By Ryan Bukowiecki (@ryanbski)
After one weekend of NFL playoff action, it would seem that there’s no country for old quarterbacks in 2020.
The two guiding lights of QB play beyond one’s peak — Tom Brady and Drew Brees — could not save their respective teams from rather embarrassing Wild Card weekend losses over the weekend and are both suffering early exits after consistently reaching the divisional round or better for at least a decade.
More than that, another middle-aged QB — Philadelphia backup Josh McCown suffered his worst fate and actually had to play for the Eagles against the Seattle Seahawks and wound up limping out from that game as his team was eliminated (though he does tug at the heart given that the soon-to-be 41 year old played in his first, and likely last, playoff game).
What’s left in the divisional round is a whole lot of newness, and Blackness, among the signal callers, which means that the 2020 NFL playoffs could mark a true changing of the guard in regards to the league’s star power and its on-field power.
From that adjustment we’re seeing new scheduling quirks from the networks — instead of New England and Brady hosting a second-round Saturday evening game, Baltimore and prohibitive league MVP Lamar Jackson will host, taking on the Tennessee Titans, fresh off their dethroning of the Pats and featuring demanding a force of nature at running back in Derrick Henry.
The AFC’s other semifinal is bitterly being known as the “Trubisky Bowl” in Chicago, but its simply being seen outside of our self-flagellating burg as the first playoff meeting between Houston’s Deshaun Watson and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, also known as the other two quarterbacks in the 2017 draft according to Bears general manager Ryan Pace.
In the NFC traditional powers who’ve been given some new juice of late in San Francisco and Green Bay will host but insurgents in Minnesota and Seattle (with Black quarterback renaissance forerunner Russell Wilson) could be good bets to win on the road again after both doing so on Sunday.
So Who You Got?
According to Vegas Insider’s collection of money lines from the major Las Vegas betting houses, only Seattle at Green Bay (Sunday, 5:40 pm central) currently has the chance to be a competitive game all the way. The other NFC divisional match (Minnesota at San Francisco, Saturday, 3:35 pm) is expected to be a one-touchdown game, I would bet that line brings the teams a bit closer by kickoff.
On a pure competitive level, Seattle should be the best bet for a road underdog because the game being on the road is really the only reason it is an underdog, but even that’s kind of awkward because the Seahawks have clearly been a better road team (8-1) than a home team (4-4) this season. Wilson is an established playoff competitor with a deep threat (D.K. Metcalf) and within five yards of the end zone the only play needed for Seattle is “hand off to “Beast Mode.””
Green Bay is gonna have to play an inspired game and it will likely need more than its gotten from Aaron Rodgers from most of the second half of this season. Aaron Jones could break open a couple plays, but unless the Packers’ pass rush completely harasses Wilson, then the once-legendary Badger won’t have much problem pressing the Pack, who’ve only scored more than 20 points and won by more than one touchdown in two of seven wins since completely dominating Oakland on Oct. 20.
You can dismiss this as loathsomeness from a Bears fan if you like, but the best upset pick of the week is Seattle. I’m looking to see a third Seahawks-49ers battle in the NFC championship as San Francisco’s defense should be enough of a step up challenge-wise to contain Minnesota and likely force some negative action from Kirk Cousins, who deserves his props for finally winning a big game but doesn’t look like he’ll power the Vikings further against more powerful competition.
Check back with us Thursday for a preview look at the AFC divisional games with our guy Ryan Bukowiecki.
Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Chicago Bears and professional football for WARR