Down and Distance: Wild Card Edition

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who usually struggles in the month of December, threw 12 touchdowns and only one interception in the season's final month to lift the Cowboys to the NFC East crown. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Tony Romo, who usually struggles in the month of December, threw for 12 touchdowns and only one interception in the season’s final month to lift the Cowboys to the NFC East crown. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Happy New Year, football fans!

With the calendar turned to January, that means we’re getting ready for the NFL postseason, and our playoff edition of Down and Distance is all about talking about the playoffs. But even before that, the hosts of the show, Holly Culbertson and Adesina O. Koiki, use the First Down segment to go over the 2014 NFL Most Valuable Player race, one of the most hotly contested races for the award in recent memory. Is Aaron Rodgers a lock? Will J.J. Watt become the first defensive player since Lawrence Taylor to win the award, and how much does the Houston Texans not making the playoffs play a factor in that? We break down 11 different players in serious consideration for the award, and Holly and Adesina officially cast their votes.

On Second Down, we take you back to August of 2014 and an interview we did with Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, the AFC’s leader in rushing yards this season (1,361). Bell will be missing the Saturday night playoff game between his Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens with a hyperextended knee, but his regular season was one that ranks right up there with the best seasons of Pittsburgh Steeler running backs of the past like Franco Harris, Rocky Bleier and Jerome Bettis. Before the regular season started, we caught up with Bell about what he did in the offseason to set himself up to have a successful 2014. Bell shed more than 15 pounds to get ready for this season, and he shared with us what foods he had to (begrudgingly) sacrifice to get to his ideal playing weight and be able to better shoulder the load in the backfield for the Black and Gold.

Third Down brings a preview of, and predictions on, the four games in Wild Card Weekend. Along with the Baltimore-Pittsburgh game, the Arizona Cardinals will take on the Carolina Panthers on Saturday. Arizona may be 11-5, but have to go on the road to take on a Carolina Panthers team that may be 7-8-1, but are on a roll as they closed out the season – and the NFC South Division title – with four straight wins. On Sunday, Cincinnati plays in Indianapolis and Detroit goes on the road to take on the Dallas Cowboys. On fourth down, Holly has to ponder whether the NFL will quickly change its rule on division winners and whether teams like the Panthers should host a playoff game despite having an inferior record to their playoff opponent.

Please enjoy the podcast, and leave us any and all comments that you have. Click here to go to the A Lot of Sports Talk podcast page on iTunes, and from there, you can download this show as well as subscribe to our podcast page and receive new episodes on your device the second it is posted. You can also open iTunes, and in the Podcasts section, type in “A Lot of Sports Talk” in the search box to find our shows.

Interview Order: First Down (0:00-30:51); Le’Veon Bell Interview (30:58-37:03); Third/Fourth Downs (37:11-1:18:27)

[Cover photo (Joe Flacco/Ben Roethlisberger) courtesy of Gregory Shamus/Getty Images]

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