Hopping off the Tua Tagovailoa Train
NFL Week 16 - The NFL gave us the gift of clarity over Christmas weekend.
The San Francisco 49ers are clearly far superior to the Washington Commanders, even with Brock Purdy at quarterback. The Kansas City Chiefs are clearly much better than the Seattle Seahawks, even when not playing at their best. The New England Patriots are clearly no match for the Cincinnati Bengals, no matter how many balls bounce their way. Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos are clearly in deep dookie.
The Minnesota Vikings are clearly better than the New York Giants, though the "two Spider-Men" meme clearly applies to these dueling impostors. And the Dallas Cowboys are clearly slightly-more-than-even with the temporarily-Gardner Minshew-led Philadelphia Eagles. It all came upon a midnight clear.
Sure, there were mild upsets: the Carolina Panthers caused a Detroit Lions blood-sugar crash, the Tennessee Titans' freefall continued, the Tua Tagovailoa choo-choo derailed, and so forth. But even the upsets weren't all that upsetting; it was not all that shocking to see the Green Bay Packers climb back into the playoff picture or the Miami Dolphins plummet further down the chimney toward a roaring fire.
Week 16 offered a much-needed respite for those of us who wanted to think (and write) a little less about football so we could enjoy more time with family and friends. The Super Bowl contenders remain who we think they are. Middling teams such as the Seahawks, Commanders, Lions, and Patriots kept middling. The NFL took a weekend off from being weird and unpredictable. Alleluia.
And with that, let's dig a little deeper into all of the Week 16 action.
The Miami Dolphins Have Crashed Head-First into Tua Tagovailoa's Ceiling
Tagovailoa played like November Tua until the 3:24 mark in the third quarter: one big play each for Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill, plenty of crisp work underneath to sustain a few drives. After he attempted an ill-advised Patrick Mahomes-style off-hand forward pitch at the end of a scramble for an incomplete pass, however, Tagovailoa forgot how football worked, throwing inexcusable interceptions to end three straight drives and hand the Packers a 26-20 victory on an afternoon when the Dolphins defense and running game played well. (Their special teams stunk, but that's another matter.)
Tagovailoa appeared destined for the Lefty Garoppolo treatment entering the season. He soon appeared to be enhancing the Tyreek Hill/Jaylen Waddle Experience with his quick release and ability to manipulate defenders with his eyes. Since DeMeco Ryans and the 49ers defense established a Tua-beating blueprint in Week 13, however, Tagovailoa has looked like a liability who is unable to adjust to press coverage on his receivers and zone defenders dropping into his throwing lanes.
Tagovailoa can still float passes to Hill and Waddle for occasional lightning-strike touchdowns, but who couldn't? Tagovailoa may be able to overcome C-plus arm strength or occasional pressing-too-hard slumps. The combination of both, however, could jeopardize all the strides he appeared to make this year.
For now, the Dolphins can safely be declassified as a serious threat to the AFC's Big Three, and they will need to watch themselves against the desperate Patriots and Jets over the next two weeks. Once the offseason arrives, the Dolphins will face the same "what to do with Tagovailoa?" problem they faced last year. The fact that Hill and Waddle only temporarily solved that problem should prompt the Dolphins to think twice before offering any nine-figure contracts.
Dallas Cowboys-at-Philadelphia Eagles Will Make a Great NFC Championship Game
The Cowboys proved that they can beat any team in the NFL on Saturday by climbing back from 10-0 and 27-17 deficits to beat the Eagles 37-34. The Cowboys spent Week 15 against the Jaguars and (let's face it) Week 14 against the Texans proving that they can lose to any team in the NFL, so their Christmas Eve comeback and late-game defensive stop were an encouraging change of pace.
The Eagles, meanwhile, illustrated that they are hardly helpless without Jalen Hurts. They should be able to wrap up homefield advantage in the NFC playoffs next week against the New Orleans Saints, who gave the world a welcome gift by eliminating the Cleveland Browns in a 17-10 snoozer.
The Eagles' biggest problems right now are sudden, newly developed habits of committing turnovers in bunches and making critical mistakes in high-leverage situations (like giving up a bomb to T.Y. Hilton on third-and-30). The Cowboys' biggest problem right now remains that there is nothing sudden or new about those habits for them.
Beware the Purdy-Girding Men
Kyle Shanahan, defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, and the San Francisco 49ers provided another clinic on how to win important games despite custodial quarterback play in their 37-20 over the Washington Commanders.
Brock Purdy started the game slowly but came around thanks to a 71-yard end around touchdown by Ray-Ray McCloud; lots of George Kittle (whom the Commanders could not cover, at all); two turnovers and two fourth-down stops from the 49ers defense; and the ability to safely settle for field goals after short drives while protecting a fourth-quarter lead. Purdy has thrown just 13 passes when trailing but 68 when leading. That's how you keep a novice quarterback from getting exposed.
The Commanders, meanwhile, illustrated the perils of dickering around with custodial quarterbacking for most of two (or five, or 30, depending on how you define "custodial") seasons. Carson Wentz replaced Tyler Heinicke in the fourth quarter on Saturday, which is sure to work out just fine for a totally stable organization in the process of frittering away its playoff hopes. (Dan Snyder is probably the only Wentz fan in Ashburn, Virginia, but he's the only one who matters.)
The 49ers may well crash that Eagles-Cowboys NFC championship party, because the 2022 NFL season will run out of games before Shanahan runs out of hide-the-rookie tricks.
Even Dark Foxborough Magic Can No Longer Help the New England Patriots
The Cincinnati Bengals took a 22-0 halftime lead on Saturday against the New England Patriots that felt like a 52-0 lead: the Bengals outgained the Patriots 303-70 in the first half but hampered themselves with a missed extra point, a failed two-point conversion, and a Joe Burrow red zone interception.
The eldritch horrors who lurk beneath Gillette Stadium awoke in the third quarter to do Bill Belichick's bidding, however. Suddenly Marcus Jones delivered a pick-six (after a Bengals third-and-1 conversion was negated by holding), chip-shot field goals began bending off course, and Mac Jones' Little League outfielder deep throws started ricocheting off Scottie Washington to Jakobi Meyers for touchdowns.
Even the Elder Gods of Foxborough cannot help those who refuse to help themselves, however. The Patriots joined the Bengals by missing an extra point and a two-point conversion, and they answered Ja'Marr Chase's late fourth-quarter fumble with one of their own in what ended as a 22-18 loss.
The only difference between the Patriots and the Jets right now, besides Foxborough juju, is that both the Patriots and Jets are absolutely convinced that the Patriots are better than the Jets. That difference gave the Patriots the tiebreaker which will probably keep them in the playoffs. But if the Patriots perform like they did on Saturday on the road against any of the AFC's Big Three, there won't be any close-call comebacks to speak of.
The Feel-Good Seattle Seahawks Story Felt Good While it Lasted
It truly did. But the Seahawks are now 1-5 over their last six games and have demonstrated their playoff unworthiness in back-to-back listless efforts against Super Bowl contenders. The Seahawks went 2-of-14 on third downs and 3-of-6 on fourth downs in their 24-10 loss to the Chiefs.
Tyler Lockett's absence after hand surgery was obvious on Saturday; there's a considerable drop-off from Lockett to (OMG he's still on a roster) Laquon Treadwell. Lockett may return next week (though that sounds like Pete Caroll's Christmas wish), but the Seahawks have now demonstrated just how narrow their margin for error is on offense. The real contenders are having little trouble generating offense with their backup quarterbacks; the Seahawks lose one wide receiver and suddenly can no longer score touchdowns until the fourth quarter.
The good news about the Seahawks' slump is that it may have prevented a false read on Geno Smith, who now looks much more like a quality bridge starter/mentor than the undiscovered Kurt Warner he appeared to be during his early-season hot streak. Whether or not they reach the playoffs, the Seahawks have much rebuilding to do. And finding a long-term quarterback solution should be part of that rebuilding project.
The Buffalo Bills Are Slowly Learning the Virtues Of Calming the Hell Down
Dear Buffalo Bills,
You don't need Josh Allen Dragon Ball Z tactics to beat most of your opponents.
In fact, the toss-a-meteor-into-the-galactic-core routine is often counterproductive, as inferior teams use Allen's turnovers to stay in games.
You run the football fairly well.
Your defense is great when not defending short fields.
Just play Normal Ball.
Though maybe not against the Bengals next Monday night.
You may need the Kamehemeha then.
Wishful Thinking Is Not Enough to Make the Detroit Lions Defense Good
The Panthers rushed for 240 yards in the first half alone in their 37-23 victory over the Detroit Lions.
We have been saying politely charitable things about the Lions defense throughout their second-half surge. "The offensive line is outstanding! Their game plans are brilliant! And their defense is, um, improving?" The Lions defense did produce better-than-average DVOA results against the Packers, Giants, Jaguars, and Bills, but they're probably best thought of as a high-volatility unit that can be slightly above average on their best days and wobbly bowling pins on their worst.
As for the Detroit offense, it ranked seventh in DVOA when "losing big" entering Saturday's loss, but it just doesn't look built to do more than generate backdoor covers once the Lions are forced to abandon the run.
The Lions, like the Seahawks, may benefit in the long run from an end-of-season course correction/reality check.
The Baltimore Ravens Are not Just Side Characters in Lamar Jackson Fanfic
A rumor that Lamar Jackson is unhappy and wants out of Baltimore spontaneously generated without a source late last week. It sounded like the sort of tall tale built out of talk-radio speculation and subreddit wishcasting: Lamar's gonna force a trade to the Jets! No, he's gonna get $300 million guaranteed now that the Ravens know how helpless they are without him! By Sunday night's telecast, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk landed on the theory that Jackson is being extra cautious with his health because he doesn't want to risk injury when not under contract beyond this season. That sounds like manufactured spin: extra cautious is just a loaded term for still injured.
The Ravens are refusing to play along with the fairytale: they are now 2-1 with Tyler Huntley at quarterback after Saturday's playoff-clinching 17-9 victory over the flatlining Atlanta Falcons. Huntley managed the game well while throwing to a receiving corps culled from the bottom of the 2019 Chiefs depth chart, and the Ravens defense has allowed just 45 points in its last four games, albeit to a quartet of awful offenses.
Jackson's return could make the Ravens playoff sleepers, though his own playoff performances of the past don't inspire confidence that he can lead them past the Big Three. As for the contract stuff, nothing has changed since the start of the season: Jackson wants full guarantees, the Ravens won't act against their own interests by offering them, the franchise tag gives the team all the leverage, and Jackson's lack of a traditional agent will make it hard for him to signal his true feelings and intentions without speaking on the record himself, which could invite its own set of problems.
The Tennessee Titans Are in Deep Trouble
The Ryan Tannehill Era is over, but the Malik Willis era hardly looks ready to begin. Willis has shown troubling little other than highlight scrambles in his spot starts. Treylon Burks has battled through a star-crossed rookie year, but he hasn't looked much like a WR1-in-the-making when healthy. Derrick Henry beat the Curse of 370, but building around a high-mileage workhorse back has its perils and limitations (for evidence, see: the 2022 Titans).
The Titans hoped to enter 2023 like the 2022 49ers: stacked all over and ready to hand the reins over to a gifted redshirt sophomore. They are now likely to enter next year looking like the 2022 Chicago Bears with Willis in the Justin Fields role and everyone else just waiting to be traded or replaced.
New York Giants Nonsense Only Makes Minnesota Vikings Nonsense Extra Nonsensical
Nothing could be more on-brand for the Minnesota Vikings than a last-second 27-24 victory on a 61-yard Greg Joseph field goal at home against an opponent with an inflated record in a close but oddly boring game. Look for the Vikings to do precisely the same thing to precisely the same opponent in the first round of the NFC playoffs.
Week 16 Awards
It's time for Walkthrough to give the gifts which won't be returned on December 26...
Defender of the Week
Draftniks absolutely adored Cobie Durant's athleticism coming out of South Carolina State, but the Rams' raw fourth-round cornerback couldn't get on the field early in the season. Let's have a look at that athleticism early in the 51-14 rout of the Denver Broncos...
Cobie Durant comes up with the INT 🔒
📺: #DENvsLAR on CBS/NICK
📱: Stream on NFL+ https://t.co/xXDYpCJpC1 pic.twitter.com/MUCnRziYCT
— NFL (@NFL) December 25, 2022
... and late in the same game, when there was nothing else to do except further humiliate the poor Broncos.
Decobie Durant scores his first career pick six on his second INT of the day.
Patrick, accordingly, went crazy. pic.twitter.com/PIxn5Sy1VA
— uSTADIUM (@uSTADIUM) December 26, 2022
Patrick from SpongeBob is the Al Michaels of calling Brett Rypien pick-sixes.
Offensive Line of the Week
The Panthers offensive line has slowly been rounding into shape for weeks. On Saturday, it helped D'Onta Foreman, Chuba Hubbard, and others rack up 320 rushing yards while holding the Lions without a sack. So let's hear it for Ickey Ekwonu, Brady Christensen, Bradley Bozeman, Austin Corbett, and Taylor Moton!
Special Teamer of the Week
Greg Joseph, Vikings: 61-yard game winning field goal, his 174th game-winner of the year.
Honorable mention goes to Keisean Nixon, whose 93-yard kickoff return was one of the few things that went right for the Packers in the first half of their victory over the Dolphins.
Burn This Play!
Say, does this look like a possible fake punt to you? With three punt protectors all bunched together and suspiciously close to the line of scrimmage and whatnot?
— highlight heaven (@lowdarkhell) December 25, 2022
Eh, don't worry about it. The Dolphins won't suspect a thing when you are punting from your own 20-yard line. Wait, a fake punt from your own 20-yard line? From a wonky formation? As Aaron Rodgers might say, R-E-L-A-X, the Packers will just win on a Tua Tagovailoa turnover spree.
Best Supporting Actor in Someone Else's Highlight
49ers receiver Jauan Jennings (15) clinched this week's BSASEH easily by tossing Darrick Forrest (22) out of the club like he was kicking George Bailey out of Martini's in the darkest-timeline sequence of It's a Wonderful Life:
How many @gkittle46 TDs today? ✌️
📺: #WASvsSF on CBS
📱: Stream on NFL+ https://t.co/pK8tdcJuBl pic.twitter.com/VesgOa7hBh
— NFL (@NFL) December 24, 2022
Rando of the Week
Bills offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey tantrum'd his way to a Walkthrough award earlier in the season:
#Bills OC Ken Dorsey LOST IT in the coaching booth. Oh my.pic.twitter.com/x1WcoSTY1c
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) September 25, 2022
Dorsey is back as Rando of the Week for his look of hair-pulling frustration after one of Josh Allen's attempts to throw the ball through a defender's abdomen on Saturday:
Ken Dorsey is a 1st ballot GIF Hall of Famer pic.twitter.com/YkZcZG9TnK
— Dan Fetes (@danfetes) December 24, 2022
Note that the Bills coaching staff also includes (background) a Sasquatch and (foreground) someone who looks like he sprinkles sativa gummies atop his Cheerios like strawberries.
Dorsey has not had a very impressive season, considering the talent he has had to work with, but he is likely to get lots of head-coaching interviews. If Dorsey gets a job before DeMeco Ryans, Walkthrough may just renounce the NFL for professional pickleball.
62 comments, Last at 28 Dec 2022, 11:50am
#1 by theslothook // Dec 26, 2022 - 4:25am
I don't watch cfb, but Tua was a name I had heard about early during the NFL regular season, as opposed to the end of the year around the cfb season or at the start of everyone's mock draft.
Just for comparison. I heard Lucks name for two straight regular seasons. I heard Lawrence's name for three. I heard about Stafford at the end of Georgia's season and I had heard about Flacco, Trubisky, and Carson Wentz during the draft mocks. I had never heard of Patrick Mahomes.
Its interesting, therefore, to hear Tua regarded as a C+ athlete and a player you need to scheme around when the phrase, "Tanking for Tua" was an actual thing. In fact, the Dolphins were being accused of it the minute they traded Minka and Tunsil.
Why would anyone be accused of tanking for a "second rate" athlete? Just how is it a player can be so well regarded in the draft and then in a span of a few years, be regarded as a weak athlete and that's the issue behind is struggles?
You draft athletes because you hope, in theory, they can pick up the flow of the game because you supposedly cannot teach athleticism. That's why Andy Dalton fell to the second round. But for Tua, somehow this didn't matter?
#10 by Aaron Brooks G… // Dec 26, 2022 - 9:31am
Tua is very accurate and had good awareness and mastery of the offense early.
But it turned out it’s a lot easier when all three of your WRs are better than any opposing DB and your line is full of pros.
He doesn’t have those advantages in the pros.
#36 by mehllageman56 // Dec 26, 2022 - 2:41pm
Tua still has athleticism to run around. Arm strength is his problem, and that didn't seem to be a problem in college before his injury... which is why he went 5th in his class, and possibly could have fallen either further if the Dolphins took Herbert instead. Since it was a hip injury, perhaps the lack of velocity was always there.
You draft athletes because you hope, in theory, they can pick up the flow of the game because you supposedly cannot teach athleticism. That's why Andy Dalton fell to the second round.
That's what happened with Zach Wilson.... and if the Jets had Tua instead of Zach they would have clinched a playoff spot already. Or 2012 Andy Dalton for that matter.
#2 by anthonytwotimes // Dec 26, 2022 - 8:07am
Amazing that FO has finally realized what most of the country has known since Tua entered the league…that he was trash and would always be trash. I don’t care what statistical analysis was given to him, it’s his receivers that make him. Any QB with Hill & Waddle would have his numbers and most would have considerably better numbers
#12 by Kaepernicus // Dec 26, 2022 - 10:32am
At what point do we start acknowledging that Brock Purdy is legitimately the best rookie QB in the 2022 draft class? He just led a pass first second half drubbing of the Commies where SF put up 30 points while completely imploding in the redzone due to a -8 expected point performance from Mike McGlinchey and text book Kyle Shanahan conservatism. The Commies just got their best defensive player back and had not allowed 30 points in an entire game since week 2 against the Lions. He led a 35 point offensive masterpiece in 31 minutes of game time against a TB team that hadn't allowed more than 27 points in a game since getting lit up by the Chiefs earlier in the year. He's 4-0 in games he's played 90%+ of snaps. He has a 114 QB rating, 67 Total QBR, 15% DVOA, and 71 PFF grade as a 7th round rookie. Almost all of this run has been against desperate playoff hunt teams with very high stakes in every game. He's making veteran plays regularly that I have literally never seen Jimmy make after 5+ years in this system.
His arm strength is at least average based on what I have watched during the games. His athleticism is much better than anything I was told by scouts leading up to the draft. His footwork is incredible on the move and in the pocket for a rookie. His ball placement has been Drew Brees level when he is in rhythm across all 4 games. He's been so good against the blitz that DCs have effectively stopped treating him like a rookie. His performance under pressure is the best I have seen from a rookie QB since Herbert in 2020. The traditional stats, advanced stats, and subjective grades all indicate one of the best rookie QBs we have seen in a while.
Washington shut down the 49ers running game outside of that one 71 yard end around. They had to throw the ball to score throughout that game. The best play Purdy made was an insane pressure escape that led to a 360 spin 15 yard behind the line throw away that saved the team from a huge loss of yards on a completely busted play. If literally any of the top 12 QBs in the NFL right now pulled that off it would be highlight real material on every channel and column.
One thing is certain. Scouts missed on this guy badly in their pre-draft projections. The only 2022 rookie QB that seems to be in his league is Pickett. Someone needs to explain to me why this is his ceiling vs. his floor. If this is his floor then the NFC is in trouble. Having a QB play this well while taking up 0.1% of the cap is the best case scenario for every team that can't find Mahomes, Allen, or Burrow.
EDIT: Forgot to add that he has played the last 2.5 games with a partially torn oblique that stopped him from practicing or throwing a football before warm ups in the Seattle game last Thursday.
#21 by bravehoptoad // Dec 26, 2022 - 11:55am
Pt. 1...Check! They have more than 3 games of film on him. Remember he played most of the Miami game, too, so they've got 3 3/4 games of film on him, by george.
Pt. 2...So, you're saying you'd give him his due as soon as next Sunday, right?
#19 by BlueStarDude // Dec 26, 2022 - 11:52am
It reminds me of Romo (including all of the "wait for more film on him" commentary), only Romo had three years of seasoning and this kid is thrown in the fire as a rookie.
This was such a weak QB class, he has a good chance of remaining the best in class permanently. I'm required to hate the 49ers because "The Catch" happened when I was like 8 and it was crushing, but it's impossible to root against him.
#25 by Kaepernicus // Dec 26, 2022 - 12:09pm
At first he reminded me of Jeff Garcia because it was an easy lazy comp. But since then he has reminded me of Romo. He has incredible natural instincts in the pocket and the ability to use all of his average arm strength from nearly any set of throwing conditions is insane. I remember watching Romo light the NFL up and no one wanted to believe it because he was undrafted. I have yet to see a reasonable objective take that explains why this is not real. I guess I can take solace in the fact that I will be able to win a lot more money betting on 49ers lines that are too low while the rest of the public catches up with this.
#23 by dank067 // Dec 26, 2022 - 12:07pm
Alright, I live in Iowa and watch a fair amount of Iowa State football - Brock Purdy was a decent athlete, not especially accurate, and he definitely wasn't disciplined in terms of his decision making or footwork. He was a very good starting QB by Iowa State's historical standards, but as crazy as it might sound, those Iowa State teams during his time there were actually pretty talented and they could have been a really, really good team if Purdy ever progressed as a player. He got dropped into that offense as a Freshman in 2018 and was immediately pretty good, but basically never demonstrated any improvement over 4 years as a starter. I'd keep that in mind as he continues to take snaps in SF :)
Just commenting on what I've seen from him in SF, he's made some nice throws and he generally looks like he's keeping his head out there. He's able to squeeze the juice Shanahan is giving him with the big YAC plays, maybe not unlike Jimmy. But I've already seen a couple of really bad interceptions that he was fortunate to have wiped off the board due to penalty, and the types of adventures he's been taking out of the pocket, well, a lot of them didn't end very well for him in the Big 12, and I assume that's gonna catch up with him here in the league. Nice story so far, though.
#29 by Aaron Brooks G… // Dec 26, 2022 - 1:09pm
He got dropped into that offense as a Freshman in 2018 and was immediately pretty good, but basically never demonstrated any improvement over 4 years as a starter. I'd keep that in mind as he continues to take snaps in SF :)
So he's a poor man's Justin Herbert?
#33 by bravehoptoad // Dec 26, 2022 - 2:11pm
What kind of coaching did he have at Iowa State? He's got some pretty good coaching now, in any case.
His accuracy, his decision making, his footwork--that's not what this particular amateur would be criticizing about his game now.
#48 by Kaepernicus // Dec 26, 2022 - 6:26pm
So I have stated a few times that I have an ISU alumni connection and watched a lot of him in college. I actually think the offensive talent and scheme at ISU under Campbell has been overrated. Purdy was the reason Hakeem Butler was drafted as a WR in the fourth round. Purdy just missed playing with Allen Lazard who has been proven as a legitimate NFL WR. Butler became a college superstar when Purdy was a freshman. Butler washed out of the league in under a year. Purdy did have 2 fantastic RBs, Hall and Montgomery, which had to help a lot with the types of defensive formations he dealt with on passing plays. It will be interesting to see how well Xavier does in the NFL after getting drafted and what Kolar will do now that he is off IR. I really thought Kolar was going to be good and he has spent the last 4 weeks inactive as far as I can tell on the Ravens. Seeing the surrounding receivers flame out and almost none of his O line get drafted or signed to any teams is kind of remarkable.
#64 by JimZipCode // Dec 27, 2022 - 10:46am
It will be interesting to see … what Kolar will do now that he is off IR. I really thought Kolar was going to be good and he has spent the last 4 weeks inactive as far as I can tell on the Ravens.
Kolar hasn't played at all. Frustrating: but ahead of him at his position on the depth chart he's got Mark Andrews, Josh Oliver (having his best sesaon), and Isaiah Likely. Seems like it will wind up being a wasted year for Kolar, though at least he's been able to practice.
It would be nice to “rationalize” the Ravens roster a little: give up two of their four good Tight Ends for one or two decent Wide Receivers.
#51 by Kaepernicus // Dec 26, 2022 - 6:42pm
Agreed on both. I am just searching for some stats or something to temper my excitement. I watched Nick Mullens and it wasn't even close to as good as this stretch from Purdy. I think I have only seen one 4 game stretch where Jimmy G was better. It's just wild that the SF offense has been this good for 4 weeks straight against tough competition. One of these days he's going to have a bad game. I was expecting it to be each of the past 3 for various reasons.
#32 by ChiRho // Dec 26, 2022 - 1:49pm
The jury is out on him being the best of the draft class, but these write-ups pretending that Purdy is not better than Jimmy are getting a little frustrating (as is whatever adjustment in the playoff odds there is for Purdy instead of Jimmy, unless that is an adjustment up).
He is a better and more willing thrower of the deep ball. He is more elusive (I saw at least two throwaways that would have been Jimmy sacks this past week). Did he throw a couple balls that could have been picked in the past few games? Sure, but Jimmy has done the same thing for years, and Jimmy has consistently underperformed in the playoffs. Our ceiling got higher this year when Purdy stepped in. Maybe defenses will figure out ways to confuse him and bring out rookie mistakes later on, but I trust Shanahan to bring out the best.
I’m not saying he’s King David or anointing him as the starter for the next decade like some are (can we see him in the playoffs or a tight game please?), and I still think Trey could end up being better, but given the roster around him and his coach, it should be the Cowboys who should have to crash the 49ers-Eagles NFCCG party, not the 49ers having to crash the Cowboys-Eagles NFCCG party (but I do respect the Cowboys’ ceiling).
#46 by dank067 // Dec 26, 2022 - 5:26pm
I'd personally be pretty surprised if Purdy is raising the ceiling on SF's offense because of anything to do with throwing deep - that really wasn't a strength of his game in college. I know he made a gorgeous throw up the sideline to CMC vs. the Bucs, but then the 2nd deep TD he threw in that game to Aiyuk looked pretty late and underthrown, so I don't know if that's an untapped skill or anything like that. I feel he's most comfortable letting it go on time over the middle in the short-to-intermediate zone, which is what Shanahan is generally going to ask him to do. If he gets it to those guys on time they're going to rack up a lot of YAC, but I don't think that's too much different than what they're doing with Jimmy.
#47 by Kaepernicus // Dec 26, 2022 - 6:06pm
That Aiyuk throw was open because he pump faked it and then literally had a guy crush him as he threw so he could not step into it. Most QBs don't even attempt that throw and honestly in the grand scheme of things it might have been smarter for his health to surrender on it. Also that came after his interception that was called back on a lucky defensive holding call. My parents are ISU alumni so I watched him a lot over the last 4 years. I literally didn't think much of him and thought he was a 5th round pick. When I say what did the draftniks miss I am including myself. His arm looks a lot stronger than it was at ISU. That throw he made to Kittle against the Commies in the endzone was a dime. I was literally looking for some real stats/tendency reasons to doubt this 4 game stretch of play. His continued excellence is ridiculous.
#66 by GoDog // Dec 27, 2022 - 2:43pm
I do believe that in the psyche of footballdom, there is no way a last pick QB (not just the last QB, but last pick) is going to come out of the gates with solid composed effective ability. There are TOO many experts, TOO many analysts, and TOO many egos that could have let a talent fall so far in the pecking order because they are TOO knowledgeable. Therefore, when the result is different than the expected outcome, they have to fall all over themselves as to why it didn't go as expected. Well, its the quality of the defense, it's the home field advantage (wait until he sees a tough crowd), it's the receivers, it's Shanahan's magic offensive, or wait until Jupiter gets out of alignment of Mars.
Hey, I thought the same as anyone else - he's the last pick and that means a work-in-progress at best. But, the moment he took the field with Garoppolo's unexpected injury, there was something different about him. He wasn't shell-shocked or flustered against a decent defense. The balls have found their way to reasonable target zones. There wasn't signs of a compressed or simplified playbook in use. It's true, he hasn't experienced a significant deficit (the Seahawks game stayed close, that's about as much drama he has experienced), but projecting he will fold isn't assured. And, nobody has really seen this out of the one player they were expecting it from, Trey Lance.
#13 by NoraDaddy // Dec 26, 2022 - 11:11am
Cowboys/Eagles NFC championship.
Since it's almost a given that the Eagles will be the 1 seed and Dallas the 5 seed, the only reasonable way this matchup happens is if the Vikings lose the wildcard game sending the Cowboys to SF instead of Philly for the Divisional round.
But then you say
Look for the Vikings to do precisely the same thing to precisely the same opponent in the first round of the NFC playoffs.
Which I agree with so that NFC championship matchup probably wont happen.
#14 by superglucose // Dec 26, 2022 - 11:21am
Cowboys/Eagles seems like a very unlikely NFCCG matchup to me.
Assuming the playoff position holds through to the playoffs, the Vikings would host the Commies and the 49ers would host the Giants. Assuming that the Cowboys win over the Buccs (or whomever the NFCS champ is), I would still take the Vikings over the Commies or the Giants (or Seahawks for that matter, or the Lions idk). That would mean the Cowboys would face the Eagles in the 2nd round in the most likely scenarios.
(This aside from the fact that I don't think the Cowboys are favored if they have to come to Santa Clara in the second round, though obviously as a 49ers fan I'm hopeful for a 2nd round matchup against the Vikings)
#63 by Oncorhynchus // Dec 27, 2022 - 1:24am
Current playoff positions are unlikely to hold through Week 18. The most likely seeding scenarios is: Eagles, 49ers, Vikings, Panthers/Bucs, Cowboys, Giants, Packers/Commanders/Lions/Seahawks.
That assumes 49ers win out (vs LV and ARI) and Vikings drop at least one with the Packers game most likely. (The Packers are currently 3 point favorites.) That makes Packers v Lions for all the marbles the betting favorite for the season-closing Sunday Night Football game in Week 18 (assuming the Lions don't let Justin Fields run all over them), but also makes the WC outcomes is descending order of likeliness: Cowboys over NFC South (most certain), 49ers over the 7 seed (if it's the Packers an upset would still be an upset but would surprise me less than the Cowboys not advancing, otherwise I'd put this in the same tier as Cowboys), and Vikings over Giants (closer to a coinflip). The Eagles would be rooting for the Giants in that case.
But I still tend to agree that it's more likely that the Cowboys and Eagles meet in the Divisional Round rather than NFCCG in that scenario. As an Eagles fan, the only team among the group competing for 6 and 7 seeds that gives me the least bit pause is the Packers. They're getting hot (hottish? warm?) at the right time of year. But given that they only get in if they beat the Vikings in the regular season, that also means it's unlikely they'll play the Vikings as the 2 seed in the playoffs, and so the Eagles have nothing to fear from getting embarrassed by the 7 seed in the Divisional Round.
There's only 3 teams to be scared of in the NFC. Given the most likely outcomes, I wonder if the Niners are actually in a more favorable spot as a potential 2 seed. Would you rather have to 1) win 2 games at home against mediocre competition and 1 game on the road against tough competition, or 2) win 2 games at home against tough competition?
Anyway, I say this as a diehard Eagles fan: Go Giants! If the Eagles lock up the 1 seed next week as they should, I'd expect the level of effort from their backups in Week 18 to be something more akin to the Pro Bowl than the Superbowl.
#18 by anotheroldguy // Dec 26, 2022 - 11:43am
Hill HM as BSASEH. Look at his blocking on Waddle's long TD. No, it's not Jennings throwing 22 out of the club, but the makeup speed that does exactly what's needed to keep the DB from reaching Waddle is what makes that TD happen, and something almost nobody else could do.
#50 by Tutenkharnage // Dec 26, 2022 - 6:29pm
Agreed. Having watched Hill and Waddle run their routes before they disappeared off the left edge of my TV screen, all I could think of when the ball was thrown was that Hill would be in prime position to spring Waddle for a touchdown … and, sure enough, he did!
#22 by big10freak // Dec 26, 2022 - 11:57am
Interesting element of Packer game is that Dean Lowry left the game with an injury meaning more snaps for Wyatt. Pretty much everyone watching GB games (writers, bloggers, fans) were wondering why Wyatt wasn’t seeing more action as he flashed well in his limited opportunities
And lo and behold the Packers run D improved and the pass rush also generated more pressure
This continues a trend of guys on the bench outplaying the starter and it taking injury or extreme poor play for the sub to get a chance. Even with the starter not producing
#26 by dank067 // Dec 26, 2022 - 12:28pm
Before this season, the Packers under LaFleur seemed to be doing a really nice job using their personnel and putting players into position to succeed. This year has been discouraging in that department at multiple levels (how did it take them so long to put Nixon in on returns?!?), but it's nice to see Wyatt playing well out there. It's a much lower profile role than Campbell and Douglas last year, but they also seem to have found a solid waiver wire pickup in Justin Hollins. Little things that have helped keep them in the race.
#27 by big10freak // Dec 26, 2022 - 12:42pm
Amari should have been replaced during the off-season much less needing to fail spectacularly for a half season to be replaced. Fwiw Nixon had never returned punts before this season. And the only person suggesting Nixon as an option was Nixon whose basic message to the coaching staff was, “I know I can do better than THAT”.
#24 by big10freak // Dec 26, 2022 - 12:09pm
I watch a fair amount of college football played in the Midwest. Purdy as a collegian was accurate, made mostly good decisions, and tough. But a bit limited as his arm is so so and he would have what could be best termed “risk spasms”. Situations where his actions were inexplicable.
Definitely underdrafted. With good coaching and surrounding talent he has the skill set to be an effective pro starter.
#34 by whocares4 // Dec 26, 2022 - 2:15pm
"Wanting to see Deshaun Watson fail" is as unified as the world will ever get on anything. I think Mike was just assuming that even Browns fans don't want to be included on a list of people rooting for his success that would go "creeps, rapists, and Browns fans."
(All I mean is, I would assume even Browns fans would be rooting for him to implode and lose his job rather than tiptoe into a first round playoff loss and have to spend another year cheering for him.)
#35 by herewegobrowni… // Dec 26, 2022 - 2:25pm
He would be assuming wrong, as would you.
I don't see how the public opinion against the rest of the team (i.e. reddit's general NFL board censoring any positive Browns highlights, including ones that exclude Watson, while promoting the safety on Chubb) can be seen as anything other than overkill, particularly since they ignore every other team (besides the well-known examples like Ben, Kraft, Punt God-which ironically came out right after Tanier wrote an article extolling the virtue of the Bills vs. the Browns- etc, look up Roquan Smith's accusation, for instance.)
#40 by whocares4 // Dec 26, 2022 - 3:21pm
Sure, most of pro sports teams have players on their roster who did bad things. Two differences:
1) As the poster below points out, the Browns sought out Watson even while knowing he was accused AND had yet to face any consequences. The other players/owners you mention were already on those teams and fans were stuck with them. I might be able to understand you if as a fan you had already invested time and enthusiasm in him. It'd still be ugly, but it would be intelligible. CHOOSING to root for him knowing the accusation is genuinely shocking.
2) The scope and intensity of what Watson is accused of is an order of magnitude worse than the people you mention, all of whom did horrible horrible horrible things.
I have no idea if it's overkill or not, all I know is... who gives a shit if it's overkill? He sucks and everyone in their right mind is rooting for him to fail. It's like cheering for Bill Cosby or R. Kelly.
#42 by herewegobrowni… // Dec 26, 2022 - 3:32pm
Half of the league was trying to acquire him knowing his misdeeds, once he was cleared of facing criminal charges for them.
Also, incorrect on the Bills not knowing on Punt God.
I was referring to the rest of the team on the "overkill" thing. You don't care if a guy like Nick Chubb takes blowback from this?
Cosby/R.Kelly are yet another order of magnitude up.
#45 by mehllageman56 // Dec 26, 2022 - 4:27pm
Kraft's crime was a lot less morally reprehensible than the others on your list. It was incredibly stupid (especially going there on the day of the AFC championship game), but in my view using a consenting prostitute is less morally heinous than rape, sexual assault, and even sexual harassment, which Jerry Richardson and Dan Syder were accused of.
#44 by BigRichie // Dec 26, 2022 - 4:07pm
There is one point here. There are teams who also wanted Watson but the Browns (barely) outbid them.
I can root against the Browns because that is where Watson is now. But I'm not going to judge them as a franchise all that much more harshly than those that they (barely) outbid.
#61 by theslothook // Dec 26, 2022 - 9:19pm
A few weeks back, I watched Watson play purely through the lens of football. When I was about to share my thoughts, I got an overwhelming response that was basically in the vein of, "F#%' that guy". Even some hopeing he'd snap his leg in half and never see the field again.
I can't bring myself to actively root for an injury. Maybe that's a failing on me, but I also realized there's never going to be a way to divorce ourselves from what Watson has done. And that point, I realized the football part of it was moot.
#41 by whocares4 // Dec 26, 2022 - 3:24pm
I think of them as part of The AFC Big 3 in the same way the early/mid-00s Broncos were part of The AFC Big 3 back then alongside the Colts and Pats. There was a stretch where the Broncos were pretty good (though not exceptional) but they had one special characteristic: a knack for beating the seemingly unbeatable Pats. The Bengals find themselves in the same spot by virtue of their knack for beating the similarly daunting Chiefs.
#53 by PirateFreedom // Dec 26, 2022 - 7:23pm
Historical comparison is a fun game.
My impression is Burrows-Mahomes as the new Brady-Manning.
Josh Allen Bills are too high variance, they can beat anyone but a high turnover mistake game is too possible.
With Bengals-Chiefs I'm reminded of Pats-Colts even to the point where the not MVP keeps beating the MVP.
Chargers had that high variance nature, so that's who I see the Bills as.
#58 by Raiderfan // Dec 26, 2022 - 8:10pm
“the early/mid-00s Broncos were part of The AFC Big 3 back then alongside the Colts and Pats”
LOL. The Steelers did much better than the Broncos. Between 2001-10 they went to five AFCC games and won two SB.
#60 by JoelBarlow // Dec 26, 2022 - 8:19pm
the endless pats dynasty really ate up so much NFL history, plus you had guys like Rodgers and B Roseth that had somewhat bizarre 2010s, meeting in a super bowl after the 2010 season and then neither getting back
#49 by Tutenkharnage // Dec 26, 2022 - 6:27pm
Last year’s AFC Super Bowl rep? The team with the conference’s best receiving weapons and third-best quarterback? The team that is one of three with a chance to clinch HFA in the AFC with two weeks to go? Yeah, it’s probably them.
#52 by Kaepernicus // Dec 26, 2022 - 6:52pm
Outside of the Bills they are the most complete team in the AFC. KC is great because of the best offense in the NFL. Their defense has been pretty bad this year. The Bengals also made the SB last year with a much worse team.
#54 by BroncosGuyAgain // Dec 26, 2022 - 7:34pm
Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos are clearly in deep dookie.
This is only 50% correct. The Denver Broncos are clearly in deep dookie.
Russell Wilson just stripped naked, converted $1 million into Franklins, doused himself in honey and piloncillo, rolled around in the bills then gave the universal index finger "come here" motion to his drop-dead gorgeous wife. He's fine.
#57 by young curmudgeon // Dec 26, 2022 - 8:05pm
Highly educational comment. Despite being reasonably familiar with Mexican spices, I had not encountered "piloncillo" before, and I did not know who Russell Wilson's wife is or what she looks like. A few moments with Google, and I am now better informed.
#68 by BroncosGuyAgain // Dec 27, 2022 - 7:11pm
Thanks. I'm pretty sure I was going for "obnoxious snark" rather than "educational", but I am warmed by the thought my comment resulted in something positive. Most of my comments result in the opposite.
#55 by Kaepernicus // Dec 26, 2022 - 7:37pm
Word is Tua was suffering from a concussion in the second half. If that is true he may need to reevaluate if he should continue being a QB for his own safety. Listening to Aikman talk about what he has gone through after all the concussions was pretty depressing. If he was concussed that could explain some of the really bad decisions he made in the 4th quarter.
#62 by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Dec 26, 2022 - 10:05pm
Sounds like the head injury roughly aligns with the timing of Tua's decision-making going south during the game. Hardly surprising that a guy still playing after a concussion suddenly stops looking as competent as he looked before getting hurt.
#56 by BroncosGuyAgain // Dec 26, 2022 - 7:40pm
Defender of the Week
Decobie Durant's incredibly athletic play on the first interception manages to place him, in aggregate -- by a nose -- ahead of Russell Wilson's nearly singular incompetence on the same two plays.
#65 by jheidelberg // Dec 27, 2022 - 12:01pm
What a difference a day makes. I was unavailable to read this article until just now.
I am not a Tua defender but he did throw 3 straight concussed interceptions. He has clearly proven that he is better than Teddy Bridgewater, but not with a concussion.
Disgraceful Miami! No one noticed his head hitting the ground earlier in the game? What are you watching?