What a week 17! We saw drama, we saw great performances, and we saw the unexpected. We’ll dive into the Wild Card matchups in subsequent posts this week, but first, let’s bring 2019 to a close.
The Better Team Won, But Another Goal line Blunder for Seattle
It’s probably already been said a few too many times in the media by now, but there’s just something about the Seahawks on the goal line… On Sunday Night, they mismanaged the situation and made another critical mistake.
This time, it was on an inexcusable delay of game after converting on 4th-and-10 with less than a minute to play. It’s tough to understand why exactly it took so long for the play to get in. It looked like there was some debate over whether or not they should take out left tackle George Fant, who appeared to be injured after Seattle converted on 4th down. Perhaps there was indecision over whether or not to attempt a run with Marshawn Lynch considering there were just 22 seconds remaining and the Seahawks had no timeouts.
Whatever it was, Seattle was just standing around with no urgency, as if they were in a TV timeout. They weren’t even close to getting a play off either (The play clock hit 0 when they were still in the huddle). Whatever the reasoning was behind it, the indecision and lack of urgency cost the Seahawks there. Seattle will start their postseason on the road across the country, largely due to this blunder.
I think it’s clear that San Francisco was the better all-around team and deserved the division title. The 49ers let Seattle hang around and nearly steal two games this season. Losing two games they should have won and then having to go on the road in the Wild Card Round would have been a bitter pill to swallow.
Also, how about Jimmy Garoppolo? He looked poised and seasoned all night, completing over 80% of his passes and playing mistake-free ball. Remember when there were concerns about him in the preseason? How long ago does that seem right now? The NFC is the 49ers’ to lose.
The Patriots Should be Worried
We have said time and time again that we’ll believe the Patriots aren’t capable of making a Super Bowl run when they are officially eliminated. Bill Belichick is not just the best head coach of all time, but he is better at making in-game and week-to-week adjustments than any coach in history. The Patriots could come out this Saturday and be a completely different team than they’ve shown for the last 8 weeks.
That said, this time does seem to be just a little bit different, doesn’t it? Tom Brady missed several throws on Sunday against the Dolphins (continuing a trend), including an inexplicable and uncharacteristic pick-6 that had a profound impact on the game. Teams continue to double Julian Edelman in key situations, and the Patriots don’t have the consistent ability to win 1-on-1’s elsewhere or do enough with their running game. This means that if their defense isn’t lights out like it has been for most of the season (but wasn’t on Sunday), they don’t really have the ability to win in a high-scoring shootout.
To make it to the Super Bowl, the Patriots will probably have to win three low-to-mid scoring games against 3 very good offenses (The Titans, Chiefs, and likely the Ravens). It’s tough to see them shutting down each of those teams. The alternative path is that New England will have to light up the scoreboard against what are 3 complex defenses that all utilize a style of play that has given Tom Brady the most trouble through the years. Neither of these scenarios seems likely.
Never count out a Belichick-coached team, though.
Aaron Rodgers is the X-Factor
Every game this season has seen Aaron Rodgers make a handful of plays most other (if not all other) quarterbacks can’t make. Every game has also seen several uncharacteristic moments of ineptitude, with Rodgers either physically missing throws or not pulling the trigger on wide-open receivers. Sunday’s game against the Lions was no exception, and it nearly cost Green Bay a 1st-round bye.
In January, the Packers will need Aaron Jones, the running game, and that defense to continue to play like they have all season. Rodgers has not really benefitted from the presence of a good running game or defense throughout most of his career. He now has a competitive team around him, capable of picking up some of the slack when he isn’t at his best. That’s reflected in the team’s 13-3 record.
However, for the Packers to get to the Super Bowl, they will need Aaron Rodgers to play like Aaron Rodgers. Despite the improvement in their defense and running game, the Packers are not as deep or as good of a team as the 49ers or Saints. Rodgers will have to be the differentiating factor for Green Bay to have a chance against either.
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