2023 NFL Divisional Saturday

Posted: January 21, 2023 in All Things Power Spread

The best team in the AFC is KC. The best team in the NFL is Philly. The Jags & Giants are coming off emotional last minute wins in their first playoff action in quite some time.

This is setting up as blowout Saturday with the good match-ups on Sunday, right? Not…So…Fast…

Jaguars at Chiefs

This is a revamped, re-energized Chiefs juggernaut versus a very young upstart Jaguars led by HC Doug Pederson w/ his leader, QB Trevor Lawrence. Will the Jags Culture, Talent, Schemes be strong enough to hang with the Chiefs or is there a big emotional letdown on the way?

Talents

We know all about Mahomes, Kelce, Jones, Clark, Brown, Thuney, Schuster, Sneed, Bolton and Gay. But what about Pacheco, McKinnon, Skyy, Trey, Gray, Humphrey, Danna, Karlaftis, Chenal, McDuffie, Cook, Williams and the two Thomas’ – Jaylin and Justin?

The Chiefs along with Seattle had the most productive Draft this year and over the last couple of years have done a great job meshing young talent with veterans and keeping ahead of the “age” curve. I go through these players in more depth in the Podcast Preview, but they have really surprised – both Pacheco and Jaylin are 7th round DCs! – and gotten better as the season wore on.

I described the Jags Talent in last week’s Podcast/Post. They have good young talent everywhere.

I was impressed by Lawrence’s positive leadership in the midst of 4 1st Half Interceptions. Also their DLineman Hamilton, Key and more so Fatukasi and Robertson-Harris (what’s with all these double names?). Their CBs aren’t big names, but are aggressive as is their Safeties, though sometimes Cisco and Jenkins mess up their responsibilities with over aggression.

Agnew is a good KR and their K/P are good, but I expect more from KC’s SpTeams. Butker was hurt earlier this year and should be strong once again and P Townsend is one of the best! Their return game should be better than stats indicate as they have the speed and Reid has a long time ST Coach Guru at his side.

Coaches

As I said last week, Pederson has built a great Culture and it really came through last week. In my Review Podcast, I continuously make note of the positivity still happening on the Jags sideline as the mistakes and deficit piled up.

Pederson’s OSchemes are always great. At the end of last week’s game he pulled out the TFormation that Skip Holtz used at Birmingham this past year on their way to a USFL Championship.

In the 1st Half, the Jags ran a lot of Horizontal WCO Spread Pass Game. In the 2nd Half, they didn’t panic. They just tightened up to a quicker Spread Pass Game – Quick Game – with some use of No Huddle Tempo. Simple but effective.

DC Caldwell is too conservative at time. In the 2nd Half last week he looked more like his mentor Bowles, mixing pressure w/ aggressive match coverage schemes and surprise – it worked! Of course with the help of a complete mental and emotional letdown by many of the Chargers Players.

I’ve written a ton about Andy Reid on this site – just put “Reid” in the search widget to the left. He continues to run a strong PS Pro or PS Multiple style of Offense with a lot of talent at his disposal.

Spagnuolo is great at play calling when he’s mixing his Pressure + Coverage Schemes. Still, he’s a bit Old School (Jim Johnson (Bowles)) and will sometimes stick to just M2M or Zone and lose his Variety.

Spags has a good staff of guys w/ influences from the best – Belichick, Stoops and Rex Ryan’s Psycho D that Baltimore has used for over a year. Spags also gives his players freedom in what I call the Bowles GAP D which I explain here. As long as he stays w/ AggVariety he’s one of the best!

Momentum + Injuries

The Chiefs were fine after the first half of the year as they were integrating their rookies and new players along with 2 suspensions and some injuries. They are on the good side of the Injury Count right now and have won 10 of 11 coming in.

They are missing WR Hardman and RB Edwards-Helaire, but their depth due to their young guys has them covered. In fact, Pacheco and McKinnon right now form a great RB Tandem. Justin Watson and Skyy Moore have played great and deserve more playing time anyway.

The Jags have a lot of ?s on their injury report heading into this one, but as we learned last week, those ?s many times mean “healthy”, just banged up.

More importantly the Jags are flying high after their amazing comeback win. Big Question — will they let down or keep flying??

Prediction – Chiefs (Jags w/ Pts?)

The Chiefs were the best team this year in the AFC whether they win or lose this game. The Jags have a ways to go yet to get to the level of the Chiefs. Truth.

Now. If the Jags continue to roll w/ confidence and attitude, they have the talent, schemes and coaching to pull off the biggest upset in the playoffs. My feeling is that – if you dare – take the Jags with the points.

I have to go with the Chiefs outright and possibly pulling away after a tough 1st Half. They are re-energized w/ all the young guys and really positive all year. Plus they are experienced, at home, and healthy with the Kicker now in case of a close game.

Even if the Jags start to fall away in the 3rd Quarter, I wouldn’t be surprised if Lawrence/Pederson keep fighting and they get close at the end. Either way I have to stay with the Chiefs and hope their off-week layoff won’t leave them fighting to get back in the game after a terrible start!

Giants at Eagles

The Eagles weren’t only the best team in the NFC this year – they were the best team in Football. LIke the Chiefs – the big question is how will they manage the layoff vs a young team playing their best football right now!?

But make no mistake, win or lose, the Eagles had the best Culture – Talent, Execution, Scheme – in the NFL Regular Season. Now it’s Playoff Football Time and they need to be ready!

Talent

The Eagles O – Hurts passing short, intermediate, deep to a great WR Tandem + TE. A Pro Bowl RB and an OLine w/ 3 Pro Bowlers and 2 Alternates!

The D? How’s 70 Sacks, 17 Ints, 85 PDs!? Incredible. Mostly w/o Blitzing. Reddick was a great acquisition as was the midseason acquisitions of Suh and Joseph at DT when monster Georgia DT Jordan Davis was hurt. He’s healthy now and the Eagles are deep! 6 DTs – 2 each in the Lightweight, Middleweight and Heavyweight Division!!

I go into more details w/ the players in the Podcast, but I expected a lot of this – especially from the Oline if it stayed healthy – but I did not expect WR DeVonta Smith to play a full season without injury. This guy is tough – and as we know – very talented.

The Giants I talked a lot about in last week’s Podcast/Post, but I will note that their DTs Williams & Lawrence, had monster games vs the Vikes! Having S McKinney back was huge!

Obviously QB Jones is a talented strong leader now and his WR Corp really rose to the occasion. Don’t forget Barkley, who looks healthy again and an improving OLine.

The issue I have with the Giants in this game, is everywhere but QB & RB I give the edge to the Eagles. They simply have more talent, but if the Giants Scheme right – especially on D – they will have their shot this time!

Coaches

It may come down to DC Wink Martindale.

Both HCs understand Culture. Sirianni has had more time and momentum behind his Culture, but Daboll has established a great connection right away with his team. Both of these coaches also understand Power Spread Offense w/ WCO + Spread concepts in both the run & pass game.

The Offenses will be fine and fun to watch with their dual threat QBs and strong OCs in Steichen and Kafka.

What about Defense? For the Eagles, DC Gannon has a lot to work with. 16 Sacks by Reddick, 11 each by Graham and Sweat, and a bunch more from DTs Hargrave and Cox. Gannon will bring surprise blitz pressure and coverage mix – but usually will only rush 4 or 5 w/ some kind of Match Zone or Man behind it.

Gannon doesn’t need to get too tricky with his talent. Martindale does.

He isn’t facing Cousins this week. Hurts is a big threat running as well as passing and Steichan & Sirianni scheme up some great stuff. They will have a strong gameplan and make good calls at the right time. The Giant’s DScheme needs to be Aggressive w/ Variety. No if, ands, buts about it!

Last week, I’m pretty sure Daboll effected the gameplan of Martindale. Hold back on the pressure/coverage mix, work brackets on Minnesota’s amazing WR Justin Jefferson and match the rest. Thankfully, for the Giants, Martindale upped the aggression in the 2nd Half.

Versus Hurts, Brackets and Man or Zone Coverage in and of itself will not work. They have too many weapons. If Martindale is allowed to be his aggressive self, the Giants will apply a lot of pressure – get burned at times – but make a lot of big plays as well and stay in this game.

If that’s not the plan, then the Eagles will matriculate the ball down the field behind the running of Hurts and Sanders and the passes to their talented receivers. Eventually the Giants will get too aggressive then the bombs will fly and the big runs will bust. The game will be over quickly.

Momentum + Injuries

The Eagles were unbeatable in he first half of the season. Then they started to join the rest of the NFL with a bunch of key injuries. First their massive DT Davis, which killed their run D and their undefeated record as Washington ran all over them. Then Hurts, Goedart and others.

Still, the Eagles only loss 3 games on the year. They look as healthy as they have been since the first half of the year and had a week off to heal more.

The Giants found their WRs and QB Jones has blossomed as a leader. Their D is healthier than it’s been in a while, though Olujari is banged up.

The Giants are flying high with confidence and unlike Jacksonville, I really don’t expect a letdown here – though that’s hard to forecast. But the Giants have been on a Dec/Jan roll since their first game against the Vikings and I their Momentum is strong right now.

Prediction – Eagles (Giants w/ pts?)

Will the Eagles layoff help or hurt? I know it helped with the injuries. Did it ruin their momentum? Probably not, because the momentum was already halted after the injuries started.

The Eagles are the best team in the NFL at home in the playoffs – they will be fired up and confident. If Daboll doesn’t let Wink go for it on D, the game will turn into another blowout like the only meaningful game they played a month ago.

I believe that the DScheme is going to be aggressive from the start and the Eagles will have a real battle on their hands. They will need to mix intermediate passes with the run game and use Goedart and the Backs in the pass game. And they need to test that secondary with Brown,Smith&Watkins.

The Giants may look like the team to beat early – especially if the Eagles are out of rhythm – but as they have done most of the year, the Eagles should get it together in the 2nd Half – hit some deep shots – and take control.

If they don’t and the Giants stay aggressive with Tempo and shots of their own on Offense, then they could take control with the PS Run Game of Jones&Barkley. But it all starts with an Aggressive style of D.

I will stick with the favorite – they are just so good in every aspect this year – but if they falter at all, the Giants can definitely win this game and that wouldn’t be a surprise. Neither would an Eagle win by a handful – not a blowout – but a solid win heading into the Championship Game.

~PS

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