Wild Card Observations

It was the first time I saw commercials all year as I had been on the red-zone channel during the regular season and watching the condensed version of standalone games. I’ll just say once you’ve watched commercial and stoppage free, it’s hard to go back to the old way of consuming the product.

• The Chiefs game was a microcosm of their season. Start off great, abandon Kareem Hunt, collapse. Alex Smith got 8.0 YPA with no turnovers, and they got outscored 19-0 in the second half.

• Marcus Mariota had a big fantasy day with 46 yards rushing and a TD pass to himself, along with a second TD pass and 205 passing yards. The only receiver of note was Delanie Walker, his tight end.

 Derrick Henry had a monster day, and predictably so against a soft Chiefs run defense and without DeMarco’s Murray’s carcass blocking him. Henry has a good matchup at New England too, though game flow is likely to go against him.

• Travis Kelce’s concussion in the second quarter was a massive blow to Kansas City’s offense. He had already amassed 66 yards and a score, and the Chiefs did next to nothing once he left.

• I used to mock Matt Ryan “Matty Ice” as “Vanilla Ice” because he was overhyped for a merely good but unspectacular player, but I was impressed by his showing against the Rams. The TD to Julio Jones with pressure in his face, the calmness and patience while being rushed on third down to complete a short throw to Austin Hooper. Despite the Super Bowl collapse, he’s unrattled.

• The Falcons ran the ball a ton in the second half, and even when it was only marginally effective, you could see their defense getting more rest and the Rams getting worn down.

• Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods had 27 targets between them. Sammy Watkins had only four.

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• Todd Gurley had 100 yards on only 14 carries, but disappointed in the passing game with 10 yards on a whopping 10 targets. Not all of them were catchable, but he dropped a couple too.

• A Brazilian friend of mine watched the first half of the Jaguars-Bills game with me, and I doubt he’ll make that mistake again. Even he – once I explained down and distance to him – was calling Sean McDermott a coward for punting on 4th-and-short from midfield.

• Blake Bortles looked terrible in the first half, unable to complete routine short throws I’d be embarrassed to miss if I were playing in the park with friends. But he had a much better second half, largely because of his scrambling ability. He’ll need to make some plays with his arm next week at Pittsburgh, though.

• Leonard Fournette looks fairly ordinary. For a team built the way the Jags are to win, he needs to be great.

• The Nathan Peterman entrance was the best part of the game. As absurd as the fact I wasted three hours of my life watching it.

• Ted Ginn, the ninth overall pick in 2007, is peaking at the end of Year 11. The 32-year averaged 11.2 YPT (1st) on the regular season and gashed his former team for 115 more and a long TD Sunday. The Saints are one of the rare teams that still throw the deep ball, and having Ginn to force the defense to cover the entire field is a major advantage. Michael Thomas also had a big game – 9-8-131 – and made a great back shoulder catch on a key third down to help seal the game.

 Drew Brees passed for 376 yards on 11.4 YPA – he’s still at the top of his game.

• The Panthers shut down Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara and nearly won the game as a result. A key against the Vikings – who are among the league’s best against wideouts – will be getting Kamara, who caught only one ball, involved in the passing game again.

• Cam Newton played a great game – 349 yards, two TDs, no picks, 8.7 YPA and 37 rushing yards. He was knocked out for a play after getting “poked in the eye” but came back to throw a long TD to Christian McCaffrey. Even if Newton were concussed as many suspect, I can see the case for letting him play in that situation. It’s the fourth quarter of a playoff game, the team needed him and he wanted back in. These guys choose to play in the NFL for a reason, and to nanny-state that away in a game of that magnitude against their will “for their own good” is problematic. There’s no ideal solution here, but it’s not black and white that he should have to sit because “concussion protocol” and “player safety.”

• Greg Olsen is all the way back. He should be a top-five TE heading into 2018.

• The kicking in the NFL is ridiculously good these days. In this game alone there were two 57-plus yard FGs. I’d have to imagine it’s the only time in history both teams had a made FG from that distance.