Three things from the opening round of the NFL playoffs
The Seahawks didn’t play this weekend, which left plenty of time to think about what the opening round of the playoffs means for Seattle on Saturday.
Three things we learned:
1. Detroit would have been Seattle’s toughest matchup in the divisional round.
The Lions had the league’s best run defense during the regular season, and they held the Cowboys’ ground game in check even in the second half when Demarco Murray got a healthy dose of carries. Throw in the Lions’ ability to bring pass pressure with a variety of ways, and it’s not like the Seahawks dodged a bullet with Detroit’s loss in Dallas, but it would probably would have been a tougher matchup than a Carolina team that will be starting a couple of rookies on its offensive line.
2. Cam Newton is going to be in harm’s way against Seattle.
There were three quarterbacks in the league who rushed for more than 500 yards during the regular season. Two of them will be playing in Saturday night’s playoff game at CenturyLink Field. That’s about where the similarities between Russell Wilson and Cam Newton end in the rushing game, though. Wilson is a counterpunch in that regard. The person who keeps the defense honest, forcing it to account for the quarterback as a runner. He’s only supposed to run when he’s not going to get hit. Newton fills a very different role, the Panthers expecting him to take hits when he’s running the ball. He’s certainly big enough to do that at 250 pounds, but less than a month removed from a car accident, you’ve got to wonder if he’s going to hold up especially when you saw him wincing after some of the whacks he took Saturday against Arizona.
3. Saturday’s game will be a showcase for linebacker speed.
Start with the Seahawks and their trio of Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Bruce Irvin. Then go to the Panthers and their pair of Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, and you’ve got five of the very fastest linebackers in the league on the field. It’s going to be something to watch.
Three things we’re still trying to figure out:
1. Just how poor must Logan Thomas have looked?
Thomas is the rookie quarterback the Cardinals kept on their roster instead of Ryan Lindley when the regular season started. Thomas is also the rookie quarterback Arizona kept on the bench even as Lindley struggled through a historically futile playoff performance. Wait. That’s not totally right. Thomas did enter the game for one play. Not that it made any difference. The Cardinals finished with 78 yards of total offense, a record-low for an NFL playoff game, and yet somehow, they thought it would have been worse to use Thomas, who was initially slated to start the regular-season finale against San Francisco only to have coach Bruce Arians change his mind after one mid-week practice and go back to Lindley.
2. Why does anyone think Sunday’s game was a validation of Tony Romo?
Romo didn’t implode in December. And he didn’t combust in a home playoff game, either, but to pretend that was some sort of heroic effort to pull the Cowboys out of their double-digit deficit against Detroit isn’t quite right, either. His team won its second playoff game here in his ninth season as the Cowboys’ starting quarterback, but the biggest question after this game isn’t whether this takes the monkey off Romo’s back, but why Murray had just seven rushes in the first half when the Cowboys fell down by double digits to begin with.
3. What’s up with Larry Fitzgerald’s future?
He’s got a huge cap number for 2015. Unfeasibly huge. Like $23.6 million, and while general manager Steve Keim has said that number is baked into the Cardinals’ projections, it’s hard to imagine the team keeping Fitzgerald at that number. It’s also hard to imagine him agreeing to cut that number so he can come back and play as a slot receiver next year. In other words: He’s a player who could wind up on the market, and if he does, it would be real interesting to see if Seattle is attractive to him. He’s got friends on the team, notably Richard Sherman. He’s also precisely the kind of veteran who might see great value in joining a team like Seattle, and there’s not a player on any roster in the league who wouldn’t embrace a pro like Fitzgerald. Anyway. Something to think about.