“These two teams that we’re doing, San Diego and the Colts, I could see them going to the Super Bowl.” – NBC’s Madden
“Peyton Manning Should Be the MVP of the NFL.” – NBC’s Madden
NEW YORK – Dec. 30, 2008 – NBC Sports will broadcast live coverage of NFL Wild Card Saturday Doubleheader starting at 4 p.m. ET with a special edition of the “Football Night in America” studio show followed by the NFC West champion Arizona Cardinals (9-7) hosting the Atlanta Falcons (11-5) at 4:30 p.m. ET. At 8 p.m. ET, the AFC West champion San Diego Chargers (8-8) will host Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts (12-4), winners of nine games in a row.
The “NBC Sunday Night Football” team of Al Michaels (play-by-play), John Madden (analyst) and Andrea Kremer (sideline reporter) will call the Colts-Chargers game from San Diego. Tom Hammond (play-by-play), Cris Collinsworth (analyst) and Tiki Barber (sideline reporter) will call the Falcons-Cardinals game from Arizona.
Bob Costas (host), Keith Olbermann (co-host), Dan Patrick (co-host), analyst Jerome “The Bus” Bettis, and reporter Peter King of Sports Illustrated will analyze the playoffs from the “Football Night in America” studio at 30 Rock.
NBC Sports today held a media conference call with Madden and Collinsworth to preview the playoffs.
MADDEN ON THE COLTS AND CHARGERS: “These two teams that we’re doing, San Diego and the Colts, I could see them going to the Super Bowl, I really could. Both of them are peaking at the right time. For some reason, the Colts have been under the radar, and the Chargers have been too.
“When the Colts started out slowly, people kind of gave up on them and then maybe forgot about them. And then boom — Peyton Manning gets healthy, because he didn’t start out healthy, and they win nine in a row. It’s important that you’re peaking at the end of the season. The Colts right now are probably the definition of a team that is peaking coming into the playoffs.”
COLLINSWORTH ON PEYTON MANNING: “If you gave me a vote for the MVP, which nobody ever has, but I would love to do it someday, Peyton Manning would get my vote. With the injuries they’ve faced, with the struggles on defense that they’ve had at times, with the injuries on the offensive line, overcoming his own injuries and not going through training camp and all the preparation that he’s had to, I’m not sure that you could take any one player off of their team and have a bigger impact than if you took Peyton Manning off of this team.”
“I look at the Colts as really a four to five win team despite a lot of good players out there if you took Peyton Manning off and to me that sort of is the very definition of the MVP.”
MADDEN ON MANNING: “Peyton Manning should be the MVP in the NFL.”
COLLINSWORTH ON PHILIP RIVERS: “It’s interesting that Philip Rivers didn’t even make the Pro Bowl, and now that brings us to another point: that we vote for the Pro Bowl too soon. I mean when you voted for the Pro Bowl, Philip Rivers was four and eight or the San Diego Chargers were, and he was coming off a bad game.”
COLLINSWORTH ON THE NBC GAMES: “We have two tremendous matchups. Interestingly, two of the last three years we’ve seen teams come out of this Wild Card round and go on and win the Super Bowl. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if it happened again this time around because there certainly are some great teams at the bottom.”
MADDEN ON WILD CARD WEEKEND: “It used to be that Wild Card weekend didn’t mean much. The top four teams get byes and they’re not playing and the big games will be the next week and the week after when those guys play because they’ll probably be the Super Bowl teams. The last two out of three Super Bowl teams came out of the Wild Card and the blueprint is so fresh with the New York Giants. Just a year ago the Giants did this. They were not only in the Wild Card but they had to play every game on the road.”
COLLINSWORTH ON WILD CARD TEAMS: “On a neutral site, these are easy games to pick. I would take all four road teams, but you’re not talking about a neutral site. You’re talking about the playoffs and you’re talking about fans that are going to be a little fired up for the playoffs and you’re talking about some pretty good quarterbacks in there that have been down this road before with Chad Pennington and Kurt Warner and Philip Rivers playing so tough in the championship game a season ago. This is about as interesting as I can remember the Wild Card round being and the two games we have on Saturday are going to be fantastic.”
COLLINSWORTH ON ATLANTA-ARIZONA: “You’re going to see Atlanta try and pound the football at Arizona and Arizona of course with Kurt Warner and their great wide receivers throwing it all over the park in perfect weather.”
COLLINSWORTH ON INDIANAPOLIS-SAN DIEGO: “Indy-San Diego to me has become one of the real classic matchups in the NFL. Indy is always sort of the favorite. San Diego finds a way to make Peyton Manning look bad, except for this year they finally got over the hump with this team and went on a last second field goal. I think we’re going to see four great games but I especially like the two that we have.”
MADDEN ON WILD CARD TEAMS: “Sometimes the team that’s in the tougher division can be a wild card team and be the better team than a team that is in a weaker division and wins the division. I think that’s what we’re seeing here, that some of the wild card teams from some of the divisions are really stronger than the division winners in the weak division. All four road teams can be favorites in these games.”
MADDEN ON NORV TURNER: “Any coach has to be who they are and that’s the biggest thing. You can’t be a phony. If you’re a quiet, reserved type of guy you can’t be running around yelling and screaming, and if you’re one of those yellers and screamers you can’t be a reserved guy. You have to be yourself, especially if you’re going to be in it for a long time. If you’re not yourself then you’re a phony and players catch a phony right off the bat. Norv isn’t a phony.
“There’s 32 jobs and there’s not 32 Vince Lombardi’s. I’m not saying he’s one of the great head coaches of all time, but name me half of them in the league that are better than him.”
COLLINSWORTH ON TURNER: “The minute Norv Turner decides that he’s going to be Vince Lombardi and start screaming and yelling, those players are going to roll their eyes and go ‘are you kidding me?’ It’s over with at that point because now they know he’s trying too hard. It’s actually one of the strengths of Norv Turner that he’s maintained who he is. I think Norv Turner has earned the trust of this football team.”
COLLINSWORTH ON ATLANTA’S TURNAROUND: “I don’t want to sound like a therapist or anything but sometimes you have to hit rock bottom. I think this organization with the coach going out, the Michael Vick thing, the fans were starting to turn on them and then you sort of hit bottom. Then you have to do everything our high school football coach taught us about the game of football. We have to be in this together, we have to spend the extra time in the off-season. We have to work out more than the playoff teams did a season ago and find a way to make the whole thing work. You also can’t do that with out players. There’s no question that this season we have seen a transformation in some guys that have been given an opportunity with Atlanta.
COLLINSWORTH ON MATT RYAN AND THE FALCONS: “Everyone knows the story with Matt Ryan and what a remarkable one it is, but I can remember at the beginning of the season and the story was there’s no way this offensive line can protect Matt Ryan. Matt Ryan is going to die in his rookie year. I can remember hearing the stories about how bad they were, and yet when I put on the tape and watch them block for Michael Turner and for Jerious Norwood and for Matt Ryan, they’re not the greatest players in the world, they’re not all going to the Pro Bowl but as a team they’re pretty good. This is a team that has collectively found a way to turn it around. It’s what makes the NFL exciting.”
MADDEN ON JOE FLACCO: “Here’s the guy that is the most unlikely quarterback personality that I’ve ever met in my life. You know in high school and college he never owned a car. He never owned a car and he still doesn’t. When he finally got to Baltimore, someone gave him a car. He’s just a gym rat, and this is the first time that I remember a Baltimore Ravens defense ever liking their quarterback.”
MADDEN ON ANDY REID: “Isn’t funny how a coach in the NFL can go from losing his mind a month ago to being a genius a month later?”
COLLINSWORTH: “I only wish it could happen to me every once in a while.”
COLLINSWORTH ON DALLAS NOT MAKING THE PLAYOFFS: “I don’t want to turn this into a therapy session but I think there are a lot of reasons that it didn’t work. From an outsider’s standpoint, maybe the fact that it didn’t work is good for all of us who love sports. Look at this as a way of legitimizing the team concept and the idea that if you don’t put your team first and you’re putting yourself above the team, it’s never going to work. I think that’s what happened to the Cowboys this year.”
NFC – NO. 5 FALCONS (11-5) AT NO. 4 CARDINALS (9-7):
The Arizona Cardinals will be hosting their first home playoff game since moving to the southwest and first since 1947 when they were the Chicago Cardinals; the franchise’s last playoff appearance came in 1998. Arizona, which scored a franchise record 424 points, boasts a high-flying attack led by QB Kurt Warner and wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.
The Atlanta Falcons are in the postseason for the first time since 2004, led by rookie QB Matt Ryan and RB Michael Turner who ran for nearly 1,700 yards. The Falcons ended the season winning five of their last six, and eight of their last 10.
AFC – NO. 5 COLTS (12-4) AT NO. 4 CHARGERS (8-8):
The Indianapolis Colts, after starting the season 3-4, ran off nine straight victories to end the season as the NFL’s hottest team. It marked the sixth straight season the Colts have won at least 12 games. Peyton Manning finished with 4,000 yards for a record ninth straight season.
The Chargers also rode a winning streak to the postseason, coming from 4-8 to win their last four games and capture the AFC West title, including a 52-21 thrashing of the Denver Broncos in the season finale. For San Diego, it is their third straight division title.
The teams met last season in an AFC Divisional Round playoff game with the Chargers coming from behind to win 28-24. Billy Volek, subbing for the injured Philip Rivers, scored the game-winner on a quarterback sneak.
CREDITS: Fred Gaudelli is the producer of “NBC Sunday Night Football” and Drew Esocoff is the director. They will handle the Colts-Chargers game. This is Gaudelli and Esocoff’s third season at the helm of “Sunday Night Football.”
The Falcons-Cardinals game will be produced by Tucson-native Tommy Roy, who produced Super Bowl XXXII, the last NFL game on NBC prior to its return to the NFL in 2006. Roy also was executive producer for Super Bowls XXXII, XXX and XXVIII. John Gonzalez will serve as director. Gonzalez, currently the director for NBC’s Notre Dame football broadcasts, directed four Super Bowls for NBC, including Super Bowl XXXII alongside Roy