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News » No backing in here


No backing in here


No backing in here
The winners that mattered Sunday were the Vikings, Eagles, Ravens, Dolphins and Chargers.


They were the teams whose victories earned invitations to what Bill Parcells calls "the tournament."

The Vikings beat the Giants for their playoff spot, but they didn't need to because the Bears lost to the Texans. "It wouldn't have felt the same if we won the division by default," Vikings guard Steve Hutchinson said.

Their reward will be a home game against the Eagles, which is interesting because Vikings coach Brad Childress is a former Eagles assistant and a disciple of Philadelphia coach Andy Reid.

Had the Bears beaten the Texans, they would have taken the playoff spot the Eagles won and been given another shot at the Vikings.

The Eagles needed to beat the Cowboys, which they did handily. But they also needed losses by the Bears and the Bucs, and for Jupiter to align with Mars.

Everything happened right for the Eagles, and things could keep going their way next weekend when defensive coordinator Jim Johnson dials up one of his blitz-happy game plans for Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson.

For their efforts, the Ravens and Dolphins will be rewarded with one another. As the two biggest surprise teams in the AFC playoffs, they deserve one another. A year ago, the Ravens were 5-11 and in last place in the AFC North. The Dolphins were 1-15 and in last place in the East.

The Ravens defeated the Dolphins this year in Miami.

Dolphins coach Tony Sparano, who interviewed for the Ravens job but was passed over for John Harbaugh, has plenty of motivation. But so does Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, who was fired as Dolphins coach a year ago.

\ Let's go to the tape

Some of the teams that failed to make the playoffs were as interesting as those that made it.

The Patriots became the first team since 1985 to miss the postseason with 11 victories. They took care of their business by beating the Bills, but they needed the Jets to beat the Dolphins, and they did not.

The Jets began the season 8-3 after committing $140 million to free agents in the off-season, but they faded quickly. Brett Favre looked older with each December pass, and the Jets lost four of their last five.

The Bucs, meanwhile, continued their late-season dive by losing their fourth straight, this one to the unimpressive Raiders. Once defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin began packing his bags for the University of Tennessee, the Bucs fell apart. A victory would have put the Bucs in the playoffs.

The Cowboys cemented their legacy as the team that did the least with the most in 2008. Many predicted they would win the Super Bowl, but that won't happen.

*As is fitting for the holiday season, a number of NFL stars were given the day off Sunday.

Among those who didn't play because their teams rested them for the playoffs were Colts defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, Steelers linebacker James Harrison, Giants running back Brandon Jacobs, Titans running back Chris Johnson and Titans center Kevin Mawae.

A number of others were asked for only minimal contributions. Among them: Giants quarterback Eli Manning, Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and Titans quarterback Kerry Collins.

Then there was Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, who refused to rest. After coach Mike Tomlin pulled him from the game, Polamalu sneaked back onto the field.

\ Grab some bench

The 2008 Lions are history. But they also made history by going 0-16. They were the worst team the NFL has seen in a long time. The only reason the winless 1976 Bucs didn't equal the Lions' 0-16 record is they played a 14-game schedule.

"No competitor wants to go through something like this," Lions coach Rod Marinelli said. "This is not fun to go through, obviously. But there are people going through a lot worse than this."

At least we won't have to watch the Lions go through it anymore.

\ Guy I want on my team

The 49ers announced that Mike Singletary would be back next season, meaning they will not get caught with their pants down in their search for a head coach.

Congratulations, Mike.

\ 2-minute drill

After the Chiefs lost, Larry Johnson said he wants out of Kansas City, and the Chiefs really should oblige him. Johnson once was a great player and may be again, but a rebuilding team like the Chiefs does not need disgruntled veterans with baggage weighing down the operation.

*From the This Won't Look Too Good on the Resume File: Browns fourth-string quarterback Bruce Gradkowski had a 1.0 passer rating Sunday. Too bad they shut down the Arena Football League.

*Sunday was the beginning of firing season in the NFL, and the action began in Cleveland, where general manager Phil Savage was let go. Monday, Browns coach Romeo Crennel could follow Savage out the door, and Marinelli is expected to be relieved of his duties.

- - -

Game balls

Offense

Drew Brees, Saints quarterback

Brees got within 15 yards of Dan Marino's record for passing yards in a season and kept himself alive in the MVP race with one of his best performances of the season. Brees threw for 386 yards -- giving him 5,069 for the year -- and four touchdowns in a loss to the Panthers. He and Marino are the only players in NFL history to throw for more than 5,000 yards in a season.

A pity we won't be able to enjoy this magnificent player in the playoffs.

\ Defense

Ed Reed, Ravens safety

He had two interceptions for the eighth time in his career, this time in a must-win game for Baltimore. Reed led the league with nine interceptions.

\ Special teams

Ryan Longwell, Vikings kicker

He nailed a game-winning 50-yarder as time expired to put his team in the playoffs. That's clutch.

Bears coverage never stops: Keep up with all of the Bears' off-season moves with Team Tribune at chicagotribune.com/huddleup

dpompei@tribune.com



Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 29, 2008

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Casey Hampton Name: Casey Hampton
#98
Position: DT
Age: 30
Experience: 8 years
College: Texas
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