Sterling notes: NFL Divisional playoffs

By Sterling Pingree

Colts at Chiefs

The Colts have lost only one of their last 11 games and who was that one loss? If you guessed the Jacksonville Jaguars you would be absolutely correct, the score was 6-0. Before that, their last loss was all the way back on October 14th when they lost to the Jets 42-34. They gave up 42 points to the freakin Jets!

I’ve picked against the Colts a lot this season, the “winning 10 of their last 11” stat really snuck up on me because I can’t get the vision of them losing a game 6-0 to the Jags out of my brain. But I need to, because I think they have a real chance to beat the Chiefs in KC.

The Chiefs haven’t won a home playoff game since January 8th, 1994! The quarterback of that Chiefs team? Joe Montana. It is incredible to think about because of what a home field advantage the Chiefs are perceived to have and that with as loud and menacing as Arrowhead Stadium is, that the last quarterback to lose a playoff game there was the Steelers Neil O’Donnell.

Former Chief Mike DeVito made a good point when I talked to him about this game when he said “to beat the Chiefs, you’ve got to score and keep scoring because you know that offense is going to put up points on most drives.” And I don’t think the Colts are equipped to do that because last week they leapt out to a 21-0 lead on Houston early and never scored another point. A 21-nothing lead against the Chiefs is a wonderful thing to have, but it isn’t enough points, they’ll have to score early and often if they want to keep up.

Chiefs 28 Colts 24

Cowboys at Rams

Did the Cowboys look really good last weekend or did the Seahawks short circuit again? It was so bizarre to see a kicker pull up lame (but if ever it was going to happen, it would be Sebastian Janikowski. Cousin Sal from the Jimmy Kimmel Show tweeted that Janikowski “pulled his honey baked ham-string”. You have to love football.)

Losing their kicker seemed to put an inordinate amount of pressure on the Seahawks. They could no longer even attempt extra points, let alone field goals. Which if that was the case and they weren’t even going to attempt kicks, why did they have the poor rookie punter kicking into a net all night? He was practicing drop kicks for some reason because yeah, let’s up the level of difficulty by drop kicking an extra point rather than doing it normally. Is he freaked out by holders? Does he mistakenly think a holder is a penalty? I have a lot of questions, but they all revolve around Pete Carroll short circuiting. Dallas played a fine game, Dak Prescott looked good in a playoff game for the first time but I put a huge onus on the Seahawks for failing to execute.

The Cowboys winning in Los Angeles is the upset special this weekend because people are forgetting that Sean McVay isn’t just an idea or a hire that teams are aspiring to make. Six new head coaches were hired this past week, many of them because they had once ridden in a car with Sean McVay. That’s only a slight exaggeration, here is a direct quote from the formal announcement by the Cardinals announcing their new head coach:

Kingsbury is friends with Rams coach Sean McVay- the 32-year-old offensive genius who has become the blueprint of many of the new coaching hires around the NFL- and McVay reached out to Kingsbury after Texas Tech let him go to see if Kingsbury wanted to join the Rams’ staff for the stretch run and postseason.”

Kingsbury was the head coach of Texas Tech the last 5-years and got fired this fall and the Arizona Cardinals decided that because Sean McVay would hire Kingsbury as an assistant that they have to get him to run their football team. That’s like saying Kingsbury, who the Patriots drafted in the 6th round (201st overall) of the 2003 draft is a Super Bowl winning quarterback, even though he spent the entire season on the IR.

Though the Cardinals would probably just tweet that he once met Bill Belichick and one time got a phone call from him (it was to release him in 2004, but still, they talked!)

Back to my original point, people are paying so much attention to the next Sean McVay that they are forgetting that the real Sean McVay has had a helluva season (for the most part) and the Rams at home have been really tough to beat. I think this could be the best game of the weekend, but people are unjustly ignoring the Rams.

Rams 34 Cowboys 23

Chargers at Patriots

I don’t feel good about this one as a Patriots fan. The Chargers are a really talented team, they have impactful players on both sides of the ball. On offense how do you stop Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon and Keenan Allen? On defense they’re even scarier with Joey Bosa, Derwin James and Melvin Ingram. THEY HAVE TWO GREAT PLAYERS NAMED MELVIN FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! Last month after the Chargers beat the Chiefs in KC, there was some argument over who the best team in the AFC really was and the Patriots were left out of the conversation.

To make myself feel better, I am going to rely on the classics:

  • The Patriots almost never lose after a bye week, in fact they’ve won their last 7 divisional round games, all of them following byes.
  • The Patriots have won a playoff game in each of the last 7 years.
  • Philip Rivers is 0-7 versus Tom Brady led teams.
  • Philip Rivers is 1-3 in his career in games where the temps are sub-30 degrees. Tom Brady is 23-4.

That last stat is amazing if only because it means that not only has Philip Rivers on won one game in games played below freezing, but the fact that he has only even PLAYED 4 games in sub-30 degree weather is amazing. There is the stereo type of the west coast team, playing the 1pm east coast game, when you add in the freezing weather, I’m back on the train.

Patriots 31 Chargers 27

Eagles at Saints

The Eagles are so scary and of course, in a post season where I started my picks bracket 0-4, (but don’t worry, I’m still the regular season champ) the only team I feel good about, aka the Saints, have to play against the strongest force in the universe, Nick Foles. The Eagles were lucky to win last week in Chicago, so how do you equate that and try to predict this week’s performance? They beat a very good Bears team at Soldier Field but only scored 16-ponts and needed Cody Parkey to hit one up right and the cross bar on his game winning field goal attempt to escape.

That’s the thing about Nick Foles, you don’t know how he’s going to beat you, but there’s a great chance that he’s going to beat you. It is interesting to think about, where most of the time the argument saying that the Eagles should keep Foles and trade Carson Wentz is brushed off as insane. BUT, the Eagles lost in New Orleans on November 18th, 48-7. The starting quarterback that day? Carson Wentz. If Foles, somehow wins this game, isn’t that the ultimate litmus test? One quarterback beats the Saints on the road in the playoffs, while in that same season the other quarterback led his team to the most lopsided loss that a defending Super Bowl champion has ever experienced.

An interesting test case, but one I’m sad to say we will never find out the answer to.

Saints 37 Eagles 23

Sterling Pingree (@SterlingPingree on Twitter) is a co-host on The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.