on January 1, 2008 by in Uncategorized, Comments (0)

Super Bowl run begins with wild card weekend

NEW YORK (Reuters) – With the New England Patriots’ unbeaten regular season installed in the record books, the NFL spotlight swings to the runup for the Super Bowl which kicks off with wild card weekend Saturday and Sunday.

After earning first-round byes, the Patriots, defending champions Indianapolis Colts, the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys will spend the first weekend of the post-season like millions of fans watching from their sofas to see who they will meet in the divisional playoffs.

For the Washington Redskins and Tennessee Titans, who clinched their playoff spots with victories on the final day of the regular season, there will be no time to reflect as they prepare for a wildcard weekend with games played across the United States from Seattle to Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh to San Diego.

In the NFC, the surging Redskins (9-7) travel to the west coast to face the Seattle Seahawks (10-6) while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-7) host the New York Giants (10-6).

The AFC will feature a bruising battle between the 2006 Super Bowl champions Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6) and the Jacksonville Jaguars (11-5) while the San Diego Chargers (11-5) welcome the Titans (10-6).

The Redskins’ appearance in the post-season is both unexpected and inspiring.

Reeling from the fatal shooting of Pro Bowl safety Sean Taylor during a botched robbery, mired in a four-game losing streak and without starting quarterback Jason Campbell, who went down with a broken leg, a playoff spot appeared beyond Washington’s reach.

“GREAT CHARACTER”

But behind backup quarterback Todd Collins the Redskins fashioned an unlikely four-game winning run to close out the regular season, clinching a wildcard berth with a 27-6 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in their final game.

“To our players, it was really a testimony these four weeks of just great character,” Redskins coach Joe Gibbs told reporters.

“To get to the playoffs was a dream of ours and four weeks ago everybody would have said it looked impossible.

“It was a great four weeks. It was guys just playing their hearts out.”

The Titans also left it late and turned to a backup to secure their first playoff appearance since 2003.

Needing a win over the Colts to advance, the Titans playoff dreams seemed over when starting quarterback Vince Young went down in the third quarter with a quadriceps injury.

But veteran Kerry Collins came on to complete a 16-10 victory earning the Titans a trip to San Diego to face the red hot Chargers.

After a stumbling 1-3 start to the season the Chargers revealed their Super Bowl credentials going 10-2, including a six game win streak to close the season as running back LaDainian Tomlinson captured his second consecutive NFL rushing title.

The Giants wobble into the post-season losing two of their last three but take on a Tampa Bay team that was even less impressive down the stretch losing three of four.