It’s NFL playoff time and I couldn’t be happier. The first 2 of 4 divisional playoff games will be played tonight, with the other 2 games played tomorrow, so keep an eye out tomorrow for a breakdown of those 2 games.
Indianapolis Colts @ Kansas City Chiefs.
Did someone say shootout? If not, I’m totally claiming it, throughout the season the Chiefs didn’t play a lick of defense and I struggle to believe that the week off they just had will have suddenly spurred them into giving a damn on the defensive side of the ball. Kanas city has won games this season by simply outscoring their opponents.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes is a legitimate NFL star, he has the ability to make all the throws, escape sacks and looks to be the prototype for what NFL quarterbacks are going to be for quite some time. Mahomes has been impressive throwing downfield this season, throwing for over 5000 yards, and 50 touchdowns.
The Chiefs are also expected to get wide receiver Sammy Watkins back for tonight’s game, how well he’ll play remains to be seen but just getting a player like Watkins back is a plus for their offense. Even if he’s simply out there as a decoy, he commands enough respect to draw coverage and make life easier for budding superstar receiver Tyreek Hill.
Following the release in the season of Kareem Hunt, the Chiefs have had a bit of a committee at running back, and tonight is most likely the same as current starter Spencer Ware is listed as questionable. I’d like to be able to say I know who’s going to start if he doesn’t go, but we’re into 3rd string player territory here. I think they re-signed Charcandrick West at one point, a dude they got rid of previously. What I’m trying to say here is that if Ware doesn’t start, it may be a looooong playoff game for the Chiefs backfield.
Travis Kelce. That’s really all I should have to say on that matter. The man is a monster, just an absolute monster and a terror for opposing defenses, the argument could be made he’s the best tight end in the league right now; personally, I’m team Ertz, but the argument could certainly be made.
With the Colts having the absolute worst, dead last, cover your eyes and pray, bottom of the pile defense against tight ends this season, I would absolutely bank on Kelce having a big game. I also doubt any of the Colts linebackers have slept much this week, what with all the nightmares about Kelce and all.
Remember when I said the Chiefs didn’t play a lick of defense, they were dead last against the run, giving up more yards than any other team. This means Colts running back Marlon Mack is going to have a field day. He averaged 6 yards a carry in last weeks playoff game against the Texans and has several 100+ yard games on his resume this season. I’m expecting to see a heavy dose of the run game from the Colts early on, and if Mack can find a rhythm it could spell disaster for KC.
Colts, Quarterback Andrew Luck has found his playoff form, and as a result, absolutely demolished the Houston Texans last week. It’s good to see Luck finally returned to form, after the past couple of seasons were lost to injury. He’s rekindled the chemistry with go-to receiver TY Hilton and the pair of them look like a combination to be reckoned with.
Thankfully for Luck, and the Colts in general, their offensive line has been playing lights out down the stretch. They’ve allowed only 8 sacks in 12 games, and while the Chiefs did tie the league for sacks, this could be the best O-line they’ve faced all year. The Chiefs pass rush is going to have to work double time to get pressure because Andrew Luck with time to throw is not going to end well for you.
Sometimes it’s not about getting hot as a team, it’s about getting hot at the right time and Indy have absolutely found their stride right when it matters most. The Colts enter this game as the hottest team in the NFL right now, and they certainly look to be a more physical team than Kansas City. It’s not always about having the most innovative scheme or superstar quarterback, quite often the team that’s just more physical on the field comes away with the win.
Ultimately while Kanas City was the hottest team in the regular season, the playoffs are a totally different beast. I’m picking the Colts to come away with an upset victory in this one.
Prediction: Indianapolis 34 – Kansas City: 28
Dallas Cowboys @ LA Rams
Ooo baby this going to be a good game.
The Cowboys defense has suddenly woken up and become championship calibre. Perhaps it was broadcasting superstar Stephen A Smith wearing a Drew Brees jersey in Dallas, paired with a black cowboy hat that did it. I don’t want to draw any undue conclusions, but Stephen A wears that, then the Cowboys defense comes out and looks like a whole different animal. It does make perfect sense.
Whatever the cause, the Cowboys defense is now in the conversation for most legit defense still left in the playoffs. This game, however, is sure to test their metal, as they face off against one of the more innovative offenses in the league. If the Cowboys are going to have a chance of winning this game in LA, they’re going to need big plays from their defense to keep the scheming of Rams head coach Sean McVay at Sean McBay. I’ll show myself out.
Ezekiel Elliott is likely to play a big part in the Cowboys game plan, coming off a 137-yard playoff win against the Seattle Seahawks last week. Elliot has posted nearly 100 yards in every game he’s started since week 10, his lowest in that timespan being 75 yards against New Orleans. If the Cowboys can get Elliot going early, watch them for them to try and control the clock and keep the Rams prolific offense on the sidelines.
While getting ‘Zeke going in the run game is going to be key for the Cowboys, getting Amari Cooper through the air will also be a deciding factor. Since getting out of the sinking ship SS Dumpster Fire that is the Oakland Raiders, Cooper has looked, what’s the word I’m looking for. Oh yeah, happy. Cooper has become a big factor in the passing attack for Dallas, filling the void left by Dez Bryant for a big-time target, and he’s come up big when it counts. I would not be surprised to see them take a deep shot to Cooper early on to set the tone.
For the Rams, of their big keys is going to be setting the tone early on defense.
With a star-studded front set, I imagine the Rams getting after it quickly with heavy pressure. Talking of stars, watch out for LA defensive tackle Aaron Donald today. There’s a good chance he’ll be matched up against Cowboys rookie guard Connor Williams, and if Donald can make all-pro linemen look foolish, I can only presume he’ll leave a rookie needing years of therapy. Even if Donald doesn’t find himself matched against a rookie, the Cowboys line gave up the most sacks in the NFL in the regular season. Not a stat you want to lead the league in come playoff time.
Much like their counterparts, the Rams will look to get running back Todd Gurley going early. Gurley hasn’t looked the same as he’s battled injury in recent weeks, however reports are that the week off has done him a world of good and he’s back to looking like himself. This is great news for LA, but not so much for Dallas. Again, in a similar tack, look for the Rams to use Gurley to control the clock and keep Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliot et al on the sidelines.
The hopeful return to form for Gurley means less pressure on Rams quarterback Jared Goff. With the threat of Gurley busting through the middle, LA can utilise the play-action pass to devastating effect. I’m expecting the ball to be pinged around a fair bit and won’t be surprised if Goff starts to find wide receiver Brandin Cooks early and often as they look to establish a rhythm. While the Cowboys defense is looking good, they did have some trouble last week in the secondary, something they cannot repeat against the Rams if they hope to hold on against one of the fastest scoring teams in the league.
More often than not, it’s the matchups on the field that decide the game, but this time maybe not. Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett is good, he’s certainly better than some of the other coaches in the NFL. However, his LA counterpart Sean McVay is simply better when it comes to offensive scheme. I’m not ready to join the “McVay is a genius” bandwagon yet, but I will say he’s a very innovative coach and always seems able to scheme guys open when it counts. A trait that Garrett lacks and one that may prove the difference maker. With LA able to be more adaptive on the fly, Dallas has to be careful not to showcase all their defensive looks too early, lest it come back to haunt them after half time.
It’s hard to call it between these two teams, and if you can only see one NFL playoff game this weekend, make it this one. There’s going to be a true running back battle between Elliot and Gurley, an outright war in the trenches as the Cowboys offensive line seeks to contain Aaron Donald and the Rams defensive line, and with any luck a whole host of offensive trickery. In the end, I’m just not sure that the Cowboys can overcome the firepower of the Rams, especially when playing on the road.
Prediction: Dallas 24 – LA: 38