January 08, 2019
The first round of the 2018-2019 NFL playoffs have come and gone, and two good teams saw their seasons end this weekend. They would of course be the Seattle Seahawks and Chicago Bears.
In their defeat against the Cowboys Saturday night, Seattle ran it 24 times for 73 yards (3.0 YPC), while Russell Wilson was 18 of 27 for 233 yards (8.6 YPA), a TD, no INTs, and a QBR of 70.0. The Seahawks kept trying to run the ball, and when they couldn't, the solution was to just keep on running it some more. It was at that point during this game I realized Brian Schottenheimer is somehow still an offensive coordinator in this league.
The ending to the 2018 Seahawks season is somewhat ironic, seeing as Seattle should have stuck with the run in the Super Bowl near the goal line against the Patriots, when they still employed Marshawn Lynch in his prime. Instead, they threw it down close, got picked off, and lost.
To note, the Seahawks' run-heavy approach is no different than what they did all year. The Seahawks were the only team in the NFL to run it more than they passed it, as they ran it on 52.4 percent of their plays. So, OK, it's fine and good to have an identity, but at the same time, when the thing you like to do (run the ball) isn't working, and the thing you don't like to do as much (pass the ball), is working, maybe you can have the flexibility to adjust, in-game? Just a crazy thought.
The Bears have a great defense. On the season, they were the No. 1 defense in yards allowed per drive, points allowed per drive, and turnovers forced per drive. That is obviously outstanding, however, they were merely a "great" defense, as opposed to a transcendent one, like, say, the 2000 Ravens or the 2002 Buccaneers that won titles despite mediocre offenses.
That great Bears defense is a good start toward winning a title, but they need help offensively (particularly along the offensive line), as well as more growth from Mitchell Trubisky. (Also, counting on getting 30 turnovers defensively every year doesn't make for a great plan, and they should plan for some regression there.)
Cody Parkey will be an easy target for Bears fans to direct their anger, but the reality is that it's hard to win in the playoffs without better offensive personnel. Ultimately, while this Bears team is an up-and-comer, they lost to a 9-7 team missing 8 starters, at home. They scored 15 points against a defense missing its top three corners, a starting safety, and a starting defensive end. They didn't get beaten by a blocked Parkey field goal. They got beaten by a banged-up defense that had a better game plan.
4) Eagles (10-7): The Eagles' last four playoff games:
|Falcons||Falcons -3||Eagles win|
|Vikings||Vikings -3||Eagles win|
|Patriots||Patriots -4.5||Eagles win|
|Bears||Bears -6.5||Eagles win|
The Saints are currently favored by 8. The Eagles have the Saints right where they want them.
3) Cowboys (11-6): Is it just me, or in the Cowboys' wins, do opponents just seem to play their worst football against this team, and the Cowboys edge out some narrow, optically unimpressive victory?
Anyway, that could be the case once again against the Rams this Saturday, as the Rams allow 122.3 rushing yards per game (23rd in the NFL), and 5.1 rushing yards per attempt (worst in the NFL). Expect another close one, as the Cowboys should be able to possess the football and shorten the game, as they like to do.
2) Rams (13-3): Jared Goff had something of a breakout season in 2017, which ended with a (fart noise) in the playoffs against the Atlanta Falcons. In 2018, he built on his successful second season, by leading the second-highest scoring offense in the NFL.
Still, there's a little bit of "good Goff - bad Goff" to his performances this year. "Good Goff" threw for two or more touchdowns with 0 INTs seven times this season. As you might expect, the Rams won all seven of those games. "Bad Goff" had four games in which he threw for more INTs than TDs. The Rams lost two such games in December alone.
1) Saints (13-3): Drew Brees' first 11 games this season vs. his last four:
|Drew Brees||Comp-Att (%)||Yards (YPA)||TD-INT||QB Rating|
|First 11 games||272-356 (76.4%)||3135 (8.8)||29-2||127.3|
|Last 4 games||92-133 (69.2%)||857 (6.4)||3-3||84.7|
This is not the same offense that bludgeoned the Eagles 48-7 earlier this season.
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