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NFL Matchups - Week DR Recap

Indianapolis Colts vs. Kansas City Chiefs

Venue: Arrowhead Stadium(Kansas City)Sat. 1-12 @ 4:35 pm ESTOver/Under: 57

   Weather

Kansas City Chiefs 31  Indianapolis Colts 13  

A total of 44 points in this contest is not exactly what fans and analysts were expecting. Additionally, everyone probably expected a lot more from the Colts. Andrew Luck and Frank Reich reared this team back from a 1-5 start to a 10-6 record and a spot in the playoffs. Indianapolis was one of the hottest teams in the league heading into the postseason and it showed with their Wild Card Weekend victory over the Texans. However, on Sunday they just didn’t show up. It didn’t help their cause that T.Y. Hilton was dealing with an ankle injury, but the offense struggled to find momentum throughout the contest. A blocked punt by the defense resulted in the lone first half score for the Colts to put them behind just 17-7. Aside from that, six of the Colts first seven offensive drives resulted in a punt, while the outlier from that group ended in a missed field goal from Adam Vinatieri who is usually quite reliable this time of year. The good news for the Colts is that aside from Andrew Luck looking like he’s returned to form, the Colts head into free agency with a ton of cap space to make some key additions to their roster.

A lot of the credit for Indy’s offensive woes needs to go to Kansas City’s defense. Following Saturday’s Divisional Round matchup, the Chiefs defense is now giving up 17.4 points per game at home compared to 32.9 on the road. That correlation is also similar in terms of total yards per game as well. At home they surrender 344.6 yards per game, while they give up 456.3 yards per game away from Arrowhead. Homefield advantage certainly helps Kansas City and they’ll need it with the defending AFC Champion New England Patriots coming to town. Earlier this season in Foxboro, the Chiefs lost a close shootout to New England, 43-40.

Chiefs

The Chiefs didn’t need Patrick Mahomes to put up the MVP-caliber numbers they saw earlier this season because the defense was so dominant. Mahomes completed 27-of-41 pass attempts for 278 yards with no touchdowns, but he avoided turning the ball over. Mahomes did add eight rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground to salvage his day. It is worth mentioning that he had never played in conditions like Saturday. It was cold and a brutal snowstorm struck Kansas City leading up to the game. Currently weather projections predict a colder evening for next Sunday’s AFC Championship game with temperatures below 20 degrees. Tom Brady and New England are certainly used to playing in such conditions, but the big question will be whether or not Mahomes can hold up in a colder environment.

The running game was the bread & butter on Sunday for Kansas City. Damien Williams led the way with 129 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries. He also caught five passes for 25 yards. Tyreek Hill and Darrel Williams also added rushing touchdowns of their own. The Chiefs became the first team in playoff history to have a running back, wide receiver, and quarterback all record rushing touchdowns in the same game.

The passing game revolved mostly around four players. Damien Williams was already touched upon so that leaves us with Travis Kelce , Tyreek, Hill, and Sammy Watkins as they each saw at least eight targets. Kelce caught seven of his ten targets for 108 yards. Per usual, Kelce was instrumental in moving the chains as his first six receptions resulted in first downs. In addition to his 36-yard rushing touchdown alluded to earlier, Tyreek Hill caught eight passes for 72 yards and Sammy Watkins caught six passes for 62 yards, but did lose a fumble late in the third quarter that did give Indianapolis some life.

The Chiefs offended dominated time of possession by protecting the rock for 39 minutes and 49 seconds. So with the defense limited to about 20 minutes of action it’s pretty easy to assume that they had a good day. The Colts totaled just 263 yards of offense and the Chiefs didn’t allow the Colts to convert on any of their nine attempts on third down. Justin Houston recorded a pair of sacks and Dee Ford got one of his own. The Chiefs host the Patriots next Sunday at 6:40pm ET in the AFC Championship game.

Colts

The writing was on the wall for the Colts and Andrew Luck to have a realistic shot against the Chiefs. Kansas City limped into the playoffs just a bit after a sluggish finish to the season and this looked like a game where Luck could put up some solid numbers. Alas, he finished with just 203 passing yards and a touchdown after completing just 19-of-36 pass attempts. Even though the Colts won their Wild Card matchup, Luck failed to throw for over 225 yards in either playoff contest and this past Saturday his lack of production against a weak secondary certainly didn’t help.

The ground attack was just as much of a bore as Luck’s passing game. A week after rushing for 148 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries, Marlon Mack managed just nine total touches for 46 yards. Nyheim Hinescontributed 24 yards on just a trio of carries, but the ground game was unable to get anything going in Arrowhead.

T.Y. Hilton led all Colts receivers with ten targets, but unfortunately he brought in only four of them for 60 yards and a score in a disappointing effort despite playing through an ankle injury. Eric Ebron caught five of his nine targets for 55 yards, but he had a couple of dropped passes that stalled a couple Indianapolis drives. As great as Ebron has been this year, his reputation for dropping passes certainly preceded him on Saturday. Rounding out the Colts pass catchers, Dontrelle Inman caught all four of his targets for 55 yards and Chester Rogers caught five passes for 30 yards.

The Colts defense was able to get some pressure on Patrick Mahomes as they finished with four sacks including a pair credited to Kenny Moore II, but they forced just one turnover and gave up over 400 yards of offense including 180 yards on the ground. The Colts were clearly missing some key pieces on defense. Free Safety Malik Hooker and Defensive End Tyquan Lewis were declared inactive heading into the game and Strong Safety Mike Adams was placed on injured reserve after suffering a calf injury in last week’s game against Houston. Adding a couple more pieces on defense is likely on the agenda for the Colts heading into the offseason.

Dallas Cowboys vs. Los Angeles Rams

Venue: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum(Los Angeles)Sat. 1-12 @ 8:15 pm ESTOver/Under: 49.5

   Weather

Los Angeles Rams 30  Dallas Cowboys 22

This season, the Dallas Cowboys boasted the fifth best rush defense in the NFL, as they won the NFC East and finished 10-6. Last week they held the number one rush offense to a mere 73 rushing yards, as they went on to win their home game on Wild Card Weekend. On Saturday, they allowed the Rams to run wild; 273 rushing yards… They unsurprisingly will not advance to the NFC Championship game.

The irony is that all season for Dallas, their one constant was their incredibly consistent defense that kept them in games each week. Any of their six losses during the regular season could be somehow traced back to offensive efficiency as opposed to their top-notch defensive effort. When it all mattered the most however, the Rams finally made the Dallas D crack. Beyond the issues of the rush defense, Dallas also failed to pressure Jared Goff . On the day the Rams quarterback was sacked zero times and was knocked down only once. In a nutshell, the Cowboys defense couldn’t have played any worse; they didn’t deserve to win the game.

Contrarily, the Rams silenced the critics on Saturday. After a shaky final month of the regular season and while coming off of a bye week, the main narrative surrounding the NFC West champs was that they would be rusty and that their best football was behind them this season. Based off of what they showed on Saturday, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Aside from allowing three touchdowns on the day, the Rams played pretty flawless football, as they controlled the pace of the contest from start to finish. This week, they will go on to the NFC Championship game in New Orleans to play the Saints. Drew Brees and Sean Payton have never lost a home playoff game.

Rams

For those concerned with fantasy numbers coming out of this game, while Jared Goff was efficient in terms of not being hit all day and not turning the ball over, he was rarely needed on Saturday and it showed up in his box score statistics. Goff finished the day with just 186 passing yards. He didn’t score any touchdowns on the day.

Where the Rams really made their mark was on the ground. As a team they racked up over 270 rushing yards and had two backs easily break the 100-yard barrier. The team was actually led by backup C.J. Anderson , who saw 23 carries for 123 yards and two touchdowns. Potential NFL MVP candidate Todd Gurley played the “reserve role” in hopes of saving his ailing knee. He finished the day with a modest (sarcasm) 16 carries for 115 yards and a 35-yard rushing touchdown scamper.

Through the air, the Rams were led by Robert Woods . He caught six passes for 69 yards. Brandin Cooks caught four passes for 65 yards, while Tyler Higbee caught two balls for 30 yards. That was really the extent of the Rams passing game. But as I said, they didn’t really need it though.

In terms of injuries, the Rams only saw Aqib Talib shaken up. He left the game in the third quarter with concerns of a concussion, however he returned to action in the fourth.

Cowboys

For the first time all season, Dak Prescott actually played well in a losing effort. He completed 20-of-32 passes for 266 yards and a touchdown. He also scored a rushing touchdown on a goal line carry.

Where the Cowboys offense disappointed was on the ground. The Rams decided to sell out for the run in hopes of stuffing Ezekiel Elliott – the league’s leading rusher. It worked. In the end, they held Elliott to just 47 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, or in other terms, 2.3 yards per carry. Yikes!

Through the air, Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup were very effective for the Cowboys. Cooper caught the only touchdown of the day on the Cowboys first drive, while Gallup led the team with 119 yards. Each player hauled in six passes on the day.

In terms of injuries, both Blake Jarwin and Cole Beasley missed practice all week leading up to the game with ankle injuries. While both guys ended up playing, their playing time and production remained extremely limited on Saturday. Beasley caught just one pass, while Jarwin caught two.

Los Angeles Chargers vs. New England Patriots

Venue: Gillette Stadium(Foxborough)Sun. 1-13 @ 1:05 pm ESTOver/Under: 47

   Weather

New England Patriots 41  Los Angeles Chargers 28

Don’t let the final score deceive you, this was a competitive game for about the first quarter and that was it. New England opened with a 14-play drive that lasted over seven minutes resulting in the first of three Sony Michel rushing touchdowns. The Chargers responded with a 43-yard touchdown pass to Keenan Allen and that was all she wrote for the Chargers until garbage time. The Patriots would go on to put up 31 unanswered points on Los Angeles including touchdowns on their first four drives and five of their first six overall. The Patriots put up five touchdowns in the first half, matching the total number of first downs the Chargers recorded. New England possessed the ball for 38 minutes and 20 seconds and successfully kept the Chargers off the field for most of the first half. The Patriots dominant performance on Sunday has moved them to the next round. They’ll play in the AFC Championship game for the eighth straight year, but this time they’ll have to take down the Chiefs in Kansas City.

For the Chargers, this is an underwhelming end to a very promising season. This team felt like Philip Rivers ’ best chance at a Super Bowl championship and yet Los Angeles finds themselves on the out’s once again. A lot of people thought the Chargers had a realistic shot at beating the Patriots on Sunday. However, based on last week’s performance where the Chargers totaled just 243 yards in a winning effort, perhaps everyone should have been more privy to the fact that fatigue had finally settled in. For Los Angeles, this was their fourth road game in five weeks and not to mention they had to travel East twice in the last week or so. Philip Rivers is 37 years old and can still play at a high level. Not to mention, the Chargers are a very good team with plenty of youthful talent. But they’ll have to contend with a very talented Chiefs team for the next few years, and Rivers is now 0-8 all-time against New England so he still has that to contend with among other teams constantly aiming to improve. The Chargers consistently fail to take that next step.

After scoring a touchdown on their opening drive, the Chargers’ next five possessions all resulted in punts. They managed to add a rushing touchdown with Melvin Gordon late in the third quarter and added two more touchdowns late in the fourth quarter, but at the point the game was well in hand for New England. Los Angeles heads into the offseason with the 28th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Patriots

If you looked at the final score and saw the Patriots had put up over 40 points, you would’ve assumed that Tom Brady had thrown for numerous touchdowns. Alas, most of the points were posted via the run game. But Brady still had a great game. He completed 34-of-44 passes for 343 yards and one touchdown. Tom Brady owes the offensive line a very nice meal as he was not sacked at all Sunday afternoon.

The rushing attack was nothing short of phenomenal on Sunday. Sony Michel in particular had a memorable day on the ground. He finished with 24 carries for 129 yards and three touchdowns. Rex Burkhead rushed for a dozen yards on four carries, but he also found the end zone. James White was an absolute beast out of the backfield. With Josh Gordon no longer with the team, it’s possible that James White sees a larger role in the offense as he’s proven in the past to be a dynamic weapon, especially this time of year. On Sunday he caught a whopping 15-of-17 targets for 97 yards. The yardage may have fallen just short of 100 yards, but the 15 catches certainly stand out.

Among the other New England pass catchers, Julian Edelman caught 9-of-13 targets for 151 yards. Phillip Dorsett was the beneficiary of Tom Brady ’s lone touchdown pass. Dorsett finished with four receptions for 41 yards as well. Rob Gronkowski was kept quiet, but he likely will be more involved next week against Kansas City. But this past Sunday against the Chargers, Gronk was targeted just once for a 25-yard catch. With the running game so dominant, there was little reason to throw the ball so much for New England. Next week is the more likely matchup where Gronk finally breaks out of this slump. But this is could be his last season in the NFL as he’ll likely contemplate retirement in the offseason. It’s possible New England has been trying to preserve him, but he could be dealing with nagging injuries as he’s no stranger to the injury report.

The New England defense looked great in the first half, but dropped back into prevent defense in the second half. It wasn’t a terrible decision if you think about it. They still got two sacks and two forced turnovers and held Los Angeles to under 350 yards of offense. Despite the offensive resurgence from the Chargers late in the game, New England still came away with the win and avoided serious injuries. Guard Shaq Mason did leave the game in the fourth quarter, so his progress this coming week will be worth monitoring.

Chargers

For Philip Rivers , the statistics look great from Sunday’s game although a majority of his production came late in the game with the Chargers trailing by multiple possessions. He completed 25-of-51 pass attempts for 331 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception. It was a beyond frustrating first half for Rivers. The offensive line couldn’t hold up against the New England pass rush, and the officials missed a call after Dont’a Hightower came in with a late hit after the whistle had blown the play dead. While Rivers was only sacked twice, he was hit seven times on the day and was struggling to stand on both feet by the end of the game. No one will ever question Rivers’ toughness or his love for the game, but the lack of a Super Bowl victory still looms large over his career resume.

The running game didn’t get much action on Sunday. Melvin Gordon and Justin Jackson combined for ten total carries. Gordon finished with 15 rushing yards and a touchdown. The lack of a running game was due to Los Angeles playing from behind. Gordon, Jackson, and Austin Ekeler combined for seven receptions on 11 targets for 52 yards in the passing game.

Among the other pass catchers in Los Angeles, Keenan Allen surprisingly finished with just two catches on six targets for 75 yards and a touchdown. Both his receptions went for over 30 yards. Mike Williams led the team with 11 targets, but he finished with just five catches for 68 yards. Tyrell Williams caught five passes for 94 yards and tight ends Antonio Gates and Virgil Green caught the other two touchdown passes from Philip Rivers Hunter Henry made his season debut on Sunday after tearing his ACL last May during OTA’s. Reports before the game indicated he would only play about 20 snaps and that proved to be accurate as he saw minimal action in this blowout. He finished with just one target.

Philadelphia Eagles vs. New Orleans Saints

Venue: Mercedes-Benz Superdome(New Orleans)Sun. 1-13 @ 4:40 pm ESTOver/Under: 51

   Weather

New Orleans Saints 20  Philadelphia Eagles 14

When the Eagles went up 14-0 in this one, don’t lie, the thoughts started running through your head  – “can they really pull this off again?” Yes, Philadelphia has a talented roster, but for most of the season this team hardly played anything like the team that improbably won the Super Bowl last season. I think the lazy narrative was that Nick Foles has some magical power that goes beyond the statistical analysis of football. In reality, Carson Wentz had a good season and Foles did a good job filling in for him once again, however the real reason why Philly was able to get hot down the stretch of this season is because they finally got healthy for the first time all year. Unsurprisingly, after getting off to the hot start in this game, the Eagles fortune really started to turn when the injuries began to pile up.

On the other side, much credit needs to be given to the Saints and their resilience. Down two touchdowns at home early, you never saw anyone on the sideline deflated. Instead, the Saints found a way to battle back to 20 straight points, keeping intact the perfect home playoff record for Drew Brees and Sean Payton. Next week they will take on the Los Angeles Rams, who just thrashed the Dallas Cowboys and their top-five rush defense for over 270 rushing yards. That will be the matchup to pay attention to next week, as the Saints finished the season with the second best rush defense in the league.

Saints

Drew Brees started off this game in horrific fashion. His first pass was intercepted, which led to an Eagles scoring drive the other way, and then he was incomplete on his next two passes, which resulted in a three-and-out punt for the Saints on their following possession. He was 0-3 with an INT. Not the way you want to start a home playoff game. From there on out however, Brees was an incredible 28-of-35 for 301 yards and two touchdowns. Essentially he played flawless game from the third possession on.

On the ground, both Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram were used sparingly, but effectively. Kamara led the team with 71 yards on 16 carries (4.4 ypc), while Ingram carried nine times for 53 yards (5.9 ypc). The passing game was certainly the larger focus for the Saints offense once they went down 14 points in the first, however the effective run game was critical in closing out the huge comeback victory.

In terms of receiving production, Michael Thomas was essentially unguardable. He caught 12 passes for 171 yards and a touchdown on Sunday night. Ted Ginn Jr. finished second on the team with 44 yards on three receptions. Keith Kirkwood caught the Saints other touchdown on the day; he finished with two catches for eight yards.

On the injury front, the Saints lost starting defensive lineman Sheldon Rankins in the first quarter. His season is over after a significant left foot injury that left him unable to walk off the field.

Eagles

As the biggest underdogs of the week, give credit to Philly for coming out and punching the home team in the mouth. They went up 14-0 quickly and did it on the back of Nick Foles . He threw a touchdown to Jordan Matthews on the first drive of the game and then scored a 1-yard rushing touchdown on the next drive. The rest of the game however, did not go as well. After the early start, Foles would finish the day with just 201 passing yards and that one passing touchdown. While he wasn’t sacked on the day, he would finish the game with two costly interceptions. This game should end the “trade Carson Wentz ” narrative.

On the ground, the Eagles did essentially nothing. Wendell Smallwood was the leading rusher with just 33 yards on 10 carries. The Saints number two ranked rush defense stood tall on Sunday.

In terms of receiving production, ironically Alshon Jeffery was the Eagles best on Sunday. I say ironically because despite his team leading five catches and 63 yards, he had a critical drop that fell right into the hands of Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore . This would prove to be the deciding play of the game. Beyond Jeffery, Zach Ertz was second on the team in receiving production. He also had five catches, but for 50 yards. Jordan Matthews caught the Eagles only touchdown of the day and it went for 37 yards.

In terms of injuries, the Eagles first lost Brandon Brooks to a serious injury and from there it just snowballed. Throughout the rest of the game, the Eagles would lose Rasul Douglas , Fletcher Cox , Michael Bennett , and Jason Peters , all at some point during the game. This was a huge factor in them blowing the two touchdown lead.

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Means (Achilles) was placed on injured reserve Thursday, Mike Kaye of NJ.com reports.
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The Chargers claimed Vollert off waivers Thursday.
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Whittaker worked out for the Saints on Thursday, Josh Katzenstein of The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.
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Smith was spotted at OTAs with his leg heavily wrapped Thursday, Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic of The Athletic reports.
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Robinson (ankle) participated in OTAs on Thursday, Josh Katzenstein of NOLA.com reports.
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Banjo (knee) wasn't present at OTAs on Thursday, Josh Katzenstein of NOLA.com reports.
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Erving underwent surgery to repair a shoulder issue during the offseason and didn't participate at OTAs on Thursday, James Palmer of NFL Network reports.
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Nicholson (personal) returned to team OTAs on Thursday, Peter Hailey of NBC Sports Washington reports.
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