4 extra groups down, 4 nonetheless left in pursuit of a Tremendous Bowl title. As we did final week, we are saying goodbye to the 4 groups that misplaced their playoff games this weekend in true “Overreaction Monday” type. And for the 4 groups remaining, we attempt to reply one big query nonetheless dealing with them as they confront their remaining recreation or two.
Bounce to a workforce:
Chargers | Chiefs | Colts | Cowboys | Eagles | Patriots | Rams | Saints
OVERREACTIONS FOR DIVISIONAL-ROUND LOSERS
Philip Rivers won’t ever win the Tremendous Bowl
This season’s Chargers had been 12-Four within the common season — one recreation higher than the Patriots — and 9-Zero outdoors of Los Angeles counting their wild-card-round victory in Baltimore. This season’s Patriots had been supposedly undermanned on offense and represented the beginning of some form of decline. If Rivers could not beat Tom Brady (in opposition to whom he is now Zero-Eight lifetime) with THIS season’s Chargers workforce, there is not any motive to suppose he ever will. And never solely might he not beat the Patriots, the Chargers could not even keep remotely shut Sunday. It was an embarrassing efficiency on either side of the ball by a workforce with one of many deepest rosters within the league.
Graziano’s verdict: NOT AN OVERREACTION. “By no means” is a really very long time, however the remainder of Rivers’ profession in all probability is not. He simply turned 37, and there is not any assure he’ll have a greater workforce than this one over the remaining two, three, 4 or nonetheless a few years earlier than he retires.
Plus, Brady would not appear prepared to retire anytime soon, so he’ll stay in Rivers’ means even when Rivers can preserve getting to the playoffs. After which there’s the small matter of Patrick Mahomes, simply 23 and coming off a possible MVP season for a Chiefs workforce that completed forward of the Chargers within the standings (albeit by tiebreaker) to win the division for the second yr in a row. Sunday was a devastatingly disappointing finish to a superb Chargers season, and it is not an overreaction to fear that they won’t get a greater likelihood to money one in than they’d in 2018.
The Colts ought to signal Le’Veon Bell and commerce for Antonio Brown
Indianapolis was one of many surprises of the season, profitable 9 of their remaining 10 regular-season games to attain the playoffs after a 1-5 begin and thumping the Texans in Houston within the wild-card spherical. It was a hyper-accelerated rebuild led by common supervisor Chris Ballard and coach Frank Reich and assisted by the return of Andrew Luck from damage to the highest echelon of NFL quarterbacks.
They exited the playoffs Saturday evening with a loss to the top-seeded Chiefs at Kansas Metropolis, however the future seems brilliant, and the Colts challenge to have extra 2019 salary-cap area (perhaps greater than $120 million) than some other workforce within the league. They need to give you the option to add anybody they need this offseason, and the 2 Steelers stars are supremely obtainable. Bell can be a free agent as soon as the brand new league yr begins in March, and Brown’s relationship with the Steelers appears to have reached a breaking level.
The Tremendous Bowl LIII race is down to the Chiefs, Patriots, Rams and Saints. This is the whole lot you want to know concerning the convention championship games.
The longest drive in an NFL playoff recreation in at the least 20 years featured 4 penalties, clutch conversions and quite a lot of Saints All-Professional Michael Thomas.
4 years in the past, we wrote him off: Tom Brady, age 37, executed. Kansas Metropolis lastly did him in. Guess what? The GOAT nonetheless roars like a lion.
Graziano’s verdict: OVERREACTION. I really like Bell for the Colts, although I do not anticipate Ballard to spend like that on a working again. And whereas they completely need assistance at large receiver, they’re already carrying a $15 million cap cost for T.Y. Hilton, who has two years left on his deal and can be trying for a brand new deal someday soon.
As a lot as they need assistance at large receiver, the Colts’ big spends must be on the defensive facet of the ball, the place this season’s group overachieved and might use some reinforcements. The Colts are able the place they will spend their cash and their cap area on their very own younger stars as they begin to want extensions. It is not as in the event that they should not exit and discover assist in free company; it is simply that their financial circumstances enable them to deal with constructing an total deep roster, as opposed to patching holes with flashy additions. It is good to be the Colts proper now.
The Cowboys want to transfer on from Jason Garrett
Final Saturday’s victory over the Seahawks was simply Garrett’s second playoff win in eight-plus seasons as Dallas’ coach, and that quantity stayed caught at two following the Cowboys’ loss to the Rams in L.A. In Garrett’s eight full seasons as head coach, the Cowboys have made the playoffs simply 3 times and have failed to attain even a single convention championship recreation. The Cowboys have not performed within the Tremendous Bowl in 23 years, which is way too lengthy to go for a franchise as storied as this one.
From the wild-card spherical by way of Tremendous Bowl LIII, ESPN.com has you lined.
• Full schedule, information, notes »
Extra NFL protection »
Graziano’s verdict: OVERREACTION. It is not that playoff success is not essential. It is simply that it is too usually held up as the one factor that is essential. Because the begin of the 2016 season — counting playoffs — there are precisely three NFL groups which have won extra games than Garrett’s Cowboys. They’re the Patriots, Steelers and Chiefs. Garrett has had 4 profitable seasons and won three division titles previously 5 years. The Cowboys’ Four-12 2015 is the one season through which Garrett has completed underneath .500. It is easy to perceive why followers could be uninterested in the dearth of playoff success, however Garrett persistently has his workforce in place to attain the playoffs, you by no means hear about locker-room discord, and possession all the time has appeared to love him. I do not suppose he is going wherever, and I do not suppose he ought to, both.
Nick Foles has thrown his remaining move as a Philadelphia Eagle
Foles was Four-1 as Philadelphia’s starter the previous two postseasons, together with a Tremendous Bowl MVP efficiency that may dwell perpetually within the hearts of town’s rabid followers. However the workforce nonetheless believes in 2016 first-round choose Carson Wentz as its long-term franchise quarterback. The Eagles might choose up Foles’ $20.5 million contract choice for 2019 in the event that they needed to preserve him as a backup or in the event that they thought they may commerce him for one thing of worth, but it surely’s additionally potential they need him effectively and transfer on from one of the vital unimaginable chapters in franchise historical past.
Graziano’s verdict: NOT AN OVERREACTION. Realistically, it would not make sense for the Eagles to carry a $20.5 million backup, and the draft-pick funding in Wentz makes it unlikely they’d set up Foles because the starter forward of him. And the contract features a mutual 2019 choice, which means that even when the Eagles did choose it up with the concept of buying and selling Foles, he might purchase his means out of it for $2 million and in all probability money in as a free agent someplace else.
Foles wasn’t the explanation they misplaced Sunday — the ultimate interception bounced off of Alshon Jeffery’s palms — however there comes some extent the place this accidental-but-glorious second act of Foles’ Eagles profession has to finish, and it is in all probability this offseason.
BIG QUESTIONS FOR DIVISIONAL-ROUND WINNERS
Can the Chiefs’ protection do this two extra occasions?
Prime-seeded Kansas Metropolis had the 31st-ranked protection within the NFL in 2018, permitting a median of 405.5 yards per recreation. The Chiefs had been 31st in opposition to the move and 27th in opposition to the run. On common, they allowed 26.Three factors per recreation. However on Saturday, they held Andrew Luck and the Colts to 13 factors (seven of which got here on a blocked punt) and 263 yards of offense.
The 180 speeding yards the Chiefs’ offense put up had loads to do with their beautiful 39-minute, 49-second time-of-possession determine, however so did the truth that the Chiefs’ protection held the most effective third-down offense within the league to Zero-for-9 on third downs within the recreation. They will face a more durable take a look at Sunday evening when the Patriots come to city, however the truth that the sport is at Arrowhead Stadium will matter.
The whole lot you want this week:
• 2018 playoffs protection »
• Full schedule » | Full standings »
• 2019 draft order: Prime 28 picks »
Extra NFL protection »
The Chiefs really had the league’s sixth-best scoring protection in house games, permitting solely 18 factors per recreation to opposing offenses at Arrowhead (as opposed to 34.63 on the street). That signifies they’ve a combating likelihood for a repeat efficiency subsequent week, although it might be more durable in the event that they attain the Tremendous Bowl and have to attempt it in a impartial web site. Regardless, Saturday’s victory left the Chiefs’ protection a assured bunch, and was a fairly big reduction for a workforce and a fan base that hadn’t won a house playoff recreation in 25 years. With that first one out of the best way, the Chiefs would possibly play looser going ahead.
Can the Patriots dominate like that on the street?
The Chargers had been the most effective street workforce within the league, and they did not even belong on the identical subject because the Patriots on Sunday in Foxborough, Massachusetts. The win improved New England to 9-Zero at house this season, however the Pats are simply Three-5 on the street, and the AFC Championship Recreation can be at Kansas Metropolis. The Patriots averaged 32.88 factors per recreation at house within the common season however simply 21.63 on the street. They allowed 16.63 factors per recreation at house and 24 on the street. Tom Brady’s completion proportion is 5.1 factors decrease on the street, and his QBR is Eight.2 factors per recreation decrease. Opposing quarterbacks posted a 38.9 QBR in opposition to the Patriots in Foxborough however 71.5 on the street.
Tom Brady mentioned he expects a troublesome recreation when the Patriots play the Chiefs within the AFC Championship Recreation.
They’re a unique workforce away from house, and now they head into Arrowhead Stadium, the place the Chiefs are Eight-1 this season. The Patriots have not won a street playoff recreation since Jan. 14, 2007, once they beat the SAN DIEGO Chargers on the street. Successful street playoff games is one thing that hasn’t been requested of them very a lot through the Brady/Belichick period, however that combo is Three-Four because the visiting workforce within the playoffs. And the best way the Patriots performed on the street on this common season raises respectable concern about their skill to repeat Sunday’s efficiency subsequent Sunday in Ok.C.
Can the Saints cease the Rams’ potent speeding assault with out Sheldon Rankins?
The Saints’ victory Sunday was pyrrhic, as one among their finest younger defensive linemen tore his Achilles tendon early within the recreation and clearly won’t play once more this season. And in opposition to a Rams offense that rolled up 273 speeding yards on 48 carries with the tandem of Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson, that is a gap they may discover robust to fill. If the Rams can management the sport on the bottom the best way they did in opposition to Dallas (they possessed the ball for 36:13), they may keep away from the form of shootout they misplaced within the Superdome in Week 9 and win a lower-scoring recreation. It did not work out for the Eagles on Sunday, however they had been ready to preserve the sport low-scoring and had an opportunity late. And Philly did not have a again like Gurley on Sunday.
Ryan Clark joins SportsCenter to analyze Jared Goff’s no-touchdown efficiency within the Rams’ 30-22 playoff win in opposition to Dallas.
Will the Rams’ inexperience present up in opposition to Sean Payton, Drew Brees and the Saints?
The Rams performed the Saints robust of their Week 9 loss in New Orleans, getting back from 21 factors down to tie the sport at 35-35 within the fourth quarter earlier than Brees and the Saints pulled away and won by 10. They usually confirmed in opposition to the Cowboys that they will win in numerous methods — working the ball down Dallas’ throats with Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson as a substitute of airing it out with Jared Goff. However this Saints group is way extra seasoned in key spots than that Dallas workforce is. Brees is the league’s all-time chief in passing yards, and he and Payton have won a Tremendous Bowl earlier than. The Saints went deeper into the playoffs than the Rams did final season, and particularly at house there’s an opportunity their expertise benefit performs a job in what must be a detailed matchup. Sean McVay simply grew to become the youngest coach ever to win an NFL playoff recreation, and he and his workforce are harmful on either side of the ball. However Payton certainly would love to remind the world that he knew slightly bit about teaching offense earlier than McVay confirmed up.