Wildcard Weekend, Part 1: A look around FanBall

This weekend promises some of the best and most intriguing football of the season, thanks to a series of rematch battles. Week 17’s complicated array of motivated and unmotivated teams created three matchups where the coaches knew beforehand that there was either a strong possibility or certainty of a rematch, and the result was three exhibition games — each dominated by the team with more of a chip on its shoulder.

The apparent strength of each winner, though, was magnified by the somewhat purposeful bumbling of the loser. The loser then hopes to find in the playoffs a magical ingredient, as well as untapped strength and unseen maneuvers that will guarantee victory. This strategy could be called “Drunken Master” style, as it is perfectly illustrated by the final fight scene in Drunken Master 2. (Transformation moment comes at 3:06, when Wong Fei Hung starts drinking industrial-strength grain alcohol.)

But can this strategy actually carry over into the NFL world? Is there some sort of magical coaching elixir or combination of hidden plays and players that can transform chumps to champs in a week’s time?

Here’s what the FanBall bloggers for each of Saturday’s teams are saying, after the break:

Turn On The Jets: How easy will a repeat be?

Outside of Cedric Benson, the Bengals starting offense played last week for the entire half and was completely embarrassed. Whether or not they ran a vanilla package and hid some things, don’t tell me there isn’t some doubt in their mind about their ability to move the ball on the Jets defense. It isn’t like they just had a bad half of football…a bad half is getting shut out but still gaining some yards and completing some passes. Carson Palmer was 1/11 for 0 yards with an interception and the only first down the Bengals got was on a questionable penalty on the Jets. If the Jets can get off to a fast start on defense and force a few 3 and outs, the Bengals are going to start questioning themselves and maybe trying to force some things.

— “Jets vs Bengals Game Breakdown

More from Turn On the Jets: First LookPosition by position breakdownTOJ TVFinal Thoughts

Bengals Jaw: Is there a secret ingredient that the Bengals saved up?

Hopefully this week we will see last weeks game in a mirror, you know everything’s the same just backwards, so hopefully we will come out as the dominate physical team, with the run stuffing D that puts all kinds of pressure on the QB. With Peko and Crocker back we are a different team, and though we will miss Rey an awful lot, we will be MUCH better and MUCH more physical this week. I think the J – E – T – S played themselves out last week, showing us everything they could do, giving us a free week to study and dissect it. The fact is the Jets HAD to pull out all the stops last week to make it into the playoffs, if we stop their run, does anyone really see Mark Sanchez a rookie QB beating our CB tandem? I didn’t think so…

— “Mirror Game

More from Bengals Jaw: Playdate in the Jungle

Both these bloggers are on Twitter — follow @TurnOnTheJets and @BengalsJaw for in-game fun.

The second game tonight offers a different level of rematch, pitting division rivals Dallas against Philadelphia — a matchup the Eagles have already lost twice this season. Rather than looking for an ingredient purposely held out in a meaningless game, the Eagles will be looking for something that they have yet to find in this matchup.

Respect The Star: How confident are you in a Dallas three-peat?

The Cowboys have handled the Eagles in both meetings this year. I expect more of the same on Saturday. Defensively, the Cowboys will continue to pressure McNabb. Expect some early blitz packages to show a different look.Offensively, the Cowboys balance will be the difference. Maybe we will even see a catch or two from Roy Williams. Player of the Game will be Mike Jenkins with three breakups and 1 INT. Score: 24 – 20.

— “Chat Transcript with Eagles Correspondent Joe Burt

More from Respect The Star: Cowboys-Eagles: Final Round

Eagles Have Landed: Is there a missing ingredient?

For some reason, defensive coordinator Sean McDermott went with a conservative gameplan. The reasoning behind that is twofold, one is that McDermott believed the Cowboys were planning for heavy blitzing, and the other, that he didn’t want to throw all his packages at the Cowboys knowing they may have to play them again in one week.

— “Live Chatting Eagles-Cowboys

More from Eagles Have Landed: Back to the Drawing Board after Shutout LossThree Key Matchups to Watch Saturday

Neither blogger is a big twitterer, but follow @EaglesHavLanded anyway and hope for some choice in-game tweets.