The first round of the 2017 NFL playoff schedule is over. Read on for some observations from Wild Card weekend, including an Eagles slant to the games.
- Eagles fans must be happy to see the Giants eliminated by the Green Bay Packers by a final score of 38 to 13. It’s not only because New York is an NFC East rival. It’s also because it’s hard to shake the feeling the Giants have the capability to go on an improbable playoff run just like they did with their last two titles. Early on in the Giants-Packers game when Green Bay got off to a sluggish start, it was hard not to have flashbacks to 2012 when the Giants won a game where the Packers completely crapped the bed. The Packers had a ton of uncharacteristic drops in that game and Aaron Rodgers didn’t play well. The Giants also somehow managed to score on a Hail Mary before halftime. This year, the script was flipped. It was New York who dealt with drops and also gave up a Hail Mary touchdown. This was a case of luck evening itself out.
- Speaking of all those Giants drops, let’s talk about Odell Beckham Jr. There’s no question OBJ is one of the most talented wide-outs in the league. But there’s also no question he came up very small in a very big game for the Giants. OBJ was targeted 11 times and he only managed to come up with four receptions for 28 yards. Beckham Jr. dropped at least three passes, including one for a wide open touchdown. It’s not like Green Bay’s secondary is great, either. The Packers’ defense allowed the second most passing yards per game this year.
- The NFL is so weird. I love how there are serious think-pieces being written in defense of OBJ going on a boat and posing for pictures in Miami on an off day for Giants players. Like, does anyone actually think the boat thing is why OBJ struggled? Then again, I guess we can’t prove it didn’t have an impact. (I’m joking. I think.)
- OBJ wasn’t the only Giants player dropping passes. I thought I was watching the Eagles’ receiving corps at one point.
- Rodgers is crazy. That Hail Mary touchdown looked too easy. It’s easy to say he’s just getting lucky, but he’s thrown three of these bombs since 2015. Hail Mary touchdown aside, Rodgers threw some absolutely gorgeous passes on Sunday. The way he uses his legs to extend plays and fire laser throws into tight windows is incredible. As far as the Eagles are concerned, Carson Wentz has the extension ability down. Now he just has to improve on the throwing aspect. Having some receivers who get open would also help.
- Despite getting shredded by Rodgers, the Giants’ defense played well in 2016. That unit could prove to be a challenge for the Eagles moving forward. New York’s offense, however, is a different story. The Giants finished the season sixth to last in offensive points per game. The Giants had success in 2016, so it’s hard to say Ben McAdoo was a failure, but what does the fact his offense stinks say about him? It’s not like he’s lacking a franchise quarterback and weapons to work with.
- It feels like the Wild Card round hasn’t produced a lot of quality games in recent years. Just going off the top of my head, the Bengals-Steelers (a divisional game) from last year was good. The Colts-Chiefs game in 2014 was entertaining. There might be others I’m forgetting, but that’s my point. The first round just isn’t providing a lot of memorable football games. This Wild Card weekend was especially bad. Check out this tweet from @RapSheet: “Per @NFLResearch, this was the most lopsided Wild Card weekend since expanding to 4 games in 1990 — 19.0 average margin.”
- Part of the reason why the quality was bad is due to injury. Three teams were starting backup quarterbacks. The Raiders were actually on their third string passer and would have had to use Michael Crabtree under center if Connor Cook went down. It’s really a shame the likes of Derek Carr and Ryan Tannehill suffered significant injuries so close to the end of the season.
- Hard to believe the Texans really made it to the second round of the playoffs given how they finished sixth to last in point differential and fourth to last in DVOA. They’re playing on borrowed time.
- Former vice president of NFL officiating Mike Pereira had some criticism for the officials in the Seahawks-Lions game: “Seven guys from seven different crews did not work on a level that’s acceptable.”
- Speaking of that game, how about those Paul Richardson catches? Absolutely zero faith an Eagles receiver could make those plays.
- The Dolphins-Steelers game was so boring that I ended up watching the Sixers beat the Brooklyn Nets instead. Joel Embiid is truly a pleasure to watch. Do your part and send him to the All-Star Game by tweeting “Joel Embiid #NBAVOTE.” For more Sixers coverage, check out the great work Derek Bodner does here at PhillyMag.
- I have a weird feeling about this Steelers team. I’m not sure if they’ll beat the Chief next week. I think it’s possible, but I feel like it could be tough for them since the game is in Kansas City. But if the Steelers do beat the Chiefs, I like their chances of beating New England in the AFC Championship Game. If the Chiefs beat the Steelers, however, I think it will definitely be the Patriots who advance to Super Bowl 51.
- Early thought: a Steelers-Falcons Super Bowl could be fun. Lots of scoring.
- Former Eagles head coach Andy Reid is reportedly set to earn a contract extension from Kansas City this offseason. Big Red is 43-21 with a 1-2 playoff record since being fired by Philadelphia.
- The Packers can continue to make Eagles fans happy by eliminating the Cowboys next week. Does Green Bay have a shot? They lost to the Cowboys earlier this year in Lambeau by a final score of 30 to 16. Then again, the Packers are playing better football now than they were back in October.
Find the entire 2017 divisional round playoff schedule below.
NFL DIVISIONAL ROUND
Saturday, January 14
NFC: Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons (FOX, 4:35 p.m.)
AFC: Houston Texans at New England Patriots (CBS, 8:15 p.m.)
Sunday, January 15
AFC: Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs (NBC, 1:05 p.m.)
NFC: Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys (FOX, 4:40 p.m.)
CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND
Sunday, January 22
NFC: (FOX, 3:05 p.m.)
AFC: (CBS, 6:40 p.m.)
SUPER BOWL LI
Sunday, Feb. 5
NFC Champion vs. AFC Champion (FOX, 6:30 p.m.)
Note: The Pro Bowl takes place on Sunday, January 29.
WHAT YOU MISSED
“Lane [Johnson] was denied even the most basic information, including information about his treatment under the 2015 Policy.” Lane Johnson has filed a formal complaint towards the NFL and the NFL Players Association.
Plenty of writers have plenty of thoughts about who the Eagles should take with their first round pick.
Although the Eagles play all of the NFC’s last place teams, their schedule might be more difficult than it looks.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
As much as elite quarterbacks are in the NFL, Bob Brookover of the Inquirer writes that elite head coaches are also very important for the success of a team.
“You talk about facing adversity,” [Howie] Roseman said. “Head coach comes in and our right tackle [Lane Johnson] is suspended for 10 games, our starting quarterback [Sam Bradford] is traded eight days before the start of the regular season. And the way the players responded, certainly toward the end of the season, you could see how the players felt about him. I’m just looking forward to him getting better and continuing to grow like all of us in our jobs.”
[Doug] Pederson definitely deserves another year. He did face a lot of adversity and he also had the least amount of talent in his own division. If [Carson] Wentz has faith in Pederson – and there’s every reason to believe he does – then the Eagles have the right man for right now.
Here’s the concern: If you perform the same exercise with the head coaches that I just went through with the quarterbacks, it’s a lot easier to feel good about the future of the quarterback than it is about the future of the coach.
The reason is simple: In almost every case, the resumés of the coaches at the time of their hirings was much more impressive than Pederson’s before he was hired by the Eagles.
Jason Kelce and Malcolm Jenkins did not leave the field at all in 2016, notes CSNPhilly.com’s Dave Zangaro.
Jason Kelce: 1,133 (100)
Jason Peters: 1,100 (97)
Brandon Brooks: 991 (87)
Allen Barbre: 619 (55)
Stefen Wisniewski: 607 (54)
Halapoulivaati Vaitai: 423 (37)
Lane Johnson: 407 (36)
Isaac Seumalo: 335 (30)
Matt Tobin: 100 (9)
Dillon Gordon: 2
Josh Andrews: 1
We already got into Kelce, but it’s probably even more important to realize that Peters played 1,100 snaps this season. He was back to 97 percent of the Eagles’ snaps like he was in 2014. In 2015, he seemed to be constantly injured and played just 65.8 percent. Doug Pederson did a masterful job of managing Peters this season.
Even with his two last-minute absences because of his battle with anxiety, Brooks managed to play 991 snaps (87 percent) and seemed to be a pretty good free-agent acquisition. So did veteran Wisniewski, who played 54 percent of the team’s total offensive snaps after being signed on a one-year deal.
Malcolm Jenkins: 1,019 (100 percent)
Rodney McLeod: 1,014 (99)
Nolan Carroll: 910 (89)
Jalen Mills: 661 (65)
Leodis McKelvin: 587 (58)
Jaylen Watkins: 388 (38)
Ron Brooks: 235 (23)
Terrence Brooks: 3
Chris Maragos: 1
C.J. Smith: 1
Aaron Grymes: 0
Dwayne Gratz: 0
We know Jenkins doesn’t leave the field, but for the second straight year, his safety partner was right there with him. Walter Thurmond played 99 percent of snaps last year and free-agent pickup McLeod did it this year.
Carroll led the way for the corners with 910 snaps. He’s now a free agent. Mills played 661 snaps as a rookie and veteran McKelvin battled through a hamstring injury to eventually play 587.
Brooks played 23 percent of the team’s total snaps, but it would have been much, much higher had he not gotten injured in the Vikings’ game. Even though the torn quad cut his year short, his 235 defensive snaps were a career high. His previous high was 162 as a rookie in 2012.
We take a look at some possible Eagles draft picks that are playing in tonight’s College Football Playoff National Championship game.
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.