NFL Playoff Storylines
Here are some of the top storylines to watch as the NFL season winds its way toward Tampa and Super Bowl XLIII, beginning with Can the Giants repeat? They looked like heavy favorites earlier, but after a tumultuous December in which they lost three of four games and were distracted by Plaxico Burress and hobbled by injuries, are the champs still the favorites?
The Steelers were fortunate to have had a bye week considering what happened in their season finale. Will there be any lingering effects from Ben Roethlisberger's Week 17 concussion?
A few clubs have ridden the early success of rookie and second-year coaches to the playoffs. How will Baltimore (Jim Harbaugh, pictured), Arizona (Ken Whisenhunt) and Pittsburgh (Mike Tomlin) (Mike Smith) and Miami (Tony Sparano) fare in the postseason spotlight with young skippers at the helm?
How far can an 8-8 team go in the playoffs? Phillip Rivers and the Chargers have essentially been playing must-win playoff games for a month, running off five straight wins to earn the AFC West crown and a wild-card victory. But is this the Chargers' club that was picked as a preseason favorite or the one that sputtered to a 4-8 start?
The battle of youth versus experience moves front and center as Super Bowl champion quarterbacks like Kurt Warner, Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger compete with rookie Joe Flacco.
Was the Titans' schedule really as soft as people said it was? Tennessee passed a big test with a Week 16 win over Pittsburgh, but the Titans were dogged all season by criticism that their schedule was soft. Time to prove they earned that No. 1 seed.
Can anyone shut down DeAngelo Williams? Carolina's running back finished the season with 1,515 rushing yards, and averaged 5.5 yards per carry - the highest by a player with at least 1,500 rushing yards in a season since Barry Sanders averaged 6.1 yards per carry in 1997.
Which running back will show up, and how will he be used? Both Edgerrin James and LaDainian Tomlinson have had up-and-down seasons, but their teams need them at their best now. Can James get enough touches to free up Kurt Warner to pass? And is Tomlinson healthy enough to carry the Chargers, or will they have to rely on Darren Sproles again?