This was one of the more memorable wildcard weekends I can remember. And picks wise, I went 7-5, with Brett Maher keeping me from a more respectable 8-4.
49ers 41, Seahawks 23
From the prediction: “This feels like a game that is 13-13 early in the second quarter, and gamblers start getting nervous, only to see it completely unravel for the Seahawks after a costly turnover or two.”
That’s the game it was. There will be plenty of time to discuss the 49ers – a team that couldn’t handle the 2022 Chicago Bears – but what a tremendous season for Pete Carroll and Geno Smith. Seattle’s over/under win total this season was 5.5. They won nine games, and Smith’s play creates off-season flexibility for them. If they identify a franchise quarterback in this draft, they’re well-positioned to select him. But it’s not a necessity for them in 2023.
Jaguars 31, Chargers 30
From the prediction: “Doug Pederson is a big game guy and Brandon Staley has absolutely no in-game feel. The latter will make a head-scratching decision (he always does) to decide this contest.”
Analytics should be a complementary tool in football. They should not be the primary tool. Football is a game of emotion, coached with feel. The numbers may say “go for two here” but as a coach, you have to know if your team has struggled in short yardage, or if your quarterback is struggling with confidence issues, etc. Brandon Staley received heaps of praise from young football writers because they saw him as an analytical savior, going for every fourth down even when it cost his team games. Staley has zero in-game feel and that was evident Saturday night. After going up 27-0, the Chargers called eight run plays. Eight. Staley is a coach that will win games, and constantly be in the postseason, because he’s got one of the best quarterbacks in the sport. But in the postseason, where every decision is magnified, he’ll always be outmatched.
Bills 34, Dolphins 31
From the prediction: “Without Tua, this is a serious mismatch.”
It wasn’t. And the reason was the Buffalo Bills. They were terrible in this game. Josh Allen continues to be reckless with the football. Their receivers dropped everything thrown their way. And what has become of their defense? It is very difficult to be confident in Buffalo moving forward, especially with the Bengals and (likely) Chiefs on the horizon.
Giants 31, Vikings 24
From the prediction: “The decision this organization makes at quarterback will define his tenure in New Jersey and one must believe that decision will be impacted by Daniel Jones’ performance Sunday. If he shows Daboll and Joe Schoen he can win a playoff game on the road, what decision is left?”
There is no decision left to make. Jones was the best player this weekend and the Giants have their quarterback. But it is still a complicated contract. If the Giants offered Jones four years, $100 million, would he take it?
Bengals 24, Ravens 17
From the prediction: “Snoop Huntley should make Baltimore more competitive than Anthony Brown, but this Bengals team is too good to lose to a backup quarterback, at home, in the postseason.”
The Bengals should be home and they will spend the next few months wondering what happened on that disastrous sneak attempt. Why is Snoop Huntley trying to go over the top from two yards out? Why are the Ravens not trusting the offense that had matriculated them right down the field?
On Lamar Jackson not being at the game: it’s a bad look. I understand he is dealing with injuries and can’t play but if you’re the face of the franchise, don’t you want to be on the sideline? Don’t be surprised if the Ravens tag him non-exclusively, allowing other teams to negotiate a contract with him. It would ultimately net Baltimore a pair of first rounders should they refuse to match. Tennessee? New Orleans? The Jets?
Cowboys 31, Bucs 14
From the prediction: “Dak Prescott has been one of the worst quarterbacks in the league for the last month and I think that continues.”
But that is an all-time horrendous display from Todd Bowles and the Bucs. (How does Tampa keep Bowles in this job? He is proven to be an awful head coach. Move on.)
The Cowboys? They need a kicker before they fly to San Francisco.