So I didn't call every game right, but in picking the Falcons and Steelers, and theorizing that Dallas would fall behind and not run the ball enough, I was close. Just like the Cowboys. At the end of the weekend we do at least have two very compelling championship game matchups -- perhaps the best we could have hoped for just eight days ago. First the recaps.
Seahawks at Falcons: No doubt some Falcons fans were nervous when Seattle crisply marched down the field for a touchdown on their opening drive. But they shouldn't have been, because if you've watched Matt Ryan and the Falcons enough this year, you already knew they can do the same to anyone, even a Seattle defense that's long been tough but wasn't quite as dominant against good offenses for much of this season. That ensuing drive by Atlanta -- they can run, they can pass, they can make plays with a whole bunch of different guys -- is why somebody really should have hired Kyle Shanahan as their head coach this offseason, and why Ryan could/should win the MVP award. Seattle just couldn't stop them, all game long. ... Thomas Rawls had that huge game against Detroit, but my opinion of him isn't really changed by the postseason. He's a hard-enough runner who will put up some numbers in wins, but he's absolutely useless if the team falls behind, the offensive line isn't any good, and he's injury-prone. Not a player I'll ever have on a fantasy team. ... Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin, however, they're a nice duo. ... Very impressive how the Falcons have two highly capable, fantasy-starter running backs. Yes they each had a dud game here and there, and they won't both score every week. But you can't ask for much more out of a non-LeVeon Bell or Ezekiel Elliott back. Biggest worry for Atlanta is if Julio Jones is healthy enough to stay on the field for most of next week's game. Because they will need him.
Texans at Patriots: Can we not talk about this one much? Houston was more competitive than expected, which wasn't a total stunner -- happens all the time where a team that's a huge underdog steps up for pride and respect and whatnot. Obviously they have some nice defensive pieces, and New England doesn't always just march through opponents like a hot knife through butter. But you could quickly sense when Houston settled for a couple of early field goals that that wasn't going to do it. Allowing a kick return touchdown was simply inexcusable. Those who started Dion Lewis were richly rewarded, those who counted on LeGarrette Blount grinding out an easy win were not. Pretty clear that Lewis is the team's most talented back and probably the guy to be starting for the most secure production, certainly against Pittsburgh this week. It's a much more compelling game than we could have otherwise hoped for from the AFC, but clearly the Steelers will need to score a couple of touchdowns to win up in Foxborough. At least maybe they'll smack Brady in the mouth (uh, legally of course) once or twice.
Packers at Cowboys: A lot of possible takeaways from this epic game. My main one is that Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott are going to win a lot of games and a few playoff games together. Will Jason Garrett be on the sidelines for all of them? Ah, Garrett is a good enough coach who deserves a lot of credit for the success Dallas has had. But this game, this game was a mismanaged failure on his part where the best team didn't win. OK, Aaron Rodgers played great. Made a lot of awesome throws, none more so than the final one to Jared Cook. Kudos to him. But the fact that he had that opportunity was absolutely due to a bonehead clock killing spike by Dallas which I can only presume was called from the sidelines. First of all, you have a timeout, so if you really need to kill the clock there (and you don't) you can do so without wasting a critical down. And it's especially critical because you don't have four downs to pick up the first, you only have three, since you're going to kick a field goal from that spot if you don't convert on third. So Dallas wasted a down, didn't pick up the first (which with a great running back and a running quarterback they absolutely should have), and foolishly kicked a field goal that left Rodgers plenty of time. Miracle play, sure, but the opportunity shouldn't have been there. Do you know why there have never been three 50-yard field goals in the final 2 minutes of a game? Because the second team to kick it doesn't leave enough time for a third, that's why. Winding back earlier, Ezekiel Elliott averaged 5.7 yards per carry, but got just 22 attempts. Yes, they fell behind, but the reason they kept falling behind is they didn't run Elliott enough. He was ripping off big chunks of yards on every other play. On the alternate plays, Dallas inexplicably went empty backfield -- way to make things easy on the Green Bay defense, guys. I've gone on enough, but this was a Dallas choke job from the coaching staff, plain and simple.
Steelers at Kansas City: On this one, I thought Pittsburgh would win, and so they did. Because with Andy Reid on the sideline, playmakers like Tyreek Hill were underused, and the sense of urgency is lacking. Yes there were some costly penalties. But when you're using Hill as a decoy and counting on Albert Wilson to make big receptions over the middle, yeah you're going to fail to come up with big conversions more often than not and end up in a nailbiter that you lose. Anyone who's followed Reid over the years knows that this is what he brings to the sideline -- a competitive team that wins the majority of its regular-season games but tends to lose close ones against the first good playoff team it runs into. Steelers have the league's best running back and arguably its best wideout. Kansas City doesn't use its best players to their best potential. Steelers move on.
So that's that. We'll spend the week looking at the upcoming conference finals and no doubt have some fun. But for a morning I can't help but look back on the missed opportunities by Jason Garrett and Andy Reid, two coaches of teams that were good enough to win, but didn't.