Alabama Crimson Tide – National Champions
The 2nd College Championship Game since the playoff system was established was a great one. Hopefully some of you took my 2016 predictions to heart and ran with them. I didn’t predict that Alabama would crush Michigan St. the way they did, but the winners were correct. Now as far as predicting not only the outcome, but the way in which the victory was earned; the prediction was dead on. “The championship game will be a hard fought close game and will come down to a turnover or a key play on special teams. In the end Alabama will emerge as the national champions.” That is exactly how the game went.
Star quarterback DeShaun Watson was great and it seemed that Clemson had things under control, but after Alabama tied the game with 10:34 remaining the momentum of the game changed when the usually steady and conservative Nick Saban called for an onside kick. No one expected it, especially the Tigers return team. Alabama recovered and the tides turned (pun intended). The usually stoic Saban even cracked a smile. Maybe Saban knew that Clemson had won 51 games in a row when leading in the fourth quarter and he needed to shake things up. It didn’t take long for the Crimson Tide to capitalize on recovering the kick. Two plays after the trick play, quarterback Jake Coker hit a wide-open O.J. Howard for a 51-yard touchdown. Clemson put together another great drive, but had to settle for a field goal. Alabama put the game out of reach when star kick returner, Kenyan Drake, ripped off another huge scoring play, returning the kickoff for a 95-yard touchdown. Clemson played great on defense, but the few big plays they gave up were costly. They did manage to score one last time, but their onside kick went out of bounds, giving Saban his 5th career national title (one with LSU). Saban needs one more to tie the great Paul “Bear” Bryant for the most career national titles.
NFL Wildcard Playoff Games
The first game of the wildcard round of playoffs didn’t have much suspense. Kansas City dominated the Houston Texans on Saturday and a Chiefs win was never in doubt. As a matter of fact, right from kick-off the Chiefs took control with a 106-yard opening return by Knile Davis. It was the second longest kickoff return touchdown in postseason history. The game was never close as KC cruised to their first playoff victory in 22 years. The Chiefs blew a 28-point lead against the Indianapolis Colts in their last playoff game in 2013, but thanks to Brian Hoyer’s worst game of his career (4 interceptions and a fumble) they defeated the Texans 30-0 and extended their winning streak to 11 games.
30-0 is an ugly blowout, and while the Steelers vs. Bengals game was close, one might say it was even uglier. Unfortunately, in the end penalties decided the game. Once again, the Bengals did what they seem to always do in the post season: Implode.
The Bengals just needed their defense to step up in the fourth quarter and it seemed that they were going to hold the Steelers, but thanks to consecutive 15-yard penalties, Pittsburgh got in position to kick a 35-yard field goal for the 18-16 victory. Boswell nailed his fourth field goal of the game for the win. The Bengals did come back after being down 15-0, but injuries, a key fumble by Cincy, and stupid penalties were the memorable parts of game. Roethlisberger and A. Brown of the Steelers left the game with injuries and as of Tuesday their playing time against Denver is in question.
Many were predicting that Seattle would dominate Minnesota, but the game against the Vikings was close in a low scoring affair. The Vikings defense held the Seahawks in check for the first three quarters and the Vikings led 9-0 off of three Blair Walsh field goals heading into the fourth quarter. It might be the type of game one would expect in below zero temperatures (tied for the 3rd coldest game in NFL history), but Seattle did heat things up in the final quarter. Seattle got a 4th quarter touchdown, then the NFL’s leading rusher, Adrian Peterson, fumbled which set up a go ahead field goal for Seattle. What came next will definitely go down as one of the all-time choke jobs in postseason history. In what seemed to be straight out of the movie “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective”, holder Jeff Locke put the ball down laces in and just like in the movie the field goal sailed wide. Even though this was a chip shot field goal, Blair Walsh shouldn’t shoulder all the blame. If the Vikings could have gotten into the end zone even once they wouldn’t have had to rely on four field goals to win the game.
In Washington, the Redskins got out to an early lead mostly because of a poor start for the Packers. The Packers started the game with a safety and three punts and had only 11 total yards heading into the second quarter. Then Green Bay went into “hurry-up mode” and after being down 11-0 the Packers came back to crush the Redskins 38-18. The Packers are hoping the win turned things around after losing their final two games of the season and 6 of their last 10. Green Bay will definitely need that momentum as they face the #2 seed Cardinals. Arizona dominated the Packers in week 16 crushing the Pack, 38-8.
Kansas City @ New England -Saturday at 4:35pm
Green Bay @ Arizona -Saturday at 8:15pm
Seattle @ Carolina -Sunday at 1:05pm
Pittsburgh @ Denver -Sunday at 4:40pm