Raiders, Steelers, and the Playoff Balance of Power
NFL Week 18 - J.J. Watt may return for the playoffs for the Arizona Cardinals. And he won't be alone.
The Cardinals designated Watt to return from injured reserve this week, and NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reported that it was no mere token gesture. Watt has recovered so quickly—"heroically" and "miraculously" are the preferred words when contributing to Watt's hagiography, but let's table the hyperbole for now—from the upper-body injuries which shelved him in Week 7 that he may play against the Rams next week. And based on how the Cardinals have played lately, they're gonna need him.
Titans running back Derrick Henry may also be back for the playoffs. The Titans chose not to activate him this week, but Rapoport said late in the week that Henry is "at full strength" and "in good shape." The Titans also managed to secure a first-round bye without Henry with their 28-25 win over the Texans.
The Buccaneers also got some good news, overshadowed though it was by Antonio Brown's latest bid to turn modern civilization into a Bravo reality series with himself as the star. Lavonte David, Leonard Fournette, and Shaq Barrett (who was on the COVID list this week) are expected to be back for the start of the playoffs. The Buccaneers will still be depleted at wide receiver, but at least they won't be depleted everywhere.
As for the Packers, David Bakhtiari played for some reason on Sunday, Jaire Alexander practiced this week, and Za'Darius Smith tweeted this on Saturday:
— Za'Darius Smith (@zadariussmith) January 8, 2022
Walkthrough was going to lead with an Avengers: Endgame "on your left" gag about all the re-materializing heroes, then realized how obvious and corny it would be. What matters is that the news coming off the injury wire this week may have been just as significant as the results on the field. The best playoff teams are often the healthiest playoff teams, and several contenders are getting reinforcements back just when they need them the most.
So hooray for the Steelers for reaching the playoffs, thanks in part to a vintage Carson Wentz meltdown. Nice work, San Francisco 49ers: all hope appeared to be lost around the two-minute warning, but you somehow clawed your way to victory. And three cheers for the Las Vegas Raiders, who played to win in overtime when a tie would still have netted a playoff berth after a wild back-and-forth battle with the Chargers. Week 18 was deliriously loopy.
But that was Sunday. Next week, and the rest of January, will likely belong to the teams that didn't need to go to the wall in overtime to reach the playoffs in Week 18.
And with that, let's take an early look at all six of next week's matchups. Stats listed below are based on data through Week 17 only.
Las Vegas Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals, Saturday, 4:30 p.m.
Early Line: Bengals -6.5.
How the Raiders Got Here: The Raiders overcame an unprecedented string of off-field issues, won some close games against COVID/injury-addled opponents, and lingered in the playoff picture until Sunday night … or, more accurately, early Monday morning on the East Coast, when they beat the Chargers 35-32 in overtime in one of the most improbable, inexplicable season finales any sport has ever witnessed.
What They're Best At: Derek Carr entered Week 18 ranked 10th in DVOA and eighth in DYAR despite losing his head coach and top deep threat in October and missing favorite target Darren Waller for all of the December stretch run. His veteran savvy is at least partially responsible for some of the pass interference penalties the Raiders have benefitted from.
Maxx Crosby entered the final week of the season ranked fourth with 69 pass pressures and leading the league with 17 quarterback knockdowns, per Sports Info Solutions.
What They're Worst At: The Raiders are objectively not a very good overall team: 19th in offensive DVOA, 23rd on defense, 24th on special teams. Perhaps their greatest weakness entering the playoffs is that they ranked 27th in redzone offense and 31st in red zone defense entering the weekend. They won't go far in the playoffs by trading touchdowns for field goals.
Key Against the Bengals: The Raiders were incapable of moving the ball in the first half of their 32-13 loss to the Bengals early in the season. They need to remain balanced and get mileage out of their running game. The good news from that matchup: the Raiders held Ja'Marr Chase to 3-32-1 and forced the Bengals to settle for three long field goals.
Raiders Playoff Prognosis: Sunday night's win was a lot like the Raiders' Thanksgiving victory over the Cowboys: so fueled by penalties and a bunch of unforced Chargers errors that it doesn't seem repeatable, at least not again. The Steelers may be the weakest team in the playoffs, but the Raiders are the most likely team to slip away without much of a fight.
How the Bengals Got Here: Many teams had a higher performance variance than the Bengals according to our metrics. But most of those teams could point to injuries or gradual improvement/decline to explain their performance swings. In terms of inexplicable week-to-week ups and downs, only the Bills could compete with the Bengals. But the Bengals' highs were really high, allowing Joe Burrow and the Chase Group to clinch the AFC North with a three-game late-season winning streak.
What They're Best At: Joe Burrow-to-Ja'Marr Chase.
What They're Worst At: The Bengals ranked 31st in adjusted sack rate entering Week 18. Their offensive line remains shaky, but Zac Taylor's wide-open passing concepts also offer the line little support. Hence the boom-or-bust, touchdown-or-sack/turnover nature of the Bengals offense for much of the season.
Key Against the Raiders: Don't get lulled into penalty ball. Don't let Maxx Crosby go ham. The Bengals should win easily if they play mostly mistake-free football.
Playoff Prognosis: You may have heard that the Bengals have not won a playoff game since the 1990 season, when Boomer Esiason, Ickey Woods, and company led them to a 41-14 win over the Houston Oilers. That history has no impact on the 2021 Bengals. They're pass protection and the overall youth and inexperience of the players and coaches, on the other hand, will likely have a major impact, though probably not in the first round against an opponent they handled easily in the regular season.
New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills, Saturday, 8:15 p.m.
Early Line: Bills -4.5.
How the Patriots Got Here: Everyone scoffed when Bill Belichick grabbed the likes of Hunter Henry, Matt Judon, Nelson Agholor, and Kendrick Bourne in a free-agent spending spree. Well, I scoffed, anyway. But it turned out that Belichick knows a thing or two about football. The Patriots combined the newcomers with some returnees from injuries/opt-outs, sat Mac Jones atop some old phone books behind the wheel, and cruised to a seven-game midseason winning streak, looking for a few weeks like the best team in the NFL.
What They're Best At: Other teams rank higher in pass defense DVOA, but the Patriots may have the best coverage units in the NFL, led by cornerback J.C. Jackson and a deep corps of versatile defensive backs. The Patriots ranked third at stopping opponents' No. 1 receivers and first at stopping tight ends entering Week 18.
The Patriots also excel at "complementary" football, leveraging field position to their advantage, managing leads, and so forth. The Patriots enjoyed a 4.63-yard net field position differential entering the final weekend, for example, the second-best (behind the Colts) in the NFL. Complementary football can be illusory and perhaps imaginary in many cases, but this is Bill Belichick we are talking about.
What They're Worst At: Pick your sacrilege, Patriots fans: either Belichick has grown foolishly conservative on fourth downs (26th in the Edj Sports CCI rankings) or he's protecting Jones, who is not as preternaturally poised as advertised. Whatever the reason, the Patriots are at risk of fighting touchdowns with field goals when they face quality opponents.
The Patriots also aren't dominating opponents in the trenches the way they did a month ago.
Key Against the Bills: The Patriots can beat the Bills if they win convincingly in the trenches and play mistake-free football.
Patriots Playoff Prognosis: The Patriots are similar to the 2019/2020 Titans: they can beat any team if they take an early lead and get to dictate the terms of engagement, but they're much less impressive against opponents that are solid in the trenches, can stay balanced on offense, and can force Jones to throw downfield on defense. In a typical season, the Patriots would look like a one-and-done playoff team. But with so many flawed AFC teams staggering into the playoffs this year, Belichick's slow-and-steady tortoise are sure to be popular Super Bowl "sleepers."
How the Bills Got Here: As of mid-October, the Buffalo Bills were the prohibitive favorites to win the Super Bowl, according to DVOA, much of the media, and the Buffalo Bills. Yep, it sure looked like they spent a little too much time polishing their trophy case in November and early December, but a Week 16 victory over the Patriots (and a bunch of blowouts against cupcakes) proved that the Bills really can play up to their potential in a must-win game.
What They're Best At: The "hot" version of the Bills does just about everything right: pass coverage (even without Tre'Davious White at cornerback): all-angles pressure, run defense, deep passing, short passing, and (when Josh Allen is being deployed creatively as a rushing threat) even running the ball.
The Bills excel at stomping on weak opponents, a trait which probably won't be much use in the playoffs.
What They're Worst At: The "cold" version of the Bills can get dominated on both lines of scrimmage and string together long daisy chains of situational mistakes: penalties, fourth-down stops, special teams gaffes, game-planning blunders. It's impossible to tell when the Bills will suddenly leap from the microwave into the freezer.
Key Against the Patriots: Win (or at least tie) the field position on both sides of the ball and make the Patriots play a real game, not a "we're only gonna throw three passes" game.
Bills Playoff Prognosis: The Bills are the most likely home team to lose in the first round. Even if they prevail, it's hard to picture them playing three straight solid games against quality competition without suffering one of their three-phases brownouts.
Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, 1 p.m.
Early Line: Cowboys -8.
How the Eagles Got Here: I told a version of the tale in the New York Times a few weeks ago.
From a lifelong fan's perspective: I cannot remember the last time I was more pleasantly surprised and delighted by an Eagles team with so few offseason/preseason expectations. Throughout the summer, Eagles veterans signaled that they no longer bore the burden trying to repeat 2017 and dealing with some of the lingering personality conflicts within the locker room. That positive attitude rubbed off among the fanbase. Change can be a good thing, especially when it's risky.
What They're Best At: The Eagles ranked third in rushing DVOA entering Week 18 thanks to the Jalen Hurts-triggered option game and an offensive line led by Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson.
What They're Worst At: Nick Sirianni sometimes forgets that the Eagles are a great rushing team. The Eagles ranked 26th in goal-to-go offense entering Week 18, in part because they often force the ball to terrible wide receivers (read: Jalen Raegor) at the worst possible times. Opponents also frequently mount first-quarter leads while Sirianni tinkers with his passing offense early in the game.
Key Against the Buccaneers: The Buccaneers rolled out to a 28-7 lead in their 28-22 victory over the Eagles in Week 6, when Sirianni had not yet established the Eagles' run-early-and-often personality. If the Eagles avoid one of their signature slow starts, they have a chance.
Eagles Playoff Prognosis: The Eagles have all the earmarks of a happy-to-be-here, one-and-done playoff team. If that turns out to be true, fans should at least hope for an encouraging game as a passer, rusher, and decision-maker from Hurts. If he is truly developing into a franchise-caliber quarterback, then the final score of Sunday's game won't matter much in the long run.
How the Buccaneers Got Here: General manager Jason Licht moved accounting heaven and ego-management earth to keep last year's Super Bowl starting lineup almost entirely intact. And it worked! Except that the Buccaneers' injury luck ran out as the year wore on. And Antonio Brown's fuse burned down in Week 17.
The Buccaneers aren't exactly trending in a positive direction entering the playoffs, but if you want to wager against Tom Brady and the rest, that's your money.
What They're Best At: The Buccaneers offensive line (with a little help from Mr. Brady) ranked first in adjusted sack rate entering Week 18 and fifth in adjusted line yards. Their defensive front ranked 10th in adjusted sack rate and fourth in adjusted line yards. Brady and the other big names do their part, but the Buccaneers are really a team that wins in the trenches.
What They're Worst At: The Buccaneers defense ranks 22nd on all third and fourth downs and 22nd on third-/fourth-and-long. In other words, their injury-riddled secondary can be picked upon if the pass rush does not get home.
Key Against the Eagles: The Buccaneers' strengths match up well against the Eagles' strengths: they stop the run well and have little to fear from the Eagles' receiving corps beyond Devonta Smith. This appears to be a "don't look past them" situation, and the Buccaneers veterans aren't going to look past anyone.
Buccaneers Playoff Prognosis: It's easy to cite Brady and hand-wave the Buccaneers' injuries away; we just did so a few paragraphs ago. It's much harder to gauge how good the Bucs offense can be without Chris Godwin and Brown now that the team's Panthers-Jets-Panthers vacation has ended. The best news for the Buccaneers entering the weekend is the news we led Walkthrough with: Lavonte David, Leonard Fournette, and Shaq Barrett could return in time for this game. The Buccaneers may be capable of reaching the Super Bowl despite big-name absences on offense OR defense, but they will not be able to overcome both.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday 8:15 p.m.
Early Line: Chiefs -13.
How the Steelers Got Here: The Steelers won three grimy, slimy, defensive duels in the final four weeks, including a turnover-filled 16-13 overtime slopfest against the Ravens on Sunday. They also benefited from a Colts collapse over the final two weeks that no one saw coming over except anyone who has watched Carson Wentz play football for the last 3.75 years.
What They Are Best At: "Getting opponents to play down to your level" is hard to quantify, but that's what the Steelers do. T.J. Watt and a pass rush that can still take over games plays a part in that. Terrible Towels also play a part: the Steelers finished 6-2-1 at home. Throw in Mike Tomlin's coaching and Ben Roethlisberger's ability to throw basketball-style chest passes for overtime first downs (while limiting the destruction caused by his senior moments) and you get a team that excels at bare-knuckles boxing behind the dive bar under the railroad tracks.
What They Are Worst At: Offense. Run defense. Winning games that don't look like unearthed 1930s archival footage.
Key Against the Chiefs: The Steelers got whupped in a 36-10 loss that wasn't really that close in Week 16, so they face a whole piano's worth of "keys" in this game. Their top priority should be to prevent the Chiefs from grinding out long drives against them. The Steelers have a chance if they can lull the Chiefs into a punt-and-turnover battle.
Steelers Playoff Prognosis: The Steelers do not belong in the postseason. But neither did the 2007 or 2011 Giants, teams that won the Super Bowl with their pass rush, flickers of quarterback competence, square-jawed coaching, and little else. The Steelers shouldn't get past the Chiefs. But if they do, then anything is possible.
How the Chiefs Got Here: Saturday's narrow win over the Broncos was a microcosm for the 2021 Chiefs season. They could barely take five steps before slipping and falling on their faces in the first half, but they pulled themselves together in the second half thanks to some huge defensive plays and the sheer talent of Patrick Mahomes and friends on offense.
What They're Best At: The Chiefs offense entered Week 18 leading the NFL with 2,728 yards after the catch. The second-place Buccaneers were 282 yards behind them. With defenses playing on their heels to stop Mahomes-to-Tyreek Hill bombs for most of the year, Andy Reid and coordinator Eric Bienemy downshifted and focused upon spreading the ball around to playmakers underneath instead.
What They're Worst At: The Chiefs defense ranked 29th in DVOA entering Week 18 when tied or winning by eight points or less. Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's tactics work better when protecting a big lead than when trying to stop an opponent that can remain balanced and in front of the sticks.
Key Against the Steelers: Don't do anything stupid. Actually, the gap between these teams is so great that "don't do multiple stupid things" may be the real key.
Chiefs Playoff Prognosis: No AFC team has a higher ceiling or greater self-destructive tendencies. The Chiefs are supposed to be capable of stomping on the accelerator in the playoffs, even though they couldn't quite do so over the last two weeks. But if any team is a potential springboard toward the Super Bowl for the Chiefs, it's the Steelers.
San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys, Sunday 4:30 p.m.
Early Line: Cowboys -3.
How the 49ers Got Here: Like the Chiefs, the 49ers wrapped up the season with a microcosm of how their year played out. Their 17-0 early deficit to the Rams mirrored their 2-4 start. Their long, grinding, mid-game drives and Deebo Samuel/Brandon Aiyuk heroics mimicked their mid-season rebound. Finally, their last-minute fourth-quarter drive to tie the game and overtime field goal/defensive stop to clinch a playoff berth mirrored their, umm, last-minute fourth-quarter drive to tie the game and overtime field goal/defensive stop to clinch a playoff berth.
What They're Best At: No team is better at staying ahead of the sticks: the 49ers offense ranked first in first-down DVOA and second in second-down DVOA (say that three times fast) entering Sunday.
What They're Worst At: You were expecting a Jimmy Garoppolo joke? Sorry: we're so giddy that we won't be watching Taysom Hill in the playoffs that we cannot muster one. (Also. Garoppolo has been adequate-to-good most of the year.) No, the 49ers defense ranked dead last in the league at stopping deep passes entering Sunday night. That's the weakness to worry about.
Key Against the Cowboys: Protect Garoppolo. Force Dak Prescott to dink-and-dunk. Win the turnover battle. Win the penalty differential.
49ers Playoff Prognosis: The 49ers will reach the limits of what their YAC-dependent offense and depleted secondary can handle at some point in the postseason. Next week could be that point, but 49ers-Cowboys is a classic playoff matchup, and there's a chance that the 49ers will deliver a classic game.
How the Cowboys Got Here: Dak Prescott stayed (mostly) healthy. Micah Parsons proved to be all the Cowboys could ask for from a first-round pick and then some. Trevon Diggs developed into the league's most dangerous (though inconsistent) cornerbacks. And defensive coordinator Dan Quinn got a defense that played like it held a tequila tasting before kickoff in 2020 to play to their potential this season.
What They're Best At: The Cowboys finished first in the NFL with 34 takeaways, thanks in large part to Diggs' interceptions and Parsons' forced fumbles. Not all of that production came against opponents like the Giants and Washington, either. The Cowboys forced four turnovers against the Buccaneers in the season-opener and two each against the Patriots and Chiefs, so they should be able to generate some takeaways in the postseason.
What They're Worst At: The Cowboys finished the season 1-3 against AFC West opponents; not exactly a weakness, but perhaps a sign that they're game-planning against unfamiliar foes may be lacking. Each of the losses was unique, however—Raiders penalty-fest, Chiefs offensive hiccup, Broncos early-mistakes-and-fluke-plays fiasco—so the Cowboys may have simply bunched all of their weak performances into the middle of the schedule.
Key Against the 49ers: The Cowboys grumbled a little too loudly about penalties after their Week 17 Cardinals loss. They cannot allow setbacks to get in their heads if they fall behind.
Cowboys Playoff Prognosis: The Sunday morning headline at NFL.com called Saturday night's 56-21 victory over the Eagles' scout team roster a "statement win." The headline was a silly illustration of how hard it can be to separate the real Cowboys from both our perceptions and my industry's need to either cater to or needle their huge fanbase for engagement. Are the Cowboys a supremely talented team that has underperformed this season or one that has overcome lots of injuries and pitfalls to meet their highest expectations? It depends on how you or your headline-writer feels about them, how we interpret their many high-penalty games this season, and so forth. But DVOA considered the Cowboys the best team in the NFL entering Week 18, so don't expect any early-playoff stumbles simply because it's what Tony Romo would have done 10 years ago.
Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams, Monday, 8:15 p.m.
Early Line: Rams -4.
How the Cardinals Got Here: The Cardinals raced out to a 7-0 start early in the season, beat the 49ers and Seahawks without Kyler Murray, and looked ready to run away with the NFC. Then came the annual Kliff Kingsbury swoon, and the Cardinals suddenly became predictable on offense and mistake-plagued on defense. They are now backing into a wild-card berth after a 38-30 loss to the Seahawks.
What They're Best At: Kingsbury's offense is at its best when throwing the kitchen sink, garbage disposal, and dishwasher at opponents. The Cardinals entered Week 18 as the second-most prolific RPO team in the NFL behind the Eagles, as well as one of the league's most prolific play-action teams.
What They're Worst At: The Cardinals committed 16 aborted snaps entering Sunday, the highest total in at least the last 12 years. Keep in mind that for every aborted snap that reaches the stat sheet, there are two or three other off-target snaps that disrupt the rhythm of the play and throw off the offense.
Key Against the Rams: The Cardinals held Cooper Kupp to 5-64-0 on 13 targets when they beat the Rams but were torched for 13-123-1 in the rematch.
Cardinals Playoff Prognosis: The Cardinals beat the Rams, Titans, and Cowboys but got blown out by the Panthers and Lions, so good luck making sense of them. But let's face it: a team that can get hammered by the Lions and lost a must-win Week 18 game to an opponent with nothing to play for isn't ready to survive the NFC gauntlet.
How the Rams Got Here: The Narrative Gremlins nibbled away at the Rams all season:
Matthew Stafford isn't much of an upgrade over Jared Goff.
Odell Beckham is a downgrade from Robert Woods.
Going "all-in" is a bad idea with dangerous long-term consequences.
The Narrative Gremlins had a point, as they so often do. The Rams did not run away with the NFC like they threatened to do in September. Yet they survived an overtime loss to the 49ers on Sunday and emerged as the winners of the fiercely competitive NFC West.
What They're Best At: Cooper Kupp finishes the season as the NFL leader with 1,947 receiving yards. Aaron Donald (12.5 sacks) had another Defensive Player of the Year-worthy season. The Rams entered Week 18 ranked first in the NFL at stopping passes to the offensive left, thanks in large part to Jalen Ramsey, who delivered a clutch interception against the 49ers on Sunday. While the Rams don't really have a stars-and-scrubs roster relative to other contenders, no team is better at leveraging the performances of its top players into victories.
What They're Worst At: The Rams ranked29th in offense in the deep zone (inside their own 20), mostly because of Stafford's knack for throwing interceptions from the shadow of his own goal posts. Stafford threw yet another deep zone interception in Sunday's loss.
Key Against the Cardinals: Don't. Commit. Turnovers.
Rams Playoff Prognosis: The Rams possess the best front-line talent in the NFC and a coach and lots of veterans with Super Bowl experience, plus an early-season victory over the Buccaneers in their portfolio. Their midseason three-game losing streak and some shaky end-of-year performances, however, illustrate how quickly things could fall apart for them if they make a few early-game mistakes.
Week 18 Awards
Per a season finale tradition dating back to our Monday morning columns at other outlets, the Week 18 awards are given almost exclusively to players from teams who played in the early games. Because, you know: deadlines, sleep, etc.
Defender of the Week
T.J. Watt recorded a sack to tie Michael Strahan's all-time single-season record of 22.5, stripped Tyler Huntley on an early-game fumble-bumble play, and was all over the field in the Steelers' 16-13 overtime victory which helped launch them into the playoffs.
Special Teamer of the Week
One award from the late games: Travis Homer pressures Andy Lee off the edge, forces Lee to flub the kick, then swings around from the back of the end zone and forces Lee to fumble after retrieving the loose ball. Teammate Cody Thompson retrieves the fumble, setting up Russell Wilson's go-ahead touchdown a few plays later.
First @travishomer4 brought the pressure, then he forced the fumble. 👏
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) January 9, 2022
Honorable mention goes to 49ers kicker Robbie Gould for doubling as a punter when Mitch Wishnowsky got injured and booting 47 and 43-yard punts.
Offensive Line of the Week
The game may have been meaningless for them, but the Browns offensive line of Jed Wills, Joel Bitonio, J.C. Tretter, Wyatt Teller, and James Hudson helped D'Ernest Johnson, Nick Chubb, and others combine for 205 rushing yards, while Case Keenum's only sack came when he rolled out without protection and held onto the ball for about 45 minutes.
Don't worry, Wyatt Bunch: you'll get a better quarterback in the 2022 season. Or 2023 season. Or someday.
Frame This Play!
This Lions Tom Kennedy-to-Kalif Raymond trick play: A) is the reason that even dreary 1 p.m. season finale games are beautiful in their own way; and B) is why playing with pride down the stretch is worth more than the draft position the Lions surrendered to the Jaguars by upsetting the Packers.
— NFL (@NFL) January 9, 2022
Burn This Play!
Let's say you are a belligerent, incompetent rage goblin coming off a week of unhinged bus terminal rants in your press conferences. You know, like Joe Judge. It's third-and-9 deep in your own territory, and you want to give your punter room because Real Leaders of Men know that punting is the most important part of 21st century football. Do you spread the field to give your offense a slim chance of picking up the first down? No! That would reduce the likelihood of a manly, old-school, glorious punt. So instead you do this:
The 4-12 Giants just ran a very obvious QB sneak on third-and-9 in the second quarter of Week 18.
I’m in awe of how sad this is pic.twitter.com/4fLaHuyYDi
— Pete Hailey (@PeteHaileyNBCS) January 9, 2022
I have been watching tiny-district suburban high school conference football regularly for the last 20 years or so as a teacher and marching band parent yet have never seen a play call that cowardly and pathetic. But please, oh please, don't fire Judge, dear Giants: Walkthrough needs the source of lazy content!
Best Supporting Actor in Someone Else's Highlight
I am not sure whose highlight this is, but it's the perfect encapsulation of the Ravens-Steelers rivalry.
— Mike Sando (@SandoNFL) January 9, 2022
And with that, Walkthrough (like Watt) trudges triumphantly toward the playoffs.
But Not Yet
Time for the final installment of the Carson Wentz Victimization Index. Take it away, Carson!
- "I'm kind of in disbelief. Hard to fully reflect on everything right now it happened so fast. It hurts right now, a lot of reflection to come." 20 VP
- That last bit was an actual postgame quote. That's really how I talk after throwing an ugly interception, fumbling because I tried to throw a shovel pass with a defender draped over me, and enduring six sacks against the NFL's worst team. If a 12-year-old explained their F in gym by saying "It's hard to reflect on this right now," he would get grounded for three years. 20 VP
- OK, I reflected. Jonathan Taylor got stuffed on several short-yardage runs. It's his fault! I need a better supporting cast! 20 VP.
- Look, stuff happened this year like my training camp quarantine and the pandemic which were 100% out of my control. There was nothing I could do about either of those circumstances which limited me start and late in the season. Nothing! NO-THING. 20 VP.
- My cap number is $28 million next year and I cost the Colts a first-round pick. So buckle up, Colts fans: this was my GOOD season, and there's nowhere to go but down. 20 VP.
Total Victimization: 100 VP. Ding ding ding!
But now Walkthrough doesn't have Wentz to roast in the first round of the playoffs. We built our content model around the CWVI! What shall we do?
Oh well, there's always next year.