Dissecting NFL Divisional Weekend
Source: USA Today
When teams in the NFL get to this point, they are either a top seed ready to play a home playoff game in their stadium, or a team that had just won a wild-card game the week earlier. The ones that survived now must get ready to play the top teams in their house, with the winners advancing to the Conference Championships.
As we witnessed this past weekend, getting the bye with extra rest and playing a home game matters a lot as all 4 top seeds advanced, not to mention that these are the top 4 scoring offences as well, setting the stage for some crazy offensive football ahead of us but first let us recap how we got here:
(1) Kansas City Chiefs 31, (6) Indianapolis Colts 13
This one was a wash right from the get-go. The Chiefs were led by quarterback Patrick "Show Time" Mahomes, played the way they have all season jumping out to an early 17-0 lead. The Colts got some life with a rare blocked punt returned for a touchdown that got them back into it momentarily, as Kansas City would get back their 3-score lead, scoring another touchdown before the half to go up 24-7. Colts starting QB Andrew Luck and the Indy offense could only get into the end zone once as the Chiefs, normally scoring points with dominant passing numbers were powered by running back Damien Williams, who was the star of the show rushing for 129 yards. The Kansas City Chiefs look like they are here and here to stay.
(2) New England Patriots 41, (5) Los Angeles Chargers 28
This matchup pitted the two oldest starting quarterbacks in the league going against each other with Tom Brady and Philip Rivers. A great storyline, but this game was not even close. Same old story, same old New England Patriots as they scored early and often, striking first on an opening possession touchdown and while the Chargers answered right back after that tying up the game at 7, the Patriots would score 4 more unanswered touchdowns to take a 35-7 lead at the half. Los Angeles would have to play catchup the rest of the game and scored a few more touchdowns, but it was too little too late as New England held on to go to their 8th AFC Championship game in a row and 13th in the last 18 years. Could there be yet another Super Bowl run for Tom Brady and Bill Belichik to put on their historic resume?
(1) New Orleans Saints 20, (6) Philadelphia Eagles 14
Much was talked about how the Saints blew out the Eagles 48-7 down in The Big Easy back on Week 11, but would this one be any different? Right off the bat, we got our answer as Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw an interception on a long-bomb way down the field in the 1st play of the game. This would set the tone for the rest of the game as the Eagles would then use that momentum to jump out early to a 14-0 lead. The Saints got inside the 5 later in the half and missed a 3rd down conversion, but Head Coach Sean Payton, always aggressive in his play calling, went for it on 4th down converting it into a touchdown to get the Saints back in the game. They would later get a field goal at the end of the 1st half to close the gap to 14-10. New Orleans would then go on a touchdown drive that ate up almost the entire 3rd quarter to take the lead and control of the game, and wouldn't look back shutting down Eagles QB Nick Foles and the magic that took them to a Super Bowl victory a year ago. The game ended with a throw that went right through WR Alshon Jeffery's hands and into the arms of Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore to seal the deal, the game was closer than anyone could have predicted.
(2) Los Angeles Rams 30, (4) Dallas Cowboys 22
On the opening drive at the old Coliseum, the Big Dallas D held Los Angeles to just a field goal then answer with a big touchdown pass by QB Dak Prescott to WR Amari Cooper to take a 7-3 lead. After that, it was all Rams as they methodically moved the ball down the field, every time they had it, scoring on 4 of the 5 possessions they had in the 1st half save for a last-second missed 63-yard field goal attempt. The Rams also dominated in time of possession and 1st downs primarily by running the football, essentially beating the Cowboys at their own game. The Cowboys defence had no answer for the 1-2 punch at running back in Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson, who both rushed for over 100 yards. The Rams had a game plan and executed it with perfection showing why they were 13-3 during the regular season as QB Jared Goff gets his 1st postseason win. As for the Cowboys and their fans (like me), the frustration of not getting to an NFC Championship game since last winning the Super Bowl in 1996 continues, not to mention they have lost their last 8 road playoff games dating back over a quarter of a century.
And then there were 4 in the chase for Super Bowl LIII:
MERCEDES-BENZ SUPERDOME - SUNDAY 3:05PM (FOX) (2) Los Angeles Rams @ (1) New Orleans Saints
ARROWHEAD STADIUM - SUNDAY 6:40PM (CBS) (2) New England Patriots @ (1) Kansas City Chiefs
ENJOY CHAMPIONSHIP SUNDAY!!!