Wild Card Weekend Takeaways

Colts’ Running Game Emerges:
Where did that Colts rushing attack come from? We anticipated some of the early success Indianapolis had through the air against the Texans, but we did not expect them to gain 200 yards on the ground against arguably the best run defense in the league.

The Colts Offense matches up really well against the Kansas City Chiefs, their opponent next week. Indy should be able to put some points on the board, but if they can also use their running game to keep Pat Mahomes and company off the field, Kansas City will be in a lot of trouble. By the way, how interesting would a “Deflategate” rematch be in the AFC Championship Game the following week?

Cowboys Feed Zeke:
The Cowboys did exactly what they should have done against Seattle – feed Ezekiel Elliott. The Cowboys always get in trouble on offense when they get away from their strength, which is running the ball. They didn’t make that mistake on Saturday. Elliott finished with 137 rushing yards and a touchdown on 26 carries (5.3 yards per attempt). Dak Prescott made a few key throws and played well overall, but Dallas will only go as far as their running game and defense will take them.

Speaking of that defense, the Cowboys shut down the Seahawks’ top-ranked running game (73 yards on 24 carries – 3.0 yards per carry). They did this by playing disciplined team defense, which they also did against Seattle in Week 3. Their task will only get tougher this week against Sean McVay’s complex Rams Offense.

Chargers Defense Bounces Back
The Chargers Defense had too many holes up front when they played the Ravens in Week 16. On Sunday in Baltimore, they plugged those holes and held the Ravens to just 90 yards rushing. Baltimore hadn’t been held to less than 159 rushing yards in a game since Lamar Jackson took over at quarterback (also against the Chargers).

L.A. also took it to Lamar Jackson all afternoon, sacking him 7 times, forcing 3 fumbles (1 lost) and intercepting him once. Jackson completed just 2 passes for 17 yards in the first half. His deficiencies as a passer have been on display in each of his starts this season. The Chargers were finally able to exploit them on Sunday.

On a side note, the Chargers did not keep their foot on the Ravens’ throat late in the game. They became passive on both sides of the ball and inexcusably allowed the Ravens the opportunity to steal a victory. The Chargers escaped Baltimore with the win, but they won’t end up with the same result if they take a similar late-game approach against the Patriots.

Foles Does It Again
The Eagles’ passing game didn’t exactly tear up the Bears Defense. Nick Foles finished with 266 yards passing on 40 attempts (6.65 yards per attempt) and threw 2 interceptions. But he had a lot more success than we anticipated. Foles played well in critical moments, going 7-10 for 77 yards on 3rd down (5-11 converting on called passes), and he threw the game-winning touchdown on 4th down. The Bears Defense also aided Philadelphia by committing 52 yards worth of penalties on the Eagles’ first touchdown drive. They were not exactly the same dominant unit we saw all season, especially at home.

With that being said, the Bears did only allow 16 points (less than their league-leading 17.7 points per game average). Their offense and kicker have to take the brunt of the blame for this loss. Mitch Trubisky had a really good second half and made some great throws down the stretch. We’re talking about his clutch 4th-quarter performance today if Cody Parkey makes his kick. But Trubisky took a little too long to settle into the game, and he missed some opportunities in the first half. The Bears also never were able to get their running game going against an Eagles defense that ranked 21st in the league in rushing yards per attempt allowed this season.

This game was the biggest stunner of the weekend by far. We expected the Bears to do some serious damage in this year’s playoffs. It will be a long offseason in Chicago.