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2021 Wild Card Insights

Raiders @ Bengals

So far, the Bengals have yet to demonstrate any real nerves. Joe Burrow has been very calm and cool in his debut playoff drive.

Raiders and their cover-three are easy pickings for Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase. Chase lining up along sidelines virtually guarantees him a one-vs-one match-up against Brandon Facyson.

Two Raiders drives in a row tainted by a false start that effectively killed their drives. It’s worth noting Las Vegas didn’t accrue any false start penalties in their crucial win last week against the Chargers. Who said home-field advantage didn’t matter?

Sam Hubbard has been a force in the first half. I might have made a mistake not considering him a potentially elite pass rusher.

Hmm…the Bengals actually holding up in pass protection against Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue. Interesting…is that protection sustainable into the second half?

Well, simply put, this game was won in the trenches by the Bengals. The Raiders were never comfortable. Too many times Derek Carr looked lost while looking around for open players to catch his passes. Apparently, Cincinnati’s press coverage was so good. And yet it never occurred to Carr or offensive coordinator Greg Olson to run more timing routes or rub routes to take advantage of the Bengals playing such tight coverage.

Maybe Lou Anaramo deserves a bit more credit as a defensive mind than I thought, but I I can’t say for sure. Greg Olson is anything but a mastermind, so tamping down the Raider defense isn’t nearly as impressive as one might first judge.

In the end, Cincinnati won riding the game on their shoulders of their elite quarterback and home field advantage shaking these weak-minded Raiders. Odd that the Raiders mounting over four comebacks this season didn’t do them many favors in this game. Maybe what’s key is recording the exact nature of the comeback. Three of those comebacks came at home. The other comeback came against a Cleveland squad ravaged by COVID.

Patriots @ Bills

The Bills are playing contrary to the way they played in their last game against the Patriots. Instead of running crossing routes, receivers like Isaiah McKenzie are running whip routes back outside, forcing Patriot defenders to catch up from a trailing position. Some fine coaching courtesy of Brian Daboll.

Patriots are trying to catch the Bills off-guard too by having Mac Jones throw the ball from the get-go. Still, it’s not an easy ask for him to assume the mantle of production in hostile territory, especially with sub-zero wind chills.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have ignored momentum as much as I may did this year in my analysis. The Patriots were downright pathetic. It speaks volumes that the Bills were able to out-rush them, especially along the edges. New England was always a team that took pride in sealing the edge against opposing rushers, but Buffalo attacked the ends so easily. It was laughable.

It’s also possible the Patriots may have been hiding some injuries, particularly to Matthew Judon. But not once this season did Judon ever once appear on the injury report. I don’t get it. On top of that, the defense started really showing its age at times. Michael Lombardi is right - cold weather and age don’t pair well together.

It’s also possible Bill Belichick isn’t mentally all there and Steve Belichick isn’t anywhere close to fulling his father’s shoes as the team’s defensive signal caller. It’s two games in a row now that Buffalo hasn’t punted at all against this New England defense. Very sad. Their coaching will need to be called into question come next year.

Eagles @ Buccaneers

Tristan Wirfs being sent back into action after sustaining a pretty serious injury is worrisome. Speaks quite a bit to Bruce Arians’ mentality to send his players out to battle, regardless of their health.

Brady still having issues connecting with receivers not named Mike Evans or Rob Gronkowski.

49ers @ Cowboys

Good misdirection from Kyle Shanahan, running counter plays to the outside zone runs they normally run. A good example of why he’s a quality offensive coach.

Micah Parsons has damn well near impacted every single play he’s been on the field. Amazing.

Cowboys now resorting to the hurry-up offense to matriculate the ball downfield. It’s working tremendously. Credit to Kellen Moore for the adjustment here.

DeMeco Ryans throwing blitzes at Dak Prescott says all that needs to be said about what they thought about Dak Prescott. The 49ers aren’t a team taken to blitzing either, but against Dak, San Francisco wanted to turn the heat up on Dak, knowing he wouldn’t be able to respond in kind.

Neither of these teams showed much toughness down the stretch. Mistakes were abundant by both organizations.

Kellen Moore confuses me. I saw some moments of genius from him in this game (the wishbone, the sporadic use of the hurry-up offense, the wide receiver laterals), but not enough for my liking. More often than not, the Cowboys offense was too stale. It didn’t help that their offensive line lost a few too many battles in the trenches, but their bland formations didn’t help much in terms of misdirection.

Cardinals @ Rams

It’s clear Arizona is forcing Stafford to rely on receivers other than Cooper Kupp. So far though..Stafford’s adjusted by passing more to Tyler Higbee and Odell Beckham.

Andrew Whitworth possibility a liability at left tackle for the Rams.

Murray is so easily spooked. What’s the point of having Kliff Kingsbury scheme out plays on this offense if Murray is honestly too spooked to execute on his concepts?

McVay changed up his game plan a bit in the second half, specifically to incorporate more of Cooper Kupp. Either that or Vance Joseph is now invoking a more traditional style of defense since double covering Cupp has opened up major opportunities for Beckham and Higbee.