25 thoughts on “2019-2020 NFL: Playoffs Wildcard Round

  1. AFC
    Titans (6) vs. Patriots (3)

    Two things come immediately to mind: Titans will have a few opportunities for a deep ball. They need to hit on these or they likely won’t win. (Bills did this and kept it close). Tannehill has to take care of the football, including avoiding fumbling in the pocket.

    I think Titans defense should be good enough, given the Patriots offense. Titans need to watch out for trick plays from Patriots ST and offense.

    Bills (5) vs. Texans (4)

    Two key questions for me:
    Can the Texans run game be a threat and a factor?
    Can Allen make handful of plays and protect the football?

    I’m rooting for the Bills.

    NFC

    Vikings (6) vs. Saints (3)

    The Vikings being able to run the ball is critical. The Vikings defense has been a disappointment. Unless Vikings dominate in the run game and ball control, Vikings defense will have to play near their best to win, in my opinion.

    On a side note: The Saints may be the best NFC team, and one of the best in the league. However, I think the fact that they have to play outdoors, in Lambeau and later in Philly, SF, or Seattle is really big deal in my opinion, especially if the weather conditions are bad. I would expect Brees to not be in top form.

    Seahawks (5) vs. Eagles (4)

    M.A.S.H. bowl. The Eagles are decimated by injuries, but the Seahawks are not that far behind in that department. As a football fan (and even a Seahawks fan), I think this is lame (no pun intended). It stinks. On the other hand, if I’m honest, I’ll be happy if the Seahawks win, even if the Eagles injuries significantly contributed to this.

    For the Eagles, I think the threat of the running game is critical. If the running game isn’t a factor, I think they’ll have a hard time winning.

    Can the Seahawks generate a pass rush? Can they also run the ball with Lynch, Homer, and Turbin?

  2. Bills-Texans

    This was a good game overall–or at least exciting. Several things that come to mind:

    Josh Allen fumbling
    Bills failing to stop Texans from converting on a 3rd and long in OT
    Deshaun Watson escaping a free rusher on 2nd and 6–backbreaker.

  3. Titans-Patriots

    I thought a big key in this game was the punting game–Titans pinned the Patriots on their side, and the Patriots punter had two kicks that went into the end zone.

    I was a little surprised that the Patriots allowed or struggled to stop the Titans run game.

    Tannehill had a terrible INT and also a crucial muffed snap on third down in the 4th. (He had a fumble which he was luck to recover as well.)

    Give credit to the Titans defense and ST. The Patriots offense, early in the game, looked pretty good. But later in the game, they weren’t good enough to score on long fields.

    1. The Titans actually rushed zero (one or two D-linemen stayed at the LOS). Has that happened before? I’d say it’s pretty rare if so. At first I thought: Why doesn’t Brady just like hold the ball and wait until someone gets open? But then I remember how little time was on the clock. Had he done that in the previous play, that probably would have been the last play. Seems like a good move. I wonder why other teams don’t do this?

    2. The question wouldn’t be a huge issue if the Patriots had at least one more good WR or TE on the team. Maybe who the Pats will get at WR/TE next year will determine if Brady comes back to play for them?

  4. Vikings-Saints

    Vikings front four pass rush was a key to the game, neutralizing Brees in key moments, including getting a key fumble.

    Cousins had a great throw and a Thielen a great catch in OT.

    If the Saints won, Taysom Hill would have been my MVP. He had a pretty incredible performance.

    1. I don’t understand why Kamara has become a nonfactor? Not only in terms of usage, but also in terms of production. Obviously they go hand-in-hand, but what I thought was New Orleans was sort of resting him for the playoffs and that he would explode come playoff time. I was wrong.

      On the other hand Dalvin Cook is a top three RB. He’s not Barkley and he doesn’t have the versatility of McCaffrey, but I would put him third slightly above Zeke. Or maybe right below Zeke at fourth, that one is a tough one.

    2. I don’t understand why Kamara has become a nonfactor? Not only in terms of usage, but also in terms of production.

      When I first read this, I thought you implying the Saints should have ran more, using Kamara as the focal point of a more run-based approach. I thought this was an interesting–point something that didn’t occur to me.

      But now, I’m guessing you didn’t really mean that–you’re just surprised he didn’t have a bigger impact overall, not that the Saints should have ran more or used a more run-based approach.

      On some level I share that surprise–even with a more pass-based approach, Kamara has had an impact. On the other hand, off the top of my head, I feel like his relatively limited impact was because the Saints emphasized the pass a bit too much. I’d have to watch the game to be sure. If I’m correct, I wonder if the previous game where Brees looked like a younger version of his self was the main reason for this. That is, they wanted to be more pass=oriented because Brees was in a groove.

      It’s not a bad game plan, and almost worked. Frankly, I was surprised with how well the Vikings DL played against the Saints OL. One could make the case the Saints should have ran more to slow down the Vikings pass rush.

      On the other hand Dalvin Cook is a top three RB. He’s not Barkley and he doesn’t have the versatility of McCaffrey, but I would put him third slightly above Zeke. Or maybe right below Zeke at fourth, that one is a tough one.

      For a while, I had Cook as a MVP candidate (mabye the 4th option). He’s terrific, but I also think Kubiak is a huge reason for their run success. Who else is in your top 4? McCaffrey belongs in there, but he’s not might type of lead back. I’d prefer Carson, Fournette, or Henry over him.

    3. I’ve heard comments that people are shocked that the Vikings beat the Saints. I think it’s a bit of an upsetting, but not that shocking. If you told me the Vikings defense would play the way they did, especially the pass rush, and run the ball well, I would say they had a good chance to win.

      The same applies against the 49ers and any of their opponents going forward. They run the ball and play defense in a similar way, they can win the Super Bowl. (Cousins would have to play the same as well.)

    4. What’s your guys take on this non call:

      I have mixed feelings. Initially, I felt this should have been an OPI. I also sort of don’t like that the rules favor the offense so much (although I think the officials give more leeway to the DBs–at least relative to a few years ago, and I think that’s good). On the other hand, would I like it if officials threw a flag every time for this type of action? A part of me says no–especially since the act didn’t seem really egregious. To me, the move is in the gray area–it’s enough to give an advantage to the offensive player–but it’s not egregious enough where I’d feel satisfied as a fan. I think I might get exasperated with the officiating if they called this consistently. (A part of me would like a way for the officials to negate the TD, without a penalty and the offense redoes the down. But I suspect this would just cause more problems.)

      1. I think more than half the OPI I’ve seen look similar to this play, except maybe if the push had a little more force to it. I’d say it’s fifty-fifty that this one should have been called.

      2. I’d say it’s fifty-fifty that this one should have been called.

        Yeah, that sounds right, and I guess in that situation, the officials shouldn’t call it. This example is a really good gray area call in my opinion. Rudolph does get an advantage, but what he does, doesn’t look real significant. You call the penalty and fans will be mad. You don’t call the penalty and fans will be mad. There’s almost no right or wrong in this situation. (That’s why I kinda wish there were a do over or “jump ball” call.)

        1. I don’t really agree that the PI in this situation should be a “do over”, but I get where you are coming from. But the fumble by Hollister, in which the official said it was a fumble, but because the whistle blew and there was no clear recovery, should be some sort of a “do over”. Green Bay shouldn’t have lost the challenge at the very least, which meant losing a TO, and losing the chance at an extra challenge (A team has to win both challenges to get another one.).

          1. Actually in the PI situation there are times they call PI on both the offense and defense and that’s a “do over”.

            You mean on the DB and pass catcher involved in the catch? I feel like there may be a call on a WR and DB on different areas of the field. Can you think of a specific situation? Was it DPI on both the offense and defense? Man, if that’s something they allow, they should have done that in the Niner-Seahawk game, with Hollister and Warner.

            It was just because the whistle blew, that they couldn’t determine possession.

            Wait, why couldn’t they determine possession because the whistle blew? Was it because the players stopped trying to go for the ball? ?

          2. Yes both the defender and receiver were pushing and fighting each other and both were flagged. I’m pretty sure I saw it once live, and I think I saw it as a replay another time. But I cannot think of who were involved.

            Well it looked like the Green Bay guy got the ball, but the argument is that because the whistle blew, even though teams didn’t actually stop fighting for the ball, that teams could have stopping fighting for the ball. It’s not like the ruling was it was not a fumble. So it’s sort of unfair to penalize the Packers in that situation.

        2. I “do over” would probably cause more problems than it solves. I didn’t watch the Hollister fumble carefully–I just fast forwarded to see the result and went on with the game. But for the same reason a “do over” is not a good idea, not charging a time out for a challenge is probably not a good idea, too. If both are allowed you’ll just create more confusion and frustration about the judgments made for whether a call should be a do over or not taking away a timeout.

          1. Actually in the PI situation there are times they call PI on both the offense and defense and that’s a “do over”. I forgot about that till now. I’ve seen it at least a couple times.

            I disagree with the Hollister play though. Basically if you win your challenge, you have a chance to get an extra challenge and you don’t get charged a timeout. In this play, essentially Green Bay won the challenge, because on the field it was ruled down by contact, but the replay said it was a fumble. It was just because the whistle blew, that they couldn’t determine possession. I don’t think Green Bay should get charged for the officials error. The least they could do, if they weren’t going to give the ball to Green Bay, is not charge them a timeout and give them a chance to get an extra challenge.

  5. Seahawks-Eagles

    M.A.S.H. bowl indeed–Wentz goes down early. What’s disconcerting as a Seahawks fan is the way the Eagles moved the ball, in spite of all their injuries. Yes, they were held to 9 points, but they were more effective moving the ball then they should have been–at least if the Seahawks had a good defense. I think this is Carroll’s worst defense. Having said that, this might be one of his best coaching jobs. I feel like the Seahawks defense, whatever effectiveness they have, is based on smoke and mirrors.

    On the offensive side, what stands out to me is the OL–I feel like they’re the main reason the Seahawks won. What’s weird is that they were far from great–I feel like Wilso took a lot of hits–at or after the throw. But they gave him enough time to complete passes and/or lands to maneuver or run.

    Seahawks couldn’t really run, but they stuck to it and forced the Eagles to defend it.

    1. Weird, and I didn’t watch the entire game, but I didn’t get the sense Seattle stuck to their run game that much? I looked at the stats and if you took out Wilson’s runs, they only ran the ball 17 times. But as you said their run game against Philly was pretty ineffective.

      Although McCown played well at times, Wentz would have made a big difference in this game. Not sure if big enough for them to win, but his legs would have really helped. McCown is slow, and then he got hurt and almost shockingly became even slower (sort of joking). He almost never could get to the outside of the pocket. He did a pretty good job moving within the pocket though.

      I think after this week’s game, many don’t give Seattle much of a chance next week, but I think their offense will move the ball against Green Bay. It’s just a matter if they can get touchdowns versus field goals, I think. I also think Seattle will have to try and see if Rodgers can beat them and try and take away the Packer run game.

    2. Weird, and I didn’t watch the entire game, but I didn’t get the sense Seattle stuck to their run game that much?

      I would say no, but it depends on how you look at it. Given the ineffectiveness of their run game, you could argue they stuck with the run. They ran enough to create impression that they were committed to it, and I think that was enough.

      But this wouldn’t have worked if the pass pro was worse. And it’s not like the Seahawk offense was great.

      Although McCown played well at times, Wentz would have made a big difference in this game.

      Hard to see how this couldn’t be true, even though McCown did pretty good, considering the situation.

      I think after this week’s game, many don’t give Seattle much of a chance next week, but I think their offense will move the ball against Green Bay.

      Count me in that group. What gives me a little hope is that they can rise up and play better than one would think–and Russ can be a big factor, of course. For example, the two times they faced the 49ers, I thought they had no chance.

      Against the Packers–and going forward–the key offensively is, can they run the ball effectively? If they are one-dimensional, like they were against the Eagles, I don’t think they have a chance.

      Whether their defense can get turnovers will be huge, too–they’ve been pretty good at that.

      I also think Seattle will have to try and see if Rodgers can beat them and try and take away the Packer run game.

      But what if Rodgers/Packers forcing pass, neglecting run? Do you game plan to stop run? (In general, Carroll type of coach you almost always prioritizes stopping the run, no matter who they play.)

  6. Don,

    Yes both the defender and receiver were pushing and fighting each other and both were flagged. I’m pretty sure I saw it once live, and I think I saw it as a replay another time. But I cannot think of who were involved.

    Well, if you think of a specific example or see one, let me know. I could possibly see like pick and maybe a DPI, but both players fighting each other and both being called? I can’t remember anything like that. I’m trying to think of a situation where a call like that would be good. The DB and pass catcher would both have to do something really egregious, I would think.

    Well it looked like the Green Bay guy got the ball, but the argument is that because the whistle blew, even though teams didn’t actually stop fighting for the ball, that teams could have stopping fighting for the ball. It’s not like the ruling was it was not a fumble. So it’s sort of unfair to penalize the Packers in that situation.

    I don’t even know what the replay was supposed to decide at this point.

    1. I don’t even know what the replay was supposed to decide at this point.

      What do you mean? Are you trying to say, “Why did Green Bay even challenge the call”? or literally “What the replay was supposed to decide?”? I think Green Bay challenged the call, because it was an obvious fumble and they didn’t know it would be ruled that the whistle beat the recovery. But if you literally mean what is the replay supposed to decide, I agree. Basically once the whistle blows, it’s tough to determine things, which is why a lot of times officials let stuff go and wait for teams to challenge it. But that’s why I was saying Green Bay should have been able to keep their timeout and challenge in this situation.

    2. What do you mean? Are you trying to say, “Why did Green Bay even challenge the call”? or literally “What the replay was supposed to decide?”?

      I don’t know–both? I’m confused in general.

      I think Green Bay challenged the call, because it was an obvious fumble and they didn’t know it would be ruled that the whistle beat the recovery.

      If that accurately describes not just GB’s intentions, but the decision the officials had to make, then GB should lose their timeout. A team gambles that the replay will be decisive. If it’s not or reaffirms the call, then the consequence is losing the timeout. Why would an official’s mistake of blowing the whistle change that? Let’s say a QB gets stripped and the defense gets the ball and the offensive team challenges it. Let’s say during the replay the defense was clearly lined up in the neutral zone, but the officials missed it. If the replay is unclear or shows that the defense got the ball, should the offense’s team not be charged the timeout?

      But if you literally mean what is the replay supposed to decide, I agree. Basically once the whistle blows, it’s tough to determine things, which is why a lot of times officials let stuff go and wait for teams to challenge it. But that’s why I was saying Green Bay should have been able to keep their timeout and challenge in this situation.

      As I said, I don’t really understand the situation, but what this sounds like to me–GB taking a chance that the replay would show something that would be in their favor. If it doesn’t, I’m not sure why it would be unfair to charge them the timeout.

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