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PREVIOUS SPORTS
• Sideline: Yes, Non–Conference Games DO Count
• NCAA Preview 2009
• Sideline: Time For The Talking To Stop
• Sideline: In Memory of Air McNair
• Sideline: Will Goodell Hand Out Hard Time?
• Sideline: Marshall's Not Joshing
• NFL Draft: No Rush To Judgment
• NFL Draft Analysis 2009 (Part 2)
• Sideline: NFL Draft Thoughts (Part 2)
• Sideline: NFL Draft Thoughts
• Sideline: Will Play For Food
• Sideline: Wonderlic Scores
• Sideline: Manning and Sanchez
• Sideline: 2010 Leagues Sci–fi, or Fantasy? / March Madness
• Sideline: Break Out The Brackets
• Sideline: LaDainian Tomlinson On The Record
• Sideline: The Incredible Sulk Continues
• Sideline: Guildford Heat Fired Up
• Sideline: Super Bowl thoughts from the Valley of the Sun
• Sideline: I know I came in here for something
• Sideline: College Football National Signing Day
• Sideline: 27 Points — 27 Super Bowl thoughts
• Sideline: An Epic QB Matchup?
• Sideline: Appreciating Arizona for What They Were
• Sideline: NFL Divisional Weekend Preview
• Sideline: Bowl Season Hangover
• Sideline: Six weeks Later
• Sideline: Wildcard Weekend Preview
• Sideline: Santa's Sackings
• Sideline: A Weis Decision ...for Now
• Sideline: Eye on the Ticker
• Sideline: Lions — An Anagram of Losin
• Sideline: Ready for the Turkey
• Sideline: Making it to the Big Dance
• Sideline: Brighter Days Ahead for Chargers?
• Sideline: Unnecessary Hits To The Pocket / Upset: BYU
• Sideline: Romo's Pause / Seattle Seahawks
• Sideline: Weekend Prep: Red River and More
• Sideline: College Football's 'Crossroads' Weekend
• Sideline: Gramatical Error
• Sideline: Turning The Page
• Sideline: So Cal 'Quizzed
• Sideline: 3rd Tuesday Panic / Forté Yard Dash
• Sideline: Two and Oh; Oh and Two
• Sideline: No More NCAAffeine
• Sideline: Week 1 College Football
• Sideline: How To Spell Heisman / Chad Ocho Cinco
• Sideline: A Second Slice
• Sideline: The Favre story STILL won't go away
• Sideline: Olympic Notes / Ricky's Still Relevant
• Sideline: Committee Meetings
• Sideline: Let the QB Battles Begin
• Sideline: Slinging The Slinger — More Favre
• Interview: Clint Dempsey
• Sideline: Welcome to the 2008 season
• Sideline: Plus One
• 2008 NFL Draft Review
• Sideline: Draft: The Morning After
• Sideline: Draft: Thinking the Unthinkable
• Sideline: Draft: Ready For The Long Haul
• Sideline: Sofa–bound Sport
• Sideline: Post–Winter Wonderland
• Sideline: Six Impossible Things
• Sideline: Brady's Misdirection Play
• Sideline: Colorful Language
• Sideline: Let the Romo–bashing begin
• Sideline: Bowl Bites: The Wrap
• Sideline: All About The Coaches
• Sideline: Bowl Bites 3
• Sideline: Bowl Bites 2
• Sideline: Bowl Bites 1
• Sideline: Coach Situations Vacant
• Sideline: For Some, The Playoffs Are Now
• Sideline: A Certain Lack Of Welcome
• Sideline: Unrelated Notes
• Sideline: Two Thanksgiving thoughts
• Sideline: Halftime: NFC
• Sideline: Halftime: AFC
• Sideline: London / A Tale of Two Chads / Intimidation
• Sideline: Damp Squib / Other London Notes
• Sideline: Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em / Dolphins – The Aftermath
• Sideline: The Dolphins Did What?
• Sideline: Notes on the Defenses
• Sideline: Habits to be Broken
• Sideline: Overtime
• Sideline: This Week's Starters
• Sideline: USF: Covering The Spread / Fantastic Football
• Sideline: Grossman: The Final Act? / McNabb, the Epilogue
• Sideline: Eagles QB in Slight Controversy
• Sideline: Leftwich's Parting Gift / Boos cruise
• Sideline: Notre Dame M.I.A.
• Sideline: Looking Beyond NFL Wk. 1
• Sideline: Best Hope For Heisman
• Sideline: Coaching Hot Seats / AP Poll Feeling ’Appy
• Sideline: The NFL’s Prime Cuts
• Sideline: Michigan Falls to Killer Apps
• Sideline: Look Out Couch / The Taint's On You, Bud
SPORTS

SIDELINE
Observations, Opinion & Occasional Silliness by Richard L Gale

NFL Divisional Weekend Preview
January 10, 2009

PREVIOUS SIDELINE NEXT SIDELINE

It is 4am. Any moment now, Mrs Football will appear at the doorway of this writer’s study (née dining room) and inform me that it may be half past twelve in Philadelphia, but it's should–be–in–bed time in darkest Dorset. My wife will scoff at my protestations of remaining synced with Eastern Time, as we go through another logic–defying weekend of time–shifted baby–minding.

Mrs Football has now resumed work, albeit on night shift, and with new parenthood being the continuing theme as we enter 2009, American Football isn't the most convenient of sports. Nonetheless, her enquiries as to the fate of the Eagles have been on the increase, and with a night off on Sunday, there is the very real prospect that two games from the Superbowl, she may actually be sofa–settled for the Philly–NY tilt.

If that doesn't send the Eagles crashing to their postseason doom, nothing will.

BALTIMORE RAVENS @ TENNESSEE TITANS
21.30, Saturday 10
The plot: Defense. Then more defense. And as with last week's Arizona v Atlanta match–up, a veteran QB outranks a talented rookie, when a defense can take advantage of rookie mistakes. Did I mention defense?
The subplot: Both of these teams prefer to move the ball on the ground, and do so with composite backfields, Baltimore with Willis McGahee, Le'Ron McClain and Ray Rice, Tennessee with LenDale White and Chris Johnson. To pick between those, I favor any team that has Lorenzo Neal as its blocking fullback, and that's the Ravens.
The twist: So, advantage Titans at QB, advantage Ravens for rushing (by my analysis at least). But as I said, this one is about defense, and though the Titans have DTs Kyle Vanden Bosch and Albert Haynesworth back for the game, I'll still take the team with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed roaming the field if things are going to be this close on paper.

ARIZONA CARDINALS @ CAROLINA PANTHERS
01.00, Sunday 11
The plot: The Cardinals shocked the world last week, and now face a Panthers team they almost beat in a week 8 shootout. While the Arena league has been suspended, former Arena league QB Kurt Warner is still going strong, heading a Cardinals passing attack that will again be in a scoring competition with the Panthers' two–back attack of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.
The subplot: Of course, the Panthers also have a receiver or two of their own, Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad, and Edgerrin James may have re–established a little seniority (and playing time) over Tim Hightower. The scene is set for some old guy to show he's still a master in the playoffs.
The twist: Jake Delhomme hasn't set the record books alight this season, with only 15 TDs all year, but his passer rating over the last three games has been 104.5. While the Cardinals defense may be gearing up to stop Carolina's rushing game, it was Delhomme that led the Panthers down the field for the winner last time, one of his best performances of the year.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES @ NEW YORK GIANTS
18.00, Sunday 11
The plot: The Eagles are playing hot, and when the teams last met, it was Philadelphia that upset the Giants, 20–14, when they last met – in the Meadowlands, no less. But as the Giants proved last year, regular season and postseason are different things. This is the time for Eli Manning to shine again, and the Giants defensive line to shut down Donovan McNabb's resurgence.
The subplot: The last time they met, Brandon Jacobs left in the third quarter, the Giants couldn't convert fourth down plays, and they were still adjusting to Plaxico Burress' shooting incident. The Giants have had a long time to get things back in order, and with Jacobs fit, the Giants have the league's no.1 rushing attack.
The twist: Despite the postseason QB talk, this isn't necessarily the Eli and Donovan show. But Eli will be efficient, and unlike last time these two met, his receivers will hang onto the ball. Expect a game more like the higher–scoring first meeting ...which the Giants won.

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS @ PITTSBURGH STEELERS
21.30, Sunday 11
The plot: LaDainian Tomlinson is doubtful for the game, and WR Vincent Jackson may be distracted after an arrest for suspected drink driving earlier this week. Now they face the NFL’s no.1 defense in yards allowed. It was only a few weeks ago that the Chargers lost to the Steelers by a mere point. San Diego had a chance then, but couldn't manage a win even with the Steelers offense reduced to field goals. San Diego will need RB Darren Sproles to have another size–defying break–out.
The subplot: Darren Sproles will be surprising nobody this week, and Pittsburgh's linebackers (not to mention safety Troy Polamalu) will be drooling for the opportunity to lay some hits. But taking pause to see where Sproles is could rein back the Blitz–burgh mentality allowing QB Philip Rivers to do the damage instead. And San Diego has the no.2 scoring offense to Pittsburgh's no.20.
The twist: One twist might be a higher–scoring game than November's 11–10 final. Another would be me rooting against my Steelers in favor of my Super Bowl pick. But don't bet on either.

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