Well the NFL had its joke on me. I come out Saturday morning and trash them for scheduling what I figured would be the worst game of the weekend on Sunday afternoon, and naturally it turns out to be the best. I stand corrected. The NFL wins. It always wins. I went 4-0 on my picks, so there's that, but there's nothing bold about picking the four favored home teams. It's just surprising when those guys actually win.
Colts at Kansas City: Remember last week when the Colts went into Houston, scored early and often to take a two- to three-score lead? And right before the half Houston had a chance at points to turn things into a game, and faltered, and it was pretty much over. I mention this of course because that's what Kansas City did to the Colts: took charge early, made some big defensive stops, dominated time of possession, and took all the mystery out of things. Right down to Indy driving down with a chance to cut things to 24-14, or at least 24-10 right before the half, instead missing out on a touchdown and then doinking an old-time extra point length field goal off the upright.
Funny that although Kansas City dominated, they could very easily have trailed only 24-17 with the ball in the final three minutes. Adam Vinatieri missed that field goal and an extra point, and a Colts defensive stop got wiped out by a running into the kicker penalty that the officials should still be embarrassed about calling today. Don't get me wrong: Patrick Mahomes, Damien Williams, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill were all really impressive in this one. But it felt like a blowout but wasn't, bad as the Colts offense and Andrew Luck played. The thought was weather would benefit the Colts, but they looked like the ones who had no idea what to do in poor conditions, with drops, batted passes and miscues throughout. Kudos to Kansas City. One more win, Andy Reid.
Cowboys at Rams: For all the accolades tossed Sean McVay's way the last couple of years, let's give him one more: truth in advertising. He said last week that there'd be a "balance" between Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson. When writing the preview, I debated how much weight to give his words. I figured it would still be at least 3/4 Gurley with Anderson probably a change-of-pace and maybe getting up to a quarter of the work, tops. Instead, they split the work -- more snaps for Gurley, but more carries for Anderson -- and everyone who started Gurley got good numbers, and anyone who started Anderson (I'm guessing no one) got even better numbers. No way did I imagine the Rams would run all over Dallas like that. But they did, and that enabled Jared Goff to do very little until running to pick up a key first down late.
The Dallas offense started out slow, and didn't get enough chances with the Rams running all over them. But ultimately I thought they were a credible group -- get that game in Dallas, which they might have had they started out the season better, and maybe it's a different story. I don't know that Jason Garrett is a great coach or that Dak Prescott is good enough to be a Super Bowl quarterback. But I think if you're a Cowboys fan you have to feel pretty good about the season. The Amari Cooper deal worked out, the team surprised some of us by beating Seattle, and didn't get embarrassed at Los Angeles. Not a win, maybe, but better than I anticipated from their season.
Chargers at Patriots: The belief/hope of many that the Chargers would spring the upset died really early in this one. At some point you need to make a defensive stop, and the Chargers seemed totally incapable of covering either James White or Julian Edelman. Were they blanketing Dorsett and Hogan? Trying too hard to get pressure on Tom Brady? Just a total defensive disaster. I built a lineup for a daily game and originally had both Sony Michel and James White in it. I switched off Michel thinking, I don't want both Patriots running backs. Ouch. Cost myself some money. This was the worst game of the weekend by a long shot.
Twitter, in its infinite wisdom, has taken this game as an opportunity to trash Philip Rivers, who didn't play well, but was totally flustered by the Patriots pass rush, and spent some time barking at officials and teammates. I am well known for having a soft spot for star quarterbacks who all too often come up short in the playoffs, and am certainly guilty of making excuses for them, including Rivers. But the bottom line is that virtually every quarterback who wins gets some help from his defense along the way. Marino never won, Elway never would have won, and Rivers won't, and a large part of it is because they go out and face an opposing defense, and their defense goes out and faces an opposing offense. I'm not exactly sure what Rivers could have done differently yesterday. The offense didn't have a chance, and the defense was no help. As for the Patriots, they're somewhat predictable, as is the reaction to them. Lose a game or two (usually on the road), and the dynasty is crumbling. Win a game (usually at home) and it's all about how awesome and brilliant and clutch they are. Them winning yesterday wasn't surprising, nor will them losing in Kansas City be. Of course, neither will Kansas City losing. Should be a great one.
Eagles at Saints: Even when the Eagles went up 14-0, I didn't believe the Saints would lose this game. But they very nearly did, perhaps should have, and probably would have if Alshon Jeffery doesn't let that pass go off his hands for an interception. I know, the Eagles still needed to march the final 20-30 yards. But the recent history of Nick Foles suggests they would have. New Orleans lucked out yesterday, winning even with Drew Brees not playing well (how many times did Brees complete a 5-yard pass over the middle on 3rd and 10? Seemed like a lot), even with them playing probably the worst home game I've seen them play in a while. The Eagles were fortunate to make the playoffs. They were unfortunate not to be headed to Los Angeles next week to take on the Rams.
Philadelphia's lack of a run game was pronounced. I wonder why they soured on Josh Adams, who was big for them down the stretch. I wonder what specifically they were doing on defense to so limit Drew Brees and the Saints' high-powered offense, and whether the Rams will be able to do the same next week. (I know one thing: I'm taking the under.) If this game were in Los Angeles, I'd be taking the Rams, same as the AFC game. But gotta give the edge to the teams who earned home field advantage.
So we've got the championship games most of us wanted. Well no, I didn't want to see the Patriots back there, but any other AFC team, probably could just pencil Kansas City in for Atlanta right now. Both games have home teams favored by 3-3.5, both have over-unders of 57-58. I think NE-KC might get there, LA-NO won't. We'll talk a lot about both of them all week. For entertainment value, I think we'll make out pretty well.