The Tuesday Show Prep

This may prove to be the most important play of the entire NFL season.

As of right now, it's the only thing separating the New Orleans Saints from moving on in the NFC Playoffs.

And it was this miracle play that pushed the Minnesota Vikings to an improbable date with destiny.

My takeaways from a wild Divisional Round weekend....

Jacksonville over Pittsburgh: This one is on head coach Mike Tomlin and offensive coordinator Todd Haley. They can't escape the criticism on this one. 

But we saw it a few weeks ago and called out the glaring weakness of the Steelers, and that was what their defense looked like without Ryan Shazier.

The injury to Shazier on Dec. 4 was able to be masked a bit by taking on some inferior opponents toward the homestretch of the regular season, but it was also glaringly apparent at times that the coaching staff didn't want to place this current defense out there against anybody. 

Thus, the poor decision to onside kick with just a bit more than 2 minutes to go in the 4th quarter against Jacksonville, and even weeks earlier, with the ultimately horrendous decision to go for a TD in the final moments of their home game against New England which led to the controversial no-catch by Jessie James and the subsequent interception costing the Steelers what would have been home field advantage.

I'm 99.99% certain that neither Tomlin nor Haley are going to lose their jobs based upon two terrible calls in absolutely important situations. But the public scrutiny of those decisions, coupled with an inability to do anything to stymie Jacksonville's suddenly high-powered offense in the first half, is going to linger for some time.

By the way, and I'm sure this will get discussed by someone at some point in time before Sunday. The Jaguars defense, the same one that picked off Ben Roethlisberger five times and crushed the Steelers 30-9 earlier this season? Yeah, that same defense allowed 42 points, surrendered more than 540 yards and pissed away two separate 21-point leads. But I'm sure that'll get talked about at some point.

New England over Tennessee: I was happy to see the Titans score the first TD of the game. As an adult, it's always encouraging to allow the kids to have a moment in the spotlight.

But inevitably, the kids separate from the adults and the cooler kids split from the geeky ones and everyone, in time, knows their roles.

Love him or hate him, Tom Brady had his way with the Titans this past weekend and it was more of the same thing. A lot of quick checkdowns, a lot of outlets and short-range stuff, a lot of multiple sets and the no-huddle game which exposes defensive matchups which this offense has learned to exploit beautifully.

Sorry about being fired, Mike Mularkey. You deserved better than that.

Philadelphia over Atlanta: I'll be very happy to take part in the discussion when the conversation shifts to what an impressive job Nick Foles did in managing a football game on Saturday.

After three errant passes to open the game, Foles completed 23 of 27 on the day. He made no costly errors during the course of the game and puts the Eagles in a position to go to the Super Bowl.

The notion that he's no Carson Wentz is understood. I get it. It's been beaten down over and over again. But the Eagles defense stepped up in ways that were enormous for this game. The Falcons were 4-for-13 in 3rd down conversions, the 86 rushing yards earned by the Falcons was their lowest output since a November 5 loss to the Carolina Panthers. That's a defense coming to play.

Minnesota over New Orleans: It should be noted that for all the dramatics and histrionics of the incredible finish of this game, the Vikings blew a 17-0 halftime lead at home. And while the incredible pass play to Stefon Diggs will be featured on highlight reels and promotional materials in the days to come, that play doesn't work at all if this and that doesn't happen along the way.

It could very easily be argued that the Vikings never should have been in that position to begin with.

I don't want to be the naysayer here because the conclusion to this game is a pretty remarkable story, and it can be argued that after years and years of near-misses by the Vikings in their history, destiny may well be on their side, but they're going to need a lot more from their defense this weekend than they may expect. 

I'm definitely looking forward to it.

It took six days...

But at least it got done, right?

I'd been maintaining for some time that the divisive and ultimately harmful comments directed at Lakers coach Luke Walton made by LaVar Ball were incendiary at best.

And while I'd also been mindful that Walton's coaching contemporaries like Steve Kerr of Golden State and Rick Carlisle in Dallas had come to his defense, it was ominously and eerily quiet from both Lakers players and front office types.

Lonzo Ball's lack of endorsement came across quite loudly in a post-practice media scrum, and until Saturday's little tweetstorm from both Jeanie Buss and Magic Johnson, there had been little to no pushback whatsoever on LaVar Ball's insistence that Walton didn't have control of the team and the workings inside the locker room.

The idea that a public relations team for one of the most recognizable brands in all of American sports blew this one is unimaginable. 

And if you're Luke Walton, no matter how much public support you have right now, job security cannot feel too good.

Time to get ready....

So you didn't watch the NFL this season?

You were planning boycott parties, presumably finding more relevant, interesting and -- supposedly -- more patriotic sporting events that fit into some talking point and nonsensical stance that played to a rather bizarre movement, right?

So, with that being said, and with only three more football games left on this current season (no, we're still not counting the Pro Bowl), you should be excited about a lot more coverage of the second half of the college basketball season and the second half of the NBA season.

After all, the college basketball guys aren't kneeling or protesting. They're not even on the court for the playing of the national anthem. But if I asked you to tell me the top 5 teams in the country right now, you couldn't tell me. 

Go ahead. Give it a look. I'll wait. I'll even provide you the link to find the information right here.

The NBA guys? Well, there might be a few bad apples over there, so naturally, you'll stomp your feet and clench your fists till those "sons of bitches" (not my words, mind you) stop being so disrespectful.

The Winter Games are coming!! Surely that's got you fired up. Watching sporting events you've likely never heard of or seen in person and cheering for the home team simply out of obligation seems like a really smart endeavor for sports fans.

The NHL? Anyone? No? Well, that's alright. I'll just go ahead and tell you that there's not single disrespectful player on any of the Canadian teams. 

What does that mean? Those provinces and that country, probably (at least, as of my last check of my Twitter feed) hasn't been called a "s***hole" by anyone.

NASCAR is coming back soon. As is Major League Baseball.

So I'm certain that all those sports fans who abandoned the NFL this season will be well-versed in discussing, debating and making conversation about the sports they chose to follow these past few months when the Super Bowl has past our collective memories.

So many of you walked out on the NFL that it was hard to tell on Twitter late Sunday night who was and who wasn't a fan.

So many of you walked out on the NFL that it was hard to tell in sports bars this past weekend who was and who wasn't a fan.  

It's OK to tell people you watched games this weekend. No one will judge you. No one will raise an eyebrow.

Because we all know many of you have been watching games all along.

You just wanted to be one of the hip kids.

Enjoy the NFL this weekend, and make plans to enjoy it on February 4.  

After that, it's going to be a long offseason.


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