NFL Divisional Playoffs In Pandemic Trash Talk

Greetings to all fans, whether you are scoring at home, or alone in isolation. It is pretty remarkable that the NFL has made it this far without blowing up from Covid. Yet here they are down to four games this weekend, and most of the teams are pretty healthy and ready to go. So, let’s get to it.

First up is the Rams at Packers. The Rams allowed the fewest points in the league this year. The Packers scored the most. No signs of snow by reports, but it will be around 32º with light to moderate wind. The Packers know how to play on the famously frozen tundra, but their record of never, or at least rarely, losing at Lambeau in the playoffs does not have the lock it once had. They can be had at home. The Rams were pretty high on young John Wolford at QB, but he is out for today and Jarred Goff is back in the saddle, bum thumb and all, and Blake Bortles will back him up. The Pack defense is certainly not on the level of the Rams, but they are solid. If Rodgers is Rodgers, the Pack should win, but this is probably a lot closer than folks would expect.

Second game up for Saturday is Ravens at Bills. This may well turn out to be the best game of the weekend. Both teams have young QB’s that can run in addition to throwing, and given the weather in Buffalo, that will likely be necessary. When it comes to passing though, the edge would seem to go to Buffalo with Josh Allen and Stephon Diggs, the best receiver in the NFL this year. Curiously, Baltimore has made running back Marl Ingraham a healthy scratch. That is weird as this is exactly the kind of game Ingraham is made for. It is close, but a majority of the experts, both on local sports talk radio, and on TV, seem to favor the Ravens to win this. So do the odds makers. I’m not so sure, and will very tentatively take the Bills in a close game.

Early game Sunday is Browns at Chiefs. The Brownies are a great story this year and are playing with some swagger. They are not the Browns of the last 25 years. The Chef’s defense is not nearly as good as Cleveland’s. On the other hand, KC has the once in a generation wizardry of Patrick Mahomes, a dual headed monster at RB with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. And, of course huge weapons in Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. They will, however, be without Sammy Watkins to take attention away from Hill. This could go any number of ways, but I am not going to bet against Mahomes and Andy Reid. Nope, no can do.

The coda on the weekend’s games is the battle of the Geezer QBs. The B boys, Brady and Brees. You know who they are by now. They have never met in the playoffs. During the regular season, the Saints owned the Bucs. In fairness, Tampa Bay finally gelled down the end stretch of the regular season and is playing much better now, and has also integrated Antonio Brown into their gam much better. With Chris Godwin and Mike Evans (both a tad nicked up, but ready to play), that is one hell of a set of receivers. Oh, and there is that Gronk guy healthy and ready to rumble at TE. Saints have the outstanding Alvin Kamara at RB, and Bucs have Fournette and Ronald Jones. By a slim margin, most of the experts, including Vegas, favor the Saints. They are at home, but without the usual crowd advantage that would portend. I have no idea how it will go, so will simply call it a tossup.

Music today by the incomparable Thin Lizzy. Man, I miss those boys. But rock and roll and tilt a cold one.

61 replies
  1. Peterr says:

    Have the Browns coaching staff who were in contact with a COVID-positive coach been released from quarantine, or are they still out?

    There’s a school of coaching that says when your starter gets hurt and the backup comes in and lights things up in the next game, you stick with the hot backup, even if the starter could play again. Given how last week’s game went, the Browns might consider benching those coaches and letting the backups run the game against the Chefs.

  2. Peterr says:

    As hard as it is for someone who has rooted for Da Bears for decades to pull for the Cheeseheads, I’d love to see them absolutely bury Kroenke’s Rams.

    Why yes, I am pissed about Kroenke’s Colorado Avalanche destroying my beloved St. Louis Blues last night. Why do you ask?

  3. Epicurus says:

    This weekend strikes me as four games where defense determines the winner. They don’t have to be outstanding, just good enough to hold the fort with a couple turnovers. The Buffalo Ravens game should be fascinating.

  4. John Langston says:

    I remember the Baker and Mahones shootout at Lubbock a few years ago. Most offense in college history. Baker left Tech after failing to get a scholarship and after recruiting Mahones who replaced him there. It should be a goody. The best team vs the team that wants to prove it. Go Bake!

    The other issue is how the teams that had the bye week will fare? Wil the week off give them rest and recovery or make them rusty?

  5. Eureka says:

    I have a small bad feeling about this Bills game. Guess that puts me in w the bookies.


    I’m so salty I could turn the Great Lakes into an intercontinental sea cluster by wading into their crystal waters. Five years from now.

    Great article by Jeff McLane, every line. Receipts:

    Inside Carson Wentz’s turbulent season and the forces behind his regression

    To a regular Eagles news reader they stand as fine notes to a bouquet (that’s due for the trash), but for context it should be noted that this is an owner/GM Lurie/Roseman problem. Some accessory points as you read:

    Every detail is consistent with prior reporting (from, say, Philly Voice about Wentz’ batphone access to Lurie, going over Pederson’s head; the lockerroom/bullying of staff problems; refusal to take coaching).

    Pederson’s coaching quality and offense cannot be adversely judged as, say, “predicable” at times and all that absent considering: Wentz killing plays out of spite, besides preference to his increasingly limited abilities vs. what defenses give; Pederson not having full control of his coaching hires/retentions (which is where the rubber met the road in his leaving); for Reich fans, Pederson was the one who hired him in 2016 *and had to go to bat to keep him for the 2017 season* (Lurie/Roseman wanted to ditch him as part of some wacky appeasement scheme wrt another problem they had created. Had they succeeded, no SB in this context).

    Pederson (or source) said the other day that he might take a year off (just like Jim Schwartz) (others have left, too). Perhaps they will reconstitute as a 33rd team. Dunno who would take the Iggles jobs — they might promote from within and kill Duce Staley’s career, for e.g. They might also do that in an attempt to appear less biased when they are benching a promising Black QB in favor of Wentz. One unstated entailment of the facts of this and other stories is that while Hurts was outperforming Wentz in practice, even preseason, the whole team watched how long it took for Wentz to get benched — at least one player went to management and begged for them to put Hurts in, risking his job. Feel bad for Jalen Hurts and whatever will come of his development and career now; he has great rapport with lots of the players and they really lit up in his presence. (They fired the coach Hurts worked with most closely).

    Of course out of sheer spite Wentz will get less obstreperously sloppy and improve next season just enough to reinforce Lurie/Roseman’s delusions of football grandeur. Or he will leave, and do the same. (Hint that he might stay: Ertz was recently interviewed and made an oddly ass-kissy remark about Lurie & Roseman, in contrast with his pouty, rebellious stance at the beginning of the season.)

    Bless them, one of the Inky sports writers finally said the words *Jerry Jones* in reference to Lurie in an article last week.

    Someone with a wiki edit account needs to put a picture of Lurie & Roseman next to the definition of sunk cost fallacy (and tell me, so I can take a screenshot). /s

    ETA: Wentz is why Pederson was fired

    • scribe says:

      All that is doubtless true, but the real problem for the Iggles is no one in his right mind would take on Wentz with that albatross of a contract management gave him.

      They couldn’t get rid of him, so they had to keep him.

      The wonder of how well their O-line played when Hurts was in, as opposed to all those sacks Wentz took, spoke volumes about where the players’ hearts and heads were. You can’t blame all of them on Wentz extending plays. Nope. Some, you could see the O-line guys getting out of the way of defenders target-locked on Wentz.

      • Eureka says:

        Well, that’s part of why I said this is really an owner/GM problem. The best hope was/is that Indy will take him (not sure Reich is interested) and the hit won’t be that bad if structured right (see also: sunk cost fallacy, if they want to win).

        You’ll have to read that article when you have time, because there’s evidence to the contrary in that a significant portion of Wentz’ sacks were not on the O-line, they gave him plenty of time.

        Another thing to keep in mind is the sheer suckitude of Matt Pryor (besides the 14 different O-line configurations) and that some of the new starters-by-default improved over the season (esp. former rugger Mailata).

        Hurts got sacked a ton, too — but he can also run.

        And related, you can see tons of plays where the whole offense was out to lunch (I’d give however much of that to prep, however much to being re-invigorated by a chance to win). In that regard idk how much is some kind of QB preference or bias vs what they were seeing in practice by comparison the whole time. It’s got to be really demoralizing when nothing changes, week after week, and it seems there’s a solution at hand. I know it was painful to watch all those games.


        there are some more pertinent details in the article (and I’ve read this elsewhere besides, from other analysts):

        By the bye week, Wentz had been sacked an NFL-high of 32 times. A coaching analysis deemed the quarterback responsible for almost two-thirds. Around the break, one offensive lineman had gone to management and requested a switch to Hurts.

        “Everyone believed Carson had no clue about when to get the ball out on time,” a source said, “and as a result made his [O-line] look terrible in times they were playing fine.”

      • Peterr says:

        Reminds me that scene in Bull Durham where Crash Davis teaches the phenom Nuke LaLoosh not to wave off the veteran catcher’s pitch calls. Says Crash to the batter, “This son of a bitch is throwing a two-hit shutout. He’s shaking me off. You believe that shit? Charlie, here comes the deuce. And when you speak of me, speak well.”

  6. Molly Pitcher says:

    Cal QB v. Cal QB, and the winner is CAL !!

    This year I have to take my Cal victories where I can.

  7. SteveR says:

    Admittedly OT to air my CFB lamentation, but I fear this stuff can impact sports at all levels.

    After reviewing hundreds of hours of video and interviewing many whistleblowers, I’ve compiled overwhelming evidence that the point count in the College Football Championship game this past Monday was fraudulent. Many of the points credited to Alabama were actually points scored for the Buckeyes. In fact, my beloved Buckeyes won in a blowout. I have many sworn affidavits that, by law, must be accepted as true.

    I can prove the scoreboard was manufactured in China and it’s software was developed in Venezuela, with everyone working at the direction of Bear Bryant. It’s not hard to surmise how things went wrong from there.

    In addition to manipulating the points, many Alabama players scored more than once, dramatically skewing the point count. And it turns out that many of the points credited to Alabama were scored by players who don’t even attend the school. Worse yet, some of the Alabama players who scored were actually dead. Scary, right?

    OSU Coach Day has called the NCAA to make sure they understand they’re criminally liable for this fraud. Coach Day has strongly encouraged the NCAA to find another 29 points for the Buckeyes in order to correct this travesty.

    Go Bucks! Keep the faith, OH!, ….

    • Peterr says:

      I eagerly await the amicus briefs filed by Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Nebraska, et al.

      • scribe says:

        Every driver of every car with Michigan plates pulled over by the Ohio State Patrol for no reason other than they had Michigan plates will gladly join in.

        I once stopped in a roadhouse up in the “Black Earth” area outside Toledo with a friend. A Michigan resident he was driving jeep with Michigan plates. We entered the place and it was done all in red and grey, with lots of OSU tsotschkes adorning every flat surface. We got some looks. My hackles went up, spidey-sense tingling. This kind of thing had happened before. My buddy and I had once been the only Americans (in uniform) having a Saturday lunch in the Ratskeller in the city hall of East Berlin, a table or two away from DDR Border Guards in uniform. Spring ’84. But, since it was 2 pm on a non-football Saturday and this place catered to birdwatchers, too, we had a peaceful meal. Good burgers, better fries, too.

    • Eureka says:

      Oh shit what now, did the Yankees sign our JT Realmuto or something? Cause that’s what I’m waiting on next.

    • Eureka says:

      Is this about Rams DC Staley interviewing for HC (and he runs a 3-4, besides, which would be a nightmare adjustment).

      OMG, or Dougie P linked to Squawks OC opening?

      Have I mentioned that I hate Pete Carroll because he’s really creepy and while Russ is great I do not want to have to become a Squawks fan? (And then having to take the Clowney irony, well that would just fit perfectly.) I swear if Wentz just had some postseason success he’d retire already.

      • Eureka says:

        I mean, the McDaniels thing too would be rich cause of the whole Reich to Indy switch when McDaniels backed out (which I have complained about, happy to blame a diabolical BilBel for that, too).

        Truly it is such a shitshow you’ll have to tell me if I missed anything. I wouldn’t even go to the sports section until a few days ago.

        • scribe says:

          McDaniels knows where his bread is buttered. He can be Cheatin’ Bill’s second banana and take little to no blame for the Cheaters’ regression to their pre-Brady mostly-losing ways. After all, Cheatin’ Bill and not McDaniels has the final say on who lands on the roster. You can’t make foie gras if all you have in the barnyard are chickens.
          And McDaniels’ one-year HC gig (IIRC, it was with Denver) may have been enough to show him the truth of the above.

          Speaking of chickens, word is Dak will move from JerryWorld to Cheatertown. This could be interesting, trading a meddling owner who hasn’t figured out he can’t sell his soul (to get another SB) twice for a disciplinarian who can’t draft/acquire offensive weapons worth a hill of beans. Get guaranteed money, Dak.

          • bmaz says:

            I also wonder if Watson, now of the Texans, may be looking longingly at the Pats. But that would require a LOT of trade bait that I can’t imagine NE would fork over. Dak, on the other hand is an unrestricted free agent, so that is much more likely.

            • scribe says:

              You know how Cheatin’ Bill piles up draft picks. His results tell two things: 1. he has to have a lot because he drafts horribly and needs more; 2. it makes him look smart.
              As this season is proving out, he rode Biebs’ greatness, not his personnel-picking, to victory.

  8. Stephen Calhoun says:

    I would be a long suffering Cleveland sports fan but, you know, choose your suffering. In any case, it would be a Cleveland thing for the Browns to advance in a pandemic year. I’m old and vulnerable so I won’t be testing out social distancing approaches at the local sports bars, choosing instead to camp out in front of the big screen with the wife and cats.

    The pick ’em pool I’m part of for the twelfth year finds me in the top three for the first time ever. My approach is much more determined this year in that I have ridden the roster dynamics in a serious manner. The Browns are in fairly good shape although Garrett has not recovered his full beastiness since his bout of covid. My own opinion is that the Browns defense is on a par with KC; mediocre. It will be missing a key piece, Vernon. I picked the Browns over the Chiefs in my pool and let everybody know it was a heart-over-head choice. Mayfield takes a lot of heat from outside of Cleveland, yet he is “looking around” for open receivers better than ever. I’m hopeful.

    Trivia: the Kelce brothers grew up across the street from where we live in Cleveland Heights. Their father sold the house a few years after we moved in. Last year our block—which is super together—screwed in red light bulbs into our front porch fixtures to show solidarity with the Chiefs. Hopefully we will be sourcing orange lightbulbs tomorrow.

  9. scribe says:

    The other day, a sports-talk radio guy (admittedly, a fan of the J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS who’s reveled in the Pats woes this year) went on a rant about the Pats dumping Brady. I’m no stenographer, but it was impressive enough that I took notes. (I saw this trash talk coming.)

    Sports-talk guy declares:
    1. everyone remembers the Red Sox selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees but no one remembers how successful the Sox were before (won a number of World Series) because all they remember is Ruth to Yankees and 86 years of cursed Red Sox teams after. No one will remember all the Patsies’ success, after they run Brady out of town.
    2. If Tompa Bay wins v. Saints, Brady’s success this year will show the Pats to have made the single worst move in sports since Ruth to Yankees and no one will remember the 6 SB wins under Cheatin’ Bill. Indeed, 86 years from now “letting Brady go” will be shorthand slang for a very bonehead, bad move.
    3. If Tompa Bay goes to SB, this will cement the Pats dumping Brady as the worst move ever in sports, bar none.
    4. If Tompa Bay wins SB, Pats dumping Biebs will be the metaphor/shorthand for worst decision in living memory.
    5. If Tompa Bay wins 2 SB with Biebs, Pats dumping Biebs will have been worst decision in all of human history.

    You heard it here second.


    • Peterr says:

      “the worst move ever in sports, bar”

      At first, I read this without the comma. I have a female friend who has tended bar for years, and the stories she tells about bad moves being made in a sports bar are hilarious.

      • scribe says:

        That’s a good one.

        My favorite sports bar memory was sitting in a Red Sox Nation sports bar the night the 2009 Yankees won the World Series. I had just moved and didn’t have cable yet, so I had to go out to watch. Had the place to myself.

        It was great.

        • Peterr says:

          Great is probably an understatement.

          Mine is probably in 2006, when Germany was hosting the World Cup. There was this nice German restaurant in our little town in the Bay Area, and for a month they became a kind of weird sports bar. They brought in a bunch of TV screens, and got permission from the local liquor commission to open at something like 6am with a special temporary liquor license so that folks could watch the matches live and enjoy the culturally appropriate beverages. They invented a breakfast menu — something they’d never done before — and were basically packed for the duration of the tournament.

          At the time, The Kid was five, and I’d been teaching him bits and pieces of German long before all this took place. The two of us went down there more than once, and the staff absolutely loved this little guy wearing his own soccer kit, singing “Bier her, bier her, oder ich fall um!” and waving around his glass of apple juice while all the adults were doing the same with their beers. (I don’t think I had to pay for his apple juice after the first glass.)


    • Peterr says:

      Did SportsTalkGuy say anything about what happens if the Aints beat Tompa Bay? Seems to me that BilBel missing the playoffs entirely and Brady losing would be a Pats-haters dream scenario.

  10. Peterr says:

    In other football news . . .

    Sarah Fuller, the first woman to score in a Power Five conference football game, says she’s been invited to attend President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.

    “It’s an honor to be invited to participate in one of America’s greatest traditions,” Fuller posted Sunday on social media.

    “This historic inauguration is especially meaningful for American women and girls. The glass ceilings are breaking,” she added, including the Twitter handles for Vice President-elect Kamala Harris — who will become the first woman to hold that office — Biden, and their inaugural committee. . . .

  11. Eureka says:

    This is a great human story, sports story, American story — it’ll quicken your soul. From my files with the upcoming Kobeversary (though he is more a device here):

    How Kobe Bryant’s death brought Bobby McIlvaine — an athlete, a scholar, the friend I should’ve known better — back to life | Mike Sielski

    DO NOT play the embedded video until after you read, it’s a spoiler.

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