Football Outsiders
Innovative Statistics, Intelligent Analysis

2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

Here's the open thread for discussing all of this weekend's wild-card action: Titans at Chiefs and Falcons at Rams on Saturday, then Bills at Jaguars and Panthers at Saints Part III on Sunday.

Comments

194 comments, Last at 12 Feb 2018, 8:33am

1 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

My hopes for the weekend.....

The Falcons win 15-14, when the Rams longsnapper tosses the ball over the punter's head 5 times. I don't want the Vikings to play the Rams, nor do I want the Falcons to begin playing consistently well.

The Chiefs beat the Titans 70-3, with Pat Mahomes starting. I'm tired of all Alex Smith conversations.

I want the Jags to beat the Bills 8-0, with 4 safeties, as the Bills bring back Rob Johnson to start at qb. Just because.

I want the Saints to win 24-21, when they get a winning field goal drive in the closing seconds, aided by a 15 yard unsportsmanlike penalty incurred by the Panthers, when their owner wanders out on the field, and tells the ref that he wants to shave the ref's legs.

14 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

I want the Bills to lose as Marcell Dareus plays out of his mind, holding them to 11 rushing yards and maybe getting a sack or two so that even the most casual football fans like Bills head coach Sean McDermott can recognize how well he's playing

"Nobody knew how complex defensive schemes are," he'll state in the postgame presser.

9 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

It seemed pretty obvious to me: Kelce was knocked unconscious, and unconscious people don't hold on to footballs well.

I was in the kitchen and didn't see if it was "dirty" or not, but I'd think/hope that's a big fine at least

Edit: were you talking about something else? The timestamp suggested the Kelce play

8 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

And Kelce no more fumbled than Mariota did according to the rules we've just established, wherein getting hit hard and dropping the ball in the process of crumpling to the ground constitutes having one's forward progress stopped.

12 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

Chiefs really fortunate botched clock management didn't cost them. Could've called a timeout with like 22 seconds and taken three shots at the end zone, but instead got one play that could've just as easily ended with a tackle at the two and a field goal.

15 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

So has Gruden's commentary today made everyone more or less excited about his return to the sidelines?

I was especially impressed by his astute observation about how valuable Charcandrik West is to KC, because he gives Kareem Hunt breathers. Hunt has 272 carries this year and West has 18. Just think about how worn down hunt would be today if he had to handle all 290 of those runs!

22 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

West also has 27 receptions (Hunt has 54). West also missed three games where he wasn't available. (I don't know which games.) It's a reasonable statement.

Gruden is still annoying and much of his commentary would be better filled by silence. I could easily do without it.

18 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

Time for another season of FO slack gameday chat! For people who are already in, just go to https://kotakuites.slack.com/messages/fo/details/. For anyone that wants to join a star-studded cast of their favorite FO posters for gameday chat, we're getting lazy at this point in the season so just follow https://tinyurl.com/ydyqh626 for an invite

19 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

O.K. fuck you play-by-play announcer whatever your name is, Kelce was not "wobbly," he was fucking unconscious on his feet! Don't whitewash that out you fucking psychopath

23 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

What’s worse. Blowing a 28 point lead on the road to a colts team that could put up the points...or blowing a 18 point lead at home to the TITANS..?

28 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

Is this "QB in pocket down by forward progress" a new rule or new interpretation this season?

"In the grasp" I can understand, maybe, but Mariota was still actively attempting Not To Get Sacked.

32 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

If you look up "choking dog franchise" in the dictionary, they're should be a picture of the Chiefs' logo. I never want to hear again "NOBODY wants to go to Arrowhead in January!" unless they're talking about Chiefs' fans.

34 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

Well, that Kelce injury was bad luck for the Chiefs. Not to mention the bizarre Mariota touchdown. Unfortunately this will make one of the games next week much less compelling, since the Titans are still not a good team. I can't see them making things very interesting against either NE or the Steelers, which KC had a shot to do.

36 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

I was assuming Chiefs and Jags would win, which would set up two rematches of regular season games where the visiting team had already won in their opponents' stadium.

Sure Kelce was injured, but that does not explain everything that happened here. Cannot collapse like that because of one injury.

37 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

In a game that ended up being decided by a point it almost certainly flipped the result, though. Titans got lucky. Actually are lucky to even be in the playoffs, really.

Now if the Bills win then we'll REALLY have a bad pair of games in the AFC, I imagine the worst pair in that round in a while. Of course, it's the NFL, any given Sunday anything can happen, but I would still be penciling in the Steelers and Patriots for the AFC Championship. Both teams would be ten-point favorites at least I imagine.

78 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

Just not a good game day coach. Never has been one.

I can't understand why no team has hired a "Gameday coach" who would be responsible for managing all the things Reid is terrible at, leaving him free to focus on what he's good at. Is that not a stupidly obvious idea? I mean, have you ever seen how awkwardly Reid throws the challenge flag? I would think he'd be eager to be able to delegate that task.

It's not quite simple or straightforward, the guy would have to work closely with the HC and both coordinators. Hardly an insurmountable problem. It would be less work than changing coordinators, for example.

I can't help but think that any team not doing this has only a lukewarm interest in winning.

Edit: after thinking about it, I wouldn't be surprised to learn Belichick's already doing this in secret and has been for years.

82 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

Many, many years ago, I noticed something random in a Patriots game that seemed very obvious they should be doing once I realized it, but it was an odd enough idea that most people probably hadn't thought of it before. I posted it on a message board. The very next week, the Patriots did it in a game.

I think it's most likely that Belichick and I (and perhaps many others) both had the same observation arising from a specific situation. But I also think there's a non-zero chance Belichick has a team of people scouring the message boards of places like here on the off chance someone has a thought that can increase their chances of winning by 0.1%.

There is almost nothing you could tell me about Belichick that I wouldn't at least consider being true.

44 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

Really? Andy Reid has been a very consistent winner in the NFL for 15-odd years, all without ever having a superstar QB. That's extremely difficult to do. Unless you can bring in Belichick or something like that, firing him would be a terrible idea. The year before he came to KC, they won two games. Since then it's been 11, 9, 11, 12, 10. With a record like that, a coach should only be on the hot seat if, like Mike McCarthy, they have a QB so good that having a losing season would be difficult to do even if you tried.

57 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

I think blowing an 18-point lead at home, without extenuating factors like your QB going down or weirdness like your return guy fumbling multiple times, should pretty much be automatic hot seat time. Alex Smith looked great in the first half; the fact that they couldn’t move the ball at all in the second half has to reflect really badly on Reid. (And losing Kelce shouldn’t be enough to explain it).

I will say, after watching that game I am hoping that the very first question the Bears have when they interview Matt Nagy is “WTF?”

59 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

I think it makes more sense to judge based simply on the final result. It's irrational to apparently blame a coach entirely for the blowing of an 18-point lead without also crediting him for building that lead. It's not like Reid subbed in a halftime for some other coach who spotted him that 18 points.

60 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

"It's irrational to apparently blame a coach entirely for the blowing of an 18-point lead without also crediting him for building that lead. "

Good coaches protect leads and finish off opponents. Football games last 60 minutes.

This is twice in five years that Reid has lost a home game in Kansas City after having a large halftime lead. In 2014-15 the Chiefs had a 31-10 lead over the Colts and blew it. It's a problem.

The Chiefs literally haven't won a home playoff game since Joe Montana was the starter. It's getting ridiculous.

68 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

#61

Of course running effectively would have the side benefit of keeping Brady and co. off the field. I don't think KC was winning twice in Foxboro in four months. Given that this is his second concussion in three months, good chance Kelce wouldn't have been available if they'd won.

92 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

It seems like you were. You replied to this:

"It's irrational to apparently blame a coach entirely for the blowing of an 18-point lead without also crediting him for building that lead. "

With this:

"Good coaches protect leads and finish off opponents. Football games last 60 minutes"

The first quote is basically saying that the order of points shouldn't matter in the final judgement, just the end result - and you seem to be rebutting that.

148 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

I wasn't addressing the order of the points being scored. I was talking about the totality of effort. Playing only the 2nd half isn't better than playing only the 1st half. Mixing together good effort with bad effort is bad no matter how you permute it.

I don't see how I "seemed" like I was saying that "the order of points should matter". I was saying nothing of the sort.

Crediting a coach for building a lead which he loses doesn't make more or less sense than crediting a coach for falling way behind, digging a hole that cannot be escaped.

I'm baffled you think this is a relevant axis of discussion.

95 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

It can be argued that if a team takes a big lead they have 'proven' that they are better so if they lose they a blew a game to a worse team. There is also the belief that better second half adjustments by the losing coaches also prove that the leading team was 'outcoached'.

96 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

Yeah, but we're talking about a franchise that hasn't been to a SB in almost 50 years and whose last home playoff win was with Joe Montana at starting QB. At a certain point, people don't really see the difference between being a perennial 10-6/11-5 type that can't even make it to the conference championship round and missing the playoffs altogether. Mahommes is the big reason for hope there that things will change.

Lost in all this is that it looks like KC's defense needs quite a bit of work this off season.

112 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

Yeah, the question becomes, do you judge your team by overall winning percentage or do you judge it by winning championships? Reid seems like a guy with a very, very high floor who will coach up almost any team to competitiveness. He also seems unlikely to win a Super Bowl.

As a fan of a team (the Bears) that had a solid, steady coach who made them competitive but was probably never going to win a Super Bowl, I agreed with them at the time when they fired Lovie Smith after a 10-6 season. Even after the last five years of wandering in the wilderness, I still think it was the right move. I’d rather my team be actively bad for a few years and make wholesale changes to try to win a championship than muddle along winning 9 or 10 games and never really challenging for a title. (Obviously Reid is a better coach than Smith, but I think the point still holds).

152 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

I don’t think talking about the coach and then talking about the young QB being the hope makes sense. I think the play calling in the second half was a big issue. There were some bad drops. I don’t think Smith should take so much blame. He is no Brady but he is a good QB. This one falls on the coaches.

61 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

Clearly they should try to run on the Pats' D, which has not looked great defending the run this season. As for trying to stop the Pats' offense? Not much to say there. Try for turnovers? It's not a great matchup for Tennessee because they're not a complete team. Chiefs would have been much more problematic for the Pats.

Or they could hope the Bills win tomorrow so they face Pittsburgh instead? But they still have the problem of having a below-average pass defense facing an elite corps of receivers.

76 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

Take up eight minutes in each of your first four drives. Run the ball a lot. Brady & co. can't score when they're on the sideline. Keep the score under control and hope things break your way again in the second half.

It's not a great plan, but it's not like they can run Derrick Henry through the Ardennes where no one is watching. They're going to be big underdogs for a reason. The uglier they can make the game, the better chance they have.

89 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

1) Run the ball incessantly; the Patriots pass defense is decent, but with all the linebacker injuries, the run defense is weak and vulnerable. Pass enough to prevent the Patriots from loading the box, and rush as much as possible. This has the side benefit of keeping the clock moving, and should keep the total possessions down, so it's a win/win for the Titans if they can manage it.

2) Let Mariota scramble around to open up the defense, and encourage him to take shots down the field. High variance is good for the underdog, and the payoff for hitting a couple of big passes is larger than usual as a result.

3) Above all else, play recklessly aggressive; a cautious, conservative game plan only wins if the Patriots play poorly. Hoping for the top seed to play poorly can work, but it's not a good strategy, and there's (hopefully, if ownership aren't complete idiots) no downside to losing by twenty instead of by seven if it doesn't work.

184 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

The Patriots run defense improved dramatically toward the end of the season, in part because of the young LB's. Belichick asks a lot of LB's in terms of responsibility and scheme and it takes a while for them to feel comfortable (some guys just never are able to grasp it). Marquise Flowers in particular has taken a real leap.
The numbers show it: The pats defense finished the season allowing 18.5 points per game but that went down to 15.3 ppg in the last three games. At home the D allowed 20.9 ppg but over the last three home games it allowed 13 ppg.
In the last three home games, the D allowed only 64 yards per game on the ground to opponents that included the Bills 6th ranked rushing offense. (The Titans are ranked 15th) Not that shortening the game isn't the right plan for Tennessee, it's just that they probably won't be able to hammer away on ground without some trickeration.
Your second and third points are definitely key. Going for it on 4th down, trick plays, maybe an early onside kick. Mariota will need to extend plays by scrambling, run for first downs and exploit coverage breakdowns.
The Titans cannot expect to go to Foxboro, run their regular offense and win.

47 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

So the Falcons face a huge task right off the bat in the playoffs, one I doubt they can surmount. But if they can it would arguably be easier the whole rest of the way. Without Wentz, the Eagles aren't great. The NFC Championship game would be difficult, but DVOA believes any of the Falcons' potential opponents are worse than the Rams (ignoring LA's Week 17 result). Same in the Super Bowl, which would be on a neutral site to boot.

88 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

Yeah, the difference in DVOA between the Rams and Vikings is only 2.7%, 1.5% in weighted DVOA.
The Vikings are actually better on defense and offense than the Rams, the Rams lead in DVOA being entirely due to the Vikings middling special teams. If you consider how much more difficult it will be for Ryan to run the offense at the line of scrimmage in what will likely be an incredibly loud stadium in Minneapolis, I think a road game in Minneapolis in two weeks may well be a larger challenge than what the Falcons faced yesterday.

Having said that, neither the Saints or Panthers will be an easy contest for the Vikings, especially given the uncertain health status of the Vikings o-line, and, as you note, the Rams DVOA is skewed by the week 17 game.

48 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

Kareem Hunt has a lot of of production but for whatever reason he never gave me the feeling that you can put a game on him or he would be the difference maker when the game is close.
I think had Spencer Ware not been injured Chiefs would have a lot better results this year. I don’t know why but Chiefs front office made a dump decision to not improve over West even though Ware got injured before the season started. The could have Ajai or some other player. There are probably twenty unemployed runnnjnh backs better than West.

51 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

I don’t know if it’s just me but the quality of play of this NFC matchup seems levels beyond the earlier AFC game (besides from pharaoh cooper)

62 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

Definitely agree.

Falcons look a lot better than the team that lost 3/4 to AFC East early in the season. Rams look as good as I expect the #1 DVOA team to look. My pre-game thoughts here were "Falcons are best road team this weekend, but unfortunately face the best home team."

56 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

"Their best player and it's not even close is Todd Gurley ... and it's not even close." It's that type of commentary why Cris Collinsworth is the best NFL color commentator.

66 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

I can't believe the Falcons didn't go for two. Another posted mentioned earlier in the thread about how Andy Reid should have a gameday manager to help him with clock management and the like. Apparently Dan Quinn need that too.

70 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

I just can't get over that decision to kick the XP. Still a long way from it mattering, but 5 minutes is plenty of time for two TDs. Any coach should see the advantage of being up 14 rather than 13 there.

71 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

Clearly the Rams stars were rusty from sitting out last week. It's probably Fisher's fault somehow. L.A. air pollution?

Dammit Rams. I guess it's down to the Jags, Vikings, and Saints to keep the Pats or Steelers from winning again

74 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

I thought the Chiefs were the lock of the weekend and I felt pretty sure that the Rams would at least score a ton of points even if they lost 38-35 or something.

Folks, I’m going with the Jaguars and Saints tomorrow, if anyone wants to make some money betting against what I think...

80 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

I, personally, will be glad to avoid playing the Rams again until next season's NFC Championship game. Their defense was absolutely scary for the first twenty minutes, but it looked like they wore down some in the second half.

I thought Quinn's decision to call a timeout late in the first half in hopes of getting the ball back was even worse than the decision not to go for 2, especially given the historic skill of the Falcons defense to give up first downs on third and long. Other than that, I thought the defense played well (and took advantage of the ref's tendency to let the DBs harass receivers).

Didn't hurt that the Falcons got the turnover breaks as well, especially since that was the opposite of the season-long trend to give the ball to the defense in the most embarrassing ways possible (buttception, anyone?).

As for next week and the Eagles, their defense absolutely killed us last year in late October, and my concern is that playing them in January will be at least as bad.

87 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

I was surprised at how poorly the Rams secondary tackled in the 2nd half. When you don't get guys on the ground in the 2nd half, and you give away two possessions on special teams, deep in your own territory, early in the 1st, you'll likely get beat.

97 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

Honestly, I think that the Bills can win this game. The Jags are way over-rated. Great defense, sure, but a low-scoring game plays into the under-dog's chance where fewer lucky breaks can win them the game.

98 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

On that first Jags punt - Did the ref stop the play because of a fair catch signal, even though the ball bounced? I don't recall that happening ever. I can't think of another reason to blow the whistle.

108 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

This goal-line sequence has featured Romo discussing time-out usage (twice), play selection, and an analysis of WR push-off technique. It feels so weird watching a game and having the color commentator provide actual insight into the game of football instead of "That guy was a MAN! on that play!!" or "The coach is smart for doing the statistically stupid thing that's conventional wisdom!" or "Because of the last play, MOMENTUM! has shifted."

115 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

I think when you factor in the increased likelihood of penalties to push you back, running is far better. Yes, being predictable makes it easier to defend the run, but when you are talking about less than 2 yards to gain for the TD, even a good defense is liable to give up a yard here and a yard there.

119 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

The read-option offense with Bortles-Fournette at the end of 1st half was effective. They should stick with that and avoid BB5 to throw at all.

123 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

Hahaha Romo has such a great sense of humor. In contrast try imagining what Troy Aikman's laugh sounds like. I bet you can't do it without your brain exploding

127 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

I decided early this week that I'd be rooting for Jax in the AFC, but as soon as I started watching today I've been cheering for Buffalo, and I finally figured out why. Those Jaguars uniforms are the ugliest I think I've ever seen. It starts with the helmets halfway dipped in vomit, but it doesn't end there. How can the players have any confidence or self respect in those pants? Yeeeuugh, that is ug-lee

132 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

it appears since Romo has been in the booth, more and more color analysis are following his style , at least not many have caught mt attention like the great one, Madden

136 Re: 2018 Wild-Card Discussion Thread

I was told weeks ago that if you're going to the ground and the ball touches the ground and moves it's incomplete. Jalen Ramsey went to the ground, the ball touched the ground and moved and it was upheld. /shrug