Rematches open NFL postseason
Posted: Monday, January 2, 2012 7:03 pm
By BARRY WILNER
AP Pro Football Writer
Two rematches of regular-season games will highlight the wild-card round, which was set up when Cincinnati grabbed the final AFC spot Sunday and Atlanta moved ahead of Detroit in the NFC.
The Bengals got into the postseason despite losing 24-16 to Baltimore, winning a tiebreaker at 9-7 over Tennessee. Cincinnati visits Houston to open the playoffs on Saturday.
The Texans (10-6) beat the Bengals 20-19 in Cincinnati on Dec. 11.
“We’ve been successful up until this point, and we’ve got a shot in the playoffs,” Bengals rookie quarterback Andy Dalton said. “We’re in it. Now it’s what we do with it.”
Detroit will need to find the right attitude when it visits New Orleans on Saturday night. The Lions (10-6) lost a shootout at Green Bay 45-41 in their finale, meaning a return to the Big Easy, where they fell 31-17 on Dec. 4.
“Everyone’s frustrated because you want to win anytime you play,” defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch said. “But it won’t put a damper on our season, and we’re excited about our opportunity and we’re in the playoffs.”
So are the Giants and Broncos, who won their divisions in different manners Sunday.
New York’s 31-14 victory over Dallas gave the Giants (9-7) the NFC East title. Atlanta, which earned the No. 5 seed in the conference by routing Tampa Bay 45-24 earlier in the day, will visit the Meadowlands.
“I would not want to face the New York Giants in the playoffs right now,” running back Brandon Jacobs said. “I got the same feeling” as when the Giants won the Super Bowl as a wild card after the 2007 season.
Even without any Tim Tebow heroics, the Broncos won the AFC West. They did it despite falling 7-3 to the Kansas City Chiefs because San Diego knocked off Oakland 38-26. The Broncos and Raiders tied for the division lead at 8-8, but Denver won on the tiebreaker, better results in common games.
Tebow’s late-game magic helped Denver turn around its season, from 2-5 to the top of a weak division. He struggled mightily as the Broncos lost their last three games, but they are playoff-bound for the first time since 2005.
“It’s obviously a little bittersweet right now,” Tebow said. “We obviously would have loved to have won that game to have a little momentum going into the playoffs. But I think it’s still a special thing what we accomplished — to come back and win the AFC West is very special.”
Baltimore (12-4) took the AFC North and a first-round bye as the No. 2 seed when it outlasted Cincinnati. Even though the Bengals lost, their 9-7 record earned them a wild card in a head-to-head tiebreaker over Tennessee.
Published in The Messenger 1.2.12