32 things we learned af­ter wild-card round

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The 32 things we learned head­ing into the 2018 NFL play­off di­vi­sional round:

1. If it seemed the wild-card round was chock full of fresh faces and teams, well, it was. None of the eight clubs com­pet­ing in the open­ing round was in ac­tion for last sea­son’s wild-card games, and only the Ea­gles (a No. 1 seed with a bye in 2017) even reached the play­off field a year ago.

1a. But you’ll see l argely fa­mil­iar char­ac­ters in the di­vi­sional round with Philadel­phia re­turn­ing along with the four teams on bye — the Chiefs, Pa­tri­ots, Rams and Saints, all post­sea­son en­tries last year, too.

1b. The last team to ad­vance to the Su­per Bowl af­ter play­ing on wild-card week­end was the 2012 Ravens, who won Su­per Bowl XLVII. The next 10 con­fer­ence champs have all had firstround byes.

2. Gen X-er Philip Rivers, 37, has to be the sen­ti­men­tal fa­vorite to win it all, right? No quar­ter­back in league his­tory has thrown for more yards (54,656) or more touch­downs (374) yet never played on Su­per Sun­day.

2a. And how great (and en­ter­tain­ing) would it be to see Rivers’ Charg­ers take on the Saints ... and for­mer Bolts QB Drew Brees, who kept Philly Riv on the bench for two years?

3. But if you’re into un­minted Mil­len­nial passers, Pa­trick Ma­homes (23), Jared Goff (24), Dak Prescott (25) and, most cer­tainly, Andrew Luck (29) could ride great story lines all the way to At­lanta, site of Su­per Bowl LIII.

4. Three quar­ter­backs made their play­off de­buts dur­ing wild-card week­end. De­shaun Wat­son, Lamar Jack­son and Mitch Tru­bisky all lost.

5. Welp, Matt Nagy, guess you shoulda laid down for the Vik­ings in Week 17 rather than in­vite a matchup with the Ig­gles and your old buddy Doug Ped­er­son.

6. Did any­one else want Ea­gles-Bears go into over­time (maybe dou­ble OT) just to see how NBC would han­dle its Golden Globes cov­er­age, which be­gan min­utes af­ter Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth wrapped?

7. Rough night for Chicago’s Cody Parkey, whose would-be, game -win­ning field goal at­tempt from 43 yards hit the up­right then the cross­bar be­fore car­oming into the end zone. No good. Parkey drilled the Sol­dier Field up­rights four times Nov. 1. Un­canny.

8. But if I’ve learned any­thing this sea­son, it’s that Parkey is about to get a flood of sup­port from kick­ers through­out the league as he copes with this un­for­tu­nate bounce. Bounces.

9. Nick Foles was picked off twice in Sun­day ’s win over the Bears. The last time he threw mul­ti­ple INTs in an Ea- gles uni­form, Oct. 26, 2014, Chip Kelly was their coach and Foles had yet to play for the Rams or Chiefs.

9a. The last ti me Philadel­phia played the Saints in post­sea­son, the 2013 wild-card round, Foles was also the quar­ter­back (in a los­ing ef­fort) — Kelly ’s only NFL play­off ap­pear­ance.

10. Con­grats to Ea­gles WR Golden Tate, who scored the game -win­ning TD at Chicago, i nstantly j us­ti­fy­ing the scru­ti­nized trade dead­line deal for him — which cost Philly a third-round pick that ap­peared aw­fully ex­pen­sive given the strug­gles to in­te­grate Tate into the of­fense.

10a. Con­grats to Ea­gles LT Ja­son Pe- ters, RB/KR Dar­ren Spro­les and LB Jor­dan Hicks, who all missed the 2017 Su­per Bowl run with in­juries but tasted a play­off vic­tory Sun­day.

10b. Feel for you, Wentz.

11. Was wild-card week­end’s MVP Charg­ers de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Gus Bradley? His unit was on the short end of a 22-10 loss to Bal­ti­more two weeks ago. Sun­day, it showed the rest of the league how to con­tain Jack­son — es­sen­tially de­ploy­ing a de­fense com­prised of line­men and de­fen­sive backs to shadow, flum­mox and bat­ter the rookie.

12. Jack­son, who turns 22 on Mon­day, be­came the youngest quar­ter­back to start a play­off game in NFL his­tory. He looked like it. Make no mis­take, the Ravens don’t win the AFC North with­out Jack­son’s hero­ics in the sec­ond half of the sea­son, when he went 6-1 as the starter. But Bradley and the Bolts pro­vided a blue­print to stop­ping him and a fresh re­minder that, though Jack­son re­mains an elite ath­lete and highly ef­fec­tive with the ball in open space, he’s got a long, long way to go to be a ful­ly­formed pro quar­ter­back. He was sacked seven times, picked off once and fum­bled thrice, los­ing the ball on his team’s fi­nal pos­ses­sion.

13. Who fig­ured on Charg­ers rookie K Mike Bad­g­ley out­per­form­ing Ravens all-pro Justin Tucker? Bad­g­ley set a Bolts’ post­sea­son record with five made field goals, while Tucker was 1for-2 on three -point tries. Tucker missed five FGs this sea­son, three against L.A.

14. Who fig­ured on Charg­ers FB Derek Watt mak­ing a longer play­off run this sea­son than brothers J.J. and T.J.?

15. The Charg­ers haven’t beaten Tom Brady since 2005. Rivers is 0-7 headto-head against TB12, in­clud­ing two losses in post­sea­son.

15a. But Sun­day, the Charg­ers be­came the only team in the league to win eight times on the road this sea­son. A visit to Foxborough, daunt­ing as it is, won’t phase them.

16. The last time Rivers ap­peared in a play­off game at Gil­lette Sta­dium, the 2007 AFC Cham­pi­onship Game, he played on a torn ACL.

17. Bal­ti­more’s sec­ond-ranked run game, which had av­er­aged nearly 230 yards in Jack­son’s seven reg­u­lar-sea­son starts, was lim­ited to 90.

18. And big props to Dal­las’ run de­fense, which held Seat­tle’s top-ranked rush­ing at­tack to 73 yards, the Sea­hawks’ low­est out­put since Week 1. Can it do the same to Rams all-pro Todd Gur­ley and/or funky fresh backup C.J. An­der­son?

19. John Har­baugh’s sev­enth post­sea­son trip with Bal­ti­more was also his first one -and-done fin­ish. But his re­booted team over­achieved by most ac­counts.

20. Pete Car­roll’s sev­enth post­sea­son trip with Seat­tle was also his first one -and-done fin­ish. But his re­booted team over­achieved by most ac­counts — ob­vi­ously by mine — and, as all-pro LB Bobby Wag­ner, told me be­fore the game , “There’s still room for us to get bet­ter, but you’ve gotta like where we’re go­ing for sure.” For sure.

21. How­ever, I would sug­gest that the Sea­hawks’ res­i­dent Aus­tralian, Michael Dick­son — the punter had a fan­tas­tic rookie sea­son, gar­ner­ing Pro Bowl and all-pro honors — spend a lit­tle more time buff­ing up his Amer­i­can place -kick­ing skills next year should his team again find it­self in a bind, es­pe­cially if 40-year-old Se­bas­tian Janikowski re­mains on the ros­ter.

22. The Ravens en­tered the week­end with the high­est win­ning per­cent­age (.652) in play­off his­tory. But their loss dropped them to .625 — and sec­ond place — be­hind the Pa­tri­ots (.630).

23. The Cow­boys’ win Saturday gave them 35 in post­sea­son, sec­ond most all time. They can tie the Steel­ers’ mark of 36 next week­end.

23a. Since win­ning Su­per Bowl XXX to cap the 1995 sea­son, Dal­las is 0-5 in the di­vi­sional round.

23b. The Cow­boys and Rams have split eight play­off meet­ings.

23c. Dal­las’ last play­off visit to the L.A. Coli­seum oc­curred Jan 7, 1979. Roger Staubach’s Cow­boys beat Pat Haden’s Rams 28-0.

24. Cow­boys coach Ja­son Gar­rett re­placed his pre­de­ces­sor, Wade Phillips, mid­way through the 2010 sea­son. Phillips will be on the other side­line next Saturday night, run­ning the Rams de­fense while con­tin­u­ing his quest for a sec­ond ring (2015 Bron­cos) since Dal­las fired him.

25. The Colts are 4-0 all-time in the play­offs against their next op­po­nent, the AFC’s top-seeded Chiefs.

25a. Most re­cently i n post­sea­son against Kansas City, in the 2013 wild­card round, Luck (443 yards, 4 TDs) led Indy back from a 38-10 sec­ond-half deficit to beat the Chiefs 45-44 in the sec­ond-great­est come­back in post­sea­son his­tory. (Why does it feel like no one gives this re­mark­able game its due?)

25b. The largest play­off come­back (32 points) was en­gi­neered by for­mer Bills quar­ter­back, and cur­rent Colts coach, Frank Re­ich against the Hous­ton Oil­ers in the 1992 play­offs.

25c. The Colts’ play­off suc­cess against the Chiefs be­gan in the 1995 di­vi­sional round, when Jim Har­baugh and Co. started Kansas City ’s still on­go­ing six-game post­sea­son los­ing streak at Ar­row­head Sta­dium.

26. Colts GM Chris Bal­lard was pre- vi­ously the Chiefs’ di­rec­tor of foot­ball op­er­a­tions. So that’s one im­pres­sive team in Bal­lard’s rear view, and an­other that’s ar­rived sooner than ex­pected.

27. Keep an eye on sec­ond-year In­di­anapo­lis RB Mar­lon Mack, whose 148 rush­ing yards Saturday es­tab­lished a new team play­off record. Kansas City al­lowed 132 yards per game on the ground in the reg­u­lar sea­son, worst among his sea­son’s play­off clubs.

28. The NFL’s reg­u­lar-sea­son leader in tack­les, Colts LB Dar­ius Leonard (163), is now it’s cur­rent play­off leader (13), too. He got my vote for de­fen­sive rookie of the year.

29. What’s next for Hous­ton? The Tex­ans be­came only the sec­ond team to win a divi­sion ti­tle af­ter an 0-3 start, largely thanks to a mid­sea­son nine - game win­ning streak. But they never reg­is­tered a truly im­pres­sive vic­tory and looked to­tally out­classed Saturday by the AFC South ri­val Colts. With Jade­veon Clowney headed to­ward free agency, does Hous­ton try to re -sign him and con­tinue on with what would be a top-heavy salary cap, or try and spread the wealth into the run game, of­fen­sive line and re­tain­ing less ex­pen­sive play­ers like Tyrann Math­ieu?

30. Speak­ing of new con­tracts, get­ting aw­fully hard to ar­gue Prescott doesn’t de­serve a big-money deal this spring, the first time the 2016 fourth rounder is el­i­gi­ble to cash in. His base salary has never been more than $630,000, but it sounds like Jerry Jones is ready to take care of him — though that could mean tough de­ci­sions with other play­ers (De­mar­cus Lawrence, Amari Cooper) about to get paid.

30a. Pretty hard to forge a Cow­boys quar­ter­back legacy when you’re try­ing to break into the Staubach, Troy Aik­man, Tony Romo pan­theon. But Saturday, Prescott be­came the first in the team’s il­lus­tri­ous his­tory to pass for and run for a touch­down in a play­off game.

31. Play­off beards. Fi­nally, a good idea the NFL bor­rowed from the NHL.

32. Dear­est mother — @Cap­tAn­drewLuck and his Colts per­formed valiantly once more. But leg­endary Chief Ma­homes, with his renowned long-range ar­tillery, awaits on the West­ern Plains — where He hath loosed the fate­ful light­ning of His ter­ri­ble swift sword. Our truth is march­ing on.

AP

Charg­ers quar­ter­back Philip Rivers cel­e­brates as he walks off the field af­ter a play­off vic­tory over the Bal­ti­more Ravens.

TIM HEITMAN / USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Cow­boys quar­ter­back Dak Prescott cel­e­brates af­ter run­ning to the 1-yard line in the fourth quar­ter against the Sea­hawks in their NFC wild-card game at AT&T Sta­dium in Dal­las.

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