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ProCanes NFL Playoff Preview: 2019 Divisional Round

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The top seeds of the NFL postseason attempt to defend home field.

Wild Card Round - San Diego Chargers v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

If you thought that last weekend’s action was exciting, the heat and intensity will be dialed up entering the divisional round of the NFL playoffs. This time around, the top seeds from the AFC and NFC will play host to the winners from the wildcard round.

Game Preview

Indianapolis Colts (10-6)at Kansas Chiefs (12-4) Saturday 4:35PM EDT

Wild Card Round - Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Wildcard weekend represented a day of many first for Colts’ DE Al-Quadin Muhammad. For the second-year pro, last weekend’s contest against the Texans not only served as AQM’s debut to the postseason; it saw the ProCane pick up his first career sack. Indy is going to need a repeat performance against the Chiefs’ explosive offense. Kansas City QB Patrick Mahomes III was named First-Team All-Pro a week ago, and will be well-rested going against the Colts’ defense. However, this Horseshoe U defense has dispatched of all challengers they’ve come across of late. The Chiefs are the league’s most proficient offense, averaging a staggering 425 yards-per-game, if the Colts’ D can get a few stops, they have a shot at pulling off a monumental upset of the AFC’s number one seed.

Keeping it honest with you, the Chiefs’ defense has not been a topic of conversation for good reason. Aside from the Cincinnati Bengals, no team gave up more yards-per-game than the Chiefs (405). For the lone ProCane on Kansas City’s roster, DE Allen Bailey, the goal remains the same. Controlling his gap and trying to keep a stellar Colts’ offensive line from getting to the second level on run plays. Bailey is coming off a career single-season best six sacks. Lining up on the right side of the offensive line, Bailey will go against Colts’ T Braden Smith, who will see some help from right guard, Mark Glowinski. This battle in the trenches could be the difference between a shootout and the Chiefs advancing to the AFC Championship.

Dallas Cowboys (10-6) at Los Angeles Rams (13-3) Saturday 8:15PM EDT

If you watched the game or saw the highlights, you’re probably aware of the gruesome injury that befell Cowboys’ WR Allen Hurns. As you can imagine, the focus for the ProCane will be his long road to recovery —one that likely means he won’t return to the field in 2019. The Cowboys were able to squeeze by the Seahawks despite Hurns’ injury, but will need all hands on deck to come out of LA with a win.

With CB Aqib Talib returning to the Rams’ secondary in the second half of the regular season, the defensive snaps have dwindled to an average of 11.5 snaps-per-game in the final couple of games in the regular season. With the emphasis of Dallas’ offense focused on the running game, it’s unlikely that Shields will see a significant amount of snaps. The key to a Rams’ victory continues to be finding a way to stymy RB Ezekiel Elliott.

Los Angeles Chargers (12-4) at New England Patriots (11-5) Sunday 1:05PM EDT

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Hurricanes fans could have told the Chargers’ contingent that Michael Badgley will be a weapon in their postseason success. UM’s all-time scorer booted five field goals to help lift the Chargers over the Baltimore Ravens in the wildcard round. After seeing the Bears lose in the manner that they did, the Chargers should feel grateful for the rookie kicker from The U.

The Money Badger and the Chargers will continue their East Coast postseason run into Foxboro, Massachusetts, to take on the New England Patriots.

LA makes sure to get the ball into the hands of WR Travis Benjamin as much as possible within the rhythm of the game. Whether that comes on a designed jet sweep or an end around, the motion of Benjamin has become a great indicator of defensive coverages for Chargers’ QB Philip Rivers, pre-snap.

Chargers’ safety and ProCane alum, Rayshawn Jenkins, started against the Ravens. Jenkins’ addition to lineup gave the Chargers to have more speed at the second level of the defense to combat Baltimore’s running capabilities — specifically QB Lamar Jackson. There won’t be anywhere close to the same concern trying to contain Patriots’ QB Tom Brady from scrambling. However, Jenkins will still be called for in run support with New England’s tendency to establish domination on the ground. The cameras will be focused on TB 12, but this past season saw the Patriots commit to the ground game. Rookie RB Sony Michel accounted for 931 rushing yards in 13 games. The big question coming off their bye week will be if Brady and TE Rob Gronkowski can get on the same page.

Patriots WR Phillip Dorsett could prove to be the counterpunch to Chargers DB heavy packages. In his two postseason contests, Dorsett has caught just two passes for 50 yards. However, now that they’ve arrived to the postseason, the Patriots will be anything but predictable to make it back to the Super Bowl.

Keep in mind that the last time the Patriots lost a playoff contest at Gillette Stadium was the 2012 AFC Conference Championship against the Baltimore Ravens.

Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) at New Orleans Saints (13-3) Sunday 4:40PM EDT

We’ll be honest with you, there will be no ProCane connections on the field when this contest gets underway. However, through six degrees of separation, we did discover that there are Miami connections to be found. Eagles’ offensive line and run game coordinator Jeff Stoutland had a cup of coffee with the Hurricanes. Coaching Miami’s offensive line from 2007-10, Stoutland was credited with helping develop G Brandon Washington, T Jason Fox and T Orlando Franklin into productive All-ACC selections and NFL commodities. These days, the OL coach is charged with overseeing a unit made up of All-Pro center Jason Kelce, Pro Bowler Brandon Brooks and T Lane Johnson.

The task this week for the Eagles’ offense will be stop New Orleans rushers, one of the leagues’ most potent pass rushes from the regular season — they tallied 49 sacks.

The Saints are also without ProCane representation on the field, yet they, too, have a familiar name on their staff. Current senior offensive assistant/wide receiver coach, Curtis Johnson, served as UM’s WR coach from 1996-2005. During his tenure, Johnson was credited with helping develop program greats such as Andre Johnson, Santana Moss and fellow NOLA native Reggie Wayne. While none of those players are on the Saints’ roster, WR Michael Thomas is coming off a 2018 season where he produced a career high in receptions (125), receiving yardage (1,405) and touchdowns (9).

The Philadelphia secondary’s struggles continued into the postseason, with the Bears moving the ball at will to the tune of 303 passing yards. In their week 10 meeting, Saints’ QB Drew Brees lit up the Eagles for 363 passing yards and four TDs to four different receivers. New Orleans won easily in a 48-7 rout of the reigning champs. However, with QB Nick Foles set to start this time around, will that playoff magic continue for the underdog Eagles this weekend?

News and Notes

Underclassmen Deadline

Pittsburgh v Miami Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Monday, January, 14th will be the final day for underclassmen to declare their intentions to enter the 2019 NFL Draft. So far, the Hurricanes have lost three players to the draft: DE Joe Jackson, RB Travis Homer and G Venzell Boulware. The Hurricanes convinced linebackers Michael Pinckney and Shaq Quarterman to return for their senior season.

Money Badger?!

BreakingT.com

Yeah that’s right, from honey to money, Chargers’ PK Michael Badgley has fans on the west coast excited to finally have a consistent kicker on the roster. The Money Badger phenomena now has its own fashion line in the form of a t-shirt. Yes, you can own a Money Badger tee from Breaking T for $25.

Jenny Vrentas of the MMQB.com provided some fascinating insight into how the Chargers connection to Michael Badgley dates back to his hometown in New Jersey.

Campbell Awarded for Character

ProCane and Jaguars’ DE Calais Campbell will be the recipient of the 2019 Bart Starr Award. The distinction is given to the player that best exemplifies outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the field and in the community. Previous award winners were Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Ben Watson and Aaron Rodgers. The formal presentation will take place Saturday, February 2nd, at the annual Super Bowl Breakfast.

Lamar Miller Heading to Orlando

The Houston Texans were given an early exit after losing to the Colts in the Wildcard round. A ray of sunshine appears to be shining on the ProCane back, as Miller was named to the Pro Bowl roster. Miller will replace Denver Broncos’ RB Phillip Lindsay, who suffered a wrist injury in week 16 of the regular season. This will be Miller’s first appearance at the NFL’s all-star event. The former Miami Killian High School graduate will also be the only ProCane with a Pro Bowl invite this year.

IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THE U!