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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Rockets get another much-needed win. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets went on a redemption tour by beating the Detroit Pistons and Dallas Mavericks. But the most pivotal win was against the Mavericks as the Rockets finally showed their true potential. John Wall finally made his return from his injury hiatus and played with a lot of energy. DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Gordon combined for 61 points. It was great to see Stephan Silas crack a smile as he was able to beat his former team.

The Rockets clearly missed Wall during his eight-game absense. This season, the Rockets are a .500 team with Wall on the court. Wall is the Rockets' floor general that leads, constructs, and also pushes his teammates to become better.

Wall only played 21 minutes in the 133-108 win over the Mavericks but still had eight assists. Even though Wall only had 7 points, his presence was still felt by finding his teammates for open looks beyond the perimeter. Wall made sure Cousins and Gordon got a plethora of touches. He called multiple actions, so they got open looks from three, which was mainly Gordon. Gordon and Cousins' struggles have been similar but with Wall on the court, they were successful against the Mavericks. According to NBA Stats, Wall posted a 111 offensive rating with the starters versus the Mavericks, which included Gordon and Cousins.

"He's the engine to this team. He gets everybody going. He makes the game easy," Cousins told a reporter after the game. "The pressure that he constantly puts on the defense is a tough thing to deal with."

Gordon has struggled all season long with three-point shooting and relied on his slashing abilities. Saturday night, Gordon made six three pointers against the Mavericks, which was 66 percent from beyond the perimeter. Gordon increased his three-point percentage from 31 percent to 34.5 percent after Saturday night's game. Gordon's 33 points came from being able to attack the entire Mavericks' defense. Willy Cauley-Stein didn't stand a chance against Gordon as he was burned multiple times. Gordon's been a lifesaver for the Rockets in the last two games, and hopefully he maintains his play.

Cousins played fantastic against the Mavericks scoring 28 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. This is Cousins' first double-double with the Rockets this season. Cousins became the vintage player from the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings. It was extremely fun watching Cousins push the ball up the court and aggressively snatch rebounds. Boogie shot 50 percent from behind the arc by making four three-pointers. He was dominant inside the paint as Cousins went 7/8 from the restricted area versus the Mavericks. This was the game Cousins needed after having a poor performance against the Pistons Friday night.

"It was really, really good. He did it all. He's a physical presence on both ends of the floor," as Silas said on Cousins' performance.

David Nwaba and Mason Jones were big factors off the Rockets' bench by having a combined total of 34 points together. Nwaba has been great in transition for the Rockets the entire season. Keep in mind that Nwaba is returning from an Achilles injury he suffered with his former team, the Brooklyn Nets. Nwaba has became a great defender, slasher, and is averaging a career-high nine points per game with the Rockets. He finished with 18 points on Saturday night versus the Mavericks.

Mason Jones has become a fan favorite of the Rockets because of his confidence. Silas is loving the usage of Jones off the bench but wants to find more minutes for him. Jones had a breakout performance versus the San Antonio Spurs with 24 points off 66 percent shooting from the field. He continues to get better with his reads from the point guard position. Jones' knowledge of running the offense has helped his efficiency on the court. He is never afraid to take clutch shots in pivotal moments of the game.

"To have a young kid who can come in and not be afraid of the moment, that's big. That's a tough position to be in as an undrafted rookie. I trust him. It's a good problem to have," Silas mentioned after the game. "He's showing me he's ready. He's a confident kid, and he should be. That's why he's good. He's not afraid of the moment, at all. He can get us organized, run plays, and score the basketball."

Hopefully, the Rockets can sustain their level of play when Victor Oladipo returns against the Washington Wizards, Tuesday. It will be interesting to watch Oladipo and Wall play in the same backcourt.

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