Jan. 19, 2019
What to Make of the Divisional Round
Once again, I went 3-for-4, but at the beginning, it looked like I might not do that well even. Frankly, the Wild Card Round was way more entertaining than the Divisional Round. There was more tension and more close games. The Divisional Round had 2 blowouts and 2 teams playing down to their competition. The two good games should have been in the AFC, not the NFC. Nevertheless, it was still entertaining. Here is what to make of the Divisional Round.
#6 Indianapolis Colts (10-6) at #1 Kansas City Chiefs (12-4)
Result: KC 31-IND 13
Prediction: IND 34-KC 27
Okay, I'll be painfully blunt with myself on this one. I got this one way wrong. Not only did I get the wrong pick, the score was not remotely close. The Colts were stopped on nearly every possession, and Kansas City tore up the Colts defense. Even then, it always felt like the Colts could get back in the game. Maybe when I said Kansas City's defense was terrible, I was comparing it to their offense. Nevertheless, they have a tough test next week. I did not think Andy Reid could make it this far again, but this isn't the first time I've been proven wrong.
Game Grade: D+
#4 Dallas Cowboys (10-6) at #2 Los Angeles Rams (13-3)
Result: LAR 30-DAL 22
Prediction: LAR 38-DAL 20
I think this is sufficient redemption. My prediction was not too far off. While this game was close, it was still bad. Why? Because it shouldn't have gone the way it did. The Rams should have annihilated Dallas from the start, but they were behind for a decent portion of the first half. They eventually pulled away, but they should have never let Dallas that close. Yes, this game would have been good if the Cowboys had been playing up to their competition, but that really wasn't the case. I fear that the Rams are becoming the new-age Steelers in that they play down to their competition. However, this was an entertaining game for the most part.
Game Grade: B-
#5 Los Angeles Chargers (12-4) at #2 New England Patriots (11-5)
Result: NE 41-LAC 28
Prediction: NE 27-LAC 23
I predicted a close game, and it was not. Yes, it was a two-score game, but that is misleading. The Patriots jumped out to a 35-7 lead at the half. That is already utter domination. The score really doesn't show how poorly the Chargers played, as they scored three touchdowns near the end of the game, two being after it was way out of reach. It's a pity that the Chargers great season ended the way it did, but they still have potential in the future. For now, the Patriots move on, once again.
Game Grade: D+
#6 Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) at #1 New Orleans Saints (13-3)
Result: NO 20-PHI 14
Prediction: NO 31-PHI 20
This game was definitely the best of the four. It was the only one where it seemed like either team could win. It was surprising to see the Eagles get off to a 14-0 start, but with great defensive plays and gutsy calls, the Saints got back in it and scored the final 20 points of the game. It was only on the final drive when the ball went through Alshon Jeffery's hands and into Marshon Lattimore's that it was clear who would win. Both teams played great football for most of the game, but there has to be a winner. Congratulations, Saints.
Game Grade: B+
Overall Playoff Record: 6-2
Divisional Round Record: 3-1
Grading Eliminated Teams' Seasons
What these teams did was great, but some should've ultimately done better than they did, but where did they go wrong?
Indianapolis Colts (10-6)
This team should actually be extremely proud of what they did. They started off 1-5 and turned their season completely around, becoming the hottest team entering the playoffs. This team was ultimately overachieving. If they had started playing well to begin with, they could've potentially ended up with a bye in the first round, and maybe that would've changed the narrative of the playoffs.
Their coaching situation is much better, and Andrew Luck is playing back to his potential, but the Colts need more weapons, especially a better run offense with a stronger line. The Colts got annihilated by the Chiefs run defense. Other than that, keep Luck healthy because when he is, he is phenomenal.
Season Grade: A-
Potential Future Grade: B
Dallas Cowboys (10-6)
This team, as much as I hate them, had a good season. After starting 4-5, they were able to capitalize on an injured Redskins squad and won the division. This team played exactly to their potential. They had the skill to make a playoff push, but they still aren't to the point where they can contend for the Super Bowl. Many people said the Eagles would be the first repeat champion of the NFC East since they did it back in 2004, but, as I predicted, the Cowboys won the division. They beat the defending Super Bowl champions twice in their playoff quest and showed that they were a good team when they beat the Saints. They just aren't great yet.
There isn't much this team can do. Their defense is looking better, and Amari Cooper was a great addition to the team. The only thing that they can really do is, well, get a new coach. Don't get me wrong. Jason Garrett is a good coach. He just isn't the coach the Cowboys need. Maybe he would be better with a different team, but he's only made the playoffs three times in eight years, and he's only won two playoff games. Again, he's not a bad coach. He's just not right for the job.
Season Grade: B
Potential Future Grade: C-
Los Angeles Chargers (12-4)
This season can be seen in two ways. The first is a waste. Yes, they put up a remarkable 12-4 record, but they ended up with a Wild Card spot. Yes, they had numerous statement wins, but they also had ugly losses to the Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens that cost them the top seed. Yes, they avenged their loss to the Baltimore Ravens, but they got destroyed by the Patriots in the next round. This season was good. It proved the Chargers had the skill to contend. They just needed to find a way to play consistently enough to get a better seed.
This team needs an identity. The Chargers don't exactly have one. They play differently in each game. Sometimes, their defense can shut down the opposition for 60 minutes, and sometimes, it's a shootout. This team came up clutch in the regular season, but they need to be able to translate that to playoff games. Also, it would help if they could get more fans to their stadium.
Season Grade: B+
Potential Future Grade: C-
Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)
This is another team that can be seen in two lights. They started with the typical Super Bowl hangover that most teams seem to have and started out sluggish at 4-6 with only a 1-game lead on the Giants. They then went 5-1 the rest of the season. Why? All signs point to Nick Foles. He seems to have some sort of connection with his teammates that Carson Wentz hasn't seemed to unlock. Wentz is the more skilled QB, but Foles seems to do better with the team when he's starting. He led them to clutch wins against the Rams and Bears, and he was really the only team keeping them afloat. He even made the rematch against the Saints close.
This team has one big question, and nothing else to consider: which QB? This question is actually the same as last year, and the Eagles seemed to choose Wentz. Ultimately, Foles proved himself again at the end of the season, nearly making the NFC Championship. Foles is the best choice for the Eagles, so now they have to find a way to keep him from the depths of free agency, or they may lose him for forever.
Season Grade: B
Potential Future Grade: A