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Saturday’s games, Week 18:
London Guardian U.S. 09Jan2022

KC Chiefs rally for 13th straight win over Broncos stay alive for No 1 seed
Bolton’s fumble return sparks Chiefs’ 28-24 win over Denver – KC can earn No 1 seed with Houston win on Sunday – Prescott throws five TDs as Cowboys rout Eagles’ backups
London Guardian U.S. 08 Jan 2022

Linebacker Nick Bolton’s 86-yard fumble return after Melvin Ingram III darted into Denver’s backfield untouched and stripped Melvin Gordon powered the KC Chiefs to a 28-24 victory over the Denver Broncos on Saturday.

With their 13th consecutive win over the Broncos, the Chiefs (12-5) kept alive their hopes of getting the No 1 seed in the AFC playoffs. They need Houston to upset Tennessee on Sunday to get the pole position; otherwise, they’re the second seed and will host a wild-card game next weekend in their quest to reach a third consecutive Super Bowl.

The Broncos (7-10) were ahead 21-20 and driving for another TD when Ingram sped past TE Noah Fant and blew up the play just as Drew Lock handed the ball to Gordon. Bolton scooped up the loose ball and rumbled 86 yds to give the Chiefs their biggest lead, and Patrick Mahomes’ keeper on the two-point conversion made it 28-21.

Lock and the Broncos quickly got into scoring position again, but coach Vic Fangio, who fell to 19-30 as Denver’s head coach, decided on a FG on third-and-9 from the 13 as the crowd relentlessly booed the decision. McManus nailed the 31-yarder, but the Broncos still trailed by four and would need a TD if they were able to stop Mahomes.

They weren’t. On third-and-8 from the Denver 17, Mahomes found Travis Kelce for an 11-yard gain at the two-minute warning, with the Broncos having burned all their timeouts. The Chiefs lined up in victory formation as the clock ticked down and the crowd of 61,441 – there were nearly 15,000 empty seats – streamed for the exits, a fifth straight losing season in the books and their playoff drought now stretched to six years.

Jerick McKinnon broke three tackles on his way to a 14-yard TD catch that put KC ahead 17-14 on the opening drive of the third quarter.

Lock responded with a 31-yard dart to Tim Patrick on third-and-13 – that one pass topped Lock’s total yardage in the first half – and then Gordon burst through the line for a 47-yard TD that gave Denver a 21-17 lead the Broncos would take into the Q4.

Denver got its ground game going to take a 14-7 lead when Lock kept it himself and darted up the middle from 23 yds out. That made him the first Broncos QB to with two TD runs in a game since Tim Tebow in 2011. Lock completed just 4 of 10 passes for 27 yds in the first half but the Broncos had a 14-10 lead into halftime thanks to Lock’s TD scrambles of 5 and 23 yds.

The Broncos, missing three of their top four CBs, dropped two interceptions, one by Michael Ojemudia on KC’s opening drive and another at the goal line by Kyle Fuller.

Dallas Cowboys 51-26 Philadelphia Eagles
Dak Prescott ran into Dallas’ locker room with a message for any NFC team he’ll play next week in the playoffs. “The real (stuff) starts,” he said.

It starts with finding out the Cowboys’ wild-card opponent, and Prescott will be like millions of football fans every Sunday and watch the scoreboard with their playoff fate at stake.

Prescott threw a career-high five TD passes against Philadelphia Eagles backups, Cedrick Wilson and Dalton Schultz each had two scoring catches and the Cowboys kept their slim hopes for a No 2 seed in the NFC playoffs alive with a 51-26 victory Saturday night.

The Cowboys still had seeding to play for against an Eagles team that rested Jalen Hurts and other key starters ahead of an NFC wild-card game next week. The NFC East champion Cowboys (12-5) need losses Sunday by reigning Super Bowl champion TBay against last-place Carolina and also for the LA Rams and Arizona Cardinals to lose to earn the No 2 seed. There also is a path to the No 3 seed for Dallas. The Cowboys can’t finish worse than the fourth seed. The Eagles (9-8) could still be the sixth seed.

Prescott stayed in the game until the Q4, the lead increasing seemingly with each throw and so, perhaps, the risk of injury for a QB nearly 15 months removed from the gruesome compound fracture of his right ankle that ended his 2020 season.

Prescott did his best to get an offense that routinely produced at least 400 yds during a 6-1 start back on track headed into the playoffs following a two-year absence. He was 21 of 27 for 295 yds and no interceptions. He broke Tony Romo’s 2007 record of 36 TD passes in a season. Prescott threw an eight-yard TD pass to Corey Clement early in the Q4 to make it 37-20 and set the mark.

His teammates knew Prescott set the TD mark. Prescott needed a reminder of his record. “Just coming off the field, they’re saying congrats and I thought they were saying congrats for five TDs,” Prescott said.

Staying sharp, piling up points, and, yes, finishing 6-0 in the NFC East were all needed high points for the Cowboys.

But, like the team records on both sides that kept falling, the win comes with a bit of a shrug. With nothing to play for, the Eagles treated the game like a preseason finale. Hurts, with 3,144 yds passing and a team-high 784 yds rushing, got the night off. So did tackle Lane Johnson, CB Darius Slay and 11 more players on the reserve/Covid-19 list.

Gardner Minshew started for Hurts and – for a drive, at least – it was Minshew Mania again when he threw a three-yard TD pass to Tyree Jackson on the opening drive. It was the first catch of Jackson’s career. The score sparked an “E-A-G-L-E-S!” chant from fans across the street at the Flyers game after a replay was shown on the big screen.

Philadelphia didn’t give anyone in green much reason to chant and cheer the rest of the game. Eagles coach Nick Sirianni defended his decision to rest Hurts, who missed a game this year with a sprained left ankle, ahead of the playoffs.

“We thought it was an opportunity to get him back to 100%. We need to be able to have our full arsenal of offense going into the playoffs,” Sirianni said.

jerry old

Texas Crude
Steelers vs Ravens-their usual rockum, sockum -good game, Big Ben to retire.

49's Jimmy G came alive in 4th quarter and in overtime-clutch throws-Yea!

Lions effort was a surprise, big surprise

All these good games then the Bucs and Panthers-terrible scheduling by CBS

jerry old

Texas Crude
Chargers on their own thirty, four plays to make first down-they didn't make it BUT after four downs refes flag gave them another new set of downs.
Now on the next four downs, Chargers again failed to make ten yards, no matter, friendly ref threw flag= new set of downs
Now after three more down, they make ten yards and get a new set of downs.
That is 4+4+3= 11 plays to make ten yards :rolleyes:
The referees and their damn flags ruin the games🤔

I like the Raiders, but this game should have been won by Chargers.
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Senior Member
What We Learned From Week 18 in the NFL, Pt 1 of 3
NYTimes, WashPost, SB Nation, SI.com, local media – Jan 13, 2022

Playoff Picture (All times Eastern)
No. 1 Tennessee Titans (12-5) — Bye
No. 2 KC (12-5) vs. No. 7 Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7-1), Sunday, 8:15p, NBC
No. 3 Buffalo Bills (11-6) vs. No. 6 NE Patriots (10-7), Saturday, 8:15p, CBS
No. 4 Cincinnati Bengals (10-7) vs. No. 5 LVegas Raiders (10-7), Saturday, 4:30p, NBC

No. 1 GBay Packers (13-4) — Bye
No. 2 TBay Buccaneers (13-4) vs. No. 7 Philadelphia Eagles (9-8), Sunday, 1p, Fox
No. 3 Dallas Cowboys (12-5) vs. No. 6 SF 49ers (10-7), Sunday, 4:30p, CBS
No. 4 LA Rams (12-5) vs. No. 5 Arizona Cardinals (11-6), Monday, 8:15p, ESPN and ABC

Week 18 Players of the Week

Offense: QB Ryan Tannehill, TEN
Defense: DE Maxx Crosby, LV
ST: K Daniel Carlson, LV

Offense: QB Dak Prescott, DAL
Defense: S Tracy Walker, DET
ST: K Robbie Gould, SF

Saturday’s Games
Chiefs 28, Broncos 24

Denver got its ground game going to take a 14-7 lead when Drew Lock kept it himself and darted up the middle from 23 yds out. That made him the first Broncos QB to with two TD runs in a game since Tim Tebow in 2011. Lock completed just 4 of 10 passes for 27 yds in the first half but the Broncos had a 14-10 lead into halftime thanks to Lock’s TD scrambles of 5 and 23 yds. The Broncos, missing three of their top four CBs, dropped two interceptions, one by Michael Ojemudia on KC’s opening drive and another at the goal line by Kyle Fuller.

The Broncos (7-10) were ahead 21-20 and driving for another TD when Chiefs LB Melvin Ingram sped past TE Noah Fant and blew up the play just as Drew Lock handed the ball to Gordon. Nick Bolton scooped up the loose ball and rumbled 86 yds to give the Chiefs their biggest lead, and Patrick Mahomes’ keeper on the two-point conversion made it 28-21.

Lock and the Broncos quickly got into scoring position again. But coach Vic Fangio, who fell to 19-30 as Denver’s HC, inexplicably decided on a FG on third-and-9 from the 13 as the crowd relentlessly booed the decision. The D couldn’t stop Mahomes, who found Travis Kelce for a first down as the Chiefs ran the clock out. Denver has now suffered a fifth straight losing season as their playoff drought stretched to six years.

Dallas Cowboys 51-26 Philadelphia Eagles
Dak Prescott threw a career-high five TD passes against Philadelphia Eagles backups, Cedrick Wilson and Dalton Schultz each had two scoring catches. Prescott stayed in the game until Q4, totaling 21 of 27 for 295 yds and no interceptions. He broke Tony Romo’s 2007 record of 36 TD passes in a season.

But, like the team records on both sides that kept falling, the win comes with a bit of a shrug. With nothing to play for, the Eagles treated the game like a preseason finale. Hurts, with 3,144 yds passing and a team-high 784 yds rushing, got the night off. So did tackle Lane Johnson, CB Darius Slay and 11 more players on the reserve/Covid-19 list.

Gardner Minshew started for Hurts and – for a drive, at least – it was Minshew Mania again when he threw a three-yard TD pass to Tyree Jackson on the opening drive. It was the first catch of Jackson’s career. The score sparked an “E-A-G-L-E-S!” chant from fans across the street at the Flyers game after a replay was shown on the big screen.

But the rest of the game Philadelphia didn’t give anyone in green much reason to chant and cheer. Eagles coach Nick Sirianni defended his decision to rest Hurts, who missed a game this year with a sprained left ankle, ahead of the playoffs. “We thought it was an opportunity to get him back to 100%. We need to be able to have our full arsenal of offense going into the playoffs,” Sirianni said.

Dallas’ win sets up next week’s traditional grudge match-up between San Francisco’s 49ers and the Cowboys, a rivalry that dates back to the Tom Landry vs Bill Walsh days in the 1980’s. The odds favor Dallas – they are a more complete team, and their strengths look to hit the Niners where they’re weakest, with one exception: the running game. SF has now finished in the top three in D rankings for the third straight year, and is especially strong against the run, which allows their defensive linemen to pressure opposing QBs.

Jaguars 26, Colts 11: The Colts five-year plan blew up.
For Chris Ballard, Sunday’s regular-season finale was five years in the making. Over that time, the Indianapolis GM built a team that purportedly ready to make the leap in 2021. His Colts teams had amassed a 32-32 record entering this season, and Ballard had developed a reputation for drafting well, trading smartly and resisting overspending. This season’s team boasts a contender for the MVP Award in RB Jonathan Taylor.

With one win over the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars, the Colts had a chance to enter the AFC postseason as absolutely the last team anyone would want to face. Instead, the Colts laid an all-time egg, losing to the worst team in the NFL.

The Colts had everything to play for. The Jaguars, amid yet another lost season, and having ousted their HC weeks ago, had nothing at stake save draft positioning. But the Jaguars prodded one of the most physical teams in the NFL for a full game and ultimately upended the AFC’s playoff standings. With the loss and the Steelers’ OT win over the Ravens, Pittsburgh took the AFC’s seventh seed and the final wild-card spot thanks to a Chargers loss to the Raiders.

In retrospect, this Buster Douglas-style upset wasn’t so unexpected. Indianapolis’ strange loss to the LVegas Raiders in Week 17 meant the Colts could not afford to rest their starters and would need the victory just to secure a playoff berth that, two weeks ago, had seemed assured.

The Jaguars usually play the Colts hard, having now beaten the Colts at home in every season since 2014, and must have relished the chance to ruin their division rival’s postseason attempt. Then, there was the absence of the former Jacksonville HC Urban Meyer, fired on Dec. 16. Without Meyer’s rudimentary play calls, Trevor Lawrence, the #1 overall draft pick last April, finally resembled the strong-armed QB who dominated college football, completing 23 of 32 passes for 223 yds, two TDs and no interceptions.

Still, this game was the Colts’ to lose. After last year when the Colts lost to the Bills in the wild-card round, veteran QB Philip Rivers retired and Ballard went all in by trading for Carson Wentz, who had commanded the Eagles in the regular season en route to their Super Bowl win to end the 2017 season.

Wentz has mainly been a caretaker this season, working off play-action and hitting the occasional deep throw. But Sunday, with the Jaguars holding Colts Jonathan Taylor to 77 yds on 15 carries, Wentz needed to be a playmaker. Instead, he took six sacks, lost a fumble and threw a pick against a Jacksonville D ranked the second-worst unit in the NFL

His worst mistake was a Q3 fumble when, trailing 13-3, the Colts had an opportunity to pull close. Jacksonville tackle DaVon Hamilton recovered and, four plays later, the Jaguars extended their lead to 16-3 on Matthew Wright’s 39-yard FG.

The Colts had been a choice underdog bet to sneak into the Super Bowl because of Taylor and their brawling defensive line, which Ballard built as a counter to the pass-oriented rosters compiled elsewhere. Up front, Quenton Nelson is unquestionably the best guard in football. This is also a defense that stole defensive tackle DeForest Buckner from SF for a first-round pick. He’s been worth every cent of his four-year, $84 million deal. It’s a defense also built around one of the best playmakers in the sport in linebacker Darius Leonard, who forced an NFL-high eight fumbles with four interceptions in 2021. Not to mention the slot CB Kenny Moore, a 5-foot-9, 190-pound pinball who’s easily one of the most underrated players in the sport.

Indianapolis dusted off some old-school football dogma by bludgeoning defenses with Taylor’s runs to dig itself out of a 1-4 hole early in the season. Taylor’s vision, power and speed had been unparalleled in wins over playoff-bound teams. Against the Buffalo Bills, Taylor had a 204-yard, five-TD masterpiece. When Bill Belichick stacked the Patriots’ line to slow him, Taylor still earned 170 yds, including a late 67-yard blast that ended NE’s seven-game win streak. And with the Colts down to what was essentially its second-string OL in December, Indianapolis stymied the Cardinals, 22-16.

And it was all for naught because Indianapolis couldn’t beat Jacksonville, the team with the worst record in the NFL. That’s as embarrassing as it gets.


Senior Member
What We Learned From Week 18 in the NFL, Pt 2 of 3
NYTimes, WashPost, SB Nation, SI.com, local media – Jan 13, 2022

49ers 27, Rams 24: Stafford’s backbreaking interceptions still a major problem.
The 49ers clinched a postseason berth with an OT victory over the NFC West champion Rams on Sunday, thanks to Robbie Gould's 24-yard FG with 2:45 left in OT and a game-ending interception by rookie Ambry Thomas.

The LA Rams pushed the chips in on this season. The team traded for Matthew Stafford, just the sixth NFL QB to throw for at least 40 TDs in multiple seasons, last January. They added to both sides of the ball with the massive acquisitions of linebacker Von Miller and receiver Odell Beckham Jr. at mid-season. This leaves the Rams with no first-round draft picks for the next seven years.

But the Rams’ goal of a Super Bowl win in their home stadium hinges on Stafford, who has wobbled in LA’s final regular-season games. At 33, Stafford ended the regular season with 41 passing TDs. His arm strength and athleticism unquestionably allows Sean McVay to unlock pages of his playbook he never could with the more stationary Jared Goff, the QB Stafford replaced. Yet, this trade came with a disclaimer: When the Rams unloaded two first-rounders and a third-round pick to swap Goff for Stafford last year, they knew his past.

In Sunday’s loss to the 49ers, LAR lost the opportunity to grab the NFC’s #2 seed and flagged a troubling concern entering the postseason. Stafford finished with a blasé 238 yds, with three scores and two picks, on 21 of 32 passing. Statistically, this season was Stafford’s best since 2011, but he has also thrown four pick-sixes and finished with 17 interceptions. But in the playoffs – where the margin for error shrinks – one such mistake can end a season.

The Von Miller and Beckham trades are paying dividends. The Stafford trade? We’ll see next week.

The Rams OL was rated #1 in pass block win rate. But the Niners have the better defensive front, and it showed why they won their six straight game vs their archrivals. Rams Matthew Stafford was pressured on 76% of his 37 dropbacks, sacked four times, hit 13 times, and intercepted twice. Niners Arik Armstead was slow to get started this season, but has picked up his game as the season ended, helped by the double-teaming and holding (sometimes penalized, often not) on All-Pro pass rusher Nick Bosa. Armstead finished with 2.5 sacks, a QB hit, and seven tackles. DJ Jones, Nick Bosa, and Arden Key all had four pressures apiece.

The 49ers finished the 2021 season ranked 3rd in total defense while also being the only team in the NFL to finish top 10 in both rushing and passing defense. The 49ers defense hasn’t allowed a team to rush for over 100 yds since Week 9, and vs the Rams, held their RBs – including Cooper Kupp, whose best success today was catching passes – to 64 yds on 27 total carries, only 2.4 yds per carry. Kupp became only the fourth player in NFL history to lead the league in receptions, yds receiving and TD catches this season after finishing with seven catches for 118 yds. He made two huge catches on the Rams' go-ahead drive, but didn't get another touch. Pressuring Stafford into mis-throws made the difference.

SF Coach Kyle Shanahan wants to run the ball 30-plus times with rookie RB Elijah Mitchell and versatile Deebo Samuel, force a few turnovers on defense, than rest the offense solely on Garoppolo. Despite trading up to #3 overall last April to draft Trey Lance, the 49ers have nonetheless stuck with Garoppolo. They were rewarded Sunday when he played through a painful thumb injury to finish with 316 yds, one TD and two picks.

The 2021 Niners are a Jekyll-and-Hyde team. Garoppolo and the offense stunk up the stadium through most of the first half. But they came to life with 38 seconds left, driving down the field for a FG, and then came out on fire after halftime. The Rams made 74% of their third-downs in the first half, but only 44% in the second half and OT, when it counted.

A big reason why Shanahan played an injured Jimmy G instead of Trey Lance? JG’s super-quick release of 2.2 seconds. He’s almost twice as fast as rookie Lance, which is why JG was only sacked twice during the game. Rams Von Miller and Aaron Donald seldom had the chance to get to him. Although it took the Niners almost an entire half to get untracked offensively, they ended with 64% success on third downs. Garoppolo had 34 attempts with a 53% success rate (1% lower than Mathew Stafford) with 41% (6% higher than Stafford) of his throws resulting in a first down.

Kicker Robbie Gould deserves a mention, as the Niners special teams play has been awful this year. When punter Wishnowsky left the game early with a concussion, Gould produced two excellent punts in addition to being perfect on FGs and extra pts.

Despite the Rams putting Jalen Ramsey on versatile WR/RB Deebo Samuel, Samuel showed why he made 2021’s All-Pro in his third year. His YAC average is just shy of 10 yds, way more than any other WR this year, including a 20-yd catch he turned into a 43-yd dash that helped the Niners tie the game for the second time. In Q3 Samuel took a pitchout from Garoppolo and passed for a 24-yd TD to teammate Ja’uan Jennings, only his second attempt ever. He totaled eight runs, 45 yds and four receptions, 95 yds vs the Rams. Samuel finished the season with 1,770 yds from scrimmage with 14 TDs scored and another on the TD throw.

Around the NFL

Raiders 35, Chargers 32

The Chargers fought hard, but a plethora of defensive penalties and some questionable coaching staff decisions hamstrung the team. In the end, immense late-game heroics from QB Justin Herbert wasn’t enough as the Raiders ran out the clock in OT as Daniel Carlson converted a 47-yd FG to send LVegas to the postseason. The loss ended the Chargers season at 9-8 and they missed the playoffs for the third-consecutive season.

Herbert set a laundry list of passing records by the end of the night, including setting the Chargers single-season passing yards record by surpassing Dan Fouts’ mark of 4,802. He ended the day completing 34-of-64 passes for 383 yds, three TDs, and one interception. He put on a true superman performance in primetime, willing his team back from a 15-point deficit to get them into OT against the Raiders. With just seconds to go in regulation, Herbert finished six-of-six on fourth downs for 106 yds and the game-tying TD.

While a tie would have sent both teams to the playoffs, the Raiders decided to go for the OT win on Daniel Carlson’s 47-yard FG as time expired, to set up a wild-card meeting with the Cincinnati Bengals next weekend.

Led by All-Pro pass rusher Maxx Crosby, the Raiders D harassed Herbert all game. Crosby, who won the PotW award for the second time this season, had two sacks, three tackles for loss, three passes defensed and six total tackles. The Raiders pass rush will be critical vs Cincinnati. QB Joe Burrow has a mediocre OL and been sacked a whopping 109 times this season, fourth worst in the league.

The pass rush will be needed as the weather is forecast as cold/snowy, giving the RBs on both teams (Joe Mixon/Bengals; Josh Jacobs/Raiders) the edge. LVR QB Derek Carr has not done well in the cold (0-5 in games 37 degrees or less) and worse, LVR will be playing without their outstanding run-stuffing DT Darius Philon, who went out of the Chargers game with a season-ending knee injury.


Senior Member
What We Learned From Week 18 in the NFL, Pt 3 of 3
NYTimes, WashPost, SB Nation, SI.com, local media – Jan 13, 2022

Bills 27, Jets 10
Buffalo overcame some egregious punting in swirling winds to discard the Jets and win the AFC East for the second straight season. Devin Singletary scored two TDs in the final nine minutes to break the game open in the Q4, and the Bills continued to unleash Josh Allen as a runner: He has 341 rushing yds in his last five games.

Buccaneers 41, Panthers 17
TBay enjoyed a perfect tune up against Carolina. Tom Brady completed 29 of 37 passes for 326 yds and three TDs. Rob Gronkowski, again Brady’s go-to target heading into the playoffs, looked as smooth as ever, posting 100 yds in back-to-back games for the first time since December 2017. Rumor later said Brady refused to leave the game until Gronkowski reached his bonus levels for the season.

Dolphins 33, Patriots 24
Bill Belichick’s team is playing its worst football at the wrong time, with NE having dropped three of its final four games. It’s not promising as they’ll be playing vs the Bills this Saturday. Miami ran for 195 yds on 43 attempts, took a 24-10 lead, and forced Mac Jones to throw the Patriots back into the game. Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson combined for only 15 carries.

Saints 30, Falcons 20
This season might have been Sean Payton’s finest coaching job since New Orleans’ Super Bowl season. Fielding what seemed at times to be a junior varsity team, Payton’s schemes kept the Saints in the playoff race, even as Taysom Hill left in the second quarter with a foot injury. Alvin Kamara’s 146 rushing yds powered the win. New Orleans enters the off-season, once again, with little cap room and lots of personnel decisions to make.

Seahawks 38, Cardinals 30
Arizona stumbles into the postseason on four defeats in five games to end the regular season. Kyler Murray was sacked five times but hopes to get back DeAndre Hopkins for the playoffs. Arizona’s main problems are on defense, where a unit that stymied Dak Prescott and the pyrotechnic Cowboys in Week 17, had zero answer this week for Seattle RB Rashaad Penny, who polished off this game with a 62-yard, Q4 TD run and finished with 190 yds on 23 carries.

Steelers 16, Ravens 13
Beneficiaries of the Colts’ loss, Pittsburgh earned the wild-card berth with the Raiders win over the Chargers. Mike Tomlin has gone 15 seasons without a losing record and the shell of Ben Roethlisberger was good enough to eke out nine wins. T.J. Watt tied Michael Strahan’s single-season sack record (22.5) and had three QB hits.

Browns 21, Bengals 16
With the AFC North locked up, Cincinnati (10-7) wisely sat its battered QB, Joe Burrow, and Cleveland was without Baker Mayfield. With little to play for, the Browns had 306 yds of offense mostly earned on the ground by D’Ernest Johnson, who had 123 rushing yds. The Bengals must hope snowy weather and Joe Mixon’s rushing will blunt the formidable Raiders DL, which is sending two of its LBs to the Pro Bowl this year.

Lions 37, Packers 30
In one half, Aaron Rodgers was sharp with 138 yds and two TDs on 14 of 18 passing, a rhythm start that gave the offense a handful of reps before its first-round bye. After so many crushing losses, the Lions got a sweet win and unleashed a handful of trick plays. Detroit will likely continue to gut its roster in the off-season, but seems to have a budding star in receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, who caught eight passes for 109 yds with a TD.

Titans 28, Texans 25
Despite Texans receiver Danny Amendola’s two late TD receptions, Tennessee clung to the AFC’s #1 seed. Tennessee’s Ryan Tannehill threw four TDs with no picks, in a reversal of his four-pick effort in a November loss to the Texans. With a first-round bye and Derrick Henry expected to return for the playoffs, the Titans have a phenomenal shot at reaching their first Super Bowl since the 1999 season.

Vikings 31, Bears 17
It’s abundantly clear at this point that Mike Zimmer and Kirk Cousins will take this Minnesota team only so far. A win over a rebuilding Bears team won’t mean much as the Vikings reassess their standing. Zimmer was fired a day after the game.

Washington Football Team 22, Giants 7
On third-and-9, Coach Joe Judge’s team decided to run a QB sneak with Jake Fromm that summed up the Giants’ season beautifully. Judge was 10-23 in two seasons as a HC. Historically, John Mara, the Giants’ co-owner, prefers to simply reshuffle the front-office deck and hire familiar faces. This time, however, he swallowed the bitter pill and fired Judge post-game.
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Senior Member
NFL Playoff Predictions: NYT Picks in the Wild-Card Round
The postseason’s first weekend will see the third matchup between the Patriots and the Bills, and for the Cardinals and the Rams.
NY Times Jan. 13, 2022

The NFL playoffs are here and with them comes the added theater of the first Monday night wild-card game and two matchups of teams meeting for the third time this season that will anchor the postseason’s opening weekend.

Saturday night’s Patriots-Bills III and Monday’s third contest between the NFC West-rival Cardinals and Rams sandwich a weekend where parity — and familiarity — should be on display. A rematch between the Raiders and Bengals, and a contest between the Cowboys and the 49ers, two of the NFL’s most-storied franchises, should also ramp up the drama after LVegas and SF both needed OT to claim their playoff spots.

This weekend, though, the NFL’s sudden-death OT rules will apply: The length of the extra period stretches to 15 minutes from 10, and there won’t be any question of whether to kneel since the games will continue until someone scores.

Here’s a look at the wild-card round of the NFL playoffs, with all picks made against the spread.

Saturday’s Games (All times are Eastern)

LVegas Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals, 4:30p, NBC
Pick: Bengals
There are few stories this postseason more interesting than the Raiders (10-7), a team once considered out of playoff contention until it closed the regular season by winning four consecutive one-score games to earn a wild-card spot. They face a Bengals (10-7) offense that has thrived under Joe Burrow, who enters the game on a tear, having thrown for over 300 yds in three of his last four starts.

Burrow could exploit the Raiders’ secondary, the most-vulnerable unit of LVegas’s defense, which has allowed over 300 passing yds four times this season. The Pro Bowl DE Maxx Crosby and other lineman can generate pressure against a Bengals front that’s given up 55 sacks. But the Bengals have a Plan B in Joe Mixon, who finished third in the league in rushing yds (1,205), and could thrive as a receiver on check-down routes against the Raiders’ zone-based defense. Cincinnati beat LVegas comfortably in Week 11, and there’s little reason to think it will not happen again.

NE Patriots at Buffalo Bills, 8:15p, CBS
Pick: Bills
Round 3, anyone? Every good fight needs a third installment, and this meeting between the Bills (11-6) and Patriots (10-7) could be similar to the first, in Week 13, when NE let Mac Jones attempt only three passes in its win over Buffalo. Forecasts in Orchard Park, N.Y., on Saturday call for temperatures that hover around 0 degrees and a 30% chance of snow, an outlook that again favors a heavy reliance on the running game.

The Bills’ defense allowed league lows in yds and points in the regular season, but it has been susceptible to the run. In the teams’ late-December meeting, a Buffalo win, the Bills forced Jones into a 14 of 32 passing performance with no TD throws and two interceptions. Assuming more of the offensive load in recent weeks, Jones has looked like the rookie he is, and trusting a first-year passer to overcome the spread, on the road, in the cold, against an ascending team isn’t really a safe bet.

Sunday’s Games
Philadelphia Eagles at TBay Buccaneers, 1p, Fox

Pick: Buccaneers
Tom Brady will have to endure mentions of Super Bowl LII and the Philly Special as he prepares for the Eagles (9-8), who pivoted their season by focusing on the run to such an extent that Philadelphia finished with the league’s highest rushing average (159.7 yds per game). The Eagles’ salvation plays right into a major strength of TBay’s, since they give up only 92.5 running yds per game, third-fewest in the league.

And the Buccaneers’ (13-4) injured starters are trickling back into the lineup. Coach Bruce Arians said Monday that he expected RB Leonard Fournette (hamstring), linebacker Shaquil Barrett (knee) and edge rusher Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder) to play Sunday. That bodes well as they attempt to defend their Super Bowl championship.

SF 49ers at Dallas Cowboys, 4:30p, CBS
Pick: Cowboys
This the closest spread of wild-card weekend, for good reason: The 49ers (10-7) can counter everything Dallas does well defensively. The short drop backs and rushing attacks that are staples of Coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense negate linebacker Micah Parsons’s ability to generate pressure and sacks (he has 13 this season). SF doesn’t rely on deep throws, which could neutralize Trevon Diggs, the Dallas CB who led the league in interceptions (11).

Despite the thrashing Dallas (12-5) gave to Philadelphia’s backups last week, the Cowboys’ offense has more often suffered from miscommunications between Dak Prescott and his receivers along with an inconsistent run game. Behind the versatile receiver Deebo Samuel and a defense that allowed an average of only 260 yds over its final four regular season games, the 49ers could look to secure an upset, or at least keep the score uncomfortably close.

The Niners must score fast and early; falling behind will allow Dallas to pressure Garoppolo into errors.

Pittsburgh Steelers at KC, 8:15p, NBC
Pick: KC
One could argue that the Steelers (9-7-1) are the luckiest team in the postseason, as they benefited from the Colts’ inexplicable Week 18 breakdown against the Jaguars to sneak into the playoffs. That magic — and Ben Roethlisberger’s NFL career — should end against KC (12-5), which blew out Pittsburgh by 26 points in Week 16.

KC Coach Andy Reid anticipates Tyreek Hill (heel), and RBs Darrel Williams (toe) and Clyde Edwards-Helaire (shoulder) to all play. Sure, KC underwhelmed in its season-ending win against the Broncos, but nothing in Pittsburgh’s recent performances points to the Steelers being more than a bump in the road. Pick: KC -12.5

Monday’s Matchup
Arizona Cardinals at LA Rams, 8:15p, ESPN

Pick: Rams
The best team in the NFL through October, the Cardinals (11-6) have lost four of their last five games and relinquished home-field advantage, and they now must travel to face the division-rival Rams (12-5). Arizona may get some much-needed help if J.J. Watt, who returned to practice this week after a three-month absence, is available, though his status is still uncertain. Receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who has a knee injury and hasn’t played since Week 14, will not be available.

Matthew Stafford finished the season tied for first in the league in interceptions (17). His decision-making will be examined with microscopic scrutiny as the playoffs progress, given the draft capital General Manager Les Snead gave up to Detroit to trade for him. But at least for the first round, he can count on the Cardinals’ errors to be more damaging: Arizona has been flagged for at least six penalties in each game during a five-game stretch, and has fumbled an egregious 17 center-QB snaps this season.

jerry old

Texas Crude
Bills over Pats

Cardinal over Rams-hopefully
Cowboys over SF

KC over Steelers, it is okay, Big Ben rest, rest
Super Bowl Titian and Packers\
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Senior Member
NFL wildcard playoff picks: Favorites to sweep ‘super’ six-game slate
The road to Super Bowl LVI starts on Saturday with the first ever three-day Super Wild Card Weekend. Who will survive and book a spot in the NFL’s last eight?
London Guardian U.S. 14 Jan 2022

After the first Week 18 in NFL history ended a topsy-turvy season in suitably dramatic fashion, we’re headed into the first ever Super Wild Card Weekend. The NFL is giving us six games over the next three days and while you can’t predict football – just ask the Indianapolis Colts – we can at least make semi-educated guesses how the following games will go.

LVegas Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals (Saturday, 4.30pm EST)
What the Raiders need to do to win:
LVegas were the last team to qualify for the playoffs and will be road underdogs on Saturday. Oddly enough, they have an identical regular-season record as the 10-7 Bengals. Given Cincinnati’s history of underachieving, all of the pressure is on the other side. If the Raiders can get an early lead, force a key turnover or two with their talented group of pass rushers, that could be enough to plant the seeds of doubt in their opponents.

What the Bengals need to do to win: QB Joe Burrow simply must keep doing what he’s doing, having thrown for 971 yds over the course of the last two games. The last time these two teams met, the Bengals won 32-13, on the road nonetheless. If he plays like this, this could be a laugher (which is what the league obviously expects, since they put this in the Saturday afternoon “ratings death” slot). The world is ready for the first text message ever sent celebrating a Bengals victory, who last won a playoff game in 1991.

Key player: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Bengals. It was a cute story when the Bengals drafted Chase in last year’s NFL draft, reuniting him with his old college QB in Joe Burrow. Instead, it was a stroke of genius. The dynamic duo recently set a franchise record, combining for 266 yds and three TDs in an impressive Week 17 win over the Chiefs. The two have an almost psychic connection and it could be something to see this postseason.

Prediction: Bengals over Raiders

NE Patriots at Buffalo Bills (Saturday, 8.15pm EST/Sunday)
What the Patriots need to do to win:
Run like the wind. In the previous meeting between these two teams, the Patriots altered their game plan to take advantage of extremely windy weather conditions. QB Mac Jones threw for 19 yds as NE relied on a talented RB corps to put together a flat-out hilarious 14-10 victory. Jones will have to do more this time around, but it wouldn’t hurt to go back to this blueprint.

What the Bills need to do to win: The Good Josh Allen is going to have to show up. For Allen’s first few seasons, the Bills QB had serious issues with ball control despite his obvious physical talents. After Tom Brady relocated to Florida, he has emerged as the best QB in the AFC East. However, old habits die hard. In a four-game stretch this season, Allen threw seven interceptions and lost a fumble. He can’t afford that kind of carelessness again against a Patriots team with one of the league’s most opportunistic defenses.

Key player: JC Jackson, CB, Patriots. To do so, Buffalo will have to neutralize this guy. Jackson might be their most impactful player on that side. Jackson’s eight interceptions were the second-most in the league this year and he has 25 over the course of his four-year career. The Patriots will desperately need him to work his magic for NE to pull off a road upset.

Prediction: Bills over Patriots

Philadelphia Eagles at TBay Buccaneers (Sunday, 1pm EST)
What the Eagles need to do to win:
Hope that momentum is still a thing. The Eagles started their season 2-5, seemingly falling out of the playoff mix, but have looked like an entirely different team since. Since losing 28-22 to TBay back in Week 6, they have even led the league in rushing with 184.8 rushing yds per game. If they keep that up, we should have a competitive ballgame.

What the Buccaneers need to do to win: This actually isn’t the worst time for the Eagles to face the Buccaneers with TBay still reeling from the fallout of the Antonio Brown situation. Despite his endless deficiencies as a teammate, the team will miss him what with Chris Godwin out for the season with an ACL injury. If Tom Brady’s favorite receiver is the “open receiver”, then the players lower on the depth chart are going to have to do their best to get themselves open.

Key player: Tom Brady, QB, Buccaneers. No reason to overthink this one. Brady might just be the greatest player in NFL history. He’s also 44 years old and – despite all available evidence – Father Time will eventually have his say. He says he wants to play until he’s 50, and maybe he will, but he has to know this game could mark the start of his final Super Bowl run.

Prediction: Buccaneers over Eagles

SF 49ers at Dallas Cowboys (Sunday, 4.30pm EST)
What the 49ers need to do to win:
Limit Dak Prescott’s production. While the Dallas Cowboys QB struggled a bit down the stretch, he ended the season with a 295 yard, five-TD performance. If he’s even as two-thirds as good on Sunday, that’s probably a wrap for SF – even if their run game is as good as advertised.

What the Cowboys need to do to win: In contrast, Dallas must stop the run. The 49ers, who are basically between QBs, rely on their running game to wear down opposing defenses. If the Cowboys’ defense, particularly recently acquired free agent safety Jayron Kearse, can limit their rushing yds, it could prevent the team from even needing a big game from Prescott.

Key player: Deebo Samuel, WR, 49ers. We’re listing Samuel as a WR here, but he’s a new breed of do-everything offensive player who has picked up a total of 1,845 yds, 365 of those on the ground. In fact, with Jimmy Garoppolo hurt and rookie Trey Lance not quite ready to take the mantle, Samuel has even occasionally performed emergency QB duty, meaning that the 49ers have the luxury of running “trick plays” that are just “plays”.
(Deebo Samuel’s TD pass vs Rams: Samuel TD pass vs Rams Week 18)

Prediction: Cowboys over 49ers

Pittsburgh Steelers at KC Chiefs (Sunday, 8.15pm EST)
What the Steelers need to do to win:
Ben Roethlisberger has to have one more great (not just good) game left in his Hall of Fame career. It’s a tall order and even he seems to know it: “Let’s just go in and play and have fun,” he said earlier this week. Still, if he stays upright, at least long enough to make plenty of big plays (either with his arms or with his feet) maybe his Steelers career lasts another week.

What the Chiefs need to do to win: The Steelers are 12.5-point underdogs against the Chiefs for a reason. They are playing against the most talented team in the AFC. One expects that Patrick Mahomes and company will be able to score, meaning the key question is whether or not the team’s much-improved defense turns into a pumpkin come into playoff time. If they can keep getting to Big Ben, the Chiefs win this game.

Key player: Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs. KC don’t even need Kelce to crush the Steelers, as they showed the last time these two teams faced each other. Even without the most dangerous TE in the league, the Chiefs still steamrolled the Steelers. Kelce should be good to go on Sunday and that could be very bad news for this Pittsburgh defense.

Prediction: Chiefs over Steelers

Arizona Cardinals at LA Rams (Monday, 8.15pm EST)
What the Cardinals need to do to win:
With Kyler Murray on their side, the Cardinals have a decisive edge at QB. However, given how good the Rams have been as a team, it won’t matter if the defense doesn’t do its part. The Rams have a 9-1 record when Matt Stafford is sacked one or fewer times in a game this year, but a 3-4 when he’s sacked multiple times. Correlation is not always causation … except when it is.

What the Rams need to do to win: Well, obviously, the inverse to this is that the Rams will have to keep Stafford upright and Stafford will have to avoid throwing multiple picks. He does, however, have the edge in experience here as this will be Murray’s first postseason start. The win-loss record for QBs making their playoff debut in the wild-card round since 2002: 11-31. May the least-rattled QB win.

Key player: Andrew Whitworth, offensive tackle, Rams. There are plenty of players to pick in this matchup, but let’s take this opportunity to praise the most overlooked non-special teamers on the roster: the OLmen. Pro Football Focus puts Whitworth, the second-oldest player remaining in the NFL playoffs behind you-know-who, as the best pass blocker among the peers. Stafford’s desperately doing to need him to keep that level of play up.

Prediction: Rams over Cardinals


Senior Member
5 players are unanimous choices for AP's NFL All-Pro Team
AP Pro Football Jan. 14, 2022

NEW YORK (AP) — Five players, including dynamic pass catchers Cooper Kupp and Davante Adams, are unanimous choices for The Associated Press 2021 NFL All-Pro Team.

Joining the Rams' Kupp and the Packers' Adams in receiving votes Friday from all 50 members of a nationwide panel of media members who regularly cover the league are Colts running back Jonathan Taylor, Steelers edge rusher T.J. Watt, and Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

While Donald is a perennial pick — the three-time Defensive Player of the Year makes the team for the seventh time in his eight pro seasons — Watt is on it for a third time. He tied the NFL record for sacks with 22 1/2. Adams makes it for the second time, and the other two are newcomers as All-Pros. Kupp led the NFL in receptions (145), yards receiving (1,947) and TD catches (16). Taylor was the top rusher by a landslide with 1,811 yards and scored 18 touchdowns on the ground, two as a receiver.

“Obviously, it’s an honor to be recognized, and it wouldn’t be possible without my coaches and incredible teammates, but the awards and accolades aren’t what drives me," said Watt, whose Steelers play at Kansas City on Sunday. "It’s competing with and for them, this franchise, and this city, that drives me. My coaches and teammates are the people that put me in a position to make splash, help us win, and this recognition honestly doesn’t come without them.”

Like Donald, although not nearly as often as the offense-wrecking DT, several players are making another appearance on the All-Pro Team. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers is on for the fourth time, as is Philadelphia center Jason Kelce — one more than his brother, Chiefs' star tight end Travis. One better than them: Dallas right guard Zack Martin and Baltimore placekicker Justin Tucker at five.

Three-time All-Pros are Colts linebacker Darius Leonard, Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey, and Steelers defensive tackle Cam Heyward. Double All-Pros are Browns edge rusher Myles Garrett and Titans safety Kevin Byard.

The other 14 2021 All-Pros are making their debuts. On offense, 49ers left tackle Trent Williams is a newcomer in his 11th NFL season, joined by Ravens tight end Mark Andrews, Buccaneers right tackle Tristan Wirfs, Browns left guard Joel Bitonio, and 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel. On defense, it's linebackers Micah Parsons of Dallas, the only rookie on the squad, and De'Vondre Campbell of Green Bay; Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs; Bills safety Jordan Poyer; and five special teamers: Las Vegas punter A.J. Cole, Jets kick returner Braxton Berrios, Ravens punt returner Devin Duvernay, Saints special teams ace J.T Gray, and Colts long snapper Luke Rhodes.

Perhaps the most thrilled player is Williams, whose been a stellar blocker for a decade with Washington and now San Francisco, but never got the All-Pro nod.

“I do feel more comfortable than I’ve ever felt,” he said. “I do feel like I’m as strong as I’ve ever been. I do feel my football IQ is probably better than it’s ever been. As a football player, as a competitor every year you want to be better than the last year. That’s my goal and always has been my goal. So if this year is better than last year, I hope so. That’s the plan.”

Almost as unusual as sweeping the votes is having a rookie on the team. Parsons has been so outstanding he's also considered a strong contender for the Defensive Player of the Year award. “I think it’s an extraordinary honor,” he said of being an All-Pro. "It speaks to the work and the position the Cowboys put me in. I think it’s just a true blessing. It just makes you want to go harder.

“I think when you achieve things early, you’ve got to learn how to sustain it. People always say when you get there it gets easier. But I think when you get there, it gets harder. Once you get it, you’ve got it. But it’s hard to sustain it than it is just to get there. I’ve got to just keep working and keep getting better and find a way to beat this season next year, which is the harder part.”

Byard was an All-Pro in 2017, and now he's back on the roster after what he felt was a down 2020 season. “It means a lot to me, honestly," he acknowledged. "I put a lot of work in every single offseason by myself, not necessarily with the team in training camp, but just try to come into the next season to try to play the best I can be for my team.

"I’ve talked about it a lot. Just not felt like I played my best last year. So to be able to bounce back and see the kind of the work that I put in mentally and physically kind of pay off.”

The Packers, Colts, Ravens, Rams and Cowboys each have three All-Pros. There's an even breakdown by conference of 14 apiece.

jerry old

Texas Crude
watched two hours of 'Timeline' on NFL NFC Playoffs games between Dallas and 49's: Dallas has won 6, SF 2, but the great part is that these were
two exceptional teams.
It won't be like that Sunday, maybe SF will be better next year with a Jimmy G that can play.
They were all great football games, played passionately.


Senior Member
It was quite a while ago we were listing great WRs of the past - we forgot this guy, who was a great one, also:

Don Maynard, Hall of Fame Receiver for Champion Jets, Dies at 86
He teamed with the quarterback Joe Namath in a passing attack that took New York to an upset victory in Super Bowl III against the powerful Colts.
New York Times 10Jan2022

Don Maynard, the Hall of Fame wide receiver who teamed with Joe Namath in the passing attack that propelled the Jets to their storied 1969 upset victory in the Super Bowl, died on Monday at an assisted living facility in Ruidoso, N.M. He was 86.

The cause was a combination of health problems, including dementia, his son, Scot, said.

jerry old

Texas Crude
Okay, you gott'a pick today's winners:
Raiders defense is better than most think, can they withstand the barrage of Joe Burrows air attack?
The last time they played, the Raiders held them at bay until late in third quarter.
QB Carr was a non-factor.
I think the Raiders will make it closer than people think:
SO, Raiders by three points, due to Raiders secondary
If Jon Gruden had not got fired Raiders would win by seven, at least...

You would think the Bills Coach would have figured out part of Belichick's strategy.
They play each other twice a year, Belichick's magic can only work so far.
Pats defense is good, not excellent, but good.
Pat's offense is iffy.

Bills good talent, like the Pats, good, but not excellent.
Defense is underrated.
QB will not go out and win gams, he can hold a lead, but he just does not have a magic hand.
Go with Pats by seven

In this QB drive leagues, the supporting cast is not given the credit they deserve.
In today's games, the supporting cast will win the games.


Well the Bengals and Raiders game is already going, but I would have gone with the Bengals here.

I really think this is the time for the Bills to step up and knock out the Patriots. The new QB for the Patriots will not get the job done.

jerry old

Texas Crude
Raiders 19, Bengals 26

Ah well, the Raiders did well to even get to the playoffs. It's been a wild year for them, and having to terminate two of their former first-round draft picks to legal troubles, didn't help.
The Raiders are so used to turmoil that if things progressed as they should, they would die of bordum


Well-known Member
Batavia, NY
My husband was the football fan. Sadly, he passed before Buffalo Bills really started improving. Their first playoff game of this season is tonight. I will not be watching but will be following the score. My apartment bldg is planning a Super Bowl party in the community room...apartment manager is going to rent a TV for the event. People will share snacks, maybe order pizza and wings or something. Even though I do not usually watch, will probably go down for a while for some fun