Deshaun Watson is the best among young quarterbacks on the losing side, the Philadelphia Eagles shouldn’t complicate their QB situation next season, the Los Angeles Chargers might regret flying home and the Chicago Bears are going to be just fine.
Here are five storylines from the NFL playoffs.
The Texans loss wasn’t a “setback” for Deshaun Watson
We all know how bad it looked, so imagine how it must have felt like on the Texans’ sideline. It’s 14-0 Colts less than 11 minutes into the game and not only has all the optimism of a playoff home game against a division rival dimmed, but the nine-game winning streak that made it all possible starts to feel like a two-month stretch that may have just been imagined. But it was real, and Watson is a quarterback that has fulfilled, and will keeping fulfilling, his potential.
Teams are, rightfully, kicking themselves for passing on both him and Patrick Mahomes (10th pick, Watson was 12th), and now there’s no question about whether Watson will be a “franchise” quarterback, but the questions are more about the ceiling of his peak. He’s really good, but he needs more help around him — especially on the offensive line. You can imagine the impact a player like him has for a franchise that happens to have used 11 different starting quarterbacks since coming into the league in 2002.
Saturday was a rough one, but Watson’s the real deal, and there are far fewer questions about his arm or accuracy than we have about the other young quarterbacks who lost on the weekend, Mitchell Trubisky and Lamar Jackson.
Lamar Jackson has a ton of work to do
I see all that’s there with the young quarterback, I really do. But I also see what isn’t there. Arm strength and accuracy are incredibly serious problems, and of all the quarterbacks we’ve seen make playoff debuts in the last several years, honestly, Jackson looked like the least ready to play. He fumbled snaps on each of the first two drives, and after doing a good job leading the Ravens back into the game, he absolutely cost his teammates a chance at glory by fumbling another snap on the final drive. He lacked poise and focus, seeing as how fumbling snaps and looking confused aren’t mechanical issues.
Did the Chargers’ defensive gameplan and their usage of seven defensive-back sets impact Baltimore’s ability to succeed? Yeah, of course, but we’ve seen quarterbacks with far less skill look a lot more ready for big moments, including the infamous Tim Tebow playoff win for the Broncos in overtime against the Steelers.
It takes time for young quarterbacks to win in the playoffs, that much I’ve consistently said and documented, but what I’m worried about is the fact that Jackson looked so uncertain of even being on the field — maybe that’s a huge reason why John Harbaugh didn’t turn to now-backup QB Joe Flacco, he of the 10 playoff victories and a Super Bowl ring.
There isn’t going to be any quarterback controversy in Philadelphia
I just don’t see any way the Eagles are willing to commit to Nick Foles long-term and send Carson Wentz packing. Look, every great company and boss, and even household, talks contingency plans. What if this and what if that — yes, that’s a given. No doubt there might even be internal frustration expressed by the Eagles about Wentz and his health. It’s a jarring statistic, but read carefully: Wentz has missed three out of every 10 games since his senior season in college. At a certain point, a player is judged by not just his ability to play, but his ability to stay on the field so he can play.
I doubt the Eagles are there yet, and there’s not much, to me, that could happen early in the next season before the Eagles would waver on their commitment to Wentz. I don’t see this year and his results as any semblance of a concerning regression, more that it was asking a lot to replicate or improve upon the MVP form he showed in 2017 given how limited his off-season and training camp were in terms of what he could do physically. There’s only so much video you can watch to improve your skills, especially when you are still learning the league.
As for Foles, I believe, as you probably do, he’s playing his final game as an Eagle this weekend. Maximize the asset he is, if you’re Philadelphia, and create the proper environment for a bidding war among the 10-12 teams for which Foles clearly is an upgrade over the current starter.
The Chargers should probably have consulted the Trivago Guy and not flown home
There’s a lot of people who want in on the Chargers for this weekend’s game, but despite adding a 13th win to their season, this task is now remarkably tall: Winning two early starting Sunday playoff games in a row — on the road, no less. I ran the numbers and they are concerning. There have been many successful teams playing in the Pacific Time Zone in the Super Bowl era. The 49ers are 5-1 in those games, the Oakland/LA Raiders are 3-2, and Seattle is 1-2.
The Cardinals, Rams and Chargers have all been to the Super Bowl, though the Rams’ win came during their St. Louis years. But the numbers are jarring about playing in road playoff games in the Eastern Time Zone for West Coast teams.
Teams playing in games starting before 4 p.m. Eastern are 9-20 and are 14-33 in all playoff games in the East. That’s alarming, though the Chargers have won their past two — against the Ravens last Sunday, and a few seasons ago in Cincinnati (I know, the Bengals make it easy sometimes, yes).
If I’m the Chargers, I’d have set up camp somewhere and kept the body clocks as they are. Yes, I know, they’d miss the sun and palm trees, but Philip Rivers might want a win over Tom Brady someday. He’s 0-7 lifetime against Brady. Oh, also, Tom Brady’s Patriots are 20-2 lifetime in playoff home games.
Cody Parkey will rise from this tragedy
I know it hurts, Bears fans. But what a season. Trading for Khalil Mack, watching the most exciting offensive scheme in the sport — though I’m not sure it won’t get figured out by brilliant defensive minds around the league — 12 wins, and a home playoff game. No, you don’t have to “lose before you can win,” that’s a sentence usually spoken by people in sports who do a lot more of the former than the latter.
Chicago will bring Parkey back, he’s guaranteed $3.5 million for next season, and I don’t think this was a Blair Walsh or Scott Norwood moment that the fanbase won’t be able to get past. If Trubisky can improve his accuracy, this is the Bears’ division for a solid four-to-five-year window. There are more home playoff games ahead.