The Purple-Chip Report
Like we’ve discussed previously, postseason games in my opinion come down to how many top players each team has and whether or not they perform to that level (as opposed to the regular season, which is more about offense and depth). Performance can be affected by injury, the opponent taking a player out of the game, or just poor performance by the player. But top players need to find a way to perform in the postseason—they are the difference-makers—or else it really hurts their team.
Let’s see how each team’s purple chips, a combination of players that are blue (elite), and red (very good), fared last week.
Seahawks 23, Saints 15
Seahawks that met expectations (5): RB Marshawn Lynch, DE Michael Bennett, CB Richard Sherman, S Earl Thomas, DT Brandon Mebane. Didn’t (2): QB Russell Wilson, DL Clinton McDonald.
Saints that met expectations (3): QB Drew Brees, DE Cameron Jordan, OT Zach Strief. Didn’t (4): TE Jimmy Graham, third-down back Darren Sproles, RG Jahri Evans, CB Keenan Lewis.
The Seahawks got away with it for another week, but unless they start making plays more consistently via the pass and Wilson plays better from the pocket, they’re going to have a tough time advancing. They can’t keep kicking field goals in the red zone. Seattle’s defense was again terrific, with Bennett arguably the best player on the field. For the Saints, Jordan’s play waned a little bit in the middle of the season, but he was lights out for the past month. Graham better be working in the offseason on his play against physical defenses, especially if he gets paid as a pending free agent. His team is counting on him to be a difference-maker in these types of games.
Patriots 43, Colts 22
Patriots players who met expectations (6): QB Tom Brady, LT Nate Solder, RB combo LeGarrette Blount/Shane Vereen, LG Logan Mankins, DE Rob Ninkovich, CB Aqib Talib. Didn’t (1): S Devon McCourty.
Colts players who met expectations: WR T.Y. Hilton, OLB Robert Mathis, DT Cory Redding. Didn’t (2): QB Andrew Luck, CB Vontae Davis.
The Patriots were just methodical in this game, which was close on the scoreboard during certain parts even though the Patriots dominated most of it thanks to impressive performances from players in the supporting cast, like Jamie Collins, Alfonzo Dennard, Dont’a Hightower and Dan Connolly. If the Patriots limited some big plays from the Colts, which were equal parts great plays Luck and Hilton and the fault of the Patriots’ defense, this really would have been a blowout. Blount carried the RB combo in this game, but Vereen really needs to get back on the same page with Brady for the next round. The Patriots will need all the offensive playmakers they can get.
49ers 23, Panthers 10
49ers who met expectations (8): WR Michael Crabtree, WR Anquan Boldin, RB Frank Gore, OLB Aldon Smith, ILB NaVorro Bowman, ILB Patrick Willis, DE Justin Smith, S Eric Reid. Didn’t (2): LT Joe Staley, TE Vernon Davis.
Panthers who met expectations (5): QB Cam Newton, DE Greg Hardy, LB Luke Kuechly, DE Charles Johnson, LB Thomas Davis. Didn’t (3): WR Steve Smith, LT Jordan Gross, LG Travelle Wharton.
A case of San Francisco just being too good, especially on defense. The Panthers don’t have enough playmakers on offense to win the day against that 49ers unless Newton is just out of this world. Steve Smith was awesome in the first half, but was blanked in the second half. Carolina isn’t at the point with its roster where that can happen in the postseason and they can expect to win.
Broncos 24, Chargers 17
Broncos who met expectations (6): QB Peyton Manning, RG Louis Vazquez, WR Demaryius Thomas, DT Terrance Knighton, DT Malik Jackson, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Didn’t (3): WR Eric Decker, WR Wes Welker, TE Julius Thomas.
Chargers who met expectations (3): QB Philip Rivers, third-down RB Danny Woodhead, S Eric Weddle. Didn’t (2): TE Antonio Gates, OT King Dunlap.
San Diego was at such a talent disadvantage in this one that it needed almost a perfect performance to win, and it didn’t come close to that. The only reason this was close in the end was because of the Broncos’ self-inflicted wounds. Not sure Denver can have the same type of performance and beat the Patriots. Decker, Welker and Julius Thomas all need to be more consistent or the Broncos will have a tough time moving the ball.