What a phenomenal weekend for NFL football. Certainly much better and far more entertaining than Wildcard Weekend. I think Divisional Weekend has officially surpassed Wildcard Weekend as not only more exciting football but presents a much better product in recent years.
If you’re still protesting or boycotting the NFL, I have one question. Why? You’re the one that’s missing out.
Lots of takeaways from the weekend so let’s get into them.
1. The future of Mike Tomlin
In no way am I leaking any information on his future as coach of the Steelers nor am I actually calling for his firing. But one has to wonder just how intact his job security is after his team was outplayed and upset by the Jacksonville Jaguars. This is yet another excellent Steelers roster that has underwhelmed under expectations. It’s been seven years since they last played in a Super Bowl and nine since he actually won one. I’ve railed on the Steelers for one reason all season. I believe for at least the last two years the Steelers have had unarguably the most talented roster in the entire league. Yet they have little to show for it.
In the same fashion we rail on Andy Reid for underwhelming year after year in Kansas City, it may be time to put Tomlin under a similar microscope. Plus it was quite concerning hearing players like LeVeon Bell talking about their upcoming contractual negotiations for this coming offseason when in fact your team is still playing for the right to play in the AFC Title game. Bad optics man. That does not happen in New England.
I wonder why?
2. Give Blake Bortles credit.
Again the numbers are not sexy.
14-26, 214 yards, 1 TD and most importantly - - ZERO Ints
Just like last week against Buffalo, Blake Bortles did what was asked.
1. Make plays when needed.
2. Do not turn the ball over at any cost.
He’s done his job. As a result the Jacksonville Jaguars are in the AFC Championship game. He deserves a TON of credit for that.
3. You should not be surprised that the Eagles won.
When I picked the Falcons to win this weekend it was less of what the Philadelphia Eagles were and more of what the Atlanta Falcons had become prior to Saturday afternoon. Especially considering just how good Atlanta looked last week in their impressive win over the LA Rams.
I said the Eagles defense would keep the game close. As long as Nick Foles played a clean game Philly had a chance. What I did not expect was for Atlanta to absolutely shit the bed on the offensive side of the ball. Credit definitely should be given to the Eagles but the defending NFC Champs equally as well underwhelmed.
4. The New England Patriots are in their 7th straight AFC Title game.
Rinse. Repeat. The Patriots are playing football in late January. I’m sure outside being a Patriots fan this has to be annoying as all hell. But there is a reason they are the greatest NFL dynasty in history. They’ve done this with the same coach/quarterback combo for 17 years. And here is the thing football fans need to come to grips with. New England does not have a significant advantage over any other team either in terms of outspending financially like the New York Yankees in baseball do. It is a even financial playing field in the NFL. The NFL is played under the law of hard salary cap. Quite frankly New England continues to be successful than any other team simply because they are smarter. So a memo to the other 31 teams in the league who wish to compete on the same playing field as Belichick and Brady. Be smarter.
5. The Tennessee Titans played scared on Saturday.
Seriously, what did they have to lose on Saturday night? Damn near every person in America including Titans fans themselves expected them to lose. They were playing with house money. Call some gadget plays. Take some chances. It frustrates me that teams that go into games like these do not acknowledge and embrace that fact. It’s like they are intimidated by the moment. It’s unnerving.
6. Case Keenum is going to be a rich man this spring.
He was great on Sunday vs. the Saints. Sure there were some throws he would take back and would’ve made Minnesota’s win much more easier and less stressful. But Keenum passed a major test in not just winning a playoff game but showed he can take his team down the field not once but twice in position to win. It’s also why for the last half of the season I said Keenum should garner MVP chatter. He did not necessarily outplay Drew Brees but he did go toe to toe with the future Hall Of Famer and this is all you really can ask for.
7. I went 3-1 once again vs. the spread.
6-2 for the entire postseason. Minnesota got my late cover with their miraculous touchdown by Stefon Diggs to win. Jaguars/Steelers more than covered the OVER at 41. Patriots did their job in their blowout over the Titans. The only blemish was the annoying Atlanta Falcons who I put way too much faith in and flat out lost.