newyorkjets.com will profile each playoff game in this NFL postseason, with a special eye on Jets angles in each of the matchups. Today: the two Wild Card Round games to be played Saturday:
(6) WASHINGTON (9-7) at (3) SEATTLE (10-6), 4:30 p.m., NBC
The Redskins are the hottest team in the NFC playoff field, and they've taken their inspiration from No. 21. Ever since they attended the funeral for S Sean Taylor, murdered during a robbery of his Miami home, the 'Skins have won four in a row, including their final game against conference top seed Dallas — by 21 points. "Win for Sean" has been Washington's motto, and Taylor continues to be listed on the team's active roster on its Web site.
But can QB Todd Collins maintain his hot hand? Collins replaced Jason Campbell for the "relief" win vs. Chicago in Week 14, then made his first starts after a decade as an NFL backup and won three straight, generating 12 touchdowns and seven field goals in 49 drives.
The Seahawks had been skying with six wins in seven games — until they ran into what they thought was a playoff "tuneup" at lowly Atlanta. But their secondary wasn't quite ready for QB Chris Redman, the third starter to try to help Atlantans forget about Michael Vick. Redman generated five touchdowns and three field goals as the Falcons held on, 44-41.
The loss, said S Deon Grant, was "embarrassing ... but the plus part in all this is we get to wipe the slate clean. We can fix the mistakes we made and go into the weekend and dominate."
Washington finished the regular season with top-10 rankings in overall defense (8th) and rush defense (4th) and had no bottom-10 rankings in the eight main team categories.
Seattle finished in the top 10 in overall offense (ninth), pass offense (8th), scoring offense (tied for 9th) and scoring defense (tied for sixth) and had no bottom-10 rankings.
The Seahawks have a plus-10 turnover margin while the Redskins are minus-5.
Washington's Clinton Portis finished sixth among NFL rushers with 1,262 yards (3.9 per carry, 11 TDs) and was third with 1,651 yards from scrimmage. Seattle WR Bobby Engram had 94 receptions for 1,147 yards (12.2 per catch, 6 TDs). On defense, DE Patrick Kerney finished second in the NFL to Kansas City's Jared Allen with 14.5 sacks and CB Marcus Trufant was tied for third with seven INTs.
The teams met once before in the postseason, when Washington, sixth seed then as well, traveled to the Pacific Northwest to take on top-seeded Seattle. The 'Hawks prevailed, 20-10, in their first playoff appearance since 1984 as Hasselbeck passed for a second-quarter touchdown and ran for a third-quarter TD. Santana Moss, capping his first season as a Redskin after the off-season trade from the Jets for Laveranues Coles, caught a 20-yard scoring strike from Mark Brunell with 11:51 to play but the 'Skins could get no closer.
Washington's all-time playoff record is 23-16, and it's 20-12 since the 1970 merger. Under coach Joe Gibbs, the Redskins are 17-6, including four Super Bowl appearances (XVI, XVII, XXII, XXVI), and they're 1-1 in one playoff appearance since Gibbs returned from his football hiatus to coach them again in 2004.
Seattle's all-time playoff record is 6-9. Under coach Mike Holmgren, the Seahawks are 3-5, including last year's home playoff win over Bill Parcells' Cowboys when holder Tony Romo couldn't find the handle on the slick football for the game-winning field goal try, and they are making their sixth playoff appearance since 1999, including a loss to Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XL.
Many Green & White fans will be interested in how the "Jetskins" fare this postseason. Washington has three former Jets starting on its offense — Moss at WR, Pete Kendall at LG and Jason Fabini at RG. Also on the roster are backups Omar Stoutmire at safety and Khary Campbell at LB. G Randy Thomas is on injured reserve. There's even an ex-Jet on the coaching staff, offensive coordinator Don Breaux, who coached the Jets' tight ends in 1994.
The Jets took Washington to overtime before losing for the fourth consecutive time in the series, 23-20, in Week 9. The Redskins prevailed on five Shaun Suisham field goals, including the OT game-winner, and 296 rushing yards, led by Portis' 36 carries for 196 yards and a TD. QB Kellen Clemens made his second pro start in the game completing 23 of 42 passes for 226 yards and a TD.
Apparently, former Jets don't travel cross-country well. Seattle has no players on its roster nor coaches on its staff with ties to the Green & White. About the closest we can come to a connection is that when New England decided to trade WR Deion Branch in the 2006 preseason, the Jets pursued him but the Patriots traded Branch to the Seahawks.
The Jets have never met the Seahawks in the playoffs but have beaten them five straight times in the regular season, most recently in a Chad Pennington-engineered 37-14 rout late in 2004.
(5) JACKSONVILLE (11-5) at (4) PITTSBURGH (10-6), 8 p.m., NBC
The Jaguars are that proverbial team no one wants to face in the playoffs, and the Steelers get to face them first. Jacksonville has a devastating one-two punch at RB in Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew and a field general in David Garrard who's in danger of no longer being one of the NFL's best-kept QB secrets. Garrard is 9-3 as a starter and has been as good as all but Tom Brady in orchestrating long drives with few offensive turnovers.
The Steelers are spoiling for this fight, of course, but they've got a major problem: health. Pittsburgh will be without a slew of starters — RB Willie Parker, tackles Marvel Smith and Max Starks, DE Aaron Smith and S Ryan Clark — not to mention special teams captain Clint Kriewaldt. And other starters are not healthy.
But first-year NFL head coach Mike Tomlin senses he may have some important 12th men working in his favor. One is the loud, proud Terrible Towel-waving fans who will fill Heinz Field to the rafters. The other is the Steelers' "Terrible Turf," that much maligned grass footing on the floor of Heinz that prompted Taylor this week to grouse: "That field is terrible. That's a lawsuit pending. That's ridiculous."
Is this bad grass a homefield advantage in disguise? "Sure it is, if he feels that way," Tomlin said. "I don't know anybody on our team that hates our field."
Jacksonville finished the regular season with top-10 rankings in total offense (7th), rushing offense (2nd), scoring offense (6th) and scoring defense (10th) and had no bottom-10 rankings in the eight main team categories.
Pittsburgh finished in the top 10 in overall defense (1st), rushing defense (3rd), passing defense (3rd), scoring defense (2nd), rushing offense (3rd) and scoring offense (tied for 9th) and had no bottom-10 rankings.
The Jaguars have a plus-9 turnover margin to the Steelers' plus-3.
Ben Roethlisberger and David Garrard finished 2-3 in NFL passer rating behind Tom Brady's 117.2. Big Ben came in at 104.1, Garrard at 102.2. Parker, who was fourth in the league with 1,316 rushing yards, won't be shifting into overdrive in this one since he's parked on IR with a broken leg. Taylor came in ninth with 1,202 yards and he will be motoring in this game.
Combined, Pittsburgh's Jeff Reed (23-for-25) and Jacksonville's Josh Scobee (12-for-13) missed three FGs. Jones-Drew was one of the league's top kickoff returners this season with a 26.2-yard average. Pittsburgh LB James Harrison was an unstoppable force at midseason and wound up with 8.5 sacks.
Jacksonville is 4-5 in five playoff appearances in its 13-year existence, but only 0-1 since the new millennium began — a 28-3 loss to the Patriots at Gillette in the 2005 Wild Card Round.
Pittsburgh has a 28-18 all-time postseason record, all but one loss coming with either Chuck Noll or Bill Cowher as head coach. The Stillers have won their last four playoff games, all in 2005 as Cowher's next-to-last team "won one for the thumb" by beating the Seahawks in Super Bowl XL.
These teams have never met in the playoffs. All-time the Jaguars lead this one-time AFC Central rivalry, 11-8. The Jags have won the last three, two at Heinz Field — a 23-17 overtime verdict in 2005 and a 29-22 triumph three weeks ago. Garrard threw three midgame TD passes in that one, then Taylor ripped off a 12-yard run right after the two-minute warning to secure the upset.
Jacksonville has a pair of former Jets first-round draft choices on its "team." Aaron Glenn (12th overall, 1994) is now a quality backup on the Jaguars' left corner. And Jeff Lageman (14th overall, 1989) is the Jags' radio analyst. Green & White fans may also remember Ray Hamilton, the Jaguars' defensive line coach who coached the Jets' D-linemen from 1994-96.
The Jets defeated Jacksonville, 34-24, in the Meadowlands in a 1998 Divisional Round playoff game. But overall they have won just three of eight in the series. The most recent game was the 41-0 loss at Jacksonville in 2006 Week 5.
Pittsburgh also has one Jets first-rounder continuing to play at a high level for its vaunted LB corps, in James Farrior (eighth overall, 1997). And Tyrone Carter, a 10-game starter at FS for the 2003 Jets, continues to make plays as the only listed backup behind starters Troy Polamalu and Anthony Smith.
The Jets' track record with the Steelers had been more rock-strewn. Pittsburgh is 16-3 in all games, including Heinz wins in the two 2004 meetings — by 17-6 in the regular season and by 20-17 in overtime in the playoffs. But the Jets got some payback this season when Kellen Clemens led a 19-16 overtime home upset, one of the stunning results of the NFL's regular season.
Friday: The two Wild Card Round games to be played Sunday