NFL Divisional Round preview


Photo via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons license

The Chiefs easily defeated the Steelers last weekend, but can they do the same to the Bills this weekend?

Joe Flynn, Sports Editor

Wild Card weekend disappointed a lot of fans, but the divisional round promises to be better.

The 14 team playoff seeding was a failure. Teams like the Eagles and Steelers were blown out, and both games were hard to watch. But now that the better teams survived, and we get to see the best team from each conference, this weekend is going to be good for football.

Instead of previewing the matchups I’m going to do something different. I will characterize how each team did last weekend through a quote from a movie or show and then explain what’s next for each team.


Steelers: “On any given Sunday you’re gonna win or you’re gonna lose. The point is, can you win or lose like a man?”-Any Given Sunday

The Steelers limped into the playoffs because Brandon Staley called a timeout at the end of overtime in week 18 against the Raiders.

Is the only explanation for why Staley called timeout is he is deep in debt and bet on his team to lose? Staley probably cost himself the job as head coach of the Chargers, but at least he still has his fingers.

Roethlisberger was easily the worst quarterback going into the playoffs. All year all of his passes are either 5 yard check downs or deep passes that were 17 yards off line. His game against the Chiefs on Sunday night was most likely his final game, and he walked off the field one final time like a man…a man who couldn’t throw the ball 15 yards down the field.

Unless Tomlin pulls a D’Amato and announces he’s taking Roethlisberger to New York, we will never see Big Ben play another game.

Patriots: “When you love someone, you’ve gotta trust them. There’s no other way. You’ve got to give them the key to everything that’s yours. Otherwise what’s the point?”-Casino

The Patriots were absolutely destroyed by Buffalo on Saturday, something that didn’t happen in previous years under Belichick.

Patriot fans put all of their love and trust into Belichick’s defensive strategy, and Josh Allen wiped the floor with that plan. The Bills scored on every one of their drives, excluding kneel downs.

Mac Jones really wasn’t lying when he said he doesn’t like playing in the cold. He threw 2 interceptions and couldn’t get his team in the end zone when it counted.

Patriot fans aren’t used to losing so early in the playoffs, and right now all of their fans are heartbroken. So if you know any Patriot fans, tell them to quit crying; some fan bases have real problems. Like my team, the Giants.

Raiders: “That’s the truth about Las Vegas. We’re the only winners. The players don’t have a chance.”-Casino 

The Raiders snuck into the playoffs in Week 18, and they really never had a chance.

They made it a close game in the end, but they struggled to keep up with Joe Burrow and the Bengals. Derek Carr was the Sam “Ace” Rothstein of the playoffs. Carr got his team into the playoffs in large part because of the new 17-game schedule, and “Ace” stuck around the Casino by hosting a television show that took place inside said Casino.

Carr obviously isn’t the quarterback that can carry his team to a Super Bowl win, and who knows if interim coach Rich Bisaccia sticks around. The Raiders have a lot to reflect on in the off-season, and a lot of emails to delete.

Bengals: “Good to see someone who doesn’t buckle under the pressure.”-Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

The Bengals have either been in the place down under, or in football purgatory, since 1981.

Since ’81, they have either been getting an early pick in the draft or losing in the Wild Card round. Since Boomer Esiason, the Bengals haven’t had a quarterback that could carry them deep into the playoffs. Palmer was limited by Lewis’ offensive scheme, and Dalton never had the “it” factor in him.

But now things have changed. Joe Burrow is here, and he’s the real deal…we think.

He had a great season, and in my opinion, he’s shown flashes of 2003 Peyton Manning. He’s been nicknamed “Joe Cool,” which is a bit odd because he’s only played in one playoff game, but I’ll let the tortured fanbase enjoy the fun while it lasts. And, by the way, how long will their success last?

I think the Bengals have a real chance to beat the Titans and make a run at the Super Bowl. It’s all up to their shaky defense and Mr. Burrow.

Zac Taylor was lucky his insistence on running the ball on first down didn’t cost the Bengals a win last week, so it will be interesting to see what Taylor does with Joe Mixon.

If Burrow truly is “Mr. Cool,” he will find a way to beat a truly undeserving number 1 seed in the Titans.

Titans: “What’s in the box?!”-Seven

Going into a game, you never know what Titans you’ll get.

Will you get the Pro Bowl version of Ryan Tannehill? Will you get a run heavy offense? Will you get a defense that carries the offense? In Seven, Gwyneth Paltrow’s head was in the box; for the Titans, Derrick Henry’s foot will be in the box.

The Titans face a tough opponent in the Bengals, and I don’t have a lot of faith in a team that doesn’t have a true star on offense. Tannehill has had his worst season since 2013, the run game without Henry can’t be trusted in the playoffs, and the Titans pass defense isn’t great. They’re 25th in pass yards allowed, and Joe Burrow has proven he can win a game with his arm.

The best chance the Titans have is if Zac Taylor tries to establish the run, they continually go 3 and out, and Tannehill plays like he has the last 3 games.

Mike Vrabel is most likely going to win Coach of the Year, and he probably deserves it, but I think that if he can’t out-coach Zac Taylor, he might start to lose some points with the voters.

Bills: “We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight!”-Independence Day

The Bills have had an up and down season.

During the 17-game season, they were favorites to make the Super Bowl; then they rolled over and died for 3 games, had a resurgence, and finished as the 3 seed. Josh Allen reminds me a little of Russell Wilson, except he doesn’t have the one crucial quality Russ had: he isn’t clutch. With the game on the line, Allen can’t be trusted; it’s as simple as that.

I will give McDermott and the Bills roster credit for not calling it a season after they lost to the Jaguars and then two weeks later being embarrassed by Jonathan Taylor. They didn’t go quietly into the night, but on Sunday night, they will go out without a bang.

The Chiefs are their kryptonite, and they won’t ever find a solution to Patrick Mahomes, even though they have a great defense. Mahomes is one of those guys who can be knocked down, but he can’t be beaten. Unless his entire offensive line is injured, in which case he will be sacked into oblivion. But his offensive line is healthy, so he will be good.

McDermott is a good coach, but Andy Reid’s offense is too good to be beaten by a guy who couldn’t coach his team to a touchdown against the Jaguars.

Chiefs: “ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!”-Gladiator

When the Chiefs are clicking on offense, they are must watch television.

Mahomes is the next Brady, and we’ll be watching him win in the playoffs for the next 12-14 years. When Tyreek Hill is burning safeties, Kelce is getting open in the middle of the field, Mahomes is scrambling, and Steve Spagnuolo’s plan on defense works, they are unbeatable. The big “if” is whether or not Spagnuolo will be able to come up with a plan to stop Allen from running all over the Chiefs and throwing bombs to Stefon Diggs.

Allen may not be clutch, but he is a very good quarterback who plays like a man on a mission for the first 3 quarters. But when he’s down by 10 in the fourth quarter he plays like Peyton Manning in his final season.

The Chiefs have been disrespected by the media all year. Their defense was terrible the first couple of games, but they fixed it. Mahomes was playing terribly for a one month stretch, but he’s been playing great since then. Hill and Kelce have been injured a lot, but now they’re healthy. The Chiefs are going to play with a chip on their shoulder, and we know what they can do when they’re healthy.

I think the Bills will stick around for a little bit, but once Mahomes gets hot, the Bills might as well start packing right then and there.


Eagles: “I feel good. I feel great. I feel wonderful.”-What About Bob?

Right now, every Eagles fan is talking themselves into Jalen Hurts and how he is a good quarterback. (I know because a friend of mine is going through that right now, and anytime I make fun of the fact Jalen Hurts has the worst football IQ I’ve ever seen, he mentions how the Giants haven’t been relevant for over a decade. That might be true, but Eli Manning has more Super Bowl rings than the entire Eagles franchise so….)

Hurts has consistently thrown into double or sometimes even triple coverage, and it always results in an incompletion or an interception. I don’t know why he continues to make terrible decisions. Is it nerves? Lack of ability? Is he just a bad thrower and we’re blind to that because he’s good at running? I’d say all three of those statements are probably true.

All Eagles fans are talking themselves into Nick Sirianni and their three first round draft picks, like having first round picks translates into future success. Detroit Lions fans will tell you otherwise.

The upcoming draft class is pretty weak, so expect Eagles fans to cry about their first three round picks being wasted on talentless players.

Cardinals: “So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.”-Caddyshack

Like Eagles fans, Cardinals fans are in denial.

Right now, they are talking themselves into the Kingsbury-Murray era and saying this is the moment that starts their revenge tour in 2022. Well, it will be tough for the Kingsbury-Murray era to go on a revenge tour when Kingsbury is fired in three weeks.

I predicted the Cardinals to lose last week, and that they would sabotage themselves, and I was right.

Murray had fewer passing yards than OBJ in the 3rd quarter: that’s embarrassing. Instead of ragging on Murray, I will just say this: he is officially the star QB in the league that will never be “the guy.” He will never be the guy that wins his team a playoff game, the guy who puts the team on his back, the guy who is an alpha dog and commands the entire field even when he’s on the sideline. Murray just doesn’t have the “it” factor.

Cowboys: “Not great, Bob!”-Mad Men

Okay, so this quote is from Mad Men, which isn’t a movie, but I think this quote sums up how Cowboys fans feel: “Not great.”

They should feel bad. Their quarterback doesn’t know the rules, their coach lacks time management IQ, and their owner is ready to burn the place down.

Their offensive and defensive coordinators are also interviewing for head coaching jobs, so who knows what this team will look like next year. Will they even have Ezekiel Elliot? I wouldn’t be surprised if he requested a trade to play on a team that will actually involve him in their gameplan.

Prescott blew the game in the most Cowboys way ever, and he will never outlive this “mistake.” This may have been the defining moment of Prescott’s career, and I don’t know if he will ever be able to recover.

As a Giants fan, the ending to the Wild Card game was the greatest ending ever, and I just want to thank Dak Prescott personally for making one of the dumbest decisions in playoff history.

49ers: “You think you can do this to ME?! I’m the man up in this piece! Who do you think you messing with?! King Kong ain’t got nothing on me!”-Training Day

I imagine Jimmy G repeats Denzel Washington’s monologue in Training Day in the mirror every morning.

Before the season started, and even when the season was in full swing, Jimmy G was in trade talks. And the 49ers even drafted Trey Lance, but he played terribly any chance he got to play. So Jimmy G presumably has a job going into next season, and he’ll definitely have that starting job if he can pull an upset against the Packers Saturday night.

Jimmy G has been counted out so many times this year, and now he’s on his revenge tour. An upset is within the 49ers reach, but it’s going to be difficult.

Their defense has to handle Aaron Rodgers, who is the favorite to win MVP, and if he’s having an off game (which never happens), they have a great run game.

The Packers can beat you on offense and on defense. The 49ers have a tendency to lose gas in the second half, something they can’t do on Saturday. If they want to win, Jimmy G has to have a career game (which involves him throwing no INT’s), Elijah Mitchell has to have a Raheem Mostert-esque game, and Aaron Rodgers has to be neutralized. Something Rodgers can be: neutralized.

He only has 1 Super Bowl appearance (in 2010, and he won), so he is a beatable quarterback in the playoffs. The 49ers would be the team to play spoiler this year, something that would be endless material for me to make fun of a Packers “homer” I know.

Packers: “Sooner or later you are going to have to face the fact that you’re a moron.”-The Big Lebowski

I’m going to get this out of the way so I can objectively talk about Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Aaron Rodgers so-called choice to not get vaccinated and mis-report his “immunization” status was beyond idiotic and selfish. He should’ve been fined and suspended for his actions. Now, after saying all that, the football gods blessed his right arm and its impossible to not like the guy on the field.

Aaron Rodgers may have to face the fact he’s a moron off the field, but on the field he’s a genius. Everything has clicked for the Packers this season, and Rodgers has looked ageless all season long. Rodgers-Adams is the best duo in the NFL and they are unstoppable.

Their “bend don’t break” defense has worked out for them for the most part; it all comes down to whether they can stay healthy or not. Aaron Rodgers will also need his star left tackle, David Bakhtiari, so he can have enough time in the pocket, but they have been able to survive without him. However, if Nick Bosa and Fred Warner play, then having Bakhtiari would help their chances big time.

I’m 67% sure the Packers will win on Saturday night, but the 33% of me that thinks the 49ers can pull off the upset is blinding my objectivity. So, as a degenerate gambler, I’m pulling for the 49ers to win, so don’t call me an idiot if the Packers win 49-10.

Rams: “Don’t let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner.”-Heat

The Rams front office took this quote to heart as over the past year and a half they have traded away all their draft picks for guys like Jalen Ramsey and Von Miller.

They walked out on their future for a Super Bowl ring now, not 5 years from now. I hate to be the one to say it, but they mortgaged their future to lose in the divisonal round to the Bucs.

Sean McVay might be a better coach than Bruce Arians, but McVay has a turnover machine, and Arians has Tom Brady. Stafford threw 41 touchdowns, but when he throws one interception, he goes down the rabbit hole and usually throws one or two more. Stafford only has one win in the playoffs, and that was last week.

I trust Stafford to come back from a 10 point deficit, but not a 14 point deficit. I know it’s only a 4 point difference, but Stafford has proved himself as a trustworthy quarterback when down by more than one score. Against the Bucs in the playoffs though? I truly don’t know.

The defense will be the deciding factor for both teams, whether both of their pass defenses can step up or not. The Rams are a good team, but they aren’t going to be the team that ends Tom Brady’s legacy. However, it would be kind of fitting as he beat the Rams in the Super Bowl back in 2002.

Bucs: “I’m getting too old for this”-Lethal Weapon

The Bucs have Tom Brady. What else do I have to say?

Brady might have fewer weapons, but he still has Mike Evans, who is on a mission to prove he is the best wide receiver in the league. He also has Gronk, who is Brady’s favorite in the red zone.

The Bucs defense will be their downfall. Their passing defense hasn’t been good all year long because of injuries in their secondary, and their run defense has been disappointing. Overall, their defense isn’t that good, which should concern Bucs fans because they won last year in large part because of their great defense.

I think the Bucs will win this game, but if they let the Rams hang around for too long, they will think they deserve a seat at the contender’s title, so the Bucs should try and make this game as ugly as possible.