Wild-Card Deja Vu...Jets and Cowboys Whip Familiar Foes From a Week Ago

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Wild-Card Deja Vu...Jets and Cowboys Whip Familiar Foes From a Week Ago
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The only thing different in Saturday's two wildcard matchups from the games pitting the same teams a week ago was the location of the AFC Wildcard game. Everything else, including the outcome of each game, was the same. 

A week ago, the New York Jets hosted the Cincinnati Bengals in the final game to ever be played in Giants Stadium in New York. In the NFC, the Philadelphia Eagles had to once again play the Dallas Cowboys in Jerry Jones' new shrine to Cowboys football. 

For differing reasons, many expected the outcomes of these two playoff games to differ from the outcomes the last week of the season. They did not. 

Last week in New York, the Jets pulled out all the stops to secure a playoff berth against a Cincinnati team that had already punched their ticket to the playoffs. Coach Marvin Lewis opted to sit starting running back Cedric Benson against the Jets, and had a quick hook for other players including quarterback Carson Palmer.

The result: Jets 37 Bengals 0. 

The most interesting thing about last week's game was Chad Ochocinco's declaration that he'd change his name back to Chad Johnson if Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis got the best of him. The result: Revis 1 Johnson 0. 

In Cincinnati on Saturday, Benson ran for 167 yards and was the only bright spot for a Bengals team that could not reverse the momentum of losing three of its last four regular season games, all to playoff teams including the Jets. 

Chad Johnson, who hadn't yet officially changed the name on the back of his jersey, again struggled against Revis. He caught just two passes for 12 yards. The result: Revis 2 Johnson 0.

Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez was extremely efficient for Rex Ryan's offense, completing 12 of 15 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown.

Of course this game, like most of the Jets games this season, wasn't to be won by the arm of Sanchez. The winning formula on Saturday for the Jets was the same as it was all season: a league-leading running game and defense. 

Running backs Shonn Greene and Thomas Jones led a rushing attack that ran 41 times for 171 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday. The Jets simply gashed the interior defensive line of the Bengals all game and were often in the secondary before getting hit. 

In Dallas last week, the Cowboys shutout the Eagles in the season finale that decided where this week's wildcard game between the two teams would be played. Perhaps the Eagles simply didn't mind the idea of playing in a nice toasty Texas Stadium, instead of at home where there were single-digit wind chills. 

Whatever their motivation, the Eagles played poorly a week ago, but many thought they could rebound on Saturday. They did not. 

Last week, Philadelphia ran the ball 10 times for just 37 yards. On Saturday, the offense could only improve those numbers to 56 yards on 13 carries.

Quarterback Donovan McNabb was looking to improve his team's chances on Saturday, after being sacked four times a week ago by a relentless Cowboys defense. Instead, McNabb barely completed half of his passes while under pressure, throwing two interceptions and getting sacked four more times. 

Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips, with speculation that his job could be on the line if his team lost on Saturday, made sure his team brought their "A" game. 

Running backs Felix Jones and Tashard Choice led a ground game that amassed 198 yards and two touchdowns against a once formidable but clearly declining Eagles defense. Quarterback Tony Romo also chipped in with two touchdown passes and 244 yards through the air. 

And while the Cowboys' offensive production was more than sufficient on Saturday, it was the ability of the Cowboys defense to force five turnovers that turned the game into a 34-14 blowout. 

So while the Jets and Cowboys will move on to the Divisional round of the playoffs next week, questions abound for the teams they beat. 

For the Bengals, one must begin to wonder if quarterback Carson Palmer will ever win a playoff game in Cincinnati. In a 2006 playoff game against the eventual Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers, Palmer was lost to a knee injury.

In this year's lone playoff game, he completed just 18 of 36 passes with a touchdown and an interception. Worse yet for Palmer was that he appeared to get rattled under the pressure of the Jets defense, and made several throws that were nowhere close to his receivers. 

As for the Eagles, the future of Donovan McNabb as the team's quarterback will undoubtedly be the topic of discussion on talk shows in Philadelphia this offseason. Unlike Palmer, McNabb actually has had quite a bit of success in the playoffs, yet his recent struggles against the Cowboys in consecutive weeks won't sit well with the Eagles faithful. 

Invariably, the speculation in Philadelphia about replacing McNabb will be fueled by the presence of backup quarterback Michael Vick. Vick, who threw the ball only 13 times this season, did complete a 76-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin on Saturday, and that will be the lasting memory of many Eagles fans this offseason. 

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