It’s the Race to the Finish Line in Football

It’s the race to the finish line.

For college football, the race ended Monday night. For the NFL the playoff race just got started last weekend.

But I wonder if we will see anything as thrilling and spectacular as the National Championship game the rest of this football season or whether we’ve seen any game with as much down-to-the- wire drama in memory.

By now all football fans are aware that Clemson scored the winning touchdown with one second to play to beat defending champ Alabama 35-31 to avenge last season’s 46-40 loss to the Crimson Tide.

Nick Saban’s team has been clearly the best team in college football, with a suffocating defense as it’s hallmark. When ‘Bama took a 14-0 lead the second quarter and forcing a a pair turnovers it looked like business as usual for the Tide.

But the Tigers had other ideas and with a chance to tie the game with a field goal and
send the game into overtime, Clemson kept driving and driving until they got to the 2-yard line and quarterback Deshaun Watson fired the winning TD pass.

Here’s why I thought the drama which built to a crescendo made it a classic game that will go down in history: Clemson took its first lead with 4 and a half minutes to play, only to see Alabama convert a fourth-and-one on its side of the field, then dial up a flea-flicker to get into position for a 30-yard run by QB Jalen Hurts to regain the lead with 2 minutes left only to see the Clemson Tigers who haven’t known such heights for 35 years win the game on the final possession. A series of breath-taking plays, practically one after another in the final minutes, until the clock ran out.

I think the only way Alabama’s brilliant defense could wear down would be if they had to face a team running nearly 100 plays against them. And that’s exactly what Clemson did.

It was truly a championship game for the ages.

As for the NFL, there were no fireworks last weekend in the wildcard round.
As opposed to last season when the road team won all four games, the home teams all won, and won handily.

I thought the Giants would beat the Packers based on their improved defense and their stellar secondary as well as Eli Manning’s ability to take advantage of Green Bay’s less-than-formidable secondary. But that didn’t happen.

When Aaron Rodgers hit on the Hail Mary (doesn’t he always?) at the end of the first half, it proved to be the death knell for the New Yorkers.

The results of the other wildcard matchups were not surprising and now we move on to the divisional round.

It’s interesting that all four games this coming weekend will be re-matches from regular season encounters. Keep in mind that all of the previous meetings were played on week 6 or earlier, so they don’t hold much of a barometer for this week.

So how many of them will be close battles?  I see one as a rout. It doesn’t take rocket-scientist to call a Patriots success over the Texans a blow out.

This is not an indictment of Houston, more of a salute to New England. I know I said the previous games between the teams is not overly significant. But the Pats did beat the Texans convincingly during the time Tom Brady was on suspension..

In the other AFC playoff, I give Kansas City the edge over Pittsburgh .
I think the Chiefs are peaking, especially on defense where they will truly need a major effort to slow down the Steelers Big Three of Ben, Bell, and Brown.

I might have a different thought if this game were played in Pittsburgh instead of KC.
Home field is not always the end-all when it comes to post-season. But some venues are worth more than others and in the case of Kansas City and Pittsburgh it is.

The same goes for the NFC re-match between the Seahawks and the Falcons.
Actually, Atlanta might have lost earlier this year on a controversial pass interference call that wasn’t made in Seattle. The Hawks won by two points and this time I have a feeling that the Falcons offense is too much even for the superb Seahawks “D”.

Again, if this game were played outside in the colder climes of the Pacific Northwest instead of the Georgia Dome, I would have to pick Seattle.

Then it’s America’s Team against America’s Red Hot Team.
The Cowboys start their hoped-for Super Bowl run at home with a week’s rest against the Packers who now have won 7 straight.

For the record the Pack were clobbered by the ‘Boys 30-16 at Lambeau back in week 5.
If someone had said before the season began, who do you think will win a playoff showdown between Aaron Rodgers and a rookie named Dak Prescott?
You would have laughed.
In choosing the Cowboys, I simply feel they are better football team. End of story.

So here we are selecting all the home teams in the NFL divisional round.
That would make it 8-for-8 going into the Conference Championships.

This never happens.

So if you’re asking me which road team could break the home team dominance, I would have to say Seattle over Atlanta…But I’m still going with the Falcons!

See you next week.


“Keep an eye out for my podcast, “Stockton!” We’ll take a different perspective on the world of sports and share stories I’ve collected from my unique front-row seat. To learn more and sign up to be notified when it launches, visit”

Dick Stockton