Two games down and two more to go, but first we have this week’s trivia questions, where Dan’s Dad asked us:
‘After the Dolphins made it to Super Bowl VIII after the 1973 season, what was the next season they saw Super Bowl action?
Who did the Vikings play in their first Super Bowl, which was Super Bowl IV, played on January 11, 1970?
The Patriots moved and changed their name in 1971. What was the home city and their name prior to that?’
So the first question is one of those that is worrying me because I know that Dan Marino went to the Super Bowl early in his career, lost and everybody thought it would be okay because he would go back but he never did, yet I’m not totally sold on the year. I think it’s 1982 or 1983 and I’m going to plump for 1982 and hope I’m not trumped by Dan’s franchise knowledge of his own team.
I had an idiot moment when I first looked at the Vikings question as my brain thought Packers before it realized that would be impossible as they are both NFC teams. I’m not totally sure on this, but I think the Kansas City Chiefs were one of the early winners so I’m going to plump for them, and hope it wasn’t the Jets…
I have no idea on the Patriot question as again I don’t remember hearing about a franchise move, and I’m now once bitten twice shy of accusing 3D of being extra devious after being wrong the other week about the Chiefs. I’m wondering if the team have moved from Boston to their current location in Foxborough, but I really don’t know so let’s go with the Boston Whalers, even though that might be a hockey team.
Now over to Dan:
‘So, the Dolphins question I know. 1973 was the third Super Bowl in a row for the Dolphins, and after that I believe it was 1982 (when I think we lost to the Redskins, but I might be wrong there).
Now the guess… while one of our ‘three in a row’ was against the Vikings, 1970 would be the year prior to that run, so it’s not us. I’ll guess it was the 49ers.
And then back to confidence! Before the New England Patriots were the New England Patriots, I believe they were known as the Boston Patriots. And they still weren’t good enough to beat the Dolphins! #FinsUp!’
Minnesota Vikings (6th) @ New Orleans Saints (3rd)
The New Orleans Saints are the fourth ranked team by DVOA, but are a lot of people’s favourites to come out of the NFC in the Super Bowl and have looked good all season, which is particularly impressive as they achieved their 13-3 record with Drew Brees missing five games with a hand fracture. Their offence ranks fourth by DVOA, but their defence that was for so long the Achilles heel of the Saints franchise post the Bountygate scandal ranks just outside the top ten and has done more than enough to facilitate winning. Even their special teams is ranked third in the league by DVOA and so at home they are a particularly formidable opponent for the Minnesota Vikings.
The Vikings are another wildcard team who had a winning record all season but like the Bills in the AFC East, couldn’t keep up with the division winner as the Packers won thirteen games. This is the second year of Kirk Cousins three-year guaranteed contract but with an 0-9 record in Monday night games and an 0-2 playoff record there are plenty of questions about his performances in big games. The playoff record is a little unfair as Washington have not won a playoff game since 2005 and he wasn’t even the starter in 2012, but to win in New Orleans is a tough ask. The Vikings managed to be the Saints two seasons ago with a remarkable last minute score, but their defence has looked slightly vulnerable against the pass this season, whilst the offence took a while to find its feet. Kirk Cousins has looked really good for a lot of the second half of the season, but in the last couple of weeks an injury to running back Dalvin Cook has hurt their running game and the Vikings come into this game having lost their last two.
I think it will be a close game, but I do think that the Saints likely have too much for the Vikings, which will do nothing to dispel the narrative that surrounds Cousins and I will be interested to see if the Vikings stick with their offensive coordinator if they do lose as if there is a criticism of Mike Zimmer it is his interference with the offence and the number of offensive coordinators he has been through, but let’s get this game out of the way before we worry about that. For the Saints, who have been so close the last two seasons and were essentially robbed of a place in last year’s Super Bowl by a bad call, time is running out for Brees to get another Super Bowl and this could be the year.
Seattle Seahawks (5th) @ Philadelphia Eagles (4th)
The last wildcard game pits two of the most injured teams to make the playoffs against each other. The Philadelphia Eagles are the fourth seed by dint of winning the NFC East, but this took a four-game winning streak against the rest of their division to close out 9-7. The Eagles actually have a worse record than the Seahawks, and rank three places below them in overall DVOA, but they should not be underestimated. However, they barely have any receivers left, and even their leading tight end Zach Ertz is dealing with a rumoured lacerated kidney. However, Carson Wentz seems to have adapted to the recent change in game plan well and running back Boston Scott caught the eye last week, even if his average yards per carry was pretty paltry. The defence is beginning to get its pass rush back, which is important as the secondary is another area where the Eagles have a cluster of injuries.
The Seahawks may not have quite the same number of injuries as the Eagles, but a key injury to left tackle Duane Brown as well as injuries at running back that has resulted in Marshawn Lynch being signed out of retirement have dented the Seahawks attack. It still seems slightly odd that the Seahawks insist on featuring the run so heavily when they have one of the best passers in the game, but it will take all of Russell Wilsons ability to evade the pass rush to keep the Seahawks in this game. Especially as their usually strong defence only ranks eighteenth by DVOA this regular season. Interestingly the Seahawks have actually been better on the road this year, going 7-1 as opposed to their surprising 4-4 home record, which is very poor for a team who pride themselves on being one of the tougher places to visit in the NFL.
This looks like another close game, and I can absolutely see the Eagles doing enough to win the contest, but I give the advantage to the Seahawks simply because we know how good Russell Wilson is and this is Carson Wentz’s first ever playoff game.
DVOA is Football Outsiders statistic for measure a team’s success on every play versus the league average and you can read more about it and other football topics at https://footballoutsiders.com.