Before you run off to bet this weekend’s NFL playoffs games, you may want to consider what happened last week, as there are some crucial lessons to be learned.
1) Colts 45, Chiefs 44
For some reason, even when the Colts were looking up at a four touchdown deficit, we both knew that Kansas City was going to blow it. The problem with having a team that calls plays that conservatively is that when you need them to change the pace of the game, they just can’t fucking do it. That’s sound a bit crazy to say about a team which hung 44 points on the board, but the fact remains that’s what killed the Chiefs in the end.
Realistically all they had to do was keep Indy’s offense off the field, and they couldn’t do it. As productive as they were in the first half, the Chiefs were every bit as incompetent in the second half and let every chance of wrapping this game up slip away. Andrew Luck may have pulled this one out of his ass, but this isn’t the type of thing that he’ll be able to do every week, and he definitely won’t be able to do it against New England, unless their entire secondary gets hurt. Given the Patriots’ track record might actually not be unthinkable.
This game was a microcosm of the Chiefs’ season – they got off to a great start and then bit the dust when it really counted. Andy Reid has turned that team around, but not yet to the point where they are going to go on some massive Super Bowl run.
2) Saints 24, Eagles 23
This was something that we both really missed. We crashed our scooters into the brick wall that is the mind of Sean Payton and paid for it with what little was remaining of our predictive skills and/or reputation. This was not supposed to happen at all. The Eagles should have rolled the Saints, but found themselves down 20-7 with five minutes left in the third quarter. They were able to score multiple times after that, but didn’t execute in the red zone when they needed to. In the end, too many blown opportunities for Philadelphia cost them everything and they surrendered a win for which almost everyone had them penned in.
3) Chargers 27, Bengals 10
We’ve both been to charity raffles that weren’t as big of giveaways as Andy Dalton was doing with the football in the second half of this debacle. It’s like he had a U-Haul parked outside the donation station at Goodwill and was giving his shit away like a guy who had decided to blow his brains out. The Chargers were blitzing like they had lit dynamite in their asses, and that pressure was the difference maker. As for Philip Rivers, he moves on to face a team in Denver that he can definitely beat, because he’s done it recently.
4) 49ers 23, Packers 20
This is precisely why sometimes statistics don’t matter. Both of these quarterbacks did not put up great numbers, but Kaepernick played a great game, and that’s why he emerged victorious. Think about this for a second: Kaepernick finished this game with 98 yards rushing, and two of his runs were drive-saving first downs. Fox ran a stat about how balanced the Packers’ offense had been when it came to play calling, but what the fuck does it matter when the other guy can run the ball down your throat?
You won’t likely hear dick squat about Kaepernick’s ground game because he didn’t crack 100, but how often does any quarterback in pro football quietly put up that number? He was an absolute beast at beating the Packers to the yard marker on Sunday, which leads one to believe the Packers were the only team in the league who didn’t get the memo about that.
When he does a play action pass or a play-fake, he doesn’t necessarily hide it well. He starts doing the exact opposite of whatever he fakes on the bottom end, so you’d think that it’d be easy to decode. But when a guy has that kind of athleticism, there’s really nothing that you can do to counter it. The Packers looked confused as hell at times offensively, and if Aaron Rodgers is such an amazing motivator, then why couldn’t they score more than 20 points? Simple…Because the 49ers are stacked at almost every position – especially on defense. They just take out chunks of your passing game before you even realize it’s gone, and that’s what happened in this one.
So, what does all that means for this weekend? Let’s take a look
1) New Orleans Saints (11-6) +8 at Seattle Seahawks (13-3) (47.5)
New Orleans was able to sneak out of Philadelphia with a one point victory over the Eagles, but we’re guessing they won’t be so lucky in this one. The Eagles have holes where at times their defense can be repeatedly exposed and abused much like the poor young woman in the video Meehan has pulled up next to this, but the Seahawks are built much differently. Seattle is the only team in the league that seems to have the effect that both of their squads are on the field at the same time. They make you play such a field position game that you feel like you never truly get a break. Even though the Saints did beat the Eagles, you get the feeling that the type of game we just mentioned which forces them to play that match-up doesn’t end well for them. That’s precisely why they are eight point underdogs, and Vegas is being extremely generous to them with that line. Percy Harvin could have the breakout game of his career here, so stay tuned for that. Seattle is going to rock out with their hawk out, so good luck jack-hammering that phrase out of your head anytime soon.
2) Indianapolis Colts (12-5) +7.5 at New England Patriots (12-4) (53)
It’s quite possible that Andrew Luck is the most aptly named individual in the world with the exception of Plummers Craq – the German guy J-Dub calls when his pipes freeze. He was down over three scores last week and still managed to get out of his own building alive. He had to rely on the stadium’s ambulance to pick up the Kansas City Chiefs secondary like they were hitchhikers offering free handjobs, but he somehow had Tebow-like divine guidance on his way to doing so.
The Patriots are suffering from the same Grim Reaper Ambulance driver route, only they have another ambulance behind it full of guys who have been ready enough to step up to the point where New England finished 12-4 and narrowly missed the one seed in the AFC. That ambulance is wearing a hooded sweatshirt and this time of the year he always seems to be familiar with the territory. The Patriots have been in the playoffs more than anyone else in the past ten years, and they’ve been able to do so with the same guy leading their team the whole time. Guys have retired and went on to be sub-average broadcasters like Tedy Brushci, and other dudes have turned their focus to hardcore bareback prison sex such as Aaron Hernandez. Not to mention, they’ve seen what very little they have to work with disappear, such as losing Gronk twice in the same season and leaving them wonder at what point does he get eaten by wolves on the field. The defense hasn’t faired much better; that unit snapped along with Vince Wilfork’s Achilles’ tendon.
The moment their season effectively stops is the moment where Tom Brady has to spend too much time explaining everything and laying it out for these guys is the moment that they stop winning with such a depleted roster. In last year’s AFC Championship Brady tried to do too much coaching and in the process forgot that he was still a player. We don’t think that their season will end this week, but that moment is not far off in the near future and the Pats are still a long shot to win the Super Bowl.
Indianapolis is playing with house money at this point. They probably don’t deserve to be here and it took them until the very last second to assure them that they would be. An early season road win against the 49ers shows that they can in fact win outside in the other team’s yard, but we’re guessing the forecast for those two games are going to look very different. The Colts signing Deion Branch is more than a mental thing if anything at all…Now that doesn’t mean that if he scores the game winning touchdown that we won’t laugh our balls off, but the second time he came back to play for New England he had gained more weight than a knocked-up Kardashian and was not nearly as effective.
3) San Francisco 49ers (13-4) +1.5 at Carolina Panthers (12-4) (42)
The Carolina Panthers are hosting a playoff game, which is a sentence fragment that is actually in English although the concept seems very foreign to most NFL fans. The Panthers has a winning percentage of .750 on the season, and saw a huge defensive star emerge in Luke Kuechly who had four interceptions in just his second year in the NFL. He’s the result of a Ron Rivera defense that has torn up the NFC all year long, and there’s no way anybody could have seen that coming. The 49ers are the only road team that’s favored this week, and they were also favored against Green Bay last week. This game will be played with grit between the hash marks, but it will be what these quarterbacks can do outside the hash marks that may either get them killed or wind up as crucial third down conversions in this game. Somehow we can’t see Cam Newton getting the better of that match-up.
4) San Diego Chargers (10-7) +9.5 at Denver Broncos (13-3) (54.5)
The game that isn’t getting any press coverage is one that actually might be the most fascinating. Denver has listened to almost everybody in America give them shit for their defense, which has hardly been marvelous by any stretch of imagination. Now they are running into the Chargers, who are arguably the hottest team in the NFL at the moment and just won a huge road game in Cincinnati. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they can beat Denver and they’ll have to go there in order to do it. That’s entirely possible on their own right, but let’s not forget about the Manning Choke factor.