Seventeen weeks of the NFL season are complete and we have our 12 playoff teams. In general, this was a fantastic season that came down to the wire, as it should. The drama at the end of the late afternoon window was fantastic, an excellent end to the season.
Andrew Luck is now 11-0 against the Titans and 12-1 against top five scoring defenses after Week 5 in his career. He is a baller. The game went exactly as I expected, even without Marcus Mariota. The Colts dominated the line of scrimmage all night. Marlon Mack rushed 25 times for 118 yards. Their offensive line kept Luck mostly upright and he dominated outside of a single poor throw. Luck was 24/35 for 285 yards with three touchdowns. Yes, his interception was awful, but that’s not the norm for Luck.
The Colts defense, which doesn’t get enough love, made things difficult for the Titans rushing attack. Henry got his yards, but when it mattered the most, the Colts defense didn’t allow points. Par for the course.
The Colts are a dangerous team in the playoffs. They have won nine of their last 10, including beating two playoff teams within the last month, and if you want, you can include their “playoff” win last night. They head on the road to face the Texans, a rematch of a contest the Colts won just a month ago.
The AFC North went to the Baltimore Ravens after a late comeback attempt by the Browns feel short with an interception. The Ravens had to win to get in as the Steelers barely squeezed by the Bengals 16-13. While the drama was unfolding in Baltimore, the Steelers fans and players were watching the action on the jumbotron. It was a fantastic scene.
The Ravens have an elite defense, and man, they are scary to play. I’ve said all along I don’t think this Lamar Jackson offense is built to last and that doesn’t change much now. They were effective again yesterday but it’s clear they have limitations. Once the Browns figured them out, and it took awhile, the offense shut down. The Ravens scored 20 points in their first four drives and then only six points over their last seven drives, averaging only 4.62 yards a play. Now, the Chargers come to town, having just seen this offense a few weeks ago, and won’t be fooled at all.
Still, credit is due for the Ravens. They decided to change their entire offense around Lamar Jackson and his abilities. It worked. They got into the dance. That’s all you can ask for. They played to their strength — that defense. Can’t fault them for that. That defense will make them a hard out in the playoffs.
The most disappointing team this season — the Minnesota Vikings
We know winning windows in the NFL are small and close fast. The Vikings paid Kirk Cousins $84 million to capitalize on that window and the season was a failure. I liked the signing at the time, knowing some of Cousins’ limitations, like not winning big games very often. On Sunday, in the biggest game of the season, the Vikings offense came out flat again. All the Vikings had to do was win at home. Yes, it was against the Bears, who won the division. Nonetheless, this is why Cousins was signed. To win this game.
Mike Zimmer fired their OC about a month ago and that was seen as a sign that their play calling was an issue. I’m beginning to think Mike Zimmer is the issue. They’ve had multiple offensive coordinators over the last couple of seasons, which is clearly not ideal. One of them was promoted to head coach in New York, but Turner resigned mid season and John DeFilippo was fired this season. That’s too much dysfunction on one side of the ball, and it’s because Zimmer wants to run the ball, even with an awful offensive line. The Vikings have stellar receivers and should be passing more than running. Hopefully Mike Zimmer has an awakening this offseason about the style of offense he needs to run, especially with a high priced quarterback.
Who to watch on Wild Card Weekend
The Eagles … watch out. I can’t explain Nick Foles. I have no idea how this continues to happen. I’ve heard, so I can’t take the credit for this but it shows on film, that Nick Foles does exactly what the play caller asks for. If the play is called and the defense is what they wanted, he makes that throw. Carson Wentz is so physically gifted he tries to make the wow play instead of the easy play. The Bears are a ridiculously tough matchup for them though.
Quick and brief thoughts on the wild card weekend. I like three underdogs this weekend — Seattle, the Los Angeles Chargers and Indianapolis.
Seattle is better at quarterback and can take the air out of this game with their defense/run game.
The Chargers could have easily beaten the Ravens a few weekends ago and won’t be fooled by their run game this time. They’ve also played extremely well on the road this season, beating the Seahawks, Chiefs and Steelers away from Stub Hub Center.
I mentioned the Colts above. They are playing well. They’re a better team than the Texans, who they just beat in Houston a few weeks ago.
The Eagles have a tough contest in heading to Chicago. I think the Bears win that game.
I started writing this piece on Monday morning. There were five coaches fired at the start and now there are eight.
The most attractive jobs have to be Cleveland, New York Jets and Arizona. Those have young quarterbacks and cap room. I’d look for coaches to be lining up for these gigs. Not sure where the other teams go because there aren’t tons of the usual coaching hires. They must go outside the box to find some winning coaches.