Are Raiders and Saints Playoff-Worthy?

Las Vegas Raiders WR Hunter Renfrow
Las Vegas Raiders WR Hunter Renfrow
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

Los Angeles Chargers at Las Vegas Raiders, Sunday, 8:20 p.m.

NFL Week 18 - It's hard to determine how to feel about the Las Vegas Raiders.

Are they gritty, determined, and inspiring for remaining in the playoff chase despite incredible adversity? Or are they unworthy beneficiaries of an expanded playoff field and some fluky victories abetted by the pandemic and (on Thanksgiving) the referees?

Are the Raiders difficult to root for because of Henry Ruggs and Jon Gruden? Or are they fun to root for because those individuals are long gone and the Raiders who remained persevered instead of giving up?

Are the Raiders interesting because they have found ways to remain in contention despite being a third-quartile team in nearly every category? Or are they boring because Derek Carr-to-Hunter-Renfrow on a shallow cross, yawn, snooze.

And do they really have a shot against the Chargers, who beat them 28-14 in Week 4 and are far superior according to DVOA?

The answer to the final question is: every NFL team always has a shot, but the Chargers are indeed better, their injury report is encouraging (Austin Ekeler and Derwin James returned last week), and the Chargers' weaknesses (15th in goal-line offense, for example) should be counterbalanced by the Raiders' greater weaknesses (28th in goal-line defense).

The rest of the questions are a matter of taste. I'm impressed with Rick Bisaccia's keep-the-ship-from-sinking efforts and enjoy watching Carr, Renfrow, Maxx Crosby, and Darren Waller (who may return on Sunday) more than watching, say, the Saints. I'm glad Gruden and Ruggs were dealt with swiftly weeks ago but wonder what it will take for guys like Nate Hobbs to get the message about DUI. For this old sportswriter, the Raiders are poster children for the problem with the 17-game, 14-playoff team format: they aren't very interesting, and they are only relevant because the playoff field has grown too accommodating and they limped to the end of the marathon with less-damaging injuries/outbreaks than other teams that probably don't really belong in the playoffs either.

Perhaps the Raiders will prove that perception wrong with a win on Sunday night. Don't wager money on it. Chargers 27, Raiders 17.

New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, 4:25 p.m.

The Saints, like the Raiders, aren't what Walkthrough thinks of as a worthy playoff team: it's gonna take a few years to mentally adjust to the 14-team format, and we're probably gonna be fogeys about it for a while. But at least the Saints have real playoff-team attributes: the first-ranked run defense (despite the fact that it appeared to be buckling against opponents such as the Eagles), the top ranking in adjusted line yards, a sixth-place ranking in adjusted sack rate. Lots of teams have made the playoffs over the years with an outstanding defensive front and little else. Washington did so last year, and that describes most Bears playoff teams.

If Taysom Hill has one skill, besides making Sean Payton's French press coffee just the way he likes it, it's beating the Falcons. Hill has a 75% completion rate, averages 8.1 yards per pass attempt, averages 7.0 yards per rush, and has run for three touchdowns against the Falcons, leading the Saints to three victories as a starter. The Saints should be able to take care of their playoff business Sunday; what happens to the 49ers is out of their control, of course.

Kyle Pitts needs 59 receiving yards to break Mike Ditka's rookie record for tight ends of 1,076 receiving yards. Pitts has surpassed that figure in each of his last four games. No props for Pitts were posted at press time (alliteration!), but Walkthrough will keep an eye on the board: Arthur Smith probably isn't above feeding Pitts some opportunities to help the Falcons season end on a relatively high note, and rooting for Pitts will make this matchup more entertaining.

Also, Pitts has only scored one touchdown this season. He's not the next Ditka, who caught 12 touchdown passes as a rookie. He's the next Julio Jones. Saints 23, Falcons 17.

San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams, Sunday, 4:25 p.m.

Some notes on this game:

  • The Rams now rank 29th in deep zone offense, thanks mostly to Matthew Stafford's generosity when doling out interceptions in the shadow of his own goal posts. For what it's worth, the 49ers rank 30th in deep zone defense. The deep zone is the area behind your own 20. Deep zone defensive splits are probably much more random and impacted by sample size/opponent tendencies than offensive splits.
     
  • There is ample evidence, including the week-by-week DVOA splits, that the Rams offense was better with Robert Woods at wide receiver than Odell Beckham. That makes sense: Woods has been more productive for most of his career and is a more versatile short-range target and blocker. But at the risk of becoming an OBJ apologist: the proper comparison here is not Woods-versus-OBJ, but Woods-versus-where the Rams would be if Woods were injured and they did not have OBJ. Walkthrough is pretty certain that the team's late-season offensive metrics would be much worse, and they may have picked up an extra loss in one of their recent close games.
     
  • Cooper Kupp is 135 yards away from Calvin Johnson's single-season receiving record of 1,964 yards and 171 yards away from 2,000 yards. But Kupp does not deserve Offensive Player of the Year, because he is a jerk and a bum. Walkthrough is NOT just saying this because of our +2000 Jonathan Taylor OPOY bet, nor are we trying to instigate an Aaron Rodgers-style beef that brings us lots of that sweet, delicious engagement in exchange our reputation and dignity.
     
  • And sure, Walkthrough's gonna stick an asterisk next to any of Kupp's records for the 17-game season, because we believe that the real all-time single-season receiving record belongs to Crazylegs Hirsch, with 1,495 yards for the Rams in the manly 12-game 1951 season. Walkthrough is too real for the early AFL, too.
     
  • Kyle Shanahan is being coy about whether Trey Lance or Jimmy Garoppolo will start, but Lance: A) got the majority of reps in Wednesday's practice; and B) is better than Garoppolo. The point spread has drifted down from Rams -6 to Rams -4.5 as of Thursday, so the house appears comfortable with the 49ers quarterback situation, one way or the other.

Walkthrough would feel better about the Rams snapping their five-game losing streak against the 49ers if both teams had not looked so much like themselves in the 49ers' 31-10 November victory. Stafford served up two early-game turnovers like he so often does (one from his 24-yard line). The 49ers embarked on a few of the thousand-play, million-yard, geological-epoch drives that they are famous for. Even if the Rams manage to flip both scripts to a degree, it should not be enough to make up for a 21-point differential. Or, for wagerers, a 25.5-point differential. 49ers 26, Rams 24.

Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday, 1 p.m.

Another week, another compelling installment of the Carson Wentz Victimization Index!

  • Jaguars fans will be dressing up as clowns? They MUST be making fun of me! (10 Victimization Points)
     
  • Oh, they are making fun of the Jaguars. That's better. (-10 VP)
     
  • (Mutters under breath) I'll bet some of them are also secretly making fun of me. (5 VP)
     
  • Those lamestream media meanies at the IndyStar criticized me, just because I wouldn't admit feeling "sluggish" and missing a week of practice due to COVID impacted my performance in a loss that could have clinched a playoff berth. Science will NEVER prove any link between any external factor and my poor performances! (20 VP).
     
  • I MEANT TO DO THIS. (-5 VP)
     
  • Oh, you haters don't think I can lead my team to a season-ending win against a miserable opponent to clinch a wild-card berth. Let me refresh your memory. Week 17, 2019 season. Eagles 34, Giants 17. All because of me. And a Jake Elliott 50-yard field goal. And a fourth-quarter Giants fumble that gave us the ball on the 2-yard line. But somewhat because of me! (-10 VP).

Total: 15 Victimization Points

Stay tuned for installments of the CWVI in the playoffs. We know you can hardly wait. And if the Jaguars pull off one of their patented home upsets against the Colts, Monday's Walkthrough may be cancelled because I died laughing. Colts 30, Jaguars 13.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, 1 p.m.

Per the Elias Bureau via ESPN's Jameson Hensley, the 2021 Ravens were one of four teams in NFL history to lose four games by two points or less. None of those four teams reached the playoffs. Of course, the Ravens also won four games by three points or less, including their Week 3 win over the Lions on a 66-yard Justin Tucker field goal. They were a play here and a play there from keeping pace with the top contenders but also a play here and there from fading, even before they began threatening the all-time adjusted games lost record.

The Ravens still have a slim chance of reaching the playoffs with a win and lots of tiebreaker Plinko. Walkthrough discussed Mike Tomlin and the Steelers on Thursday. Neither team looks worthy of a playoff berth or winning record, but the Ravens may not even have the manpower at this point to make a run at it. Steelers 23, Ravens 20.

Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles, Saturday, 8:15 p.m.

I discussed this game a bit in this week's New York Times column, which also touches on this week's theme of a too-long season with too many playoff teams. The Cowboys are jockeying for a perishingly slim chance at a marginal playoff seeding advantage—they need the Seahawks and 49ers to win to move up to the No. 3 seed and the Panthers to beat the Buccaneers to move up to No. 2—while Eagles coach Nick Sirianni sounded ambivalent about playing his starters before the team's almost suspiciously well-timed COVID outbreak. (If a bunch of Patriots starters popped positive just before a nigh-meaningless game, we would also assume that Bill Belichick sent Brian Hoyer to East Antivaxxington for their Stuffy Indoor New Year's Eve Bash, then ordered him to hug everyone.)

The Cowboys were seven-point favorites midweek, and you should feel taking them anywhere below double-digits before kickoff. Even a slight chance to host a future Buccaneers or Rams playoff game or catch the Saints in the playoff opener is worth the risk for the Cowboys, and the Eagles are unlikely to rush Jason Kelce or Fletcher Cox onto the field if they do not have to. Cowboys 34, Eagles 21.

Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, 4:25 p.m.

Meet the new Arizona Cardinals playmakers:

  • Antoine "Crusher" Wesley: A 6-foot-4 standout for Kliff Kingsbury at Texas Tech, Wesley spent 2019 on the Ravens practice squad and 2020 on their IR due to a shoulder injury. He looked overmatched in his first action as DeAndre Hopkins' replacement but appears to be growing into his role. "Whenever Hop is down, obviously I'm his backup and his life support," Wesley said, per the team website. Kingsbury and Kyler Murray appear to have a little too much confidence in Wesley on 50-50 balls, but with Hopkins' playoff availability iffy, the Cardinals need a viable go-up-and-get-it type.
     
  • Greg Dortch: A 5-foot-7 nifty/shifty return specialist from Wake Forest, Dortch has toured the Jets, Panthers, Rams, and Falcons extended rosters since 2019. He stepped up for Rondale Moore (ankle) over the last two weeks and opened the Cowboys game with a 24-yard jet sweep. Moore should be back this week if not next; if he's unavailable, Dortch provides an acceptable alternative in a critical role in Kingsbury's system.
     
  • Jonathan Ward: He's the fella who made the David Tyree catch on the fake punt against the Cowboys. Ward rushed for over 1,000 yards twice for Central Michigan, made the Cardinals as an undrafted free agent in 2020, and has spent two seasons bouncing up and down from their practice squad. James Conner, like Moore, should be back soon, relegating Ward to a special teams role or the inactive list.

Kudos to Steve Keim for loading the Cardinals bench with skill position players capable of contributing in a big game, and to Kingsbury for saying "the heck with it, let's feature some of these dudes" against the Cowboys. The Cardinals are at their best when playing sandlot football. So long as they don't expect Wesley to be Nuk, they should be almost as dangerous in the playoffs as they were in the first half of the season.

Walkthrough isn't putting much stock in last week's dead-cat bounce by the Seahawks and recommends that you don't, either. Cardinals 27, Seahawks 14.

New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins, Sunday, 4:25 p.m.

We'll mostly be taking a break from talking about clinched teams for the rest of these previews so we can save our brilliant insights for the playoffs. Instead, we'll be bidding farewell to some of their already-eliminated opponents.

Final Thoughts on the Dolphins: They need to fire the George Godsey-Eric Studesville offensive coordinator tag team 30 seconds after the final gun of this game. Whatever Tua Tagovailoa's limitations as a passer and decision-maker, he never looked so inept that he needed to be propped up by the RPO Slopwagon offense and all the Wildcat goofiness that Mutt 'n' Jeff stuffed into every game plan. A better coordinator might not fix Tua, but the RPO Twins aren't going to help anyone.

The spread at press time was hovering around Patriots -6.5, and we could not hit it hard enough. Patriots 28, Dolphins 16.

New York Jets at Buffalo Bills, Sunday, 4:25 p.m.

Final Thoughts on the Jets: Devin Gordon summed things up nicely for the New York Times on Monday: "For a Jets team that just dropped its 12th game of the season, the vibes are paradoxically positive. They're playing hard. They're getting better. Their rookie quarterback isn't actively sabotaging things." Also, they got to watch Antonio Brown do his thing and think, Hey, at least we don't have to deal with THAT guy.

Three straight competitive games have quieted a little of the Zach Wilson and Robert Saleh criticism. A fourth would help erase memories of the 45-17 Mike White Reality Check in Week 10 and throw a scare into a Bills team with a habit of playing down to weaker opponents before (usually) pulling away in the second half. Walkthrough is steering clear of the Bills -16, but we don't anticipate a Bills catastrophe, either. Bills 29, Jets 16.

Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns, Sunday, 1 p.m.

Final Thoughts on the Browns: DVOA tells us that Taylor Heinicke, among many others, was a better quarterback in 2021 than Baker Mayfield. There's no reason to doubt the metrics in this case, as Heinicke suffered about as many supporting-cast setbacks as Mayfield. Meanwhile, Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert keep showing us what a developing franchise quarterback is supposed to look like, and it looks nothing at all like Mayfield's first four years. Mayfield will now undergo shoulder surgery after weeks of "he's healthier than ever" signaling from the organization.

If Walkthrough ran the Browns, we would cut bait on Mayfield and see if we can unearth an affordable alternative like Heinicke. And we don't even like Heinicke.

Joe Burrow will rest on Sunday. Other Bengals are on the COVID list. Browns -6 appears to be a safe play. But do you really want to invest financially or emotionally in this game in any way? Browns 23, Bengals 14.

Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions, Sunday, 1 p.m.

Final Thoughts on the Lions: Amon-Ra St. Brown's emergence as a potential No. 1 receiver has been one of the silver linings of a snakebit season. St. Brown went 35-340-3 in December and added 6-111-1 plus a rushing touchdown and two-point conversion against the Seahawks on Sunday, with much of his production coming with Tim Boyle at quarterback. He works the middle of the field well, has some YAC capability, and lines up in the backfield at times. He's not Deebo Samuel or Cordarrelle Patterson, but any team that hopes to someday develop a young quarterback needs a designer knockoff Deebo type.

Matt LaFleur suggested that Packers starters would be active for this game because he's afraid Aaron Rodgers will become Alex Jones given three weeks of downtime he's wary of the team getting rusty during a three-week layoff. A few first-quarter series probably won't make much difference in the grand scheme, but it could impact the Packers -3.5 spread. Packers 24, Lions 21.

Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans, Sunday, 1 p.m.

Final Thoughts on the Texans: Jack Easterby quote-tweeted the following on New Year's Day

I cannot speak for the validity of that pyramid; it looks like some of the "hierarchies of learning" I studied in educational psychology, but that was over 30 years ago and I was rarely sober. Easterby's endorsement of the pyramid is what's so fascinating. Is he reading it upside-down? Does he believe the bottom categories are the goal? Or, more likely, does Easterby's tweet illustrate that cult leaders rarely consider themselves cult leaders, merely free-thinking "visionaries" who have achieved an enlightenment they are eager to share with anyone who swears them complete and mindless fealty?

Derrick Henry returned to practice for the Titans. We'll catch up with him (and them) in the postseason. Titans 30, Texans 17.

Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, 1 p.m.

Final Thoughts on the Vikings: DVOA considers the Vikings the NFL's most consistent team according to our variance metric. I'm reminded of the old Zapp Branigan Futurama joke: "What makes a man turn neutral? Lust for gold? Power? Or were you just born with a heart full of neutrality?" Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer were born with hearts full of neutrality, which attracted them like moths to Kirk Cousins' flame and trapped the franchise for years between a high floor and a low ceiling. To paraphrase Jack Nicholson's Joker, this team needs an enema. And the deeper the cleanse, the better.

Justin Fields was slated to start for the Bears but has since entered COVID protocols, taking away the last reason to watch this game. Vikings 23, Bears 16.

Washington Football Team at New York Giants, Sunday, 1 p.m.

Final Thoughts on Washington: Set the Buccaneers upset aside and Washington's victories this season came by a combined 15 points against opponents with a combined 31-49 record. Washington backslid from their modest 2020 success, and injuries were only part of the issue. Ron Rivera is a great gameday coach and a trustworthy leader in an organization that desperately needs one, but Rivera and Martin Mayhew need to address their roster with some real urgency this offseason. Winning with a defensive line and a dink-and-YAC offense will only work if Washington gets much better in the secondary and stops settling for "pretty good but injury-prone" at the skill positions.

Walkthrough covered the Giants in TankWatch on Wednesday and desperately hopes Joe Judge keeps his job because he's a free content factory. Washington 24, Giants 6.

Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, 4:25 p.m.

Final Thoughts on the Panthers: Sam Darnold is still only 24 years old, but he has been sacked 131 times in 48 starts. Darnold's "sack age" is more important than his biological age at this point, and the concept that the Panthers can somehow "evaluate" his "development" behind their candy glass offensive line is ludicrous. Darnold is done cooking, because the oven caught fire when he was inside it with the Jets, then Matt Rhule finished him off with a blow torch like a crème brûlée. The Panthers need to find a quarterback in 2022, but they had better fix their offensive line and scheme first; otherwise, the next quarterback will just get the Justin Fields treatment.

The Buccaneers were involved in some drama this week. Whatever. Buccaneers 33, Panthers 13.

Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos, Saturday, 4:30 p.m.

Final Thoughts on the Broncos: Vic Fangio, a likely Black Monday casualty, retreated to every beleaguered head coach's final hill: we're this close to turning the corner.

"We played three teams that are probably going to be in the playoffs (or are contending for it this week), and fought them tooth-and-nail and had some tight games," Fangio said, per Kyle Newman of the Denver Post. "A four-point game, a five-point game. To me, that shows that we're close, we're close to being there ."

Coach, those teams, particularly the Raiders, are playoff teams in large part because they beat you. "Give me a little more time and I will get us past that team that has been run by a special teams coach since October" isn't the compelling job-preservation argument Fangio must think it is. But never mind, Fangio's statement epitomized the problem which has plagued the Broncos since Peyton Manning retired: their goal every year appears to be to be just good enough to win some close games and earn a wild-card berth.

The Chiefs need a win (or tie) and a Titans loss (or tie) to clinch a first-round bye. They should be able to beat the Broncos, just as they did in Week 13. But they should not expect the Broncos to roll over for them. Chiefs 27, Broncos 20.

Comments

58 comments, Last at 11 Jan 2022, 8:53am

1 Loving this

But Kupp does not deserve Offensive Player of the Year, because he is a jerk and a bum.

High-level trolling!

2 As much as I distrust…

As much as I distrust Easterby and the Houston brass, that team has been a lot more competent than the teams surrounding them in the Bad DVOA derby.  The Lions and the Jets have fought hard all year, but they've both had very embarrassing moments as well this year.  Everyone knows how incompetent the Jaguars and Giants have been, the Panthers ran out of claws at the end of the year, and both the Falcons and Seahawks are wasting a year of blue-chip QBs.  Matt Nagy has taken a lot of criticism, but the Bears have been less embarrassing than any of those teams (except for the Thanksgiving coaching meltdown game), as have the Texans.  The Texans started a third round rookie most of the year who's outplayed the other rookies besides Mac Jones, and have a defense that was ranked in the top 10 for DVOA most of the year, probably because Easterby and Co. accidentally hired a competent person in Lovie Smith.  I don't have any faith that the Texans will turn it around, but they haven't been the absolute trainwreck we all expected.  Besides, they're going to beat the Titans and get the Jets into the 3rd pick so the Jaguars can mess up and let Kayvon slide to them.

3 That last sentence is…

That last sentence is completely true.  The author's vantage point on reality is not marred by any foolish wishes regarding a team other than the Texans.

16 The Caserio hire in Houston…

The Caserio hire in Houston seems like it was a great choice. Davis Mills looks like he is at worst a low end starter in the NFL, which is an incredible value for a 3rd round draft pick. Their patchwork of mid-range vets seemed to help their young guys develop on both sides of the ball. If they can hit in the draft the next 2 years after getting a king's ransom for Watson they could be back to the early 2010's type teams they had with Schuab, Foster, Andre, and defense. Culley does not seem like the long term answer at HC due to his conservatism and lack of creativity. But he seems like a great stop-gap HC and actually reminds me a bit of Singletary with the 49ers. Let him lead the team and develop the young guys until the roster is replenished and then get a high-upside HC and see what you can do with a freshly restocked roster. I have been really impressed with the Texans this year. They have a deceptively good defense relative to their talent level.

35 I feel like the Texans are a…

I feel like the Texans are a live example of a replacement-level team, and sure enough they finished about .250, which I feel was a prediction I read of a NFL team of replacement players.

Much of their team was just signed for this season last offseason, so much of their roster literally is replacement level.

And yet they're not the worst team this year. They even have two respectable wins, though admittedly not much else.

Easterby seems like a joke, at least from my fourth-hand perspective, but the professional football staff in Houston doesn't seem to be rotten.

4 Lance over Jimmy

As a 49er fan, I'm glad to hear their rookie QB is already better than the #5 QB by DVOA. Must be a lock for a Mahomes / Lamar type young MVP season next year!

57 LOLOLOLOLOL

Pot calling kettle black.

I wonder what I did to piss you off you to always cry when you reply to me.

18 I know it is a really small…

In reply to by Junoballs

I know it is a really small sample but Trey is actually sitting at 21% DVOA vs 18% for Jimmy this year. The QBR and PFF gaps are much more decisively in favor of Jimmy though. Based on DYAR Trey has been the second best rookie QB this year on 71 total passes. He is leading in DVOA by a wide margin. Considering his coach and supporting cast this is not all that shocking. One things is certain though Trey this early can still run an effective offense which is a pretty damn good sign that he won't be a bust. The future is bright and hopefully we can get a 2nd rounder for Jimmy. 

29 Yeah he has been extremely…

Yeah he has been extremely streaky, from quarter to quarter, which should be expected considering his lack of experience. His highs have been top 5 high and his lows have been bottom 5 low. That high variance/upside is honestly exactly what I wanted to see from him. That needle threading Aiyuk throw he made on 3rd down against the Cardinals was one of the best throws I saw any QB make this year. Biggest concern on him at the moment is his running ability and inability to slide. He looks great in the QB power run game in the redzone and on broken play scrambles. His zone-read decisions have been pretty bad though and he seems to lack acceleration. Kyle is figuring this out though. He is way more Steve McNair/Josh Allen than Kyler Murray/Lamar Jackson. With his arm strength teams are going to have to start playing more man against him which should open up some huge running lanes on pass plays. I personally think he has been the 2nd best rookie QB in the class at this point with much higher upside plays than Mac so far. The big question long term is will Trey Lance end up better than Mac and those 2 first rounders? We wont know that until the end of next season at the earliest. The other thing that has been nuts is how good he is in the 2 minute drill already. Including the pre-season I think he is sitting at like 6/6 scoring after getting the ball with <2 minutes in a half. It's been a long time since we had a QB that could attack the sidelines like this. 

5 Easterby Town

The Jack Easterby riff was inspired!   A Hierarchy of Thinking Style in the hands of a lesser man than Easterby would...probably be more readily understood and actualized.

6 Cancellation of Monday's column.

And if the Jaguars pull off one of their patented home upsets against the Colts, Monday's Walkthrough may be cancelled because I died laughing.

 

  If that doesn't take you out, the seizure you'll have after the Raiders and Chargers tie will.

7 Tanier has the Rams losing…

Tanier has the Rams losing to the 9ers and the Cardinals beating the Seahawks.  That would mean that the Cards would win the NFCW and the Rams would NOT get a home playoff game in the first round and probably not in the second round if they advance.

The League will not let that happen!  South California is a tough place to build a fan base.

27 South California is a tough…

South California is a tough place to build a fan base.

Is it? Or is the problem that super-rich owners couldn't get the locals to pay for new stadiums in LA or San Diego, leading the teams to abandon these cities?

Based on past history, We're now ten years away from the NFL declaring that SoFi Stadium will fall apart without an infusion of public money, resulting in the Albuquerque Rams and the San Antonio Super Chargers (owned by Elon Musk).

53 If the NFL had any integrity…

If the NFL had any integrity they should not have allowed a home SB game to Brady's TB last year. 

No team playing in the SB should have home advantage, period. There should always be a neutral site available. Even if it's in Ciudad Juarez.

10 ???

How in the world should people view the Raiders as a whole negatively based upon Ruggs/Gruden? That could have happened to anyone and they swiftly removed them. I get that people dislike the Raiders by default but cmon man.

12 Don't forget Arnette

In reply to by sharky19

And just again this week Nate Hobbs arrested. 

They might just be awful at background checks

14 Raiders

As a Bills fan, I suspect I am gonna be rooting really hard for the Raiders on Sunday night. The Bengals are probably going to lie down against Cleveland, which means the Patriots can get the matchup they really want (Burrow in his first playoff start) by beating Miami. And if the Bills, Chiefs, Titans, and Colts all win, a Raiders win would send Vegas to Buffalo. As an added bonus, the cross-country trip just might take Bills-Raiders out of the running for that MNF spot.

19 The Raiders have won three…

The Raiders have won three straight games despite being -2 or worse in turnover differential in each game. Does that suggest that LV has actually been unlucky the last 3 games, and is better than the scores would indicate? Or does it suggest that LV has been getting lucky to win games while constantly losing turnovers?

23 When a team wins with a…

When a team wins with a negative TO margin I usually attribute it to good QB play. This season has been one of Derek Carr's best given everything that has happened around him. I felt the same about Lamar before his injury with that injury ravaged roster. For the sake of Raiders fans I really hope they don't trade Carr.

20 Also, Tanier should really…

Also, Tanier should really cut it out suggesting the refs gifted LV the win over DAL. The PI calls on Brown would have been called in any game, and it's not like LV didn't rack up tons of penalties on its own.

30 PIs on Brown

Except that they wouldn't have, because there is no consistency of rule interpretation among officiating crews, and sometimes not even within games.

You have crews like Shawn Hochuli's that throw a flag on every play, and crews like Bill Vinovich's that will let the occasional helmet to helmet/unnecessary roughness penalty go uncalled in a championship game.

22 Dare I scoff at the FOMBC?

Yeah, I think I will:  Wentz currently has ZERO interceptions in this season's seven away games.

If he goes pickless this weekend, he would be the ONLY NFL QB to ever do so.  Ever. 

That's not one of those "no interceptions through 317 pass attempts" or "...in his first 11 starts" synthetic stats.  It's all the away games in a full season. It's a suggestion that he has grown, that Reich is good for him (as well as OL pro and a good run game).  Promising stuff.  Also, his play action fakes are insanely good.

Then he goes and makes the pass that was the link in his 6th bullet point above. You say to yourself (especially when you watch the all 22 and can see where Hilton was open) why did he throw to Hilton so late?  Why did he underthrow so badly? (those two might be connected) How was it NOT intercepted? and How on earth did it result in a TD?  And also the gross overthrow of a wide open Hilton in the same game....

The man is a contradiction.  He's an onion, like Shrek. He is an enigma, wrapped in a riddle, wrapped in a mask.  cough.

37 Oh he has not been perfect by any stretch of the imagination

Yeah, I forgot about that one.

And the usual slew of pickable balls dropped. So luck has played its hand as well.

Frankly it's a little surprising that QBs who generally rack up single-digit INT numbers (Brady, Rodgers) haven't done this in their combined 33 seasons.

More a trivia quirk than anything, but still, not bad.  And any Colt fan would trade a few INTs Sunday for a W.

45 He really has been doing…

He really has been doing less panicky dumb shit as the season has worn on. Instead his mechanics have worn down badly such that he's only accurate on intermediate throws in rhythm. This team is good enough to make the playoffs and win a game if he just keeps it together but for them to really compete to go far they'll need him to figure that out at least partially. Quite a weird season and a weird player, definitely an enigma.

28 House of Cards

The potential rematch between the Cowboys and Cardinals looks scarier for Dallas by the day. JJ Watt and James Connor are looking healthier, while the Cowboys will be looking to have yet another "get right" game and convince themselves their offense is fixed by blowing out a lesser team. Not surprisingly, they've lost both of the games following their two other beatdowns against the Falcons and WFT.

Best thing that could happen for them would be a Rams loss and Cards win so they can face the Rams and capitalize off of some Stafford turnovers.

46 I appreciate the recent loss…

In reply to by Romodini

I appreciate the recent loss is fresh in the memory, but the Cardinals are currently #13 in Weighted DVOA, so not really a team to be feared (granted Kyler may be healthier now than he has been for some time). 

The Rams don't look like the powerhouse we thought they might be earlier in the season, but they are still the better all-round team.

47 DVOA aside, the Rams seem…

DVOA aside, the Rams seem like the better matchup due to their tendency to commit turnovers. The Cowboys strength is their ability to generate turnovers, score points off those turnovers, and keep the other team playing from behind. I think that favorable script is more likely to happen against the Rams than against the Cardinals.

48 DAL is as good as anyone…

In reply to by Romodini

DAL is as good as anyone when they can take the lead early and play ahead on defense, forcing other teams into pass-heavy situations enabling the DAL defense to take the ball away. It's no coincidence that DAL is 2-5 in games the other teams scores first (9-0 in games they score first), or that their defense is only 16th in first quarter DVOA. When they can't frontrun and other teams are able to open the playbook, running the ball and using play-action, the defense struggles.

51 This topic was written about this season earlier

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/does-scoring-first-in-the-nfl-make-you-a-good-team-or-do-good-teams-just-score-first/

Scoring first is very valuable, especially late this season when scoring was down (Thank you Giants QB’s and other backups among other things).  The fan contributor comments above are correct  and not surprising having read this article.

38 Is Crusher Wesley just a…

Is Crusher Wesley just a tanierism or do people actually call him that?, because that would be awesome.

58 Apparently

The Raiders are but the Saints arent.