NFL Playoffs Sunday
NFL Playoffs Sunday
Game Preview for Giants vs Buccaneers
(Sports Network) - The New York Giants enter the 2007 NFC Playoffs eager to end a four-game losing streak in postseason play. But in order to break that spell, they'll have to beat the quarterback who had a hand in two of those painful defeats in this Sunday's Wild Card round encounter with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium.
The Giants haven't won a playoff game since January 14, 2001, when Big Blue rolled to a 41-0 decision over the Minnesota Vikings in that season's NFC Championship Game. It's been all downhill for New York in the month of January since, with the club getting routed by Baltimore in Super Bowl XXXV, dropping a memorable 39-38 decision to San Francisco in 2003 and suffering opening- round defeats in each of the last two years.
New York blew a 38-14 lead in that Wild Card round game against the 49ers four years ago, with Jeff Garcia engineering the second-largest comeback in postseason history to propel San Francisco to victory. The now 37-year-old quarterback threw for 331 yards and three touchdowns on that day, while adding 60 yards and another score on the ground.
Garcia did the Giants in once again a year ago, this time as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles. The gritty veteran skillfully orchestrated a 10-play, 46- yard culminating in David Akers' 38-yard field goal on the final play of regulation, lifting Philly to a 23-20 triumph in an NFC Wild Card matchup last January.
Now the Giants will cross paths again with Garcia, who signed a two-year free- agent contract with the Buccaneers in March and delivered another typically efficient season under center. The nine-year veteran completed nearly 64 percent of his passes and threw just four interceptions over 13 starts in 2007.
Garcia's addition was a big reason for Tampa Bay's worst-to-first turnaround this year. After finishing at the bottom of the NFC South with a disappointing 4-12 record, the Buccaneers rebounded with a 9-7 mark to capture their second division title in three years.
Also instrumental in Tampa Bay's resurgence was a swarming defense that surrendered the fewest passing yards in the league this season and ranked second in total yards allowed and third in points allowed.
New York is headed to the postseason for a third consecutive year under head coach Tom Coughlin after recording a 10-6 mark, good for the NFC's top Wild Card berth and the No. 5 seed in the conference tournament. The Giants also enter Sunday's tilt battle-tested after playing the powerful New England Patriots to the wire in last weekend's regular-season finale.
The fired-up Giants built a surprising 12-point lead on New England midway through the third quarter, but the still-unbeaten Patriots answered with 23 straight points and held on for a thrilling 38-35 victory to become the first team in NFL history to complete a season with a 16-0 record.
Coughlin opted to play the majority of his regulars in that game, even though New York was already locked in to an opening-round meeting with the Bucs. Tampa head coach Jon Gruden took a different approach in last Sunday's finale against Carolina, choosing to rest such key players as Garcia, running back Earnest Graham, wide receivers Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard, linebacker Barrett Ruud and safety Jermaine Phillips.
The Panthers handed the depleted Buccaneers a 31-23 setback, which was only Tampa Bay's second loss in eight home games this season.
Conversely, the Giants have excelled on the road in 2007. Since being handed a 45-35 loss at NFC East champion Dallas in Week 1, New York has reeled off seven straight wins as the visitor.
The Giants lead the all-time series with the Buccaneers, 10-6, including a 17-3 home victory when the teams last met, in Week 8 of the 2006 regular season. Tampa Bay won the previous meeting, a 19-13 affair at Raymond James Stadium in 2003. New York's most recent win in Tampa occurred in 1999.
Gruden is 3-1 all-time against the Giants, including a 2-0 mark while with the Raiders from 1998 through 2001. Coughlin is 2-1 against the Bucs, including 1-1 during his tenure with Jacksonville (1995-2002). Gruden is 0-1 against Coughlin head-to-head.
WHEN THE GIANTS HAVE THE BALL
You can expect the Giants to attempt to continuously pound away at Tampa's smallish defense with a running game that has been one of the league's most productive in 2007. New York's 134.3 rushing yards per game rank fourth in the NFL, while the Buccaneers are 17th overall in defending the run (107.9 ypg). Tampa Bay will have its hands full with running back Brandon Jacobs (1009 rushing yards, 23 receptions, 6 total TD), a 264-pound load who averaged five yards per carry in an injury-marred campaign. A stout New York offensive line has one issue heading into Sunday, as steady center Shaun O'Hara sprained his left knee against New England and figures to be a game-time decision.
A potent rushing attack would also ease the pressure on Eli Manning (3336 passing yards, 23 TD, 20 INT) as the erratic New York quarterback tries to put the burden of an 0-2 career playoff record behind him. Manning did deliver a strong performance in a big-game scenario last week, however, as the former No. 1 overall pick threw for 251 yards and tied a personal best with four touchdown passes. He's also historically put up better numbers on the road during his four-year career. The six-foot-five Plaxico Burress (70 receptions, 1025 yards) is Manning's top target and a matchup nightmare for most defenses. The talented wideout caught 12 touchdown passes during the regular season despite fighting through a lingering ankle injury. The season-ending loss of tight end Jeremy Shockey in Week 15 was a serious blow to the Giants' 21st- rated pass offense (197.1 ypg), although rookie Kevin Boss (9 receptions, 2 TD) has shown promise since being pressed into extended duty.
Manning will be challenged by Tampa's patented Cover-2 scheme that has limited the opposition to a league-low 170.5 passing yards per game. A strong secondary is anchored by four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Ronde Barber (58 tackles, 2 INT, 14 PD) and received an unexpected boost from the strong play of rookie Tanard Jackson (56 tackles, 2 INT, 13 PD) at free safety. Jovan Haye (68 tackles, 6 sacks) has also had a terrific season at the all-important under tackle position and spearheads a solid pass rush along with 2007 first- round choice Gaines Adams (38 tackles, 6 sacks) and fellow rookie Greg White (26 tackles, 8 sacks). The Bucs' only current health concern on defense is linebacker Cato June (69 tackles, 1 INT), who's dealing with a foot injury and is questionable for Sunday's test.
Although's Tampa Bay's overall ranking in run defense isn't too impressive, the club is holding opponents to just 3.8 yards per rush. The front seven has gotten good contributions from both young and old, as both Haye and third-year middle linebacker Barrett Ruud (114 tackles, 2 INT) have been impact players and perennial Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Brooks (109 tackles) and veteran end Kevin Carter (43 tackles, 3 sacks) have remained productive in their mid-30's. Look for Kiffin to install hard-hitting strong safety Jermaine Phillips (83 tackles, 4 INT, 1 sack) near the line in an effort to neutralize Jacobs.
WHEN THE BUCCANEERS HAVE THE BALL
Tampa Bay also wants to control the clock by running the football, and the team was able to do that effectively once Graham (898 rushing yards, 10 TD, 49 receptions) took over as the starter at midseason and a young offensive line began to jell. The Bucs finished the year ranked 11th in the NFL with an average of 117 rushing yards per game as Graham more than capably filled the void caused by initial starter Cadillac Williams' season-ending knee injury in September. He did show signs of wearing down late in the year, but should be raring to go on Sunday after being rested in the season finale.
Graham will be taking on a formidable Giants run defense that allowed the eighth-fewest yards on the ground (97.7 ypg) during the regular season and has held up well despite injuries to a linebacking corps that will likely have only one opening-week regular, middle man Antonio Pierce (103 tackles, 1 INT, 1 sack), available on Sunday. Weakside starter Kawika Mitchell (76 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 1 INT) will probably miss the game due to a sprained knee, but Gerris Wilkinson (15 tackles) played well in his absence against the Patriots. On the strong side, Reggie Torbor (39 tackles, 1 sack) has been solid since replacing the injured Mathias Kiwanuka and corralled 10 tackles and a sack in the New England game.
The Giants' goal will be to stuff the run and force Tampa Bay into obvious passing situations, where the team can unleash a pass rush that racked up a league-best 53 sacks in 2007. Ends Osi Umenyiora (52 tackles, 13 sacks), Justin Tuck (65 tackles, 10 sacks) and Michael Strahan (57 tackles, 9 sacks) will all be trying to apply the heat to Garcia, and they'll have to as well considering the shaky state of New York's secondary. There's a chance the Giants will be without their top two corners, Sam Madison (67 tackles, 4 INT, 14 PD) and Kevin Dockery (46 tackles), on Saturday. That's not good news for a defense which let up 346 passing yards to the Patriots last weekend.
Tampa Bay may not have the weapons that New England possesses in the passing game, but it's a seasoned group capable of doing damage if Garcia (2440 passing yards, 13 TD, 4 INT) is given time to throw. Galloway (57 receptions, 1014 yards, 6 TD) is still a dangerous deep threat at age 36, while ex-Giant Hilliard (62 receptions) is steady as a possession receiver. Garcia was only sacked 19 times in his 13 starts due to his ability to get rid of the ball quickly. If he's hurried, look for Graham to be the safety valve out of the backfield.
These teams match up pretty evenly in most of the special teams categories, with the most notable advantage coming from Tampa Bay's No. 2 overall ranking in kick return yards allowed. Both clubs have big-play capability on kick returns, as the Bucs' Micheal Spurlock is averaging 27.8 yards per runback and New York's Domenik Hixon had a 74-yard return against the Patriots last week. Neither the Giants' R.W. McQuarters (7.6 avg.) nor Hilliard (6.1 avg.) have made much of an impact returning punts.
Kickers Lawrence Tynes and Matt Bryant have both delivered consistent seasons, although the one-time Giant Bryant has a stronger leg for the Buccaneers. Each also owns well-respected veteran punters as well, as Tampa's Josh Bidwell and 41-year-old Giant Jeff Feagles are both former Pro Bowlers who excel at pinning in the competition.
It's never hard to analyze the Giants after a game, as they usually win the ones in which Manning plays well and lose those in which the highly- scrutinized signal-caller performs poorly. The trick is trying to figure out which Eli is going to show up. Both teams should have a fair amount of success moving the football, as New York can run it on anybody and Tampa's mid-range passing game can consistently move the chains against a Giants secondary that's very beatable. In a matchup where neither team holds a distinct advantage on the other, figure that it comes down to the one that makes the fewest mistakes. More times than not, that team is the Bucs. Tampa Bay's aggressive defense is adept at forcing turnovers, and you can bet they'll pressure Manning into at least one costly miscue on Sunday. Conversely, there aren't many quarterbacks better at managing a game than Garcia, who's tormented the Giants in big spots in the past. The Buccaneers come in the healthier of the teams, which negates the advantage New York seemingly gained from playing in a playoff-like atmosphere last week. There may be some rust early on, but a Tampa squad which hasn't gotten much respect nationally will state its case on the big stage.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Buccaneers 27, Giants 24
Re: NFL Playoffs Sunday
Giants visit Bucs in mediocre Wild Card battle
Neither the Giants nor the Buccaneers looked much like Super Bowl contenders during the season, but here they are in the NFC Wild Card. New York put a scare into New England, while Tampa rested in a Week 17 loss, their third in four weeks. The Giants bring the NFL's best road rushing game to Tampa. Of note, the past five meetings have all played UNDER the total.
Oddsmakers currently have the Buccaneers listed as 3-point favorites versus the Giants, while the game's total is sitting at 40.
The Giants failed to hold the lead and were defeated 38-35 by the Patriots in their regular-season finale. The Giants were 13.5-point underdogs in the contest, while the 73 points sailed OVER the posted total of 47.
Eli Manning tossed four TD passes, and completed 22-of-32 passes for 251 yards in the loss.
The Buccaneers lost to Carolina 31-23 as a 3-point underdog in Week 17. The combined score went OVER the posted over/under total (36).
Luke McCown completed 21-of-28 passes for 236 yards with two touchdowns and an interception for Tampa Bay and Jerramy Stevens caught four passes for 30 yards and a touchdown.
New York: 10-6 SU, 10-6 ATS
Tampa Bay: 9-7 SU, 9-7 ATS
New York most recently:
When playing in January are 3-7
When playing on grass are 7-3
After being outgained are 4-6
When playing outside the division are 7-3
Tampa Bay most recently:
When playing in January are 5-5
When playing on grass are 6-4
After being outgained are 6-4
When playing outside the division are 4-6
A few trends to consider:
NY Giants are 5-0 SU in their last 5 games on the road
The total has gone UNDER in 5 of the NY Giants last 5 games when playing Tampa Bay
NY Giants are 6-1 ATS in their last 7 games on the road
The total has gone UNDER in 6 of the NY Giants last 7 games on the road
The total has gone OVER in 5 of Tampa Bay's last 5 games
The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Tampa Bay's last 5 games when playing NY Giants
Tampa Bay is 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games when playing at home against NY Giants
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Tampa Bay's last 5 games when playing at home against NY Giants
Re: NFL Playoffs Sunday
Game Preview for Titans vs Chargers
(Sports Network) - The Tennessee Titans will be one of the teams on the Qualcomm Stadium field for an AFC First-Round playoff contest Sunday afternoon, though this game will be about the host San Diego Chargers, first and foremost.
It is the Chargers that enter Sunday's contest having seen 12 seasons come and go without a playoff win, a drought that dates all the way back to the team's AFC Championship season of 1994.
San Diego looked poised to end that dismal stretch last season, when the Bolts went an NFL-best 14-2 during the regular season and earned the top seed in the AFC. But the Patriots shocked the Chargers, 24-21, in an AFC Divisional Playoff, a defeat that eventually led to the firing of head coach Marty Schottenheimer more than a month later.
One year on, the man expected to lead San Diego to that elusive postseason victory is journeyman coach Norv Turner, who himself is appearing in the playoffs for just the second time in 10 seasons as a head man. Turner couldn't match his predecessor's regular season success in his first year with San Diego, but did lead the Chargers to a 6-0 finish to 2007 and a second consecutive AFC West title.
A prominent Bolt seeking his first playoff win is running back and two-time defending NFL rushing champ LaDainian Tomlinson. Tomlinson currently ranks 18th on the all-time ground list with 10,650 yards, and joins O.J. Simpson (16th, 11,236 yards) as the only players in league history with 10,000 yards and no postseason wins on their resume'.
Looking to add to the misery of Turner, Tomlinson, and Chargers fans everywhere is a Tennessee club that makes its first playoff appearance since 2003.
The Titans managed to secure the second Wild Card berth in the AFC by winning their final three games, including a 16-10 win at Indianapolis last Sunday night.
That victory may have come with a major price, however, as quarterback Vince Young (quadriceps) and Pro Bowl defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth (hamstring) both re-aggravated injuries that have placed their status for Sunday in question.
If Young is unable to play, veteran Kerry Collins would be in line for his postseason start since he opened the Giants' 39-38 loss to the 49ers in a 2002 NFC First-Round Playoff.
Tennessee has a 3-0 advantage in the all-time postseason series with San Diego, though none of those matchups is of recent vintage. The then-Houston Oilers defeated the Chargers for the AFL Championship in 1960 and 1961, and also won an AFL Divisional Playoff in San Diego in 1979.
The Chargers have a 22-13-1 lead in the all-time regular season series against the Titans, including wins in the last five head-to-head matchups. San Diego was a 23-17 road overtime winner when the teams met in Week 14, rebounding from a 17-3 fourth-quarter deficit to earn the triumph. The Titans were dealt a 40-7 setback when they last visited San Diego, in Week 2 of last season. The Titans/Oilers last defeated San Diego in 1992, when they blanked the Chargers by a 27-0 count in Houston. The franchise is 0-3 in series road games since last winning at Qualcomm Stadium in 1990.
Turner is 1-4 in his career against the Titans, going 0-2 while with Washington (1994-2000) and 0-2 while with Oakland (2004-05). Tennessee's Jeff Fisher is 0-4 in his career against San Diego, but is 4-1 head-to-head with Turner.
WHEN THE TITANS HAVE THE BALL
The quarterback position is the most pressing concern for Fisher heading into Sunday's contest, but by no means is it the only concern. Trusty tight end Bo Scaife has been ruled out for the rest of the year with a lacerated liver suffered against the Colts last week, running backs LenDale White (knee) and Chris Brown (back) are both ailing, wideout Roydell Williams is nursing an injured ankle suffered in practice, and center Kevin Mawae has a bad calf that has kept him out the last two games. The injuries to White (1110 rushing yards, 7 TD, 20 receptions), Brown (462 rushing yards, 5 TD, 19 receptions), and Mawae are of particular concern for a team that ranked fifth in the league in rushing offense (131.8 yards per game) during the regular season and went for 131 and two TDs on the ground against the Chargers in Week 14.
Collins (531 passing yards, 0 TD, 0 INT) appeared in six games this season and started one, a 38-36 win over the Texans on Oct. 21st. After relieving Young against the Colts last week, the veteran was 10-of-13 passing for 106 yards without a touchdown or turnover. Young (2546 passing yards, 9 TD, 17 INT, 395 rushing yards), meanwhile, was 14-of-18 for 157 yards before departing. The ex-Texas star posted a respectable 84.1 passer rating with four touchdowns and four interceptions during the month of December, also completing 64.4 percent of his passes over that stretch. Justin Gage (55 receptions, 2 TD) finished the year as Tennessee's leading receiver, and veteran Eric Moulds (32 receptions) could play a greater role this week if Williams (55 receptions, 4 TD) is still struggling with his ankle. At tight end, Ben Troupe (5 receptions) and Ben Hartsock (12 receptions) will have to fill the void left by Scaife. A quality Titans offensive line allowed 30 sacks during the regular season.
Whoever plays quarterback for the Titans must avoid mistakes against a Chargers defense that coaxed quarterbacks into more miscues than any other unit in the league. San Diego finished the regular season with an NFL-best 30 interceptions, including a league-leading 10 from Pro Bowl cornerback Antonio Cromartie (44 tackles) and five more from underrated safety Clinton Hart (85 tackles, 1 sack). Cromartie and linebacker Matt Wilhelm (97 tackles, 3 INT, 1 sack) each had interceptions of Young in Week 14. Part of the complexion of the team's playmaking proficiency was the Bolts' elite-level pass rush, led by outside linebackers Shawne Merriman (68 tackles, 12.5 sacks), Shaun Phillips (68 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 2 INT), and the blossoming Jyles Tucker (12 tackles, 3.5 sacks). Merriman returned to the lineup last week following a two-game absence that followed a questionable low hit by Tennessee players in Week 14. and notched three tackles and a sack in the win over the Raiders. Tucker, an undrafted rookie free agent out of Wake Forest, was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week after totaling three sacks, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery for a touchdown versus Oakland.
San Diego was a middle-of-the-pack 16th in the league against the run (107.1 yards per game) during the regular season, and gave up 113 yards to White when it took on the Titans last month. The Chargers have dealt with injury problems along their three-man front, but it appears that nose tackle Jamal Williams (39 tackles) and ends Igor Olshansky (49 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 1 INT) and Luis Castillo (33 tackles, 2.5 sacks) are close to healthy as the playoffs begin. Inside linebackers Stephen Cooper (108 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 INT) and Wilhelm have made numerous tackles behind that trio this season.
WHEN THE CHARGERS HAVE THE BALL
The 28-year-old Tomlinson (1474 rushing yards, 60 receptions, 18 TD) may not have a postseason victory of which to boast, though it would be inaccurate to say that his production has declined in the playoffs. The future Hall-of-Famer has appeared in just two playoff games all-time, and has totaled 203 rushing yards, 117 receiving yards, and a pair of touchdowns in losses to the Jets in 2004 and Patriots last season. This year, Tomlinson became the first player since Edgerrin James in 1999-2000 to win the NFL rushing title in back-to-back seasons. Against the Titans in Week 14, Tomlinson rushed 26 times for 146 yards and scored the winning touchdown on a 16-yard burst in overtime. Michael Turner (316 rushing yards, 1 TD) and Darren Sproles (164 rushing yards, 2 TD, 10 receptions) spell the perennial Pro Bowler.
If the Titans wish to spring the upset on Sunday, controlling Tomlinson and forcing San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers (3152 passing yards, 21 TD, 15 INT) to put the ball in the air would be a good place to start. Rivers has been bothered by a sprained knee of late, and has had notable moments of dubious decision-making this season. Rivers threw for 228 yards against the Titans when the teams met in Nashville, but also fired a pair of interceptions and sustained four sacks in the contest. Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates (75 receptions, 9 TD) remains Rivers' top target, with wideouts Chris Chambers (35 receptions, 4 TD) and Vincent Jackson (41 receptions, 3 TD) his best threats on the outside. Rivers has put up three straight 100-plus passer rating performances, and has not thrown an interception since the Tennessee win.
The potential loss of Haynesworth (40 tackles, 6 sacks) could be critical to a Titans defense that ranked fifth in the league against the run (92.4 yards per game) but was not nearly as strong in that area when the NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate missed three games due to injury earlier in the season. Tennessee allowed an average of 160 rushing yards in those contests, and lost all three by double digits. Linebackers Keith Bulluck (88 tackles, 5 INT) and David Thornton (122 tackles, 2 INT, 1 sack) have also had a major hand in the run-stopping effort this year.
Tennessee was active in both the pass rush and in the secondary this year, with the team's totals of 22 interceptions and 40 sacks both ranking near the top of the league. Safeties Calvin Lowry (57 tackles, 2 INT), Michael Griffin (54 tackles, 3 INT), and cornerback Nick Harper (77 tackles, 3 INT) all posted interceptions against the Chargers (including one off of backup Billy Volek) in Week 14, while end Kyle Vanden Bosch (60 tackles, 12 sacks) led the pass rushing effort with three of the team's five sacks. End Antwan Odom (21 tackles, 8 sacks) is second on the team in sacks, behind Vanden Bosch, and has three QB takedowns in his last two games.
San Diego has one of the most dangerous return men in the game in Darren Sproles (27.2 kickoff return avg., 1 TD, 9.5 punt return avg., 1 TD), who against the Colts became just the second player in NFL history to return both a punt and kickoff for touchdowns in the same quarter. The kicking game is led by punter Mike Scifres (46.1 avg.), one of the league's best in terms of hangtime, distance, and directional ability. On placements, Nate Kaeding (24-27 FG) has been great in regular season play this season, but has missed critical field goals in both of San Diego's playoff losses of the last four years.
The Titans have little to worry about in the kicking game, where Rob Bironas (35-39 FG) is headed to the Pro Bowl after leading the NFL in field goals made and punter Craig Hentrich (42.0 avg.) remains one of the best in the business. Tennessee has not been overly explosive in the return game, with young Chris Henry (20.9 avg.) handling kickoff returns of late and fellow rookie Chris Davis (9.5 avg.) fielding punts. The Titans allowed just one return for a touchdown all-year, an 80-yard punt return for a score by the Broncos' Glenn Martinez in Week 11.
These two teams played a tight game, one that the Titans probably should have won, just four weeks ago. The circumstances were much different in that one, however, as San Diego was on its second leg of a two-week road trip, and Tennessee was a much healthier club at that time. The Chargers have clearly matured over the past six weeks or so, have been dominant at Qualcomm Stadium since September, and aren't going to let a relatively easy shot at their first playoff win since 1994 fall by the wayside against an inferior opponent. Look for San Diego to roll before an appreciative home crowd.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Chargers 31, Titans 10
Re: NFL Playoffs Sunday
Titans face another titanic struggle on road at SD
The reward for beating a resting Colts team on the road is to head further west to face the hot Chargers on the road in the AFC Wild Card. Tennessee snuck into the playoffs at 10-6, but lost QB Vince Young to injury. Check his status during the week and watch line moves based on those reports. The Chargers have won six straight games to end the season and have won and covered all four meetings since 1998.
Oddsmakers currently have the Chargers listed as 10-point favorites versus the Titans, while the game's total is sitting at 39½.
The Titans defeated Indianapolis 16-10 as a 4.5-point favorite in Week 17. The combined score fell UNDER the posted over/under total (39).
Vince Young completed 14-of-18 passes for 157 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions before leaving with an injury for Tennessee, while Chris Brown rushed for 22 yards on seven carries with a touchdown.
The Chargers defeated Oakland 30-17 as an 8.5-point favorite in Week 17. The combined score went OVER the posted over/under total (42).
Philip Rivers passed for 135 yards with a pair of touchdown passes for San Diego, while LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for 56 yards on 16 carries with a touchdown reception.
Tennessee: 10-6 SU, 8-8 ATS
San Diego: 11-5 SU, 11-5 ATS
Tennessee most recently:
When playing in January are 4-6
When playing on grass are 6-4
After outgaining opponent are 4-6
When playing outside the division are 6-4
San Diego most recently:
When playing in January are 6-4
When playing on grass are 9-1
After being outgained are 4-6
When playing outside the division are 6-4
A few trends to consider:
Tennessee is 4-1 SU in its last 5 games
Tennessee is 11-4 ATS in its last 15 games on the road
Tennessee is 8-3 SU in its last 11 games on the road
Tennessee is 2-5 SU in its last 7 games when playing on the road against San Diego
San Diego is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games at home
San Diego is 5-0 ATS in its last 5 games at home
San Diego is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games
San Diego is 5-0 ATS in its last 5 games
Re: NFL Playoffs Sunday
Titans lose top receiver to broken ankle in practice
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans' passing game was in the lower ranks of the NFL to begin with. Now they go into the first round of the playoffs having lost two of their top three receivers in as many days.
First, it was tight end Bo Scaife out with a lacerated liver. Now, receiver Roydell Williams broke his right ankle in practice, and they already had lost receiver Brandon Jones to a groin injury Dec. 15.
At least Vince Young practiced Thursday even though he split the work with backup Kerry Collins. Center Kevin Mawae, who has missed the past two games with an injured left calf, and right guard Benji Olson (back) sat out practice.
Running back LenDale White missed practice for a second straight day but was excused for personal reasons. Coach Jeff Fisher said he expects White to practice before the Titans (10-6) visit San Diego (11-5) for Sunday's wild-card game.
But the immediate problem for an offense that had only nine touchdown receptions this season is replacing Williams, who tied with Justin Gage for a team-high 55 catches, in addition to Scaife.
''It's a challenge,'' coach Jeff Fisher said Thursday. ''We have a number of starters we started the season with that are out. You just move on. You have younger players that have to step up and take advantage of the opportunity.''
Williams was having surgery Thursday afternoon to repair the bone at the base of the tibia. He was hurt during practice Wednesday, but was able to walk off the indoor practice field by himself.
Fisher said X-rays showed the severity of the injury late Wednesday night.
''There's no damage to the ligaments, no damage to the tendons. It was peculiar in that he cracked it, a significant crack at the base of the tibia. It's going to require a plate and screws to be repaired,'' Fisher said.
The Titans lost Scaife, who ranked third on the team with 46 catches, after he sustained a lacerated liver in last week's win at Indianapolis.
Williams ranked second with 719 yards and a team-high four touchdowns after starting 14 of 16 games.
Gage called it a surprising injury but said freak accidents happen in football.
''We've just got to keep tugging away and get this victory. That's the main thing right now,'' Gage said.
The Titans have gotten used to this.
They started the season without veteran receiver David Givens, who continues recovering from a knee injury in November 2006, and lost Jones last month. They lost starting safety Chris Hope last month to a neck injury and middle linebacker Ryan Fowler to a shoulder on Dec. 18.
Gage has started the last seven games at receiver, and the Titans also have veteran Eric Moulds, who has 32 catches for 342 yards with 9,995 yards receiving for his career. Undrafted rookie Biren Ealy caught his first NFL pass last week.
They also have Mike Williams, who was signed in late November, and third-round draft pick Paul Williams, who was deactivated for every game this season.
Moulds called the injuries opportunities for others.
''I mean, you can't replace Roydell. You can't replace Bo. But you can have guys step in and get an opportunity to make plays. Everybody knows the offense now. Everybody knows what to do. We've just got to go out there and do it,'' Moulds said.
Re: NFL Playoffs Sunday
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – After hitting its stride with one of the best performances of the season last week against New England, the Giants offense now faces an obstacle that can trip it up in a hurry – the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense.
QB Eli Manning will have his hands full with Tampa's defense.
The Giants will face the Bucs and one of their biggest challenges of the season Sunday when the teams meet in an NFC Wild Card game in Raymond James Stadium. Tampa Bay finished the regular season ranked second in the NFL in yards allowed per game (278.4) and third in points surrendered (16.9 per game). The Buccaneers were No. 1 against the pass, allowing just 170.5 yards a game. Their defensive coordinator is Monte Kiffin, a 25-year NFL coaching veteran who is acknowledged as one of the league’s masterminds.
If the Giants are to advance to the divisional playoffs, they will have to solve and exploit Kiffin’s defense.
“They are very well coached,” Giants Coach Tom Coughlin said today. “They are very well gapped out. They have answers to a lot of your formation questions. You have to outplay them. You have to play better than they play, because they are not going to make many mistakes. They are not going to turn people loose. They are going to have enough people at the point of attack. We have played against Monte for a long time and have great respect for him and his coaches and their scheme. And of course, they are the second-ranked defense in the league.”
The highest-ranked defense the Giants faced this season belonged to the Patriots, who were fourth in both yards and points allowed. Eli Manning threw four touchdown passes against New England, but the Giants lost, 38-35. The Giants might find it harder to score against a Bucs team that gave up only 77 points at home all season before last week’s finale against Carolina – when most of the starters either rested or did not play at all.
“They are a very good defense,” Manning said. “There aren’t many teams getting big plays on them. They are pretty good at stopping the run. Their pass rush is very good. Without doing much blitzing, using their front four, they get good pressure on the quarterback. When you do get pressure on the quarterback it is just four guys and it makes their secondary a lot better. You can’t hold the ball long. They are veteran guys who like to cheat and jump things and are not always in their right positions. But if the quarterback can’t hold it long, they can do that and get away with it and make plays.
“They are a very talented team. They are a team where you can’t make mistakes. You have to play smart football. You have to take what they give you and just try to move the ball down the field. Teams don’t get a whole lot of big plays down the field. And so you just have to be smart and take what they give you.”
Tampa Bay was 17th in the league against the run, allowing 107.9 yards a game. Despite their gaudy stats, the Buccaneers did not place a defensive player on the NFC Pro Bowl team. But this is a veteran group with several players who have produced at a high level for many seasons, including Kevin Carter, Chris Hovan, Derrick Brooks, Ronde Barber (twin brother of Tiki) and Phillip Buchanon. Sixth-year safety Jermaine Phillips had a breakout season. Rookie safety Tanard Jackson has started every game and first-year draft choice Gaines Adams is the starting right end and had 6.0 sacks this season. Adams’ backup, Greg White, has team-high totals of 8.0 sacks and seven forced fumbles.
“I think those guys are a good defensive football team and I think they can create some problems for you,” running back Brandon Jacobs said.
The Bucs also excel at taking away the ball. Their 35 turnovers left them tied for the third-highest total in the league and their plus-15 turnover differential was fourth. The Patriots entered last week’s game at plus-15 and had the contest’s only takeaway.
“It’s a very, very important part of the game,” Coughlin said. “To me it is the number two stat other than points for and points against. And it has always been that way for me. We pound away at that every week. We make sure that right away in our introduction to the opponent that we look at that stat in terms of the way the teams are and we make an emphatic – just as we did last week – an emphatic statement of, ‘Hey, there is no way you can turn the ball over against these guys,’ and the fact that we need takeaways.”
The Giants last played the Buccaneers on Oct. 29, 2006, a cold, windy day in Giants Stadium. With a steady 20-mile-an-hour wind with gusts of more than 30 miles an hour, the Giants won, 17-3. The Giants scored the only three points in the second half.
Hovan, Brooks, Barber and Phillips are the only Tampa Bay defensive starters from that game still listed with the first team on the Buccaneers’ depth chart. But while the names have changed, Tampa Bay’s defensive determination has not.
“Tampa Bay has always been a defensive-minded team,” said Plaxico Burress, who beat Barber for a nifty one-handed touchdown reception in last season’s game. “Their secondary is solid, everybody knows about Ronde, they get to the quarterback, and those guys create pressure. They are not the biggest guys in the world but the defense is fast. They have a strong pass defense and they play together well.”
“They have shown some different looks and some different coverages than they had the year before,” Manning said. “And I think that is just kind of a part of their defense they have grown into. And so as the quarterback you have to really study and try to see if you can tell any tips or any clues that can give you differences in their coverages that they are playing.
“Last year there were just a lot of Cover 2 and Cover 3, with a little blitz in between. Now they have added some quarters – Cover 4 – to that off and on. Their safeties do a good job of disguising between the two and that makes it tough to read. So you just have to watch a lot of film and get your tips and cues on them.”
If Manning and his mates can solve the riddle of the Bucs' defense, they’ll take a giant step toward advancing to the next round of the playoffs.
*Shaun O’Hara, Kawika Mitchell and Sam Madison did not practice today, but head coach Tom Coughlin was non-commital about their availability for Sunday’s NFC Wild Card game at Tampa Bay.
“Each one of them is making progress,” Coughlin said. “They are not going to work today. But I’m encouraged. We’ll have to see.”
All three players were hurt in Saturday’s loss to New England. O’Hara, the team’s center, and Mitchell, the starting strongside linebacker, sprained a medical collateral ligament in their knee. Madison, the Giants’ right cornerback, suffered an abdominal strain.
Sprained MCLs generally take at least a couple of weeks to heal, but O’Hara and/or Mitchell might beat that timetable.
“Each one is different,” Coughlin said. “Each one is individual. The response has to do with swelling and how much flexibility there is in the knee and the strength of the knee. They have all been fitted right away for a brace. And they are in a brace. So we’ll see.”
Coughlin acknowledged that risk of further injury will be a factor in determining each player's ability to play this week.
“That is a medical decision,” Coughlin said. “And the medical people are not going to make a decision which puts the player in jeopardy. So if the player is capable of doing the things that he has to do by his position in order to perform well, he passes the test with the medical people, and then they will make it on that. If he is not ready, then obviously they won’t allow him to play.”
*Grey Ruegamer stepped in for O’Hara against the Patriots and would likely do so again in Tampa Bay.
“Part of my job is to make is as seamless as possible, so you don’t notice the difference,” Ruegamer said. “You go in there, you get the job done and the coaches say, ‘Oh, we don’t have anything to worry about.’”
*Burress (ankle) and cornerback Kevin Dockery (hip flexor) participated in practice on a limited basis. Coughlin said Burress came out of last week – when he practiced twice for the first time all season – in good shape.
“He did pretty well,” Coughlin said. “He was a little bit sore, I think, after the second day of practice. He bounced back well. He played well in the game and was typically a little bit sore after the game and then was sore earlier in the week. But he will work his way back to being, I think, just as well as he was the other night (when he caught four passes, one a 52-yarder, and two touchdowns against the Patriots) and maybe better, I hope.”
*Running back Ahmad Bradshaw and wide receiver Sinorice Moss, who, like Dockery, missed the Patriots games with injuries, practiced today.
*The Giants today signed Chad Johnson – no, not the Cincinnati wide receiver. This Chad Johnson is a cornerback from Northwestern State who was added to the practice squad.
*This is the Giants’ 29th postseason appearance, tying them with the Dallas Cowboys for the most in NFL history. The Giants are 16-23 in playoff games, including 3-14 on the road.
Re: NFL Playoffs Sunday
Scouting report: Titans at Chargers
When these two teams met on Dec. 9, the game went into overtime before the Chargers won it on a 16-yard run by LaDainian Tomlinson. There was no love lost between these two teams as Shawne Merriman popped Vince Young after a handoff and the Titans put a few extra hits on the Chargers linebacker just to make sure he understood.
For all the extra curricular activity there were only four penalties per team, but, as one Titan said to me this week, "Those guys talk too much."
Tennessee finished 5-3 on the road and struggled against the Colts backups to finish the season, but the Titans haven't lost a game since that Chargers loss. Vince Young couldn't finish the game last week but Kerry Collins actually looked better moving the team and managing the game. San Diego will have to prepare for both quarterbacks and it will require two different pass-pressure packages.
San Diego struggled earlier in the season but still finished 7-1 at home and, more importantly, finished the season with a 7-1 record in the second half. The Chargers are only 2-3 against playoff teams but they did beat the Colts at home.
The Titans are 2-4 against playoff teams and are determined to get after Philip Rivers like they did when they sacked him four times in Week 14. The winner of this game may not have much left in order to move on in the playoffs. It will be a very physical 60 minutes of football.
1. Chargers OLB Shawne Merriman vs. Titans left tackle Michael Roos: Chargers defensive end Luis Castillo, fully healthy now after missing six games with an ankle injury, will line up over Roos, but when Merriman comes to the line ready to rush the passer Roos will slide to him. Merriman had two sacks the last time these teams met and he can't be blocked by a running back. The Titans could use a tight end to help Roos. Merriman, who only has 4½ of his 12½ sacks at home this year, needs to step up against the physical Roos, who will be at a disadvantage due to the crowd noise.
2. Chargers LT Marcus McNeil vs. Titans DE Kyle Vanden Bosch: Vanden Bosch whipped McNeil badly the last time they met, a game that got Vanden Bosch into the Pro Bowl. Vanden Bosch will use his bull rush early to see if McNeil is still playing too upright and later he will likely go to his twist stunt. Moves aside, this matchup boils down to a guy with a motor that never quits (Vanden Bosch) vs. a guy who has to play harder (McNeil).
3. Chargers LG Kris Dielman vs. Titans RDT Albert Haynesworth: No one person can take Big Albert if he's healthy. That's a big "if" given Haynesworth's ailing hamstring. Haynesworth brings power initially to set the tone for the game and then starts beating guards with quickness and a good stunt. San Diego wants to run the ball inside with power, but this is a tough place to make a living against Haynesworth. Dielman has a significant challenge ahead.
4. Chargers TE Antonio Gates vs. Titans safety Michael Griffin: Gates is the best tight end in the league and a number of teams treat him like a wide receiver. Griffin is really the free safety but no one else is polished enough in coverage to take Gates. With the good four-man pressure that Tennessee can bring, look for the Chargers to hit on short routes to Gates and hope he can pick up yards after the catch.
5. Chargers NT Jamal Williams vs. Titans OC Kevin Mawae: Williams has been rested in recent weeks and he will need to be fresh against a veteran like Mawae. The Titans want to pound LenDale White (if he's healthy) and Chris Brown inside. Williams should clog the middle and be in on 6-8 tackles.
When the Chargers have the ball
In the last three weeks, LaDainian Tomlinson has averaged just 17 rushes and two receptions as the Chargers pulled away from the rest of their division. In the three weeks prior to that, when the Chargers were in competitive situations, Tomlinson averaged 24 carries and five receptions. This week is a must-win situation, and that means 30-35 touches for Tomlinson. The Titans have the run defense to slow him down, but no player in the NFL wants to win a playoff game more than Tomlinson.
The addition of WR Chris Chambers in a trade has opened up the Chargers' passing game and their scoring. In his 10 games as a Charger he has 34 receptions and the team has averaged 27 points per game, while going 8-2. When Antonio Gates gets double-teamed or the opponent brackets him off, Chambers is the answer. QB Philip Rivers is not having the Pro Bowl season he had last year, but he is playing better since the Titans sacked him more than any other team this year in Week 14. After that four-sack day he has been sacked just twice in the last three games. His mobility is a question with a lingering knee injury.
Tennessee expects to get after Rivers with their front four, and it's doubtful we'll see much blitzing. As for stopping Tomlinson, much of that falls on the shoulders of linebacker Keith Bulluck. It looks like San Diego can generate 25 points in this game if it doesn't turn the ball over. Rivers hasn't thrown an interception in the last three weeks, and has fumbled once. The Chargers have the best turnover ratio in the NFL and that spells trouble for the Titans.
Keep in mind LT always has a halfback option pass in his bag of tricks and coach Norv Turner will use everything in his arsenal in order to win this game.
When the Titans have the ball
Defensive-minded coach Jeff Fisher wants to run the ball inside and keep Tomlinson on the bench. This conservative philosophy is alright until the Titans get down by 10 points. If and when Tennessee has to throw to win, they are in trouble with Vince Young under center. He is not 100 percent healthy and his running ability does not present the same problems it usually does.
Tennessee also has questions in the red zone if Young can't run. Right now the Titans are at the bottom of the league in red-zone production, and if Young can't run against the Chargers' tough 3-4 defense, the red zone will be a disappointment. No playoff team has scored fewer points than Tennessee.
San Diego will let Young try and beat them with his arm and not his legs. Last time they met, Young had only 2 yards rushing -- his second-worst output of the season. The pressure may come in the four-man package, but expect the Chargers to go to some two- and three-man packages. Keeping Young in the pocket is the key.
Last season all four road teams lost on Wild-Card Weekend. San Diego fired Marty Schottenheimer last year after a 14-2 season because the team didn't win a playoff game. There is a lot of pressure on the whole Chargers organization. With Castillo back on defense, raising the number of touches for Tomlinson and hitting Chambers when Gates is covered should bring a victory to the city of San Diego.
Re: NFL Playoffs Sunday
Injuries make Mitchell, O'Hara, Madison uncertain for playoffs
January 4, 2008
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -With the NFC wild-card game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers two days away, New York Giants linebacker Kawika Mitchell knows his chances of playing are iffy at best.
Sprain a knee a week before the playoffs start and it is unlikely that you going to be able to play the following Sunday. That's frustrating.
Even more frustrating is getting hurt in a game that means nothing.
That's what happened to Mitchell, center Shaun O'Hara and cornerback Sam Madison on Saturday when the Giants went all out in an effort to end the New England Patriots' run at a perfect season.
Mitchell sprained a medial collateral ligament on the Patriots' opening series. O'Hara went down with a similar injury in the second quarter and Madison aggravated an abdominal muscle in the second half.
Three starters is a heavy price to pay in a 38-35 loss, but maybe that's what made the game so good. The Giants (10-6) put it all on the line without reservation in what best embodied the warrior spirit of football.
``Obviously I wish I didn't play, but you can't do that,'' Mitchell said Thursday after missing his second straight day of practice. ``We went out there and tried to win the game. That was the team's mind-set and that was my mind-set. I don't feel bad about that. It's part of the game. It happens.''
O'Hara refused to be interviewed about his injury, and Madison did not make himself available in the locker room on Wednesday and Thursday. Neither has practiced for Sunday's game.
But teammates said they have no regrets about the way the Giants played in what was a meaningless game for them. No matter what happened, they were going to play in Tampa this weekend against the Bucs (9-7).
``It's a 16-game season and you have to go out play all the games,'' veteran defensive tackle Fred Robbins said. ``A team like the Patriots, you can't lay down against a good team like that, so we had to go out there just like any other game. We had to give it our all and give it our best.''
And the Giants almost pulled off the upset of the year, opening a 12-point second-half lead before Tom Brady and company rallied to finish a 16-0 season that claimed their spot in history.
Giants guard Chris Snee was annoyed with the suggestion that the team should have rested its starters, noting that only seven offensive linemen dress for each game, so some had to play.
``If we were to rest people, a lineman would not get rested,'' Snee said. ``He (O'Hara) would have been out there anyway. I don't want to hear any of that talk. We want to play all 16 games. It would not have mattered. He would have been out there.''
If Mitchell, O'Hara and Madison can't play, they will be replaced by Gerris Wilkinson, Grey Ruegamer and Kevin Dockery or Corey Webster, respectively. Dockery is the first choice to start in place of Madison, but he has been bothered by a hip flexor.
The Giants' approach to the end of the season was the opposite of Buccaneers' coach Jon Gruden, who rested several starters as the team lost its last two games.
``I'm trying to do what is right for our football team,'' he said. ``We have had a number of injuries. We have overcome a lot of injuries. Unfortunately for us, we can't overcome very many more. So I will be happy to take the heat if that is what it is.''
Quarterback Jeff Garcia, who missed a couple of games with a back problem, didn't start the season finale and he only played half of the penultimate game.
``I feel over-rested in a sense,'' said Garcia, who beat the Giants in wild-card games in January 2003 and last season. ``I feel restless, so to speak. It seems like it has been a while since I have actually played a complete game and I don't really like that feeling. I am more of an old-school mentality. I like to play until I am basically dragged off of the field.''
Garcia said there is something to be said for the approach each team took.
The final score of Sunday's game may indicate which was the right approach.
Re: NFL Playoffs Sunday
Titans at Chargers
By Judd Hall
The Titans should consider themselves lucky for making the playoffs this year. Or at least send the Colts a festive cookie bouquet for taking a break in Week 17, otherwise they’d be cleaning out their lockers.
It’s all for naught though as Tennessee (10-6 straight up, 8-8 against the spread) is about to get ran out of Qualcomm Stadium this Sunday in the AFC Wild Card playoff.
Now that isn’t to take away from what the Titans have accomplished this year. I never expected them to even be a factor this year with the lack of a receiving corp so I’ll give them their due. It really is unfortunate that they’ll be in over their heads.
I’m sure there are a few folks out there that are scoffing at me right now, but hear me out.
Let’s look at San Diego’s (11-5 SU and ATS) 23-17 overtime win in Nashville as a 1 ½-point back on Dec. 9 for a little flashback.
First things first, Philip Rivers is not going to take this game over with his arm. He completed just 53 percent of his passes (21 of 40) for 228 yards for a pair of touchdowns and interceptions the last time he faced Tennessee’s defense. Rivers got sacked four times in the first contest, the most he’d been laid out in 2007.
As bad as those numbers look, Rivers looked impressive when it counted most. He guided the Chargers to two fourth quarter scores, completing 11 of 17 passes for 127 yards and both of his throwing scores.
I didn’t forget about LaDainian Tomlinson either. LT rushed 26 times for 146 yards and the deciding touchdown in the extra period. Tomlinson also made five catches for 27 yards and a score. What’s impressive about his numbers is that he only had 33 yards rushing on 12 carries in the first half.
The oddsmakers are siding with the Chargers in this playoff matchup, making them nine-point home favorites with a total of 40 ½. I like the line and the public is on my side on it, which is a little scary, as it has moved a half-point since opening on Dec. 31.
VegasInsider.com expert handicapper Christian Alexander feels that the line works to the Titans favor. ”I think the Titans are not only well coached but with Vince Young under center, this team has shown a knack for playing very competitively on the road, if not pulling the outright upset.”
Alexander continues, “You obviously don't have to look back very far in Young's history to know he won't be intimidated by playing on the road and will likely relish the underdog role as he did in one of the greatest championship games in college football history (2006 Rose Bowl).”
I can’t argue with Christian’s thinking based on numbers alone. Young has played well on the road, going 9-6 SU and 10-5 ATS away from L.P. Field.
What keeps me from backing Tennessee here is how well Young will be able to play this week because of his injured right quadriceps. He practiced on a limited basis Wednesday and all signs point to him playing. But you must wonder about his mobility as it’s really what makes Young so dangerous because I don’t see teams scheming for ways to eliminate him as a passing threat.
As bad as Young’s injury could be, missing his top receiver could be crippling. Tight end Bo Scaife (liver) is “out” after suffering his injury in the match against the Colts. Tennessee didn’t have a lot of deep threats to begin with and Scaife being out of the lineup can only make things worse.
So you know that I like the Chargers in this game, but you might want to think about risking the moneyline play for them. Currently that number is at minus 500 (risk $500 to win $100), so be sure to have a pack of smokes and a fifth of your favorite adult beverage handy while watching the game. I say that because home teams in the Wild Card round have gone 12-8 SU, but 7-13 ATS since 2002. The ‘under’ has been a solid, going 12-8 in the past 20 opening round tilts.
Re: NFL Playoffs Sunday
Giants at Bucs
By Josh Jacobs
You can argue that playing starters in a “meaningless” game resulting in a loss against the Patriots last week (38-35) did more harm then good, but coach Tom Coughlin and his New York Giants disagree.
Looking like the team that averaged 25 points per game in the first eight weeks of the season, the G-Men (10-6 straight up, 10-6 against the spread) had New England on the ropes for most of last week’s contest. Despite losing three key players to injury (center Shaun O’Hara, linebacker Kawika Mitchell and cornerback Sam Madison), New York’s quarterback Eli Manning actually appeared to be in the driver’s seat. His 251 passing yards with four touchdowns and only one pick was the performance fans and backers of this squad have been looking for in more consistent fashion.
Alright, so now that the mini recap of last week’s contest has been exposed, how will a matchup with the Buccaneers (9-7 SU, 9-7 ATS) shape up come Sunday at 1:00 p.m. EST?
For starters, the Giants finished off the regular season with an impressive 7-1 SU and 6-2 ATS record, counter intuitive to its horrid 3-5 SU and 4-4 ATS home performance. As much as everyone would like to credit or detract these wins and loses with a direct correlation to signal caller Manning, the true game may revolve more around running back Brandon Jacobs and company.
Jacobs finished the regular season with 1,009 rushing yards with four scores despite sitting out five games with an assortment of ankle and leg injuries. Stepping up to the plate when Jacobs was absent included the likes of Derrick Ward (on the IR since Week 14), Ahmad Bradshaw and short yardage specialist Reuben Droughns.
Where the Giants might have the edge on the ground, Tampa Bay excels on defense. Finishing 2007 with a ‘D’ squad ranked 2nd in total yards allowed (278.4 YPG), 1st in passing yards allowed (170.5 YPG) and 3rd in points allowed (16.9 PPG), the Bucs have been a menacing force.
A major part of this cohesive bunch that comes to play week in and week out consists of linebackers Barrett Ruud and Derrick Brooks. Both have combined to produce an abnormal 223 total tackles with six forced fumbles. Mix in safety Jermaine Phillips (83 tackles and four picks) and cornerback Phillip Buchanon (61 tackles and three picks) and you’ve got a defense tighter then the security at Fort Knox.
When holding teams to 14 points or less, the Buccaneers have gone 8-0 SU and ATS this year.
While the Giants haven’t seen the same consistency on the defensive side of the ball, its front seven and blitzing backs led the league with 53 sacks. And although New York did allow 21.9 PPG (17th ranked in the NFL), allowing 207.3 YPG through the air was 11th best in the league.
The largest obstacle that ‘Big Blue’ will have to overcome in this NFC Wild Card contest stems from Tampa’s QB Jeff Garcia. The same field general that rolled past New York twice last season, combined for 390 passing yards with two TDs and one interception as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles. It was in this same spot (NFC Wild Card) in 2006 that Garcia found a way to ground the Giants defensive attack.
Garcia finished the 2007 regular season with an effective 2,440 yards passing, 14 tosses into the end zone and only four interceptions.
“The Buccaneers were not expected to do much this season after a horrible 2006 season but adding QB Garcia made a huge difference as Tampa Bay dominated the NFC South. The Bucs went 6-2 at home this season with one of the losses coming in the final week of the season with a limited effort,” says Vegasinsider.com expert handicapper Joe Nelson.
Most books have installed the Bucs as three-point home favorites, with a total set at 39½.
In my opinion, Giants’ QB Manning holds the key for advancement with help needed from a lack luster secondary. On the other bench, is almost error free veteran slinger Garcia and a defense that puts the ‘H’ in hurt. Tampa looks to have the edge, especially if it can get Manning to fold under pressure early on (and that has been done plenty of times before). Look for an exciting contest which will be decided in the fourth quarter.
For total players, New York enters Raymond James Stadium hitting the ‘under’ six times in eight games away from home.
Re: NFL Playoffs Sunday
Young will be game-time decision for Titans
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Tennessee quarterback Vince Young took part in most of practice Friday, but will be a game-time decision for the Titans' playoff game Sunday against the San Diego Chargers.
Coach Jeff Fisher said Young was better but did not go full speed with his sore right quadriceps.
"I did say early he's a quick healer," Fisher said of his quarterback. "He's been that way. He can overcome some difficult things rather quickly, so we're very optimistic at this point."
But the Titans still will test Young on Sunday to make sure he can run around and be close to full speed.
"Then we'll make the decision," Fisher said.
Young is 17-11 as the Titans' starter since being drafted with the third pick overall in 2006. He originally hurt his quadriceps muscle in October and missed a game the next week, but has said this injury isn't as severe.
This would be his second game against the Chargers in a month. Young was intercepted twice and limited to 2 yards on two carries. Fisher said Young has studied the tape of that game.
"Hopefully with some anticipation, he'll be able to take advantage of some things," Fisher said.
Running back LenDale White was back with the team after being excused the past two days of practice because of the death of his grandmother. He didn't practice Friday because of a sore knee, but is expected to start after running for 1,110 yards.
Fisher said he visited with White on Thursday and again Friday.
"He's coming around," Fisher said. "He'll get some exercise. His knee is sore. He'll get some exercise, we'll get him stretched out, and we'll have him mentally ready to play."
Center Kevin Mawae missed practice again with his sore left calf, and right guard Benji Olson (back) also sat out. Eugene Amano has started for Mawae the past two games, while Daniel Loper replaced Olson late in last week's win at Indianapolis.
The Titans have a roster spot with receiver Roydell Williams breaking his right ankle, and team officials planned to discuss making a move later Friday. With Mawae and Olson expected to be game-time decisions as well, an offensive lineman was expected to be promoted from the practice squad.
"It's no different than any other position," Fisher said of the injuries in the middle of his offensive line. "We have injuries, younger guys are stepping up. That's what we're dealing with, and so far this year when Danny's gone in to play, he's played well. Same thing with Eugene."
Re: NFL Playoffs Sunday
N.Y. Giants (10-6 SU and ATS) at Tampa Bay (9-7, 8-7-1 ATS)
The Giants return to the playoffs for the second straight year, this time as the No. 5 seed, and they’ll take on the NFC South champion Buccaneers, who are back in the postseason after a one-year hiatus.
New York gave unbeaten New England all it could handle in the regular-season finale last week, ultimately falling 38-35. However, the Giants did cash as a 13-point home underdog, finishing the season on a 4-1 ATS surge (3-2 SU). Although New York had nothing at stake as far as playoff position, QB Eli Manning went the distance, going 22 of 32 for 251 yards and four TDs, with one INT that set up a touchdown that gave New England a 10-point fourth-quarter lead. The Giants’ defense allowed just 44 rushing yards, but gave up 356 passing yards to Tom Brady & Co.
Tampa Bay, already locked into the fourth seed, played it safe last week and lost to Carolina 31-23 as a three-point home pup, ending its season on a 1-3 SU and ATS skid. The Bucs rested several starters, including QB Jeff Garcia, and ended up outgained 349-303 while allowing180 rushing yards.
These teams last met in October 2006, with New York posting a 17-3 home victory as a 9½-point chalk in the cold and wind, and the total fell far short of the posted 38½-point price. This season, New York and Tampa faced four common opponents (Washington, Atlanta, San Francisco and Detroit), and the Giants went 5-0 SU (4-1 ATS), while the Bucs were 3-2 SU and ATS.
The Giants proved to be road warriors this year, going 7-0 SU (6-1 ATS) after a season-opening loss at Dallas. New York is on additional positive ATS runs of 7-3 against the NFC, 4-0 off a SU loss, 4-1 catching points, 5-2 as a road ‘dog and 7-3 following a spread-cover. On a negative note, New York is 2-4 SU and ATS against teams with a winning record this season, getting outgained by an average of 21 yards (355-334) and outscored by 8 points per game (31-23).
Although the Buccaneers dropped their home finale to Carolina, they finished 6-2 at Raymond James (5-2-1 ATS), the other SU loss being a one-point setback to Jacksonville. Additionally, Tampa Bay is on ATS streaks of 8-3 against NFC opponents, 5-1 as a home chalk, 6-2 after a SU loss and 5-2 following an ATS setback. However, they are 3-7 ATS in their last 10 against teams with a winning record, including 1-3-1 ATS this season, getting outgained by 70 ypg (338-268) and outscored by 5 ppg (20-15) in those five contests.
The No. 4 seed is 3-2 SU and 0-5 ATS the last five years in the wild-card round.
Manning, who is 0-2 SU and ATS in the playoffs, finished a very mediocre season by completing 56.1 percent of his passes for 3,336 yards with 23 TDs against 20 INTs. He also lost seven of 13 fumbles. RB Brandon Jacobs (67 yards Sunday) finished with 1,009 rushing yards (5.0 per carry) and four TDs, despite starting just nine games.
Garcia started 13 games and completed 64 percent of his tosses for 2,440 yards, 13 TDs and just four INTs, and he was sacked just 19 times. Top RB Earnest Graham, with just 10 starts, had 898 rushing yards (4.0 per carry) and 10 TDs, with only one fumble on 222 carries and 49 receptions.
Garcia will face the Giants in the playoffs for the third time, previously leading San Francisco to a 39-38 home win in 2002 laying 3½ points and helping Philadelphia to a 23-20 win last year as a seven-point home chalk.
New York averaged 23.3 ppg (14th in the league) and 331.4 total ypg (16th), but the Giants had the fourth-best rushing attack at 134.2 rushing ypg. On defense, the Giants allowed 21.9 points (17th) but just 305.0 total yards (7th) and 97.7 rushing yards (8th). One glaring negative for New York was its minus-9 turnover differential, the worst of any playoff team, and the Giants have committed a league-leading 16 turnovers since Thanksgiving weekend.
Tampa Bay averaged just 20.9 ppg (tied for 18th) and 326.8 total yards (18th), though John Gruden’s squad was 11th in rushing (117.0 ypg). The Buccaneers were much more stout on defense, though, allowing 16.9 points (3rd), 278.4 total yards (2nd) and a league-leading 170.5 passing yards. Also, Tampa’s turnover differential was a sterling plus-15, which led the NFC and was fourth in the NFL.
For Tampa Bay, the over is on streaks of 5-0 overall, 4-1 when laying points and 5-2 following an ATS loss. However, the under is 7-3 in its last 10 playoff games, 5-0 in its last five playoff contests as a chalk and 4-1 in its last five postseason home starts.
For New York, the under is on runs of 6-1 on the highway, 4-1 as a road pup and 4-1 against the NFC. However, the Giants’ last two regular-season starts topped the posted price.
ATS ADVANTAGE: TAMPA BAY and UNDER
Tennessee (10-6, 8-7-1 ATS) at San Diego (11-5 SU and ATS)
The Titans, who reached the playoffs with a strong late-season run, get a chance to avenge a loss from a month ago when they travel to the West Coast to face the red-hot Chargers, who won the AFC West and earned the conference’s No. 3 seed.
Tennessee grabbed the final playoff berth by beating Indianapolis 16-10 as a four-point road chalk on Sunday night, with the Colts resting or minimally using several key players. It was the Titans’ third straight victory and fourth in the last five games (3-2 ATS). QB Vince Young was 14 of 18 for 157 yards, with no TDs or INTs, before leaving in the third quarter with a strained quad. Backup Kerry Collins came on and went 10 of 13 for 106 yards, but Tennessee relied mostly on kicker Rob Bironas (three second-half FGs) and a first-quarter TD run from Chris Brown, along with a defense that allowed just 194 yards.
San Diego closed the regular season on a six-game SU and ATS winning streak, capped by last week’s 30-17 rout of Oakland as a nine-point road favorite. QB Philip Rivers went 13 of 23 for 135 yards and two TDs before giving way to backup Billy Volek in the fourth quarter, and RB LaDainian Tomlinson had 16 carries for just 56 yards in limited action. But the Chargers forced four turnovers, including an INT and two fumbles from rookie QB JaMarcus Russell, to fuel the victory.
The straight-up winner covered the spread in all 16 of San Diego’s games this season and was 8-1 ATS in Tennessee’s last nine contests.
The Chargers’ six-game season-ending winning streak included a stunning 23-17 come-from-behind overtime victory at Tennessee as a 1½-point favorite on Dec. 9. The Chargers rallied from a 17-3 fourth-quarter deficit, scoring the tying touchdown with nine seconds left, then Tomlinson capped the win with a 16-yard TD run on the second overtime possession. The Chargers also hammered the Titans 40-7 as a 10½-point home favorite in Week 2 last year, and they’re 5-0 SU and ATS in their last five meetings versus Tennessee going back to 1997.
The Titans, in the playoffs for the first time since 2003, are 11-4 ATS in their last 15 road trips and 4-1 ATS in their last five road playoff contests. They are also 12-3-1 ATS in their last 16 as an underdog. On the negative side, though, they are in ATS ruts of 2-5 on grass, 2-6 following a victory and 0-5 following a spread-cover. Finally, prior to the win against a resting Indy squad, Tennessee hadn’t beaten a team with a winning record the entire season.
The Chargers went 14-2 last season before losing to New England 24-21 in the divisional playoff round as a five-point home chalk, their second straight one-and-done playoff appearance after a home loss to the Jets following the 2004 season. San Diego has lost four straight playoff games.
San Diego went 7-1 SU and ATS at home this year (6-0 SU and ATS in the last six) and is in the midst of several positive ATS streaks, including 41-20-2 overall, 38-16-2 on grass, 6-0 as a favorite and 5-0 against the AFC. One negative is the Chargers’ 2-5 ATS mark against teams with a winning record.
In his first full season as the Titans’ starting quarterback, Young was erratic at best, completing 62.3 percent of his throws for 2,546 yards, but he had nearly twice as many INTs (17) as TDs (9) passes, while also fumbling 10 times, losing three. However, Young did rush for 395 yards (4.2 ypc) and three TDs, while second-year RB Lendale White (45 yards vs. Colts) ended up with 1,110 yards (3.7 ypc) and seven TDs.
Rivers finished an up-and-down season with 3,152 yards (60.2 completion percentage), 21 TDs, and 15 INTs, and he lost six of his 11 fumbles. Tomlinson capped another stellar season, finishing with the NFL’s rushing title after running for 1,474 yards (4.7 ypc) and 15 TDs, to go along with 475 yards receiving (60 catches, 3 TDs). TE Antonio Gates had 984 yards receiving and nine scores.
Tennessee’s offense averaged just 311.7 ypg (21st) and 18.8 ppg (22nd), but it did have the fifth-best rushing offense at 131.8 ypg. The Titans’ big strength is on the other side of the ball, where they rank in the Top 10 in scoring defense (18.6 ppg, 8th), total defense (291.6 ypg, 5th) and rushing defense (92.4 ypg, 5th). The Titans finished with an even turnover differential.
San Diego’s offense finished among the top 10 in scoring (25.8 ppg, 5th) and rushing (127.4 ppg, 7th), but because of a down year by Rivers was just 20th in total offense (315.2 ypg). Over the last eight games, after a 4-4 start, the Chargers outgained opponents by an average of 342-271 and outscored them by 15 points per game (29-14).
Defensively, for the season, San Diego allowed just 17.8 points per game (5th) and recorded 42 sacks (5th). Perhaps the most telling stat for San Diego, though, was its stunning plus-24 turnover differential, which led the league. The Chargers also had an NFL-best 30 interceptions, paced by Antonio Cromartie’s league-leading 10 picks.
For Tennessee, the under is on runs of 8-1-1 after a victory, 6-1-1 after a spread-cover and 4-1-1 versus teams with a winning mark. San Diego has under trends of 4-0 in January games, 5-2-2 against the AFC and 11-5-2 against teams with a winning record.
ATS ADVANTAGE: SAN DIEGO and UNDER
Re: NFL Playoffs Sunday
Titans are longest of longshots
Young will be game-time decision.
Of the 12 teams that have qualified for the NFL playoffs, the Tennessee Titans have been given the biggest odds to reach the Super Bowl at 100-1, according to Bodoglife.com.
One reason Tennessee is such a longshot is that the Titans play at San Diego in today's wild-card game at Qualcomm Stadium.
The Chargers are 10-point favorites with the Titans paying as high as +420 to win straight up on many betting boards.
After a slow start under first-year Coach Norv Turner, San Diego enters the playoffs on a roll.
The Chargers are 6-0 against the spread in their last six games as a favorite and 5-0 against the spread in their last five games vs. AFC opponents. San Diego is also 6-0 against the spread in its last six home games.
With the availability of injured Tennessee quarterback Vince Young expected to be a game-time decision, bettors have given the Chargers strong support. According to theSpread.com's betting chart, San Diego has picked up 64% of the bets against the spread, which was the highest percentage among the four wild-card games.
But the Titans do have a couple of positive trends working in their favor.
Tennessee is 7-0 against the spread in its last seven games when it has been an underdog between three and 10 points, and 4-1 against the spread in its last five playoff games.
For bettors who want to play the over/under, the combined point total listed is at 39.
The under is 4-1-1 in Tennessee's last six games against a team with a winning record, and the under is 6-2 in San Diego's last eight games as a home favorite between 3.5 and 10 points.
In today's other wild-card game, Tampa Bay is a three-point home favorite over the New York Giants and money has flowed in the direction of the road team, according to Wagerline.com.
As of Saturday afternoon, the Giants had picked up 54.93% of the bets against the spread (2,325-1,908).
According to AccuScore.com, which simulates every game 10,000 times, Louisiana State will defeat Ohio State in Monday's BCS Championship game.
AccuScore's simulator had LSU winning 62% of the simulations by an average of five points with quarterbacks Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux being the difference makers.
Re: NFL Playoffs Sunday
Titans OG Olson out for game at San Diego
January 5, 2008
SAN DIEGO (AP) -Tennessee right guard Benji Olson will miss Sunday's wild-card playoff game against the San Diego Chargers after the Titans downgraded him from doubtful to out.
Olson was listed as doubtful because of back problems Friday and hadn't practiced all week. The Titans flew into San Diego on Saturday morning and had their walkthrough, but Olson did not make the trip.
The 10-year veteran missed three games earlier this year after waking up in Denver on Nov. 19 with back spasms, but had started the past four games before having to leave last week's win in Indianapolis in the second half.
Center Kevin Mawae also has been listed as doubtful, which could leave the Titans without their two most veteran lineman Sunday.
Re: NFL Playoffs Sunday
What bettors need to know: Giants at Buccaneers
If you believe in the power of momentum in situations like these, then you’re probably favoring the Giants in this spot. Although the G-Men are coming off a loss in Week 17, it was a “moral victory” of sorts as they came within a quarter of spoiling the vaunted Patriots’ perfect season. The previous week, they had their best offensive performance of the season against Buffalo, making for a two-week total of 73 points. Not bad for an offense criticized as much as this one.
The Buccaneers, on the other hand, secured their division back in Week 15 and had it on auto-pilot even before then. They dropped their last two games of the season while most of their key starters took it easy. Jeff Garcia threw only 49 passes over the last six weeks and Earnest Graham, Joey Galloway, Ike Hilliard and a number of defensive starters all got a break over the last couple of games. If the Bucs come into the game rusty, you can bet Jon Gruden will take some heat over the strategy.
A lot has been made over Garcia’s past playoff success against New York. They’re calling him the “Giant Killer” because in his journeyman career the quarterback has twice knocked the Giants out of the playoffs. Whether or not he has the antidote for the Giants’ defense is still up for debate, but there’s no doubt that the Bucs are better off for having the veteran QB leading their offense in the postseason. He’s made six playoff starts in his career and as Gruden said, “Experience is a great asset when you get into these kind of tournaments.”
The Giants’ quarterback is the other player in this game receiving the majority of the attention. Granted he plays in front of the toughest audience in sports, but the criticism of Manning isn’t completely without justification.
He’s surrounded by one of the best supporting casts a quarterback could want and at times (like last week) he looks almost as dominant as his big brother, but at other times he makes bad decisions and gives up too many turnovers. His 20 interceptions this season are proof of that.
But even though Eli told reporters this week he’s trying not to judge himself by playoff wins, his 0-2 record and 2-4 touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio is a glaring reminder of his failure to step up in the big games. This could be his last chance to change that.
Tampa Bay: Cato June missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday with an injured foot and is currently listed as questionable. Coaches don’t sound too hopeful about his chances of playing, so expect to see Ryan Nece in his place. Aaron Sears was also held out of practice on Wednesday but based on the progress of his injured ankle, he’s expected to be ready to go on Sunday.
New York: Kawika Mitchell’s chances of playing aren’t good with a sprained knee he suffered in last week’s (meaningless) game. Also injured in that game were center Shaun O’Hara and cornerback Sam Madison. All three players are listed as questionable.
Re: NFL Playoffs Sunday
What bettors need to know: Titans at Chargers
If Vince Young plays Sunday, we probably won’t know about it until just before kickoff. He’s still nursing a quad injury and veteran Kerry Collins will step in if Young’s out.
Young participated in Friday’s practice but didn’t go full-out.
"I did say early he's a quick healer," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. "He's been that way. He can overcome some difficult things rather quickly, so we're very optimistic at this point."
To make matters worse for the Titans offense, center Kevin Mawae (left calf) and right guard Benji Olson (back) are both doubtful and Roydell Williams, the club’s top receiver, is out with a broken ankle.
Sending him down the river
The Tennessee Titans have every reason to be worried about a Chargers offense that’s putting up almost 35 points a game over its last three, though San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers seems to be an afterthought.
“[Rivers is] all right,” Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck said. “I feel he had a better season last year. I've been in the game long enough to know that if you have a rushing leader for two years, that helps your offense, and if you have a tight end that big, that helps your offense. I just feel that those two are the players you have to watch. It comes down after that to the quarterback.”
Tennessee held Rivers in check for three quarters the last time the two teams met back in December, but he finished strong to lead the Chargers back to a 23-17 overtime win as 1 ½-point favorites.
Hug it out
Tempers have cooled since Shawne Merriman accused the Titans of attempting to injure him in last month’s game. Cooled publicly, at least.
"I think the situation of the things happening before was really blown out of proportion, really" Merriman told reporters Wednesday.
"It's going to be a physical game, and not because of what happened the first time.It's going to be a physical game because whoever loses goes home. I think there's more at stake now than it was four games ago."
"We're going to all give each other hugs before the game starts."
San Diego surge
After starting off the year 1-3, the Chargers head into Sunday’s game on a six-game winning streak, both straight up and against the spread. During that stretch they haven’t allowed more than 17 points in any of their wins. Star running back LaDainian Tomlinson had four 100-yard rushing games and six touchdowns on the ground down the stretch.
Most books opened with San Diego favored by nine points with the total at 41 points. Since then the betting public has bumped the Chargers up -10 as the total dropped to 39 points at some sportsbooks.
Re: NFL Playoffs Sunday
Sunday NFL Gameday
New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2.5) (Total 39.5)
Raymond James Stadium, 1:00pm ET (FOX)
The Giants will be looking to get some revenge on Bucs quarterback Jeff Garcia, who has knocked them out of the playoffs during stints with both the Eagles and the Niners. New York got to finish out the regular season against the Patriots, and they held tough in that game before finally falling 38-35 at home. Eli Manning went 22-of-32 for 251 yards passing against the Pats with four touchdowns and one interception, and Giants fans will be looking for a similar performance by their quarterback on Sunday afternoon.
The Buccaneers enter the playoffs on a two-game losing streak, but they still managed to win the weak NFC South division by two games over the Panthers and Saints. Tampa Bay sat out Garcia in their regular-season finale against Carolina, with Luke McCown throwing two touchdown passes in the 31-23 home defeat. Joey Galloway also missed that game with a sore shoulder, but he's expected to be fine on Sunday. A bigger concern for the team is LB Cato June, who is hobbled by a foot injury right now.
The Giants and Buccaneers last met in October 2006 in New York, with Tampa Bay losing 17-3 in that contest. These teams last played in Tampa Bay in November 2003, with the Bucs winning 19-13. Tampa Bay is favored by 2.5 points at home on Sunday, and they went 9-7 against-the-spread on the season (6-2 ATS at home, 6-3 ATS as the fave). New York went 10-6 ATS overall, 6-2 ATS on the road, and 4-2 ATS as the dog.
Here are the official injury reports for both the Giants and Buccaneers for Sunday . .
New York Injuries
Sam Madison CB Doubtful Wild Card Weekend (stomach)
Shaun O'Hara C Doubtful Wild Card Weekend (knee)
Kevin Dockery CB Questionable Wild Card Weekend (hip)
Kawika Mitchell LB Questionable Wild Card Weekend (knee)
Dave Tollefson DE Questionable Wild Card Weekend (concussion)
Ahmad Bradshaw RB Probable Wild Card Weekend (calf)
Plaxico Burress WR Probable Wild Card Weekend (ankle)
Michael Matthews TE Probable Wild Card Weekend (illness)
Sinorice Moss WR Probable Wild Card Weekend (back)
Tampa Bay Injuries
Cato June LB Doubtful Wild Card Weekend (foot)
Arron Sears G Questionable Wild Card Weekend (ankle)
Tennessee Titans at San Diego Chargers (-9.5) (Total 40)
Qualcomm Stadium, 4:30pm ET (CBS)
The Titans needed to get past the Colts last Sunday night to sneak past the Browns and into the playoffs - and they managed to pick up a 16-10 road victory over a second-string Indy squad that didn't put up much opposition. However, Tennessee quarterback Vince Young suffered a quadriceps injury in that contest, and he could come down to a game-time decision this weekend - veteran Kerry Collins is the backup. The Titans will definitely be without WR Roydell Williams on Sunday as he is out with a broken ankle.
And while Tennessee enters the playoffs on a three-game winning streak, San Diego has won six games in a row heading into this matchup. The Chargers had no trouble dispatching the Raiders in their regular-season finale, getting two touchdown passes from Philip Rivers in a 30-17 road victory. LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for 56 yards on 16 carries in that contest, and he ended up leading the league with 1,474 yards on the ground this season. Kicker Nate Kaeding has a bruised left leg, but will keep FG duties.
San Diego has already beaten Tennessee once this season, winning 23-17 on the road back in Week 14. Tomlinson ran for 146 yards and an overtime touchdown in that contest. The Chargers are 9.5-point favorites to win this weekend; San Diego went 11-5 against-the-spread this season, including 7-1 ATS at home and 10-3 ATS as the favored team. Tennessee went 8-8 ATS, 5-3 ATS on the road, and 4-4 ATS as the dog.
Here are the official injury reports for both the Titans and Chargers for Sunday . . .
Roydell Williams WR Out Wild Card Weekend (ankle)
Kevin Mawae C Doubtful Wild Card Weekend (calf)
Benji Olson G Doubtful Wild Card Weekend (back)
LenDale White RB Questionable Wild Card Weekend (knee)
Vince Young QB Questionable Wild Card Weekend (quadriceps)
Chris Brown RB Probable Wild Card Weekend (back)
Albert Haynesworth DT Probable Wild Card Weekend (hamstring)
San Diego Injuries
Lorenzo Neal FB Doubtful Wild Card Weekend (fibula)
Marques Harris LB Questionable Wild Card Weekend (hand)
Nick Kaeding K Probable Wild Card Weekend (left fibula)