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NFL Wildcard Round

[ 100 ] January 5, 2013 |

Bengals (+4) over Texans: I wouldn’t read all that much into Houston’s late slump in itself. But I do think that the improved play of the Bengals is meaningful, since their defense has gotten better as it’s gotten healthier. The teams ended up as nearly even in point differential, and while Schaub is mildly better than than Dalton the Bengals have a better pass defense, so it’s a wash. Playing at home, Hoston should be mild favorites, but in what is likely a close game I would take the points. Besides, has any team coach by Marvin Lewis ever flopped in the playoffs?

Packers (-7 1/2) over Vikings: Barnwell makes the best MVP case for Adrian Peterson — if you compare Peterson’s value to other players at his position, it’s the highest, although this wouldn’t be true if C.J. Spiller had started 16 games. Does this mean that I would vote for him? Absolutely not. The problem is that even with Peterson having a historic season, the Vikings still had a mediocre offense. Making an offense led by an below-average (although not terrible) QB slightly above average is an enormous impact for a running back. But it obviously doesn’t compare to the impact of Peyton Manning, who immediately transformed the Broncos from a poor offense to an elite one (although the quality of play from running backs got worse.)  More to the point of this game, the Packers had a much better offense than the Vikings, because the difference between an elite QB and a not very good one is vastly more important than the difference between a world-historically good running back and a random assortment of terrible ones. (And the thing is, nobody really thinks Peterson is the most valuable player in the NFL. In a retrospective draft, would anybody with the possible exception of the deposed leadership of the Cleveland Browns take Peterson over Manning or Brady or Rogers? Would you take him over J.J. Watt? If so, I hope we can be GMs in the same league sometime.) I’m not entirely comfortable with this line, but I’ll take the star QB over the star RB any day, especially with Green Bay’s defense looking healthier.

Ravens (-6 1/2) over Colts: The Colts, while they came a long way with Andrew Luck, were not nearly as good as their record, which was the product of a weak schedule. The Ravens aren’t really much of a team either, but at home, I think that Flacco and Rice will be able to do enough against the atrocious Colts defense to cover. I wouldn’t consider placing an actual bet on this game, though; I don’t remotely trust either team and don’t see either getting past the next round.

Redskins (+3) over Seahawks: Granting that I tend to have a McClellan-like outlook about the chances of my teams, I don’t mean this as an insult to my Seahawks, who I’m very optimistic about. It’s just that when a home team in a game between fairly even teams is getting three points, I think you have to take them (although I’d make Seattle a very slight favorite to win the game outright, I wouldn’t give them a better-than-even chance of winning the game by more than 3 points.) Speaking of the Browns, though, I should mention that the Seahawks deserve immense praise for taking Russell Wilson, which embodies both the “we’re not selling jeans” and “sunk costs” insights of sabermetrics.  I actually think that Schatz buried the lede a bit while noting Wilson’s off-the-charts Lewin Forecast numbers. To be clear, I’m not saying that the scouts should be ignored entirely; it’s reasonable to conclude that being shorter than average may make a transition to the pros a little more difficult, and it’s entirely reasonable to rank Luck and Griffin ahead of him. But to take Brandon Weeden — whose credentials were far, far worse than Wilson’s and is five years older — over Wilson because Weeden just looks more like a quarterback? That’s insane. There’s no rational basis for the belief that a 6’0 QB can be championship caliber but someone who’s 5’11 can’t play at all; that’s just arbitrary nonsense. (I should also mention the Jaguars, who despite having nothing remotely resembling an NFL QB took a punter before Wilson. But I’m sure Tebow will solve all their problems!) Whether or not they beat the Racist Nicknames tomorrow, I like where the Seahawks are headed.

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  1. Losing Percy Harvin was a huge blow for the Vikings.

    I don’t imagine Baltimore is a very fun place for a dome team to play in January.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      I don’t imagine Baltimore is a very fun place for a dome team to play in January.

      Yeah, I don’t really think the Ravens are all that good, but that’s pretty much what my gut tells me.

      • I’d say the biggest question with the Ravens is going to be how healthy everyone is, especially on defense. The unit has been solid at times, but not once pretty much everyone and their mother was dealing with an injury or some kind. Beyond that, they’ve got to be able to run the ball consistently because their offensive line can’t pass block. It’s a damn shame they didn’t get anywhere with Bryant McKinnie at LT last season.

        They’d be in a much better position if Cameron/the scab refs hadn’t cost them games against the Eagles and Steelers and they were set up with another bye week for everyone to rest up.

    • Colin Day says:

      I don’t imagine Baltimore is a very fun place for a dome team to play in January.

      While you mention it, neither is Green Bay.

    • Cody says:

      I’m a Colts fan, but I’m not surprised the Colts lost here either.

      I was going to be torn in a Broncos/Colts match up.

      Now I look forward to Peyton Manning avenging the Colts by completely shredding the Ravens and making them all go cry their way home.

      (P.S.: I’m still mad about that first quarter facemask on Andrew Luck that was uncalled. That was TWO CLEAR FACEMASKS uncalled in one drive. Andrew Luck could have broken his neck. It’s a testament to his strength that a 250 pound DE tried to rip his face off and he shrugged him off.)

  2. Bill Murray says:

    Just to note, Brandon Weeden is older than Alex Smith

  3. “Besides, has any team coach by Marvin Lewis ever flopped in the playoffs?”

    Don’t underestimate Gary Kubiak’s ability to out-think himself at crucial moments of the game. This is the best team they’ve ever fielded, sure, but he has a chronic case of the clevers when he just needs a couple of yards or something. He routinely goes away from Foster and Johnson in key situations, and he’s cost the Texans several games over the years doing it.

  4. Todd says:

    I’ll always bet against Pete Carroll in any big game situation where it is not possible to cheat on a massive scale but in such a way as to go undetected for a couple of years.

    • Rhino says:

      Yeah, whatever.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      Is there any reason to believe that Carroll was doing anything at USC that isn’t common among similar programs? I’m also puzzled how Reggie Bush’s mother being given a free limo ride or whatever the fuck helped USC win, but I’ve never been able to follow the logic of NCAA hacks very well.

      • Todd says:

        The “they are all Pete Carrolls” defense is both pathetic and beside the point.

        I’d also bet against Bobby Petrino, John Calipari, Butch Davis, et al… in a big game in the pros, where coaching competence matters much more than scumbag recruting tactics.

        Lots of college guys do it? So what? Don’t hire them either.

        • “I’d also bet against Bobby Petrino, John Calipari, Butch Davis, et al… in a big game in the pros…”

          Like that game against San Francisco the Seahawks played a couple of weeks ago? How did that one come out again?

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          LEaving aside the fact that I could give a shit about the NCAA’s grotesquely immoral rules, what about Carrol’s tenure in Seattle suggests that he’s incompetent? He’s transformed a nearly empty cupboard into an outstanding team in three years.

        • Colin Day says:

          But is it merely scumbag recruiting tactics, or do they have to be able to recognize talent as well?

    • Cody says:

      I don’t really care for the NCAAs rules, but Pete Carroll is an above average coach at least.

      His legacy to me is tarnished by the “cheating” at USC, but his lack of moral integrity doesn’t cloud my judgement of his abilities.

  5. LionsFan says:

    When did the NFL start playing games in January?

  6. cpinva says:

    actually, this makes perfectly good sense:

    There’s no rational basis for the belief that a 6’0 QB can be championship caliber but someone who’s 5’11 can’t play at all; that’s just arbitrary nonsense.

    when you take into account that the NFL (and the NBA, and MLB, etc) are, first and foremost, entertainment, and secondly about the sporting activity itself. mr. weeden just looks like a movie star NFL QB should look like. danny devito isn’t going to ever be cast, as the serious romantic lead because, well, he doesn’t look like a serious romantic lead. he would never sell tickets. mr. weeden sells tickets, much as mr. tebow does.

    i mean no slight to either mr. weeden or mr. tebow, god bless them, i hope they make all the money they can. but anyone who sincerely believes either was drafted, because of their superior skills as QB’s, is deluding themselves. i mean no insult to mr. wilson either, he’s clearly showing he should have been, from a strictly skill-set pov, drafted earlier. unfortunately, he doesn’t fit the NFL “looks” requirement, suitable for framing.

  7. We Browns fans are going to look back at the 2012 draft with sadness and some anger at the lost opportunity. Richardson is a nice RB to have, no question. If he can stay healthy, he will be a contributor on offense. But we always have to look at the roads not taken. For a team as bad as the Browns, you’d think they’d go with BPA at both picks, but Holmgren & Heckert apparently wanted a QB, any QB, instead of Colt McCoy.

    That said, the Browns weren’t the only ones who coveted Richardson. If they hadn’t taken him at #3, how far do you think he would have fallen?

    • Somebody else would have traded up to get him at #3.

      If the Browns had come out of the draft with Richardson AND Wilson, I think we’d have a pretty damn different outlook on their future.

      • Scott Lemieux says:

        Somebody might well have traded up to take a player who was (at least in his rookie year) a generic player at a very low-impact position, but this doesn’t actually make it a good idea.

        • ?

          He was “low impact” for a guy who was injured all year and had a shit quarterback. Also, tell the Ravens, Vikings, or Texans that running back is a “low impact” position.

          • Scott Lemieux says:

            tell the Ravens, Vikings, or Texans that running back is a “low impact” position.

            If any of these teams had better than mediocre offenses, this might be convincing. Modern football is about passing and pass defense; the running game is marginalia, and these marginal gains can generally be gotten on the cheap.

            • And yet, but for a dropped pass and some fluky special teams plays, there would have been a Ravens-49ers Super Bowl last year, and the Patriots manage to keep earning a first round bye despite mediocre defensive play (the Packers too, of late).

              Seriously, football is a very dynamic game. Given either well above average quarterback play or a solidly above average defense there are a lot of ways to skin a cat, and get yourself within the margin of a big play or a fortuitous referee call of anyone. Yes, having an elite quarterback is great, but those guys are by definition very rare, but unlike the NBA you can fill your roster out and design a gameplan in other ways, so you don’t need to just tank everything until you get a chance to draft Luck or RGIII.

              • Scott Lemieux says:

                This is all completely non-responsive. The quality of a team’s passing game has a very tight correlation with winning, and the quality of a team’s running game has almost no correlation at all with winning. And moreover, running backs are far less consistent from year to year. (Foster, who you cite as a “high-impact” runner, was mediocre this year in a blocking scheme in which almost everybody does pretty well.) A good defense offense can overcome a dubious defense or in rarer cases vice versa, but pass offense and pass defense are what matters.

                and the Patriots manage to keep earning a first round bye despite mediocre defensive play

                I agree — if you have an elite QB having some generic runners who are good some years and not others works perfectly well.

                • “This is all completely non-responsive…”

                  That word, etc.

                  “The quality of a team’s passing game has a very tight correlation with winning, and the quality of a team’s running game has almost no correlation at all with winning.”

                  Based on what definition of “winning?”

                  ‘. And moreover, running backs are far less consistent from year to year. (Foster, who you cite as a “high-impact” runner, was mediocre this year in a blocking scheme in which almost everybody does pretty well.) ‘

                  If you want to argue that running backs are somewhat fungible, that’s fine. But then, you could say that brady/Wilson were drafted in lower rounds, so why waste a top 2 pick on a QB?

                  “I agree — if you have an elite QB having some generic runners who are good some years and not others works perfectly well.”

                  This is true! But since only 3-5 teams can have an “elite” QB, this means absolutely nothing to the vast majority of the league on a yearly basis.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  Based on what definition of “winning?”

                  Based on, er, the number of games teams win. The quality of a team’s running offense has essentially no relationship with a team’s ability to win. The quality of a team’s passing offense and defense, conversely, correlate very strongly.

                  If you want to argue that running backs are somewhat fungible, that’s fine. But then, you could say that brady/Wilson were drafted in lower rounds, so why waste a top 2 pick on a QB?

                  Except, of course, QBs aren’t “fungible” in this sense. You can’t always identify elite QBs before the fact (although this is partly because of inefficiencies in scouting — number of starts and accuracy predicts future NFL performance very well, and the Browns could have had Russell Wilson if they understood this.) But if you get an elite QB, they have a massive impact on your team and can be expected to be good when they’re healthy. While not only is it unlikely that Richardson will be an elite running back, even if he is his impact would be minimal. Add an elite running back to a team with Brandon Weeden as your QB, and you’d have…the Chiefs.

    • Pestilence says:

      We Browns fans are going to look back at the 2012 draft with sadness and some anger at the lost opportunity

      so just the same as every year?

      • The two previous drafts were pretty good. But it is true that the Browns v2.0 drafts have been bad, especially considering that they so often drafted near the top. Just look at the first three first round picks: Tim Couch, Courtney Brown, Gerard Warren.

        • Jonas says:

          Hey, that’s just in keeping with Browns v.1.0 drafts. Look at the shitshow of draft picks for the last 25 years of the original franschise, bookended by first rounders Mike Phipps and Craig Powell. And take a gander at the 1970s when they took a punter in the 2nd round, two years in a row!! Because the first one didn’t make the team! I need some vodka.

          • Fake Irishman says:

            And who can forget “Mad Dog in a Meat Market” Mike Junkin. Oh, that’s right — just about everyone.

            • Jonas says:

              And the next years first rounder, LB Clifford Charlton. Back to back first round LBs that couldn’t crack the starting lineup and appeared as special teamers in 50 total games between them.

          • In 1978 the Browns drafted Clay Matthews and Ozzie Newsome in the first round. That was the kind of draft I was hoping for in 2012: two players, any positions, who play at a high level for several years.

            Mike Phipps greatest contribution to the Browns was that he was traded to Chicago for the first round pick that got Newsome. WTF was Chicago thinking?

            • Jonas says:

              Seriously. Had they taken Richardson at 4, I would have been disappointed, but largely okay with it. But trading three additional picks to move up one spot for him? And WTF were they thinking with Weeden? If your team sucks it doesn’t matter who the QB is.

              As regards to Phipps, Chicago wanted him because he was a proven winner, as shown by 1972. You can disregard his career 2-1 INT to TD ratio, he was only playing to the score.

              • Cody says:

                I think Weeden as a big mistake mostly because of his age.

                I’ll work on the premise that they thought he would be good. Fine. But he is too old to get time to develop. They need a QB of their future. Even if they drafted Andrew Luck it’s doubtful they would have gotten too far this year.

                The odds are always in favor of the younger QB who has more time to break out.

  8. shah8 says:

    Christian Ponder is not a slightly below QB. He is trailing in stats for many crucial stats, including a 34th ranking in something (I forget). Has repeatedly shat the bed, most recently at Lambeau. He’s a horrible QB who’s there instead of Joe Webb (who looks to have a real shot at playing, given Ponder’s elbow), precisely because of what cpinva has mentioned. Looks good, has hot wife. Don’t you just love the Vikings so much, you’ll pay $$$$ for a new stadium for Wilf?

    • Bill Murray says:

      Joe Webb hasn’t exactly been good when he has had a chance, though.

      • shah8 says:

        Joe Webb has had six lengthy appearances. Two of those six were in meaningless last games of the season, much like Thad Lewis’ appearance for the Browns. He lost during his relief of Brett Favre.

        In the other three appearances:

        Won @Philly
        Terrified the Lions on the almost comeback to losing at the 1 yard line due to an uncalled facemask.
        Had a perfect QB rating game in relief of Ponder, throwing two TD passes, running for another in another comeback win, when All Day went down.

        Typically, backup QBs will not win you games. Even when they do, most of the time, it’s like the McElroy relief, in which he throws one 6 yard TD. Joe Webb has consistently thrown excellent passes in most of his appearances, indeed, usually better ones than what Ponder can do. It’s pretty damned clear that Webb is the better QB, and there is a very good chance that the reason for Percy Harvin’s blowup @ Seattle, and later, has to do with not subbing Ponder during one of his sub hundred yard games.

    • Mudge says:

      One thing I always enjoy about quarterbacks is that a bad one can propel a good team by having a very good day. Minnesota is where they are largely due to Peterson, so if Ponder overperforms, they have a good chance. On the other hand, Rodgers is usually excellent. His usual excellence may not be enough if Ponder has a good day. And if Rodgers has a bad day, the Packers’ wheels come off.

      Flacco is the poster child of this phenomenon. Doug Williams in the Super Bowl in 1988 is the godfather.

      • MAJeff says:

        I am always entranced by Flacco’s mystical unibrow.

      • Angry Geometer says:

        Trent Dilfer and Jim Plunkett also, too.

        • Mudge says:

          I am not sure Dilfer ever had an overachieving game. Baltimore won with defense. Plunkett was better than Dilfer. He replaced Dan Pastorino (I remember him!) in 1980 and had an excellent season. I think he was always undervalued because he won a Heisman, yet was not spectacular.

          • efgoldman says:

            It was Plunkett’s misfortune to be drafted by a hideously bad Patriots team, and worse, one of the top ten worst organizations in NFL history. He simply got the shit kicked out of him (under the old rules, too).

            In four-plus seasons with the Patriots, Plunkett was sacked 146 times for a total of 1,317 yards, as New England improved from 2-12 to 6-8.

            His final season with the Patriots, Plunkett played five games and had his shoulder so badly separated it had to be held together by a pin and a harness.

            In 1975, Plunkett was traded to San Francisco for quarterback Tom Owen, three first-round draft picks and a second-round choice that turned out to be center Pete Brock, defensive backs Tim Fox and Raymond Clayborn, and running back Horace Ivory.

            http://articles.courant.com/1993-05-02/sports/0000102564_1_super-bowl-xv-patriots-pete-brock

            It was the trade that made him a great asset for the then-future Pats.

            • All three of the top pick QBs in the 71 draft, Plunkett, Manning, and Pastorini, went to bad teams. Their careers suffered accordingly. Plunkett had the late-career resurgence, but the other two just got beat up for nothing.

            • Wow, that’s an excellent trade for the Patriots.

              • LosGatosCA says:

                The 49ers set the standard for volume draft pick trades, until Mike Ditka out did them:

                “Traded Jim Plunkett to 49ers for Tom Owen, two 1976 first round picks (#12-Pete Brock) (#21-Tim Fox), 1977 first round pick (#16-Raymond Clayborn), 1977 second round pick (#44-Horace Ivory) on 1976-04-05

                “Traded O.J. Simpson to 49ers for 1978 second round pick (#38-Scott Hutchinson), 1978 third round pick (#65-Danny Fulton), 1979 first round pick (#1-Tom Cousineau), 1979 fourth round pick (#83-Ken Johnson), 1980 second round pick (#29-Joe Cribbs) on 1978-03-24″

                Two players in two years that didn’t make a single significant contribution to the 49ers for 9 draft picks, 7 in the first two rounds.

                4 first rounders
                3 second rounders
                1 third rounder
                1 fourth rounder

                • Mike Schilling says:

                  Which is a big part of why for the 78-79 seasons they won a total of 4 games. Fortunately, with the picks that had left in ’79, they chose Montana in the third round and Dwight Clark in the 10th.

        • LosGatosCA says:

          Jim Plunkett is as qualified to be in the HoF as Joe Namath:

          1 more SB win

          72 – 72 record vs 62-63

          QBR 67.6 vs 65.5

          TD/INT 164/198 vs 173/220

          26K vds vs 28yds

          Just don’t ask me why Namath is in the HoF.

  9. Angry Geometer says:

    Always bet against the team god hates.

    History has clearly shown God hates the Bengals, Vikings, Colts and Seahawks more than their opponents. You can take that to the bank.

  10. JKTHs says:

    Picking the Ravens to be competent in the playoffs is a bad idea.

  11. LosGatosCA says:

    Joe Webb will start for the Vikings.

    Should be interesting, maybe he can pull a Clint Longley.

  12. I haven’t seen a lot of Bengals’ games in the last two years. I have heard quite a few people talk up Andy Dalton. I’m watching and wondering how that could be so.

  13. Green Caboose says:

    Houston at NE … the point spread on that will probably be double digits, and NE will likely beat it anyway. Ditto for Denver against whomever wins Balt v Indy.

    GB at SF … now THAT recalls some great old memories of Favre and Young. SF probably takes that. GB had that great streak from the end of 2010 through the playoffs and until they ran into KC in 2011, but they’ve been just above average since.

    I suspect Baltimore takes it today, but given Indy’s propensity to score late not necessarily by the 6.5 point spread. They rested a lot of players last week and their D should hold Indy in check. Their O looked actually competent against NYG – the first game in which Caldwell had a full week to prepare. That Cameron decision was unusual – not the firing of a coordinator mid-season as that has become exceedingly common in recent years – but the firing of one so closely linked to the head coach. That kind of decision doesn’t happen without months of internal high-level discussions and plenty of warnings and second, third, and fourth chances. Which means Cameron had to be screwing up really badly. Even if Caldwell is just average it should be a great improvement.

    Absolutely no idea on Wash-Seattle, which just adds to the already high attractiveness of this game.

    • jeer9 says:

      NE had a very weak schedule this year and is only 3-3 against above .500 teams.

      In 2010, NE beat the Jets at Gillette 45 – 3 in early December. In the playoffs the Jets defeated the Pats 28-21 at Gillette.

      While I am relieved that Houston’s collapse puts this game back at Gillette, the motivational advantage after the 42-14 thumping is all theirs.

      • Green Caboose says:

        True about that playoff game. And Wade Phillips has the Defensive Coordinator skills to learn from a game and come back better the next time. However, his track record isn’t good in that regard in the playoffs.

        But for Houston the real problem is that the offense is a shadow of what it was early in the season. If they can’t fix that against NE they’re toast.

  14. Joe says:

    That Hoston (sic) was pretty boring. They better improve their offense against the Pats. The Viks weren’t going to win two games in the row against the Packs, surely, but the early injury made it in effect a bye. Sorta karma given that Seattle game.

    • Joe says:

      I’m looking forward to better games today. No fan of the head coach of the Redskins, mind you, but that game is one where I don’t really mind who wins, just hope it is a good game. Don’t quite see it, but be nice if the Colts upset.

  15. Richard says:

    Forget football. Hockey is back. I get to hear those magic word – “And now your reigning Stanley Cup champions, the Los Angeles Kings”.

  16. Striking insight into LGM community: a post on NFL games on the day they are played gets less than one-third of the comments than a January baseball post on steroid use.

  17. Joe says:

    Bummer of a weekend to be honest. Now RGIII is hurt. Sheesh.

  18. Cody says:

    I feel sorry for AP. I think he should-maybe get the MVP, but there is no denying QBs are more valuable. With an All-World RB like AP the Vikings offense is bad.

    Put Peyton Manning on a team (ala Colts, every year before he left) and they can be dominant.

    Coupled with Mannings great stats and even better storyline, I don’t see how he isn’t chalked up as MVP. Will be interesting though. Wonder if there is voter fatigue for him…

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