19 thoughts on “2020-2021 NFL: Playoffs–Divisional Round

  1. Rams-Packers

    Rams are hobbled at QB. If they win that would be an accomplishment. I’m guessing the Packers have to gear up to stop the run, right? I would think the Packers offense should give a good test to the Rams defense. Actually, I could say that the other way, too.

    Ravens-Bills

    Close to a classic running team vs. passing team. What I would focus on is Lamar’s ball security and ability to make 3-5 plays in big and/or difficult moments. If he can do that, I would go lean towards the Ravens. To some extent this applies to the Allen–although I would focus on his ball security. The impression I have is that he’s gotten rid of the reckless play. We’ll see.
    I’m looking forward to this one.

    By the way, the Bills are almost clones of the Chiefs–not just offensively but defensively and ST (although maybe their pass rush isn’t as good).

    Browns-Chiefs

    I have no idea how healthy the Chiefs OL is, or if Edwards-Helaire will play. Both are huge. The Browns defense has been disappointing, playing under my expectations. Can they change that? Baker’s gotta protect the ball and make the handful of plays in key moments. If that happens and the defense keeps them close, the Browns can win.

    Bucs-Saints

    There’s a third competitor in this game–Father Time. Which QB will do a better job of beating Father Time. Or alternatively who will lose least to him? The answer to that might determine the winner of this.

    The Saints are one of the most well-rounded teams

  2. I think both number 1 seeds got great match-ups. For example if the Steelers won, the Chiefs would be playing the Ravens and if Seattle won, the Pack would be playing the Bucs. I cannot see either number 1 seed losing today. The Rams got a chance because of McVay and their defense, but I don’t like their chances. The Browns with a healthy Conklin would have had a slim chance by pounding the ball, but Conklin isn’t healthy and their defense if horrible.

    If the first two games between the Saints and Bucs are any indication, the Bucs will get killed. The Bucs struggle against the Saint’s pass rush. Can Arians install some of the Pats quick passing offense? That seems like their best chance. On the other side, if the Bucs can stop the run just a little bit, it may get the Saints to move to a pass all the time offense. But I like the Saints.

    The best game of the weekend is the Ravens and Bills. Barring any injury, I like the winner of this game to go to the Super Bowl. They both look better than the Chiefs right now. Reid touted this game as the run versus pass game, which is true. However the key will be the Raven’s defense. In the games they played well, the Raven’s offense seem to wear down the oppositions, with Lamar making just enough plays. In the games the Raven’s defense doesn’t play well, the Raven offense doesn’t seem to have enough fire power. This game could go either way, but I like the Raven’s defense to slow down Diggs and with Beasley injured that might be enough to slow down Josh Allen.

    1. For example if the Steelers won, the Chiefs would be playing the Ravens and if Seattle won, the Pack would be playing the Bucs.

      This is a good point. Last week’s game were really significant–the number 1 seeds are in a great position now. What gives me pause about the Browns is that they may have a DL that can get to Mahomes. That’s why I mentioned the Chiefs OL. If the Browns can exploit the Chiefs OL, and they run and protect the ball, I think they have a chance. The fact that they’re the Browns doesn’t give me a lot of hope, though.

      With the Bucs and Saints, if the Saints shut down the Bucs running attacking (which they did in the past, if I’m not mistaken), I think they can pressure Brady. My sense is that Arians is not good at the short, spread passing game. (I think they lost to the Panthers because of this in the 2015 playoff game.) But the Father Time issue is a big deal. If Brady protects the football, and doesn’t look like an older player, and Brees makes mistakes, that can be the difference in the game.

      However the key will be the Raven’s defense.

      I think this is related to the Ravens rushing attack, though. If the Ravens are running the ball well, they’re going to grind up the clock. This should put the Ravens defense in a good position to play well. My hesitancy on this is that I don’t have a good feel of the Ravens defense. I see the names on their roster and I think they should be better than I see them perform. Sometimes they look good, but they rarely look dominant. In a way, the Ravens and Titans are similar in the sense that they have really good, run-based offenses, but their defenses are not as good as you would expect. For the Titans, maybe they lack defensive talent. But that doesn’t seem to be the case with the Ravens. (To be fair, I don’t know what their injury situation is like.)

  3. Rams-Packers

    I was surprised at how much Aaron Rodgers handed off the ball in the first half. That surprised me more than how well the Packers ran. I don’t know if you guys agree, but this was a crucial reason they won. Rodgers’s willingness and the overall impact the run game had.

    The Rams have no reason to be ashamed though. They made a valiant effort on both sides of the ball. Their defense started clamping down on a bit in the second half, too. And Rodgers had to make a one or two really good throws (especially that 3rd down from his end zone; that’s the type of play young QBs like Lamar have to make).

  4. Ravens-Bills

    (Note: I’m cheering for the Ravens.)

    Man, the Ravens ST is hurting them (missed 2 FG, bad punt). To be fair, it was a windy day.

    Bills look like they’re crowding the box. Lamar going to have to hurt them by throwing.

    Big play by Lamar throwing to convert 3rd down. 2nd qt–but then.

    First half summary: Somewhere June Jones is smiling. This looked like a June Jones offense versus the Cornhuskers. Talk about two one-dimensional offenses at the opposite extremes.

    Both defenses are playing well. But I think it reinforces the idea that it’s hard to have success as a one-dimensional offense in the playoffs.

    Allen had one bad ball security moment. After that, he better not make a reckless play in the second half.

    Prediction: The team that can be more balanced will win. Lamar’s gotta open things up with his passing. Similarly, if the Bills can run and do so damage, that should open the offense up.

    Ugh–pick 6.

    Start of the 4th: With the way the Ravens offense is playing (especially if Lamar doesn’t come back in), the Bills offense just needs to protect the football and eat as much clock up as possible. They should win. Allen definitely better not do anything dumb. Just take a sack if you have to.

    To me, the Bills are asking for trouble with the way they’re playing (just passing). Here’s where a good run game would be valuable.

    If Lamar plays, this is where he can prove himself as a Super Bowl QB.

    1. Other thoughts:

      I assumed the Ravens passing game would be solid through most of the game. That’s the impression I had of their offense, especially when their run game got going (at some point in the second half of the season). That wasn’t the case. Granted the run game slowed down, but it seemed like the Bills were crowded the box, taking that away. That should have opened up opportunities for the passing game.

      To be fair, the Ravens OL struggled in pass pro.

  5. Packers, Rams – The Rams defense was okay overall, but they couldn’t get off the field in the first half. As Reid stated, Green Bay showed good balance on offense, but I’m not as surprised as Reid. Aaron Jones, who is probably a top three or four runner in the NFL, is a big part of this offense. And when you think about how much Williams and now Dillon touches the ball, it seems Green Bay uses their RBs quite a bit.

    Ravens, Bills – The wind had as much to do with bad offenses as anything done by the players and coaches. It even affected the hiking of the ball, which took out Lamar. That being said, whatever the reason (coaching, Lamar, O-line), the Ravens give up way too much negative plays and I’m not only talking about this game, but all the games I seen the Raven’s this year. If you are a run-first or “run-only” offense, you cannot have negative plays. You almost never see a wish-bone offense getting that many negative plays. Add to that, the Raven’s short yardage offense compared to last year’s is horrible. I cannot believe Yanda is worth that much? What I would like to see the Raven’s implement is the outside zone toss, that Shanahan runs. Defensive ends on both sides of the line against the Ravens, crash in and really contain the Raven’s from getting to the outside. I believe the wishbone offenses combat that by running the option, which would then require more than one defensive player to play contain. There doesn’t seem anything like that with this Raven’s offense.

    1. The Packer run game has been a factor all year, but they never played in a ground-and-pound style, at least from what I can remember. Does that match your perception–in terms of them not playing a ground-and-pound style in the regular season, but doing so yesterday? versus the Bears. But even then, I don’t think they ran as much.)

      By the way, did it seem like the Rams were daring the Packers to run? Initially, I got that impression, but then it stopped looking that way. Another reason I thought that: the Rams almost picked off Rodgers twice. One of them they should have caught.

      It also could be the way the Rams defense is designed–i.e., taking away the pass, while leaving themselves vulnerable to the run. Even without Garappolo the 49ers ran over the Rams. (On a side note, Carroll recently reiterated the need for the run game to be more of a factor. This vindicates that remark. I just hope he can make Russ see that.)

      Re: the wind during the Ravens-Bills game
      Did you think it affected Allen’s throwing? I didn’t get that sense. In fact, I didn’t notice the wind until I saw the field goal posts vibrating on Tucker’s second attempt.

      Also, in retrospect, I’m feeling like the Ravens pass protection was worse than I realized. Does that match your impression, too? To me, that might be a bigger factor for the passing game struggles.

      Oh, and those snaps were utterly horrid. But did the center say the wind affected it? I don’t see that. Those two that went high weren’t just inaccurate, but too fast. (There was at least one low snap, as well.) I’m wondering if they had a back up center and if they had other injuries on the OL.

      By the way, I’m not sure which games you watched of the Ravens, but it matters. At some point in the first half of the season, I kinda wrote them off because their run game wasn’t so dominant. But at some point their run game came alive. It looked like they were doing several new things. It was never as dominant as 2019, but it was getting there. But yesterday, except for early in the game, the run game wasn’t as strong. This likely contributed to poor pass pro.

      More than the outside zone, my mind turns to Lamar, particularly in the passing game. Maybe the wind impacted his throws. But it could be inaccuracy, too. Addtionally, if he’s not throwing tight spirals with velocity the wind can affect that, but that’s partially on him. Also, I wouldn’t blame the pick 6 on the wind.

      1. I didn’t think Green Bay was ground and pounding it. In fact they seem to pass more than they ran early on. The third drive or their second TD, they seem to run a little bit more, but that’s because Jones broke the long one.

        Yes the pass pro for the Ravens isn’t great. It was close to bad at times as well. But Lamar did have instances where he had time to throw. In terms of Lamar, if you saying if he was closer to Brady or Brees in the pocket the Ravens would be better, that’s hard to argue. But I think it’s possible Lamar can be an average passer and the Ravens be good on offense if they could mix up the running game a little bit. They need to be able to run on the outside sometimes to keep those defensive ends a little bit more honest. Teams see the run option so much now-a-days, they can defend it well. How many times a game does the Ravens’ RBs run on the outside? A handful at best. I don’t see how a team that mostly runs, can be successful, just running between the tackles. That would be equivalent to a mostly passing team just running fades and slants and nothing else.

        In terms of the wind, the announcers made the comment that the wind was affecting the hikes. I don’t know if they know for sure though. But you could see the biggest effect of the wind in the punts and even kick offs. All of those was poor including Tucker missing two field goals. The wind must have affected the passing game somewhat based on how it was affecting the kicking game.

    2. Huh. You’re perception of “ground-and-pound” made me check the stats. That second possession was actually 14 plays, 9 were runs. I also think the sequences of runs and passes influenced my perception. For example, they ran the ball on the first three plays. That alone raised my eyebrows. And then they never passed twice in a row for the rest of the drive.

      Re: Ravens pass pro

      Lamar did have instances where he had time to throw, but I feel like many where crowded pockets. Did you feel like he had enough to get comfortable? I believe that even if a QB has a handful of good pockets that won’t matter if the other times he’s under pressure. I use the analogy of a great basketball defender contesting almost every shot of a good shooter. Even when the shooter has clean looks, the discomfort from the previous shots carries over.

      Re: outside running.

      They don’t really have toss sweeps, but I feel like they attack the outside with those inverted v plays–where the RB goes outside and Jackson can keep and run up the middle.

      Re: pocket play
      I’m basically saying he’s gotta be better. He definitely can’t throw picks. And it’s not like he has to make a lot of throws. And while I think he has to function in the pocket better, not all the throws have to be from the pocket. He has to be able to make those 3-5 throws, in big moments. Think the bomb to Sanders that Garappolo missed; or the 3rd and long when Eli hit Marion Manningham. Today, in the Browns-Chiefs game: Baker to Hopper on the 4th down conversion. Pressure situations, tough throws. If a QB can’t do this, I think you need an all-time great defense or maybe an all-time great run game.

      Re: Wind

      I get how it affects the field goals and punts–and I could see that, it’s less clear how it affected the snaps, especially low snaps. (Maybe the center is consciously trying to not snap the ball high?)

      1. I feel like the run option plays in which Lamar runs up the middle, if he hands it off to the RB, the RB would still be running between the tackles. It’s just the entire line is drifting over to the side the RB is going. But the RB doesn’t look like he’s going to run outside the tackle or get to the outside. When the term “outside the tackle” is used, does it mean outside where the tackle was when the play started before the ball is hiked? Then I can see what you are saying, but I was more referring to a sweep type play where the RB literally gets around the outside tackle when he’s running. The only o-linemen that are closer to the sideline than the RB would be guys that are pulling. So for example when Demarco Murray keeps running the outside zone play for the Cowboys, is that an outside the tackle run?

    3. I think “outside the tackle” has ambiguity. “Off tackle” is another term (which I don’t hear much now), but I think that’s not the same. Forget those terms or the tackle for a moment. Basically, I think you’re talking about a perimeter run versus an interior run. Off the top of my head, I would say that one distinguishing feature is the angle the RB takes. Walsh’s 49ers used to like running outside on sweeps. When the RBs got the ball they were running horizontal, and then they would turn the corner. On a toss sweep, the RB may not be running horizontal so much, but they’re arcing to the outside, if that makes sense. But these runs can sometimes result in the RB cutting back inside, if the defense over-pursues. For outside zone runs, the RB cut back can be so significant the RB is running in the opposite direction.

      Off tackle runs to me are more interior runs, but done at the edges of the line. The don’t really have a “looping” quality.

      To me, when the Ravens do that inverted veer play, the RB is running horizontal, like a sweep with the 49ers (although I don’t know if the linemen are pulling). That’s how I remember it anyway.

  6. Browns-Chiefs

    The only two things that come to mind is the two turnovers. I feel like that was the ball game–especially since Mahomes left the game. I hope he’s OK. Chiefs OL and run game looked good.

    1. I don’t usually complain about officiating, but I was annoyed at this call:

      They had a bad angle and couldn’t use video footage to make the call. That’s the only when I can understand this. And to not get fined? I know the defender is desperately trying to prevent the ball carrier from getting in the end zone, but my understanding is that’s not an excuse. Even if the defender isn’t blatantly using his head–if the hit is inadvertent–my understanding is that this isn’t an excuse valid excuse, either.

  7. Buccaneers-Saints

    Turnovers kill the Saints.

    I don’t know if Father Time really is at play, but I mention age as a factor because if either QB was in their prime, I tend to think their ball security would be better. But maybe not. In any event, Brees loses (and could have had another turnover), but Brady could have been picked off two or three times, too. That’s going to be a factor going forward.

    Do you guys think the Saints got away from the run game? In the beginning of the second half, Kamara looked good, especially getting the ball from Brees under center. I feel like the Saints went to a lot of shotgun, passing after that first second half possession. But it looked like Kamara could have had a big game if the Saints kept feeding him.

    Do you guys think the extent to which the running game was a factor was a big determinant of who won? That’s sort of how I feel. The run game was a bigger factor for the Bucs. They seemed to stick with the run more, as well as have success with it. I could be wrong about this, though. Also, the Bucs did a good job of executing the 4:00 minute drill. I love that.

    I should comment on both defenses. Both played well, especially in the red zone. I felt like this was a game where the offense had to make great plays to beat the defenses. The defenses were strong in the red zone, too. I appreciated this.

    I would note too that Devin White, the Bucs LB had missed several games, but returned in this one. His presence was/is huge.

  8. I didn’t think any of the games this weekend was especially good, and Sunday was especially not very interesting for some reason. I’m liking Tampa Bay’s o-line, though, and it looks like all the receiver injuries have worked themselves out. Brady’s got a lot of guys who can adjust for his mistakes. Godwin especially. They definitely have a chance at Lambeau next week, although an upset would surprise me a bit.

    Chad Henne’s victory-preserving third-down run to the left, followed by his throw to the right on fourth down at the end of the game was fun to watch. Henne thing can happen!

    1. The Bucs OL did perform fairly well–better than I’ve seen in some of the other games.

      For me, if they beat the Packers, that wouldn’t be surprising. If fact, if you tell me Brady won’t have any turnovers, I’m would predict they would win. I like the Bucs offense in the match-up with the Packer defense. With Devin White back, I think the Bucs defense can contain the Packer offense. The Packers should be highly motivated in this game–because the Bucs embarrassed them in their last meeting. It should be a good game, so long as the weather isn’t bad.

    2. I didn’t watch a lot of the Bucs, Saints game, but I’m guessing that the Bucs’ offense wasn’t all that great. They scored most of their points off of turnovers, which lead to some really short fields. I think late in the fourth, Brady had less than 200 yards passing. Did you guys think the Bucs’ offense looked good overall? I only ask because the Bucs may not have racked up a lot of yards because of the short fields.

    3. My impression, while watching and after the game, is that the Bucs offense good, not counting the close turnovers. I say this in the context of the Saints defense playing well. Also, this is relative to other points in the season where the offense and Brady didn’t seem to be in a good rhythm. I’m too lazy to look up the stats, but the run game seemed more of a factor in this game, too, so that might have lowered Brady’s stats. Finally, it could be that I have a positive impression because they played short fields. I feel like their offense functioned well. But the Saints defense made it tough in the red zone. (Same with the Bucs defense in the red zone.)
      I’ll put it this way: They play like this–and Brady protects the ball–they’ve got a great chance to win the next two games, especially if the defense plays the way it did. The thing is, Brady protecting the ball is kind of dicey situation. I think it’s 50/50. Then again, I think the next two defenses aren’t as good as the Saints.

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