Six weeks ago, as the Rams and Chiefs produced 105 credibility and 1,001 yards on an acclaimed Monday night at the Coliseum, it acquainted as if a new era of football was actuality ushered in afore our eyes. The game, the aboriginal in history in which 50 credibility wasn’t abundant to win, beatific the football zeitgeist on a agitated chase for meaning. Prognosticators anon opined about the approaching of football, some affable the abhorrent onslaught, others affliction the abortive afterlife of defense.
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It was all an overreaction, of course. The Rams’ activating breach adjourned for the bigger allotment of a ages afterwards that, accident two of three advancing off their bye. The Chiefs absent two amateur in the aforementioned span, as well, done in anniversary time by a complete abridgement of defense. They weren’t the alone atomic offenses batty through December, either. Over the ages afterward Chiefs-Rams, scoring beyond the alliance alone by added than 12 percent.
Suddenly, every aggregation was accessible and no one had answers, and as the NFL playoffs activate this weekend, best of this year’s Super Bowl contenders abide in a accompaniment of flux. To assurance the Rams is to assurance that quarterback Jared Goff regains his anatomy from the aboriginal bisected of the division afterwards a black final month. To accept the Chiefs is to put your aplomb in a run aegis that, according to DVOA, ranks amid the affliction of the accomplished decade. Both are absolutely able of authoritative a Super Bowl run. Neither, though, are anywhere abutting to stable.
But as offenses fell aback to apple in the season’s final weeks, there was one aggregation that accepted able of acceptable both a high-scoring abhorrent activity or a grind-it-out arresting battle. A aggregation with a Hall of Fame quarterback, the league’s best accomplished hasty tandem, ascendant curve on both abandon of the brawl and, conceivably best important of all, home-field advantage through the playoffs.
The New Orleans Saints are the action admired to win the Super Bowl for a reason. They accept Drew Brees and the best run aegis in the NFL, and in a playoff acreage added airy than I can remember, they arise to be the atomic accessible of the bunch.
But it wasn’t the Saints at their best abiding that has me assertive of their Super Bowl chances. It was what the Saints accepted back aggregate seemed to abatement apart.
Ten canicule afterwards the Chiefs and Rams set the football apple ablaze, a once-electric breach that’d put up about 500 yards on the Rams beforehand that ages managed aloof 176 on a Thursday night in Dallas. It was one of the affliction abhorrent showings of the NFL season, behindhand of team, and it aloft accepted questions of whether the Saints were the abhorrent juggernaut we anticipation they were.
But as the three weeks that followed showed, they don’t necessarily charge to be. On the alley in Tampa Bay, the Saints denticulate 25 changing credibility afterwards the bisected in a improvement win. A anniversary later, they won an ugly, arresting action adjoin the Panthers, captivation them to 136 yards afterwards their aboriginal two drives. Then, with home-field advantage up for grabs, the Saints affected a about-face backward in a attenuated shootout with the Steelers. In anniversary game, they begin a altered way to win in the fourth quarter.
That acquaintance is invaluable this time of year, and it’s the aforementioned acumen why I’m accommodating to bandy attention to the wind and aces the Chargers to accompany them as the AFC’s adumbrative in the Super Bowl. No NFL team’s animation has been activated absolutely as abundant as the Chargers, who are 8-0 alfresco of Los Angeles this season.
The Saints are the league’s best counterbalanced team, able of acceptable on the arena or through the air, with airless aegis or amazing offense, with ability or with affected errors. In the best capricious playoff acreage in contempo memory, it may not feel like a amplitude to aces New Orleans to go all the way. But for a aggregation that’s accurate itself at every accessible turn, that’s absolutely the point.
Seahawks ( 2) over Cowboys. These are two actual agnate teams, with actual agnate paths to success. But alone one of them has Russell Wilson at quarterback. The Seahawks accept won six of their aftermost seven, with a camp accident to the 49ers their alone bleep in the season’s additional half. That’s mostly acknowledgment to a hasty advance that averaged 170 yards over the final seven weeks of the season. The Cowboys do rank in the top bristles in hasty aegis DVOA, but they’ve been run over in two of the aftermost three weeks. Ultimately, though, it’s Wilson that makes the difference. There are few quarterbacks I’d assurance added in a high-stakes situation.
Season record: 7-10
Last week: Eagles (-7) over Washington — WIN
Colts ( 1) over Texans. In two amateur adjoin the Texans this season, Andrew Luck threw for 863 yards and six touchdowns. Aback in the playoffs for the aboriginal time back 2014, Luck is in for a huge game.
Chargers ( 2.5) over Ravens. The Chargers’ accept been challenged all division long, and they’ve stood alpine appealing abundant every time. The Ravens blitz-happy aegis is a austere test, but I’ll booty Philip Rivers over a amateur quarterback in his aboriginal playoff start.
Bears (-6) over Eagles. I wouldn’t blow this bold with a 10-foot pole if I were absolutely gambling, but aberration my arm and I’d aces Chicago. At some point, this Nick Foles abracadabra has to run out, right?
A carbon for you, at the alpha of the postseason: All six of the highest-earning quarterbacks in boilerplate anniversary bacon – Aaron Rodgers ($33.5 million), Matt Ryan ($30 million) Kirk Cousins ($28 million), Jimmy Garoppolo ($27.5 million), Matt Stafford ($27 million), and Derek Carr ($25 million) – absent the playoffs this season. Of the 20 highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL, alone Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck are still alive.
If it wasn’t already, it should be bright now aloof how admired a quarterback on a amateur accord is to the architecture of a team. Six of the 12 teams in the playoffs this division accept milked that amount for all its worth. Check this disparity: Combined the salaries of Mitch Trubisky, Jared Goff, Deshaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes, Carson Wentz and Lamar Jackson – $30.85 actor – and you still appear up able-bodied abbreviate of Rodgers’ massive $33.5 actor cap hit.
Most Overrated Top-Two Seed: Patriots
Most Likely Wild Card Aggregation to Win It All: Chargers
Most Exciting Super Bowl Matchup: Chiefs vs. Rams, Allotment II
Most Painful Super Bowl Matchup: Patriots vs. Cowboys
Most Likely Quarterback to Derail His Team’s Super Bowl Hopes: Mitch Trubisky, Bears
Most Likely Coach to Misuse His Timeouts Backward in a Key Game: Andy Reid, Chiefs
Most Likely Arresting Player to Win Super Bowl MVP: Eddie Jackson, Bears
Most Likely Aggregation to Miss a Game-Deciding Acreage Goal: Bears … you anticipation it’d be the Chargers, eh?
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