“The more concerned we become over the things we can’t control,
the less we will do with the things we can control.”—John Wooden
NFL Wildcard Weekend:
Buffalo over Indianapolis—Final prediction: Bills 49, Colts 21.
Actual: Buffalo 27, Indianapolis 24
When the Colts failed on four downs at the goal line late in the first half, it was clear the Bills had survived Indy’s best shot.
Philip Rivers made it close, but the Bills got their test and hiccup in before the stakes get raised next week against Baltimore. Josh Allen is the real deal. Now with a playoff win under his belt, I expect him to be even better in the next round.
For Indy, next stop Carson Wentz?
Rams over Seattle—Final prediction: Rams 17, Seahawks 16.
Actual: Rams 30, Seattle 20
Did Jared Goff find redemption with a busted thumb that he couldn’t find without it? He took care of the ball, managed the Rams through three quarters, and then made critical throws in the fourth. He also proved again he’s tough in the process. It was a solid performance in the context of it not being great.
The defense was outstanding. And the only negative is that it makes Defensive Coordinator Brandon Staley an even better candidate for an HC gig.
Tangent: I do wonder if John Wolford’s name wasn’t John Wolford if he would have earned a flag for head to head contact? It seemed odd in an age where heavy breathing constitutes unnecessary roughness–no penalty was walked-off.
We’ll talk about Green Bay tomorrow but will finish today praising the best Rams front-office (Head Coach on Up) since the days of Don Klosterman and Chuck Knox. The team drafts well, moves on well (Dante Fowler, Marcus Peters, Clay Matthews), and knows when to make the big move (Jalen Ramsey).
For a Rams fan, this is close to being a golden age.
Tampa Bay over Washington—Final prediction: Buccaneers 24, Washington 10.
Actual: Tampa Bay 31, Washington 23
Taylor Heinicke made it exciting and guaranteed himself a job in 2021, but Tom Brady took care of business. The Buccaneers are going to be a hard out for the rest of January. The running game needs to be better, but they have so many receivers, so many choices for Brady, it’s going to be fun.
Oh, and if Tampa ends up going to Green Bay for the NFC title game—they have a cold-weather quarterback, a cold-weather tight-end, and a cold-weather wide receiver.
You have to love what Washington accomplished this season. Heinicke was brilliant and will be an excellent place-holder for the next guy. Alex Smith, God bless him, needs to retire.
Confident after the games this weekend, Tampa Bay beats the Saints next week.
BTW, did you know the NFL is fighting for Social Justice? I caught a glimpse of a commercial (or 30) during a game.
Baltimore at Tennessee—Final prediction: Titans 34, Ravens 28.
Actual: Baltimore 20, Tennesse 13
Happy for Lamar Jackson. When he threw the early pick, I began to doubt, but eventually, everything worked out. Still, despite a few solid throws, it worked out because of his legs.
People will say—because it’s “cool” to say—Colin Kaepernick could have done the same thing.
I’ll say, don’t demean Jackson by comparing him to Kaepernick. Jackson competes, works his butt off, and has improved each year. At best, Kaepernick was the same quarterback he was at the end as he was at the beginning.
Forget about the Titans’ inability to run the ball. I couldn’t figure out what they were doing on offense. They could have buried the Ravens early, didn’t, and paid for it. Ryan Tannehill should live with the interception he threw to Marcus Peters for a long, long time.
But what I want to know was why didn’t Tennessee use Tannehill’s legs? I’m not a fan of the running quarterback, but Tannehill can scoot and should have been utilized as a wrinkle against the Ravens defense.
Didn’t have a problem with Vrabel’s decision to punt on fourth and two at the Baltimore 40 in the fourth. It was still a one-possession game at that time.
Loved the Ravens dancing on the Titans logo and waving goodbye.
New Orleans over Chicago—Final prediction: Saints 40, Bears 7.
Actual: New Orleans 21, Chicago 9
Saints fans should be ever so grateful that their team played against the Bears’ offense. Mitchell Trubisky and a particular receiver (Javon Wims) will be in different uniforms next year.
If the Bears had Taylor Heinicke under center, this would have been a one-possession game. Chicago’s defense, undermanned, played their guts out. A little help on offense, and they could have pulled off a stunner.
Saints HC Sean Payton is brilliant, but in a contest, you’ve already won…Why on a fourth and goal do you allow your 42-year-old quarterback (healing from fractured ribs), run a quarterback sneak? Brees leaps and worse than not scoring was the shot he took from the defense. Brain-dead call.
Of course, I am anti-New Orleans, but I feel confident saying the third time will not be a charm for them against Tampa Bay.
Cleveland over Pittsburgh—Final prediction: Browns 24, Steelers 17.
Actual: Cleveland 48, Pittsburgh 37
Congrats to the Browns and Baker Mayfield. Dude went to another level leading the team and making plays behind an offensive line less experienced than a flag-football team. I’m not saying they’ll advance to the conference finals, but they will not be an easy out.
Note to Ben Roethlisberger: I still think you can play, but you need to retire. Escape this league with some of your health intact. I have to believe you were thinking about it sitting on the bench after the game.
My biggest question is, has Mike Tomlin lost the locker room? Bad start is one thing, but how could his team not be ready to go in a playoff contest…Against a division rival.
I don’t want to hear about how they rallied back like a champion. I don’t want to hear about Big Ben’s struggles. I want to know why this team wasn’t ready to play.
And when you reach a point where there is nothing to lose and nothing more expected—you punt on fourth and one at midfield? Jump-shooting Jubilee Dunbar! UnMcFricken Believable!
Charlotte at New Orleans: Hornets win—118-110
Of the Ball brothers, LaMelo plays with the most energy, which gives me the indication he could be something special in the NBA.
Offensively, the Balls will never be confused with the Van Arsdales.
The Pelicans (4-5) Zion Williamson was terrific running the floor and crashing the boards. But I wonder how much better he’d be if New Orleans ran an offense designed to get him the ball down in the blocks—or anywhere for that matter.
The Hornets (4-5) should have been run out of the building. Early they were, but the Pelicans had more turnovers than a Solvang Pastry shop. (Yeah, I know, but all the jokes can’t be good. You have to expect that every once in a while.)
Charlotte needs to lose the whole “Buzz City” tag they wear across their chests. I know it ties historically somewhat to Charlotte…but it’s stupid…and played.
Clippers at Golden State: Warriors win—115-105
The Friday Night Swallowing of the Jalapeno Award goes to the Los Angeles Clippers (6-4).
The Clips led 85-63 midway through the third quarter. The Warriors (5-4) then went on a 34-6 run to take the lead. Steph Curry was great, but it was all about the defense. In that stretch, the Warriors played the best defense—I’ve seen in the NBA since the Ben Wallace, Tayshaun Prince, Rip Hamilton Pistons of the early 2000s.
Everyone knows Kawhi Leonard and Pablo Jorge look great, and Nick Batum is marvelous to watch. But Lou Williams appears to have aged.
“You gonna be a championship team with championship aspirations? Handle your business.”—ESPN’s Mark Jackson
NBA Games Seen: 27
The Dude abides…
Joe T. is the author of “Tangent Dreams: A High School Football Novel” … “Temple City & The Company of The Ages” … “The Dead Bug Tales” … “The Dark Norm” & “FaithViews for Storm Riders”…all five available through Amazon.com.
Follow Joe on Twitter @joet13b
MeWe: Joe Torosian