Division Round Observations

What an awful round of divisional playoff games. Even the algorithm on Advanced NFL Stats agrees.

The Saints-Seahawks was a slop-fest where the game was rarely in doubt even though the teams were roughly equal. It's always worst when nothing is settled by a win. Moreover, Drew Brees should have thrown a pick on the drive he got much of his production, and that drive never should have happened anyway, as Marshawn Lynch should have stopped at the one-yard line rather than scoring his second TD. The Seahawks offense looked bad, and in fact, the best unit on the field all day was the Saints defense.

The Saints made a valiant comeback attempt and even recovered an onside kick with time for a hail mary from inside Seattle territory, but Marques Colston - who had a huge game and also recovered the onside kick - threw the most blatant forward lateral in NFL history for no reason. It was arguably the more egregious mental error in any sport since Chris Webber called timeout with none left in the Final Four, but mercifully for Colston, a more egregious one was made by the Colts coach that very day (see below).

The Colts-Pats game was perhaps even more of an abomination. Bad calls, bad play calling, sloppy play. And Chuck Pagano punting on 4th and 1 in the fourth quarter down 21 was in a class all its own. It's shocking not more is being made of this - it's like we were watching the World Chess Championship, and one of the players moved his king on the second move. It's like a poker pro folding a massive pot with barely any chips left to a small raise when he still had a couple outs. Even those comparisons don't do justice to a surrender of any hope the Colts had of winning a playoff game without a shred of purpose. It seemed as though Pagano were simply on auto-pilot ("It's fourth down, time to punt"). Andrew Luck needs to be set free from this regime as soon as possible, but unfortunately, he'll probably single-handedly perpetuate its tenure.

The Panthers controlled the first half against the 49ers but a few weak penalty calls (unnecessary roughness for a clean hit on Vernon Davis, for one) and a strong last minute drive by the 49ers had them trailing at halftime. After that, I don't remember the details except that there were more bad calls in both directions, the Niners dominated and the game was largely unwatchable.

The Broncos ground down the Chargers who for some reason didn't throw downfield until the fourth quarter, the only time they had any success. A touchdown and successful onside kick injected some sorely needed drama into the game, but the Broncos converted a 3rd-and-17 (great throw by Peyton Manning) and that was mostly that. That there were still more than three minutes left in the game at that point (and the Chargers still had a timeout) probably worked against San Diego as the Broncos were more likely to throw for an unlikely first down than run it to take off time. (Had there been 2:30 left and no timeouts, maybe Denver runs it and punts it back).

Keenan Allen had a huge game once the Chargers targeted him, and it's hard to see him being outside the top-10 on next year's receiver board (though you could probably say that about 15 wideouts).

Next week the four biggest preseason Super Bowl favorites are the last teams standing, but none strike me as great, so there's no chance of a shocking upset and little of a history-making performance. The Peyton Manning-Tom Brady rivalry will generate a lot of copy, but Manning is rolling with the modern US military while Brady is Sadaam Hussein with some Vietnam-era tanks. The John Fox-Bill Belichick gulf is the Pats' best hope.


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