles eliminated the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants, 23-11, and the Pittsburgh Steelers outlasted the San Diego Chargers, 35-24.

So, next Sunday, Baltimore will travel to Pittsburgh and Philadelphia will travel to Arizona. The winners of those games will meet in Super Bowl XLIII three weeks from today.

All four of this weekend's games were rematches from the regular season. That hasn't happened in nearly 40 years.

And the AFC and NFC title games also will be rematches from the regular season.

Baltimore and Pittsburgh compete in the same division, so naturally they have faced each other during the regular season. The Steelers beat the Ravens in Pittsburgh back on Sept. 29, 23-20, and then won the game in Baltimore on Dec. 14, 13-9, so the Steelers will be trying to pull off a three-game sweep. As the scores of the earlier games indicate, it won't be easy.

The Eagles and Cardinals played each other in Philadelphia on Thanksgiving night, and the Eagles won, 48-20. There was a time when the Eagles and Cardinals were in the same division, but that was back when the Cardinals called St. Louis their home. Now, the Cardinals play their home games in Arizona and they compete in a different division. But, as the division winners (whereas the Eagles are a wild-card team), the Cardinals will get the home field advantage.

Much will be said about these matchups in the coming week.

My initial thought, however, was this: This must seem like redemption to Donovan McNabb, who endured booing by the fans and benching by his coach only to come back and lead the Eagles to a fifth NFC championship game. Whether he goes to the Super Bowl or not, he has the satisfaction of knowing that he made the clutch plays while the Giants' quarterback, Eli Manning, did not.

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