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All four NFL playoff matchups feature rematches

How interesting that each of the four playoff games this weekend features a rematch of games played during the regular season. In one case (Eagles-Giants), the teams met twice. Here's a look back at the regular-season matchups and what they might have told us about this week's games.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. San Diego Chargers

When they met: Nov. 16 at Pittsburgh

What was at stake: Both teams were looking to right a ship that was taking on a bit of water. The Steelers were coming off a disappointing home loss to Indianapolis, their second loss in three games. Meantime, the Chargers had lost two of three as well. The lone victory in that stretch came the week before — a much-too-close 20-19 squeaker against the Chiefs.

What happened: History was made when the Steelers won the first 11-10 game ever in the NFL as Jeff Reed kicked a 32-yard field goal with 11 seconds left. The game was the tale of two quarterbacks. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger had his best game up until then (and his second-most prolific game of the season) by tossing for 308 yards. Chargers QB Philip Rivers had his third-worst game of the season, throwing two interceptions and for 164 yards. The Steelers had nearly twice the offense, outgaining the Chargers 410 to 213 in a game that featured a snow storm right before kickoff that left the field a frozen mess.

What it meant: The Steelers stretched their regular-season record against the Chargers in Pittsburgh to 13-0. But it should be noted the Chargers have won both playoff games against the Steelers in Pittsburgh. The victory propelled the Steelers to a five-game win streak, while San Diego continued to struggle, losing its next two to fall to 4-8.

What the game told us: The Chargers had trouble running the ball in that Nov. 16 matchup, gaining only 66 yards on the ground. Meantime, Steelers RB Willie Parker rushed for 115 yards. Statistically, the Steelers dominated, but they needed three goals and a safety to win.

Baltimore Ravens vs. Tennessee Titans

When they met: Oct. 5 at Baltimore

What was at stake: An early season game between two teams that had to prove they were serious postseason contenders. The Titans were off to a solid 4-0 start, while the Ravens were 2-1 after missing a game in Houston because of Hurricane Ike and an overtime loss the week before to archrival Pittsburgh.

What happened: QB Kerry Collins, who had taken over for the injured Vince Young in Week 1, led the Titans on an 80-yard drive late in the fourth quarter and hit Alge Crumpler for an 11-yard touchdown pass with 1:55 left to give Tennessee a 13-10 victory. The Titans trailed 10-6 before their winning 11-play drive. Not surprisingly, the defenses controlled the game. Collins and Baltimore rookie QB Joe Flacco each threw two interceptions and for fewer than 164 yards.

What it meant: The Titans' victory gave them a 5-0 record — a perfect mark that would last until a loss against the Jets in their 11th game. Meantime, the Ravens were blown out by the Colts 31-3 the following week to fall to 2-3 before reeling off four straight victories.

What the game told us: That both offenses might have trouble moving the ball. The Ravens defense stifled the Titans, which came into the game averaging more than 27 points. And the field was littered with flags all day. There were 21 penalties called for 179 yards. Both Baltimore scoring drives were aided by 15-yard penalties, and the Titans' winning drive was kept alive because of a roughing-the-quarterback penalty. But if one thing stood out, it was the Ravens running attack, which rushed for 132 yards compared to Tennessee's 47.

Arizona Cardinals vs. Carolina Panthers

When they met: Oct. 26 at Carolina

What was at stake: After back-to-back victories against Buffalo and Dallas, the Cardinals came into the game with a 4-2 record and a hot quarterback with 12 touchdown passes in the first six games. Carolina was 5-2 with losses at Minnesota and Tampa Bay, but it was coming off an impressive 30-7 victory against New Orleans.

What happened: The Panthers overcame a 17-3 deficit early in the third quarter and rallied for a 27-23 victory. Carolina QB Jake Delhomme threw for 248 yards and two touchdowns, including a 65-yard score to Steve Smith late in the third quarter that put the Panthers up for good.

What it meant: The Panthers, who would go 6-2 the rest of the way, continued their dominance at home (they would finish 8-0), while the Cardinals showed their vulnerability on the road, where they finished 3-5.

What the game told us: That the Cardinals can throw against the Panthers. Kurt Warner threw for 381 yards. But it showed that the Cardinals, like every other NFL team, couldn't stop Smith, who caught five passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns. Meantime, Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams rushed for 108 yards on 17 carries, while the Cardinals had only 50 yards rushing.

Philadelphia Eagles vs. New York Giants, Part I

When they met: Nov. 9 at Philadelphia

What was at stake: The Giants were in the midst of a stretch that included games against Pittsburgh, Dallas, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Arizona. Coming in, they were 7-1 after roughing up the Steelers and Cowboys. The Eagles were hot coming into the game, having won three straight to go from 2-3 to 5-3.

What happened: The Giants sent a message that they were the team to beat in the NFC by winning their fourth straight game in Philadelphia. Eli Manning threw two touchdowns and Brandon Jacobs rushed for 126 yards and two touchdowns in the Giants' 36-31 victory.

What it meant: It meant the Eagles' season was on the line, especially after a tie and a loss in their next two games that dropped them to 5-5-1. Meantime, the Giants would go on to beat Baltimore and Arizona and cruise to the NFC East title.

What the game told us: That the Giants could stop Eagles all-purpose back Brian Westbrook, who had only 59 total yards.

Philadelphia Eagles vs. New York Giants, Part II

When they met: Dec. 7 at New York

What was at stake: The Giants were 11-1 and needed a victory to wrap up the NFC East. But they were only nine days removed from the infamous Plaxico Burress shooting. The Eagles were a desperate bunch, clinging to slim playoff hopes with a 6-5-1 record.

What happened: After being stopped in the first game, Brian Westbrook went crazy, rushing for 131 yards on 33 carries and catching six passes for 72 more. He scored twice to lead the Eagles to an impressive 20-14 victory. The Eagles held the Giants to a mere 211 yards.

What it meant: The loss didn't hurt the Giants. They won the division later that day when the Cowboys lost, then went on to clinch homefield advantage for the NFC playoffs. The victory was huge for the Eagles, who moved to 7-5-1. They would finish the regular season by winning two of their last three to nudge their way into the postseason.

What the game told us: That the Eagles could stop Eli Manning, especially without Burress. Manning threw for only 123 yards — his second-lowest total of the season (the first being the last game when he played only a half). To be fair, it was a windy day. But that didn't stop Eagles QB Donovan McNabb from throwing for 191 yards and a touchdown.

All four NFL playoff matchups feature rematches 01/05/09 [Last modified: Monday, January 5, 2009 10:31pm]
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