Sure, third down conversions are critical. It’s often how NFL teams move the chains and keep drives alive. Duh. But today’s Cowboys-‘Niners game will be decided on first downs. Track them. Chart them. Be mindful and aware of them. The team that controls first down, offensively and defensively, will control the game. You don’t want to wind up in third and six or more against either of those pass rushes. SF will commit to the run on first down. It’s what they do. It’s who they are. Dallas may view first downs as their best downfield big-play opportunities. This will be a helluva chess match.
In this corner, Dak Prescott, Zeke Elliott, Tony Pollard, Dalton Schultz and CeeDee Lamb.
And in this corner, Brock Purdy, Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and Brandon Ayuk. Some “heavy hands” will be thrown.
Will Purdy finally look like a rookie 7th round draft pick? He hasn’t yet.
Strong emotions often later produce strong “sags” or slingshot effects. I think we may have seen some of that from the Bills last week against the Dolphins. It sometimes looked like Buffalo was emotionally drained by their concern for Damar Hamlin. That won’t be the case today. The Bills and their Mafia will be at fever pitch. That’s why I’m taking Buffalo. That, and the fact that the Bengals’ offensive line has been decimated by injuries.
Of course, Patrick Mahomes will play in the AFC Championship Game. Of course he will. He’s Patrick Mahomes. But he’s not going to be “OK.” That ankle will get way worse this week before it gets better, as I suspect Sunday morning’s scheduled MRI will confirm. This is a big deal. Mahomes’ mobility will be limited, and his mobility is his game. This injury will have a major impact on both the Chiefs’ offensive game plan and the defensive scheme of their opponent. K.C. is fortunate to have a veteran backup quarterback like Chad Henne, who can come off the bench and engineer a 98-yard TD drive in a playoff game.
The Chiefs are in the AFC Title Game for the fifth straight year. That is mind-boggling.
The Jags’ youth and lack of playoff experience showed at critical times Saturday. But their time is coming. Of that there is no doubt. Doug Pederson will see to that.
Don’t tell me that winning the top seed and getting a first-round bye doesn’t matter. The Eagles looked fresher, sharper, faster, better rested and better prepared than the Giants, and that Philly home crowd is a force. It will be interesting to see if the Eagles are a betting favorite over either the ‘Niners or the Cowboys next Sunday.