Burrow-ing Into The Year of the Fatal Flaw
NFL Conference Championship - Andrew: WHAT A WEEKEND. Disastrous collapses. Stunning comebacks. Three walk-off field goals and one walk-off touchdown, every game decided on the final play. Three road wins versus just one home victory, with bye weeks counting for absolutely nothing. After we bemoaned Super Wild Card Weekend last week, the divisional round more than made up for it.
Bryan: This may be where you're expecting an exhaustively researched, heavily cited chart of "the best divisional round weeks" or something like that, but I mean, come on. All four games ended in walkoff scores. You had an astounding shootout for people who love offense. You had a classic Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field game. You had a run at one of the biggest comebacks in postseason history. You had a team advancing to the conference championship game for the first time in over a generation. Unless you happened to be a fan of one of the four eliminated teams, I'm really not sure what more you could ask for. Competitiveness, variety, history, comedy—everything you could possibly want in an NFL weekend was here. I'm exhausted just remembering it.
Andrew: Everything you could want except sleep, in my case. Totally worth it. I don't think I have ever seen a four-game weekend that competitive.
Bryan: It's weeks like that which remind us why we love this stupid, stupid sport.
Andrew: And in finest Scramble tradition, it's the stupidity of the sport that draws our focus. We hereby present to you, dear reader...
Scramble's Guide to Postseason Success in 2021
... or something like that. Because seriously, postseason success this weekend did not look like postseason success from previous years.
Bryan: Or even regular-season success, mind you! All four teams moving on to the conference championship round did so despite some truly mind-boggling statlines, flaunting traditional theories on "how you actually win football games."
Andrew: I suppose it's only appropriate, in the Year of No Great Teams, that every single one of our final four had to overcome the sort of flaw that would usually be fatal to a contender's chances.
Pass Protection is Passé
Bryan: For instance! Teams that allowed seven or more sacks in a single game had gone 24-186-3 since the 2002 realignment. That's a winning percentage of .124. So-called "experts" will tell you that it's very difficult to win football games when your quarterback is becoming one with the turf. So the Bengals wisely didn't allow seven sacks; they skipped all the way up to nine.
Andrew: Nine sacks is an astonishing figure. That's only the third time one quarterback has ever been sacked nine times in a playoff game, though the fifth time a team has allowed nine sacks.
Bryan: The Bengals finished the season 31st in adjusted sack rate, so the fact that Tennessee was able to cut through them like butter shouldn't be all that surprising. Joe Burrow doesn't exactly help himself out, mind you—he holds on to the ball forever and does not react well when pressure gets into his face. And by "does not react well," I mean "is prone to running 10 yards backwards out of field goal range before being flattened." And it's this propensity for taking back-breaking sacks which explains why the Tennessee Titans are moving on … wait, what?
Andrew: It turns out, it really helps you overcome a nine-sack performance when your opponent throws three interceptions and you only throw one. Even though Ryan Tannehill threw a touchdown pass and Joe Burrow didn't, Tannehill's final interception gave Burrow one last chance at the game-winning points, and the boot of Evan McPherson sent the Bengals through. You don't get a much worse example of a missed opportunity than your defense literally posting a record-tying performance and your offense blowing the game with 28 seconds left at home.
Bryan: In the sorting algorithm of "dealing with pressure," sacks are pretty damn low, but better than literally throwing the ball to the other team. And it's helpful that when Burrow wasn't lying on the ground, he was throwing the ball to Ja'Marr Chase.
Andrew: Clearly, though, the Bengals are doomed in the next round, because Melvin Ingram and Chris Jones are a far superior force to Jeffrey Simmons and Harold Landry. Frankly, Burrow will be lucky if the Chiefs don't dig him a hole to match his name and collectively stuff him in it.
Bryan: And even if they advance, they'll be met by one of the top eight teams in adjusted sack rate coming out of the NFC. So clearly, this weekend proved the Bengals cannot win the Super Bowl.
Scoring is for Sissies
Bryan: Later on Saturday, we had a somewhat feeble offensive performance to watch. Teams that scored zero offensive touchdowns had gone 102-774-2 since the 2002 realignment. That's a winning percentage of .117. So-called "experts" will tell you that the most efficient way for your team to score points is with the ball in the hands of your offense. In Kyle Shanahan's continued attempt to revolutionize the game, he eschewed that strategy in Green Bay.
Andrew: To be fair to him, compared to putting the ball in the hands of Jimmy Garoppolo, putting the ball in the hands of Green Bay's special teams is a much more proven recipe for postseason success. Just ask Brandon Bostick.
Bryan: What do you suppose the odds are for a team to have a punt and a field goal blocked in the same game? It's got to be worse than 1-in-500. Maybe not 1-in-1,000? Maybe somewhere in the high triple-digits?
Andrew: For a random team, or for the 2021 Green Bay Packers? Because my goodness, any team that can take the worst special teams crown away from the Chargers in such convincing fashion is capable of just about anything. And the greatest irony, as we'll get to in the awards section, is that the Packers failed at the one aspect of special teams they weren't usually failing at in the regular season.
Bryan: Putting the ball in Aaron Rodgers' hands seems like a much worse recipe for success, as San Francisco found out back in Week 3. But then again, the 49ers' defense wasn't the 49ERS DEFENSE back in Week 3, and they were able to pressure Rodgers on over 30% of his dropbacks, which seems pretty good! They didn't let Rodgers have time to collect himself and take his shots.
But Garoppolo, man. He's a polarizing player, which is the polite way of saying "he's not as good as his numbers indicate." Don't get me wrong, he's one of the best 32 quarterbacks in the world and should be starting somewhere, but watching his injured arm float wobblers through the snow on Saturday was not exactly the most comforting thing in the world for, oh, any random neurotic 49ers fan. A win is a win is a win, especially in the playoffs, but oy.
Andrew: As you note, failing to score points on offense is usually a losing strategy. San Francisco did considerably better against the Cowboys in the wild-card round, but their fatal flaw was exposed in Green Bay. Clearly, they are not a serious contender either.
Bryan: Yeah, can you imagine what would happen if Jimmy Garoppolo was matched up against, say, Patrick Mahomes in a Super Bowl? That has to be one of the signs of the apocalypse, somewhere right before a plague o'er the land.
… oh. Well, clearly, that can't happen, so we have no reason to worry.
Running Backs Don't Matter
Andrew: The 49ers were rewarded for victory in Green Bay with a trip to slightly warmer climes, somewhat closer to home, and a much more familiar opponent. However, that opponent had issues of their own on offense. Since 2002, teams with four or more turnovers are 111-844-2 for a winning percentage of .117. However—and this is crucial—the Rams took the correct approach to turning the ball over. Teams that have four turnovers but no interceptions are a substantially superior 5-10, good for a .333 winning percentage. The Rams alone have three of those five wins, versus only one loss. That's better than their usual win rate over that span! Apparently, fumbling is not only irrelevant in Los Angeles, but is actually desirable.
Bryan: I thought the Rams would survive their turnovers and stave off the Brady comeback … until the Cam Akers fumble with less than three minutes to go, when the Rams were just trying to run some clock. That's the point where I became a Brady believer; that whatever dark eldritch magicks have kept him not only playing but thriving well after the point where his knees should have fused solid was going to bail him out yet again.
Andrew: Maybe that's what finally prompts his retirement, as those rumors have intensified like a gathering storm this week. When he gets all the breaks and still doesn't win the game, that's finally what convinces him he doesn't need the hassle anymore.
Bryan: Then again, he did his part. The Bucs brought a lot of pressure on the final Rams drive—I have seen it described as Cover-0, though there's some disagreement there—and Matthew Stafford was able to find Cooper Kupp twice for huge gains to set up a game-winning field goal from their injured kicker. I'd say that's a great argument for prevent defense … an argument which held up about three hours until the Sunday nightcap.
But Matthew Stafford advances while Tom Brady goes home. What a strange world we live in. Had Josh Allen won, we would have been writing about the history of playoff quartets without championship rings. Not having a Brady or a Rodgers in the championship round—not to mention a Roethlisberger or a Manning or any of the other giants that have dominated the playoff field in the 21st century—is odd, and a little refreshing, honestly.
Andrew: Even with Mahomes, the field is a little on the raw side. Though it is the second time in three years we have had a final four with only a single ring between them (in 2019, Mahomes didn't yet have his, and Rodgers was the one-ring representative) so maybe this was the moment the buck finally finally passed. That makes Mahomes our Rodgers equivalent—somehow, he's already just one playoff win short of Drew Brees' career total, and could end this postseason one short of Rodgers'.
Bryan: And how about that NFC West, huh? Three playoff teams, and two of them will only be eliminated by other teams from the NFC West. We said before the season the division had the highest possible ceiling, and, well, yeah.
Of course, that means the Rams have to play the 49ers again, whom they just lost to in a Week 18 matchup that was closer than it probably should have been, per post-game win expectancy. And were blown out by in Week 10. And have lost six straight games against. And now they have fumbling issues. Hrm.
Andrew: And yet, the Rams are still favorites for the game. So they're playing a team they can't beat, with one running back who has fumbling issues and another they didn't trust enough to put into the game over the guy with fumbling issues. They can't hold a lead, either: the Buccaneers scored 14 points in the final four minutes to tie the game after scoring just 13 in the rest of the game. They, too, can't possibly win the Super Bowl.
Defense is for Dummies and Time is an Illusion
Bryan: Our numbers here are a little shakier, because Stathead's play search finder is very good, but not impeccable. But after careful search, we believe that teams that allowed a go-ahead touchdown with 15 seconds or less left in a game had gone 0-54 since the 2002 realignment, for a winning percentage of, uh, .000. Even if you expand that out to 30 seconds, they're just 4-107 (.037).
Andrew: We are more confident in the numbers that state teams who allow five touchdowns or more are just 75-909 (0.076) over that span, and teams that allow 36 or more points are just 65-1,003 (0.062). But the Chiefs didn't just defy the odds against the Bills, they defied reason, sense, and time itself. That's not bad for an evening's work. We knew Patrick Mahomes was inhuman. We didn't yet know he was a Time Lord.
Bryan: I am having trouble thinking of a better game that I have ever watched, at least under the current flavor of exciting games.
Andrew: More exciting? No chance. That final two minutes was the greatest two minutes of football I have ever seen, and I can't imagine how any other two minutes of action could be better. Funnier, sure—the ButtFumble game had a funnier two minutes, but that wasn't what most observers would consider good. This was otherworldly.
Bryan: They scored 31 points after the two-minute warning! We saw 38 games this season where the two teams couldn't get to 31 combined! Maybe you still put, say, Super Bowl XLII (helmet catch, 18-0 goes down) or XLIX (Malcolm Butler at the goal line) or LI (28-3) over it because of the scope of the game, or maybe you're a fan of the game's rulesets from a different era (The Ice Bowl, The Greatest Game Ever Played, The Catch), and that's all well and good and totally justifiable. But with the way the sport currently is, I'm not sure you could draw up a better, more entertaining game than what we all saw on Sunday.
Andrew: And those games are famous for specific plays, really, or individual drives at most. This was four scoring drives in two minutes, three of them lead changes and the other sending us to overtime. It was madness.
Bryan: Per ESPN's win probability numbers, three of the six biggest offensive plays in postseason history (or, at least, since 1999 when their numbers started) happened in this game. Astounding.
Andrew: Sure, we can be picky about end-game strategy—and believe me, we will be!—but what. A. Game.
Bryan: But even as good as Patrick Mahomes is, even with the quick-strike attack they have, you can't expect them to manage 15-second game winning drives on a regular basis, right? There's putting yourself behind the eight-ball, and then there's letting your opponents sink all their stripes before you even pick up a cue.
Andrew: Absolutely. I reiterate: 36 points allowed. Five touchdowns allowed. Those numbers result in a loss well over 90% of the time. The Bills may be the greatest postseason offense not to have won the Super Bowl, but the Chiefs clearly have a major flaw, especially if Tyrann Mathieu doesn't clear the concussion protocol in time for the AFC Championship Game.
Bryan: It's not like the Bengals ever took advantage of the Chiefs' secondary before, right? Or like a pass rush has ever ended Kansas City's run in a Super Bowl? Or Sean McVay has ever been able to win a shootout against Mahomes?
Andrew: Clearly, the Chiefs too are far too flawed to win the Super Bowl.
The Key to Success
Andrew: The old rules no longer apply. The teams that had success last weekend passed on pass protection, botched ballhandling, sneered at scoring, dismissed defense, and contemned the clock. Every single one of our final four is fatally flawed, and every single one is here on merit. This championship weekend will either see all four advance, or nobody.
Bryan: In which case we will be proven right, and no one will win the Super Bowl! That's just the obvious result when you apply some plain and simple logic to what we saw this weekend. It's the rational response to what has clearly become an irrational world.
In truth, and I think most independent observers are with me here, there's a clear favorite. As a 49ers fan, I am not scared of the Rams, and I am not scared of the Bengals—that's not to say I'm guaranteeing a win over either, mind you, just that I'm not frightened of either of them. I'm frightened of the Chiefs. Because anyone can sack the Bengals a zillion times, as they have repeatedly shown. Jimmy Garoppolo is capable of throwing a pick-six to any defensive back in the league. The Rams have spent the last half of the season experimenting with just how many turnovers they can give up and how many comebacks they can withstand. It took an exceptional Buffalo Bills offense, playing at the height of their powers, setting postseason records for receiving prowess, to put a scare into the Chiefs. Everyone's flawed, but some flaws shine brighter than others.
Andrew: We haven't even commented yet on the fact that the other three teams are all staffed from Sean McVay's Starbucks Fraternity, which means we're down to Andy Reid versus The World. It's a measure of how great Patrick Mahomes is that Reid would still get my vote, especially with the only quarterback ever to have beaten Mahomes in the postseason (Tom Brady) out of the way.
Bryan: Or maybe, just maybe, we'll finally see the crowning of someone from the Shanahan/McVay tree, the offensive gurus that have taken the league by storm. Maybe this is the year potential success becomes actual championship glory. After all, Rodgers and Brady have stepped aside for the next generation. Maybe this is the year Reid does, as well.
Playoff Fantasy Update
Bryan: It's a two-horse race, with another horse limping along in the rear-view mirror.
|2021 Staff Playoff Fantasy Challenge|
|RB||12.2||Elijah Mitchell||25.6||26||Joe Mixon||34.1||31.7||2.5||4.7|
|RB||Darrel Williams||-1.6||9.4||16.7||Sony Michel||7.8||4.1||36.85||4.6|
|WR||18.4||14.7||25.2||Cooper Kupp||48.4||Tee Higgins||18.6||52.6||18|
|WR||Van Jefferson||11.5||Ja'Marr Chase||39||12.2||Odell Beckham||30.3||11.2||1.6||Tyreek Hill||48.5|
|WR||10||Deebo Samuel||31.3||1.5||Tyler Boyd||16.6||Mecole Hardman||21.6||Byron Pringle||34.6||3.6|
|TE||15.9||28.8||George Kittle||13.1||Travis Kelce||49.5||26.6||Tyler Higbee||16.7||5.1|
|K||Harrison Butker||19||Evan McPherson||35||17||Matt Gay||24||8||4||6|
Vince is in first place with a complete roster remaining, placing him in a fantastic position going forward. Going all-in on one team is a great way to finish either first or dead-last, as both Andrew and I can attest to in recent years. With the Rams withstanding a blast of Brady magic on Sunday, however, Vince is in the catbird seat, even if he's kicking himself for taking the wrong Los Angeles running back.
But don't count Rivers out just yet. Sure, losing the Bills gutted his roster, but grabbing 126.75 points from a team for just two games worth of work puts him in a very solid position himself. He has the 49ers' complete running game remaining, as well as the best traditional receiver left standing in Ja'Marr Chase. If the 49ers knock off the Rams, Rivers can still bring this thing home; a 10-point deficit really isn't all that much in the grand scheme of things. If the 49ers and Bengals win, I think you can chalk this one up as a Rivers victory. If only the 49ers win, it will depend on the magnitude of the 49ers' rushing attack. If the Rams win, Vince trots home.
Bryan is the only other player with a quarterback intact, and having Patrick Mahomes always gives you a chance. The problem is, it's really just Mahomes; Darrel Williams was a healthy scratch, the Chiefs defense has scored negative points, Van Jefferson is good for one big play a game, and Harrison Butker is a kicker. Mahomes is great, but 110 points is probably too much to make up. Though, again, if you had to pick one player to make that climb, you'd take Mahomes, right?
Aaron, Scott, and Andrew are almost surely out of the running for the title, though they remain in a tight race to avoid the bottom half of the table. With one or two receiving options each, any of them could make a move on each other with one solid day—and if the Chiefs fizzle against the Bengals, they might even be able to claim third place. But the Packers losing crushed Aaron, and the Buccaneers loss effectively knocked both Scott and Andrew out of serious contention. It's about saving face now.
And then there's Dave, who is disappointed he hit triple digits. Tyreek Hill is good and all, but I'm fairly sure Dave has last place sewn up; the first seventh-place finisher in Staff Fantasy League history.
Best of the Rest
Bryan: We'll talk about the magnitude of Gabriel Davis' day in the Fantasy Player of the Week session, but suffice it to say that if you wanted to win the Best of the Rest competition, you needed him—he had the best PPR day in playoff history, and it turns out that that's a very useful thing to have.
That puts JGov in the catbird seat, one of the eight managers who rode with Davis this year—and one of the five that paired him with Joe Burrow to boot. He ends up ahead of those other four players because he still has six of his nine slots alive, most in the competition—so not only has he picked the highest scoring-player and highest-scoring quarterback in the competition, but he has kept himself above water with live bullets at nearly every position. Yes, he'll miss Davis (64.2 points this year), and Tyler Johnson (9.5) fell out this week as well, but everyone else is still alive, including Burrow (35.9) and Robbie Gould (26) as he moves to the conference championships. He's your clear favorite going forward.
Only one team is out of players entirely, but quite a few more are down to, for example, just Joe Burrow, and are thus blocked by other teams who have Burrow but also more points and active players. As a result, only nine players still have live rosters if you're looking for the top spot.
JGov's sextet of Burrow, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Cam Akers, Brandon Aiyuk, Robbie Gould, and the 49ers defense blocks most comers—but not, it should be noted, the teams in second and third place. Fizz and Friends has C.J. Uzomah and the Bengals defense alongside Burrow and Edwards-Helaire. StMedard is in a little rougher shape with just the Bengals defense to go along with Burrow, Akers, and Edwards-Helaire, but that is, technically, a unique lineup; a Rams-Bengals Super Bowl could be his ticket to the championship. All three also rostered Gabriel Davis, so they're front-runners by a significant margin.
Deeper in the standings, you have some unique lineups for AlecB (Burrow, Derrick Gore, Aiyuk, Uzomah, Gould, and the Bengals), Vrao81 (Burrow, Edwards-Helaire, Gould, and the Bengals) JCYPess (Burrow, Edwards-Helaire, Aiyuk, Uzomah, and the Bengals) and Simon2 (Burrow, Edwards-Helaire, Akers, Uzomah, and the Bengals). It's all just variations on a theme, but none of the top three quite manage to cover them entirely. It's hard to imagine the exact series of results required for any of them to take the top spot, but they are all at least still breathing.
And then, near the bottom of the standings, you have MGilson96 (Akers and Josh Gordon remaining) and JW124164 (Jeff Wilson, Aiyuk, and the 49ers defense remaining). Suffice it to say, I'm not high on their hopes, but they have at least a wild card still standing.
Your top 5!
1. JGov: 196.2 (Burrow, Edwards-Helaire, Akers, Aiyuk, Gould and 49ers DEF remaining)
2. Fizz and Friends: 186.7 (Burrow, Edwards-Helaire, Uzomah and Bengals DEF remaining)
3. StMedard: 180 (Burrow, Akers, Edwards-Helaire and Bengals DEF remaining)
4. Bronco Jeff: 173.4 (Burrow, Edwards-Helaire, Uzomah and Bengals DEF remaining)
5. KevKumpf: 156.6 (Burrow and Edwards-Helaire remaining)
Keep Choppin' Wood
Candidates for this prestigious award were plentiful across the weekend's games. We saw Ryan Tannehill throw three interceptions as the No. 1 seed Titans fell at home to the unfancied Bengals, his final one coming with 20 seconds left in a tied game to set up Cincinnati's game-winning field goal. Had the Titans won instead, we could have blamed a Bengals offensive line that allowed a playoff record nine sacks. We saw Cam Akers come very, very close to giving the game away for the Rams against the Buccaneers, with two lost fumbles in critical situations and the week's worst DYAR for a running back. However, the Buccaneers then lost the game on a stunning defensive play call that matched a safety against the league's most productive receiver for a 44-yard completion on the game-winning drive.
However, nothing—nothing—can surpass the infamous Packers special teams, who claim this award for the second time this season. Back in Week 15, it was a catalogue of errors that doomed the team against the Cowboys. On Sunday, it was just a single game-changing calamity:
49ERS BLOCK THE PUNT AND HUFANGA TAKES IT IN
— KNBR (@KNBR) January 23, 2022
The 49ers don't even do anything special here: they don't run any games at the line or sell out for the block, presumably content to get the ball back with over four minutes remaining. They simply rush the standard five at the snap, with a sixth player joining the rush after checking his coverage responsibilities. However, the interior of the punt protection folds like a deckchair, barely slowing Jordan Willis on his rush toward Corey Bojorquez. After the block, we are treated to the comical sight of eight Packers players looking around for the ball as it drops in front of Talanoa Hufanga, who returns it unchallenged for the game-tying score. Green Bay's league-worst special teams have been an issue all year, but the punt unit was the one aspect of special teams where the Packers had positive value in the regular season. They chose a heck of a moment to catch up with the rest of the squad.
Bryan: Allow me to break the award format for a moment by noting that it was not a single game-changing calamity, though the punt block was clearly the big moment. Allowing a blocked field goal to end the first half and a 45-yard kickoff return to a team that was having real trouble moving the ball also contributed to the worst special teams game of the year by DVOA. A true nightmare of a day from a unit every Packers fan was dreading coming into things—but I think even they didn't expect it would go this badly.
Herm Edwards Award for Playing to Win the Game
The Bills-Chiefs game was a classic for the ages, and one strategic element that helped make it so was the early aggression of Bills head coach Sean McDermott. On the opening drive, McDermott's team went for it on fourth-and-2 at midfield and fourth-and-goal from the 1 en route to a touchdown that whet the appetite for the shootout to come. Alas, McDermott didn't stay aggressive throughout: on reflection, we suspect he might rethink his decisions to punt on fourth-and-4 from the 49-yard line and even fourth-and-1 from his own 34 against the league's best offense. Kansas City scored a touchdown on each of the ensuing drives, so McDermott's team didn't even get full value out of the punts. However, that early aggression still merits this award. It's just a pity that somebody had to lose this game.
John Fox Award for Conservatism
It seems clear to us that Derrick Henry was not at full strength on his return from injury this past Saturday. Tennessee's talismanic tailback averaged just 3.1 yards per carry against the Bengals, with a long gain of just 9 yards and as many stuffs as first downs. Meanwhile, backup D'Onta Foreman, who was effective in Henry's stead during the regular season, had just one gain shorter than 9 yards, broke off a 45-yard run on his second carry, and gained 66 yards on just four attempts compared to Henry's 62 yards on 20. We're not necessarily saying Foreman should have taken the majority of the touches, but Mike Vrabel and his staff gave five times as many carries to the less effective player in a game his team lost by a very narrow margin.
Jeff Fisher Award for Confusing Coaching
Thirteen seconds isn't very much time at all. Heck, you can drain that all on one play if you execute it badly enough, as Mike McCarthy could attest to. In the most optimistic of scenarios, it's time for three plays that run clock. Down three points, that probably meant two quick passes and a field goal attempt for the Kansas City Chiefs, which is exactly what happened. But the Bills didn't have to let that happen. They could have killed one of those plays by kicking short on the kickoff, eating some precious seconds off of the clock on the return, rather than sailing the ball out of the back of the end zone. Sure, there's always the chance that the Chiefs could have gotten a return going and ended up with better field position, but would you rather have the ball in Patrick Mahomes' hands or the hands of a returner? The Bills saved the maximum amount of time for Mahomes, and the rest is history. It's a missed trick for Sean McDermott and Heath Farwell, and one they had control over, unlike the overtime coin flip.
'Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo' Fantasy Player of the Week
Good lord, Gabriel Davis. 201 yards and four touchdowns, an absolutely insane performance that needs to be remembered forever, even as it comes in a losing effort. Davis' 52.1 PPR fantasy points are, by my calculations, the most ever in the playoffs, beating out Keith Lincoln's 1963 AFL Championship Game (329 combined yards rushing and receiving, seven receptions, but only two touchdowns for 51.9 points). Heck, forget the postseason; it cracks the top 30 in PPR days of all time (though it doesn't quite catch Jonathan Taylor's five-touchdown day against the Bills earlier this year). You may be going home this week, Gabriel, but you do so with your head held high.
— NFL (@NFL) January 24, 2022
Garbage-Time Performer of the Week
Comfort in Sadness Stat of the Week
This can only be another shout out to Gabriel Davis. In Buffalo's defeat in Kansas City, Davis became the first player since Jerry Rice to have 200 yards and four touchdowns in a single game, and the first player ever to do so in the playoffs. Davis has had big games before: this was the third 100-yard performance of his two-year career. He has had strong playoff performances before: he caught 4-of-4 passes for 85 yards in the wild-card victory over Indianapolis a year ago. But he has never come close to this as a pro, and probably never will again.
Game-Changing Play[s] of the Week
Yeah, we can't pick between the various ending plays of the Kansas City-Buffalo game. Four different plays in the final two minutes would have won this award over anything the other three games put up, and five more would be in with a shout. And remember, all the games were good—it's just the Chiefs and Bills taking things to a whole different level. We're just going to put all the biggest ones here for posterity's sake, though I'll side with the 64-yard touchdown by Tyreek Hill as being the biggest individual play, if only because it covered the most ground. But I mean, come on. Three go-ahead touchdowns in the final two minutes of regulation! My god.
— NFL (@NFL) January 24, 2022
CHIEFS RETAKE THE LEAD. #NFLPlayoffs
— NFL (@NFL) January 24, 2022
JOSH ALLEN AND GABRIEL DAVIS' 4TH TD GIVES THE BILLS THE LEAD WITH 17 SECONDS.
— NFL (@NFL) January 24, 2022
— NFL (@NFL) January 24, 2022
BUTKER. GOOD FROM 49. TIE GAME. #NFLPlayoffs
— NFL (@NFL) January 24, 2022
MAHOMES TO KELCE.
— NFL (@NFL) January 24, 2022
Records to Date:
Bryan: I expect the NFC Championship Game to be a one-score contest no matter who wins, and so I'm staying clear of it when making this pick. I'll instead take Kansas City (-7) as they appear to be shifting into full-on juggernaut mode, at least on offense. I feel like for the Bengals to beat them, they have to put up at least 35 points, something they have only done three times this season. Cincinnati beat Tennessee in part because the Titans offense made mistakes the Bengals could capitalize on. I just don't see that from the Chiefs in their final form.
Andrew: I know it's boring to match picks, but at this stage in the season, it's tough to make them different without being contrarian for the sake of being contrarian. Kansas City is the best team remaining in the postseason. They just disposed of the second-best team remaining. I know the Bengals beat them just a few weeks ago, but that was in Cincinnati, in the regular season, by a very narrow margin in a game where Ja'Marr Chase was unplayable. Expect the Chiefs to have a better plan for Chase this time around, and to know better than to punt in plus territory late in the game. Kansas City (-7) over Cincinnati.