NFL Preview: Wild Card Round
So you made the playoffs. Congrats to everyone but the WFT.
Last Week: 12-4
Overall: 126-125-4 (the odd number happened because I didn’t get a pick in for the first Thursday night game)
That’s it for the regular season. (if you miss the bad teams, we sent them off here) What a year it was. So much fake cheering. Speaking of fake cheering, I would be remiss if I didn’t address the elephant in the room. Hi Stampy.
Also, I miraculously went 12-4 last week to end the season above .500. How did I do it? By deliberately picking the team that made the least sense. I probably don’t deserve real cheering for this, but I would counter with… did you know the Eagles were going to intentionally throw the game Sunday night (something everyone in the media insisted a coach would never do)? Or that the Dolphins wouldn’t show up in Buffalo at all? Or that the Steelers backups would play to a dead heat with the Browns starters with everything on the line? The last few weeks have been nonsense (in the most entertaining way). It makes sense to counter non-sense with non-sense. So let’s hear some fake cheering.
Thanks. I deserve that. Out with the old, in with the new. We have received an upgrade in quality from total non-sense to playoff grade this week, so my analysis will have to match. First up, the week that was.
Best Call: Since I picked the opposite of what made sense, this means the best call I made was that the Ravens would obliterate the Bengals (I picked the Bengals). They did just that, continuing a torrid stretch of play against weak opposition that could mean everything, or nothing.
Worst call: As always, I took the Bills to cover, which was rewarded by another easy Bills win. I can’t wait to pick them for real in the playoffs.
Miracle cover: Me. I made an incredible cover by going 12-4 in my last chance to end the season with a winning differential, getting just what I needed. This is exciting for someone who has never done a whole season like this before. So let’s hear it for El Padre…
Time to do our first evaluation of the playoffs ever. Let’s try ranking each team in a few key categories to determine who to pick. Then, we will calculate the categories, and make our pick based on that. To make sure we factor in the line, we will subtract that number from their total category score. This will be extremely scientific. Pro Football Focus, you are about to get served. Pancakes (although I recently made Churro Waffles which I highly recommend).
Indianapolis Colts vs. Buffalo Bills -6.5
Ranking the Colts. We will rank each on a scale of 1-10
How old is the QB who will be playing outside in the frigid conditions (1 old 10 young): 2
How consistently great is your defense: 5
How many great players are on this team’s offense: 0
Is this team’s QB likely to throw a back breaking interception (1 yes 10 no). 0
Ranking the Bills. Remember 1-23
How great is their quarterback this year: 10
How many yards open will Stefon Diggs (assuming he plays) get each route: 4
How many seconds will be left when they hand the ball back to Philip Rivers down three scores with no time outs left: 10
Which player will get the crucial interception of Philip Rivers: 23
The Colts: 7 (plus 6.5) The Bills 47. We will go with the Bills -6.5
This is a disaster match up for a Colts team that struggles to move the ball at times and has an inconsistent defense. Their only hope is that Josh Allen isn’t ready for this moment yet, like his melt down last year against the Texans. I doubt that is happening though. Beyond that, I’d be willing to bet it will be cold and unpleasant. Not ideal for a dome team with a 56 year old quarterback.
Los Angeles Rams vs. Seattle Seahawks -3
Ranking the Rams: Still 1-10, except that one time
Aaron Donald’s level of malice: 10
Jalen Ramsey’s ability to back up his mouth: 7
Jared Goff or other QB level of skill: 3
Likelihood of their play matching any expectation presented: 2
Ranking the Seahawks: 1-10 till the end of the article
The size of Russell Wilson’s… clutch gene: 10 (inches)
The defense’s overall talent level: 3
The level of skill talent: 9
Their coach’s ability to look like a tennis instructor who is too handsy with your wife: 8
Rams 22 (plus 3) vs. Seahawks 30. It’s close, but we are going with the Seahawks -3 here.
It’s hard to be confident in the Rams because they could do anything on any week. Jared Goff might be ok, or he might not. Except, the Seahawks are also all over the place. When the chips are down, I want Chef Russ cooking in my kitchen, not someone who looks vaguely like Ryan Gosling.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Washington football team -8
Ranking the Bucs. It’s been 1-10 for two straight rankings
How good is your team’s karma because you signed a horrible person to your roster: 2
How many super bowl rings does your quarterback have: 6
How many times did you let your opponent score 27 or more points (subtract from 10): 3.
How many Gronk spikes were there this season: 6.9 (if you round down from 7)
Ranking the WFT: I know sometimes we have gone over 10 (and under) but it’s 1-10
Number of sex-based scandals in the front office: 4
Times coach beat cancer (any number equals 10): 10
Positive QB stories (minus negative QB stories): 0
People who think the WFT will win this game: 1
The Bucs: 17.9 The WFT: 15 (+8). Thanks to the line, we are taking the WFT +8
I am genuinely concerned about whether the Bucs can win this game. The WFT defense is a real pain. Brady can negate some of that by getting the ball out quickly, but everyone knows he is going to do that. The WFT has quietly been playing above average football for a while, and the Bucs have quietly been struggling in the second half. With no Mike Evans to push the safeties up the field, everyone is going to be packed in small windows. The Bucs defense needs to step up here. The good news for them is that Alex Smith also doesn’t throw the ball down the field, where they are weak. I see this being a low scoring affair. I also think the WFT is going to hear everyone all week saying they don’t deserve to be there and they will get smoked. That’s a lot of motivation. I’ll take the points.
Baltimore Ravens vs. Tennessee Titans +3
Ranking the Ravens: 1-10 till the day I die
Wins against teams with a winning record: 3 (the Browns twice)
Lamar Jackson 200 yard passing games: 4
Amount of times a receiver had 100 receiving yards: 2
Amount of times the defense gave up 20 or fewer points: 10
Ranking the Titans: 1-10 probably
Times they have held the opposition to less than 20 points: 4
Crushing Derrick Henry stiff arms (subtract from 10): 7
Points they beat the Ravens by in the first matchup: 6 (but in OT)
Times Ryan Tannehill threw for more than 275 yards: 3
Ravens: 19 Titans: 20 + 3. We are going with the Titans +3
This game is very evenly matched. The Ravens and the Titans both love to run the ball and try not to throw a lot. This is also a rematch of last year’s playoff debacle for the Ravens when they were crushed. Ultimately, this will probably come down to which QB can find success throwing the ball. The Titans pass defense is really bad, but Lamar Jackson has barely thrown the ball this year. This allows them to escape with their biggest weakness untested. Lamar HAS to throw for at least 250 to win this game. I just don’t see it, and I want the points, as I suspect it will be close.
Chicago Bears vs. New Orleans Saints -10
Ranking the Bears: 1-10 although we allow for negative integers
Amount of good QBs: -3
Bears defense rank in points per game (subtract from 10): -4
Bears offense rank in points per game (subtract from 10): -16
Amount of picks between where the Bears took Mitchell Trubisky and where the Texans took Deshaun Watson (subtract from 10): 0
Ranking the Saints: 1-10 I’ll try to be more positive
Completions per game that were thrown over 20 yards for Drew Brees: 1
6 touchdown games in NFL in the Super Bowl era BESIDES Alvin Kamara’s (subtract from 10): 10
Amount of times in the last 10 games their opponent has been held to less than 17 points: 6
Amount of points scored over Bears in their matchup earlier this year: 3
Bears: -23 +10 Saints 20 Looks like we are going with the Saints -10
The Saints caught a break when the NFL timed their game to be literally hours after Alvin Kamara comes off the Covid 19 list (how convenient). This could still change, but for now, it looks like he will play. The Saints make me nervous here. Brees hasn’t been playing well since he returned. The Bears have been playing great lately. Here is the problem I have. The Saints are a LOT better than the Bears. The Saints defense has been great in the second half of the season, and that matchup against draft bust Mitchell Trubisky is cause for great alarm. I think the Saints will cover.
Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers -6
Ranking the Browns: 1-10ish
Not counting two games with catastrophic weather conditions, how many times have the Browns held an opponent under 20 points: 2
Amount of teams worse in PPG than the Browns at defense (subtract from 10): 0 (remember this counts two games where no one could do anything)
Baker Mayfield 300 yard passing games: 2
Margin of difference in the two games these teams played this year (subtract from 10): -29 (remember the Steelers benched several starters in the second game)
Ranking the Steelers: 1-10 give or take 10
Amount of times the Steelers have scored 25 points in their last 6 games: 1
Amount of times the Steelers have given up over 20 points (subtract from 10): 1
How many of those 9 times have the Steelers given up in the past 6 weeks: 5
Times Ben Roethlisberger has lost to the Browns (subtract from 10): 8
Browns: -25 +4.5 Steelers: 15 We are going with the Steelers -6 here.
The Steelers have been terrible since their game against the WFT in December. The core of the issue has been Roethlisberger playing terribly. This is the perfect get right situation however. The Browns defense has been porous all year, including allowing Ben’s backup to nearly win the game last week. I still don’t think the Browns have cured big brother syndrome, and whatever they have cured has been undone by a COVID outbreak. If they can win this week, then the monkey will be off their back. Unfortunately their run heavy attack plays right into the Steelers strengths. It’s gonna come down to Baker Mayfield and his car, boat and RV insurance.