Wild Card Observations

Wild Card Observations

This article is part of our NFL Observations series.

Pending Monday night, that was a bad slate of games. When, like me, you watch the 40-minute edited version of all the standalone night games and the rest of the slates all at once, you never have to sit through the drudgery of individual games, and all the commercials, penalty stoppages and reviews therein – until the playoffs. When the action is dull, to boot, it's borderline unwatchable. The Bucs-Eagles game seemed to have a virtually infinite ratio of commercials to quality action. I even found myself leaving the room and spending time with my family for stretches. Only the Bengals-Raiders (penalty on every play) and Cowboys-49ers (McCarthy) had any drama at all. 

  • The Raiders showed up and fought hard, though I missed the first half and whistle-gate. Not sure why Derek Carr kept forcing the ball to Zay Jones at the end, with Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller on the field, but I had the Bengals minus 5.5, so I was good with it.
  • Joe Burrow had a modest game, thanks to the Raiders front four and surprisingly solid defense on short rest. He's lucky to draw the Titans while the Chiefs and Bills kill each other in Arrowhead next week.
  • I had the Patriots and the points even though I had initially made the Bills six-point favorites. That was dumb.
  • Josh Allen had a monster day in the freezing cold against one of the league's top pass defenses. The Bills are peaking at the right time.
  • Devin Singletary (16-81-2, 4-3-13-0) was always a solid pro, and over the last month the Bills are finally recognizing it. He's the clear bell-cow back, and he'll catch a few passes too.
  • Mac Jones and his collection of short pass catchers were not ready for prime time. Jones moved pretty well as a scrambler at least, but this offense needs help for 2022.
  • I loved seeing the Bills pile it on because Bill Belichick has no problem tacking on extra points in the fourth quarter, either. That's the way pro sports should be – merciless.
  • The Eagles were down 31-0, then rallied with 15 points in the fourth quarter and had the ball back with a chance to cover the 8.5-point spread. To cover a single-digit spread after being down 31-0 with 12:15 left would arguably have been the most epic backdoor of all time. Of course, they never got especially close on that drive.
  • Jalen Hurts looked amateurish – his interception on a late throw to a wide open DeVonta Smith took years to arrive. I'd be surprised if the Eagles didn't have an open competition between him and Gardner Minshew or even went after a QB in the draft.
  • Tom Brady lost Pro Bowl left tackle Tristan Wirfs early and took four sacks, but wasn't otherwise affected. Wirfs availability in Round 2 against the Rams or Cardinals pass rushers could be key, though.
  • Mike Evans (10-9-117-1) should see a lot of work – he racked up these numbers in a blowout.
  • Ke'Shawn Vaughn (17-53-1, 2-2-9-0) and Gio Bernard (13-44-1, 7-5-39-0) split the reps fairly evenly with Leonard Fournette still out.
  • The 49ers were in total control of this game (up 13) until Jimmy Garoppolo's senseless and soul-crushing interception on 2nd-and-10 from his own 44. The 49ers have a Super Bowl-caliber roster if Nick Bosa (concussion) and Fred Warner (ankle) are healthy, but Garoppolo has to go cold turkey on this habit.
  • I mocked Mike McCarthy when he punted, down 16, on 4th-and-2 from his own 33, with 4:38 left in the third quarter, but the Cowboys got the ball back three minutes later and were able to execute a fake punt on the next drive in part because of McCarthy's prior punt! They really believed he'd do it again! But then, with 11:58 left in the fourth, still down 16, he attempted a 51-yard field goal on 4th-and-7! I mocked this also, though Zuerlein drilled it to cut the lead to 13. When the Cowboys got the ball on the Cowboys 49 two minutes later after Garoppolo's pick, the field goal turned out to have been perfect. Dallas scored the TD with 8:02 left to go down only six! Instead of needing two two-point conversions to tie, they now could win with two PATs. When the Cowboys stopped the Niners on the subsequent drive, they even got the ball back with a chance to win. You can mock McCarthy's decisions all you want, but at worst he hit on hard 17, and the next card was a three.
  • The end of the game was insane – the Niners had it won on brilliantly-designed Deebo Samuel carry on 3rd-and-long, but a replay review showed he was short of the first down. Then, on 4th-and-inches, Garoppolo QB-sneaked the first down with ease, but the 49ers had a pre-snap penalty! It was 4th-and-6, and they chose to punt. The Cowboys got the ball back with 38 seconds and no timeouts, drove easily down to the 49ers 41-yard line with 14 seconds left, and for God knows what reason called a QB sneak for 17 yards, after which he could not spike the ball in time with anything left on the clock! The sneak had modest upside – to get closer for a shot in the end zone – and infinite downside, ending the game. Why not try some short sideline throws, or even an over the middle with a lateral, where the second player could run out of bounds or to the end zone? Or three shots to the end zone? One of the most insane play calls I've ever seen.
  • I made the Steelers +12.5 my best bet, and the game wasn't as close as the 21-point margin final score. The Chiefs offense looked all the way back, and their defense was solid. Chiefs-Bills could be the Super Bowl, but it's only the quarterfinals.
  • Patrick Mahomes looked like the 2018 version, scrambling deftly and getting all of his receivers involved.
  • Jerick McKinnon (12-61-0, 6-6-81-1) looked like the best back the Chiefs have had all year – his speed and quickness are perfect for this offense. Maybe he'll be this run's Damien Williams.
  • Ben Roethlisberger is finished in the NFL, but he'll at least have the peace of mind he left nothing on the table, as there was nothing left to leave. Barry Sanders this was not. Roethlisberger is an easy Hall of Famer, though, albeit outer, not inner circle.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Liss
Chris Liss was RotoWire's Managing Editor and Host of RotoWIre Fantasy Sports Today on Sirius XM radio from 2001-2022.
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