Falcon Points

5 key points from the NFL Playoffs as we head to the conference finals

Hard to ignore the Patriots in the postseason. Patriots/Facebook

The NFL conference championship games are set, and the pretenders have been discarded. All four higher seeds won and advanced this past weekend. Only the Saints-Eagles game was competitive. Five thoughts as we move on to the next round:

1) Old vs. new. Both championship games will feature all-time great quarterbacks (Drew Brees and Tom Brady) facing two young up and coming superstars (Jared Goff and Patrick Mahomes). The ageless Brady will have to go on the road, but what the Patriots have done is amazing. Eight straight trips to the AFC Championship is simply silly. This may be the Chiefs year, but Brady and the Pats won't make it easy. Brees and Sean Payton have never lost a game at the Superdome in the playoffs. The Rams are solid, but the Saints played poorly Sunday and still advanced.

2) The Colts are close. They were dominated by the Chiefs, but they are a few players away from being a strong force in the future. Beef up the secondary, maybe add to the running game, and hope to keep Andrew Luck healthy, and they will be legitimate Super Bowl Contenders next year.

3) The Cowboys, too. They weren't competitive against LA, but the Cowboys are a team with potential. They can upgrade their DL, get a tight end and add to the secondary, but they don't have a lot of weaknesses. They just need to get a little better and hope they can win with Dak Prescott.

4) The Chargers are fool's gold. Everyone says they have the most complete team. But they are a lot like the Falcons. They seem to be lacking something. They have the coaching and the talent, but they just don't seem to be up for the big moments. They were run out of Foxboro by a Patriots team with flaws.

5) Predictions. I took New England over the Saints before the season. If I had to do it over, I would probably go with Chiefs over Saints. The four best teams in the regular season will be meeting for a shot at the Super Bowl. Both home teams (New Orleans and KC) have huge home field advantages. The Chiefs - who had one playoff win under Andy Reid (Texans fans will remember 30-0) - cleared a huge hurdle by housing the Colts. This might be their year.

Regardless, unlike this week, we should get competitive games. It will be surprising if we had the boring routs that we had in three of the four playoff games.

The bad news? We only have three football games left in the season. Hopefully they will be entertaining.

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Houston gets back in the win column

Astros end six-game skid thanks to a gem by Greinke

Zack Greinke tossed a gem Saturday night. Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

After the Mariners roared back Friday night to get a walk-off win over the Astros, dashing their hopes of ending their losing streak, Houston tried to even the series with a win on Saturday night with their ace Zack Greinke on the mound. Greinke would do his part, throwing a terrific game, and the Astros would squeak out one run, which was enough to get back in the win column.

Final Score: Astros 1, Mariners 0

Astros' Record: 7-7, fourth in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Zack Greinke (2-1)

Losing Pitcher: Chris Flexen (1-1)

Plenty of hits, but only one run

Although the Astros were racking up hits against Chris Flexen, they had little to show for it. Eight different batters would notch ten hits against him, but the only time it amounted to a run was on a two-out RBI-single by Taylor Jones in the top of the fourth, giving Houston a 1-0 lead.

Greinke spins a gem

Luckily for them, Zack Greinke was making it look like that would be enough. He cruised through the Mariners all night, allowing just four hits while giving up zero runs along with six strikeouts, one of which moved him past 2,700 on his career. He could have attempted to finish the complete-game shutout, but at 91 pitches after eight, Dusty Baker opted to bring in closer Ryan Pressly for the ninth. Greinke's final line: 8.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K, 91 P.

Houston finally ends their losing streak

With the high-leverage save opportunity in the bottom of the ninth, Ryan Pressly entered to hold on to the one-run lead. He would do his job, finishing off the win for Greinke and putting an end to Houston's disappointing losing streak.

Up Next: The third and final game of this series will get underway at 3:10 PM Central on Sunday. Jake Odorizzi (0-1, 13.50 ERA) will look to make a rebound from his disappointing first start with the Astros, while the Mariners will start Nick Margevicius (0-1, 7.04 ERA).

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