Billick: Don’t look now, but the Broncos have a roadblock ahead
Observations from Wild Card Weekend …
1. For the fourth time since 1990, both No. 6 seeds won. It’s just another case for reseeding the playoffs once the field has been set. Despite their win, it just doesn’t seem right that the 11-win Saints had to travel to the 10-win Eagles in the first place. With that said, seeding doesn’t really matter anyway. In the past five Super Bowls, the Saints are the only No. 1 seed to win it all while the Steelers won as a No. 2 seed, the Ravens and Giants both won as No. 4 seeds and the Packers won as the aforementioned sixth seed.
2. I wouldn’t have given Jay Cutler the $100 million contract, so I surely wouldn’t give it to Andy Dalton. The Bengals don’t have to make that decision for another season, but they may want to start planning for the future starting right now. Just compare him to Andrew Luck. Player to player, that isn’t a fair comparison, but who has the better defense? Dalton. The better wide receivers? Dalton. The better offensive line? Dalton. The better running backs? Dalton. Yet, Luck has a postseason win in just two tries while Dalton is 0-3.
3. As I watched all the games this weekend, there was plenty of commentary regarding the way that the officials were "letting them play" and allowing for a more physical game to be played. They were throwing fewer flags for holding along the offensive line. Less holding in the defensive secondary and allowing more contact with the ball in the air. I have a problem with this. The calls have to be consistent from the regular season to the postseason. I like the way the game was called this weekend, but it needs to be called that way in Weeks 1-17 as well.
4. If you are playing defensive back in the NFL postseason, please just GET BACK! If you have the deep third, and you think you are deep enough, take another two steps. You would think this lesson was taught loud and clear in Denver last season, but apparently the Chiefs weren’t watching. You had a 28-point lead. All you had to do was stop T.Y. Hilton from blowing the top off your defense. BACK UP!
5. John and Jim Harbaugh are the first pair of brothers to serve as NFL head coaches in the same season. But they shouldn’t be the only ones. You have all heard of the Ryan brothers, and with Rob’s quick success in New Orleans as he turned around one of the worst defenses in NFL history in just one season, you may think they are the pair that I am talking about. Rob may get his shot, but for my money, I’d take a hard look at John Pagano. John is the defensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers and the brother of Colts head coach Chuck Pagano. John is a respected leader and a solid football coach. He deserves to be a head coach in the NFL.
6. The sexy thing heading into this season was the no-huddle, quick-paced approach that allowed for an offense to run as many plays as possible during the course of the game. But just ask the Saints and 49ers how important a pounding rushing game that can eat clock at the end of the game can be. The Saints, down by one, took possession with 4:54 remaining and ate up the entire clock before kicking the game-winning field goal with zeroes on the scoreboard. Then on Sunday, in a tie game, the 49ers took possession with 5:06 remaining and drained the clock before kicking a 33-yard, game-winning field goal with no time left. In both cases, the opposing teams used their final two timeouts during the drives, but still couldn’t get a final possession.
7. Last year, the Seattle Seahawks were the only team to win on the road as home teams went 3-1 during the wild-card round. But this year, it was the exact opposite. Only the Colts were able to hold serve at home while the Packers, Eagles and Bengals all lost. I’m not sure if that says more about the winners or the losers, but it is an interesting statistic.
8. The Broncos went 13-3 this season, and the three teams they lost to are all still alive in the playoffs after the first round. The Colts beat the Broncos 39-33 in Week 7, the Patriots beat them by three in Week 12 and the Chargers won by a touchdown in Week 15. The Broncos may be the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs, but they have lost to every team remaining on their side of the bracket and that has to give them a little heartburn moving forward.