29 thoughts on “2018-2019 NFL Playoffs: Divisional Round

  1. Colts-Chiefs

    Will the Colts run the ball and control the clock? The Chiefs run defense isn’t good, so the Colts should be able to do this, if they choose. My uncertainty lies in the Colts pass-oriented offense. On the other hand, if they use their passing offense to control the clock, that could work, too.

    For the Chiefs, I think a lot rests on Mahomes ball security and ability to make key plays. This will be less critical if the Chiefs can be productive in the run game.

    Cowboys-Rams

    The key is that Cowboys running the ball, protecting the football, and controlling the clock. If they can score about about 24 points or so, I think they win.

    The key for both teams is keeping long yardage situations to a minimum–that means keeping negative plays and penalties to a minimum.

    I like the Cowboys because the Rams defense, like the Chiefs, isn’t that good, particularly against the run.

    Chargers-Patriots

    The first thing that comes to mind is the Chargers ability to run the ball especially from under center. My constant refrain about beating the Patriots is using more of traditional pro style offense, emphasizing the run and throwing on play action. Belichick’s tricks are less effective in this situation and his defense can be exposed. If Gordon has a big game, I would guess they win.

    Eagles-Saints

    The Saints have looked a little shaky, but they’re playing at home, so I would think they should win. But I have no idea about what to expect from the Eagles, so it’s hard for me to call this game.

  2. I would choose all the run-centric teams, which unlike what Reid said would include Indy. Mack ran for over 130 yards I believe, against the Texans. And lots of those yards when it mattered, not just after Indy was up 21-0.

    Indy, Kansas City:
    I like Indy to control the ball, which will elevate their chances. However, that alone will not make it a slam dunk. I think if Indy isn’t able to contain the weapons of Kansas City and allow big plays, Indy could kill in TOP and still lose a close one. I do like Indy though, just because I think their defense is supposed to be coached well, and will find ways to slow down the Chiefs.

    Dallas, Rams:
    I do not see Gurley having a big day. I know he was hurt and that’s a big reason the Rams has been struggling of late. I do think Gurley will be fairly healthy, but I still like Dallas’ chances in controlling him. I think it’s Dallas strength to take away a pass-catching back. If Gurley struggles, I think the Rams will struggle as well. Then it will depend like Reid said on how Dak is able to protect the ball. I like the Cowboys though, in this one. On a side note, many guys think Dallas doesn’t have a chance in this one, which includes Vegas who has Dallas as a seven-point dog. I would put Dallas as the favorite or at worse even based on how the Rams have been playing lately.

    Chargers, Patriots:
    The Chargers should win this game. They have the superior talent. At worse like the Cowboys, because NE is playing at home the Chargers should be close to even, imo. But I cannot shake the fact that NE is NE, and the Chargers are the Chargers. I have a feeling something bad is going to happen to the Chargers, and they will lose based on a bad turnover, or allowing Brady to get a game winning drive. I like the Pats.

    Eagles, Saints:
    As I said before, I think the Saints are the team to beat. But no game is a gimmie, and the Eagles has a chance to stop the Saints from running. The problem is the Saints have a good passing game as well. I like the Saints and I think they will win pretty handily.

    1. I would choose all the run-centric teams, which unlike what Reid said would include Indy

      To me, run-centric doesn’t just mean run the ball a lot or run well, but using the run as the foundation of the offense. I’ve seen the run well, but I wouldn’t say the run sets up the pass. It seems more complementary than central to what they do. I think there is a distinct contrast with other run-centric offenses (e.g., Seahawks, Cowboys, Broncos, etc.)

      I do like Indy though, just because I think their defense is supposed to be coached well, and will find ways to slow down the Chiefs.

      What comes to mind here is what happens in the red zone. Besides turnovers, what happens in the red zone for either team–i.e, who can score TDs versus FGs–seems crucial. With KC, special teams is a huge factor as well.

      If Gurley struggles, I think the Rams will struggle as well.

      Specifically, I think the effectiveness of the run game–and which team can stay out of long-yardage situations (which is tied to the run game). Goff and the Rams passing game is really different if run game is helping create manageable downs or not.

      On a side note, many guys think Dallas doesn’t have a chance in this one, which includes Vegas who has Dallas as a seven-point dog.

      Yeah, I don’t agree with this as well. I’m not confident to favor the Cowboys strongly in this, but there’s no way I think they don’t have a chance. They have a good chance of winning.

      But I cannot shake the fact that NE is NE, and the Chargers are the Chargers

      I think the way the Chargers offense plays–shotgun spread or more pro-style/play action–is going to be bigger factor. (The Chargers have shown capacity to do the latter, but they don’t do a lot of it.) If you tell me Rivers is going to be under center a lot, utilizing play action, and Gordon has a good day, I would say the Chargers will win. (The could still win in other ways.)

      Basically, the pro style way is an approach that Belichick can defeat by scheme. Basically, if he can find the right scheme to match what the Chargers do on offense and defense, then I suspect they’ll win. One caveat is that they’re best players seem a little old.

      The problem is the Saints have a good passing game as well.

      The one concern I have is my vague impression that the Saints WRs aren’t that good, with the exception of Thomas; and this plays to the Eagles favor because their secondary is weak. That is, the Saints may not be able to exploit the Eagles secondary.

      By the way, would you consider the Saints pass or run centric? I think they’ve become harder to peg. They kind of remind me of Tom Coughlin’s good offenses in New York. Both are a balance between pro style and spread. (If I had to guess, I’d say the Saints lean slightly towards the pass than the Giants did.)

      1. I know what you are saying with Indy’s run game versus the Cowboys and the others you mentioned, but Indy will play ball control on offense. They are looking to control the tempo and TOP. Which is in complete contrast to Luck’s early years in Indy. The thing I keep hearing about Indy is how their defense can scheme up to be better than their talent. Matt Eberflus came from the Cowboys, was hired by McDaniel and stayed when McDaniel left. Now people are talking about Eberflus like he’s a defensive McVey. We shall see, as his defense will be tested this week. The reason why I like the match up for Indy though, is if Indy’s defense can scheme well to make Kansas City earn their TDs and eliminate big plays, Kansas City may lose patience and Indy could run away with it. I cannot see Kansas City stopping Indy’s offense, so it will boil down to how Indy can stop Kansas City’s.

        As I stated before about the Saints, is how they stick with the run. Outside of the Cowboy loss, the Saints also struggled in the first half of the Tampa game and again in the first game against Carolina. But I thought in their struggles, they still stick with their run game. Something I never pegged Peyton as doing. And yes their receiving corp is not top notch outside of Thomas, but Brees can make receivers out of anybody. The Saints also proved at the end of this season that they can win “ugly” games when their high flying offense isn’t so high flying. Much more so than the Rams I believe.

        The big thing now is confidence pools, where you add a number to your picks based on your confidence of the winning team. I would have Saints at the highest with four, Indy at three, Cowboys at two, and Pats at one.

        1. I know what you are saying with Indy’s run game versus the Cowboys and the others you mentioned, but Indy will play ball control on offense.

          I would assume this as well, and I think they can control the ball. However, my guess is that they will do this with a short passing game, sprinkling in runs, operating more from the shotgun. I would be surprised if I see a lot of running, especially in a pro style way, with Luck throwing under 30 times.

          I cannot see Kansas City stopping Indy’s offense, so it will boil down to how Indy can stop Kansas City’s.

          I agree the Chiefs defense will likely have difficulty stopping the Colts offense, but there’s some question about the Colts tempo and red zone performance. That is, will they move up and down the field quickly or slowly. If they’re moving fast, and scoring, I’d guess the Colts defense won’t be able to contain the Chiefs offense, and then it comes down to a shoot out, probably who has the ball last. If the Colts offense can do well playing slow, then, yes, I think it comes down to containing the Chiefs’ explosive plays and TDs. It’s going to be that and turnovers and STs play.

          But I thought in their struggles, they still stick with their run game. Something I never pegged Peyton as doing.

          When you think of the Saints under Payton and with Brees, the explosive passing game stands out, and I think that has overshadowed, the role of the running game, and the extent to which they’ll run. It’s pretty clear that they lean towards the passing game, but I think they’re a little more balanced than people think–that’s definitely true for this team now. As I said earlier they’re reminding me of Coughlin’s teams, who, at their best did one of the best jobs of balancing and integrating spread and pro style offenses. I think you can see that now with this Saints team. (Same with the Patriots, although I think they’re leaning even more towards a pro style offense. I’ve said this before, but I can’t help saying it again: I really liked Coughlin’s conception of his teams. I think I prefer it to Carroll’s.*)

          And yes their receiving corp is not top notch outside of Thomas, but Brees can make receivers out of anybody.

          I think Brees is really good, but I wouldn’t say this. I think Payton plays a huge factor in this, and watching the Saints recently, neither he or Brees seemed to be able to get the passing game going. (The fact that the Saints signed both Dez Bryant and Brandon Marshall suggests they also believe that Payton’s schemes and Brees are not enough.)

          Here’s the thing, though: If the Saints OL gives Brees time, with Payton’s schemes going against the Eagles secondary, I can see the Saints passing game taking off. (Then again, they didn’t look that way against the Panthers, a team that has a vulnerable secondary. So maybe I’m wrong.)

          The Saints also proved at the end of this season that they can win “ugly” games when their high flying offense isn’t so high flying. Much more so than the Rams I believe.

          There’s no question about this, in my view. The Saints are way more balanced. My biggest question involves whether the defense and run game are good enough to beat the remaining teams, if the passing game sputters. I don’t see why it wouldn’t be against the Eagles. I’m less confident against the Cowboys (if the Cowboys play to their potential). I’m confident the run game could do well against the Rams defense.

          The big thing now is confidence pools, where you add a number to your picks based on your confidence of the winning team. I would have Saints at the highest with four, Indy at three, Cowboys at two, and Pats at one.

          Saints 4, Cowboys 3
          I was going to say that the I can’t see the Eagles winning in New Orleans, and while this is a valid point, I wondered if the Saints were significantly superior to the Eagles. I can’t really say that. Plus, I just don’t know what team will show up. With that in mind, I could see myself feeling more confident about the Cowboys winning. If you tell me they’ll play a clean game–no turnovers, minimal penalties, and boneheaded plays–I’d be confident they’d win. This will likely mean the Cowboys will control the ball, and that likely means their defense will be in great position to contain the Rams offense. I guess it comes down to Dak making plays, and between him and Goff, I’d choose Dak. (One caveat: I wonder if Wade Phillips can scheme something to stop the Cowboys run game, like he did against the Panthers in the Super Bowl. In that game he added another defensive lineman. I’m not sure that would work. If he could do that and force Prescott to beat them, that strategy could work. The thing is, I don’t think I’ve seen the Rams do something to stop the run all year.)

          2 Colts, Pats 1
          The degree to which I’m confident about Colts winning over Pats is almost zero.

          I really wouldn’t be surprised with any team winning. The team I’d be most surprised about is the Eagles.

          (*This got me to thinking about that come closest to matching my ideal. Jimmy Johnson’s Cowboys first came to mind. But I tend to their defense was built more on speed, and I like more power and physicality….like the mid-80’s Giant. Put that Cowboy offense with the Giants defense and I’d be happy. I could also mention the ’85 Bears defense or the Steel Curtain, but that seems unfair and obvious. I don’t think ’86 Giants are at the top of the list of all-time great defenses, so I choose them. I could also say the 90’s Steelers with that great LB crew…Actually, the ’86 Giants come fairly close to my ideal. I’d just want a more physical, bruising RB instead of Joe Morris.)

          1. You can see Indy getting quick TDs with explosive plays? Or are you just saying Indy likes to play fast as in no-huddle? So you don’t feel as confident as me that Indy will win TOP?

            You know you don’t have to pick the same teams as me right? If I had to guess, I would have guessed you would have picked the Chargers to win.

            Would you rather build a great offense with a good defense or the other way around? I feel like in our time at least, teams with a great offense and good defense had longer runs of success like the Cowboys, Niners, Pats, and even Bills, versus teams like the Bucs, Ravens, Bears, and I’ll throw Seattle in there as well, all who had better defenses than offenses.

  3. You can see Indy getting quick TDs with explosive plays? Or are you just saying Indy likes to play fast as in no-huddle? So you don’t feel as confident as me that Indy will win TOP?

    I’m pretty sure the Colts don’t utilize the no-huddle, so that’s not what I was thinking. I was just thinking they’d be able to move the ball quickly, not necessarily by bombing in down the field (although TY could be one of the best, underrated deep threat WRs). I also don’t see them as a really slow pass-first team–like the Chargers were with Mike McCoy (or at least one of his year’s there, they seemed really good at ball control). So I think there’s a chance they could move the ball quickly.

    You know you don’t have to pick the same teams as me right? If I had to guess, I would have guessed you would have picked the Chargers to win.

    Yeah, I was trying to give my honest opinion, and my honest opinion, really, is that I’m not sure. I guess you could say that the Eagles winning would surprise me the most (although I wouldn’t be shocked), so I think I’m most confident that the Saints will win. I guess the Cowboys would be the next, but really, besides the Saints, I’d say it’s coin toss.

    With regard to the Patriots, for whatever reason, I thought of their home field, and that tilted me towards them. I think what creates a lot of doubt for me is that the talent level seems to be the lowest its been. Their two great players seem to be in decline. If this were not the case (and I’d include Edelman), I’d be fairly confident the Pats would win.

    Would you rather build a great offense with a good defense or the other way around? I feel like in our time at least,…

    By “our time” I assume you mean “in our lifetime”–i.e., the 80s until now. If that’s right, my answer depends on what you mean by a great offense. Offense that’s great at scoring but weak at ball control is different from an offense that is good-to-great at both. I’m going to assume you don’t mean these offenses, although if you include the Bills I have some doubts….OK, here’s what I think you’re saying:

    Great offense/good defense=Best 49er teams under Walsh, Jimmy Johnson’s Cowboys. (Would the Redskins be in this bunch? What about Landry’s best Cowboy teams?) If you mean teams like the best Bills teams, 2007 Patriots, Peyton Manning’s best teams, Greatest Show on Turf, Vikings with Culpepper, Moss, Reed, and Carter, Warren Moon’s Oilers, Air Coryell Chargers, Marino’s Dolphins–the decision is easy. I’d prefer great defense/good offense teams.

    Great defense/good offense=’85 Bears, ’86 Giants, (Bradshaw’s Steelers?)

    (What about teams where one didn’t seem significantly better than the other?)

    I should point out that there’s a big difference, to me, between the Cowboys and 49ers offense–the latter is more physical and run-oriented. I’d favor the ’85 Bears/’86 Giants over the best Walsh team, but I think it’d be closer to coin toss if best Cowboys team vs. Bears/Giants. (Actually, I think I’d go with the latter. I think those teams might give the Cowboys defense trouble.)

    It’s important to note that I come at this from the perspective of which type of team has the best chance of winning the Super Bowl. In the post-2000 era, with salary cap, I’d guess that having great pass offense/good defense might be better for sustaining good seasons (although the Seahawks have gone against that), but here’s the thing: my theory is that if there is at least one great defense/good offense team in the playoffs, their chances of winning the Super Bowl drop significantly. So who cares if you have six 10+ winning seasons in a row, go to the playoffs, but usually lose? (Of course, this can happen to a great defense/good offense team as well, and this type of team may not be as sustainable.)

    Where do you and Mitchell stand on this?

    1. My point was more about sustained success, not which “type” of team has the best chance to win in any particular year. And I think that it’s easier to have sustained success if you have a good QB, which equals great offense. Aikman’s Cowboys may be the exception, but he was still a huge part of their success. Whereas defensive led teams usually is good for a year here and maybe come back and get one more win, but overall they don’t have sustained success. The Ravens was successful for a good amount of time and won one Super Bowl and Seattle had success for a few years as well and won one Super Bowl. But outside of these two, how many defensive led teams had success and can be considered a “dynasty”?

      1. I think when we talk about sustained success, it’s hard to exclude the cap situation–or at least I would separate the pre- and post-cap situations. In the post-cap era, I a more offensive oriented team is more sustainable, assuming you have a franchise QB. There’s no question that you need a good QB for sustained success–and that applies in the pre- and post-cap eras. Having said that, that doesn’t mean you need to be a) pass-centric (e.g., Marino, Moon, early Elway, etc.) or that b) a better offense is superior way to sustain wins. What about the 70’s Steelers? Where does the Gibbs’s Redskins fit into this? Or Landry’s best Cowboys. Some of these teams seem like “lead” by the offense or defense. Same with the best Raider teams.

        Where do you stand on that issue I brought up earlier about having having a team that can go far into the playoffs? Here’s the two scenarios:

        A: 2-3 of a serious Super Bowl contending team, maybe winning more than one, but that’s followed by 1-3 down years, where you might not make the playoffs, and if you do, you have no shot. And then you get another 2-3 years of Super Bowl contention?

        B: 7-8 years of 10+ winning seasons, get into the playoffs, but perform poorly.

        Which would you prefer?

        1. I think in both situations we have to assume both Team A and Team B didn’t win a Championship or both won a Championship, because that’s the ultimate goal and trumps pretty much everything else. If that’s the case, it would be really close for me. I guess I would choose A because at least they have a chance, but Dallas could be Team A and that’s super frustrating as a fan. But as a owner, I guess I would rather own Team A.

          1. I think in both situations we have to assume both Team A and Team B didn’t win a Championship or both won a Championship

            Right.

            Also, let me put it another way. Let’s say Team B, when they lose in a the playoffs, they lose in a predictable fashion. For example, they play a team with a strong defense and run game, and say they lose because they commit turnovers or can’t secure a lead and the opponent comes back and wins in the end–ways that I think pass-first, QB centric teams tend to lose in the playoffs. This would be maddening to me, and all those winning seasons would mean little.

  4. Colts at Chiefs: I just erased everything I wrote about why I’m tempted to pick the Colts. In offering my reasons, I convinced myself this is a tossup, so in the tossup I’ll take the team who can make more defensive stops. And I do not like these Chiefs without a Kareem Hunt. Colts by 2.

    Cowboys at Rams: Everything depends on Gurley, right? Man, I don’t know how to pick this game. I’ll take the Rams by 3 but honestly I don’t know why.

    Chargers at Patriots: I’m not picking against the Patriots at home after a bye vs. a West Coast team traveling east. Patriots by 10.

    Eagles at Saints: Strange. I almost never root for the Eagles, but I love the Foles story now. Will be cheering hard for Nick and Alshon but I can’t pick against the Saints in the dome after a bye. Sainst by 14.

    1. When you mention a tossup for the Colts and Chiefs (which is reasonable), the first thought that came to mind was the Mahomes. If Mahomes protects the football and makes 3-4 of those critical plays, e.g., a scramble on 3rd or 4th down in the 4th quarter, I would say the Chiefs win. Or is that too obvious?

      Everything depends on Gurley, right?

      Well, actually I don’t think this is correct. To me, everything depends on their run game, and that’s not just Gurley but the OL (and jet sweeps). Actually, the battle in the trenches is going to be huge in this game. When the Rams offense were at their best, their OL looked like the best in the league–both in run and pass blocking. When the offense struggled, the OL didn’t look nearly as good. Also, my sense of Gurley is that he’s a back that depends a lot on good blocking. He’s not a shifty guy that make something out of nothing. If their OL not dominant, I anticipate more long yardage situations, which means more predictable pass situations, and that can mean more pressure on Goff, and Goff tends to malfunction under pressure.

  5. Colts-Chiefs

    I just finished watching the first half. Here are some observations:

    Colts offense could not stay on the field. They had too many short possessions. (Interesting side note for me. I had a recent discussion about the Chiefs ability to control the clock. I don’t know the numbers, but the Chiefs must have dominated the TOP in the first half. But that wasn’t due so much to their ability to control the clock–it had more to do with the abysmal ball control by the Colts. Some of this might be due to bad luck. The Chiefs had good penetration on a few plays leading to a negative play. A couple of passes were tipped as well.)

    By the way, I had a conversation about the way a lot short possessions (e.g., 3 and outs) can create a snowball effect, where the offense struggles to get in a rhythm, and the opposing defense gets stronger, which makes it even harder for the offense to get into a rhythm. At the end of the half, I think the Colts were heading into a death spiral, where not only is their offense out of sync, but their defense is in danger of breaking. I think it’s going to be hard to dig out of this. (If the Chiefs can have long drives, they should be able to put this game away. Or if the Colts keep getting short possessions, that could end up with the same result. I think they’re going to need a turnover or STs play to win this. I wonder how many snaps the Colts defense played by the end of the half. I believe the breaking point number is 65.)

    Mahomes missed on some passes, but he had at least good plays where he converted first downs. More importantly he (and Chiefs) didn’t turn the ball over.

    On another note, I thought Chiefs ST might be big, but the Colts blocked punt, which ended in a TD gave the Colts some life.

    Oh one more thing. Colts committed too many offsides penalties.

    Second half:

    I don’t have much to add. Both teams commit a turnover, one after the other, which kind of cancelled each other out.

    One thing I wonder about, and I’m curious to hear what you guys thought: How much was weather a factor in this game, especially with passing? I feel like it affected both teams. The passes looked sluggish or a little off, and WRs/TEs seemed to drop quite a few passes.

    I don’t know you guys agree, but for me the story of the game is that the Colts had too many short possessions. And they just got into a rut and couldn’t get out. To me, it reminded me of what happened to the Seahawk offense against the Cowboys.

  6. Cowboys-Rams

    First half observations:

    Rams ran well on the first possession. (They had one play–shot gun, fake jet sweep and then a hand off. That’s one I’ve never seen before. It was nice.)

    Cowboys did well on their first possession, but I wish they used more time.

    I’m watching this game in condensed form, so I don’t know if Rams using a lot of no huddle, tempo variation. (Did they?) What strikes is that they’re running the ball a lot, and running it well.

    6:05 before the half. If the Rams pound the ball and use up a lot of time, the Cowboys are in danger of falling into that death spiral that I think Colts and Seahawks slipped into. (The penalty on 3rd down for the Cowboys was a killer.)

    Second half:

    Cowboys start with the ball. More than scoring, I think they need a good long drive here. That can get their offense back in a groove.

    That didn’t happen, but the Cowboys had a drive where they scored a TD, and I think that got them back on track a little (especially since the Rams had a three and out on the next possession). But it wasn’t enough.

    The other thing I noticed: This might be the best game by the Rams defense I’ve seen all year, especially against the run. I’m guessing the way the Rams ran the ball and controlled the clock contributed to this as well.

    Summary:

    I always wondered if McVay was the type of coach that would wouldn’t stick with the run, even if defenses dared him to. I don’t know if the Cowboys dared the Rams to run, but the Rams ran the ball–I feel like this is the most I’ve seen them run and the best running I’ve seen by them. To me, this, and the fact that the Cowboys offense couldn’t extend drives, particularly in the first half, was the story of the game.

  7. Chargers-Patriots

    (Based on comments I accidently saw, I’m pretty sure I knew what I happened in this game.)

    First half observations:

    Strong first possession drive by the Pats offense–they looked like a well-oiled machine, not only a TD, but good time of possession.
    Nice drive by Chargers on their first possession, but I wish they took more time.

    Chargers fumble on a punt return. Patriots can go in for the kill.

    Patriots defense also looking really good, maybe the best I’ve seen from them.

    End of the first half. Man, I don’t know if I want to watch the second half. Pats dominated completely–running, passing, scoring, defense, and time of possession.

    Summary: Patriots were great running and passing. Chargers couldn’t run, but their passing wasn’t great, either. They didn’t utilize a lot of pro sets, but on this day, I’m not sure it would have mattered.

  8. Eagles-Saints

    First half.

    Awful start for the Saints–INT, followed by good drive by Eagles ending in TD.
    Saints on the next possession go three and out quick. If I’m an Eagles fan, more than a score, I want to see a long drive here…Good enough time off the clock and the score.

    Saints shouldn’t panic. Run their offense, be balanced, and put together a good long drive here. If they get another three and out, the snowball against them is going to be hard to stop (especially if Eagles follow that with another good drive).

    INT by Saints D! Man, they needed that….Fake punt, Fletcher Cox goes down..the momentum could be shifting. Saints go for it on 4th instead of kicking the FG. Don’t think I would have done that.

    If Saints can get the Eagles off the field quickly, they really shift the momentum

    2nd half.

    Saints passing attack coming alive. On the possession that Saints converted when they had two 1 and 20s, that was a backbreaker (17 or 18 plays, 11 minutes!)

    Teams have flipped-flopped in terms of their performance, especially in terms of time of possession. Now, Eagles offense looks out of sorts; Saints offense looking more in a groove. I’m at 8:38 in the 4th, Saints with the ball up 20 to 14. This could be the decisive drive…1st down conversion on 3rd and 13 was huge. (They did this several times today.) Going for the FG and missing it could be huge.

    INT ends it.

    One thing. Brees deep balls were short several times.

  9. Not only short, but at times his throws were just not where they should have been. There were a few times where he had an open receiver but could have thrown the receiver open even more, and the catches were contested when they didn’t need to be.

    That Michael Thompson has some sticky hands. Thompson’s HANDS should be the Saints’ team MVP this year.

    1. Not only short, but at times his throws were just not where they should have been. There were a few times where he had an open receiver but could have thrown the receiver open even more, and the catches were contested when they didn’t need to be

      Hmm, I didn’t notice this, but I don’t doubt it. Was this mostly in the first half, when the Saints offense seemed to struggle? Also, was this when Brees was under heavy pressure? To me, the pressure would explain it. With the short deep passes, I would be more concerned about this age. Starting in 2013, I thought I saw signs that his arm strength was deteriorating, and this was later in the season. I thought he was close to the end at that point, but I was wrong about that.

      By the way, I’m curious to hear what you and Don think about the importance of extending drives and chewing up the clock, particularly in these playoff games. My sense is that the teams that couldn’t do this lost, and the failure to extend drives was a big reason for this. The teams that could do this had a huge advantage and often ended up winning. I don’t think the Chiefs were great at this, but the Colts were bad at it, and I think that’s a reason they lost. In the Eagles-Saints, it was a tale of two halves. When the Eagles could control the ball and the Saints couldn’t everything was great, and that was flipped-flopped in the second half.

      Do you guys think I’m putting too much on this ability to extend drives, or do you guys share my impression?

  10. The offense juggernauts all was able to put up points and dominate with the exception of the Saints?

    Indy, Chiefs:
    The Chiefs did control the ball, but yes that was more due to Indy’s inefficiencies. Indy shot themselves in the foot numerous times in the game, especially with all the off-sides penalties. The Chiefs game plan on defense seem to be take away the run, but Luck was unable to make them pay. Indy is probably a good receiver away from being really good. Either that or Luck was just unable to find the open guy. On defense Indy’s zone coverage was not a good match up for the Chiefs. The Chiefs got whatever they wanted, and when Indy had to play more press coverage in the second half due to score, they were able to do a lot better. Too bad Indy couldn’t show what their ground game can be like. I agree that I thought passes weren’t great by either QBs and I thought the weather played a factor.

    Rams, Cowboys:
    The Rams dominated this game. If it weren’t for the fact that the Rams’ defense played terrible (or is terrible) and Dallas somehow was able to get the Rams to kick some field goals, Dallas wouldn’t have stood a chance. I do not think Dallas was daring the Rams to run, but Dallas had no answer. I think McVay had a good offensive scheme, but either Dallas couldn’t adjust or just don’t have the talent to do anything about it. Both of the Rams RBs ran for over a hundred. Except for the plays in which Goff threw the ball immediately, he was awful. I think he has lost some of his mojo. Lucky for the Rams, they didn’t need Goff to do much of anything. I agree, the Rams did play the run pretty well, but they put everyone in the box to do it. The Rams tried to play one-on-one on the outsides, but their DBs was getting roasted. The odd thing was the Cowboys knew the Rams was going to run and couldn’t stop them, and at some point the Rams knew the Cowboys was going to pass, and couldn’t really stop them.

    I didn’t watch the Chargers, Pats game, because I saw the half time score. The thing is, talent-wise I cannot see much teams being more balanced (offensively and defensively) than the Chargers. But to me they haven’t looked good especially offensively the second half of the season except for a few games here and there.

    Eagles, Saints:
    I didn’t watch the first quarter or much of the first half. But it seems like the Saints lost the first quarter and did a very good job for the last three. The Eagles never scored after the first quarter. The Eagles will be good again, but they have to get more skilled position players. I thought the Saints dominated in the parts I saw, but they couldn’t really put the Eagles away, which almost cost them.

    1. Too bad Indy couldn’t show what their ground game can be like.

      Is it your impression that they like running the ball, or that they would run it a lot, if they needed to? I don’t get that impression. Running seems more complementary; they don’t seem like a balanced team, one that would take what the defense gives them (i.e., they would run it a lot of the defense dictated this). A part of me feels like the Colts didn’t run so well because they didn’t prioritize this–not that the Chiefs dictated this. At the same time, I don’t think the Colts really had a good opportunity to run because they seemed to have too many short drives, especially in the first half. (My feeling is that it is extremely difficult to run the ball and run it well if you have a several short possessions in a row.)

      Also, do you guys think the Colts offense was just off, or was the Chiefs defense just really good? I tend to think the latter is the case, because the Chiefs defense, especially against the run has been horrid all year. Also, I think all the defenses, when their opponents had a lot of short drives early in the game, looked good–the Patriots, Eagles, Chiefs and the Rams. in the early part of the game, I wanted to say they all played the best I’ve seen all year (or close to it).

      I think McVay had a good offensive scheme, but either Dallas couldn’t adjust or just don’t have the talent to do anything about it.

      Here’s my theory about the Rams. One thing I’ve noticed all year: While they utilize a run-based offense, they strongly favor passing. That is, McVay will always lean towards passing the ball. My sense is that defense picked up on this and played them that way–not worrying about the run or jet sweeps as much, anticipating that the Rams would always go back to passing. In this game, the McVay called this game like a run-first OC. (I re-watched their offense in a non-condensed format, and I want to say they didn’t play as fast in terms of the no-huddle, but the difference might be negligible.) But they also mixed in enough passes and constraint runs to keep the Cowboys off balance.

      To me, the “answer” for the Cowboys defense lay in their offense’s ability to extend drives. My sense is that the problem wasn’t scheme or personnel. You put a defense on the field for too long, without a lot of rest in between possessions against a good offense, and the defense is going to break down. I think you could say this about a lot of the games.

      Except for the plays in which Goff threw the ball immediately, he was awful. I think he has lost some of his mojo.

      Does Goff look bad under pressure to you guys? He does to me. To me, his mojo was based on the fact that he rarely had pressure when he threw the ball early in the season. Because of that he was in a zone. At some point (at least from the Chicago game), the pass protection deteriorated, and I think he got out of that zone. I don’t think this bodes well for the Rams. Unless Goff can throw better when he’s under pressure, I would be reluctant to stick with him. (He’s shown that if you consistently give him good protection, though, he can perform well.)

      I agree, the Rams did play the run pretty well, but they put everyone in the box to do it.

      Are you sure of that? I wasn’t really watching so, I don’t know. If this is correct, do you think the Cowboys should have passed more and passed earlier? This the best I’ve seen the Rams play the run. I wasn’t watching how they played the box, but my inclination was to attribute the good play to good ball control/running by the Rams, and short possessions by the Cowboys.

      The thing is, talent-wise I cannot see much teams being more balanced (offensively and defensively) than the Chargers. But to me they haven’t looked good especially offensively the second half of the season except for a few games here and there.

      I agree with the talent thing, and that’s one of the reasons the team made me scratch my head. (They’re talented on defense, too.) But I think injuries might explain this. They didn’t have Gordon and Eckler for a time, and I think they had injuries on their OL as well. (I know they had some injuries on defense as well.)

      I didn’t watch the first quarter or much of the first half.

      I wish you did, as I’d like to know your opinions about game. The first half was a totally different game. At the end of it, I came away thinking that I really need to reassess my view of Nick Foles. Even after winning the Super Bowl, I had a dismissive attitude about him, thinking it was a fluke, and the lack of good defenses in the league. Also, the Eagles defense looked really good including in the secondary. It seemed remarkable, as they were just getting guys off the street.

      To explain the difference in the two halves, I go back to extending drives. I feel like Foles’s INT was the start of this. (It wasn’t an awful play by him, by the way.) When the Saints got the ball, their offense made some first downs (including on a fake punt), and it seemed like they started getting in a groove. I believe their first possession in the 3rd was a ridiculously long possession, 11 minutes and about 16 plays. Unless you have an extraordinary defense and your own offense is having long drives, this can break a defense.

      1. To me, the “answer” for the Cowboys defense lay in their offense’s ability to extend drives.

        I think in the past and even earlier in the year, this was the problem with the Cowboys. But the Cowboys was okay on offense against the Rams. This game was lost on defense. They couldn’t stop the run at all. I think you again stand alone putting the game on the offense. The defense didn’t allow one punt in the entire first half. And only one for the entire game I believe. The Rams dominated this game much more than the score would indicate. In fact, I think one could say that the Rams was more dominate than the Chiefs and Indy didn’t have a chance. Dallas makes a stop at the end of the game, and they have a chance to tie.

        Does Goff look bad under pressure to you guys?

        I didn’t think so earlier this year when I saw him. He didn’t look exceptional, but he looked average at worse. But in this game, I’m guessing Dallas tried to stop the run and so Goff didn’t have much pressure overall. But he still had some bad throws. He has lost confidence, is all I can surmise.

  11. The Cowboys live and die by extending drives. Their thing is not as much about moving the ball as it is controlling the clock. This is why they were so bad prior to Amari, because no receiver could win consistently on the outside so teams would stack the box. In these instances, the o-line without Frederick wasn’t able to get enough push to get Elliot rushing yards consistently. But for other teams like the Chiefs, I’m not sure how important extending drives are to them. They are more about moving the ball than they are controlling the clock like you said. The Rams was like that early on, but they seem to have morphed (after losing Cupp maybe). I think the announcer said that the Rams run on 42% of the plays and that’s like top five. It could be why Goff hasn’t looked as good, or Goff isn’t good which is why they morphed. Even the Saints and Pats run more than they did in the past and aren’t as “high flying an offense”.

    1. But for other teams like the Chiefs, I’m not sure how important extending drives are to them.

      It’s not important if the opponent isn’t getting long drives, but if they are, that could spell trouble for their team. Against the Patriots, I think the Patriots ability to run and throw in a way to control the clock is going to be huge. (The Patriot defense looked dominant, but I think that’s a function of the way the Patriots controlled the ball.) You don’t think a big reason the Colts lost was because they had too many short drives?

      To me, there are two related issues. The value of extending drives and the effect of avoiding a lot of short drives, especially in bunches. The latter is really bad, especially against an opponent with a great defense and a great ball control offense. My feeling is that a string of short drives starts a slide down a hole that can be hard to dig out of. The Saints dug out of it. The Seahawks, Cowboys, Colts, and Chargers could not. The hole wasn’t points, but their offenses having a bunch of short drives and their opponent’s having a bunch of long ones. Having long drives either protects your team from falling into this kind of hole, or it can help you cause your opponent to fall into one. Are you guys with me on that or not?

      They are more about moving the ball than they are controlling the clock like you said. The Rams was like that early on, but they seem to have morphed (after losing Cupp maybe). I think the announcer said that the Rams run on 42% of the plays and that’s like top five.

      I feel like they shifted a lot more in this game. In one way, you could say that McVay was more content or even preferred to move the ball up the field more slowly. It’s going to be interesting to see if they continue this, and to watch how this affects the way their defense performs. I would guess the slower they play (and if they’re successful extending drives), the better their defense will play. The faster, the worse.

      Even the Saints and Pats run more than they did in the past and aren’t as “high flying an offense”.

      I agree. The Pats are more balanced in terms of spread and pro style. Same with the Saints, but yesterday, the Saints seemed more spread/aggressive, when they were doing well–or at least that’s what stood out for me. Did you guys get the same impression?

      1. You don’t think a big reason the Colts lost was because they had too many short drives?

        It was definitely their biggest problem. But you didn’t think the Colts was going to try and control the clock before the game. Which would mean the Colts would have won in a shoot out. I would probably always side with the Chiefs in a shoot out.

        I feel like they shifted a lot more in this game.

        I think the announcers said that since they acquired CJ Anderson, they have been running him a lot. I think he’s been averaging over 100 yards per game when Gurley was out. I would never have thought that would be the case early in the year. If Gurley went down, I would have thought they would have just thrown more.

        but yesterday, the Saints seemed more spread/aggressive,

        My guess it has more to do with Philly’s strengths on defense which is their front seven. That front seven dominated for the entire game, at least in the parts I saw. NO couldn’t get their run game going at all.

        1. It was definitely their biggest problem. But you didn’t think the Colts was going to try and control the clock before the game.

          No, I thought they would (or should) try to control the clock. However, I didn’t think they were a run-centric team, so I would have been surprised if they ran with Luck under center or even ran the ball a lot. If they did control the clock, I’d guess it was largely through a short passing game, complemented by runs. I also thought there was a possibility that their offense would move the ball down the field quickly, because they rely more on passing than running (and TY Hilton does have explosive capabilities).

          I think the announcers said that since they acquired CJ Anderson, they have been running him a lot. I think he’s been averaging over 100 yards per game when Gurley was out.

          Did they mean that running Anderson was significant and not just that Gurley (and Malcom Brown) were injured?

          If Gurley went down, I would have thought they would have just thrown more.

          If their offense was functioning well, and Gurley went down, i would not expect them to pass a lot more. I tend to think they ran more because defenses weren’t expecting them to run a lot. But that’s just a guess.

          My guess it has more to do with Philly’s strengths on defense which is their front seven. That front seven dominated for the entire game, at least in the parts I saw. NO couldn’t get their run game going at all.

          I think in the first quarter this was true, but as the game went on, it wasn’t–especially in terms of pass protection. The Eagle’s secondary actually made good plays early on.

          It’s hard to say about the running because the Saints didn’t seem really committed to that. They did have some good runs, and I did seem a lack of productivity, but I feel like they relied more on the spread passing attack in this–or at least they seemed to hit on quite a few passes for chunk yardage.

  12. Don said

    The Eagles will be good again, but they have to get more skilled position players.

    Do you mean a running back? I think the starting lineup of Sproles, Jefferey, Agholor, Tate, and Ertz is well above average. It looks like Sproles has lost a lot of his slipperiness, but I haven’t watched the Eagles much at all this season so I don’t know if it’s a trend or a fluke. Sproles carried 3 times for 4 yards. Ugh. Smallwood looked good in parts — he was 10 for 33.

    I think Foles should be someone’s starter next season. Is he this off-season’s Kirk Cousins?

    1. Do you mean a running back?

      I don’t know if this is what Don meant, but I would say they need a better RB. When it comes to talent, though, the defense, specifically, the secondary, would come to mind. Then again, I think their ability to run the ball with help them control the clock, which might be the best way to help improve their defense.

    2. They definitely need a RB, but their receivers are good as a group, but they need a number one. I don’t see a big difference between the Philly receivers and Dallas without Amari. WR by committee probably is not the way to go unless you are McVay.

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