Welcome to Divisional Weekend Blitzers! I’d also love to welcome back Rookie to the podcast! Clipboard Guy did an OK job filling in for you last week and it appears, according to the guys that you are expendable. Don’t tell them I told you that! I personally missed you and was glad to hear you were back. The drinks of choice this week left me a bit perplexed until I heard the reasoning for it. If you missed what the guys were drinking or why they were drinking it, you can catch the podcast here.
For all our Bear Down fans from #TeamBlitzed out there, to watch that ball go seemingly in slow motion to the left was agonizing. I’m a Bills fan. I know what it feels like but to the other side of the post (wide right anyone?). I promise it does get better and you have a bright future ahead of you. For all the other average NFL fans, Wild Card weekend was fun to watch. Your Barkeep was nearly perfect in his predictions until Nick Foles (yes that Nick Foles yet again) spoiled my fun. I’ll take 3 out of 4 and move on to the Divisional Round. I must say I’m pretty excited for these ‘Games of the Week’. Lets take a look at what we are in store for…
WILD CARD WEEKEND PREVIEW
Indianapolis Colts (10-6) @ Kansas City Chiefs (11-5)
Oh boy, Oh boy, oh boy. Who is not excited about this match up? Patrick Mahomes vs Andrew Luck? I don’t see anyway how this game will disappoint us in excitement. Kansas City comes into the playoffs as the #1 seed in the AFC, with home field advantage after accumulating a 12-4 record (7-1 at home). They come in as the #1 ranked offense in the NFL in numerous categories including scoring, yards, TDs, scoring %, average yards per drive and average points per drive. Patrick Mahomes has been lights out throwing for 5,097 yards, 50 TDs and only 12 INTs. After Kareem Hunt’s release, he is also the team’s leading rusher at 272 yards with 2 more TDs. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce form a dynamic receiving combo (combined over 2,700 yards and 22 TDs) that can score from anywhere in the field. However, where they are so dynamic on offense, they are lacking in defense- they rank 31st in total defense and 24th in scoring defense. They also rank 31st in pass defense which does not bode well against Andrew Luck.
Luck was second only to Mahomes in the AFC this year with 4,593 yards and 39 TDs. On offense, the Colts are ranked 7th in total offense while averaging 386.2 yds/gm and ranked 5th in scoring at 27.1 points per game. This difference in this game is where Indianapolis has improved over Kansas City: on defense. Indianapolis is ranked 11th giving up 339.4 yards per game and gives up 21.5 points per game. I think this combination of the potent offense (and KC’s leaky defense), as well as the fundamentally sound Indianapolis defense is what will be the difference in this game. The Colts continue to be the hottest team in the NFL and have an offensive line that just doesn’t let anyone get to their quarterback. Their defense is also continuing to play lights out and will do enough to contain Mahomes and company. I like the Colts to control the tempo of the game, sustain long drives by effectively running Mack and Luck spreading the wealth. Indianapolis moves on to the AFC championship game in a shoot-out.
Blitzed Prediction: Colts 42 Chiefs 38
Dallas Cowboys (10-6) @ Los Angeles Rams (13-3)
As I stated last week, Dallas didn’t really impress me until after the Amari Cooper trade and they seem to be a much different team at home. They have just steadily improved as the season has progressed and sure enough, they took out the Seahawks in Dallas as I predicted. The Rams are not Seattle and they not in Dallas. Dallas does bring the 7th ranked total defense, along with the 6th ranked scoring defense. They do rank 8th in TDs allowed and 5th in rushing yards allowed on the season, which is especially important considering the health of Todd Gurley is in question. But again, they’re not in Dallas anymore.
These Rams had high expectations, or shall we say Super expectations, coming into this season and they’re not about the take their foot off the pedal now. They rank 2nd in total offense, 2nd in scoring offense, 3rd in rushing, 2nd in rushing TDs, 5th in passing and seem to be able to adjust their game plan at will when a defense shuts down one aspect of their offense or another. They have playmakers at every skill position on both sides of the ball and appear ready to take the next step this year, that was so close to their reach last year. Their defense can be suspect at times but Dalla’s offense only ranks 22nd in both total offense and scoring offense. I don’t see a need to worry much here.
The health of Gurley will be an important factor when it comes down to it but I don’t think it will influence the outcome of the game. The Rams are at home, have a next man up attitude and clearly the better team on paper. They are talented at every position on the field and there is no reason to think they won’t come out victorious in this one at home. The only question is, will they show up and take the Cowboys seriously at home or will they already be looking past them towards New Orleans?
Blitzed Prediction: Rams 30 Cowboys 13
Los Angeles Chargers (12-4) @ New England Patriots (11-5)
The Chargers had their way with the Ravens for 3 and ½ quarters last Sunday before Lamar Jackson went to work. Unfortunately, it was too late and I think part of it was that the Chargers simply just took their foot off the gas and went into prevent defense (am I the only one who hates prevent defense?).
As I said last week, it can be argued that the Chargers are the most balanced team in the AFC and perhaps the NFL. They have play makers on both sides of the ball with Philip Rivers in the conversation for MVP (4,308 yds, 32 TDs and 12 INTs), three-down RB Melvin Gordon (885 yds rushing, 10 TDs; 50 rec, 490 yds, 4 TDs) and Keenan Allen (97 rec, 1,196 yds 6 TDs) on offense. On defense, they have potential defensive rookie of the year in CB Derwin James while wrecking balls Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa cause havoc on opposing quarterbacks. When you look at their overall statistics, they are the 11th ranked team in total offense and the 9th ranked team in total defense. The pieces are there to finally knock off the Patriots. At home. In the playoffs.
Tom Brady looks mortal. In fact, he hasn’t really looked good for five or six weeks. Rob Gronkowski has been battling injuries all year and it may seem his career is coming to a close. Through it all, New England still managed to rank 5th in total offense, and 4th in scoring offense. They were surprisingly effective in the run this year ranking 5th while coming in as the 4th ranked team in rushing TDs. Their defense was the anomaly however, ranking 21st in total D but in true New England fashion only allowing 325 total points (that bend don’t break always seem to be a staple for Bill Belicheck). That was good enough to rank 7th in scoring defense. Yet, New England still has looked beatable in a lot of their games this year. Perhaps its because they have been so dominant for the past decade that New England’s mediocre is good in the rest of our eyes.
This is tough game to predict. Los Angeles is a balanced team and has been a really good team on the road this year. They’ve knocked off Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Seattle and Baltimore on the road, as well as won a game half way around the globe in London. If there is a team that can beat New England, at home, in the playoffs, I’m pushing my chips in on this Chargers team. I think they have the swagger, the talent and the coaching staff to finally break through to knock off the defending AFC champs at home in a tough, hard fought victory. I like the Chargers in the upset here, although I’m not sure how confident I am because let’s face it- its Tom Brady and it’s the playoffs.
Blitzed Prediction: Los Angeles 24 New England 23
Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) @ New Orleans Saints (13-3)
DOINK. That’s the sound Philadelphia fans are thanking right now for being in New Orleans (Sorry Chicago fans- remember it wasn’t a miss, it was a block). I’m not really sure Philadelphia continues to do it. Nick Foles seems to be a better fit in Philadelphia than Carson Wentz and I’ve begun to question when the Eagles will begin to entertain trades for him. Philadelphia is a fundamentally sound, gritty, hard-nosed team that has a will to win, starting with their quarterback. He’s 10-2 as a starter for the Eagles. He’s won a Super Bowl and a Super Bowl MVP. Career-wise he’s 19-11 (Wentz is 18-11), thrown for 52 TDs, 18 INTs (Wentz is 49 TDs and 21 TDs) and Foles actually has a higher QBR (61 to 60). That’s what Philly has going for them right now- there’s no drop off at the quarterback position. If anything, they may have upgraded.
However, they travel to New Orleans to meet the #1 seed in the NFC. At 13-3 (6-2 at home, ironically losing the first and last games of the year), the Saints are dominant on both sides of the ball. Drew Brees is the heart and soul of this team and the potential NFL MVP this year. He completed an ungodly 74.4% (NFL Record) of his passes for 3,992 yards and 32 TDs while only being intercepted 5 times. His offense was ranked 8th in total yards and 3rd in scoring offense. Michael Thomas is considered by many to be one of the best WR in the league while the RB duo of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram deliver a lightning and thunder punch that offers zero in the terms of taking plays off. Their defense also stepped it up this year as evidenced by a respectable 14th ranking in both total yards and scoring. They are a better, more talented and I think more potent version of the Chargers.
The home field advantage, as well as the sheer talent of the Saint will be enough to end the Philly Special ride here in New Orleans. I think the Saints are just too good on both sides of the ball for the Eagles to overcome the injuries they’ve had. I look for Philadelphia to keep it close early before New Orleans pulls away late.
Blitzed Prediction: Saints 34 Philadelphia 17
And now for your Divisional Drink of the Week. This week, the guys will be drinking to honor the Eagles and how they once again willed their way not into the playoffs and somehow into the divisional round against the Saints. I’m having them drink…
Philly Special Cocktail
.5 oz. Captain Morgan Rum
.5 oz. Blue Curaçao
.5 oz. Malibu Coconut Rum
.5 oz. Midori Melon Liquor
Splash of Sweet and Sour mix
Top with Pineapple juice
Blitzed Barkeep Build: Mix all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain over rocks in a rocks glass (a martini glass is acceptable).
Garnish with an orange.
This week’s drink of the week comes to you from the Philadelphia. I’m not sure how they keep doing it, but they do. As I stated above, they are a talented team but they struggled this year with injuries and playing to lofty expectations. I believe that if Nick Foles pulls off another upset over New Orleans, Philadelphia should strongly consider trading Carson Wentz for trade assets. I guarantee he would garner a 1st and a 2nd round pick (at least) in next year’s draft for a quarterback hungry team like the New York Giants or Jacksonville Jaguars. Either way, this is a tasty way to enjoy this week’s games. No matter who you’re rooting for, the playoffs are sure to give us all something to cheer for.
Well Blitzers, that’s all from your Blitzed Barkeep for now. Remember to drink responsibly, take Brady’s name in vain and always give your keys to a friend if you’ve had too much. Tune in to the Blitzed NFL podcast next Tuesday to hear the guys review this week’s drink of the week and recap all of the action during Divisional Weekend.