NFL Hash Marks: Divisional divisiveness - - The News for South Mississippi

NFL Hash Marks: Divisional divisiveness

All four NFL divisional round playoff games feature a quarterback with a Super Bowl ring. From top left, clockwise: Russell Wilson of Seattle, Tom Brady of New England, Ben Roethlisberger of Pittsburgh, Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay. (Source: AP) All four NFL divisional round playoff games feature a quarterback with a Super Bowl ring. From top left, clockwise: Russell Wilson of Seattle, Tom Brady of New England, Ben Roethlisberger of Pittsburgh, Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay. (Source: AP)

(RNN) - The Chargers are moving to Hollywood. That's a more shocking twist than that M. Night Shyamalan story - the one where he keeps getting to direct movies.

#LaLaLand - The city of Los Angeles is getting its second NFL team in a year, with the decision to move San Diego's franchise. After the way the Rams played in 2016, it's a good idea to carry a spare.

The Chargers will introduce Philip Rivers as Tinseltown's newest leading man. The QB is known for looking the part and being on the precipice of greatness … right before he puts out a slew of awful performances - like Colin Farrell.

As for the Chargers, they'll be playing games next season in a 27,000-seat soccer arena. It'll be like playing in front of a half-full, disinterested stadium, so no change there.

San Diego fans took it pretty well.

On to the good teams.

Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons, 4:35 p.m. ET Saturday

All four of the divisional round games feature a quarterback who won a Super Bowl, and they want to keep their club as exclusive as possible. The Falcons' Matt Ryan is not one of them, although he is the favorite to take home at least one piece of hardware this season - the NFL MVP trophy.

Ryan led Atlanta's (11-5) offense to a league-leading 33.8 points per game, and he came within 56 yards of 5,000 passing while throwing a career-low seven interceptions. More important, he kept the team from its usual midseason swoon and got them in the playoffs as the No. 2 seed in the NFC.

Along with improvements on an already good offense, the defense went from "bad" to "not as bad" this season, thanks to standout play from recent first-round picks. Vic Beasley led the league with 15.5 sacks and forced six fumbles in his second year, and safety Keanu Neal had five forced fumbles in his first NFL campaign.

These teams met in Seattle in Week 6, with the Seahawks winning 26-24.

Beasley and the rest of the pass rushers get an inexperienced yet improving Seahawks (10-5-1) offensive line. Pro Football Focus ranked the unit the worst in the NFL to start the season, and their play was one reason Seattle finished 25th in rushing.

Then the 'Hawks rumbled for 177 yards on the ground last week and made Thomas Rawls look like Jim Brown, so who knows what the Falcons are getting? Russell Wilson has taken on more responsibility in the Seattle offense this season and he finished with a career-high in completions, attempts and passing yards.

Wilson, who won Super Bowl XLVIII with the 'Hawks, continues his streak of making it to at least the divisional round in his five seasons with the team.

Houston Texans at New England Patriots, 8:15 p.m. Saturday

The Texans barely made it out of the subpar AFC South, winning the division with a 9-7 record despite getting outscored by 49 points for the season. Their quarterback is Brock Osweiler, who was playing so bad he got benched in Week 15, in favor of a guy who had never started a game as a pro.

But luck has been on their side, if you want to call other teams' players getting hurt "lucky." The Titans QB's injury gave Houston the division, and the Raiders QB's injury gave them a much easier Wild Card game.

Now they get AFC No. 1-seed New England (14-2), the same team that beat them 27-0 in Week 3 without Tom Brady. Now, the four-time Super Bowl winner is back, and there's no J.J. Watt to chase him around.

Houston's odds of winning are about the same as a Trump-Biden septuagenarian showdown on the White House lawn. It's probably not happening, but there's always a chance.

The Pats may want to send the league a thank you note. The 39-year-old Brady missed four games for his "DeflateGate" suspension, which was supposed to be a punishment but ended up motivating him and limiting the number of hits he took, while New England went 3-1 to start the season.

The Pats D gave up the fewest points of all teams, allowing 15.6 per game, with the assist of a breakout year from second-year defensive lineman Trey Flowers. Running back LeGarrette Blount led the league with 18 rushing scores, but he's been out of practice with an illness all week. If he's out, the Patriots could severely limit how much they run the ball, opting to use James White and Dion Lewis in short passing routes instead.

Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys, 4:40 p.m. Sunday

Last week, Aaron Rodgers tried to jiggle the lock on the Giants defense the first quarter. Then he decided to kick the door down instead. New York's D had kept teams at 10 points or less in three of its last four, but Green Bay's MVP candidate torched them for 362 yards passing and four scores.

Six years ago, the 10-6 Packers caught fire and were led by Rodgers to a Super Bowl XLV victory. This year, the Packers (10-6) have won seven straight and boast an offense putting up nearly 32 points per game during the streak.

The Cowboys (13-3) won't have to worry about Green Bay's top receiver, as Jordy Nelson has been ruled out with a rib injury. They should worry about linebacker Clay Matthews, who looked as good as ever last week when he caused two fumbles on the same play.

Dallas has not been past the Divisional round since the '95 season. A few months before that, Ezekiel Elliott was born.

Fast forward to 2016, and he ran all over the Pack D for 157 yards in Week 6.

Anyone concerned about the rookie running back's workload were proven wrong down the stretch, as he averaged nearly seven yards per carry in his last two contests. Fellow first-year phenom Dak Prescott also showed no signs of slowing in his last full games, completing 84 percent of his throws.

Left tackle Tyron Smith has a chance to play; he's been limited in practice this week after being held out of the regular season finale. DeMarcus Lawrence should be back to help the defensive line chase Rodgers, after missing the last three with a back injury.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs, 8:20 p.m. Sunday

This game was moved from a 1:05 kickoff to accommodate an ice storm in KC.

The Steelers' (11-5) Le'Veon Bell is a gamechanger. Just ask him.

"I think I'm changing the game," he told a Bleacher Report fan boy reporter.

Bell's "patient" running style led to more than 100 yards per game rushing in 2016, and he tacked on a 50-yard average in receiving, becoming the first to have that distinction. His field vision, coupled with an excellent offensive line, balances Pittsburgh's top-5 passing attack. The team poured on 43 points in a Week 4 win over Kansas City, with two-time Super Bowl champ Ben Roethlisberger throwing for five TDs.

Pittsburgh's offense overwhelmed Miami early in the Wild Card round, gaining over 200 yards in the first quarter.

The Chiefs (12-4) won't be mistaken for a dynamic offense - they're 20th in yards per game. And their defense spends a fair amount of time on the field - they're 24th in yards allowed.

What they are better at than everyone else is holding onto the ball and taking it away from the opponent, a plus-16 in turnover margin. Marcus Peters, in his second year, is on his way to being a shutdown cornerback, and he's picked off QBs six times. Safety Eric Berry is two years back from beating cancer, and he has resumed his position among the elite defensive backs.

The Chiefs also lead the league in punt return average and are ninth in kick return. Rookie Tyreek Hill makes them dangerous on special teams, with three return TDs to go with his six receiving and three rushing scores.

Hash Marks, formerly NFL of the Week, is a preview/analysis of games and a satirical look at the entire NFL Universe - the players, coaches, owners, fans and media. For more sports and other news, follow @MattQuillenRNN on Twitter.

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