2017 NFL Divisional Round
Be careful what you wish for, because you may get it.
I’m sure everyone has heard that phrase before and it has never rung more true for me than right now. Just a short while back, maybe a little more than a calendar year, the NFL in Los Angeles was just another pipe dream. Something that I was teased with every so often, but nothing real ever came about.
There would be the standard stories on the internet talking about how such-and-such team was exploring the LA market, only to have them back out after a short while. Then I would be deluged with comments from people in places such as Tulsa, expounding how we had our chance at the NFL and that returning here would never work.
And I would bite my tongue, roll my eyes and get back to my normal life. Now, let’s fast-forward to the present day.
Not only did my Rams come back to SoCal, we’ve now been saddled with the Chargers. And I mean it when I say “saddled.”
It had been a long time since the NFL was in this market. During that time, some diehard Rams fans got bitter and switched allegiances or just watched football without rooting for a team. Transplants moved into the area by the thousands, bringing their own rooting interests with them. Children were born and grew up into adolescence with no local NFL franchise.
If the league wanted to return, they needed to take it slow. The Rams, if not the Raiders, were the perfect team for a professional football rebirth. They had a rich history in the LA area and as time passed and the team got better, more and more people would get behind them.
The Chargers? Nothing of the sort. They played their first season of existence in the Coliseum before heading south to what Ron Burgundy calls the Whale’s Va… you know.
The Chargers don’t have a foothold in Los Angeles. They have no history here. And now, they’re going to be playing home games in a soccer stadium in Carson for the next two years until they get to play No. 2 to Stan Kroenke in the Southern California version of Jerry World.
Does the NFL really know what it’s doing? (No, of course not. Nobody does.)
Anyway, enough of that nonsense. We’ve got playoff football to talk about. Let’s break down the weekend, starting with the least watchable game to the most.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
TEXANS AT PATRIOTS, Saturday 8:15 p.m. ET
This is why people hate New England. It’s not just that the Patriots play in one of the easiest divisions in football, they get plumb playoff opponents such as this. The Texans at home in what is sure to be horrible weather at Gillette Stadium.
“We know that the Patriots are a great football team,” Texans head coach Bill O’Brien told the Associated Press. “We feel like if we go up there and we practice well – we have a good week of practice – we go up there and show up and play hard for 60 minutes, you know, we’ll see what happens.”
I can tell you what’s going to happen. Allow me to run down the Texans’ first possession after the Patriots win the toss and defer. (That’s going to happen)
2. First down: Pass batted down at the line of scrimmage
3. Second down: Lamar Miller runs for loss of 2 yards
4. False Start
5. Third and 17: Brock Osweiler to DeAndre Hopkins on bubble screen for gain of 2
The rest of the game should be a simple matter of rinse and repeat. The Texans boast the league’s No. 1 defense, but the Patriots have allowed the fewest points. And since the Texans have Brock Osweiler as their quarterback, you can see where this one is going.
Pick: Patriots, but it won’t be blowout. It’ll be kind of close for a while.
SEAHAWKS AT FALCONS, Saturday, 1:35 p.m.
I’ll be in Seahawks territory for this game as I’m catching a flight to Seattle on Thursday evening to visit my in-laws. All of whom are huge 12s.
So, they’re not going to like what I’m about to say.
Earlier this season, the Falcons were one missed pass interference call from being in position to kick a game-winning field goal against the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. Now, I’m not saying I would have called that penalty, because it was a bang-bang play with the game on the line.
“We felt like we had a chance to win that game. Calls didn’t go our way,” Falcons linebacker Vic Beasley told the Associated Press. “Things could’ve went a different route, so we’re looking forward to this opportunity.”
How happy are the Falcons that they earned the No. 2 seed and got this game at home? Those breaks that didn’t go their way in Seattle will undoubtedly fall on their side in this one. And in a game like this, that can make all the difference.
And I’m thinking Matt Ryan will light up what’s left of the Legion of Boom. Richard Sherman, who hasn’t been his lights-out self this season, might get exposed. More than once.
Pick: Falcons, just because they’re at home.
STEELERS AT CHIEFS, Sunday, 10:05 a.m. ET
By the way, you’ve probably noticed that all four games this weekend are rematches from regular season games this season.
And just like the Falcons, I expect the Chiefs to show a better version of themselves than they showed when they got blown out 43-14 in Pittsburgh in a Sunday night game. But they’ve won 10 of 12 since and are clearly aching to get some payback.
“There a lot of emotions this time of year. Everybody’s put in a lot of work and sacrifice to have these kinds of opportunities,” Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith told the Associated Press.
And thanks to a bit of jackassery from Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, the withering Chiefs pass rush will have many chances to get their hands on a hobbled QB Ben Roethlisberger, who suffered an injury while playing with a considerable lead late in their wild-card win over the Dolphins last week.
And although the Steelers are riding an 8-game winning streak and have big-play threats in running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown, I’m thinking they run into a wall here.
The Chiefs have their own home-run hitter in Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce and run the ball well enough to keep Pittsburgh’s offense on the sideline. And that Kansas City defense will make enough plays to get it done.
PACKERS AT COWBOYS, Sunday, 1:40 p.m. ET
I’m not going to try and break anything down with this game. I’m going straight #HotTake:
Aaron Rodgers is on fire and will beat the Cowboys in Dallas. This is the type of game the Packers win in the postseason. Not at home in front of the Lambeau faithful, but in front of a hostile crowd when nobody expects them to win.
And here’s another #HotTake: I expect, based on no scientific evidence, that Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott will look like rookies in this game.
Pick: Packers. #HotTake.