Divisional Round Observations

Divisional Round Observations

This article is part of our NFL Observations series.

The NFC games went more or less as one would expect. The healthy and rejuvenated 49ers beat up on a Vikings team that had to travel for the second straight week without full rest, while the Seahawks got themselves into a hole, and Russell Wilson nearly dug them out of it (probably would have but for a terrible drop by Malik Turner.) 

But the AFC was another story. The Titans, aided by turnovers and drops, bludgeoned the Ravens just like they did to the Pats. And the Chiefs spotted the Texans 24 points before coming back to annihilate them over the game's final three quarters and easily cover the 10-point spread.

The Niners health on defense makes them the Super Bowl favorite. They throttled the Vikings, already destroyed the Packers at home once before and are by far the strongest defensive unit left in the tournament. 

Lamar Jackson looked fine to me in the loss. He threw two picks, one of which bounced of Mark Andrews' hands and took four sacks and lost a fumble, but he ran for 143 yards and threw for 365 with only Marquise Brown giving him any help. Most of Jackson's passes were accurate, he was victimized by five drops, and he looked spry as ever as a runner. While Mike Vrabel had a smart game plan against him, the Titans hardly shut him down – the future is still bright, but the Ravens need to get him more help. 

Anyone watching Derrick Henry and arguing he's not important to the Titans because frequently running backs are not important to their teams is smoking crack. What's true on average is frequently false in particular instances. It reminds me of a joke my friend told me: "Two statisticians go hunting, one shoots five feet to the right of the deer, the other five feet to the left. "Got 'em," both say in unison. 

Bill O'Brien made some terrible mistakes in the Chiefs-Titans, none worse than kicking a field goal on 4th-and-1 from the 13-yard line to go up 24-0 with 11 minutes left in the second quarter. Yes, the Chiefs might have stuffed the play, and gotten a "win" and subsequent momentum, but that was the less likely of the two outcomes, and by settling for the field goal, O'Brien gifted them a lesser win and the ball right away. Had the Texans got the first down, they might also have run a few more plays, shortened the quarter by a minute or two and possibly gone up 28-0. As it happened, the Chiefs made excellent use of the remaining time, scoring  four TDs with it and led at the half. 

O'Brien, trailing by 17 late in the game, also initially called for a punt that was so obviously wrong even Jim Nantz couldn't understand it. Finally, after some Deshaun Watson pleas, O'Brien reversed course, but not before burning a timeout. 

I actually felt bad for Andy Reid when the Chiefs were down 24-0. The Chiefs were supposed to have had a Wild Card matchup against the surging Titans, and instead – due to an improbable home loss by the Patriots to the Dolphins (over whom they were favored by 17 points) and another improbable loss by the Ravens to the Titans (over whom they were favored by 10) – Kansas City was handed the top seed in the Conference before playing their first game. Everything was lining up for the Chiefs and Reid finally to make that run. And then due to three drops, a blocked punt TD and a muffed punt, the game seemed nearly over before it started. 

Patrick Mahomes and especially Travis Kelce had monster days, despite the early drops. Damien Williams also cashed in, but Tyreek Hill was unusually quiet. Put differently, it's insane to see the Chiefs scored 50-plus with no defensive or special teams touchdowns and minimal contributions from Hill and their other explosive downfield receivers. 

As someone who had the Seahawks +4.5 and Russell Wilson as my quarterback in the NFFC playoff contest, that game was frustrating. Not only did the Seahawks miss a field goal and a two-point conversion, but they squandered a chance for a FG at the end of the first half by trying an ill-advised Hail Mary with enough time to get into range. Moreover, Turner's drop on their last drive was a killer – it would have been first and 10 at midfield with a minute left. Finally, Pete Carroll should not have punted on 4th and 11 – Wilson makes plays like that all the time, and the Packers defense was on its heels, having been on the field most of the second half. Instead, they gave the ball back to Aaron Rodgers and never saw it again. Even had the Seahawks failed to convert the 4th and 11, they still had three timeouts, and the Packers, up five, would merely have been in long field goal range. 

As the person who's been harping on Davante Adams' "mediocrity" all year, I have to admit he had a great game. Not simply as a possession receiver, but as a playmaker too. He made a great move on his long TD, and a great catch on the Packers last drive to keep it alive and help seal the win. He's obviously healthy now, and he's an easy top-20 NFL receiver when that's the case. But let's see how he does against a real secondary in San Francisco next week. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Liss
Chris Liss is RotoWire's Managing Editor and Host of RotoWIre Fantasy Sports Today on Sirius XM radio.
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