Wild-Card Preview: 49ers Poised for a Run

San Francisco 49ers ER Nick Bosa
San Francisco 49ers ER Nick Bosa
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Wild Card - In this Wild-Card First-Look Preview edition of Walkthrough:

  • Justin Herbert versus Trevor Lawrence? After all of those layoffs at Twitter? Terrible idea.
  • Tom Brady hosts the Dallas Cowboys in the perfect playoff game for your grandpa to fall asleep on the couch while watching.
  • Geno Smith and the Seattle Seahawks draw the short straw to face the San Francisco 49ers after Dan Campbell crams Aaron Rodgers' straw up his tuchus.
  • Great news, Miami Dolphins: you squeaked into the playoffs! Now are you ready for the bad news? It involves Buffalo in mid-January.
  • New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings, because the NFL said so.
  • OK, Lamar Jackson. You proved your point. The Baltimore Ravens need you to beat the Cincinnati Bengals. Can you come back now? Please?

Plus Burn This Play, end-of-year awards, and the Houston Texans throwing themselves at the ground and missing.

Shall we get straight to the wild-card preview capsules?

Alrighty then.

Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers
Saturday, January 14, 4:30 p.m.

Opening Line: 49ers (-9.5)

Seattle Seahawks 2022 Season in a Nutshell

First, they looked like a feel-good post-Russell Wilson breakup story. Then they briefly looked like serious playoff contenders. Then they looked like frauds. Finally, they won two straight games, including Sunday's 19-16 overtime victory against the Rams, to once again look like a slightly fraudulent feel-good post-Russell Wilson breakup story that snuck into the postseason when the Packers played like Chumpzilla at home against the Lions on Monday night.

49ers 2022 Season in a Nutshell

Everything makes more sense if you pretend that Trey Lance and Brock Purdy are the same person and this was the plan all along.

49ers Vibe on Offense

There's a chance that Purdy is already turning into a pumpkin, but Kyle Shanahan is brewing pumpkin spice latte. Watch the 49ers offense closely and you'll see periodic brownouts, a few rookie lumps, and lots of settling for field goals. Then George Kittle breaks a tackle, Christian McCaffrey makes magic happen on a screen, or Trent Williams and the line clamp down so Purdy can execute one of Shanahan's custom-tailored deep shots.

Seahawks Vibe on Defense

On paper, none of it should work. On the field, youngsters such as Tariq Woolen and journeymen such as Uchenna Nwosu provide enough turnovers and sacks to keep even opponents like the 49ers (who scored 48 combined points in two victories) from running away with games.

Seahawks Vibe on Offense

Geno Smith is no longer channeling Drew Brees, but he's doing a fine Ryan Fitzpatrick impersonation as the mobile, unpredictable veteran who can both work within structure and improvise a little bit.

When Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, Noah Fant, and Kenneth Walker are healthy, Smith has plenty of clubs in his bag, and the Seahawks are unpredictable as long as they stay ahead of the sticks. Depth is an issue, however, particularly at wide receiver.

49ers Vibe on Defense

If you can protect your quarterback, and if you can run well enough to retain some semblance of balance, you may be able to exploit a 49ers secondary that ranks 27th at stopping deep passes and 30th against No. 3/No. 4 receivers. It is highly unlikely, however, that you will be able to protect your quarterback and run well enough.

49ers YAC note

The 49ers remain an outstanding YAC-producing team, but they have not become historically reliant on YAC now that Purdy has taken over. The 49ers average depth of target (entering Week 18) of 6.8 yards was the sixth lowest in the league; the Chargers, Giants, Buccaneers, and Bengals (two of those teams should surprise you) had lower aDOT. The 49ers led the NFL with 6.6 yards after catch per reception, but the Chiefs were narrowly behind them by hundredths of a decimal. Deebo Samuel (likely available for the playoffs) led all wide receivers with 8.6 YAC per reception, while Christian McCaffrey was 11th among running backs entering Week 18 at 8.0.

Seahawks Special Teams Note

Thanks to Michael Dickson and coverage units which allowed just 5.9 yards per return, the Seahawks netted 44.4 yards per punt, the second-best figure in the NFL (Chiefs).

Early Prediction

It's hard to beat an opponent three times in one season. It's even harder to imagine the Seahawks finding a way to beat the 49ers. 49ers-Packers would have been a more compelling matchup, but the Packers proved unworthy of even getting the chance to be humiliated by the 49ers this time around.

The Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs clinched the first-round byes and the Buffalo Bills played inspired football on Sunday, but the 49ers are currently the best team in the NFL, rookie quarterback be darned.

Los Angeles Chargers at Jacksonville Jaguars
Saturday January 14, 8:15 p.m.

Opening Line: Jaguars (+2.5)

Chargers 2022 Season in a Nutshell

How it Really Happened: A rash of injuries, particularly at receiver and on the offensive line, prevented Justin Herbert from having the MVP-caliber breakout that many expected as the Chargers sputtered to a 6-6 start. Several veterans got healthy in the second half, however, including Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, allowing the Chargers to waltz into a wild-card spot on the backs of some fading late-season opponents.

How Twitter Thinks it Happened: Justin Herbert single-handedly dragged a bunch of addle-brained stumblebums who would have gone negative-6-and-23 without him to the playoffs, and it's a travesty that there are not already Gothic cathedrals named in his honor.

Jaguars Season in a Nutshell

The Jaguars replaced 1980s prime-time soap-opera villain Urban Meyer with the affably competent Doug Pederson and instantly leapt from 3-13 to the top of the AFC South! It's as simple as that!

Oh, and the Jaguars also rebuilt their entire receiver corps through free agency. And got Travis Etienne back after he missed his rookie year. Rookies such as Travon Walker and Andre Cisco have also been a factor.

Come to think of it, some second-year improvement from Trevor Lawrence was likely, no matter who was coaching. And the Jaguars started 3-7, so their improvement was hardly instantaneous. Plus, they caught the Jets with Zach Wilson and the Titans with Josh Dobbs down the stretch.

So … maybe we are making a little too much of the Meyer-to-Pederson thing. Which is fine, because shaming Meyer is appropriate and fun.

Anyway, the Jaguars clinched the AFC South on Saturday night by overcoming multiple mistakes (a fumble on a Silly Special, Lawrence missing a wide-open Zay Jones in the end zone, etc.) to beat the Titans 20-16 on a fourth-quarter fumble return by Josh Allen.

Jaguars Vibe on Offense

Lawrence still displays his inexperience at times, especially when it comes to ball security, but makes throws that only about five other quarterbacks can make. He has also become more decisive and consistent as the season wears on. Christian Kirk is an adequate go-to guy, while other Jaguars receivers take turns alternating between surprising and disappointing and Etienne mixes big plays with fumbles. The offensive line is showing signs of collapse since Walker Little replaced Cam Robinson at left tackle.

Chargers Vibe on Defense

The Chargers defense ranked second in DVOA from Week 13 through Week 17. Like the offense, the Chargers defense has improved as some starters (Joey Bosa) got healthier while others (Michael Davis) have stepped up late in the year.

A Sunday injury to Bosa could prove costly for the Chargers.

Chargers Vibe on Offense

Coordinator Joe Lombardi loves horizontal passing concepts, in part to protect the rookie-laden offensive line, in part because he's just a sideways kind of guy. The Chargers averaged 6.3 air yards per pass attempt entering Week 18, the lowest figure in the league.

The Chargers running game, meanwhile, ranked 26th in second-level yards. So there is much dinking, dunking, 4-yard Austin Ekeler rushing and waiting for Herbert heroics.

A Sunday injury to Williams could prove costly for the Chargers. Brandon Staley is one of those NEVER-EVER RISK A STARTER IN A PRESEASON GAME coaches, but he had multiple starters on the field for a meaningless game on Sunday.

At least Herbert didn't get hurt; smartphones and laptops across the country would have burst into flames.

Jaguars Vibe on Defense

Allen and Walker headline a speedy edge rush. Rayshawn Jenkins produced game-winning plays against the Cowboys (overtime tip-drill pick-six) and Titans (he forced the fumble that Allen returned), but the back seven is extremely vulnerable; the Jaguars pass defense entered Week 18 ranked 29th in DVOA.

A Jaguars Dropped Pass Note

The Jaguars entered Week 18 tied with the Browns and Dolphins for the most dropped passes in the NFL with 37. They were only eighth in dropped pass rate, however, because the Jaguars threw more passes than many other teams.

Zay Jones finished the season with 12 drops (these numbers are final), Christian Kirk with six, and Evan Engram with five.

A Chargers Special Teams Note

DeAndre Carter averaged just 19.1 yards on 26 kickoff returns entering Week 18. As a result, the Chargers' average starting field position after a kickoff was the 24.38-yard line, second-worst (Broncos) in the NFL.

Early Prediction

The Chargers are just a more highly evolved version of the Jaguars, so Walkthrough leans toward taking Herbert and company and laying the points. The Williams and Bosa injuries cloud the picture, however. Whatever the result, the Internet popularity of Herbert and Lawrence guarantee that this game will be half as entertaining as your timeline will claim it is.

Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Monday, January 16, 8:15 p.m.

Opening Line: Buccaneers (+3)

Dallas Cowboys 2022 Season in a Nutshell

When Dak Prescott was injured, the Cowboys were pesky, resilient, and resourceful, winning games with a sack-happy defense and clever game plans from coordinator Kellen Moore and maybe head coach Mike McCarthy. Then Prescott returned and the Cowboys went back to being the overdramatic mistake-prone meme factory we all know and love.

Though when you think about it, playing better with the white backup quarterback in the lineup just made the Cowboys even MORE of an overdramatic meme factory.

Buccaneers 2022 Season in a Nutshell

It was as if someone created a little therapeutic space for Tom Brady where he could still be the Eternal Champion, and they called it the NFC South.

Buccaneers Vibe on Offense

Fifty-five minutes of a running game that would bore a 1950s high school coach and lots of creaky-cranky Brady scowls, followed by five minutes of Gandalf shit.

Cowboys Vibe on Defense

Micah Parsons, Tank Lawrence, Dorance Armstrong, and Dante Fowler stir the drink. Trevon Diggs, Donovan Wilson, and Malik Hooker headline a capable secondary. Slot cornerback DaRon Bland looked like a weak link against the Packers but intercepted five passes in his last six games.

Cowboys Vibe on Offense

Prescott led the NFL with 15 interceptions (tied with Davis Mills) despite playing just 12 games, throwing a pick-six early in a not-at-all meaningless Week 18 loss to the Commanders. But some of those interceptions were not his fault, which means interceptions do not matter at all in quarterback evaluation, and shame on us for mentioning it.

You probably know the rest: Tony Pollard is more effective than Ezekiel Elliott but gets fewer touches because Jerrah; CeeDee Lamb is the only true go-to receiver (though the others are more "below average" than "the Bears"); Moore and McCarthy ran out of new ideas in early October.

Buccaneers Vibe on Defense

No longer Super Bowl-caliber but capable of holding weaker opponents to 16 points per game.

Buccaneers First-Down Rushing Note

The Bucs averaged just 3.6 yards per first-down rush entering Week 18, tied with the Colts for the lowest figure in the NFL. They ranked 29th in first-down rushing DVOA but fifth in first-down passing DVOA. Perhaps Todd Bowles and coordinator Byron Leftwich could use this information to shape game-planning a bit. They really have not so far.

Cowboys Red Zone Note

The Cowboys finished the season with 40 red zone touchdowns on 56 trips. The Eagles went 1-of-5 in the red zone on Sunday to finish with 40 touchdowns on 59 trips to give the Cowboys the best red-zone conversion percentage in the NFL.

Early Prediction

The Cowboys should rip the Buccaneers to shreds in this Casual Fan Bowl. The Cowboys pass rush should send Brady scampering off to the broadcast booth while Dak/Lamb/Pollard score the 23 points generally needed to put a Buccaneers game out of reach. But the Bucs beat the Cowboys 19-3 in the season opener, and the chance that the Cowboys get swept up in the Brady-ness of things and swept out of the playoffs cannot be understated.

Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills
Sunday, January 15, 1 p.m.

Opening Line: Bills (-10)

Dolphins 2022 Season in a Nutshell

Let's see … there was Unstoppable Tua, Concussed Tua, Figured-Out Tua, Figured-Out AND Concussed Tua, plus various Teddy Bridgewater and Skylar Thompson misadventures.

The 2022 Dolphins remind me of the Chip Kelly Eagles in many ways. They caught the NFL by surprise for a few months. Then opponents learned their limitations, and Kelly could never counter-adjust.

Kelly's Eagles lost their only playoff appearance in 2013 and spent the next two seasons slowly unraveling amid power struggles. Could that happen to the Dolphins? Have you followed the Dolphins franchise over the past few days/months/decades?

Bills 2022 Season in a Nutshell

The Super Bowl favorites entering the season, the Bills had a solution for just about every problem, even the ones they worked very hard to cause for themselves.

Bills Vibe on Offense

The reason superheroes never use their most powerful attacks until the movie's final act is because they don't want to look like Josh Allen. Allen led the NFL in deep-passing DYAR (749) and entered Week 18 seventh in deep-passing DVOA but ranked 12th in short-passing DYAR (733) and 19th in short DVOA.

When Allen isn't attempting to punch holes in the sun (too often throwing interceptions that kept opponents in the game as a result, as he did again on Sunday against the Patriots), the Bills sometimes remember to run the ball and throw underneath to easily pull away from weaker teams. Then they forget and bust out the Snyder Cut tactics the following week.

Dolphins Vibe on Defense

Tough against the run, ordinary against the pass, not quite as reliant on the blitz to provide pressure as it was before Bradley Chubb arrived.

Dolphins Vibe on Offense

Skylar Thompson specializes in running for his life and heaving off his back foot. Tua Tagovailoa appeared to be rediscovering his rhythm before getting injured against the Packers. It's not clear which Dolphins offense will show up in the playoffs, but odds are it won't be the Greatest Show on South Beach that we saw in late October.

Bills Vibe on Defense

Von Miller is long gone, Tre'Davious White has never quite been himself (despite a key Week 18 interception), but the Bills defense remains sound from top to bottom. Playing with the lead helps keep opponents unbalanced: entering Week 18, the Bills averaged a 7.06-point lead when their defense was on the field, the highest figure in the NFL.

Bills Special Teams Note

The Bills punted just 46 times in 2022, by far the lowest figure in the NFL.

Dolphins Special Teams Note

The Dolphins average just 5.8 yards per punt return and 18.1 yards per kickoff return. Jason Sanders finished the season 2-of-6 from 50-plus yards, though he made the last one count.

Early Prediction

That line may be a little rich if Tagovailoa returns, but these aren't the Dolphins who played the Bills to a close split in the regular season, and there's no way they're pulling off a road upset in the playoffs.

New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings
Sunday, January 15, 4:30 p.m.

Opening Line: Vikings (-3)

Giants 2022 Season in a Nutshell

How Giants Fans Saw It: Wow, Brian Daboll did a great job rebuilding the team culture while Joe Schoen erased lots of cap mistakes. Now it's time to get serious at quarterback and the skill positions!

How National Observers Saw It: Wow, Brian Daboll did a great job rebuilding the team culture while Joe Schoen erased lots of cap mistakes. Now it's time to get serious at quarterback and the skill positions!

How John Mara Saw It: Daniel Jones is Eli Manning II and Saquon Barkley is Jim Brown. Bestow upon them the budget-busting contracts! Tradition and continuity are what make us great!

Vikings 2022 Season in a Nutshell

The luckiest bunch of flukes to ever luck their way into a fluky lucky division title.

Also, a veteran team full of guys with Pro Bowl pedigrees who have played together for a long time, which might at least partially explain some of the narrow victories and fourth-quarter comebacks.

Vikings Vibe on Offense

Solid, balanced opening drive; mediocre rest-of-first-half; turnover-filled third-quarter disaster; inexplicable fourth-quarter transformation into the 2007 Patriots.

Giants Vibe on Defense

Dexter Lawrence, rookie late-season sensation Kayvon Thibodeaux, and the front four smash everything in sight. What they cannot smash turns around to bite the Giants.

Giants Vibe on Offense

Four-yard Barkley run on first down. Four-yard Jones scramble or designed run on second down. Carefully constructed 3-yard toss to Richie James on third down. Repeat until the Washington Commanders beat themselves.

Vikings Vibe on Defense

Coordinator Ed Donatell encourages his defense full of savvy-but-pokey veterans to bend like a silly straw, but not break. The Vikings ranked 29th in DVOA against short passes and 29th against WR1s entering Week 18

Vikings Penalty Note

The Vikings entered Week 18 with the best net penalty yardage differential in the NFL at +258. Opponents were flagged for pass interference against the Vikings 11 times for 158 yards and defensive holding 11 times for 55 yards entering the final week. Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen coaxed four DPI penalties each from defenders. The Vikings offense had been flagged for holding just 11 times, the second-lowest figure in the NFL.

Giants Special Teams Note

Graham Gano was 8-of-9 on 50-plus-yard field goal attempts.

Early Prediction

The Vikings managed to draw the least threatening of the NFC wild-card teams. Now all they must do is beat a team they needed a last-second field goal to defeat 27-24 in Week 16 in a rematch. Of course, the Vikings need last-second field goals to defeat everyone. Walkthrough is leaning toward the Giants: if we don't get the upset, at least we get a push if this game ends like all other Vikings games (except for the ones in which they are mortally embarrassed by actual playoff-caliber competition).

Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals
Sunday, January 15, 8:15 p.m.

Opening Line: Bengals (-5.5)

Ravens 2022 season in a nutshell

Lamar Jackson's contract squabble and knee injury cast a gloomy shadow over the team's season and future. Gossip-mongers perceive Jackson's lonnnnng convalescence as quiet quitting or a business decision, which reflects poorly on both Jackson and the organization. The Ravens will go nowhere with Tyler Huntley (let alone Anthony Brown) in the playoffs, but Jackson's absence cost the team winnable December/January games and left them behind the playoff-seeding 8-ball.

Bengals 2022 Season in a Nutshell

They're the defending AFC champions. They employ two of the NFL's most exciting young stars in Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase. They overcame an 0-2 start and a midseason Chase injury to win 12 games. But the Bengals are a small-market team with a miniscule fanbase, which is why we placed this capsule last.

Bengals Vibe on Offense

Burrow learned to manage the pocket better when his offensive line was still wearing name tags at the start of the season. He also grew more comfortable working underneath when Chase was gone. Zac Taylor finally turned to Page 2 of the rushing section of his playbook in midseason and got positive results from both Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine.

Both Taylor and Burrow appeared to unlearn those lessons a bit late in the season, especially after Hakeem Adeniji stepped in for injured La'el Collins at right tackle. A Week 18 injury to guard Alex Cappa merits monitoring.

Ravens Vibe on Defense

Still sturdy but buckling under the weight of trying to win 17-9 and 13-3 games, and also very vulnerable to the deep ball: the Ravens rank 31st in DVOA against deep passes entering Week 18. That's not a weakness you want against this particular opponent.

Ravens Vibe on Offense

With Jackson: A top-10 unit, despite a receiver corps that reads like a 2018 fantasy bench, at least until it's time to convert a critical fourth-and-1, when Wanda Maximoff shows up to settle an old grudge by warping probability itself.

Without Jackson: A blurry copy of a copy of a copy of the Jackson offense, or what the Patriots would look like if Mac Jones could run a tiny bit.

Bengals Vibe on Defense

Awesome up the middle, good enough on the edges. D.J. Reader has brought the thunder since returning to the lineup in Week 11. Logan Wilson is a force as a run defender and in underneath coverage. Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell are among the NFL's best safety duos. The cornerbacks aren't great, but at least there are plenty of them.

Bengals Special Teams Note

Ken Huber averaged just 37.4 net yards per punt, with nine punts inside the 20 on 31 kicks. Since taking over against the Steelers, Drue Chrisman has averaged 42.6 yards per punt with 13 punts inside the 20 on 28 kicks.

Ravens Fourth-Down Note

The Ravens finished the season 8-of-20 on fourth-down conversions, with two failures in Week 18: bad, but not catastrophic. They ranked 19th in power success and 20th in offensive DVOA on third-/fourth-and-short. But from Jackson's fumble at the 1-yard line against the Dolphins in Week 2 to Patrick Ricard getting stuffed at the 7-yard line in a 13-3 loss to the Browns in Week 15 to an early-game fourth-and-1 stop on Sunday, it's tempting to suggest that the Ravens should throw the analytics out the window and play for field goals.

Early Prediction

The Ravens have no shot without Jackson. With Jackson, this game may come down to the health of the Bengals offensive line: the Ravens secondary has little to worry about if Burrow is on the run. At least we were spared the dreaded "coin toss" scenario; the Bengals earned homefield advantage in this game. If Jackson emerges from his Yurt of Mystery and Drama, they may actually need it.

Week 18 (and some 2022 Season) Awards!

Let's start with a few end-of-year categories, then award this week's supporting actors and randos.

Offensive Line of the Year

The Eagles, 49ers, and other lines had outstanding seasons, but this award can only go to the Detroit Lions offensive line, which was tasked with making Jared Goff look effective when throwing to a skill-position corps populated by upstarts and unknowns. So let's hear it for Taylor Decker, Frank Ragnow, Penei Sewell, Jonah Jackson, Evan Brown, and backups Dan Skipper, Logan Sternberg, and Kayode Awosika. Yeah, some of those backups got pushed around, but they were still part of the pack.

Sorry you were eliminated from the postseason without getting a chance to state your case in Week 18, Lions. Enjoy being the Next Big Thing all offseason!

Special Teamer of the Year

Ryan Stonehouse of the Titans broke an 80-year-old yards-per-punt record set by Sammy Baugh. Greg Joseph nearly crammed Adam Vinatieri's entire career of late-game heroics into one season. But Keisean Nixon came from nowhere to completely flip the script for the Packers special teams at a point when they needed to get serious in all three phases.

Defender of the Year

Nick Bosa: 18.5 sacks, 48 (forty-eight) quarterback hits. 'Nuff said.

Best Supporting Actor in Someone Else's Highlight

Runner up goes to Colts defender Rodney Thomas, who inadvertently helped his team in the long run by letting this Davis Mills-to-Jordan Akins Hail Easterby sail through his hands:

One two-point conversion later, the Texans had a victory and the Bears earned the first overall pick as a result. Assuming the Bears realize that they don't need a quarterback (a huge assumption), the Colts or some other team can now trade up for their choice of Bryce Young or others, something which would not have been possible if the Texans had lost.

As for the Texans sabotaging their own effort to pick first overall: their loss is competitive integrity's gain. Tanking is bad for the game and boring to watch. Giving some rookies and backups a late-season look is fine, but no one wants the players on the field to play to lose. No one wants Lovie Smith to coach his team to lay down either, and ABSOLUTELY no one wants ownership telling coaches to tell their players to lay down.

So what the Texans did on Sunday was a good thing. Roast them for a thousand other foolish things over the last five years, but don't roast them for doing their jobs and playing with pride.

Anyway, the real BSASEH winners were the BillsMafia, all 70,000 of them in attendance at Highmark Stadium, on Nyheim Hines' first of two kickoff return touchdowns on the afternoon.

What do you think, Damar Hamlin?

Watching Hamlin Tweet about as frequently as Walkthrough on Sunday afternoon was more inspiring than watching anything that happened on the field. Nothing screams "road to recovery" like too much screen time.

Burn This Play!

Some trick plays work much better on a quiet practice field in the middle of the week than they ever could in a pulsating playoff-atmosphere stadium: they are so over-engineered that they are begging to become turnovers if the adrenaline is really flowing.

That was one of those trick plays.

Rando of the Week

Let's see, there's Paul Wane, the Florida Man and Master of the Telecaster who went full DUUUUUUUUUUUUUVALLLLLL on the National Anthem

There's also Raiders "We Deserve Better" Fan, who looks a lot like my Uncle Carmine and speaks for so many of us on so many topics.

But let's use this space to honor Buffalo Bills trainer Danny Kellington, who saved Damar Hamlin's life with his quick medical attention on Monday Night:

A "rando" can be a hero, and a hero can be a rando. In fact, most heroes are doctors, nurses, first responders, teachers, and other everyday folks who react quickly and wisely when they are the first on the scene of a crisis. Thank heavens for workaday heroes like Kellington; an emergency is never more than a heartbeat away, and our lives are always in one another's hands.

Comments

136 comments, Last at 10 Jan 2023, 3:25pm

#1 by theslothook // Jan 09, 2023 - 2:58am

Now that the season has concluded, here were a summary of my preseason expectations and also including money bets I made.

I thought and bet the Jags over and to win the division. A lot of that was dependent on Lawrence taking a mega leap and the Titans declining badly. It sort of worked the way i imagined; kind of.

Bet the over on Washington and got a push. If I'm being honest, this was a team much worse than I expected. I thought Wentz would be an upgrade and they would resemble the Alex Smith 49ers. 

Bet the under on No. I got this right, but not really in the way i expected. Thought the team would experience a total collapse without Payton. This was probably the best team in the NFC South tbh.

Bet over on the 49ers, who were my pick to get to the SB. Once again, happened to work out but not in the way i imagined.

Bet the under on the Cowboys. Bet the over on the Patriots. Bet the under on the Eagles. Whoops and whoops and whoops.

I didn't bet on the Colts for obvious reasons, but I thought they would be terrible. I was sort of wrong for half the season, then Jim Irsay made sure I was right the rest of the way. Well done Jim!

Now for some fun.

I thought the Chargers were the most talented team on paper and the Giants were the least. Now with a full season of results, it seems Philly or SF is the most talented team and the Texans or the Bears are the least( in my defense, I can't forecast trades).

And finally, if you've read this far, everyone please pick who you think is going to win the SB right here right now. Because the postseason will happen and it will hoodwink you into crazy ideas. Like Joe Flacco is Joe Montana, Mark Sanchez is the name you trust against Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, and Detroit is a holy land where overrated hof running backs get to ride off into the sunset.

My pick: Eagles over Chiefs 

Points: 3

#15 by theslothook // Jan 09, 2023 - 9:09am

That was my preseason sb pick. I kind of assumed Trey Lance would have the season that Jalen Hurts just had.

Points: 1

#3 by Moridin // Jan 09, 2023 - 4:39am

Bills over Vikings, triple overtime ... heh

But actually, Eagles over Bills

Points: 0

#32 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 09, 2023 - 9:41am

In the most Bills-Vikings finish possible, the Bills miss a game-winning FG short, but the Vikings DB gets confused on the kick return and takes a safety for the loss.

Then the end of days begin.

Points: 9

#7 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 09, 2023 - 8:18am

Lot of history for this one.

Points: 0

#60 by Pat // Jan 09, 2023 - 10:56am

Honestly this year feels more uncertain than a while. Philly's got major contributors out but "should be" back for the playoffs. The 49ers are starting a 3rd string QB. God only knows what's going on with the Ravens QB situation. And then you've got bizarro teams like the Vikings and Giants who shouldn't win but do, and the Chargers and Cowboys who should win but don't.

One of Bills/Chiefs/Bengals out of the AFC is a safe bet, but the only thing that would surprise me out of the NFC are the Seahawks and goddamn Pete Carroll's been surprising me all year.

Points: 1

#125 by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Jan 10, 2023 - 8:54am

Tom Brady surveys the NFC playoff landscape and thinks, "Yes, yes.  This is all turning out splendidly."

Points: 0

#12 by BlueStarDude // Jan 09, 2023 - 9:04am

Feels like a toss up between Bills, Chiefs, & Bengals vs Eagles or 49ers, with the Chiefs and 49ers probably being the best teams.

For the sake of fun, I'll take a guess and say Chiefs over Eagles.

Points: 0

#38 by JS // Jan 09, 2023 - 10:01am

SF over Cin, unless the Cin guys really are hurt, in which case, SF over KC.

Points: 0

#39 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 09, 2023 - 10:03am

Bold move, trusting a Shanahan team with a late lead in the playoffs.

Points: 1

#62 by serutan // Jan 09, 2023 - 11:25am

Exactly.  People seem to forget that 28-3 had at least as much to do with Shanny playing to not lose (a.k.a. playing to let the other team win) as anything the Patriots or Matt Ryan did.  Also, he went turtle against the Chiefs with predictable results.

Points: 0

#75 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 09, 2023 - 12:19pm

And the Rams!

Since 2016, he is somehow 3-3 in games in which his team led by 10+ points in the 4th quarter of a playoff game. He is 0-3 in conference championship games or later.

The good part is he gets a 10 point lead. The bad is part is he then immediately gives it back.

\They have been outscored 69-6 in 4th quarters in which they had a 10+ point lead since the 2017 SB.

Points: 0

#94 by Eddo // Jan 09, 2023 - 2:11pm

He's 1-2 in conference championship games or later; the 49ers did have to beat the Packers to face the Chiefs in the Super Bowl.

Points: 0

#120 by cyntar2000 // Jan 09, 2023 - 5:08pm

I don’t like how the Eagles have been playing down the stretch, with or without Hurts. And I think they’ll draw the tougher opponent in Div Round (Bucs/Cowboys) which could snag them before they even begin. So I’m taking San Fran to win the NFC.

It’s difficult not to like the Chiefs or Bills to represent the AFC. But Cincy has some swag and, like last season, they’ll be playing with no expectations which cannot be overstated in the playoffs. And if there’s one team that can kinda get in KC’s head, it’d be the Bengals. Buffalo may hit another gear playing inspired football similar to the “Patriotic” 2001 season following 9/11 or the Saints 2005 season following Katrina where they made an improbable run to the NFC Championship. But they have the “0-4 in Super Bowl” earworm playing at ear-splitting levels on every channel, podcast or website they hear and see. 
 

My Super Bowl pick - Bengals over 49ers

Super Bowl MVP - Joe Burrow

Points: 0

#122 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 09, 2023 - 5:27pm

The Bengals have the 0-3 SB thing going -- all to California teams.

Points: 0

#123 by bravehoptoad // Jan 09, 2023 - 9:03pm

The Bengals are who I'd like the 49ers to meet in the Super bowl.  Out of the AFC big 3, he's the least mobile QB, and mobile QBs have always been the Achilles heel of that 49ers wide 9 D-line.

Points: 0

#130 by Eddo // Jan 10, 2023 - 11:44am

Even then, Burrow's probably the best of several bad options.  He had 103 rushing DYAR this year; Mahomes had 97 and Allen had 226.  (Burrow had 278 non-kneel rushing yards; Mahomes had 360 and Allen had 784.)

Points: 0

#8 by big10freak // Jan 09, 2023 - 8:38am

Rooting for the Bengals next weekend.  

 

Somewhat disappointed in the Ravens approach yesterday.  GB buried the needle on dumb yesterday, but the Ravens were more consistently malicious.  Multiple borderline to legit cheap shots by Baltimore.  Hope Cincy gets the guys back who left the field.

 

And no, I am fine with tough physical play.  See Detroit against GB for example.  You don't need to be a jerk about it.  So anyone who wants to wander in and post the usual nonsense on how I am soft or whatever just know I won't engage dumbness.

Points: 0

#40 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 09, 2023 - 10:04am

That's kind of how the AFC North goes. I recall Cincinnati's Burfict trying to decapitate Antonio Brown in a playoff game, too.

Points: 2

#116 by rh1no // Jan 09, 2023 - 3:59pm

Was that the same playoff game where Ryan Shazier tried to take Gio Bernard's head off, causing a game-changing fumble that knocked him out of the game but wasn't called a penalty?

Was that the same playoff game where Stealers coaching staff member Mike Munchak pulled the hair of Bengals safety Reggie Nelson but was allowed to keep coaching?

Points: 0

#132 by ALauff // Jan 10, 2023 - 12:03pm

You are quite correct to call out maliciously violent play. Anybody calling that stance soft is a comprehensive ass who doesn't see that the appetite for this stuff is on the wane. It is what will bury this game if allowed to continue without intentional, consistent steps toward mitigation. I do think tolerance for players like Burfict and Incognito (or whoever their current comps might be), and their attendant shenanigans, is significantly less than it once was, and that's all to the good. I think a lot of this crap gets amplified by players' chattering on social media, heightening what is already an emotional--and, in many respects, primitive--game.      

Points: 0

#9 by KnotMe // Jan 09, 2023 - 8:42am

Giants at Vikings: Battle of the Bubbles! Which overperforming team pops first?

Points: 2

#11 by Will Allen // Jan 09, 2023 - 9:00am

Anybody giving 3 points, to risk $ on the prospect of the Vikings winning a playoff game, has quite obviously gone insane, and needs their DraftKings app terminated with extreme prejudice.  

Points: 0

#21 by theslothook // Jan 09, 2023 - 9:16am

Depending on the health of QBs in question, I would probably pick the Vikings last in a battle royale style tournament if the games were played on a neutral field. 

They have exactly one thing to love about them and the rest is just a bunch of holes ready to spring a leak.

That said, I did not think in a million years that the 07 Giants or the 08 Cardinals had a prayer of a chance of winning anything, so with that in mind, this Vikings team has better than a Loyd Christmas Chance.

Points: 1

#26 by Will Allen // Jan 09, 2023 - 9:22am

Now, c'mon, you could see the Giants pass rushers getting healthy at the end of the '07 season, and thus could envision a playoff victory, if not a string of them. There's chance the Vikings might not be able to execute the center-qb exchange. 

Points: 1

#33 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 09, 2023 - 9:42am

I would probably take Minnesota over the ghost of Tampa or the Seahawks, or the SkyBridge Dolphins.

Points: 0

#51 by peterplaysbass // Jan 09, 2023 - 10:36am

Right, so as a Vikings fan, I'm rooting for the Seahawks to somehow win in San Francisco and Philadelphia, for the Bucs to beat the Cowboys, and for Miami to make it to the SB

It'll be forever known as the "red carpet season"

Points: 2

#14 by Will Allen // Jan 09, 2023 - 9:07am

One of the best things to watch in a NFL game is an offensive line, on the road, winning the contest in the 2nd half. The Lions really have become a very fun team for me to watch. I have no idea what the 1st round in the draft looks like this spring, but I think it would be fun to see the Lions draft a corner and receiver, and Goff their way into a division title next year, behind great blocking.

Points: 5

#29 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 09, 2023 - 9:35am

While I in no way trust Detroit, I see three things:

  1. Campbell has, in a huge way, eliminated the sort of stupid-assed, utterly predictably Lions-y mistakes. Even their idiotic encroachment on 4th down came on 4th-6, so the Packers still had to manually convert. They actually perform plays in a competent manner and force the opponent to beat them, rather than accomplishing that themselves.
  2. Their offense is completely unpredictable. Even the hook-and-lateral aside, they will run or pass on any down and distance, from any formation, with no rhyme or reason. They've got to be hell to play against.
  3. In a year where every good veteran defender got hurt (seriously...), all of their best players were rookies. Encouragingly, this included a DE, an OLB, and a S. Positions where they are weak, historically.

I worry about next year, because the Lions love rebounding away from success and because that end-year run was built in a large way on Goff completely avoiding turnovers. They won one game this year in which they had a turnover (Packers g1), and only lost one game in which they did not (Miami). The Eagles won 7 games in which they had a turnover. The Bills and Chiefs won 10. The Lions operate on a razor-thin margins. If St. Brown gets hurt again or Goff has a bad day, they don't have a plan B.

Boy they need a defense. They've gotten good enough that they can pretty reliably beat knuckle heads -- The Bears, the Vikings, the Packers, the Wentz Commanders, the Jets. They are unreliable against teams who are not actively crapping the bed -- the Unconcussed Tua Dolphins, the early Seahawks, the Pats, mid-season Cowboys.

Encouragingly, they hung with the good versions of the Eagles and Bills, and they absolutely trashed the post-bye week Jags (their only loss). On the other other hand, they missed the playoffs because they Lions'd up the Panthers came in the most predictable fashion. Because, I mean, Lions.

If they can get a defense -- or at least a reasonably competent defense that isn't a vast confusion of smoke and mirrors and bullshit -- and if they can preserve their offensive competency, they might be pretty decent next year. This assumes they don't lose their OC (they will) and they don't regress (they will).

Points: 3

#44 by Will Allen // Jan 09, 2023 - 10:09am

I'm not such a neanderthal as to not concede that, yes, if there is a qb that you love that is available when your top 10 or 20 pick rolls around, you have to draft him. I just hope the Lions don't Ponderously fall into the trap of, " WE MUST DRAFT A QB WITH OUR HIGH 1ST ROUND PICK, 'CUZ QBS RULE!!!!". Maybe the serviceable nature of Goff will prevent that.

Points: 1

#56 by Joey-Harringto… // Jan 09, 2023 - 10:42am

Good summary.  This is why I enjoyed this season way more than any recent playoff seasons.  Caldwell's teams had a floor of competence, but after a while you get sick of him kicking on 4th and inches, and realizing they have no shot of beating a decent team on the road.  Even Schwartz's decent teams were one Suh meltdown or Stafford backfoot interception away from falling apart.

I quietly applauded them being restrained in free agency the past two off-seasons, but now that they seem to have some young core starters in place, perhaps now is the time to open the purse a bit and start filling some holes.

Points: 6

#59 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 09, 2023 - 10:55am

Fortunately, it seems the only expensive roster spots they need to fill are in the secondary. They need better LBs and need depth at d-line and WR, but they don't need a WR1 or a stud DE. But man they need some corners, and Kirby Joseph can't play the Packers every game.

Points: 1

#61 by Will Allen // Jan 09, 2023 - 11:04am

With only 20 million taken by the qb, they have some options.

Points: 2

#53 by Joey-Harringto… // Jan 09, 2023 - 10:37am

They could really use a good RG (Vatai's contract is too expensive, and Evan Brown is a good backup, but below average as a starter). 

I worry about their ability to keep a good line together long term.  After a while, it gets expensive.  The 2014-16 Cowboys couldn't do it.  Decker and Ragnow recently got extended, but eventually they'll have to pay Jackson and Sewell.  

Unless teams stupidly allow Young or Stroud to slide (doubt it), corner and interior D-line should be their targets in the first round.  Receiver is actually okay.  St. Brown is legit, and Jameson Williams will be after having a full offseason/training camp to work.  Some combination of Chark, Reynolds, and Raymond are fine as WR3/4.

Points: 0

#16 by DoubleB // Jan 09, 2023 - 9:13am

49ers over Bengals.

Love the 49ers path if Minnesota wins at home. 

Bengals seem to be hitting on all cylinders at the right time yet again.

Points: 1

#95 by bravehoptoad // Jan 09, 2023 - 2:13pm

That's an interesting question: would you rather have to beat the Cowboys once, or the Seahawks and Vikings in succession?

Points: 0

#104 by Oncorhynchus // Jan 09, 2023 - 3:16pm

I'd rather have to beat the Giants and Cowboys in succession at home in Philly. Unlikely outcome I know, but I've got stock in the company that makes lamppost grease. If this sequence of events happens, that investment is going to the moon. 

Points: -1

#117 by rh1no // Jan 09, 2023 - 4:12pm

I don't see the Bengals making it back to the Super Bowl this year. Assuming they get past Baltimore next Sunday, they will need to win on the road in Buffalo in January, then beat the Chiefs for the fourth time in a row, all while pushing their win streak to 11. They're certainly talented enough to pull that off, but they'll need to play damn near perfectly -- and probably get a little bit lucky -- to make it happen.

This year, I think the Chiefs will beat the 49ers. Next year will be the big one for the Bengals.

Points: 0

#17 by theslothook // Jan 09, 2023 - 9:13am

It probably doesn't feel like a shock after all these weeks, but I bet almost no one saw the state of the AFC West playing out as it has.

This has been, to my mind, the worst Chiefs team of the Mahomes era and it still comfortably won the division. 

It's funny to rethink just how loaded the division looked at the onset, with all four teams convinced they might have the best offense in the division. 

Points: 1

#24 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 09, 2023 - 9:18am

When three of the four franchises are laboring under a Curse of Perpetual Stupidity...

Points: 2

#45 by RickD // Jan 09, 2023 - 10:19am

Remember last summer, when pundits were arguing that the division was four teams deep?  Russell Wilson was going to fix the Broncos' offensive woes and McDaniels was going to build on last season's playoff run and turn Derek Carr into an All-Pro level QB?

That was fun.

Points: 4

#67 by apbadogs // Jan 09, 2023 - 11:40am

Weren't the Chiefs this year, based on FO analytics, better offensively than the year they won the Super Bowl?

Points: 0

#69 by theslothook // Jan 09, 2023 - 11:43am

I think part of that is because the offensive climate is worse in 2022 than it was 2019. 

Points: 0

#71 by Mike B. In Va // Jan 09, 2023 - 11:44am

This is absolutely why I thought Cincy's fans' argument about the Missing Game Solution causing them to have a harder schedule was ridiculous. Who the hell knows?

Points: 0

#115 by rh1no // Jan 09, 2023 - 3:54pm

I don't think that Cincy fans were upset that the NFL's solution to the cancelled game made our schedule harder. We were upset because there was already a rule in place to determine playoff seeding in the case of a cancelled game by win %. The NFL made the unprecedented decision to take a vote to change this rule during the season. Why? Because they thought it was unfair that Baltimore might not get to host a playoff game if they beat the Bengals. So they developed a convoluted coin-flip solution instead of just going by the existing rule book.

Points: 2

#119 by Mike B. In Va // Jan 09, 2023 - 4:41pm

I saw a ton of Twitter/Reddit posts referencing the harder schedule next year with the possibility of not getting a home game. Still, fortunately it didn't matter - the only true losers are the Bills, but I suspect Hamlin flying home will cushion that a bit.

Points: 1

#18 by andrew // Jan 09, 2023 - 9:13am

So if you ranked NFC playoff teams by their quarterbacks, as they stand now, you have:

Hurts, who is Hurt
Purdy, a rookie, and Mr. Irrelevant to boot
Kirko Chainz, in big time national audience games
Tom Brady, who is 46,
Dak, who morphed into a turnover machine
Daniel Jones, whom I can't think of anything clever to say about
Geno Smith, who turned into a pumpkin

why do I fear Brady is the best of this lot?     Some analysts (*cough* Cowherd) make their playoff picks based on quarterback alone....  

 

Points: 0

#25 by theslothook // Jan 09, 2023 - 9:22am

The bucs are one injury at wide receiver away from Brady looking likes 80 instead of 46

Points: 0

#30 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 09, 2023 - 9:37am

This year, Brady has looked good throwing to Mike Evans against teams with no healthy DBs.

That's also pretty much the only way they can break 23 points in a game.

Points: 0

#121 by Tom Tulpa // Jan 09, 2023 - 5:13pm

Brady is still doing Brady things, even behind a makeshift line. To me, the problem with the Bucs offense is the perceptible downgrade from Bruce Arians to Todd Bowles. 

Points: 2

#37 by HitchikersPie // Jan 09, 2023 - 9:59am

I think Purdy deserves slightly more acclaim than just being rookie/Mr Irrelevant, he's played far beyond that stature.

Kirk's at least showed the ability to lead game winning drives, even at the expense of not necessarily playing all that well before the 4th Q.

Brady's "only" 45

 

 

Points: 3

#47 by RickD // Jan 09, 2023 - 10:20am

Yeah, Brady doesn't turn 46 until August. 

(And he's been playing better than most of the youngsters.)

(Certainly better than the other oldsters.)

Points: 1

#91 by bravehoptoad // Jan 09, 2023 - 1:47pm

According to Scott McClaughlin, Purdy's best comp is Colt McCoy. 

That there tells you how much work the rest of the 49ers offense is doing. I mean holy crud, J. Garoppolo finished #1 in DVOA this year, and #8 in DYAR despite missing 8 games.

Points: 0

#19 by Will Allen // Jan 09, 2023 - 9:15am

I kind of felt bad for the genuine emotional pain experienced by a player, in a critical game, getting tossed by being dumb enough to shove a member of the training staff. Kind of. Hope the meathead learns from the experience.

Points: 0

#22 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 09, 2023 - 9:17am

He should go learn from the experience with a season-long suspension, which will give him time to contemplate the consequences for repeatedly striking non-playing field personnel.

Then he should be cracked in the head with a wrench, because that's the only way that moron will learn anything.

Points: -2

#31 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 09, 2023 - 9:39am

Someone on this board must be an idiot Packers fan who is in favor of players attacking medical personnel literally six days after a team saved a player's life on the field.

I can't imagine who it could be...

Points: 2

#34 by big10freak // Jan 09, 2023 - 9:42am

Not a defense of the young man but in both cases he was touched from behind.  Clearly this is a trigger for the young man.

 

I am hopeful he gets help from a professional.  Very likely there are longstanding issues that generate this type of response.

Points: 0

#46 by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Jan 09, 2023 - 10:19am

Agreed.  This is fairly clearly a trigger for him.  I'm quite confident his logical brain never had a chance to engage.  He didn't push a training staff member trying to get to an injured player on the field, he pushed back reflexively at someone pushing him, without the filter to identify who was pushing him or why.

Not saying he shouldn't have been penalized or kicked out of the game - his actions warranted both of those.  But he clearly needs help and I hope this creates the impetus for him to get it.  Because if he doesn't he's likely to end up in a whole lot more serious trouble off the football field.

Points: 4

#57 by big10freak // Jan 09, 2023 - 10:44am

This is a failure of the coaching staff and management.  It's not like these behaviors are isolated to games.  I have some experience between growing up in rural America and later finding out when I entered different environments that my 'standard' responses were unwelcome.  Plus then decades of volunteering with young people with various challenges emotional and otherwise.

 

Packer fans are welcome to criticize Matt for his game plans.  I am highly disappointed that Matt has failed his younger players so dramatically not just Quay but several others to different degrees.

Points: 0

#124 by LionInAZ // Jan 09, 2023 - 10:42pm

He wasn't touched from behind he was touched on the arm by the trainer to get him to move aside. The trainer was clearly in front of him when he decided to shove.

The fact that he's gone after non-players twice this season demonstrates it's not triggered, it's a lack of respect.

Points: 2

#48 by andrew // Jan 09, 2023 - 10:21am

Already seen responses elsewhere where people angrily claim the training staff guy pushed Quay first (there was incidental contact as he tried to get to the player).

As for learning from this experience, yes, that would have been a good idea the first time he got ejected for shoving a staff member, vs the Bills a month ago.

Points: 3

#50 by Joey-Harringto… // Jan 09, 2023 - 10:29am

Season long suspension is a bit much, it was a light shove, made worse by the target and the context.  Maybe I'm being too generous since I'm simply relieved it's the opposition doing dumb things regularly instead of the Lions (totally off the subject, but WTH was Rasul Douglas doing on that FG attempt?)

Points: 0

#52 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 09, 2023 - 10:36am

The Packers were doing a bunch of Classic Lions Behavior in the second half. Perhaps it is contagious, or like The Ring, you survive by passing the curse onto someone else.

My argument against the pier stroller is that this is the second time he has done something like this in a little over two months. Clearly he did not learn from the first time, and I'm not optimistic about the second.

\3rd time is enemy action.

Points: 1

#20 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 09, 2023 - 9:15am

Kelce^2

Points: 0

#27 by big10freak // Jan 09, 2023 - 9:30am

For those picking Bengals on anything you should hold off until you find out who is able to play.

 

Their starting right guard left the game.  One of the starting wide receivers.  And a second receiver also got roughed up.  A tight end limped to the sideline.

 

Just a FYI

Points: 1

#28 by big10freak // Jan 09, 2023 - 9:34am

Such a desultory performance by Dallas.  

Points: 1

#70 by Will Allen // Jan 09, 2023 - 11:43am

Cowboys at Bucs is a real quandry for me, in that I can't decide who I most want to see lose. Well, ok, since it really is a matter of whether I'd rather see the creepy drunk of an old owner lose, or the weirdo old qb lose, I guess it's......GO BUCS!!!!!, at least for 1 week.

Points: 1

#36 by JS // Jan 09, 2023 - 9:59am

Re the guitar guy for Jax; doesn't Derek Trucks live in Jacksonville?

That would have been better. The guy was fine, but who wouldn't prefer a soulful, slow-starting, five-minute-long, well-crafted thing of beauty?

Points: 1

#42 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 09, 2023 - 10:07am

Me.

It's a 100-second song. You don't need to drag it out to 300.

\the most famous version is 1:55. Don't exceed that; you aren't as good as Whitney.

Points: 4

#54 by coremill // Jan 09, 2023 - 10:37am

One my favorite long-running Dr. Z bits was that he always timed the national anthem and complained when the performer went over two minutes.  

Points: 1

#41 by Raiderfan // Jan 09, 2023 - 10:05am

“the Cowboys get swept up in the Brady-ness of things and swept out of the playoffs cannot be understated.”
Given the tenor of your comments about the Cowboys all year long, I think you meant overstated, as in likely.

Buccaneers over Bengals… and then Brady signs with Las Vegas.

Points: 0

#43 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 09, 2023 - 10:09am

Brady can barely eke out 8 wins on a team that has no prior great franchise QBs, a great defense, and is stacked with receivers. Why would he go to a Raiders team that has none of those things?

It can't be for the money; Mark Davis doesn't have any.

Points: 0

#49 by RickD // Jan 09, 2023 - 10:22am

The only reason Brady would go to Vegas is to play for Josh.  Well, and to get out of the Tampa drama.

Points: 0

#64 by serutan // Jan 09, 2023 - 11:33am

And the only reason for any team to sign Brady is to sell tickets and merch.  'Cuz from what I saw this year it's time to break out the butter and jam for him as far as Brady as a QB goes.

Points: 0

#66 by Raiderfan // Jan 09, 2023 - 11:39am

“Cuz from what I saw this year it's time to break out the butter and jam for him as far as Brady as a QB goes.”

Would you say the same about the 29 quarterbacks with less DYAR?

Tha would leave you with Mahomes, Goff, and Tua.

Points: 3

#78 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 09, 2023 - 12:25pm

Tampa may have the best receivers room in the NFL. It's a really comfy QB situation, even if some cracks appeared this year.

Points: 1

#63 by Raiderfan // Jan 09, 2023 - 11:28am

I don’t know what you are saying about prior great franchise quarterbacks.

Adams, Renfrow, Moreau and Waller are very good to excellent, and probably better than what Brady had this year on a week to week basis.

The Buccaneers’ defense “greatness” is more reputation than a fact.  They are 23rd in weighted DVOA and getting older.  Certainly it is better than the Raiders, but Brady has taken teams with terrible defenses to the SB before, such as 2011 and 2017.

And he would leave to get away from the crappy play calling that Tanier pointed out.

 

Points: 1

#80 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 09, 2023 - 12:31pm

Tampa's all-time passing leader is Jameis Winston. It's best QB in franchise history is probably Steve Young. Who had a cup of coffee in the early 80s.

Meanwhile the Raiders have two HOF QBs and another three HOVG guys. The Raiders have more QB AP1 seasons than the Bucs have QB Pro Bowl years.

But also: the best QB Brady has ever faced in-division was Chad Pennington. I don't see Geriatric Brady about to waltz into a division where he might be the 4th-best QB.

Points: 1

#105 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 09, 2023 - 3:24pm

Brees' 769 DYAR season when his arm fell off. Remember, they were bringing Hill or Winston in to throw deep by the time the playoffs came around because Brees just couldn't.

769 would have been 3rd in the AFC East and 2nd or 3rd in the Wests (opponent adjustments would decide 2020 Brees vs 2022 G. Smith) this year.

Basically, Manning exited just as he got good and Brady entered the NFC South just as Brees fell off the cliff (and Allen discovered he was a Kryptonian).

Really, if Brady wants to go anywhere, he should wheedle a move to Minnesota to coincide with Rodgers' collapse.

Points: 0

#68 by Cheesehead_Canuck // Jan 09, 2023 - 11:42am

This Brady to Vegas buzz is bizarre. He's barely putting up 20 points with a WR core of Evans, Godwin, Julio, Gage. There aren't a lot of better depth charts than that. Why would he go to Vegas where the coaching and defence are worse and you don't get a home playoff game for winning 8 games...

Points: 2

#58 by johonny12 // Jan 09, 2023 - 10:47am

Mediocrities has determined: "Dolphins season good enough!" I'm feeling pretty good as I predicted in preseason Miami at 9-8 with a tie luck finally favoring them after two seasons of bad luck in tie breakers. I predict given the smile on Ross's face yesterday that Grier will convince management that this is the way and the Dolphins are going on to bigger things in the future. Fans want Boyer fired, but their defense ended about where they were last year (perhaps management over-estimates their chances), and the offense when healthy did feel improved as the site numbers suggest. 

I real life for next week, Miami lost another tackle versus the Jets. I have no idea who will start against the Bills. They were using their 3rd running back and 9th tackle and the next Tom Brady if San Francisco doesn't already have him, at QB doesn't look very Tom Brady like. It feels like the Bills got the bye they deserved anyway and Miami will offer a spirited game before losing bigly due to lack of offense. But who knows who is going to show up for this one? 

As for this weeks game, man the Jets hit on their first round picks this year. It's the exact opposite of how Miami whiffed when they had three first round picks. IDK, if I were the Jets I'd be on the phone with the Raiders as soon as that's allowed. They need a QB and a little more oline, then things could be dangerous. In Miami, this feels like peak Grier to me. 

Points: 0

#72 by MJK // Jan 09, 2023 - 11:49am

Everything makes more sense if you pretend that Trey Lance and Brock Purdy are the same person and this was the plan all along.

Only problem there is that the draft capital needed to acquire each was *slightly* different.

Points: 1

#81 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 09, 2023 - 12:33pm

It doesn't matter -- you got the performance you wanted from the price you expected to pay.

No one gets to choose in retrospect.

Points: 1

#73 by MJK // Jan 09, 2023 - 11:52am

Come to think of it, some second-year improvement from Trevor Lawrence was likely, no matter who was coaching.

(Looks through the multiverse and finds a universe where the Jaguars hired Matt Patricia and Joe Judge to co-run the offense).

I beg to differ!

Points: 8

#74 by Jerry Garcia // Jan 09, 2023 - 12:12pm

Bills over Eagles ;)

Points: 1

#77 by Tundrapaddy // Jan 09, 2023 - 12:23pm

"...followed by five minutes of Gandalf shit."

You realize this actually makes me want to watch more Tamp Bay offense, right? (Or perhaps I can just tune in for the last 15 minutes of the game.)

Points: 1

#86 by Will Allen // Jan 09, 2023 - 1:08pm

When I reading that plot device for the 1st time, when I was 10 or 11, I thought it was lazy-ass writing, like Jay Cutler with a win needed to save Lovie Smith's job. Smokin' Tolkien, I guess....

Points: 1

#79 by rh1no // Jan 09, 2023 - 12:29pm

I think your analysis of the Bengals vs. Ravens matchup misses the mark a bit. The devil is in the details here ...

the Ravens rank 31st in DVOA against deep passes entering Week 18. That's not a weakness you want against this particular opponent.

Cincinnati certainly has the capacity to hit deep balls. During last year's Superbowl run, the Bengals hit 63 passes of 20+ yards (tied for 4th in the league) and 16 passes of 40+ yards (2nd in the league). In 2022, those numbers have dropped to 54 (12th) and 10 (tied for 10th), respectively. 

Last year's Bengals were fairly one-dimensional, relying on Burrow's scrambling to buy time for him to launch deep balls down the field. Opposing defenses have caught on this year, limiting Cincinnati's opportunities for home run plays. The Bengals have responded by becoming more efficient, leaning on Burrow's unparalleled accuracy (first in the NFL all-time in completion percentage, third in the league in completed passes over expectation in 2022) to make consistent gains throwing into tight windows. And, of course, he's been able to deliver the ball to people not named J'Marr Chase ... hello, Trenton Irwin!

The advanced stats tell a similar story, with the Bengals going from 7.9 intended air yards per completion (4th) in 2021 to 6.8 (27th) in 2022. You even link to those numbers earlier in this article, though you mistakenly list the Bengals below the 49ers.

You also close your analysis by saying:

The Ravens secondary has little to worry about if Burrow is on the run.

You wouldn't have written this if you'd watched the game on Sunday! Burrow scrambled for yards and hit multiple big throws while running from pressure, and that's par for the course; PFF lists Burrow as the #3 most dangerous QB when blitzed this season, logging a 78.8 rating under pressure.

Obviously, the Ravens would prefer to pressure Burrow all game rather than let him sit in the pocket and pick them apart. They made yesterday's matchup slightly more competitive by forcing a sack/fumble deep in Cincinnati's territory and by stuffing the Bengals on consecutive third-and-one and fourth-and-one plays. But they'll still have plenty to worry about even if Max Scharping replaces Alex Cappa at guard and 2022 Hakeem Adeniji plays like 2021 Hakeem Adeniji.

You're right that the Ravens need a healthy Lamar Jackson to have a chance at beating the Bengals. Even if they get peak Lamar, they'll also need a heroic effort from their defense and some miscues from Cincinnati to pull off the upset. 

Points: 3

#83 by mansteel // Jan 09, 2023 - 12:50pm

In the BSAISEH video, the shot of the one Colts fan with his head in his hands laughing/crying while his buddy says over and over, "I told you, I told you,.." absolutely made my day. 

Points: 3

#84 by big10freak // Jan 09, 2023 - 12:53pm

I was amused by the Bengals TD celebration where they flipped an actual coin as part of the routine 

Points: 7

#85 by jonsilver // Jan 09, 2023 - 1:06pm

Anyone else think Raymond broke the plane of the goal line with his catch? Bad angle on the view, but it sure looked like it to me.

Points: 3

#87 by big10freak // Jan 09, 2023 - 1:18pm

That was a TD

 

I don't understand some of the 'down' calls near the goal line.  It's like the refs want teams to not just score but 'really' score

 

Then again that was a pretty well officiated game relative to what I have seen most of the season.  

Points: 0

#89 by Will Allen // Jan 09, 2023 - 1:35pm

Yeah, Ive noticed that, too. Didn't even seem to be a particularly close call. 

I did note the uncalled blatant deliberate forearm/elbow shot to the face of the defenseless player with ball, as he was being held up by a tackler, that became a moot hideous noncall, via the push of the Lions trainer. Should have been two ejections after that play.

Points: 5

#90 by big10freak // Jan 09, 2023 - 1:42pm

Last nights game was incredibly disappointing in terms of professionalism or lack thereof from GB

 

I have been increasingly critical of the GB head coach and that nonsense certainly adds to why As a fan I am concerned.  I watched the dumb, vicious play of the Forrest Gregg Packers and have no wish to relive that experience.   

Points: 4

#92 by Will Allen // Jan 09, 2023 - 1:56pm

I enjoy the game less, due to what is known now about the long term effect of it. If that is to be moderated as much as possible, the league needs to make video-review ejections a feature of the game, when the refs miss deliberate attempts to inflict head injury, with hits that are outside of what the rules allow. This is one area where the college game does a better job.

Points: 0

#108 by JoelBarlow // Jan 09, 2023 - 3:34pm

yes, it seems like there's a clear slant towards looking for any way to rule that a player did not score rather than the opposite

Points: 0

#93 by Joey-Harringto… // Jan 09, 2023 - 2:03pm

I thought it was a TD at first, and was puzzled why Campbell didn't throw the red flag, but I saw a screen grab on Twitter where Raymond's rear end was clearly down just before the ball crossed the plane.  

Points: 0

#109 by rh1no // Jan 09, 2023 - 3:38pm

His butt was down, but I didn't see the DB  touch him before the ball crossed the plane. Would have loved to see some more angles on the replay.

Points: 0

#88 by IlluminatusUIUC // Jan 09, 2023 - 1:29pm

When Allen isn't attempting to punch holes in the sun (too often throwing interceptions that kept opponents in the game as a result, as he did again on Sunday against the Patriots), the Bills sometimes remember to run the ball and throw underneath to easily pull away from weaker teams. Then they forget and bust out the Snyder Cut tactics the following week.

“Madness and greatness are two sides of the same coin. Every time Josh Allen starts a game, the gods toss the coin in the air and the world holds its breath to see how it will land.”

Points: 2

#103 by Mike B. In Va // Jan 09, 2023 - 2:47pm

Both good pieces of humor. Might be good analysis, too, except for the fact that Allen was hit as he threw the INT:

https://www.patriots.com/video/devin-mccourty-s-pivotal-red-zone-int-vs-allen-goes-for-30-yard-return-before-ha

Which also should have drawn a flag for him getting hit in the knee by a DL that was not blocked into him.

Didn't matter in the end, obviously, since he did this a little later:

https://www.buffalobills.com/video/field-access-josh-allen-throws-49-yard-bomb-to-stefon-diggs-for-td-bills-vs-patr

Points: 0

#98 by JoelBarlow // Jan 09, 2023 - 2:21pm

Love the weird culture war insistence that we not even question that the Bears might actually need a QB

They were 25th in offensive DVOA, Fields was last in DYAR by  wide margin, last in DVOA, 17th in QBR. He had worse numbers than both Wilsons, Wentz, Davis Mills, Matty Ice, etc. 

The Bears have the #1 pick, lost a zillion games, and are a historically pretty inept franchise. They have holes everywhere. But Fields is also very limited.  

 

Points: 2

#99 by Will Allen // Jan 09, 2023 - 2:28pm

Fields could end up being a good qb, but it's not likely to happen in Chicago, where just being hurt all the time is the probable outcome. TBH, being hurt all the time is the likely outcome, no matter the team.

Points: 0

#102 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 09, 2023 - 2:45pm

Basically, it boils down to this:

  1. Whenever the Bears offense works, it works because Justin Fields is making it work via brute force despite the best efforts of the rest of the offense.
  2. While yes, Young and Stroud are great college QBs, so was Justin Fields.

https://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/players/justin-fields-2.html
https://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/players/cj-stroud-1.html
https://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/players/bryce-young-1.html

You know that stat hit Young took when his best receivers left and his blocking got shakier? His WRs and O-line at Alabama are better than what the Bears have now. 

Fields was a more mobile QB in college than Young and Stroud are, but he's run for as many yards this year in Chicago as he ran for in three years in college. He's not naturally a running QB.

Wilson's yearly average is about on par, but whereas the Jets look decent whenever he's not in and atrocious when he is, the Bears are even more useless when Fields isn't there to save them. Wilson drags the Jets down. Fields drags the Bears up.

Points: 7

#110 by JoelBarlow // Jan 09, 2023 - 3:39pm

Sure, he's dragged the Bears offense up, but even with a historically great QB rushing season the bears still had a very bad offense

clearly something must be missing here, perhaps it is nefarious play-calling, perhaps the bears truly have the worst WR/TE/RB receiving talent the world has ever seen

we've also seen though that even the threat of the QB run makes throwing significantly easier most of the time

somehow fields and the bears never approached that

Points: 1

#118 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 09, 2023 - 4:21pm

Yes, the Bears offense is still bad.

But there are strong suggestions that it won't be any better under Stroud and/or Young, and could be substantially worse.

Points: 0

#126 by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Jan 10, 2023 - 9:12am

Whereas if the Bears use some draft picks to improve their offense, they have a fighting chance of getting better.  Swapping out Fields for Stroud/Young just leaves you with the same offense they had this year, probably worse, and the potential for your new QB to get broken behind a terrible line before he even gets a career.

Now, if the Bears could get a better haul of draft picks by trading Fields instead of trading out of the #1 spot, then I change my opinion and say they should do that, instead.  Because what they need most is a general talent upgrade.  But if they can get better draft picks by trading out of #1 and keeping Fields, I'd keep Fields.

Points: 2

#127 by theslothook // Jan 10, 2023 - 10:16am

Do we think the Bears currently are any worse than the Bengals during Burrow's rookie year?

Points: 0

#129 by rh1no // Jan 10, 2023 - 10:43am

MUCH worse. 

Burrow had a lot of talented playmakers on the roster, with promising young guys like Tee Higgins and Smaji Perine joining playoff veterans Tyler Boyd, AJ Green, Joe Mixon, and Gio Bernard.

The defense had some talent, too, but the young guys like Logan Wilson needed time to develop while the Geno Atkins and thr old guard were on ther last legs.

The o-line was in tatters, and I was actually against the team drafting Burrow because I believed he would get Carson Palmer-ed ... and I was right. But I was also wrong, as he miraculously bounced back from his injury to become even better than he was before. But I wouldn't bet on any QB prospect being able to overcome poor offensive line play and develop into a top-tier passer. Burrow is definitely the exception to the rule.

I'll admit that I haven't watched many Bears games this year, but I'm under the impression Fields is playing with a Cup O Noodles and a mushy, brown banana. I don't think there's anyone left on the roster from the 2018 playoff squad, which wasn't a particularly good group to begin with.

Points: 0

#134 by mrh // Jan 10, 2023 - 1:29pm

I think they should definitely trade the pick or Fields, for the best deal, as you say.  But it's worth mentioning that the Bears have already wasted two of Fields' cheap cap years.  While that's not a reason in a vacuum to trade away a franchise guy, if the Bears think the top incoming guy is equally, or close to it, likely to be a franchise QB, then trading Fields is the better option.

Points: 0

#128 by dmonahan748 // Jan 10, 2023 - 10:34am

I watched every Bears game this year except the last one. The Bears OL cannot pass block. They run block pretty well, but they were awful in pass protection. On the rare occasion that he got decent protection, he was pretty good. Not great...he's definitely got room to improve...but he showed the signs of being a winning pocket QB. Any conversation about Fields that doesn't address that he had one of -- if not THE -- worst pass blocking OL's in the league and one of -- if not THE -- worst set of pass catchers in the league (especially once Mooney got hurt) can't be taken seriously. There isn't a single QB in the league who would have looked competent in this offense. If Fields didn't have a superhuman ability to avoid sacks, the offense would have been even worse. Again, I'm not saying he doesn't have room to improve as a passer, but to think that he is the problem with this offense is a sign you didn't actually watch the games. 

Points: 1

#131 by Joey-Harringto… // Jan 10, 2023 - 11:49am

This x100.  I only watched like 4 Bears games, but their pass blocking has to be in the top 5 worst I've ever seen in my life.  And it's not just because Fields holds on to the ball too long looking for a big play (although that doesn't help)....it seems like he often gets immediate pressure and has to start scrambling before he can even get past his first read.

Points: 0

#133 by ALauff // Jan 10, 2023 - 12:22pm

He's a really good downfield passer...when he has the time. I didn't watch every game, but the second GB matchup really stands out. He had some protection, guys were open at least twice 35-40+ yards downfield, and he delivered beautiful throws. He also had a terrific throw in the Buffalo game to Velus Jones, on the run; wasn't even open, just threw him open to the right sideline. Agree with your analysis (and with Aaron Brooks's above). 

Points: 0

#135 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 10, 2023 - 3:25pm

This play summed up the Bears season on offense.

https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1580757059091382272

They lose the game because their best WR caught the ball in the end zone, bobbled it, and recaught it back outside the end zone, and is down at the inch line on fourth down with 0:30 left. Bears lose.

Fields did everything right and everyone else let him down. This was after he ran for 43 years to get them down to the 1.

Points: 0

#113 by rh1no // Jan 09, 2023 - 3:43pm

I agree. 

Fields may not be the answer in Chicago, but the Bears need to surround him with talent right now. Maybe he grows into a successful passer with a better offensive line and receiving corps, or maybe he stagnates as the best running QB the league has ever seen.

Either way, I don't see Stroud or Young single-handedly lifting this supporting cast to greatness. The Bears need to give Fields a couple more years while filling out the other holes in their roster. If he doesn't pan out, at least Chicago will be able to put the next QB in a better position to succeed.

Points: 3

#111 by Oncorhynchus // Jan 09, 2023 - 3:41pm

It depends on if they get good trade offers. Raiders, Panthers, Commanders,  Jets and Saints are all at least somewhat in the QB market and currently in line to get at best the 3rd QB off the board (or worse). Hell, add Tampa to that list. If the Bears can get a mid-round 1st this year plus another first next year and a 2nd in trade for the 1st over all, that's a pretty good deal. They can then still take the 3rd QB or better yet use that pick to build around Fields while having two 1st next year as trade ammunition for a QB if Fields is somehow only good enough to get you a mid-round pick. I mean this was exactly the discourse around the Eagles last year when they traded for the Saints 2023 1st.

I don't think there's a questions the Bear might actually need a QB. They don't have certainty at that position. But they have a nice kind of uncertainty - they have a QB who might turn out to be good. That beats a lot of other teams who have the bad kind of certainty at QB position - they know the guy they have stinks. But they also have a ton of other needs.

Look, every move in football is bet. Every draft pick is lottery ticket and most players take time to develop. If I'm the Bears, I'd rather wait to see what the river card is then fold my hand on the QB right now. Especially if they get a good trade offer for the 1st overall pick (or a good trade offer for Fields). I'd so much rather have three 1st round picks over the next two years and a flyer on a prospects 1st year, than have two QBs on my roster with rookie contracts and only one more 1st round pick over the next two years. If they don't get a good trade offer, then I don't know. 

Points: 3

#114 by Mike B. In Va // Jan 09, 2023 - 3:44pm

Seems pretty simple to me: If there's a guy in the draft you like better than Fields, draft him. If not, trade.

If you can never decide if you like a QB, hire Kyle Shanahan.

Points: 1

#136 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 10, 2023 - 3:25pm

I wonder if the Ravens don't sniff around the idea of trading for Fields and letting Jackson walk.

Points: 0

#106 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 09, 2023 - 3:26pm

Hamlin apparently has recovered cardiovascular function sufficiently well that he was able to fly back to Buffalo.

Points: 6

#112 by Mike B. In Va // Jan 09, 2023 - 3:42pm

Seems likely to be in the Pegula's box on Sunday. The stadium may fall down from the crowd reaction.

Points: 3

Save 10%
& Support Mike
Support Football Outsiders' independent media and Mike Tanier. Use promo code TANIER to save 10% on any FO+ membership and give half the cost of your membership to tip Mike.