The Ice Age

Wildcard weekend is complete and it did not disappoint in terms of the drama which unfolded. A few thoughts on the action and a look forward to the divisional round next weekend.

Right to Ice? – Only one place to start and that is Soldier Field and the last second blocked / missed FG from Chicago’s Cody Parker. Plenty has already been written about the miss and the professional way in which he (at least) handled himself post-match when he must have just wanted the ground to swallow him up. Personally I am not a fan of the option to ‘ice’ the kicker using a time-out. To me it is like someone shouting at the top of a golfer’s backswing. I know it is allowed, it is within the rules, and it adds to the drama but I don’t think it is in the spirit of this, or any other, sport. In this age we have the added complication of the social media frenzy which follows this sort of finish to a game and the negative (at times vitriolic) reactions which have been directed at Parker. I hope he comes back strong next year but it may be too much for it to be with the Bears.

Strong AFC – The Colts and the Chargers won big in wildcard weekend with convincing performances. Both sides will cause problems for their higher seeded opposition next weekend. The Colts dominated Houston from the outset and the Chargers defense marshalled a superb gameplay to stop the Ravens.

Old heads beat young legs – In the AFC matches it was noticeable that Andrew Luck and Philip Rivers were more at home in the playoff environment than first-timers Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson. The young guns will come back stronger but they both will take valuable experience from these games. Jackson in particular struggled and his limitations as a pure passer were demonstrated – it will be interesting to see if other NFL defenses follow suit next season and if Baltimore can adapt their offense to give Jackson more avenues to exploit.

So close – All the matches were close last weekend but in particular I thought the margins of victory for Eagles and Cowboys were the narrowest. For the Cowboys, if Dak doesn’t scramble on 3rd and 14 in the 4th quarter then maybe they settle for a field goal and the Seahawks come back. It was a real clutch play at the right time. For the Eagles, they hung in there against the Bears as defenses dominated – but if Parker’s kick is an inch or two to the right then everything is different.

Divisional Games – AFC first, I expect the Colts to be competitive against the Chiefs but I think Pat Mahomes is next level up to Watson and he will find Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce plenty. Chiefs defense will give up points but in the end Colts 24 – 30 Chiefs. If the Chargers pick up where they left off against the Ravens then the Patriots could be in trouble. I think the dynasty is coming to an end despite Brady, Gronk et al. The Chargers defense will get to Brady and I think the Chargers will take a close one Chargers 21 – 17 Patriots.

NFC – The Eagles lost heavy to the Saints in week 11 (7-48). No doubt Philly will acquit themselves better this time around but I still see Brees going through the air to Michael Thomas and picking apart the Eagles secondary. Philly won’t be able to keep pace and it will pan out Eagles 23 – 34 Saints. The Cowboys travel to the Rams and I think Sean McVay will be keen to ensure they don’t go 1 and done (lost 26-13 to Atlanta last year). I can see LA being wound up tight to perform and i think their array of talent on both sides of the ball will overwhelm a Cowboys side which has gone as far as I think it can for this year, Cowboys 20 – 33 Rams.

Will this weekend match the drama of the wildcard games – who will be the heroes and villains this week…

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