The wild card round of the NFL playoffs started Saturday with the New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys both scoring big victories.
Shonn Greene and Thomas Jones each rushed for a score to headline New York's top-ranked rushing attack, and the Jets beat the Bengals for the second straight week, 24-14, to advance to the AFC's divisional round and extend Cincinnati's playoff win drought to 19 seasons. The rookie Greene ran for 135 yards on 21 carries for the Jets, who won a playoff game for the first time since the 2004 season. They beat the Bengals, 37-0, in Week 17 to earn a postseason spot. New York, the fifth seed, advanced to face either Indianapolis or San Diego next week. Mark Sanchez, also a rookie, threw for 182 yards and a touchdown on 12-of-15 passing, but more importantly did not turn the ball over. Dustin Keller added 99 yards and a score on three catches, as the Jets did not commit any turnovers in the win.
It took over 13 years, but the Cowboys finally snapped their playoff skid, and accomplished the task by dominating division rival Philadelphia for a second straight week. Tony Romo connected on 23-of-35 passes for 244 yards and a pair of scores in a 34-14 NFC wild card round rout of the Eagles, marking a result that shed postseason trends for both teams. The Cowboys hadn't won a playoff game since December 28, 1996, a 40-15 wild card triumph over Minnesota. Six straight postseason losses followed, but with Saturday's victory the Cowboys gave head coach Wade Phillips his first career playoff win. He had been 0-4 with Dallas, Buffalo and Denver. Felix Jones rumbled for 148 yards and a score for the third-seeded Cowboys, who earned a meeting with Brett Favre and the Vikings at the Metrodome next Sunday. Donovan McNabb finished 19-of-37 for 230 yards with a TD and one interception for the Eagles, who were a No. 6 seed a year ago when they advanced to the NFC championship game before losing to Arizona.
Playoff action resumes on Sunday with a pair of wild card tilts, the first a 1:00 p.m. (et) kickoff between the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots. New England and Tom Brady are back in the playoffs after a year hiatus, and the AFC East champions will be without leading wide receiver Wes Welker, who last week suffered a significant knee injury in a meaningless regular season finale. The Ravens, meanwhile, hope to advance to the AFC Championship for a second straight year as a No. 6 seed. The first step is a victory over the Patriots, who dealt Baltimore a 27-21 loss at Gillette Stadium in Week 4 earlier this year.
Over in the NFC, the Green Bay Packers hope to duplicate a Week 17 drubbing of the Arizona Cardinals, who had already wrapped up the NFC West weeks before the 33-7 defeat seven days ago. The Packers have been rolling down the stretch, winning seven of their last eight behind the stellar play of quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who will be competing in his first postseason opposite veteran signal-caller Kurt Warner. The Cardinals are the No. 4 seed in the conference for a second straight year, and another Super Bowl appearance is three victories away, though they will likely have to win Sunday with injured wide receiver Anquan Boldin on the sideline.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning has been selected as the NFL's Most Valuable Player for a record fourth time, as voted by the Associated Press. He was also named MVP last season to join Brett Favre as the only three-time winners, but now stands alone. The first of Manning's three MVP awards was a shared honor, as he and the late Steve McNair, then Tennessee's quarterback, captured the award in 2003. Manning won it again the following year, when he threw a then-league record 49 touchdown passes. Manning was the backbone of a Colts team that began the 2009 season with 14 consecutive victories to extend their NFL-record regular season winning streak to 23 games. He threw for 4,500 yards this season, becoming the fourth player in league history to throw for 50,000 career yards, while also completing 68.8 percent of his passes with 33 touchdowns, 16 interceptions and a passer rating of 99.9.
Pete Carroll is reportedly close to leaving the powerhouse he built at USC to try his hand again at the NFL. The Trojans head coach was close to reaching an agreement with the Seattle Seahawks to become their next head coach and president at a base salary of $7 million per year, according to a report in a Los Angeles newspaper. The courtship of the 58-year-old former head coach of New England and the New York Jets began after the sudden firing of Jim Mora after one season Friday. In four NFL seasons, Carroll owns a 33-31 record, which is in stark contrast to the massive success he's had at USC. After taking over in late 2000, Carroll has led the Trojans to two national championships and a 97-19 record with seven bowl wins.
Texas Tech has chosen former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville as its next head football coach, the school announced Saturday. The school will hold a press conference Sunday in Lubbock to introduce Tuberville, who replaces Mike Leach. Leach was fired with cause December 30 in the wake of allegations regarding the treatment of receiver Adam James, who had a concussion. The school elevated defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill to interim head coach for Texas Tech's Alamo Bowl win over Michigan State on January 2. Tuberville did not coach this past season after resigning from Auburn following the 2008 campaign, when the Tigers went 5-7 despite entering the season ranked 10th in the nation. He had been head coach at Auburn since 1999 and led the team to an 85-40 record, including a 13-0 campaign and No. 2 national ranking in 2004.
The Texas Rangers have agreed on a one-year contract with outfielder Vladimir Guerrero. The team's website reports that the contract contains an option year for 2011. The 14-year pro will turn 35 in February and joins the Rangers after spending the last six seasons with AL West rival Los Angeles. Guerrero will most likely serve as Texas' designated hitter, as injuries have limited his role in the outfield. Last season, in just 100 games -- two in the outfield -- he hit .295 with a .334 on-base percentage while slugging 15 homers and knocking in 50 runs. In 1,850 career games with the Angels and Expos, Guerrero has hit 407 homers with 1,318 RBI while batting .321 with a robust .386 on- base percentage.
Boston Bruins forward Marc Savard is expected to miss 3-to-4 weeks with a Grade 2 partial MCL tear in his right knee. Savard, who will not require surgery, had to be helped to the dressing room after just 28 seconds elapsed in Thursday's 5-2 loss to Chicago. He has nine goals and 13 assists in 28 games. He missed time earlier this season because of a broken foot.
Lucas Glover birdied the 18th hole to shoot a two-under 71 and remain in the lead Saturday after three rounds of the SBS Championship. Glover has now led after all three rounds of the PGA Tour's season-opener -- an outcome that was anything but certain on a windy day at Kapalua that saw the reigning U.S. Open winner struggle to fend off Geoff Ogilvy. Ogilvy took advantage of back-to- back bogeys by Glover to pull ahead around the turn and was the only other player to hold a lead Saturday. The defending SBS champion fired a five-under 68 and moved into second place at 16-under 203. Martin Laird (69) was third at 15-under 204 and Ryan Moore (68) stood fourth at 14-under 205.