7 Burning Questions Heading into the Divisional Round in the NFL Playoffs

  1. Can Dallas do enough, offensively, to keep up with the Rams? This isn’t a trick question. But they might not need to. Yes, the Rams are flashy and fun and when they get rolling, it’s a fast-paced brand of offense that few teams in the NFL can keep up with. But there’s always an antidote for everything. The Cowboys have it — they can run the ball, eat clock, keep Sean McVay’s offense standing on the sideline, and force the Rams into playing frantically with limited possessions. It’s not a matter of Dallas keeping up offensively — rather, it’s whether or not Dallas can impose their own offensive style of play onto this Rams team.
  2. What did the Rams learn from losing to Chicago and from watching the game film of the Dallas win over New Orleans earlier in the season? This is mostly rhetorical because I don’t really have an answer. The Bears and Cowboys play differently on defense, but the overall gameplan is the same — slow the game down, don’t let Todd Gurley run, force Jared Goff into being uncomfortable and rushed, and control the pace of the game. The Rams will need to get on the scoreboard early and turn the tables on Dallas — force the Cowboys into feeling like they need to press and throw the ball more than running it with Ezekiel Elliott. This game is a battle of who can establish their preferred style of play first.
  3. Is Cooper Kupp’s injury going to derail the Rams versus the Cowboys? Since Kupp went down with a season-ending knee injury, the Rams offense has not been the same. More specifically, Jared Goff has not been the same. Through 10 weeks with Kupp in the slot, Goff completed 70% of his passes for 16 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. After Kupp went down, Goff’s numbers slipped — 59% completion rate with 16 TDs and 8 INTs (those were worse until he threw 5 TDs and 0 INTs in the season’s final two games against the Cardinals and 49ers). In addition, Kupp’s replacement has not nearly been as reliable. When targeting Josh Reynolds, Goff is on target 52% of the time with 3 TDs and 4 INTs. Kupp is a big piece to this offense and serves as very reliable safety valve for Goff. If he’s pressured, it’s worth watching how Goff answers and where he tries to go with the ball.
  4. Would anyone be stunned if three road teams won again this weekend? The argument could be made in the AFC that the two best teams remaining in the playoffs are the 5th and 6th seeds. The Chargers are a 12-win team with a top 4 MVP candidate, who just got unlucky that they played in the same division as Kansas City. The Chargers spent the better part of the season in most experts’ top-5 power rankings. And the Colts have won 10 of their last 11 and look as complete a team that’s left standing. Those two teams, without question, could come away with road wins this weekend. In the NFC, the Cowboys are practically playing a home game in L.A. against the Rams. That’s three. The Eagles winning in New Orleans is a much tougher sell.
  5. What looks will the Chargers defense throw at Tom Brady? The Cover-3 scheme has not been a defense that has stymied Tom Brady very much in past years. Against the Cover-3, Brady ate up the Seahawks and Falcons in the Patriots’ last two Super Bowl victories and did the sam in last year’s AFC title game against the Jaguars. Gus Bradley will try and be creative — you’d think rushing four (led by Joey Boss and Melvin Ingram) and dropping seven into coverage would be the plan of attack. The key will be if those pass rushers can throw Brady off his timing. If not, he’ll probably pick apart the defense.
  6. Are we all guilty of completely overreacting to the Colts? The Colts are 10-1 in their last 11 games, including in that time two wins over the Texans and a shut out win over the Cowboys. After their 1-5 start, Indianapolis has more than figured things out. Since mid-October, the Colts are better than the Chiefs. And the Colts don’t have that one glaring weakness, opposed to the Chiefs and their abhorrent defense. No disrespect to the Chiefs because that offense is beyond explosive and their speed might eventually extend plays too long for the Colts defenders to stop them. These are two good teams. The Colts are better, though.
  7. What is stopping the Saints from totally and unequivocally bum-rushing the Eagles like they did when they met earlier this season? Nothing. That’s the answer. The Eagles have improved in the last month — more consistent play out of the QB position and the defense has been much better. But the Saints have few holes and the Eagles are not equipped to exploit them. This might not be very close.

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Author: Brian Goodwin

An educator for 15 years. I have a passion for sports and a passion for writing about sports. I'm very excited to run this blog and have conversations with people about relevant topics, mostly pertaining to sports but also in all aspects of life.

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