“Playoffs? Don’t talk about Playoffs?! Are you kidding me I just hope we can win a game.” For most of us, it’s playoff time and never have your line up choices mattered more. Read below for my thoughts on the biggest games of the week, for us and for the NFL contenders. As always if there’s a game I didn’t cover that affects you, tap me on the shoulder @SethFriederman on Twitter.
Offensive Lines That Should Dominate
Minnesota Vikings vs Carolina Panthers – As I mentioned in last week’s post about the Panthers they really aren’t an explosive offense. Coming off a suffocating silencing of the Falcons the Vikings D should have little problem shutting down the Carolina attack. Greg Olsen‘s return comes with a lot of question marks but if he is healthy enough he should see plenty of targets as the Panthers are likely to be playing from behind. That said the Vikings don’t bury teams so Christian McCaffrey should put up decent numbers but Jonathan Stewart and Cam Newton will not. The Panthers don’t get much in the way of sacks or QB pressures so I expect Joe Berger and company to give Case Keenum plenty of time, bumps for Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, and Kyle Rudolph.
Jacksonville Jaguars vs Seattle Seahawks – Predictably Seattle’s pass defense has declined with the absences of Richard Sherman & Kam Chancellor. Unfortunately for the Seahawks and unnoticed by most, Jacksonville’s reliance on their run game has decreased recently as well. With the emergence of Keelan Cole and more recently DeDe Westbrook, plus the consistently strong play of Marquise Lee the Jags have been able to throw well and often if the situation demands. The Jaguars don’t give up a lot of sacks or pressures and Blake Bortles has been much better of late. I’m not ready to say that the quintet of Cam Robinson, Patrick Omameh, Brandon Linder, A.J Cann, and Jeremy Parnell are the next great offensive line in the NFL but they’ve been consistently good in both pass and run blocking showing great execution and mobility.
Oakland Raiders vs Kansas City Chiefs – Everyone’s looking for the reason for the Chiefs shocking free fall. Plenty of people want to blame Andy Reid, some want to blame Alex Smith, those people are wrong. The Kansas City defense can’t stop anybody, a girl scout troop could score on their D. Defensive coordinator Bob D Sutton‘s group is in complete disarray and now they’ll be facing the Raiders without Marcus Peters. The Chiefs gave up three touchdowns and 331 passing yards to Josh McCown… Now they get Derek Carr, Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper. I’m sure this will be a 30 something to 30 something game and a bountiful fantasy point bonanza for anyone who’s got Chief skill players or Raider skill players. It’s not that I’m picking the Raiders O line to blow the Chiefs off the line of scrimmage it’s more that the KC defense will be on the field too much and giving up big play after big play.
Offensive Lines That Should Struggle
Baltimore Ravens vs Pittsburgh Steelers – The Ravens are 7 and 5 because of their defense. There’s simply no arguing that point. Alex Collins has been a recent bright spot and Joe Flacco had a good game last Sunday vs the Lions but the games that Baltimore has won have been because of great D. The Ravens front line really misses Marshall Yanda but has held up fairly well without him. They rank ninth in sacks allowed and 12th in rushing yards. But part of that has been the quality of the opposition. Baltimore has zero wins against teams with winning records. Nada, Zip, Zilch, Bubkes. On the Steelers side losing Ryan Shazier in such a terrifying fashion was tough to watch on Monday night for his teammates and for us. Even with his absence and perhaps because of it I am expecting a very good game from the Pittsburgh D. Too good a game for a mediocre offense like Baltimore.
Atlanta Falcons vs New Orleans Saints – In week 13 the Vikings shut down the Falcons aerial attack. As I’ve repeatedly pointed out, in the NFL if you can take away either the run or the pass from your opponent without over committing extra personnel it makes it almost impossible for them to put up a lot of points. The Saints duo of Ken Crawley and Marshon Lattimore as well as safeties Kenny Vaccaro and Marcus Williams as a unit every bit as good as Minnesota’s, and probably better. Expect Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu to struggle again this week. The Falcons O-line pass protects better than almost any other team in the league and so although Cam Jordan and mates have been good at getting pressure they won’t this game. With all of that equaling out the game comes down to, will Atlanta be able to run the football either with traditional hand offs or the screen and draw game? I believe they will find some success but not enough to create the points to overcome what the Saints will be able to generate, tipping the scales to New Orleans.
Los Angles Rams vs Philadelphia Eagles – The Rams are going to have to use the short passing game to move the football in this game against the Eagles daunting run D. That’s fine with Sean Payton as no team with a winning record has run the ball less than Los Angeles over the last three weeks. Three step drops for Jared Goff will take the pressure off Andrew Whitworth and the rest of the Rams O-line. This means the game comes down to the Eagles linebackers and their ability to cover players like Todd Gurley and Cooper Kupp underneath and in the flat. Something at which they’ve excelled so far this season. look for the birds defense to take off and soar and for the Rams to be put out to pasture.