Playoff Santa. Old St. Nick. Big Nick Energy. Foles gold.
It was fun while it lasted.
Nick Foles morphed the 2018 postseason from intriguing playoff tournament to must-see drama, football storytelling of the highest order in real time. The Eagles' unexpected run behind their living legend of a backup quarterback almost went Championship Sunday deep for the second straight year. With the franchise quarterback watching due to an injured back, and a fan base fully in support of Carson Wentz as organizational front man, Foles performed in front of the throngs at a level Mick Jagger or Axl Rose could appreciate.
The accounting of Foles' handiwork over the past two seasons in December/January/February says it all: 9-2 record, with one of those losses coming in a meaningless Week 17 start last season in which he left early. Since the start of the 2017 postseason through the 2018 Wild Card Round, Foles had been nails on third/fourth down, completing 79.2 percent of his passes with a 10:1 TD-to-INT ratio and 134.9 passer rating. Yes, those numbers were all tops in the league over that span.
And yet, all of the clutch figures and Foles moxie went fluttering through the hands of Alshon Jeffery on Sunday ...
Straight class, homie.
Of course, Foles wasn't the only intriguing subplot of the Divisional Round.
Let the dissension commence!
PROGRAMMING NOTE: For more in-depth analysis on the updated league pecking order, tune in to NFL Network every Tuesday night at 6 p.m. ET for "The Power Rankings Show." Want to add YOUR voice? Provide your thoughts in a tweet to @HarrisonNFL, and your comments could be featured on air.
Previous rank:*No. 2*
While NFL execs search for the next Sean McVay like Ringwraiths tearing up Middle Earth in pursuit of Frodo, the real Sean McVay put together a stellar game plan to oust the Cowboys from the postseason. The Rams ran a series of misdirections and employed massive amounts of motion -- anything to keep the Dallas linebackers from instant play recognition. It was beautiful blueprinting from a beautiful mind, mapping out a clear path to negate one of pro football's most talented front sevens with relative ease. Throw in a few devastating C.J. Anderson rumbles and Jared Goff connections downfield, and the Rod Marinelli/Kris Richard defense was in disarray much of the first half. The MVP(s) of the game? Five of them, up front. You know who I am talking about. The big uglies. You don't produce a pair of 100-yard rushers without 'em.
Previous rank:*No. 1*
The Saints advance to their third NFC title game on the strength of a loooonnnnng offensive march, a defensive circling of the wagons and a little luck. That last item has been a talking point in the media, as everyone continues to speculate how the final moments would've played out with the football in Nick Foles' hands. It's possible the Eagles would have scored the go-ahead touchdown (and extra point), only to leave Drew Brees precious seconds to move into field goal range. Maybe so, maybe not. However, when assessing factors that led to the game's outcome, you can just as easily point to the 11-minute drive in the third quarter or Dennis Allen's defensive adjustments after taking it on the chin early. This Sunday's conference championship is gonna be fun.
Previous rank:*No. 3*
All that worrying ... All that internal anxiety ... That $&?! is real. The Chiefs Kingdom owns a bunch of confidence ... until the playoffs roll around. Kansas City fans have had their hearts broken so many times. Not talking the garden-variety, dating-app disappointment. Oh, no. This is the "We were getting married, until ..." brand o' heartache. So many one-and-dones, including numerous times when the Chiefs owned first-round byes and were expected to go deep in the postseason. Not the case on Saturday, as Kansas City controlled the engagement all day, from heating the charcoals to plucking the brisket off the grill. And no, it wasn't all Patrick Mahomes. Bob Sutton's defense turned in its top performance of the season when K.C. needed it most. For all the (deserved) love for Mahomes, Justin Houston was the man this weekend. Next up: youknowwho.
Previous rank:*No. 4*
There are those who doubted this group before Sunday. Thinking maybe those concerns were answered after one half of play, when the scoreboard read Patriots35,Chargers7. In a Divisional Round packed with blowouts, no team produced a catalogue of awesomeness quite like New England's opening 30 minutes. It's at this point of the blurb where people hit up my Twitter with "Get off the Patriots' (expletive)" and "You kiss Tom Brady's ass too much." Uh, how do you explain a team building a 28-point halftime lead against a playoff opponent many experts picked to win? How do you ignore a quarterback who's about to start his 13th conference title game -- that's more Championship Sundays than most Hall of Famers have years played. Hate on the Patriots if you must, but they outplayed, outcoached, outeverythinged the Bolts. Respect it, because you won't see this brand of organizational dominance again for a long time, if ever.
Previous rank:*No. 8*
It would've been cool to see how it all played out. What if Nick Foles had led the Eagles to the NFC Championship Game? Better yet, what if he pulled off a(nother) win against the Rams at the Coliseum? Talk about a unique time in NFL history. The Foles story fairy tale, came to an end in New Orleans, but not without a championship-level drive brewing to potentially take the lead. No one will ever know what would've happened had Alshon Jeffery held on to that football. What we do know is that the Eagles, in contrast to most of the 2018 campaign, weren't merely the defending champions, but looked like the defending champions. The last month has been all effort from Doug Pederson's group. They won as a team and lost as a team. Look no further than the way Foles and Pederson handled Jeffery's drop. Pure class.
Previous rank:*No. 5*
A promising season came to a halt rather abruptly at Gillette on Sunday. Yet, it shouldn't overshadow what was a successful sophomore campaign for Anthony Lynn and his team. The Bolts went 12-4 this season and won a playoff game, despite having a lackluster home-field advantage and losing multiple marquee players before the season even started. Going a step further, the Chargers have gone 22-8 (including the playoffs) since that special teams-induced 0-4 start in 2017. Think about this nucleus going forward, too: Melvin Gordon, Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Joey Bosa, Derwin James. They'll be back.
Previous rank:*No. 6*
End of the road for the Colts, with the last stop coming in Kansas City. Every time Indy tried to climb back in the ballgame, Patrick Mahomes made a play ... Justin Houston made a play ... and Frank Reich's team didn't have an answer. The best opportunity the Colts owned all day probably came in the second quarter following that timely blocked punt by Najee Goode, which resulted in a touchdown. Yet, the defense couldn't hold the fort against an offense the likes of which Indy hadn't faced all season. On that note, who would've thought the Colts' defense would have been a huge reason why they were playing for a spot in the AFC Championship Game in the first place? There were four teams in the NFL that ranked in the top 10 in both scoring and points allowed: the Patriots, Chargers, Bears and Reich's band of underdogs. Heckuva season, guys.
Previous rank:*No. 7*
Much angst lingers amongst Dallasites regarding their football team. The Cowboys not only lost an opportunity to advance to the NFC Championship Game, but played poorly with so much in front of them, and in front of so many. The front seven was overmatched, both physically and cerebrally. The linebackers looked lost in space, figuratively and in reality, with all the Rams' misdirections. Offensively, Dallas continued the maddening habit of not using Dak Prescott's ability on the move until desperation time, like fourth down or late in the game. Why not make Los Angeles' defense do as much guesswork as Los Angeles' offense was making the Cowboys do? Put simply, the 'Boys were strategically dominated by Sean McVay, Wade Phillips and company. Which means that fans weren't too happy with Monday's Scott Linehan news. Big D residents have to hope Jason Garrett, Linehan and staff learn from this game tape, allowing them to advance a round further next year. There is always next year. Although, this year wasn't too shabby.