Home / General / NFL Open Thread: AFC over and underachievers edition

NFL Open Thread: AFC over and underachievers edition

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Tanier has an amusing rundown of the backup QBs vying to put their teams in the playoffs, in multiple cases with surprising success. The fact that the Colts are better than even money to make the playoffs, though, means some expected playoff teams are blowing it or may have already blown it.

I’m a huge fan of Mike Tomlin, but like a prominent colleague in the northeast after Roethlesberger’s retirement he seems to have contracted a serious case of Defensive Coordinator As Head Coach disease:

Take every NFL offensive innovation of the last 20 years — zone reads, the RPO, unique personnel groupings, intricate pre-snap motion — and shove them all down the garbage disposal. Replace them with the playbook they give high schoolers before the county all-star game. Install the offense at the last minute on Saturday morning. Add some weird personnel usage and bruised egos. Presto! You have created the 2022-23 Steelers offense!

The play that ended the Thursday night game — however badly things are going for Belichick, somehow he still owns the deed to the Steelers with two hotels — sort of sums things up:

Blame Canada whatever rando replaced him for the ridiculous play call, but Trubisky is a veteran — you have to know that when running a play whose only chance of success is suckering a defender into a cheap DPI, you gotta underthrow the ball.

Having said that, despite two awful losses I can’t really say the Steelers are much worse than should have been expected overall given that they don’t have a QB. The Bills have no excuse:

Oh, I get it: The Bills put themselves on this list, because they are 6–6, while all these with classic-rock roadies and memes at quarterback have equal or better records. But the Bills have had injuries too, particularly on defense! Remember Matt Milano? He’s surely just as important as, say, Joe Burrow.

Did you know the Bills faced the third-easiest schedule in the NFL entering this week? Only the Dolphins and Cowboys have had things easier. The Bills face the second-toughest schedule down the stretch: at Chiefs, Cowboys, at Chargers, their Patriots boogeymen, at Miami.

To understand what a lost season this has been for the Bills, look at how the other teams on this list are manufacturing victories against tougher schedules with far less talent. We should not be making fun of these backup quarterbacks, we should be celebrating them: they remind us that no season is truly lost just because one player gets hurt, and that nothing is guaranteed, even for a preseason “champion.”

The point about the schedule is important. If the Bills play well down the stretch and just miss it will probably create the impression that they were just screwed by the schedule. But it ain’t so — they’ve had a cupcake schedule so far and have just lost multiple games a team that is serious about contending can’t lose (most notably to the Jets and Patriots, and they barely squeaked by the Giants.).

What’s gone wrong? This is a good deep dive, but the short answer is that they just haven’t drafted well enough after hitting a home run with Allen — there’s been a lot of capital invested in defenders and they still can’t withstand significant injuries, and not enough capital in pass catchers. Kincaid has been promising but there’s a lot of work to do before the window closes.

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