Normally, Wild Card Weekend is time for me to sit back and relax. Just enjoy the weekend as a football fan. It's the great appetizer for real playoff football. Usually consists of watching the Houston Texans play in, and likely lose a 4:35 Saturday afternoon home game. Then it's time to figure out who the Patriots will end up playing in the Divisional Round. Sometimes the Texans game matters, but it's usually the 3-6 match up that carries the bulk of importance.
This year things are a tad bit different as the 12-4 AFC East Champion New England Patriots finished the year 4-4 after starting it 8-0; ultimately costing them the bye. BIG 2015 vibes. For the first time since I was a Senior in high school the Pats don't have a first-round bye.
The 2019-20 season/playoffs (even after watching football for almost 20 years I still don't know how to format league seasons) feature SIX (6) 12+ win teams; 14-2 Ravens, 12-4 Chiefs, and 12-4 Patriots in the AFC. 13-3 49ers, 13-3 Packers and 13-3 Saints in the NFC. Shades of 2011. Hopefully this year doesn't end up with a 9 win Super Bowl champ like '11.
For the first time in what feels like a decade; the playoffs are wide open. Of the 12 teams in the playoffs I could legitimately see 9 of them winning it all. Sorry Texans, Titans and Vikings. It feels like even the best teams have a big question mark going into the playoffs.
The narrative everybody is talking about this year is the importance of the bye; since 2013 every team that played in the Super Bowl has been a top two seed. Quick off the top of my head flex.
2013: Seahawks (1) Broncos (1)
2014: Patriots (1) Seahawks (1)
2015: Broncos (1) Panthers (1)
2016: Patriots (1) Falcons (2)
2017: Eagles (1) Patriots (1)
2018: Patriots (2) Rams (2)
Before last season home teams were 10-0 in their last 10 conference championship games. Who noticed that trend and bet on the Patriots and Rams to win on the road in their respective Conference Championships? That's right Ole Dozo. Lots of people were saying was how the Patriots hadn't won a road playoff game since 2006. While it was true, it was incredibly misleading as they only played 2 road playoff games during the span. Same with the Saints. Everybody was saying how hard it is to beat the Saints in the Dome, but they low key haven't played a lot of home playoff games. I tweeted it out this week. I think the Saints made a deal with the Devil to win the Super Bowl in 2009. Would explain a lot.
Now I know the Saints got screwed by the no call, but they also didn't play well enough to put the game away early when they had a chance. Drew Brees threw an INT on the opening possession of OT. Everybody cried how the Chiefs didn't get a chance to possess the ball. Rams did what they had to.
With a loaded field we could certainly see the "bye is a ticket to the SB" trend continue. The Super Bowl ending up some combination of Ravens/Chiefs vs. 49ers/Packer wouldn't be mind-boggling. I personally just don't see it. The 2010's began with a string of teams that played in Wild Card weekend winning it all; 2010 Packers, 2011 Giants and 2012 Ravens and while these playoffs may be taking place in the 2020s it is the final chapter of the NFL's teen years. I think this is the year we see at least one team make the Super Bowl the hard way.
The home team trend and bye trend make sense if you look at it from a distance. It's the "higher seeds" ie. better teams moving on, but in a year when we saw the NFC's top seed literally come down to the inch line on the final play of the season, I'm not as married to the number in parentheses being the biggest factor in winning this January.
Wild Card Weekend looks like this:
Buffalo Bills at Houston Texans, 4:35 p.m. ET (ESPN)
You're going to hear *21 savage voice* A LOT about the last time the Bills played a team from Houston in the playoffs.
No doubt that's an awesome moment in NFL history, but it has (almost) zero to do with this game. A lot of dudes playing today weren't even alive when this happened and it wasn't even the Texans organization. That being said it is a cool story, I don't have an issue bringing it up as one of the many story lines.
As a Patriots fan the Bills have always had a soft spot in my heart; partly by being our whipping boy the last 20 years, but mainly from the whole Super Bowl streak. Four losses in a row. How you could ever hate or root against a team with that history... I'll never understand. Even as a division "rival" it's hard to have animosity towards them.
Now should they become the class of the division in a time when the Patriots are in a post-Brady transition that pandering ass mindset could change, but for now I love this Bills team. Josh Allen is proving all the doubters wrong, he was worthy of a top 10 pick. Frank Gore continues to tell father time to blow him. The small, quick WR overhaul has worked wonders and the Bills defense is quietly one of the best in the NFL. 2nd in points allowed, 3rd in yards. Tre'Davisous White is the 2nd best CB in the NFL right now after Gilly Lock
(although D' Hop doesn't think so...start at 1:45)
You mix that against the Fore Fathers of the Saturday afternoon Wild Card Game Houston Texans... Perhaps the biggest fraud organization of the last decade and I think that spells trouble in H-Town. Laughable that Hop tried to make it seem like a tough place to play in that clip. I don't care that they've won the AFC South six times. Someone has to win that division. Unless they face the Bengals or Connor Cook they've done NOTHING. Bill O'Brien is 1-3 in the playoffs. DeShaun Watson certainly has the talent to change the loser Texans narrative, but I am going to bet against him every opportunity I have until he proves otherwise.
No Will Fuller could be problematic for Watson.
I actually like J.J. Watt and hope he performs well in his comeback from his torn pec. I just don't know how much you can expect from him in a limited role off of such a big injury. I think best chance is a an early game pure adadrenaline situation. Maybe a key sack or turnover?
Either way I LOVEEEEEEEEE the Bills in this game. They're a slight dog. Texans are -2.5 as of this morning. I feel like every time the Bills have played an opponent I don't think they can beat, they did. I'm talking about the Cowboys and Steelers prime time games. Ravens are the Ravens, but the Bills played them tough. I think today is the day the Bills win a playoff game. I know I said the Oilers shit doesn't matter, but that stink hasn't entirely left Houston just yet. This fraud ass team got blown out at home by the Broncos after beating the Patriots in the week 13 Super Bowl.
Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots, 8:15 p.m. ET (CBS)
Despite my bad experience in Nashville, I have nothing against the Titans. I just call it like I see it.
After saying this four year window of 9-7 was the most impressive stretch of mediocrity in NFL history I cannot afford to see the Titans win this game. (although if it helped DOL get buzz I wouldn't be upset) It would be the ultimate 9-7 slap in the face. I have been the king of shitting on 9-7 and then bam guess who the only 9-7 Super Bowl champs ever beat in the Super Bowl? I do not need to see a 9-7 team "end the Dynasty" too.
I honestly think the Titans can win this game. It wouldn't be shocking. This organization kicked the Pats ass in Nashville last year. Mike Vrabel looks like the best coach to come off the Belichick tree even though he technically never coached under him. Derrick Henry is the best "running-back" running back in the NFL. He could end up having a huge night vs a Patriots defense that can be ran through. Tannehill has beaten the Patriots before. The stars are aligning for an upset.
That being said; I am so over this "end of the dynasty" talk the week. FS1 has a mother fucking countdown.
Losing to the Dolphins was inexcusable and very well may cost this team a chance at the Super Bowl. It sure as shit makes the road more difficult, but Jesus Christ this team went 12-4!!! Despite the offensive woes they don't suck! Even if they lose the run isn't over. It's not over until Brady leaves.
The popular talking point this week has been that the Patriots have never made the Super Bowl without a bye. Much like the "no road playoff wins since 2006" stat; it is factual, but incredibly tailored to fit a certain narrative.
The Patriots have made the Super Bowl 9 times during the Belichick-Brady era. While they had the bye every season they made it, they also had the bye in 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2015 when they didn't reach the Super Bowl. They HAD A BYE EVERY YEAR FROM 2010-2018 (THE ENTIRE LENGTH OF GRONK'S CAREER). You can't make the Super Bowl as a Wild Card Weekend team if you don't play on Wild Card Weekend. It's been 10 years since the Pats played in the opening round. The media is literally trying to twist the Patriots success as a negative.
In 2006 the Patriots did not make the Super Bowl. They lost the AFCCG to the Colts; a game they famously blew a 21-3 lead (21-6 at half) in. They didn't have the bye that year but were in a prime spot to make the Super Bowl. Maybe not having the bye cost them in the second half? Maybe that's why offensive linemen were scoring touchdowns seemingly every other drive? I don't know, My point is that stat is fucking stupid.
The deck is stacked against the Patriots to make the Super Bowl for the fourth consecutive year. I thought winning it all last year was Belichick's greatest coaching job, but if this team reaches the big game having to win two road playoff games after all the talks of how bad this team truly is, it would have to become #1. I don't think it's going to happen, but I also don't think it's impossible. If the Patriots win a home playoff game today they move on to Kansas City next week.
Let me make this perfectly clear. I don't care if the Chiefs offense has scored 80 points in 8 straight games. These are the Kansas City Chiefs at home in the playoffs. Don't let ONE win against the 6 seed Indianapolis Colts change 40+ years of futility.
I like Andy Reid. Gun to my head I do think he wins a Super Bowl before he retires. Could see a Bill Cowher type situation with him.
But it's still Andy Reid against Bill Belichick in the playoffs. It's still the Patriots against the Chiefs. They went into Arrowhead less than a year ago and left with an AFC title.
Then should they win that game they're likely going to Baltimore.
That would be VERY tough.
The final score of the Ravens-Pats SNF was 37-20 but the game was not as one sided as the score would show. Edelman fumble completely changed the game.
The 2019 Ravens have been an all-time fun offense. More Pro Bowlers than you can shake a stick at. Yeah those teams always close the deal in the playoffs. Lamar Jackson has proved everybody wrong with his remarkable highlights against the Bengals and Browns. Bill Belichick totally couldn't slow him down a second time around (Shalamar). Patriots gave up 14.1 points a game this season. (Fewest ever by a Belichick Patriots team) no chance in a second match-up.
That's a ways away and a lot of things have to happen beforehand. First off, beating the Titans.
Everything going into this game screams Titans upset. I still am considering taking Titans ML as the emotional hedge, but I am sorry these are the defending Super Bowl champion (remember?) New England Patriots. They are at home. Brady is 20-3 at home in the playoffs. It's gonna be uglyish weather (that actually might help the Titans) Tannehill's first playoff start.
Lots of talking heads are saying the Patriots are done. They just had an all-time stinker at home in a spot you never see the Patriots falter in. They were flat. Brady was literally undefeated at home against AFC teams with a losing record before that game (61-0, I believe...def over 60). It makes no sense, but the Patriots roll tonight. I could be wrong, but I'd rather be wrong backing the greatest dynasty in the history of sports instead of trying to be cool and pick a hot upset.
Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints, 1:05 p.m. (FOX)
"Rematch" of the Minnesota Miracle, even though Case Keenum is the Washington Redskins QB.
No need to overthink this one. Dalvin Cook is fantastic, but banged up. Michael Thomas just had arguably the best season a WR ever has. 149 receptions for 1725 yards and 9 TD. Next closest guy (Julio Jones) was 331 yards in the rear view. Do-it-all back Christian McCaffery had 116 grabs in 2nd place.
The Saints are one of the best teams in the NFL. They also may be the most unlucky. From 1990-2019; 48 teams went 13-3; 45 had first-round byes. The only three that did not; 1999 Tennessee Titans (wild card team), 2011 New Orleans Saints and 2019 New Orleans Saints. Last year the Patriots and Saints both had byes at 11-5.
After the Seahawks, the Saints were most effected by the lack of PI called on the goal line last Sunday. Had the Seahawks won the Saints would've been the 2 seed with a much needed week off.
Now they have to play on Wild Card Weekend with 13 wins against the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL. They also have Kirk Cousins captaining the ship. He's been decent to good this year, but these are the Saints in the dome....against Kirk Cousins. In only his 2nd career playoff start. You may have forgotten the 2015 Wild Card Round. Nobody would blame you if you did. The question isn't do the Saints win, but do they cover? -8 always scares me in a backdoor situation. I probably won't bet the game (lol) but I think Saints win without much hassle.
Seattle Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles, 4:40 p.m. (NBC)
This game is the biggest crap shoot of the weekend. Just a few weeks ago the Seahawks beat the Eagles 17-9 in Philly in a game that was about 2 plays away from being 28-0. Both teams are much different from the last time they played...Beast Mode is back. 42 more Eagles went down.
To the Eagles credit they won the NFC East after the Cowboys did everything they could to throw it away. Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz have lead this team of 8th-string skill position players to the playoffs. It's the Eagles 3rd straight trip to the playoffs and each one is more impressive than the last given the circumstances in which they got there.
Carson Wentz will be making his playoff debut against IMO after Tom Brady the best big game QB of the last 15 years in Russell Wilson. The dude just gets it done.
The Eagles are a hospital crew, but they're playing at home. The Seahawks are an 11-5 team that analytics would tell you could've/should've been 7-9 with their +7 point differential. The stats about how much they've trailed this season seem made up.
The Seahawks are also 7-1 on the road this year. I think losing to the 49ers hurt their chances at a Super Bowl, but I think they live to fight another day. Eagles are just too banged up, but with Seattle -1.5 right now the Eagles obviously have a shot. I just think it's much better for the NFL to give us Seahawks-49ers III instead of the Hospital Eagles.