The Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings have the byes in the NFC, but the scariest team in the playoffs this year is going to be the one that emerges from the wild-card matchup Saturday between the Rams and Atlanta Falcons.
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Right now, they are No. 1 and No. 1-A of teams no one wants to play.
The Falcons want to get back to the Super Bowl and after scuffling a bit early, they’re in sync now. They have a chance. They’re running the football better the past couple of weeks. They play solid defense and have a lightning-fast defense. That defense is going to look like it did last postseason, when they were all over the place. And now they have a year of experience under their belt.
When you’re in the playoffs it’s all about having a solid run game and a strong defense. You couple that with a quarterback who has been to the Super Bowl, been an MVP. They’re a scary team. They haven’t been as consistent on offense but, man, Matt Ryan is a guy I would put in the top three or four that I would want to win a game if I had to have one.
The Rams are in the top five in the league in offense, defense and special teams. If I were a defensive coordinator I would not want to see that team. And with the way they’re playing defense now with Aaron Donald, they’re kind of coming into their own as far as understanding the ins and outs of the defensive scheme Wade Phillips has brought over there.
They’re going to be a tough out for anyone.
Both are well-equipped for the playoffs, when the speed of the game is so much faster.
There are times in the regular season where the intensity is not as high. It’s not that guys will take a play off. But if you can go out and run one 40-yard dash you can run your fastest 40, but when you’re going to run 10 of them you’re not going to run a 4.3 every time. In the playoffs, everybody is running their best 40 at all times.
The intensity just picks up. Guys for some reason don’t get tired. That’s where you see the level of the speed pick up. Things have to happen faster because guys study more, they have a better feel for their opponent. They know that this is it: “We have one chance or we’re going to go home.” The mental acuity, the awareness on the field, the need for having to be creative on offense – it’s all at a heightened level.
Things have to happen faster because guys study more, they have a better feel for their opponent. They know that this is it.
You can see anything from the defense. No matter how much film you’ve watched or what you’ve watched from the past four or five weeks, you better go back a year and find out what this defensive coordinator is capable of, because I guarantee you’re going to see it, especially in the first round of the playoffs.
There’s just another level of getting ready and of preparation.
It’s new for Sean McVay in Los Angeles, but I really like what they do on offensive scheme, and their ability to move guys around and create matchups.
They have so many weapons. Sean inherited a pretty good football team. They’ve drafted well in Los Angeles the past couple of years. They’ve brought in some good pieces.
Watching them, I haven’t seen at any moment where I was concerned about Sean’s ability to handle situational football or had any concern he was getting too predictable on offense. None of that has come up with Sean. It has come up a lot watching football this year – you question the decisions coaches make. Not with him. The pressure of the playoffs, I think, it will only heighten what he’s already good at.
And Dan Quinn, he has probably thought of that loss to New England in the Super Bowl at least every day for the last 10 or 11 months. The ability to go back and have another chance at this thing and try to get back to this game, his preparation is going to be at an all-time high. They’re kind of flying under the radar and I guarantee that he’s telling his team no one is giving us a chance to go into L.A. and beat this team. I think it will be a great game. It’s going to be wide open from the jump.
It’s an interesting playoff scenario because the No. 1 seed in the NFC looks the most vulnerable with the Eagles.
If I had to make a prediction, I would say Rams 31-28. With Carolina and New Orleans, I think this could be a fun game, too. I like the Saints, 31-21.
Kansas City and Tennessee in the AFC, I think this one can get out of hand. I’m going to say Kansas City 24, Tennessee 13. And Jacksonville and Buffalo, I like Buffalo, but I think Jacksonville is going to be geared up. Let’s go 24-21, Jacksonville.
Question of the week
From Rooney: I am a Seahawks’ fan with serious concerns for my team. Though I am only 12, I have heard much talk of a rebuild. This makes some sense, for sure, with a atrocious offensive line, the rapidly aging defense and the lack of a running game. This defense has some pieces, but injuries have killed the coverage situations and it hasn’t looked good. The offensive line has made Russell Wilson into a one-man show. If this team goes into rebuild how long will it take to get the necessary players and egos into place?
I don’t think any team is ever done or rebuilding if they have a MVP candidate at quarterback. You can have some different pieces and your defense might not be the defense you remember when you were 6, but the Seahawks are still going to be a dangerous football team. If Pete Carroll is there and Russell Wilson is playing quarterback, and Doug Baldwin is there, there are still going to be big plays.
Yes, there are all those issues you brought up – the offensive line, the running game, pretty much every defensive player we’ve come to know is either trying to find a way back onto the football field due to injuries or have left Seattle. They’re going to have to really look at that and retool the entire defense. But I think their scheme is sound. I think Seattle still is the most difficult place for an opponent.
You still have all those things working for you. This team wasn’t a very good football team this year and look how many wins they had. They were right on the doorstep of the playoffs and they had lost pretty much everyone, had no semblance of a running game or consistency on offense.
But when you have Russell Wilson, you have a chance. That would be my answer – as long as they have him they’ll never be a team that’s 4-12. I just don’t see that happening. Get healthy, get some new guys in there. One draft can turn an entire defense around, can change the dynamic of an offense. There are teams out there that don’t have a quarterback, that don’t have a Russell Wilson-type player, that don’t have that home field advantage or that history of winning. I wouldn’t be too concerned. It might not be pretty for a while, but they’ll always have a chance.
David Carr is a former Fresno State quarterback, NFL No. 1 draft pick and Super Bowl champion. Now he’s an analyst for the NFL Network and writing a weekly column in collaboration with The Bee’s Robert Kuwada. The column is sponsored by Valley Children’s Hospital
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