NFL Playoffs

Ben Williams '19, Sports Editor

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A common term used throughout all of sports in regards to the playoffs is “throw all the records out,” and is often viewed as a new season. This held up over Wild Card weekend with 4 very exciting matchups, 3 of them being upsets.

Starting off the 2018 playoffs was a clash between two divisional foes in the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans. After starting the season at 1-5, the Colts won 11 of their last 12 games and are arguably the hottest team right now. After battling back from major shoulder injuries, quarterback Andrew Luck has put on a number of dazzling performances and looks like the player everyone once knew him as. As for the Texans, many thought they may have peaked too early in the season after winning 9 straight, but lost 2 of their last 4 games. Even though the Colts are the 6th seed, everyone knows they are a force to be reckoned with. This became apparent immediately as they dominated play in the 1st quarter and quickly made it 14-0. The Colts offense took a back seat as the Texans defense settled in, but the problem for Houston was they couldn’t get their offense going. At halftime the score was 21-0 and the game was pretty much over at that point. The Texans made a late push but it was to no avail losing by a final score of 21-7, the worst margin of loss for Deshaun Watson since high school. Though it was a disappointing end to their season, there is no doubt the Texans will be back and one of the better teams in the NFL for years to come. As for the Colts, they continue to justify why nobody wants to play them.

The Saturday night matchup was the first NFC battle featuring the Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks. Both of these teams share a commonality that many can agree on: they are better than their record shows. Nobody wants to play Seattle in the playoffs, or have to defend against arguably the best running back in Ezekiel Elliott. The first half surely favored the defenses as both stood tall which was evident by the 10-6 halftime score. At the end of the 3rd quarter, Seattle put together their best drive of the day as they pulled ahead 14-10. The Cowboys quickly responded with a touchdown drive of their own, ending on a 1 yard run by Elliott who found the end zone for the first time in the playoffs since 2016. The Dallas defense stepped up next as they caused a quick 3-and-out, giving the ball back to their offense. Fast forward to about 7 minutes left in the game, Dak Prescott looked to put the Seahawks away for good. In possibly his most impressive drive of the season, he did just that by flipping into the end zone and making it 24-14. With only 2 minutes left in the game, Seattle scored in one minute to make it 24-22. Unfortunately for them, the onside attempt failed and that was it for their season. Seattle will be an interesting team to monitor in the future after two straight years of disappointing endings to their season. As for the Cowboys, they have possibly the best defense in the playoffs currently and will be dangerous moving forward.

The second AFC matchup of the weekend took place on Sunday between the Los Angeles Chargers and Baltimore Ravens. Everyone was wondering whether or not if Philip Rivers could finally pull through in the playoffs after having a tremendous regular season. As for the Ravens, Lamar Jackson became the youngest quarterback ever to start a playoff game after replacing Joe Flacco halfway through the year. At halftime, with the score being 9-0 in favor of the Chargers, it was clear this one was going to be a defensive battle. Jackson and the offense had only 3 points to show for through the first 3 quarters as the Chargers defense continued to dominate. The fourth quarter is where most of the scoring took place. Melvin Gordon made it 20-3 and kicker Michael Badgley, who went 5/5 on field goals, soon after made it 23-3. Just when the Ravens seemed down and out, Lamar Jackson and the offense scored two quick touchdowns in a matter of 5 minutes, cutting the Chargers lead to 6. With just 45 seconds remaining, the Ravens got the ball back at their own 35 with a chance to win it. Unfortunately, Lamar Jackson fumbled the ball on the 2nd play of the drive. The Chargers recovered, and are moving on to the divisional round. They are currently extremely dangerous and have a different feel than the typical Chargers teams. As for the Ravens, they have found a gem in Lamar Jackson and have a lot to look forward to as he continues to develop and grow.

NFL Championship Round

  • New Orleans Saints (60%, 3 Votes)
  • Los Angeles Rams (40%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 5

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NFL Championship Round

  • New England Patriots (50%, 2 Votes)
  • Kansas City Chiefs (50%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 4

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The final game of Wild Card Weekend was between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Chicago Bears. After taking over at quarterback for the second year in a row, Nick Foles led the Eagles on an improbable run to make the postseason at 9-7. Playing the Bears would not be easy, but they were up for the task. On the first drive, the Eagles marched right down the field but unfortunately for them it ended in a field goal after a 3rd down sack by Leonard Floyd. Both teams struggled to find a rhythm on offense for the rest of the half, which ended in a very controversial catch and fumble by Bears receiver Anthony Miller. Upon further review, there was no clear recovery and after extensive research into the rule book, it ended up being the proper call. With the score being 6-3 at halftime, each team knew they had work to do. On the Eagles first drive of the second half, they scored the first touchdown of the game with a reception from Dallas Goedert which was also his first career postseason touchdown. With 9 minutes remaining in the game, the Bears took a 5 point lead after Mitchell Trubisky threw his first career postseason touchdown to Allen Robinson. The Eagles would not go out quietly though as Nick Foles marched right down the field capping the drive off on a fourth and goal touchdown pass to Golden Tate. With only 48 seconds left, the Bears were about to pull off what every Eagles fam dreaded. Tarik Cohen returned a kickoff to the Bears’ 42 yard line, setting them up perfectly for a chance at a field goal. Trubisky got them in great position, all the way to the Philadelphia 25. Cody Parker drilled the field goal, but Doug Peterson called a timeout as expected. Unfortunately for the Bears, Parkey’s next kick hit both the upright and the crossbar, and just like that, the Bears’ impressive season was over. Nick Foles did it again, and the Bears have a ton of upside and plenty of talent to go around for years to come.

 

DIVISIONAL ROUND:

-SATURDAY, JANUARY 12, 2019-

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS @ KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: 4:35 PM

DALLAS COWBOYS @ LOS ANGELES RAMS: 8:15 PM

-SUNDAY, JANUARY 13, 2019-

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS @ NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: 1:05 PM

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES @ NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: 4:40 PM

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DIVISIONAL ROUND

Entering the second round of the playoffs, many intriguing matchups were set to take place. With only two wins to go before reaching the Super Bowl, these eight remaining teams knew what was at stake and were ready to give it their all just to keep the dream alive.

Starting the weekend off in snowy Kansas City, the Chiefs hosted the Colts in a rematch of the 2014 playoffs. The Colts received the ball first and the Chiefs defense quickly made a statement by forcing a 3-and-out. Starting at their own 10 yard line, it took the Chiefs only 6 plays to march down the field for the 7-0 lead. Looking to answer the Chiefs touchdown, the Colts failed miserably by going 3-and-out again in a drive that lasted only 19 seconds. Not long after, the Chiefs struck again on a 36 yard touchdown pass from Patrick Mahomes to Tyreek Hill, making it 14-0. The Chiefs dominated the rest of the half scoring another 10 points in the 2nd Quarter and heading to the locker rooms with a 24-7 lead. The rest of the game only saw 13 total points as the Chiefs easily handled their divisional foe in the Colts with a final score of 31-13. There would be no miracle comeback this time from Andrew Luck like in 2014, but the Colts are a young team that has their franchise quarterback playing at an elite level once again. As for the Chiefs, it is evident that this Andy Reid team is playing at a different pace with Mahomes and you get the sense they are geared up to make a big run.

The Saturday night game between the Rams and the Cowboys featured the top 2 running backs in the league in Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott. This alone made for a thrilling game nobody would want to miss. The Rams got the ball first and drove all the way to the 7 yard line until the Dallas defense forced a field goal. The Cowboys quickly answered with a 29 yard touchdown pass to Amari Cooper from Dak Prescott. At first it appeared this game was going to be a back and forth battle, but the second quarter told a different story. After the Dallas touchdown, the Rams scored 17 unanswered points heading into halftime. The combination of CJ Anderson and Todd Gurley was too much to handle for such a dominant Dallas defense. This game was far from over and both sides knew that. With the score at 23-7 late in the third quarter, Dallas put together their best drive of the night ending on a 1 yard score by Elliott and a 2 point conversion catch by Amari Cooper. This made it a 1 score game again with plenty of time left. On the Rams first possession of the fourth quarter, they were ready to put the game away. Led by Anderson on the ground, they masterfully drove down the field in their most complete drive of the game and made it 30-15 with 7:16 left on the clock. Dallas responded with a touchdown run from Dak Prescott and made things interesting, but after electing to kick it deep with 2:11 to go the Rams leaned on the shear power of Anderson and sealed the game after an 11 yard scramble by Jared Goff on 3rd and 7. The Cowboys were once again knocked out in the divisional round which raises a lot of questions about Jason Garrett’s job security. The Rams looked impressive in all phases of the game, especially on the ground as they have jumpstarted CJ Anderson’s career again. Look for the duo of Gurley and Anderson moving forward as it may continue to be lethal.

Next up the highly anticipated matchup between Rivers and Brady kickoffed the second set of games. In their first possession they easily drove down the field and Sony Michel ended the drive on a 1-yard score. The Chargers responded fast with a 43 yard bomb to Keenan Allen. At halftime though, things got ugly for the Chargers as the Patriots scored 28 unanswered making it 35-7. At that point, everyone knew the game was over and most likely stopped watching. The final score of 41-28 did not emulate what really happened in the game. The Patriots looked like a completely different team than they were in the regular season, and will be a major threat moving forward through the rest of the playoffs. The Chargers had an abysmal outing, but that is not a sentiment to how this team performed in the regular season. They were arguably playing the best football in the NFL and essentially had no home field advantage. They have some of the best young core players and Rivers is back to playing at an elite level, so they have a lot to look forward to in years to come.

The final game of the Divisional round was between the New Orleans Saints and the Philadelphia Eagles. Jumping right into it, Drew Brees tried to bite one off on the very first play from scrimmage. Ted Ginn Jr. beat everyone in the Eagles secondary, but cornerback Cre’von Leblanc made an outstanding play on an underthrown ball. This changed the course of the game as the Eagles easily scored 14 points and Nick Foles and the defense were locked in. The second quarter told a different story though as the Saints offense began to click. This continued for the rest of the game as Michael Thomas shredded the Eagles defense for 171 yards total. The problem came in the 3rd quarter when the Saints took nearly 12 minutes off the clock on one possession. The game was still within reach for the Eagles though. Driving late in the fourth quarter, Foles throw to Alshon Jeffery fell through his hands and into the arms of Saints defensive back Marshon Lattimore. This ended the Eagles season and possibly the Nick Foles era in Philly. Even though they gave up a lot of recieving yards to Thomas, they played very well against the most lethal offense in the league. Holding them to 20 points was a blessing, but the Eagles offense couldn’t get anything going. With Wentz coming back next year, there is no doubt the Eagles will continue to improve and consistently be a playoff caliber team. The Saints are moving on to the Championship round and are the favorites to win the Super Bowl. Time will tell as we move into the most exciting portion of the NFL playoffs with only one game left before the big one.