Black Quarterback: 2019 Divisional Round Preview
By Brandon Simmons
Colts vs. Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs and Indianapolis Colts will kick off this week’s playoff action as the Chiefs host the Colts, the hottest team in the playoffs right now. Indianapolis is coming off of a playoff win over the Houston Texans, which was part of a 5-game winning streak, which was due in part to their running game and defense. Colts linebacker Darius Leonard has been the driving force of a unit that has been laughable for a while. The Chiefs have been an offensive juggernaut the whole season. Lead by quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the Kansas City offense has been the brightest spot on this team, despite cutting running back Kareem Hunt after his off-the-field incident in which he assaulted a woman. After his release, the Chiefs went 3-2 but remained at the top of the AFC.
Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes is a very dangerous weapon that you can ever have at the quarterback position. Mahomes brings a Magic Johnson-esque flair to the game with his cross-the-body, and sometimes, no look passes. His skillset can be attributed to what has pushed Kansas City to the next level this year. Last season, behind quarterback Alex Smith, the Chiefs were a good team, but the offense did not have enough on offense with his limited passing abilities. This year, it seems they have more than enough behind the arm of Mahomes; but all they have focused in their young QB, is a lot more than what they have in their 32nd ranked defense.
On the flip side of this, you have Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck. Luck came off missing a year to recover from a shoulder injury but now he is back and just as good as ever. He does not possess the same level of mobility as Mahomes but can throw the ball just as good when he needs to. Now that he has completed a full season without injury, he can get back to bombing defenses and taking chances, but right now he doesn’t have to do that much, especially in these playoffs. Last week, in the win against the Texans, Luck threw for a quiet 222 yards while his defense shut down Houston’s offense for most of the game.
The upset of the week is going to be the Colts taking down the Chiefs. As good as Mahomes is, the Chiefs defense is such a huge liability. In the big games they have had this year, they have mainly ended up on the losing side and with too many points given up. If you look at the games against the Patriots and the Rams, they gave up a combined 97 and 706 yards passing. It doesn’t get any better with rushing the ball. In their game against the Seahawks, they gave up 210 rushing yards and 38 points. The Colts are a good team playing at a consistent level, but this game may not rest on the notion of those assets; this is more than likely going to come down on the problems the Chiefs have in the secondary. Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton had a quiet 85 yards last week, but he got off to a hot start on the opening drive. He will more than likely repeat this performance against a defensive unit who has not gotten it together all year.
Cowboys vs. Rams
America’s Team will be taking its show to Hollywood when the Dallas Cowboys face the Los Angeles Rams. The Cowboys might be on a high only attained in California, as they are coming off a win over the Seattle Seahawks behind the legs of running back Ezekiel Elliot and quarterback Dak Prescott. But they’re not the only team with a star running back. Rams running back Todd Gurley has been a MVP candidate for most of the year, while quarterback Jared Goff continues his growth through the aerial attack offense of head coach Sean McVay.
The Rams offense against the Cowboys defense is going to be a fun matchup to watch. The strength of the Cowboys defense rests in how they can defend the run, a task that will be called upon when Gurley takes the field. Dallas ranks 5th in the league stopping the ground attack. The Rams offense is high-powered through the air but also on the ground; Gurley can be utilized in both instances. He can catch the ball just as well as he can run it, which has helped the Rams get ranked 5th in passing and 3rd in rushing.
Both teams have won games this despite the little hep they get from their counterparts on the same side. The Dallas offense has had a lot of ups and downs this year, with most of the downs being in the first half of the season before the Amari Cooper trade. After the trade, things seemed to have calmed down a little bit offensively, but the troubles appeared at different times. This Rams team was not exactly the defensive unit it paid itself to be. It sounds menacing to running backs knowing that N’Damokung Suh and Aaron Donald are going to be lined up on the defensive line but them being ranked 23 against the run will tell you otherwise.
The main thing that will put the Rams over the top is their offense. Los Angeles can get up the field as they are 2nd in the league in scoring. They’ve only scored in the 20’s 4 times this year and still maintained a record of 2-2 with that statistic. The Cowboys have a great defense but will their offense be enough to keep up with the Rams, especially with an offensive line that is not at the same level as recent years? Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott has been sacked 56 times this year, which is one short of his total from the past 2 seasons. That’s nothing but music to the ears of guys like Donald and Suh
Chargers vs. Patriots
The New England Patriots are ready to open another playoff run as they host the Los Angeles Chargers this weekend; but it has been somewhat of a “rocky” year. Of course, rocky for the Patriots is probably success for a lot of teams in the league. Their defense continued to rank near the bottom, after losing defensive coordinator Matt Patricia to the Lions. They started 1-2 on the year and lost 2 crucial games towards the end of the season against the Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers. AS much noise that New England has been making for what they weren’t winning, the Chargers were just as quiet. They also started 1-2 but after winning 10 of their next 11 – including a last-minute win over the Chiefs – the Chargers rose to near the top of the AFC. But a loss to the Baltimore Ravens knocked them out of that spot.
It may look like a compelling matchup between veteran QB’s is something to look forward but there is literally only one side to this story. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has never lost to the Chargers, including playoffs, regular season, Los Angeles, San Diego, Sea World or Compton. Yes, these are 2 of the greatest quarterbacks of their generation but it’s obvious who really owns this “rivalry” after all these years.
But after all these years, Rivers is still fighting hard as ever for a ring and he has a decent team behind him, especially on defense. The 9th ranked Chargers defense is quietly just as competitive as any other unit this postseason. Last week, they shut the Baltimore Ravens out on the road all the way into the 4th quarter. They also picked up a few takeaways as well.
Still, as any other playoff game goes, the Patriots will more than likely take this game as they do with most Tom Brady-led playoff games. It seems that no matter how good an opponent can come into Gillette Stadium in January, Brady is going to show up and will his team to the victory by any means. Sure, the Chargers have had a couple of close games that involved them needing to rally; but those were in the regular season and this game is against Brady in the postseason. Look for the Patriots to pull out a close win with this one.
Eagles vs. Saints
Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles are getting that feeling that they had last year on their Super Bowl run. Just like last season, Foles took over at quarterback after Carson Wentz suffered a season-ending injury. The Eagles went on a 3 game win streak to ride into the playoffs and knock off the Chicago Bears in the Wild Card, after a missed field goal. But can magic really stand against the voodoo of the New Orleans Saints? Saints quarterback Drew Brees is playing great as always but the defense has also been great, becoming the 2nd ranked team against the run. While shutting down the run, Saints running backs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram are making sure they can run over opponents as well.
This is a different Eagles that is coming to face the Saints. New Orleans beat Philadelphia in Week 11, 48-7. The Eagles had Went at the QB position, threw for 156 yards, 3 picks and was sacked 3 times. Wentz was put on IR after the team’s Week 14 overtime loss to the Dallas Cowboys and that’s when the magic happened. Foles stepped in and sparked a 3 game winning streak for the Eagles, which snuck them right into the 6th seed of the playoffs. However, this is still the same Saints team from that Week 11 matchup. After that win, they dropped 31 on the Falcons, 28 on the Buccaneers and another 31 on Pittsburgh Steelers.
The magic that Nick Foles brings to the Eagles is no match for the voodoo that Drew Brees and the Saints have in store for them. New Orleans is 6-2 at home this year and have scored 30+ points in 5 of those games; they are 4-1 when doing that under those circumstances. Also, that defensive unit can get after the quarterback. They are tied with the Arizona Cardinals for 5th overall in team sacks with 49. The Eagles will be geared up coming into this game, and may put up a fight early, but the Saints will be tasting a victory savorier than a local gumbo.
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