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January 14, 2005 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-01-14

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The Michigan Daily - Friday, January 14, 2005 - 9

Colts at Pa
Associated Press
Is there any NFL playoff game this weekend other
than the one in New England?
You wouldn't know it from the buzz surround-
ing Sunday's contest in Foxboro featuring MVP
Peyton Manning and the Colts against the Patri-
ots, winners of two of the last three Super Bowls
and five straight games over the record-breaking
quarterback Manning.
Yes, there are eight teams left in the playoffs
and three other games this weekend. They are
outside the spotlight, though.
"We just worry about us," said Atlanta coach Jim
Mora, whose Falcons (11-5) are the NFC's second-
seeded team and face visiting St. Louis tomorrow.
"Eventually we will be a blip on the radar
screen. We certainly want to make sure we're on
the radar screen for the right reasons if we ever
do get above ground."
True enough. If there's a second game gaining
attention, it's not for the right reasons. It's because
Randy Moss pretended to moon Green Bay fans after
scoring a touchdown last week for the Vikings, who
play at Philadelphia in Sunday's early game.
Even Pittsburgh - which had the NFL's best
record at 15-1 and unveiled the most successful
rookie quarterback ever in Ben Roethlisberger
- has been carrying a low profile as it waits for
the Jets in the opening game of the weekend.
Those games build up to late Sunday afternoon
for Colts-Patriots.
The rematch of last year's AFC title game
pits Manning - who broke Dan Marino's sin-
gle-season record for touchdown passes with 49
- against Tom Brady, who doesn't have great
statistics but has two Super Bowl rings.
The comparisons: Manning is Marino, who
set tons of records but never won a Super Bowl.
Brady is Joe Montana, who was cool and collect-
ed and won four championships.
But that's a bit deceptive - Manning is only 28

ts highlights playoffs
and has plenty of time to accumulate hardware.
"I still consider myself to be a young quarter-
back, believe it or not, even though quarterback
years are kind of like dog years," he said. "I'm in St. Louis (9-8) at ATLANTA (11-5)
my seventh year, and I'm known as kind of an old
man as far as quarterbacks go in the NFL."
All four quarterfinals are rematches of regu-
lar-season games, and all are at the same venue
as the first contests.

*

*

Indianapolis (13-4) at NEw ENGLAND (14-2)

Manning threw 32 of his 49 TD passes indoors
- 26 at home in the RCA Dome and six more at
Detroit's Ford Field. The temperature in Foxboro
on Sunday is likely to be in the 20s.
"People make a big deal of that," he said.
"I think it just depends on who plays the best,
whether you're at home or away in a dome or in
weather or whatnot."
"Whatnot" in this case might be the Patriots'
crowd and New England's 19-game winning streak
in Foxboro. The Pats also are one of only three
teams to finish 14-2 for two straight seasons.
The crowd? Manning calls more plays at the line
of scrimmage than any quarterback in the NFL.
"It's always a huge advantage for us playing at
home," Brady said. "I know, going on the road,
it's real tough when it's loud. From an opposing
team's view, it's awfully tough when the other
crowd is very loud - and our fans are loud."
Previous meeting: Patriots 27-24, Sept. 9.
New York Jets (11-6) at PITTSBURGH (15-1)
The Steelers seem content to be ignored, and
Roethlisberger, 13-0 as a starting quarterback in
the NFL, seems content to let Manning, Brady,
Daunte Culpepper, Donovan McNabb and the
other high-profile quarterbacks take the spot-
light.
"There's a little bit of pressure out there, obvi-
ously, because you lose, you go home," he said
after some relaxed horseplay in the locker room
this week. "But I don't want to go out there and
have too much pressure and stress on me."
The Jets' Chad Pennington, whose sore shoul-
der seemed healed in last week's overtime win in
San Diego, had a viral infection this week. Coach
Herman Edwards, who had a touch of the same,
looked at that as a potential positive.
"Generally, when guys get sick, they have
good games," Edwards said. "I thought one time
Michael Jordan got sick and he had, what, 100
points or something like that? Maybe that's a
good sign when guys get sick."
Previous meeting: Steelers 17-6, Dec. 12.

The Rams were the first 8-8 team to advance
in the playoffs, and the Vikings became the sec-
ond the next day, demonstrating how weak the
NFC is this season.
The Falcons also are a bit of a question mark,
although, with Michael Vick back from injury
and Mora as the coach, they have reversed last
season's record. They also had wins over two
AFC playoff teams, San Diego and Denver, and
Vick on a fast track makes them extremely dan-
gerous from anywhere on the field.
The Rams, of course, love an artificial indoor
surface, although they would prefer to be in their
own dome.
They also have won three-straight games and
believe they are returning to the elite status they
enjoyed for most of the last five years. Coach
Mike Martz now says Marc Bulger might be bet-
ter than Kurt Warner was from 1999-01, when he
won two MVP awards.
The defense is coming on, helped by the emer-
gence of tackle Jimmy Kennedy, who played lit-
tle as a first-round draft choice last season and
then missed seven games with a broken foot this
season.
"Jimmy has just amazed me," Martz said.
"What he did quietly while he was away is pretty
remarkable."
Previous meeting: Falcons 34-17, Sept. 19.
Minnesota (9-8) at PHILADELPHIA (13-3)
The Eagles are also a bit out of the spotlight, in part
because they tanked their last two games after clinching
home-field advantage and in part because they were off
last week while Moss shared top billing with Manning
and the Colts.
Philadelphia also has been downgraded because Terrell
Owens is out with a leg injury and won't be back unless the
Eagles make the Super Bowl - and maybe not even then.
But they do have Brian Westbrook, their other play-
maker, whose absence from the playoffs last season
was probably why they lost their third straight NFC
title game.
Moss, whose two touchdown catches in Green Bay
were overshadowed by his antics, was limping this week
on a sprained ankle after being hobbled for much of the
season by hamstring problems. But he will play.
Even Minnesota owner Red McCombs got into the
act by demanding that Fox Sports remove play-by-play
announcer Joe Buck from the telecast for denouncing
Moss's antics.
Fox declined.
Previous meeting: Eagles 27-16, Sept. 20.

Peyton Manning has long struggled to win road games against the New England
Patriots. He faces the Patriots this Sunday in New England.

AP PHOTo
Former Michigan quarterback Tom Brady has led the
Patriots to two Super Bowl titles.

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