Well, if you watched the last game of the round, you probably thought this was one of the best divisional rounds we’ve seen in a long time. And truth be told, you’re pretty much right, though the Titans/Patriots was a “meh” game with the Patriots unsurprisingly destroyed the Titans (though the Titans led 7-0 to start the game). So the AFC and NFC Championship games are set after this weekend. So let’s look and see how it all happened.
NFC DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF:
EAGLES 15, FALCONS 10: In a game that went probably colder than most expected, the game was a defensive struggle for both….somewhat. Many felt like the Falcons squandered opportunity after opportunity to really take down the Eagles. On the other hand, Philadelphia did just enough to keep Atlanta’s offense at bay and muster a few key plays and drives to net a TD and 3 FG’s. The game was highlighted late by the Falcons squandering a 1st-and-goal to go where they opted to pass on all downs, including the last one where Julio Jones let it go through his hands. MY TAKE: Okay, I’m biased on this because I am a Falcons fan, but this game was the entire season for the Falcons offense. Drive down into territory, sputter, and kick a FG. Dropped passes, dumb play-calling, and the inability of making a clutch play late. Yes, Matt Ryan had a letdown from his 2016 MVP season, but his targets, notably Julio Jones, Taylor Gabriel, and Austin Hooper, completely let their quarterback down with key drops and Julio himself squandered on a few occasions of being the game-winning TD (Carolina earlier in the year and now). Adding on, Steve Sarkisian is not an NFL coordinator. The schemes he calls works for a PAC-12 team, not against the Eagles. That said, you do have to tip your cap to Philadelphia’s defense who were after it all game. They took the underdog role and ran with it.
VIKINGS 29, SAINTS 24: Well, this game will obviously be talked about for ages as Stefon Diggs caught the ball around the 30, and ran the rest of the way after a blown tackle by rookie safety Marcus Williams (who actually played an excellent game). The Vikings were close to just blowing the doors off of New Orleans in the first half, and most of the 3rd quarter. But when Drew Brees is on his game, he is just as unstoppable as Tom Brady. And he nearly pulled the Saints out of the deficit. Unfortunately, 10 seconds was all Case Keenum needed. MY TAKE: Wow. New Orleans on defense all year had been vastly improved, but I never dreamed that they would blow it like they did at the end. Yes, Williams made a mistake, but there was another guy in the area who could have made the tackle. Sean Payton nearly got bailed out by his team for taking two inept challenges in the 4th. Not that it meant much given how everything turned out, but who knows, if those challenges weren’t happening, he would have a few more seconds of Diggs NOT doing what he did. Anyway, Keenum’s confidence has blown up for next week’s tilt in Philadelphia. That is the one thing that if I were the Eagles, I’d worry about.
PATRIOTS 35, TITANS 14: Well, many expected this and was spot on. Tom Brady did what he does best and the Titans just couldn’t move. Was it the cold weather that nailed them this go around? Nah, it is the Patriots. Early on, the Titans moved the ball well and got a few stops on 3rd down that was more of the Patriots making mistakes. But if you beat the Patriots, you need to be on top of your game and then some. And the Titans are too young of a team for that just yet. MY TAKE: Well, it is what I expected. Brady against a middle-tier defense like Tennessee’s is just too easy for him. Gronkowski against a defense like Tennessee’s was practice. For all the drama unfolding in New England the last two weeks, the Patriots went on the business-like approach and did what they do best. That is why the Patriots are what they are.
JAGUARS 45, STEELERS 42: Yeah, wow. Didn’t expect this to be a Madden game, but it was. The Jaguars in the first half methodically went down the field on Pittsburgh and did whatever they wanted to, mostly on the ground. Blake Bortles made the key passes to keep drives alive and played SMART, though the numbers won’t show it. The Steelers made more than a few big plays to keep them in the game, but the defense, who needed a stop, never really got that key stop to change the momentum. MY TAKE: I will look at it from the Jags perspective. Jacksonville won with their offense and Blake Bortles doing enough to win the game. The defense, I’m a bit perplexed by playing soft starting near the end of the first half when Jacksonville built a big lead. By a chance the Jags have a lead in New England next weekend, will they play soft again? Brady showed you can’t do that last year in the Super Bowl. But give credit to the Jags offense and Leonard Fournette & TJ Yeldon. As for Pittsburgh, maybe a rebuild is needed. The Steelers players were looking at next week more than this week, and that is bad especially when you are facing a team that handed it to you in the season at home. Poor coaching decisions by Mike Tomlin especially late in the 4th stung, and honestly, the Steelers may need to re-tool and get some of the knuckleheads out of Pittsburgh. And nobody fears the Steelers defense anymore so maybe it is time for a defensive coordinator change as well.
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat