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Who We Thought They Were

Mill Woods

Posted on January 10, 2019 12:27

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Former NFL coach Denny Green coined a now-famous quote after a playoff loss, when he said of an opponent: “They were who we thought they were”! The playoffs may have started with some surprises, but in the Divisional Round, teams were who I thought they were. It doesn’t always happen, but this year, the top four seeds are all in the championship round.

Let’s start with the demise of the defending-champ Eagles. The Saints clearly struggled early on, but the Eagles were unable to hold or build on an early 14-point lead. The Eagles have one of the NFL’s best defensive lines, but I have felt all season that their linebackers and secondary were less than formidable. I chuckled when one announcer praised the Eagles’ “improved” secondary. This occurred right after the Eagles made an interception (on the very first play). In reality, no this was not some new, improved Eagles secondary. Drew Brees badly under-threw a wide open Ted Ginn, giving the Eagles early cheer, while depriving the Saints of an instant TD. Brees seemed uncharacteristically rattled in the first half, but he recovered to take care of business. The Eagles did a decent (not great) job of stopping the run, but their linebackers and secondary got burned a lot (the accolades by the announcer faded).
 
And although QB Nick Foles played a pretty good game, there was no magic by the Eagles’ offense either. After their initial burst of adrenaline wore off, the Eagles’ offense struggled badly, both running and passing. Those were qualities I noticed in the Eagles in the regular season, qualities that landed the Eagles a wild card spot, while the Saints got to enjoy the advantages the Eagles had only a year ago.
 
I picked both the Patriots and Chiefs to win, but they way they blew out the Chargers and Colts was a bit surprising! Are they really that good? Well, the Colts and Chargers both were beaten badly in the trenches (that Charger defensive line is one of the smallest), and QB Philip Rivers is not exactly the fastest guy when scrambling. And, I must say: coaching strategy by the Patriots’ Bill Bellichick and the Chief’s Andy Reid was simply superior. The Chargers looked particularly bad as they failed to adjust their zone defense - long after it became rather clear that Tom Brady could dice it up forever. As for the Colts, they were stunned by an unusually-virulent Chiefs pass rush. 
 
The Rams-Cowboys showdown Saturday was the only game that kind of went as I expected. The Rams torched the middle of the Cowboys defense for over 200 yards rushing. All season, I never thought the Cowboy defense ranked with the best (although I never argue with stats, and theirs were quite good). The Boys' D underscored this feeling Saturday, as that powerful Rams offensive line had its way. Dallas QB Dak Prescott was also unable to make the throws needed to keep the ball moving and the Ram offense off the field (a formula that had worked against the Saints).
 
And so it is that the top four seeds gave me a 4-0 record this weekend, and - oh yeah - they also move on to the Conference Championships. On Sunday, we will see which of these teams really are who we think they are - Super Bowl material.

Mill Woods

Posted on January 10, 2019 12:27

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