Bengals, Bills Win On Wild Card Saturday

Cincinnati Bengal DT B.J. Hill
Cincinnati Bengal DT B.J. Hill
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Wild Card - Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around emails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can).

On Monday (or other days during the playoffs), we compile a digest of those emails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.

While these emails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Seahawks or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Lions fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors solely to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.

Las Vegas Raiders 19 at Cincinnati Bengals 26

Scott Spratt: In the pregame, Drew Brees recommended that the Raiders establish the run. Interesting idea from the man who threw nearly 700 pass attempts in a 16-game season.

I do think it's odd how the Raiders play in a dome and the Bengals don't, but the Bengals feel very much more like a dome team. Maybe that matters in the colder temperatures in Cincinnati?

J.P. Acosta: Interesting early the Raiders going to quicker-tempo passes to quell the Bengals pass rush, which has been pretty good this year. The drive flamed out, but a promising start

Vince Verhei: Raiders have a third-and-2, third-and-3, and third-and-3 on their opening drive. First play, the Bengals rush four, an unpressured Derek Carr gets an easy conversion to Zay Jones. Next play, Bengals rush three, Carr gets an easy conversion to Darren Waller. Last play, Bengals rush three again, but this time Sam Hubbard gets pressure off left end, and Carr's pass to Hunter Renfrow is tipped away by Mike Hilton, the Human Defeats Machine. That's some very passive play calling by Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo.

Tom Gower: Well, the first two third downs the Bengals were in zone coverage when they dropped, then the Raiders put two guys in the same area and the Bengals had two guys on one receiver and the other one got open for the first down, and the third first down was Hilton in what sure looked like man coverage on Renfrow.

Scott Spratt: Ja'Marr Chase dropped his first target today. So here's the early reminder that he led all wide receivers with 12 drops this season.

Bryan Knowles: The Raiders only converted one third down in the Week 11 matchup against the Bengals, so picking up a few on the first drive has to be comforting. I don't think settling for long field goals on fourth-and-short is a winning strategy in the long term, but at least they put together something of a drive.

And yes, Chase dropped his first target, but he made up for it with three receptions and 37 yards on Cincy's opening drive. Joe Mixon, who destroyed the Raiders earlier this year, had a nice catch-and-run as well, and the Bengals take an early 7-3 lead. That was a little bit too easy for Cincinnati.

Aaron Schatz: Brandon Facyson held Chase to 3-32-1 the first time these teams played. He's not doing quite as well so far in this one.

J.P. Acosta: That's a great pass against Vegas' rotating their Cover-3 into the direction Joe Burrow was throwing. Speaking of Cover-3, the Raiders cannot stick in Cover-3 the entire game or they'll get shredded.

Rivers McCown: Gus Bradley Voice: Bet I can!!!!

Vince Verhei: Next third down for Vegas, Bengals finally blitz. Trey Hendrickson gets a one-on-one matchup with Foster Moreau, which is, um, bad for Las Vegas, and it's a sack-fumble and Bengals recovery in the red zone.

Bryan Knowles: I'm not sure I'd use Foster Moreau to single-block Trey Hendrickson. Call me crazy. Huge sack-fumble there to set up the Bengals.

J.P. Acosta: I would love if NFL teams would stop leaving tight ends to block pass-rushers on an island. It never works.

Bryan Knowles: Oh, Peyton Barber with a MASSIVE mistake on special teams. The Cincinnati kickoff was heading out of bounds, so Barber tried to do the thing where you step out of bounds, establish yourself there, and then touch the ball to get the ball up at the 40. Instead, Barber grabs the ball BEFORE he steps out of bounds, so the Raiders will start at the 2. Massive, massive mistake.

Scott Spratt: From what I'm seeing in Sportradar charting, that was just Peyton Barber's second kickoff return for the Raiders this season. Tyron Johnson was definitely deep on the first kickoff and I assume he was there. I think Evan McPherson's kick was so bad it was good.

Vince Verhei: Which leads to a third-and-long, Bengals blitz again, and it's a sack and a near-safety from Hubbard. Blitzing seems to be working out for Cincinnati.

But then A.J. Cole booms one, and despite forcing a punt from inside the 1, Cincinnati will start in their own territory. If they don't score here, let's remember that punt and how Cole bailed the Raiders out.

Vince Verhei: Peyton Barber is a six-year vet with two kickoff returns in his career. Both were this season, one against the Chargers, one against Washington.

Derrik Klassen: If the Raiders are going to continue just rushing four, running games to that right side of the line the way they did on that third down red zone sack is a must. The Bengals offensive line is particularly bad from center to right tackle, in part because of injury, and Maxx Crosby firing off that side is a good player to use as a twist/stunt piece. Really well done by the Raiders to go with the late twist with Quinton Jefferson outside over the top of Crosby gashing inside to get the sack there.

Tom Gower: Bengals up 13-3 after they could only get three from the good field position following Barber's mishap. One key to the Raiders lousy red zone defense keeping the Bengals to a couple field goal attempts: Zac Taylor running on second downs in field goal range. Three such plays at this point, all with at least 5 yards to go, three Mixon runs short of the line to gain, and only one of the ensuing third downs converted.

J.P. Acosta: That second-down run kind of killed the Bengals momentum. I don't hate running the ball there, but the Bengals are at their best running it under center:

Derrik Klassen: On the Josh Jacobs run at 9:30 in the second quarter ... I think the Bengals using Jessie Bates as the down safety to the weak side of the defensive line, leaving him responsible for the B-gap, is an advantage the Raiders can and will take every single time. Just not really where Bates thrives, to me.

Scott Spratt: Joe Mixon saved that fourth-and-1 pitch by blocking Nate Hobbs in the backfield. And after Chase ran for those 15 yards, the Bengals are in the red zone poised to go up by multiple scores near the end of the first half.

Bryan Knowles: I love the pitch to Chase on fourth-and-1. Give the ball to your fastest player, play against the Raiders leaning in to stop the sneak, bait them inside by having Burrow rush up from shotgun to under center—great call. Love it. Yeah, it needed Mixon to make the block, but he did, and it's all gravy.

The fresh set of downs finally leads to another Bengals touchdown and we're at 20-6 with 1:51 left. Cincinnati gets the ball after halftime, too, so the Raiders really need to do something with the ball right here, I think, or this one may be academic.

Aaron Schatz: Touchdown Bengals, Burrow to Tyler Boyd. The problem with rushing three is that there's only so long that the eight in coverage can cover everybody before some receiver is going to get free. Boyd got away from Trevon Moehrig and now the Bengals have a 20-6 lead, plus they get the ball first after halftime. Although the Raiders do have two minutes to try to score before that...

Aaron Schatz: So apparently one of the refs blew the whistle before Boyd made that catch. I will admit I did not hear it, and I have no idea why the ref would have blown it when Burrow didn't go out of bounds before he threw the ball. But there's your controversy for this game.

Rivers McCown: I, for one, am astonished that Jerome Boger's crew would create something controversial in a playoff game.

Aaron Schatz: The Raiders did get the touchdown. Double post, and Zay Jones as the outside receiver got past Eli Apple. Definitely looks like the Raiders are staying away from Chidobe Awuzie. Looks like we'll go to halftime at 20-13.

Bryan Knowles: The whistle blew as Boyd was in the air to make the catch, so I'm not going to call it the world's gravest injustice or anything, but by the letter of the law, that's no touchdown. Won't matter if the Bengals win by double digits, but if it's a close game, then oofdah. Raiders will be complaining that the refs didn't tuck that whistle away.

And, full credit to Las Vegas, they pieced together their best drive of the game to date just before halftime. Derek Carr scrambling for 19 on third down was huge; a three-and-out wouldn't have just meant no points, but punting back to the Bengals with 1:02 left in the half, and I wouldn't put it past them to score again. 20-13, so we're closer to a contest with 13 seconds left in the half.

Rivers McCown: I've gotta say I never had "Zay Jones breaks out in Las Vegas" on my bingo card. Good for him.

Scott Spratt: Robert Woods got a lot more productive when he left for the West Coast too. I guess Buffalo wasn't a passing haven until Josh Allen blossomed last year.

Vince Verhei: Interesting first half. It does feel like Cincinnati has been the better team, but every time they have threatened to pull away, the Raiders have denied them, either by holding them to field goals, or answering Bengals scoring drives with their own.

Tom Gower: Bengals up 20-13 at the half. It's probably too simple to say that as third-down conversions go, so go the Raiders offense. But they have five third-down conversions at the half. Two, as I have previously noted, came on their opening drive. The other three came on the touchdown drive at the end of the half, which was absolutely necessary with the Bengals getting the second-half kickoff.

Amateur tip: the Raiders should try not to give up a score on every drive in the second half. The blown call on the touchdown will overshadow a lot—my initial reaction was that Boger's crew was worried they'd unnecessarily take away a touchdown by calling Burrow out of bounds when he was not, so the call on the field after the initial discussion was a touchdown to let replay fix it if he actually was out of bounds. But replay cannot (or in this case did not) fix everything, so they let the touchdown stand. But that just means I won't spend too much time yelling at Zac Taylor at the second-and-5 run to set up that particular third-and-4, and other people probably won't spend enough time talking about that whole "allowing a score every possession" thing.

Bryan Knowles: I suppose we may have a makeup call from Boger and the refs, insomuch at least as bad reffing has now struck twice. The Bengals ran a play with a deep downfield shot to Chase—a play which also featured a roughing call on Burrow and 12 men on defense. The refs let the play run, despite the fact that the Raiders called a timeout before it happened, and then had a lengthy, lengthy discussion before deciding nope, no play, no fouls, no nothing, ignore everything you just saw. They got the call right, but letting the play run (and letting Burrow take a shot!) is just terrible work on their part.

Vince Verhei: The football teams have mostly looked pretty good today, but oy, these officials.

Rivers McCown: I feel like I'm watching the NCAA tournament Day 1, conning myself into thinking this would be exciting when really I'm going to watch five charge calls in 13 minutes and do something else.

J.P. Acosta: Does anyone know what a catch is anymore? Because I sure don't.

Scott Spratt: I don't think Hunter Renfrow caught that sideline lob, but he had the ball as long as C.J. Uzomah did on the first Bengals touchdown. I agree with J.P. No idea what's a catch.

J.P. Acosta: There's the stunt Derrik talked about earlier in the game, Maxx Crosby finally got home on one.

Scott Spratt: I was wondering why Derek Carr wasn't throwing that fourth-and-3 pass to an open Hunter Renfrow. But then I realized Vernon Hargreaves was the injured Mike Hilton's replacement. These Bengals defensive injuries could be a problem for them in the fourth quarter.

Bryan Knowles: Derek Carr led the league this season with 255 DYAR on pass interference calls. On critical fourth-down calls, you go to what your offense does best!

Aaron Schatz: Honestly, the Bengals defense isn't that great to begin with, but they have lost some of their better players now: Larry Ogunjobi, Hendrickson, Hilton.

Have you heard Awuzie's name at all? They're really avoiding him.

Bryan Knowles: Alright, what do we feel about the Bengals kicking on fourth-and-nothin' inside the red zone to go up 26-16 with 6:46 left? I think I kick the field goal, too—I'm not sure the Raiders have enough time to score twice here, realistically.

I certainly wouldn't have wasted the timeout to set it up, mind you.

Vince Verhei: Raiders kick a field goal to cut the lead to 23-16 early in the fourth quarter. Bengals then do a great job on their next drive of snapping the ball with one second on the play clock and kill nearly seven and a half minutes in 13 plays. But a third-and-short run in the red zone is stuffed (as forecast in our preview). Fourth-and-inches, they line up to go for it, then call timeout and kick the field goal. Can't fault them for taking the two-score lead at this point with less than seven minutes to go.

Aaron Schatz: Bengals with a nice, pass-heavy drive. A lot of Ja'Marr Chase. Desmond Trufant not looking good out there for the Raiders. Mixon gets stopped short on a third-and-1 pitch left and after first looking like he's going for it, Zac Taylor decides to kick the field goal to go up 10. EdjSports model had that as a total gut decision, with no difference in win probability between the field goal try and the go-for-it on fourth-and-inches.

Now we'll see what happens with the Raiders offense. The Bengals defense is very hurt. Surprisingly, the Raiders have outgained the Bengals per play tonight, 5.7 to 5.3 so far.

Scott Spratt: I think the Bengals went for two fourth-and-1s earlier tonight, Bryan, and they ran pitches on both. Is Joe Burrow not a sneaker? If they don't love that play, then the aggressive choice had a big downside there.

Aaron Schatz: Raiders had second-and-3 from the Bengals 10 and ended up kicking a field goal. First Carr threw the ball away, then a pass went off Sam Hubbard's helmet. I think the Raiders should have gone for fourth-and-3 there. It's likely that even if they get the ball back for one more drive, they'll end up having to go for it on fourth-and-more-than-3 because they didn't want to go for that fourth-and-3.

Aaron Schatz: Derek Carr, what an actor. Bengals go three-and-out, Raiders get the ball back with less than two minutes to try to tie, and Carr sells a roughing the passer on Khalid Kareem when Kareem didn't appear on replay to ever have actually touched Carr in the head. Free 15 yards.

Aaron Schatz: Raiders get to first-and-goal on the 9 with a great Darren Waller catch. Derek Carr throws a down away by spiking the ball. Surprised they didn't just have a play called to hurry up on first down. Even an end zone fade would have at least been a try. You want four tries at the touchdown, not three. Jessie Bates makes a big play on second down. Carr has tons of time on third down but Hunter Renfrow slips. On fourth, everybody is covered, so Carr tries to force the ball to Zay Jones and it gets intercepted and that's ballgame. Bengals move on, 26-19.

Vince Verhei: Third-and-goal, Bengals rush three, Carr has an hour in the pocket, and Renfrow might have been open, but Carr throws wide. If they had beaten the three-man rush again...

And fourth-and-goal, Bengals rush four, and Carr throws into double-coverage and is intercepted. Ballgame.

Bryan Knowles: After the Phantom Roughing, the Raiders move the ball down field, inside the 10 ... and spike it on first. That's the blown timeout from earlier coming back to haunt them; surely they would have just stopped the clock if they had the option. Probably should have run a fade anyway.

That means the Raiders' third shot at the end zone is their last. Carr tries to force it, but Germaine Pratt picks him off. Bengals win a playoff game for the first time since 1990.

Aaron Schatz: Strange play call on fourth down, with neither Waller nor Renfrow in the end zone.

Rob Weintraub: It's hard to overstate how the playoff drought weighed on us Bengals fans. I mean, we're talking my entire adult life here. Winning a single, solitary wild-card game shouldn't feel like scaling Kilimanjaro, yet here we are. I couldn't even watch—went into another room and talked anime with my daughter, for god's sake. For all the confidence I have in Joey B., the karmic weight on my shoulders was too great. O ye of little faith!

Now, the playoff dubs will flow like fine wine.

Now if you all will excuse me, I have to go run naked through the snow...

New England Patriots 17 at Buffalo Bills 47

Bryan Knowles: News, directly from my Buffalo source: it's really freaking cold. Six degrees and dropping; we could well get into the negative figures before all is said and done. But! Little to no wind, and no snow or anything, so that minimizes the impact of the weather. They have had a tarp on the ground to try to keep the ground from freezing, so hopefully this game won't be decided too much by the conditions.

Build a dome, Buffalo.

J.P. Acosta: Every time we talk about these cold weather games it reminds me that people seem to think this is true "football guy" weather. It's not! Tackling in the cold sucks!

Bryan Knowles: Well, J.P., it can reveal important things about the character of both teams. Like, on the broadcast, Boomer Esiason based his pick on which team was wearing fewer long sleeves. We pride ourselves on pushing the envelope here, but garment-based analytics is beyond our toolset at the moment.

J.P. Acosta: Well now I gotta pivot my entire brand to choosing teams based on what cleats they wear.

Aaron Schatz: Patriots start out looking slow. Josh Allen killing them with his legs so far. Twenty-six-yard scramble where he faked Matthew Judon out of his shoes. Fifteen-yard quarterback sweep to the right side where he went through a terrible arm tackle by Dont'a Hightower. Then he scrambled to the right and before he went out of bounds found Dawson Knox at the back of the end zone. The Bills have a lot of variance, but so far this looks like one of Allen's upside nights, which is a real problem for the Pats. 7-0 Bills.

Bryan Knowles: Well, Josh Allen is ready to play today. Two huge runs left Patriots defenders littered across the field, clutching the remnants of their shattered ankles. And then he rolls to his right, dodges pressure, and throws a lollypop up that Dawson Knox hauls in in the end zone. Impressive, impressive opening drive as the Bills strike first.

Scott Spratt: Allen is wearing sleeves, so consider that prediction debunked.

Aaron Schatz: It's honestly possible that Allen was trying to throw that ball away instead of having Knox catch it. Knox got some real height to bring it down.

J.P. Acosta: Before the game, I said the Bills would have to turn Josh Allen loose as a runner. So far he has hurt the Patriots on designed runs and scrambled out of the pocket. Will be interesting to see how the Pats respond.

Aaron Schatz: Patriots' first drive, and Mac Jones throws a lot more than you would expect. And he runs! He's showing, dare I say it, POISE. Converted third-and-long to Hunter Henry, then again with a scramble. Then he had two straight throws dropped by Branden Bolden and Jakobi Meyers. The drive ends when he throws deep to Nelson Agholor on first down, and it's a good throw, but then Micah Hyde comes in from out of nowhere and grabs it, making a sliding interception. Not a bad throw, just a great defensive play.

Scott Spratt:

Rivers McCown: Feel like that entire first quarter was full of haymakers. Allen's running well, both Knox touchdown throws were absurd, Mac Jones looked damn good on the run on two third-and-longs, then Hyde stole the show with that pick.

Aaron Schatz: Another long Bills drive, another touchdown throw to Dawson Knox, this time a bullet. Great call to run quarterback draw with Allen on third-and-4. Patriots fall behind again and are stuck playing catch-up, which has been too often the story recently.

J.P. Acosta: This is the Bills team we all wanted to see. The explosive, dynamic offense that basically can kill man coverage because of the guy they have at quarterback. Josh Allen is playing unbelievably so far.

Scott Spratt: Were the Bills offensive linemen playing rock-paper-scissors? Maybe that's a move to try to stay warm.

Derrik Klassen: This is not analysis, but it's my opinion that if a linebacker puts someone on their butt in pass coverage without holding, it should just be allowed. I refuse to think any more about the logistics of this, I just think it looks cool and Dont'a Hightower should be able to do it freely.

Rivers McCown: Seconded.

J.P. Acosta: Agreed.

Scott Spratt: I know that Devin Singletary has only recently gotten these heavy workloads. But he has looked really good by some advanced metrics ever since he entered the league in 2019. His 2.52 yards after contact per attempt is top-10 among regular backs the last three seasons and almost identical to Jonathan Taylor's rate of 2.53 yards. And he's just 5-foot-7 and 203 pounds!

J.P. Acosta: The Pats are running with lighter box counts to stop the Bills explosive passing attack, but Singletary and Allen have been killing them on the ground too. The Bills offensive line has been dominating the line of scrimmage.

Bryan Knowles: Three drives for Buffalo: nine plays, 70 yards; 10 plays, 80 yards; 10 plays, 81 yards. The Patriots are just getting steamrolled over; it's not like they have given up a couple of big scoring plays. It's not game over yet, but this is getting out of hand VERY, very quickly.

Derrik Klassen: The Bills are never going to be a running team, and they shouldn't feel compelled to be with a cyborg at quarterback, but it's real encouraging to me that they could actually grind out a drive like that primarily on the ground and finish the drive with a rushing touchdown. Definitely a case of them being ahead and dictating personnel, but it's nice when an offense can both set themselves up favorably AND execute on it like that. Bills will need to keep that kind of play up for the rest of the postseason.

Aaron Schatz: Even on fourth-and-8, it was absolutely ridiculous for the Patriots to punt the ball from midfield losing by three touchdowns.

Carl Yedor: This is an impressive showing by the Bills to this point. New England has been mostly unable to get anything going offensively, and Buffalo has been moving the ball at will. I don't have a ton to say, frankly, beyond that this is the Super Bowl contender a lot of the analytical types have been expecting this year, in spite of those close losses throughout the season. The Patriots need to get something going, and fast, or their season is going to end in Orchard Park.

I'm not sure there's a real adjustment for New England to make. They won the first game by turning it into a slog and pounding the rock all game, which likely won't be possible when down by 20. In the second game, it wasn't a blowout, but New England was never down by this much early in the game. And now New England's punting again. If the Bills go down and score another touchdown without much time left in the half, this could be a wrap by halftime.

Bryan Knowles: The Bills went down and scored another touchdown without much time left in the half, and this could be a wrap by halftime.

The list of positives for New England from this first half are few and far between. The team bus probably hasn't caught on fire, I suppose. In the regular season, this is one where you suck it up, take your licks, try to find something positive in the second half, and move on. But in the playoffs ... what do you do? The Patriots aren't built to make up a massive deficit on offense, and that's assuming they somehow manage to hold Buffalo in the second half. They're just being outplayed in every possible aspect.

J.P. Acosta: Might be time to turn on the PlayStation.

Scott Spratt: Crafty move by the Bills to kick the extra point there and avoid the possibility of the 28-3 halftime score.

Tom Gower: Bills up 27-3 at the half. What a thoroughgoing whipping for 28:07. The Bills have run 33 plays and faced four third downs. They have 19 first downs, apparently the most ever in the first half against the Belichick Patriots. It's been almost all Great Josh Allen in the first half: 12-of-16 passing and 63 yards on the ground, successful both as a runner and scrambling for yards. I guess Matthew Judon was credited with a quarterback hit, so he recovered from getting whipped by Allen in space on an early run, but otherwise pressure hasn't affected him even when it has gotten close. And the Patriots run game hasn't been effective—Damien Harris is under 2.5 yards per carry, so it has been on Mac to sustain the offense. The terrific interception by Micah Hyde ended the best of their first three drives, and Belichick had those punts where he trusted his defense. They got the field goal in the final two minutes, but they need to do a lot better job of not just letting the Bills score but get them off the field quickly. It's not over yet, especially with the Patriots getting the second-half kickoff, but it could get a lot closer to over very quickly.

Tom Gower: Update: it's now 33-3 with less than 24 minutes to play. It's not over over over, but it's close to it.

Aaron Schatz: Seven touchdowns on seven drives. No punts, no fourth downs at all. All against a top-five defense from the regular season. I'm guessing this will come out as the greatest offensive performance in DVOA history, and I think this was probably the greatest offensive performance in NFL history, period. I don't know what the Bills could have done better on offense.

Bryan Knowles: The Bills never punted. They never kicked a field goal. They never turned the ball over.

That had never happened in NFL history before today, per Football Perspective. And when you consider the quality of the Patriots defense, this may well be the greatest single offensive performance any of us have ever seen.

Aaron Schatz: Addendum: tonight did not come out as the top offensive game in DVOA history. It's No. 2 at 108.1% offensive DVOA, behind the 2018 Kansas City Chiefs in a 37-21 win against Cleveland in Week 9 (124.2%). That Chiefs game comes out so absurdly high because of offensive penalties like holding that don't count in DVOA—the Chiefs actually averaged 10.6 yards to go in the first three quarters of that game and still gained 11.5 yards per play. The Bills averaged 7.5 yards to go in the first three quarters tonight and gained 9.5 yards per play.

Aaron Schatz: Addendum Sunday morning: It looks like I missed a game last night when reviewing all-time best offensive games, so this game is actually No. 3 behind the 2018 Chiefs and a 2005 Chargers game against the New York Giants. I'll be writing more about this in Monday's DVOA commentary with a big table comparing the games.

compiled by Andrew Potter


57 comments, Last at 18 Jan 2022, 7:29am

1 RE: Fun games

First, thanks for posting so swiftly.  

Glad for the Bengals. Solid effort.  Head coach needs to get that if you have a great qb/wr combo fourth downs aren’t so scary.  

85, Prince, at tackle is going to be the undoing of the offense.  So awful.   He was wildly overrated while at OSU and I see the same bad traits.  Is he at least yelling “look out!” To his quarterback?  But the rest of the line did enough   The Raiders needed their pass rush to be a difference maker and that did not happen 


Hope some of the guys on defense can return for next weeks game but with one being a concussion and another the grim to watch non contact knee injury that does not seem likely.  

As for the Raiders Carr missed seeing open guys throughout the game.  And he had a day and a half most of the second half to scan the field as the Cincy pass rush was gone due to guys being out.  He wasn’t terrible.  But Carr will be cussing himself when he watches the game video.  

Not much to comment regarding Bills/Pats.  I mostly avoid NE discussions as the discussion typically goes sideways no matter what is shared.  Suffice to say Buffalo played fantastic and clearly not bothered by the conditions. 

As for NE Mac sure tried.  Good for him 

2 Well we had an entertaining…

Well we had an entertaining first game and a historic second game. Sunday and Monday have a lot to live up to.

3 If I were the Raiders

I would still be filling a complaint for making us the first game of the playoffs after being the last one of week 18.

11 I remember when the NFL…

I remember when the NFL would regularly have a Sunday wild card winner play a Saturday divisional round against a team with bye. I would understand an argument there. And if the winner of the Monday night game plays Saturday next week, I could see a legitimate complaint. But no, the raiders getting 6 less hours of rest than the bengals over 6 days is not relevant to anything that happened in the game. 

14 All I know

is I would hate to start the last game of the week after everyone else has finished. Play all 70 possible minutes and then be the first to finish a playoff game. At least swap the yesterdays games. 

But I'm not a Raiders fans so...whatever. Ill drop it. Just don't think they should punished for going for possible HFA

44 No, it's punishment for…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

No, it's punishment for being the last in. If they wanted better, should have won more games. Hell, they didn't deserve it anyway. Refs gave them an unearned TD against the Chargers.

12 It’s unfortunate, but it had a method to it

There’s an article at the Buffalo News about how the league figured out the schedule. They started with the Monday night matchup and worked backward. Needed a 4-5 for MNF to make sure no one had two extra days to prepare for an opponent. Rams-Cards was the pick, in part because of the time zone, which meant the league needed the other two NFC games on Sunday. That left the league with a choice for SNF, and there was just no way Raiders-Bengals was going to get the nod over the other two games. The Bills obviously had the better matchup on Saturday, hence Bengals-Raiders at 4:30 on Saturday. Ironically, if they wanted a different day, they should have taken the tie.

Scheduling concerns have also been addressed for next week. The Packers and Titans will play on different days, the Rams-Cards winner will not play in Saturday, and each day will feature one AFC game and one NFC game, IIRC. This means that the Bills and Packers will play on the same day, so if there is an upset in either of the first two games today, the Bills and Packers will play on Saturday, since the Rams-Cards winner will play on Saturday alongside the Titans (and won’t be playing the Packers).

26 That's regular season

The Bills and Patriots (and literally every other team) watched two full Raiders games, including an entire OT, before they played again. They could've flipped em at least if they didn't want to change the entire day. Let them at least adjust going across country. 

28 This isn't that unusual - a…

This isn't that unusual - a team that gets a bye week and plays on Sunday could be playing an opponent that might have played 2 full games since the final whistle blew on their last game. Traveling is a pain, but I'm not sure the differences between game windows on the same day are that big of a deal.

34 That's a bye

And maybe it shouldn't be that way.

It may not be as big of a deal so why not switch? It'll make up for the time the Raiders lost traveling every time zone. As opposed to NE staying in the same one.

29 I’ve never heard this type…

I’ve never heard this type of argument before - that the start time of a game is relevant to scheduling future games. I’ve only considered the number of days of rest before. 

I was never an athlete at nearly a professional level, but I’ve never felt like the time of day that I played a game was a contributing factor to my ability to perform 6 days later. And remember, this is a league where it’s normal to play 4 days after a game. And it’s not like players look slow on Thursday night games after the many treatments they do to recover quickly. 

27 I interpreted it as them…

I interpreted it as them prioritizing two main constraints:

1. Make sure the winner of the Monday night game doesn't have to play on the following Saturday, regardless of matchup. Extremely reasonable.

2. Make sure the winner of the Monday night game doesn't play against a team that played on the Saturday of wild card weekend. Their opponent wouldn't know exactly who they were playing until the Monday night game was over, but they'd be operating on two extra days of rest. So only the #1 seed gets a rest advantage of >1 day with the whole bye week.

Those make perfect sense to me and I would have to think they'll stick around as long as we have this format. I think there are some weird TV contract rules that might lead to some odd choices with game times, like the rule about how there has to be one NFC game and one AFC game on each day of the divisional round. They might be able to do some more straightforward scheduling when the new deals kick in, assuming they were negotiated with the new playoff format in mind.

36 1 makes sense

Specific contract days for conferences seems outdated.

Either way this is for next week but I was looking back at the scheduling for this week. I'm still not sure why AZ@LAR had to play MNF (working backwards). Could LV@CIN not have worked? Also a 4v5.

40 Ah so no.

Like i thought. The NFL is gonna dominate regardless. If football is on, we Americans will watch.

54 You will watch, not sexy comment above is true

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

You are an avid fan.  The NFL maximizes ratings to maximize money.  For all the descriptions above as to scheduling, of course again the least appealing game is SAT 4:30, CIN-TEN.

The casual fan has heard of and wants to see Rodgers, Brady and Mahomes.

Tannehill?  Tannewho?  Burrow exciting to avid fan, but this matchup does little to draw casual fan.  

Yes, of course you are correct NFL will dominate ratings, but they want to maximize the domination.

55 Again

It's doesn't matter the matchup. The casual has 100% heard of the number one overall pick Joe Burrow and Derrick Henry. Splitting hairs and it really doesn't matter the matchup, other wise CIN and TEN would NEVER get night games, which they did and do.

Sincerely not a single person is deciding on watching a (playoff!!!) game or not based on the location of the franchise or the players in it. The highest rated game of the season was a game involving the Raiders on the road despite "just" having Derek Carr. The 4th highest was a game involving Andy Dalton and Jared Goff. It just doesn't matter. As long as it's the only football on, even casuals tune in. You think they're going through gameday rosters to make their decision? "Oh the unvaccinated Rodgers is playing! Better pull up a chair!" lol nah fam. They can sacrifice a couple dollars so they can avoid having the last team to play, play first. 

They gave the Bears this season, a SNF game against the Packers coming off their bye. Then like the next week they gave MNF to Bears-Vikings. It don't matter lol

56 Clearly my hypothesis is…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

Clearly my hypothesis is correct, go back and look at Sat 4:30 ET matchups, they are always the least exciting.  People have things to do at that time, especially on the West Coast where it is 1:30.  You are in agreement by saying that they can sacrifice a couple of dollars so they can avoid have the last team to play, play first.

You are correct, however, that is clearly not what the NFL does.

You know the NFL knows how to make money and crush in the ratings game.  They are like ruthless NE, why beat an opponent like JAX with a 30 or 40 burger, when you can get a 50 burger.

57 What

You think the Bills-Pats blowout was more exciting than Bengals-Raiders one possession game? They were both eastern time. So yeah, wouldn't that make YOUR hypothesis correct if they scheduled a heavy hitter, then people would clear their schedules for it? But in reality, no, it doesn't matter whos on as long as they have time, naturally. No one's going to ignore CIN-LV at night just because it isn't Mahomes vs Big washed Ben.

They crush because football is great. Not because they meticulously schedule.

37 Double post

I'll look at the upcoming divisional schedule when it's released (which thankfully it hasn't yet as far as I know)

4 How to beat NE'S offense

Put all 11 defenders in the box, no deeper than 10yds. Mac and his noodle arm can't throw deep without being picked and they can't do anything. 

43 It's hard to tell exactly on…

It's hard to tell exactly on the TV angles, but I was watching this at the Colts-Pats game a few weeks ago and the Colts almost always had this alignment on defense...a few plays they had a single high at like 12 but the other safety was basically always at linebacker level.

5 On the Micah Hyde INT, Aaron…

On the Micah Hyde INT, Aaron says that it's a good throw--just a great play by Hyde. While it was absolutely a great play by Hyde, there's ~10 feet of room between the catch point and the sideline. Seems to me that the ball was simply thrown too far inside; after all, Jones knew Hyde was coming over.

7 That was my take on the play…

That was my take on the play, too.

Regardless, it was a spectacular play by Hyde. I'm not particularly a fan of either team, but I recognized how much ground he was trying to cover as soon as he was in the camera shot... I audibly gasped when he came down with it. It would've been wise to put the throw further outside, but that throw in that situation will rarely result in a pick.

13 My take on it was even simpler

That throw showed the difference between a player like Mac Jones and a guy with a cannon for an arm. If Josh Allen (or any of several other top-fight QBs) had made that throw, Hyde never would have had time to get there. 

17 Correct.

I typically don't call an interception a "good throw." If he led him more to the outside by just a hair, it's a TD. Problem is Jones can only throw rainbows and has no ability at all to throw on a rope. 

18 Correct.

I typically don't call an interception a "good throw." If he led him more to the outside by just a hair, it's a TD. Problem is Jones can only throw rainbows and has no ability at all to throw on a rope. 

51 2 things:1) That throw was…

2 things:
1) That throw was late.  Jones pats the ball and gives Hyde time to get in positions.

2) Agholor continues to prove he's not a downfield receiver.  He wasn't making that catch even without Hyde.  Bad position of his hands / no adjustment.


3) A "Rope" throw gets picks off by the trailing defender, so no, a big arm guy isn't completing that.  Dropping it in is correct but you can't freeze up for 0.75 seconds before throwing it in the NFL.  0.75 seconds might as well be minutes when you're against the #1 pass d.


6 Hadn't seen a lot of the…

Hadn't seen a lot of the Bills this year, so I didn't fully realize it until yesterday: Josh Allen is appointment TV. I lost count of all the times I exclaimed, "Wow!"

9 RE: Allen

Allen running is something the Bills released as the games became seriously important.  So you would not have seen that for much of the season


And his accuracy last night was above his norm.  He was amazing.  

A qb who can put it in a tight window from 30 plus yards, run away from the front seven and then run over the secondary is an incredible player. If he maintains 85 percent of last night the Bills are going to roll thru the AFC playoffs 

10 The success rate of the…

The success rate of the Bills offensive plays was ludicrous.

They had almost no unsuccessful plays....  Allen was 21/25, in addition to the 4 incompletions, there were only I believe 2 failed completions

  • 1st & 10 at BUF 43
    • (13:29 - 1st) (Shotgun) J.Allen pass short right to D.Singletary pushed ob at BUF 43 for no gain (J.Jackson).
  • 2nd & 8 at BUF 44
    • (12:12 - 3rd) (Shotgun) J.Allen pass short left to R.Gilliam to BUF 48 for 4 yards (K.Dugger, A.Phillips).

(technically only gained 50%, not the required 60% on second down)


And for Running backs, I think 4 unsuccessful runs....and one of those was a 0 yard run on first and goal from the 1.

I think the only play where they lost yards was the OPI on a Beasly catch, followed immediately by a touchdown.

Almost all the unsuccessful plays came on first down.


just amazing.

16 Entitlement

As an exercise in schadenfreude, I took a look a a few Patriots fans' comment boards this morning.  The level of anger and frustration is amazing, or would be were I not a Pittsburgh fan who has read plenty of unhappy comments on Steelers boards.  "Belichick has checked out...Belichick is done...our coordinators are inept...the players play without pride...our talent level has deteriorated to Jets/Jags level...etc. etc."  This about a team that had a solid winning record and went to the playoffs, as it has done for most of the seasons of recent memory.  Sadly, this reminds me of so many Steelers fans comments...about a coach who has experienced significant success and a team that is often (usually?) in the playoffs.  Plenty of complaints about drafting--for teams that never have high draft choices.  I'm old enough (name was a bit of an exaggeration when I started, and is obsolete now) to recall when the Patriots were inept, and, even further back, when the Steelers could only aspire to be inept!  Take a deep breath, look around the league, consider the number of teams--and organizations--that are marked by instability, mediocrity, and/or worse.  Yes, the Patriots were dismantled; later today, the Steelers may do little better.  But your teams are better than most and have given you many, many successes to enjoy.  The occasional failure is the price you pay.

24 I think it just comes down…

In reply to by young curmudgeon

I think it just comes down to negativity bias. When a play goes poorly, everyone can see why it went poorly. When a play goes well, most fans have no idea about the 20 things that were executed well, resulting in that outcome. Applying this to teams, everyone knows their flaws but few understand what they do consistently well. 

Specific to this game, it just went bad and then snowballed when they had to do things that they aren’t good at to try to get back in the game. I can pick apart some of why it went poorly, but from a patriots perspective, it’s just 1 game. They’ll be fine. 

32 Of course fans are going to…

Of course fans are going to be upset getting eviscerated by a division rival like that, no matter whether it's the playoffs. Every single fan base would react the same. 

When the dust settles, the Patriots should be satisfied with a 10 win season, playoff appearance, and a rookie QB who looked mostly at home. The bigger problem for the Pats in the near term is going to be getting past the Bills, who were wildly inconsistent this season, but are quite possibly the best team in the league on their collective day.

30 For the complainers in NE,…

In reply to by young curmudgeon

For the complainers in NE, PIT and BAL, Joe Judge is available.

I would much rather be a victim of my own success than a victim of my own failure or mediocrity.

Belichick, Tomlin, Harbaugh, the first one in the hall of fame is the first one that retires.

38 There's also a level of...

In reply to by young curmudgeon

There's also a level of cognitive dissonance involved to avoid having to back down from or lose face from previous comments on those kinds of boards. The KC fan community deals with this a lot, too.

Great example: the Bengals loss and Steve Spagnuolo. Anyone who's paid any attention at all to the team this season knows that Spagnuolo's more...interesting...personnel and usage choices...particularly surrounding Dan Sorenson...have been a point of contention. Yet a large number of people doubled down earlier in the season, when our defense was verging on historically terrible, swearing that Spagnuolo always turns it around, they'd get better, he's won a couple of Super Bowls and you haven't so who are you to criticize, etc.

And when the schedule fed us a bunch of lower-tier offenses and/or teams playing backups, we looked better and they felt vindicated.

Then we got to Cincinnati, and Spagnuolo continued to leave guys like Ward 1 on 1 with Chase, even after it was abundantly clear that wasn't working at all, and was using Sorenson as a deep safety with 1 on 1 coverage responsibilities again, which hasn't worked since roughly 2018.

After that loss, a lot of those same people were calling for Reid's and Bieniemy's jobs (or at least some kind of accountability) because the offense "only scored 3 points in the second half". The offense put up 33 points against a playoff-quality squad....but because 30 of them happened in the first half, those points apparently don't count. 

That's obviously absurd. Calling to replace Reid is even more absurd. But the primary driver in most cases was trying to find any way possible to avoid admitting that...yeah, that thing we said wouldn't be a problem late in the season turned out to sometimes be a problem late in the season.

I'm betting if you hung around those Patriots sites long enough, you'd see those people saying absurd things offering some very spicy takes that they feel they need to defend further down the road to the exclusion of all reason. It's less that they really mean those absurd thing (particularly in an emotional moment), and more that there's a hot take somewhere that they feel like they have to stick with.

And hot takes are often mighty hard to love a few months later without looking silly.

52 A lot of the Boston Sports…

A lot of the Boston Sports Media hot takes talk about "Well they couldn't get off the field when it mattered late" as an excuse to why a Brady-led team would lose.  It's idiotic.  The touchdown you allow in the 1st half counts just as much as the one in the 2nd.

But, of course, 2nd half is more recent, so thats "when it MATTERED"

19 Mike Hilton has an…

Mike Hilton has an astonishing speed burst.  I'd like to know his top speed in a burst.

The Raiders need to dump Tom Cable.  All those O-line holding calls killed them.

21 Re: O line

The Raiders came into the season with pretty much a whole new cast. And coaches need something to work with to get results.  70 for example just seems like a guy overmatched half the plays. 

Just saying maybe the guys made available by management need to be considered also.  

The Packers o line coach is regarded as top notch and 17 games later he has not fixed Royce Newman’s inability to handle stunts.  As one example.  Turning straw into gold only happens in stories 

20 Joe Burrow

Nice start in the playoffs for Joe Burrow. His Passer rating of 110.4 is relatively high for a 1st game in the playoffs. Nowhere close to Mark Sanchez' Rookie mark of 139.4 or Kurt Warner's mark of 143 (2nd year in the NFL but 1st game in the playoffs) but a nice Rating none the less.

23 Burrow looked good

In reply to by Bob Smith

The next five or six years in the AFC should be crazy. Plenty of playoff matches featuring Allen, Mahomes, Burrow, Herbert, and Lamar. The Super Bowl might become the AFC’s property for a long time after Rodgers and Brady retire. 

33 Inadvertent Whistle

I have seen a lot on this and my gut says that it may have been a blessing in disguise for the Raiders. Knowing the outcome, of course any raiders fan wants it to be different since they lost and an alternative universe creates the possibility of a win. So first off, the whistle was so late that I simply don’t think it had any effect. It would have been a travesty for them to call it correctly as it would have changed the game based on something incorrect that a ref did by accident. 

From a GMC perspective, if they replay the down, you have 3 likely outcome categories;

1 - Bengals touchdown on 3rd down. Basically nothing changes. 
2 - Bengals field goal attempt (probably after an incomplete pass). ~4 point advantage to the Raiders and nearly 0 clock impact. 
3 - Bengals first down. This scenario allows the bengals to burn clock before most likely scoring. Burning clock is critical here because it probably means the Raiders burn timeouts and then become predictable on offense, leading to a much worse likelihood of success on their ensuing 2 minute drill. It’s unlikely that the raiders still get their TD. If the bengals get a TD, it’s probably advantage bengals by 4 points. If the bengals get a FG, then it’s either a wash or advantage 3 points bengals. There’s a remote possibility of a Bengals FG followed by a raiders TD despite less clock, plus various turnover related outcome changes, but the real point here is that most of these scenarios are worse for the Raiders than what actually happened. 

50 The Cover-Up

I agree that in the end the two mistakes cancel out - very hard to see how the Raiders had a play on that ball.

But that doesn't really excuse the refereeing. Even if it was a close call as to whether Burrow was out (it wasn't!) why not let the play finish (ie wait 1 second to see if the ball is caught)? Then if you think he was out you can still "rule on the field" that the QB was OOB, but if you turn out to be wrong the catch/incompletion can stand.

As Peter King (!!!!) said on the UK TV coverage, what is worse than the crime is the cover up. So they pretend that they "determined" that the "inadvertent" whistle took place after the end of the play. But that is obvious bollocks and confirmed by the replay to so. Also, if it did only happy after the play, how was it inadvertent? The ref should blow the whistle at the end of the play?

Plus, as PFT points out, if this was a non-reviewable call then it should have been Boger, not Walt Anderson, dealing with it in the press interviews afterwards.

47 I don’t understand how the…

I don’t understand how the first Bengals TD was not ruled incomplete. He got stripped of the ball immediately. 

49 The whistle starts just…

The whistle starts just before Boyd & Moehrig appear on screen in the video, when the ball is still about 20 feet away from them.