27 thoughts on “2019-2020 NFL: Divisional Round

  1. Saturday

    Vikings-49ers
    The Vikings beating the 49ers would not be an upset. In a lot of ways both teams mirror each other and the keys to the game are the same. Which team can stop the run and then rush the passer? The team that can run better and protect the football will likely win. If both teams run well, rush the passer well, protect the football, then the game is likely close and goes down to the wire. In this case, I’d give the slight edge to Cousins. Cousins can make a big mistake, but I like his poise better than Jimmy G. At the same time, Shanahan could be the difference maker here, drawing up the right play at the right time.

    Titans-Ravens
    Man, I wish the Titans and Ravens weren’t playing each other. I would have preferred one them to face the Texans and the other to face the Chiefs. If the Titans played the Chiefs and beat them, that would be an upset, but it wouldn’t be a huge surprise, as we’ve seen with teams with the Titans’ style beat teams with the Chiefs’ style.

    I wouldn’t expect the Titans to be able to really slow down the Ravens run game, but the Titans have some talent. Can Dean Pees come up with a scheme to slow them down—and force Jackson to make plays from the pocket in longer yardage situations? If they can’t do that, I don’t think the Titans have much of a chance.

    I would also expect the Ravens to gear up to stop Henry. I heard one or two commentators say Belichick prioritized taking away the play action over stopping Henry. If that’s true, that’s really surprising to me. If it’s true, I have to wonder if Belichick did this because he believed that Vrabel would be expecting the Patriots to take away the run, and would counter with the play action. On the other hand, maybe Belichick thought a) he could stop them in the red zone; b) this would shorten the game and keep the score close. “B” would be good if he concluded the Patriots would not be able to score (manufacture) enough points. I think this strategy makes sense, especially if stopping the run would have left the Patriot offense significantly vulnerable to play action passes or other passes that the Titans could execute.

    Sunday

    Texans-Chiefs

    This is another game where I feel like the two teams mirror each other fairly closely, at least in a general sense. Both offenses are more pass-oriented and have QBs that can extend plays. Both defenses don’t seem all that strong. In this sense, the running game may not matter as long as both teams can score. In other words, being one-dimensional won’t hurt either team so much.

    Having said that, my sense is that the Chiefs offense is better, and the run game for the Texans will be more important (although if the Chiefs run game is effective that will help as well).

    Seahawks-Packers

    Here’s the game for Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny (or even CJ Prosise). They also could use a healthy OL. In short, this the game when playing a run-based style pays off. Unfortunately, the Hawks OL may not have their starting left side (and the starting center has been out for a while). I’m skeptical that Travis Homer and Marshawn Lynch, combined, will have a really good day, even if the Packers run defense isn’t great. I would love to be wrong about this.

    If the Hawks can’t get their run game going, then the pass protection will be the key to winning. The Hawks converted on several 3rd and 10s on Sunday. The pass protection deserves a lot of credit for that. They’re going to need to do that, and the pass catchers have to get open, and catch the ball in potentially bad weather, in a timely manner. The ‘Hawks can win this way, but the chances are significant less than if they have strong run game in my opinion.

    By the way, the importance of the run game and pass protection relates the Packer pass rush, which is a strength of their defense. A good run game should help keep them at bay, as well as produce other beneficial effects. If the run game is bad, then the pass pro has to be excellent, especially if the Packers don’t blitz. Of course, the coverage/ability for WRs/TEs to get open are crucial component of this as well. I’m iffy that all of that can happen, and the weather might neutralize the passing game of both teams.

    For the Packers, if Aaron Jones has a really good day—if the Packers are mixing in runs well, keeping the Seahawks off balance—I would expect them to win.

  2. I don’t really give either AFC road teams much of a chance. Of course Texans have a shot, but I’ll be surprised if they can keep it close enough early to get the win.

    Vikings and Niners, I have a feeling both teams’ running games will shine. I feel like both d-lines are better pass rushers than being a run stopping D. Could the LBs step up and stop the run, maybe, but my guess is neither defenses will. It may come down to which offense can punch it in versus taking field goals as both teams seem pretty stout in giving up TDs. I like the Niners, though.

    Man even with all their injuries, I think Seattle has got a real shot. I think Seattle will be able to run enough (definitely more than against Philly) which will give Wilson enough open looks. Will Seattle convert on those long passes may be the key. As good as the Packer’s record is, they just don’t look all that impressive on either side of the ball. I think Seattle’s D can take away the Packer’s run game as long as they don’t allow any long runs, and that will mean can the Packer’s passing game be effective. That’s a big question mark. The great thing for either team though, is if either can keep it close their QBs can win a game late. I’ll go Seattle, but part of it is I think their has to be at least one road team that wins this week and I’ll give the nod to them.

    1. I don’t’ really give either AFC road teams much of a chance.

      My initial reaction is to agree, and if I had to bet I’d bet on the home teams, especially the Ravens.

      With the Titans, based on watching their defense, including against the Patriots, I don’t think they’re great; I hesitate to label them as a very good defense, and so I can’t see them really slowing down the Ravens, especially their run game, including containing Jackson, and forcing Jackson to beat them from the pocket. The thing is, in the playoffs, defenses can play a lot better than they did in the regular season, so who knows. But if they play at their regular season level, I would say they’re not really going to slow down the Ravens offense enough.

      The Titans offense could control the ball and therefore keep the score close. Actually, if the Ravens eat up a lot of clock and the Titans can hold them to FGs, and the Titans offense can control the ball well, the score should be close. But even in that scenario, I don’t like the idea of Tannehill having to win the game in the end.

      On a side note, I’m watching for trick plays, from both teams, on offense and ST, as well.

      With the Texans, if you tell me they will run the ball well, I think they have a good chance of winning—i.e., Hyde running for a 100 yards or real close.

      Vikings and Niners, I have a feeling both running games will shine.

      This is entirely possible. If so, penalties, sacks, and plays for losses are going to be significant. The offense that does these things will face long yardage situations, negating the value of the running game. It’ll also help the pass rush of the other team and increase the chances of turnovers in my opinion. So if both teams run well, the offense that can avoid long yardage situations should do better at sustaining drives and scoring—and I’d choose that team to win (barring turnovers or big ST plays). If both teams run well and minimize long yardage situations, and protect the football, it should be a really good game.

      It may come down to which team can punch it versus taking field goals

      This sounds right to me.

      …Seattle has a real shot

      If Homer and Lynch can combine for about 100 yards, I think you’re right. I know the Packer run defense isn’t stout, but Homer is small back—and not small and powerful like the Muscle Hamster or even McCaffrey. He’s more like much lesser version of Phillip Lindsay. If that sounds kinda bad, it’s meant to. He’s not that good—not as a RB 1 or 2. Lynch can flash at times, but I don’t think you can expect much out of him. For either RB, the OL will have run block well, and without Iupati and Brown, I’m skeptical they can do that. And if the weather is bad, they’re going to need the run game even more.

      If they can’t get in the 100 yard range, and repeat their run production against the Eagles (17 yards!), the burden on the OL (and pass catchers getting open) will be huge—and they’ll be going against a Packer’s strength, namely the pass rush. The ‘Hawks converted five 3rd and 10s and one 2nd and 18 against the Eagles. Of course, Russ deserves credit for that, but the OL contribution is underrated. They did enough to allow him to make those plays, and Russ can’t work his magic without this. I’m skeptical the Seahawk offense can replicate this against the Packer pass defense.

      I think Seattle’s D can take away the Packer’s run game as long as they don’t allow any long runs…

      Actually, if the Seahawks allow 3-5 years per carry, let’s say, and Rodgers frequently hands it off, I think the Seahawks defense will get shredded, and they will lose. Indeed, a part of me thinks the Seahawks’ chances rests on Rodgers not handing the ball enough—wanting to pass a lot more (and La Fleur letting this go, or not be able to stop him).

      By the way, what do you think of Seattle’s defense? I think they’re kinda bad—maybe good at best, and often below that. Actually, most of the defenses of the remaining teams, with the exception of the Niners are in the good-to-average range. I guess some of the other teams, like the Vikings, can play in the very good range. The 49ers have played close to a great level at times. But because most of the teams are closer to good, this opens the door for more teams in my view.

      1. If Henry can keep it going, they will have a slim shot. I just feel Baltimore, who’s defense isn’t great, will still be able to take him out of the game. And if the Titans cannot stop the Ravens, then Henry will be out of it completely because the Titans will feel like they have to score quickly. Then it will be if Tannehill can withstand the Raven pressure and perform. I think it’s possible, as Tannehill is pretty poised, but it will be asking a lot.

        I think Seattle’s defense is probably in the bottom three of the remaining playoff teams. I’m guessing the Chiefs may be the worse, but if they are I wouldn’t necessarily put Seattle much above them. However, Seattle has the ability both in terms of scheme and personnel (the LBs) to stifle a run game. And Green Bay has been dependent on that run game all year, especially in the red zone. If Seattle can load the box and limit any long runs, they will have a shot because the Packer receivers aren’t great. I just think it’s the best possible match up for Seattle. I wouldn’t feel as confident in their defense against Minnesota or the Niners. Not that Seattle cannot beat those teams, but their defense will give up stuffs against both of them. Now if Rodgers goes off, all bets are off, but if Rodgers is pedestrian (He had three games this year in which he didn’t throw a TD and they won.) as he was many times this year, and Seattle can stop Green Bay’s run game, Green Bay will lose. But you right if Seattle gives up 5 yards per carry they will get shredded, as Green Bay will keep running it and keep throwing underneath to their RBs.

    2. I just feel Baltimore, who’s defense isn’t great, will still be able to take him out of the game. And if the Titans cannot stop the Ravens, then Henry will be out of it completely because the Titans will feel like they have to score quickly.

      As good as Henry has looked, he and the Titans run offense don’t create the impression that they’re unstoppable. Compare them to the Ravens running game–that seems unstoppable.* So I can see the Ravens defense shutting down Henry.

      As for the Titans stopping the Ravens offense, I think the key is the score. If the Titans can hold the Ravens to FGs and keep the score close for as long as possible. If the Ravens get a big lead early, it’s over. I would be shocked if Tannehill can bring them back from a significant lead. (Also, I don’t know if you agree, but Tannehill seems prone to boneheaded errors–INTs or fumbling in the pocket. He can look good for long stretches and then he’ll do something boneheaded. This is kinda why I think he’d be a really good backup.)

      I think Seattle’s defense is probably in the bottom three of the remaining playoff teams. I’m guessing the Chiefs may be the worse, but if they are I wouldn’t necessarily put Seattle much above them.

      I wouldn’t argue with this. The Seahawk defense looks horrid at times, and they are often difficult to watch. But here’s the thing–they have made timely stops or get turnovers and that gives them a chance. I hate watching this type of defense, but on another level I admire the way they find a way to give the team a chance to win. I don’t hear much people say this, but I tend to think this is a great coaching job by Pete Carroll, especially of the defense. At times, it feels like they’re winning by smoke and mirrors or luck.

      Now if Rodgers goes off, all bets are off, but if Rodgers is pedestrian (He had three games this year in which he didn’t throw a TD and they won.) as he was many times this year, and Seattle can stop Green Bay’s run game, Green Bay will lose.

      Yeah, but that’s kinda stating the obvious. Then again, this could happen, and the Seahawks offense could struggle as well. Still, if Rodgers is just OK and Packers run game is non-existent, I think the Seahawks would win.

      But you right if Seattle gives up 5 yards per carry they will get shredded, as Green Bay will keep running it and keep throwing underneath to their RBs.

      I was thinking more about a few deep shots, especially off of play action. But when you say, “Green Bay will keep running it,” I think that’s actually a big question mark. Do you think Rodgers would be willing to throw for only 20-25 times in the game? (Has he done this this year?) Green Bay and Rodgers remind me of the Rams–namely, even if the run game is productive, they will sometimes rely more on the passing game. It seems clear that Rogers (not sure about LaFleur) and McVay prefer passing. And to me, this is their Achille’s heel, and it’s this that will save the Seahawks, more than the Seahawks run defense.

      (*By the way, is it me or does the Ravens rushing attack seem like the most dominant rushing attack since we’ve been watching football? Emmitt and the Cowboys, Riggins, Earl Campbell–all those runners and rushing attacks were dominant, but they don’t seem as dominant as the Ravens rushing attack. Again, the Ravens seem like Kahuku or Wai’anae going against Kalani or Kaiser–or at least that’s the type of impression I got for some of their games.)

      1. It’s harder to get good rushing teams to settle for field goals because in most cases their teams can run the ball against stack boxes. Good passing teams, as the field gets shrunk and the risk of giving up a big play gets less because there isn’t any more yardage to give up, it gets easier to limit them to field goals as compared to teams that can run the ball consistently. Add to that, that Baltimore loves to go for it on fourth and short, I think there is a greater chance the Titans D will just slow the Raven’s offense overall, than it is to allow them to move the ball into the red zone and settle for field goals.

        I believe if you look at Tannehill’s career numbers, he isn’t a big INT guy (I haven’t checked, but that has always been my impression of him.). I think he is prone to fumbles though. I would put Tannehill closer to the Alex Smith type QB in terms of INTs.

        I know what you mean about Green Bay unwillingness to abandon the pass. But I think there is a difference when Aaron Jones and Jamal Williams are affective and when they are not. Green Bay had games where their offense was abyssal this year, and it wasn’t so much Rodgers as it was they couldn’t get their run game going. Aaron Jones either led the league or tied for most TDs this year. Green Bay running on down and goal situations, could be the difference. And it’s in those situations that Green Bay seems to be more willing to stick to their run game than in Rodger’s “hey day”. But if Seattle can stop the run overall, you will see even more passing by Green Bay especially in the red zone, and that’s what Seattle should be hoping for.

    3. Add to that, that Baltimore loves to go for it on fourth and short, I think there is a greater chance the Titans D will just slow the Raven’s offense overall, than it is to allow them to move the ball into the red zone and settle for field goals.

      This sounds right. But I don’t think it’s just because good run teams generally do better at scoring TDs in the red zone than good passing teams. If the Titans were in the red zone against the 49ers, I could see the latter holding them to some field goals. But the Titans defense is not great, and the Ravens run-based offense is. I mentioned that the Ravens might be the most dominant run offense I’ve seen. Along with this, they seem like one of the best short yardage running teams. I mean, I feel like they 3rd and 3 or 4 is like 3rd and 2-3 for most other teams.

      I believe if you look at Tannehill’s career numbers, he isn’t a big INT guy (I haven’t checked, but that has always been my impression of him.).

      I’m not sure how high the number is–I think it has more to do with the nature of the turnover. Maybe it’s not always his fault, and maybe he’s gotten better at this, I’m not sure. The one against the Pats was awful, though.

      But if Seattle can stop the run overall, you will see even more passing by Green Bay especially in the red zone, and that’s what Seattle should be hoping for.

      Unless Rodgers turns to his old self.

      Overall, in terms of the Seahawks D vs. the Packer O, it’s more about the latter’s execution and willingness to run than the quality of the Seahawks D. If the Packers execute and play a more run-first style, the Seahawks won’t stop the run, and play action should get the Packer receivers open, even if they’re not great. Rodgers has more than the talent to deliver in that situation. My sense is that something is not right with the Packers–and this is what we save the Seahawks. On paper, if you look at both teams, the Packers should win.

      The other possibility is that I’m overestimating Aaron Jones and the Packer rushing attack. (I’m assuming that if Rodgers assented to a more run-first approach, the Packer run game would be really good.)

  3. Vikings-49ers

    First half story of the game: Niner DL overwhelming Vikings OL for most of the half, shutting down the run and making it incredibly difficult for Cousins.

    Jimmy G’s bad INT keeps Vikings stay close. (He could have had a two.)

    Second half:

    Cousins bad INT. Sherels muff punt basically ends the game.

    Conclusion:

    The game came down to the trenches. Niner DL just way better than the Viking OL, and the Niner OL and run game better than the Vikings DL. I’m pretty sure Vikings fans will criticize Cousins (and you can blame him for the INT, although that’s not why they lost) and the coaching, but the Vikings OL has been brittle all year, and they were overwhelmed. It’s hard to win in that situation. (By the way, the Niners even neutralized the Vikings screen game.)

  4. Titans-Ravens
    What stands out if the way the Titans converted a turnover and two failed 4th down attempts into points–especially the second 4th down stop, which lead to a long Henry run and an eventual TD on that drive. That put the Titans up 21-6. Oh, and on the next possession, the Titans strip Jackson and then score another TD, and that was basically the ball game.

    The way the Titans defense played, including those 4th down stops, the two INTs and the strip sack also stood out. In contrast to Titans defense, the Ravens defense looked kinda bad. I’m not saying it’s all their fault, but they didn’t look like a really good defense.

    I don’t known if Don agrees, but I get the impression the Titans had a scheme(s) to thwart or slow down the Ravens offense. I mentioned before that in the playoffs defenses can often improve dramatically. I think part of this is that defenses have more game tape and have a better idea of defending an offense. (I tend to think a team with a bye has an even bigger advantage.) But I also wonder if DCs do things that they don’t want to reveal in the regular season. All teams are looking for tendencies. So DCs might save things for the playoffs–or throw in new wrinkles. Then again, why wouldn’t this also apply to offenses? I’m sure offenses add in new wrinkles, but for some reason I feel like the defenses have more of an advantage. I could be totally wrong on this, though.

    Getting a lead on the Ravens was significant–although a 14 point lead is not big enough for the Ravens to abandon their running. However, the field position was important–and the Ravens seemed to have to drive down long fields. I should also say the Ravens seemed to drop a lot of passes or just have a lot of incompletions.

  5. Texans-Chiefs

    I can’t recall a team gaining so much by two disastrous special teams plays and then losing so much by two equally disastrous by special teams plays to the degree that the Texans did. It’s almost the gods cursed the Texans –any good fortune could not stand and had to be reversed.

    A couple of other things that stood out:

    The Chiefs had some bad drops–two early on on 3rd down. (I want to say #11 had 4 easy catches he dropped.)
    The Texans didn’t have a much of a pass rush–or the Chiefs pass pro was really good. (To me, the Chiefs had one of the better OLs this year.)

  6. Seahawks-Packers

    Such a bad start for the Seahawks–on both sides, but maybe moreso on the defense. They were like a sieve, maybe not fast draining, but fast enough.

    The Seahawk second half performance of the offense was impressive, though. And the defense got one or two stops that the team needed–they just couldn’t get the stops at the end.

    Man, with 5:00 minutes left, I thought Russ was going to drive them down for the score.

    I’m disappointed, but this team’s resilience and fight was unreal. I really think Carroll and Schneider did a terrific job this year. They and the players kept fighting and clawing their way. If there’s something positive, there’s that.

    I just hope they make big improvements in the trenches for next year.

  7. Vikings/Niners:
    The Niners remind me of the Rams of last year when their offense was just clicking. I thought Jimmy G was just okay, sort of how I think Goff is mostly just okay. But the offense had so many wrinkles that it was tough to defend. On the other side, the Vikings offense was pretty stagnate. I thought Cousins was okay for the most part, but he needed to be great to win, and he just wasn’t. I had thought the Vikings would have been able to run a little better, but really they should have stuck with it earlier in the game, and that would have given them a better chance, but really the Niners are just better – especially their offensive play calling.

    Titans/Ravens:
    The Titans had two pretty remarkable TDs to start the game. That really made a huge difference, I thought (exactly what Reid stated). But give credit to Tannehill for those two throws. I thought for the most part Henry was getting bottled up pretty well especially early in the game. I guess that’s his MO, and that he normally gets it going in the second half. But even after the first two TDs, it didn’t look great for the Titans, as they struggled offensively for good portions after that. But it was the Raven’s turnovers and lost on downs that really cost them. Those lost on downs could be attributed to an unhealthy Ingram. The credit to the Titans front seven (and scheme) for containing the running game though. They made the Ravens have to pass, and although the Titan’s zone defense was like a sieve at times, it really made the Ravens do something they were not used to. I think if the Ravens and Titans played 10 times, though, the Ravens would probably win 8.

    Texans/Chiefs:
    The Texans’ pass rush was horrible at times (what Reid stated), unless they were trying to stay in their lanes to keep Mahomes within the pocket. Watt didn’t look in shape as he was huffing and puffing. I think the Texans needed to maintain long drives to give themselves a chance and they just couldn’t do it. Of course giving up seven straight TDs in seven drives didn’t help either. I know I counted the Titans out of the Raven’s game, but the Titans will need a repeat performance (early scores and some turnovers) to beat the Chiefs. A Chiefs/Ravens game would have been awesome.

    Seahawks/Packers:
    Wilson was unreal at times especially with his feet, but his throwing was off for good parts of the game. So much so I thought he might have been injured. Rodgers on the other hand, had at least 3-4 jaw dropping throws. The Seahawks run defense wasn’t as dominate as they needed to be, that and Rodgers’ remarkable plays at the key times, really hurt the Hawk’s chances. Wilson almost had to win the game by himself, which he almost did. Looking back, Seattle probably should have abandoned their run game sooner than they did. I’ll just reiterate what I was sort of saying prior to this game, that the Packers run game on down and goal situations is pretty darn good. And I have never seen them stick to the run game near the goal line with Rodgers in the past, and to me it has to give teams pause, as they have to key on the run game and still have to worry about Rodgers in those situations.

  8. Vikings-49ers

    …but really they should have stuck with it earlier in the game,

    I feel like this wouldn’t have made a big difference. You don’t think the Vikings OL was overwhelmed by the 49er front seven?

    Titans-Ravens

    But even after the first two TDs, it didn’t look great for the Titans, as they struggled offensively for good portions after that.

    I think that’s part of their MO–the Titans don’t have a great offense, not in terms of points, but they do have a good, maybe very good offense, in terms of ball control. While you say they didn’t look great, one of the things that stood out for me was that their offense was good enough to punt from about mid-field–and their kicking game was good enough to consistently give the Ravens long fields. In my opinions, field position was critical part of the Titans victory.

    The credit to the Titans front seven (and scheme) for containing the running game though. They made the Ravens have to pass,…

    I definitely think the Titans deserve credit for slowing down the Ravens offense, but I tend to the Ravens started passing a little too early, although maybe they started doing this with two minutes left in the half. I did read that Roman started going more towards the pass down 14 points. If true, that’s way too early to abandon their running style in my opinion.

    What’s your overall assessment of Jackson’s performance? I have mixed feelings, but I wouldn’t say he passed with flying colors. At best, I still have serious questions about him as franchise QB.

    Texans-Chiefs

    I think the Texans needed to maintain long drives to give themselves a chance and they just couldn’t do it.

    Yeah, and that had to do with being able to run effectively. I thought they did OK early on. But really, I feel like this was a smaller issue. The bigger issue was the huge momentum shift by those ST plays–the failed fake punt and the muffed catch on the punt or kickoff. That happened right after the other, and it just turned the whole game around. Once the Chiefs offense got on a roll, that was it.

    Seahawks-Packers

    but his throwing was off for good parts of the game.

    This makes me curious to watch the game, as I didn’t have this impression, although I was probably too worried about the outcome to notice this.

    The Seahawks run defense wasn’t as dominate as they needed to be,…

    I sort of feel this way, too, but then Jones just had 62 yards. Then again–with the Packers passing game going well, that was probably enough. Whether you want to point to the run or pass defense, I would say, overall, the defense was close to porous on those scoring drives. I don’t know if you agree, but the Packers scored too easily.

    That’s the thing about evaluating the Packers offense. Did they look better than they are because the Seahawk defense isn’t that good? We’ll get a good answer next week, because the Niners defense is way better (or should be).

    Looking back, Seattle probably should have abandoned their run game sooner than they did.

    I have some doubts about this. If they abandoned the run earlier–and it was obvious to the Packers–I think it might have been harder to pass. Russ could have taken more shots, INTs could have increased. My sense is that the Seahawks PA is more effective than one would think precisely because the defense and DC truly believes that Carroll wants to and will run the ball–even with a 4th string RB and guy who hasn’t played in 14 months. But if it’s clear the Carroll has abandoned the run, I would think PA and passing would become more difficult.

    1. You don’t think the Vikings OL was overwhelmed by the 49er front seven?

      I thought the Viking outside zone runs were mildly effective. I think that was their one chance to win, because although the Niners weren’t scoring a lot, their offense seem pretty effective throughout the game.

      What’s your overall assessment of Jackson’s performance?

      I thought Lamar was good to great, but I thought it was more a product of the Titan’s pass defense than it was Lamar making great plays. But it was part of the scheme to contain Lamar. You see it a lot with running QBs when teams have to play man-to-man. Everyone is running down the field with their backs to the QB and the QB is running free. Basically I think the Titans prevented that scenario as much as possible, although Lamar still had some long runs, by zoning everything up. The zone pass defense was horrible most of the day in terms of covering receivers.

      The bigger issue was the huge momentum shift by those ST plays

      I agree the momentum shifted on those ST plays, but I’m not sure it would have mattered with the way the Chiefs were moving up and down the field. As you stated even the first couple drives stalled because of dropped passes, or else it could have been nine straight TDs.

      This makes me curious to watch the game, as I didn’t have this impression,

      The first pass that made me wonder is the overthrow of Metcalf which hit the Packer defender in the hands. It could be that Metcalf cut the route shorter than he should have, but that pass was horrible. I don’t recall Wilson having that kind of throws in other games I’ve watched. Wilson also had a throw into the ground to Lockett, that I thought was pretty bad. I’m pretty sure those two passes were not pressure related.

      I have some doubts about this. If they abandoned the run earlier–and it was obvious to the Packers–I think it might have been harder to pass.

      But the Seahawks abandoned the run on their three TD drives, and the Packers had no answers.

      I’ll just add that although Rodgers had some amazing throws (BTW, what’s with the throwing off your back foot, side arm action.), Wilson definitely outplayed Rodgers. Wilson was as dominate as Lamar has been anytime this year, in those three TD drives.

    2. I thought the Viking outside zone runs were mildly effective.

      Huh. My impression is that outside or inside, the 49ers basically shutdown their run game.

      I thought Lamar was good to great, but I thought it was more a product of the Titan’s pass defense than it was Lamar making great plays.

      He had some good throws, even if you factor in the zone, but the one INT wasn’t good. Some of his balls fluttered as well, and the Titans would knock the pass away.

      So are you feeling confident that he’s the real deal?

      I agree the momentum shifted on those ST plays, but I’m not sure it would have mattered with the way the Chiefs were moving up and down the field.

      That’s fair, but I think it’s hard to say how the momentum/emotion would have affected both the KC offense and the Houston offense, if the those Texan ST miscues didn’t occur. (I also forgot about the long return the Chiefs had as well.)

      The first pass that made me wonder is the overthrow of Metcalf which hit the Packer defender in the hands.

      Was that on the first drive? Wilson had to run up–a defender hit him on the leg, and then Wilson scrambled to his left and threw the ball. It looked like he was just throwing it up to DK. Also, it looked like DK was improvising the route.

      The Lockett pass was weird. Watching it again, it almost looks like either pass rusher behind Russ hit his hand or another pass rusher tipped the ball. If not, it was a bad throw.

      The first one didn’t really seem that bad to me though.

      But the Seahawks abandoned the run on their three TD drives, and the Packers had no answers.

      I feel like they were mixing in quite a bit of play action passes. At that point, it wasn’t clear that the Seahawks were abandoning the run. They were passing more than running though. Had they did this a lot in the first half, by the second half, I wonder if the Packers would just start to ignore play action.

      I’ll just add that although Rodgers had some amazing throws (BTW, what’s with the throwing off your back foot, side arm action.), Wilson definitely outplayed Rodgers. Wilson was as dominate as Lamar has been anytime this year, in those three TD drives.

      Rodgers did have a few, although they don’t stand out to me as much for some reason. I think what’s drawing my attention is the way the Packers moved the ball and scored TDs. Also, why the Seahawks didn’t do more to stop Davante Adams.

      And yeah Wilson was awesome. This year, he hasn’t been doing his crazy scrambles, but he’s moving around, finding crevices as the pocket morphs. The way he can protect the ball and then make throws in these cracks is unreal. Having said that, I think the OL has to be somewhat competent–keeping their man in front of them for the most part or at least pushing them away to create creases for Wilson to slip through. The OL has been shaky but they’ve been doing this, while avoiding free rushers. That’s a huge improvement from the past.

  9. Seahawks-Packers
    I agree with most of what Don says, although I’m with Reid in thinking Seattle abandoning the run sooner wouldn’t have given them a better chance. I have a feeling doing so would have made their few critical runs less likely to succeed. Wilson was unreal; he really demonstrated to me that he’s the second-most valuable player in the league this season, behind Lamar. It’s so seldom you see a QB just take over an entire offense like this but he seemed to carry the Seahawks on his back.

    Rodgers was unbelievable when he had to be, and I liked the way the Packers mixed up runs and throws. I very seldom root for the NFC in the Super Bowl, but if the Packers win Sunday, I’m all in with Rodgers.

    Titans-Ravens
    My second-favorite thing about the Titans’ season is that Cian Fahey has been saying for four years that Tannehill is a very good QB and people are finally seeing what he’s been talking about. My first-favorite thing about the Titans’ season is that the Dolphins are paying more of Tannehill’s salary this year than Tennessee is. Tennessee played a solid game, the kind of game that could have beaten any team on any given day. I don’t care for the Titans but it was nice to watch them this week, just playing a good game of football. And yeah, the Ravens gave up on the run too early. 14-0 early is a tough deficit, but nothing the Ravens should have been discouraged by. Lamar looked like a rookie out there.

    I really wish I’d seen the Chiefs-Texans game, or at least the first quarter.

    This season went by too quickly.

    1. I agree with most of what Don says, although I’m with Reid in thinking Seattle abandoning the run sooner would have given them a better chance. I have a feeling doing so would have made their few critical runs less likely to succeed.

      I’m unclear what you’re trying to say here.

      It’s so seldom you see a QB just take over an entire offense like this but he seemed to carry the Seahawks on his back.

      Yeah, he was awesome. I think I heard someone say he accounted for 90% of the offense in the last two games. While this is impressive, I really think this is a bad way to play. (If I’m not mistaken, Wilson accounted for a ridiculously high percentage of the offense in 2017. I want to say 90%, but that sounds too high.)

      My second-favorite thing about the Titans’ season is that Cian Fahey has been saying for four years that Tannehill is a very good QB and people are finally seeing what he’s been talking about.

      I don’t get the level of regard for Fahey. You think Tannehill is really good? Who would you compare him, too? To me, I think he’s somewhere between a really good backup and an OK starter. I think Andy Dalton is a pretty good comparison, and at his best I could see him like a Kirk Cousins. (I’d take Cousins over him, though.

      And yeah, the Ravens gave up on the run too early. 14-0 early is a tough deficit, but nothing the Ravens should have been discouraged by.

      I totally agree. Looking back on the game, I can’t remember when they started going to the pass a lot–I do think it occurred too early. Michael Lombardi is convinced the Ravens panicked–at 14-0, and even at 7-0. I find this shocking, and I have a hard time believing this. It’s possible–and it would explain how they played–but it’s just surprising they’d react that way. 14 points lead in the first half is nothing–any Seahawk fan will tell you that! The more I think about this, the more annoyed I get. They had one of the most dominant run games I’ve ever seen. They didn’t have to give that up because of a 14 point lead. I’m pretty sure Harbaugh knows this. I’m more inclined to believe they thought the Titans game-planned to stop their run offense, and the Ravens felt playing a more pass-oriented approach would be a good counter to that. In other words, the Ravens looked at what the Titans were doing and felt they could better exploit their defense with a pass-heavy approach. This would make way more sense.

      By the way, I understand Derrick Henry ran for at least 180 yards in the last three games. That’s pretty crazy. It makes me think of Terrell Davis, at least in one the Super Bowls. I want to say he had a 100 in the first half of one of them, and Elway ended up with under 20 pass attempts (I think). If Henry runs for 180+ again, the Titans can beat the Chiefs.

      1. I believe the Ravens were taking what the Titans were giving them. The Titans neutralized the full-back dive for sure. Part of it was scheme, but part of it is the talent. They, the Titans, have some immobile objects on defense and Baltimore’s o-line couldn’t get any push. Add to that the injury to Ingram, and it could be the Raven’s didn’t feel comfortable in their normal offense. And I said it before, the Titan’s defense of the pass was pretty horrible. Guys were running free all over the place. The Ravens convert the two fourth downs and they win playing the way they were playing, at least that’s what I thought. The Ravens were moving the ball at will. Also, at the half the score was only 14-6, and the Ravens got the ball to start the second half and they were still passing a lot. I doubt they were in panic mode at least in that point of the game. The downside to the heavy passing game was the two INTs. The first one was a horrible pass by Lamar, but the receiver probably could have done better as well. The second INT probably wouldn’t have happen if the Raven’s were not in desperation mode at that point in the game down 28-6. The Raven’s also were pounding the Titans in time of possession in the first half. I think partly because the Raven’s run a gimmicky offense, it leads to more criticism when they don’t win.

      2. I’m unclear what you’re trying to say here.

        Ugh this is what happens when I write in a hurry and then don’t go back and re-read. I means abandoning the run earlier wouldn’t have given them a better chance.

    2. Don,

      Also, at the half the score was only 14-6, and the Ravens got the ball to start the second half and they were still passing a lot. I doubt they were in panic mode at least in that point of the game.

      Yeah, I tend to agree. And Lombardi was saying they panicked at down 7, too. That’s hard to believe.

      The downside to the heavy passing game was the two INTs.

      That’s a huge downside, though–and it’s one reason I can’t say the Ravens would have won if they had converted the two first downs. Jackson also fumbled and that was huge as well.

      As for the INTs, I think it’s too strong to say the first one was horrible–the second one was far worse. The first one was catchable–to the point where you could argue Andrews should have caught it, but it wasn’t a good throw.

      I think partly because the Raven’s run a gimmicky offense, it leads to more criticism when they don’t win.

      My criticism or concern is that the offense is too heavily reliant on scheme. That is, once DCs figure out out a good counter-scheme, the offensive effectiveness may drop dramatically. Think of the read option or the wildcat. Additionally, my sense is that option offenses can be stopped with good discipline and good athletes and no glaring weaknesses on defenses. A good-to-great NFL offense should have that. One way an option-based offense can thrive is if they have overwhelming talent especially the OL and RBs (and a running QB). I think of Kahuku and Wai’anae in their heyday or OU and Nebraska. In the NFL, you’re rarely going to have that type of dominance, especially against playoff teams.

      To be clear, I’m not saying this applies to the Ravens. We’re only talking about two playoff games. I wonder if it’s fair to say that Lamar isn’t a good enough passer, especially from the pocket, to win a Super Bowl–at least at this point. I hesitate because he did have a lot of nice throws. At the same time, I think you glossed over some the bad throws/incompletions. Additionally, the Ravens were on a roll this year, and Jackson was in a groove; his confidence was high. How will he respond, when the supporting cast and overall offense is more shaky? How confident will he be? I have questions about that.

      If you have someone like Cam Newton in this offense, I think it could work. Watson and Wilson could make it work, too, but I think it would be foolish to let them run the way Lamar does. All of these QBs can pass from the pocket. Basically, the offense can work if it can function like a more traditional pro style offense, at least at times.

      1. When you say “heavily reliant on scheme” though, do you mean a team reliant on one aspect of an offense like run heavy or pass heavy. When I watch the Rams with Goff and now the Niners with Jimmy G, I feel like a big part of their success is scheme. I’m hardly ever impressed by either QB and to me they can only be successful in the scheme they are in. It’s pretty early for both QBs, but if I had to choose, I would definitely choose Tannehill over both guys.

    3. When you say “heavily reliant on scheme” though, do you mean a team reliant on one aspect of an offense like run heavy or pass heavy.

      No, I don’t mean that. I’m not using the word precisely, but what I meant by “heavily reliant on scheme” are offenses or plays that rely on complex movements that confuse opposing defenses. In some cases, the defense and DC is so unfamiliar with the offense or scheme, they literally don’t have a good plan to defend it. Again, think of when the wildcat and read-option came into the league. The early success had more to do with the confusion of the defense and DC. Once DCs and defenses had a plan to defend those, both those things became far less effective.

      What I’m wondering is if the Ravens offense is like that. They seemed to do novel things–the way they would motion the TE and incorporate that in the option runs. They would rely on the inverted-veer where the QB runs up the middle on a keeper or the run a traditional read option. They would also seem to have two blockers out front when Jackson kept the ball. I asked during the season if this was the type of offense that would be far less effective with the right defensive counter, and a good defense.

      Also, as I mentioned, option offenses seem to be far less effective against a solid defense that plays with discipline.

      I think with McVay’s offense there was some novelty–the way he changed tempos, moving from hurry-up to huddling. And he seemed to bring back older formations (i.e., bunch formations). To me, his offenses looked like late 90’s NFL offenses, with addition of jet sweep and changing of tempos. At the end of last year, it did seem like defenses developed a solid game plan and the offense was far less effective.

      At the same time, I’m hesitant to describe this heavily reliant on scheme. Same with Shanahan. I say this because developing a great defensive scheme wouldn’t really diminish the effectiveness of the offense–not over the long hall, as it did for the wildcat and read option. With Shanahan (and I think with McVay), if they have good players, an opponent can have good game plan, but they could still struggle to stop those offenses.

      When I watch the Rams with Goff and now the Niners with Jimmy G, I feel like a big part of their success is scheme.

      There’s some truth to this. To me, Shanahan, McVay, and Kubiak, they have a system, an offense–and they’re great at implementing it. But it’s not like the right game plan would really stymie their offenses–not if they had good players. And I think they need good players, especially at the QB position.

      I think Goff and Garoppolo would be really good if the former handled pressure much better, and the latter improved his ball security. Actually, I would say something similar about Tannehill. I don’t get the sense he panics, but he’ll do goofy things in the pocket, leading to a turnover or bad play. All of them are kinda similar in my opinion.

      I will say that when Goff has good protection, and he gets into a rhythm, he looks really, really good, particularly on timed throws. It looks unstoppable. (Yes, I think that’s part of the west coast scheme. I mean, maybe he’s like a Steve Bono.)

      1. Most option teams are almost the opposite and they don’t really rely on confusion per se, and in fact their play books are really slimmed down. They are often running the same play 70% of the time. Option teams rely on precision (running the same play over and over) and having the defense have to basically play one-on-one or as you say with more discipline. Which seems the opposite of McVay, who’s presnap motion was at one time the most in the league.

        I will say though Baltimore may not fall into the straight up option team, but I wouldn’t say they run a complex offense like McVay supposedly runs as well. I would say the Ravens are somewhere in between if McVay’s offense can be considered to be on the complex end, but with tendencies to be more simplistic like an option team. But you are right that unfamiliarity of not seeing another team like the Raven’s plays a part in the Raven’s success.

        I do think however, is the difference between Goff and Jimmy G and Lamar, is I feel Goff and Garappolo is helped more by their coaches and their schemes, whereas Lamar seems to be the big reason his coach or scheme is effective. Could Buffalo with Josh Allen run Lamar’s offense and be unstoppable? I would highly doubt it. No defense will give Josh Allen the respect that Lamar has to get. You asked about Lamar playing from the pocket and I basically couldn’t give you an answer. Lamar did have passes that looked great and some not so great against the Titans, and if I had to guess I would think Lamar is closer to the not so great passer. However, the Titans having to play zone because of the worry that Lamar could be running all over the place, opened up some huge holes for receivers to sit in. But is that the best way to scheme Lamar and this Ravens? I would hope not. I will say San Diego’s defense scheme won that game last year in the playoffs, but I hesitate to say this Titan’s team scheme was super effective. It took away a lot of what Baltimore loves to do, but yet it struggled to really stymie that offense completely. Did the Titans defense play a better game than the Niners D did this year? Actually more accurately should be than the Niners D played in the second half.

        If Baltimore is able to maintain Greg Roman as the OC and Lamar doesn’t get injured or “thinks he needs to be a pocket passer” ala RGIII (who probably needed to, to remain healthy), I would tend to predict that this offense stays pretty dominate, but of course not as dominate as they were this year, despite Lamar’s limited passing ability.

    4. But you are right that unfamiliarity of not seeing another team like the Raven’s plays a part in the Raven’s success.

      And I’m assuming this causes confusion. Maybe DCs have a solid game plan, but maybe they just don’t have time to prepare the players to adequately defend the offense? I think option offenses have an unpredictability, confusing element because on every play the defense doesn’t know where the ball will go. I think Roman will add wrinkles to make this harder, too. I think Mike Shula and Norv Turner did this when using the option plays in Carolina, too.

      I’m not sure I made this point, but there’s a big difference between using these type of plays as a complement versus the core. Carolina used it as a complement. The Saints use wildcat and Taysom Hill for these gadget type plays as a complement, too. I think this is sustainable, if the core part of the offense is not just based on unfamiliarity/confusion. The Ravens seemed to make this option offense the core.

      I do think however, is the difference between Goff and Jimmy G and Lamar, is I feel Goff and Garappolo is helped more by their coaches and their schemes, whereas Lamar seems to be the big reason his coach or scheme is effective. Could Buffalo with Josh Allen run Lamar’s offense and be unstoppable?

      Yeah, but you could look it another way, too–namely, would Lamar be effective in Allen’s offense? Without switching to this offense, I’m skeptical Lamar wouldn’t be effective. (This the offense Vick and even Tebow needed to succeed.) In this way, we could say he’s a “system QB.”

      …if I had to guess I would think Lamar is closer to the not so great passer.

      I tend to agree. And what should be considered is that this is the case in almost perfect circumstances for a QB. For Lamar 2019 is similar circumstances as 2016 for Dak. (I could add Palmer and Newton in 2015.) And it was a long stretch, maybe the entire season, of this. A QB’s confidence and sense of rhythm will be at it’s best. If Lamar looks like a not-so-great passer in these circumstances, what’s he going to look like in less than ideal circumstances throughout an entire season? It’s likely going to be even worse, right?

      Did the Titans defense play a better game than the Niners D did this year? Actually more accurately should be than the Niners D played in the second half.

      Off the top of my head, I’d say no. But I think we also have to look at the score. And some point, when they had a bad league, I think they may give up a lot of yards, maybe even points, in exchange for eating up the clock.

      If Baltimore is able to maintain Greg Roman as the OC and Lamar doesn’t get injured or “thinks he needs to be a pocket passer” ala RGIII (who probably needed to, to remain healthy), I would tend to predict that this offense stays pretty dominate, but of course not as dominate as they were this year, despite Lamar’s limited passing ability.

      Staying healthy is a big caveat in my opinion, but let’s assume that’s the case. You don’t think Lamar will need to play well from the pocket–throw a lot, like he did in the last game–at least at some point to win a Super Bowl? To me, this is truism for winning the Super Bowl, and that’s why I think if a QB can’t play well from the pocket, it’s very unlikely they’ll win a Super Bowl. (Another way to think of this: There will almost certainly be one team in the playoffs that will stymie the Raven run game, forcing them to rely on the pass. Can Jackson pass well enough and protect the football in those situations?)

      1. I think the thing you are not mentioning, even if you are thinking it, is that Lamar doesn’t need to be as great as a “regular” QB throwing the ball. Teams have to worry about Lamar running, so it will give him other opportunities other QBs don’t have. For example, Lamar will always have more time to throw the ball, because teams are worried about giving him a running lane. Teams may have to use an extra guy to “spy” on Lamar, taking that person out of pass coverage and rushing the passer. Teams like the Titans may choose to play a lot of zone coverage, whereas very few teams play zone coverage. So it could be Lamar just needs to be an average thrower or maybe even slightly below average.

        So if Lamar is healthy next year, where do you see the Ravens? Ten wins? Eight? I would probably say closer to twelve. I’m guessing you are thinking that one full year and one off season is all teams would need to “catch up” to Lamar and the Ravens, with the caveat that Lamar isn’t “good enough” to carry a team with his arm (which you are saying you are not sure about).

    5. So it could be Lamar just needs to be an average thrower or maybe even slightly below average.

      But couldn’t you say the same for Wilson or Watson? Do you think they’re average throwers from the pocket? It’s hard to say for Watson, but I don’t think Wilson is merely average. (I think he requires a more spacious pocket, but once he has that, his pocket skills are excellent.) Do you think Wilson and Watson would be just as good if they were average? I find that a little hard to believe. I could something similar about Newton. He’s not a great pocket passer, but he is (or was) better than average in my opinion. I would say all of them are better passers than Jackson, at least at this point. Would you agree with that?

      Having said that, I think Jackson could be successful in the regular season by being an average passer–if the run game can be dominant. But in the playoffs, you don’t think it’s likely they’ll face a team that will slow the run down? Or maybe they’ll get behind, and they’ll need a much better passer? To me, one of these things almost always happens to a QB in the playoffs. You gotta be a good pocket passer in this case–which includes protecting the football.

      So if Lamar is healthy next year, where do you see the Ravens? Ten wins? Eight? I would probably say closer to twelve. I’m guessing you are thinking that one full year and one off season is all teams would need to “catch up” to Lamar and the Ravens, with the caveat that Lamar isn’t “good enough” to carry a team with his arm (which you are saying you are not sure about).

      I’m saying I have serious questions about the extent to which the offense depends on a novel offense. I also want to see how Jackson handles more adversity, throwing in situations that are less than ideal–i.e,. when pass catchers aren’t getting open quickly, the pass protection or running game isn’t as good.

      The roster will have a big impact on all of these things. Will they lose key players? Will they improve in free agency and the draft? Their offense could be sustainable, but the level of performance ultimately depends on getting and keeping good players (as is the case for all offenses).

      If the run game is effective in a similar way and their defense is the same or improves, I’d expect a similar record. But I have a lot of uncertainty about whether those things will occur or not.

  10. I thought this article by Bill Barnwell at ESPN was interesting, particularly this point about field position in last weekend’s games.

    The Titans scored four touchdowns during their win Saturday night. Three of those drives started on Baltimore’s side of the field, with the Titans cashing in on possessions of 20 yards (after they recovered a Lamar Jackson fumble), 35 yards (a Jackson interception off a Mark Andrews drop, with a curious penalty tacked on for Jackson’s tackle attempt at the end of the play), and 45 yards (the first failed fourth-and-1 opportunity).

    The Titans had one drive top 50 yards all night, and that 81-yard drive was essentially the 66-yard Henry run where he broke out of Matthew Judon’s grasp on third-and-1 and romped through the Ravens’ defense. Mike Vrabel’s offense was able to parlay those short fields and one huge play from Henry into 28 points and a huge lead.

    They also repeatedly forced the Ravens to go the length of the field to score. Baltimore had 11 possessions, each starting inside its 26-yard line, with 74 or more yards to go for a touchdown. Jackson & Co. had six drives of 50 yards or more during the game, but those six opportunities generated just 12 points.

    Six Ravens possessions — including all three of their fourth-quarter opportunities — ended on the Tennessee side of the field without any points. To put that in context, there has been only one playoff game over the past 20 years in which an offense made it to the opposing side of the field and failed to score more than six times.

    On the Texans-Chiefs’ game:

    fter Houston kicked a field goal to go up 24-0 with just under 11 minutes to go in the second quarter, the Chiefs’ next three drives didn’t need to go far:

    A long kickoff return from Mecole Hardman gave Kansas City the ball at the Texans’ 42-yard line, and the Chiefs scored two plays later.

    A failed fake punt gave the Chiefs the ball at the Texans’ 33-yard line, and they scored four plays later.

    A fumbled kickoff by DeAndre Carter gave the Chiefs the ball at the Texans’ 6-yard line, and they scored three plays later.

    Kansas City was able to turn nine plays and 81 yards into 21 second-quarter points, getting it back into the game in a matter of minutes. The Ravens, as an example, had a 14-play, 93-yard drive in the second quarter, but time ran out and they kicked a field goal.

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