ESPN Sunday NFL Countdown Pregame Notes – Wild Card Sunday

From ESPN –

ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown Notes and Quotes: Wild Card Sunday
 
ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown host Chris Berman and analysts Cris Carter, Mike Ditka, Tom Jackson, and Keyshawn Johnson previewed the NFL’s Wild Card Sunday games and discussed Saturday’s results along withSuzy Kolber, Merril Hoge, guest analyst Donovan McNabb, and NFL Insiders Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen. Some excerpts:
 
On the New Orleans Saints performance Saturday…
Jackson:  “When you don’t punt the ball, you know you’ve had a pretty good day offensively. … That was an awesome display of offense. … As a former defender, I couldn’t sleep after I watched that.”
Carter:  “They play at a pace that people can’t keep up with. Now you might be able to play with them for a certain period of time. … Eventually, they find you out.”
Johnson:  “I don’t think the 49ers can score 28 points on offense against New Orleans, and I think New Orleans can score another 45 against San Francisco.”
Ditka:  “Nothing bothers this football team because they know they’re on a fast track.”
Berman:  “What they’re doing is, at the moment, out-Green Baying Green Bay.”
 
Keys for the Saints against the 49ers next week…
McNabb: “In New Orleans’ situation, you have to run the ball 20-25 times this game to at least soften the coverage for San Francisco. Now you can begin to spread the ball around. … I don’t look at the weather situation for Drew Brees and those guys.I look at the way their offense is going to be kind of complementing each other to be effective.”
Hoge: “Forget about the weather. That’s not going to be a factor. … When you mention all the things they (Saints) can do, that’s the problem. How do you match up against all that? Who do you defend?”
 
On the best game plan for the Giants in the playoffs…
Carter:  “Super Bowl. The Giants ain’t goin’ unless Eli (is) freakin’ throwin’.”
 
On whether the Giants can make a playoff run like they did in 2007…
Johnson:  “This defense is not as good as 2007. If they make that run, it’s going to be very, very difficult for them to do that.”
Ditka:  “The one thing that is better is Eli Manning and that offense, especially the passing game.”
Carter:  “Their defense is not as good. Their offense is a lot better. And their quarterback is — you can’t even put the percentages of how much better he is. … Tom Coughlin in the playoffs, the thing that’s consistent: he presents a championshipatmosphere in that locker room. So if they get in the tournament, they can win.”
Jackson: “I cannot believe the Giants are last in the National Football League running the ball, and I don’t know how you win the Super Bowl if you are last running the ball.”
 
On whether Matt Ryan is a big-game quarterback…
Carter:  “I believe he has all the things you want: intangibles; I believe he has the arm talent. If he can get the other pieces around him defensively, I believe this team can go on a run and that will qualify him as a big-game quarterback.”
Jackson:  “Business is result-oriented. You have to win football games. … He has to win in this situation.”
Ditka: “His legacy will be defined by playoff wins and championships.”
 
Keys for the Falcons against the Giants…
Ditka: “If you don’t keep that front four honest, you’re gonna get chopped up.”
 
On the Houston Texans continuing their playoff run…
Jackson: “I just wonder if T.J. Yates can maintain his ability to not make mistakes. If they don’t turn the ball over, they could go a long way.”
 
On whether Tim Tebow can succeed against Pittsburgh’s defense…
Carter:  “His release is so slow that he can’t anticipate. It’s hard to teach that. So, that’s the battle we’ve been fighting here with Tim Tebow.”
Keyshawn:  “They have to run the football. They cannot get away from that. That has gotten him to be the starting quarterback in Denver. … When he’s thrown the ball more than 20 times, they’ve lost. Less than 20, they win. The key is running theball down their throats.”
Ditka:  “They don’t call it the Steel Curtain because of the back four. It’s the front seven. … They’re going to put a lot of pressure on (Tebow). Now, can he handle it? I don’t know. I doubt he can. … If you get time, you can beat their secondary.”
Jackson: “Denver fans are getting ready to get a full dose of whatever it is. Whether that is win, lose or draw, you are going to get a full dose of Tim Tebow today.”
 
Keys for the Houston Texans against the Ravens next week…
McNabb: “The key to this offense against Baltimore is Owen Daniels. I think Owen Daniels has to have an excellent game, putting pressure on their linebackers and safeties, getting the ball out of his hands and giving them an opportunity to establishthat rhythm.” 
Hoge: “If they can run the football, they control the game. … They’ve got to neutralize Ray Rice. If they do that, and they keep Yates in those controllable, manageable situations, he complements it well.”
Johnson: “Andre Johnson will have an opportunity to be healthy and take advantage of that weak secondary in Baltimore. If they can find him the same way they found him yesterday, then they have an opportunity and a chance to win this game.”
 
After being asked by Kolber whether he is a “free agent TV analyst” or a “free agent quarterback” …
Guest analyst McNabb: “I am a free agent, and this is an exciting time for me because it’s one that I haven’t been a part of all throughout my career. So, I still have some football left. I’m gonna enjoy this time, obviously training and gettingmyself together. Most importantly, I get to step away from the game and just focus more on what’s best for Donovan.”
 
When asked what he’s hoping for…
McNabb: “Well, you have to be in the best situation possible. What’s best for me coming in there and providing a spark for the team and helping, or stepping to the set and, you know, provide my expertise in a lot of situations.”
 
NOTE: attached is photo from today’s Sunday NFL Countdown (l-r) ESPN’s Merril Hoge and Suzy Kolber with guest analyst Donovan McNabb, who addressed his free agency and discussed other NFL topics on today’s show in Bristol, Conn. (Photo credit:ESPN/Joe Faraoni)
 
Stock Up-Stock Down…
Carter (on the Philadelphia Eagles):  “The Eagles are like one of those great American stocks, GE, they’re solid. Even if they had a bad year, you gotta hold onto it because you know it’s gonna bounce back. The reason why you keep this stock isone name: Andy Reid.”
Jackson (on the Dallas Cowboys):  “Stock down. … I’m going to suspend trading on this because when you invest time and again and never get any returns, can’t keep ‘em.”
Ditka (on the Chicago Bears):  “It’s down right now because of the injuries, and they’ve got to sign Matt Forte. I think they’ve made bad personnel decisions. They got rid of their general manager. They need to get some game-breaker receivers inthere and get this kid (Cutler) some help.”
 
On the fallout with the Jets after they did not make the playoffs, reports of dissention among the players, and backup quarterback Greg McElroy’s comments on radio about the locker room this week…
Schefter: “I would think there will not be a warm reception waiting for him (McElroy). … When you look big picture at the Jets, it’s no secret they’re going to make wholesale changes. … The offensive coaching staff will have the biggest changesthat will impact this team next season.”
 
Advice to McElroy and the Jets…
McNabb: “I believe it’s important that you keep it to yourself. Make sure you resolve the situation in the locker room, and you go from there. … He’s seeing something different now. He’s seeing grown men who are getting paid millions of dollars,to go out and get paid more, possibly, if they play well. There are a lot of selfish people in the locker room. I played in different locker rooms. I know about that. But there are things that stay in house. He’s learned that now.”
Ditka: “You gotta keep the dirt in house, and even the good things. Keep it in house. Try to work it out. But that’s the coach’s responsibility now.”
 
 

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