The playoff field is set:
And so here are my tiers going into the Wild Card matchups:
Here is the schedule for wild card weekend–oh, I’m sorry: Super Wild Card Weekend™.
- 49ers -10 vs. Seahawks
- Chargers -1 AT Jaguars
- Bills -10.5 vs. Dolphins
- Vikings -3 vs. Giants
- Bengals -6.5 vs. Ravens
- Cowboys -3 AT Bucs
Nothing too surprising here. Both Vegas and the NFL think the 49ers will make short work of the Seahawks, given that the game is being scheduled for Saturday afternoon with a 10 point spread.
The Bills being 10.5 point favorites over the Dolphins is, I think, a function of Vegas believing Tua will miss the game. If that’s the case, then yeah, the Bills will roll.
The Vikings being -3 at home against the Giants is sort of interesting because it basically means they’re considered by Vegas to be even teams. But we saw these two teams play just a few weeks ago in Minnesota and the Vikings needed a 61 yard field goal as time expired to secure the 27-24 win. So don’t be shocked if the Giants go up there and win.
Chargers vs. Jags will be a fun matchup, which we should see many times in the future given the young QBs for both teams. Brandon Staley, however, played his starters in the week 18 game against Denver. The Chargers were already locked into the 5 seed no matter what, so it’s unclear why Staley played his starters. Of course, Mike Williams and Joey Bosa got hurt in the game, and if they’re unable to go in the playoffs those are huge losses for LA. Just when I was starting to come around on Brandon Staley, he does this. Dude really doesn’t know what he’s doing, does he?
The Bengals-Ravens game all hinges on whether Lamar plays. It’s not looking likely at the moment, so the Bengals will probably roll in that game.
Then on Monday night we’ve got Cowboys at Bucs. A LOT of people are picking the Bucs to win, even as bad as they’ve looked this year, because, among numerous reasons, the Cowboys are terrible on natural grass fields. Tampa has a natural grass field. I don’t know if I’m ready to pick Tampa to win, though. I get why people are fading the Cowboys, but that doesn’t mean the Bucs are a good team. They can’t run the ball, Brady is horribly inefficient, and their defense is good-not-great. I think I may pick the Cowboys—despite their flaws, despite their troubles on grass, and despite their consistent 25+ year track record of playoff failures—simply because they’re less bad than Tampa. I know Dallas is flawed, but the Bucs are not a good football team. They went 8-9. They barely beat the Cardinals. They’ve scored 30+ points once since week 4.
Again, I’ll get more in depth on these matchups later in the week, but I just wanted to get some preliminary thoughts out there.
I’ll write a playoff predictions post later in the week. I’ll devote a full post to that. In this post I just want to focus on the Week 18 results, the inevitable deluge of fired coaches, and reviewing the 2022 season for the non-playoff teams.
The Rams have officially become the worst defending Super Bowl champs in league history, finishing 5-12.
There’s a lot of talk that Sean McVay is leaning towards retirement. Not because he’s burnt out or anything, but because he just doesn’t want to go through a rebuild. Kind of a weak move, in my view, but the Rams are really screwed in terms of future draft picks. They are going to be bad for a while.
This must mean Aaron Donald and Matthew Stafford are leaning towards retirement, too, right? Because you’d think that if this team comes back healthy next year, with a few tweaks here and there, they can be good again. But perhaps the Rams are ready to blow it all up. I’m sure McVay knows a lot that we don’t. I know there was talk about Donald retiring after the Super Bowl but he wound up coming back.
McVay is about to turn 37 in a few weeks. I find it difficult to believe he’s done coaching for good. He’ll get a job with one of the television networks, take as many years off as he wants, and then jump back in when he finds a desirable situation.
Looking through his Wikipedia page, I’m not really sure what his “dream job” would be. He’s originally from Ohio, went to school at Miami, Ohio, and his family has ties to Dayton University (his grandfather, the late John McVay, was head coach in the 60s). So it’s not like he attended a major college football program and could potentially want to go back there and lead the program (similar to Jim Harbaugh did with Michigan). He considers himself an Ohioan, would he ever consider coaching Ohio State one day? Would he even have interest in coaching college football in general? I don’t know. But probably not; just a gut feeling.
Obviously McVay, if he does call it quits in LA, will be a candidate for every head coaching opening until he either takes a head coaching job or stays out of the game for long enough that people just kind of give up on the idea of him returning to coaching, a la Bill Cowher. Bill Cowher became the Steelers coach in 1992 at the age of just 35. He retired in 2007 at age 50, and went to work for CBS. Every year after that, there was speculation that Bill Cowher was going to return to coaching for this team or that, but he never did, and eventually, people just kind of gave up on the idea of him returning to coaching, and the speculation stopped. It took 5-6 years, maybe more.
Then again, you could have a situation like Jon Gruden, who was away from coaching for 10 years before jumping back in. You never really know. Gruden was 45 when he retired from coaching the Bucs in 2008, though. McVay is not even 37.
McVay could coach another 35 years if he wanted. He really has the potential to break all the records–he’s got a Super Bowl already, who’s to say he couldn’t pass Belichick and get 6 more over the next 35-40 years?
The whole “not wanting to go through a rebuild” thing seems weak, in my eyes. Belichick lost Tom Brady in 2020 at the age of 68 and retirement was never even mentioned. Pete Carroll is 71 years old and in the middle of a rebuild–he shows no signs of slowing down, really. I guess McVay just isn’t built like those guys.
The Texans fired Lovie Smith after just one season. They fired David Culley after one season a year ago. Great work by Lovie Smith getting a win in week 18 and screwing the Texans out of the top draft spot, but man, the Texans are truly a dumpster fire of an organization. Just shameful.
Obviously they’ll find somebody to take that head coaching job, but the guys with options aren’t going to give them a second look given the way they treat coaches as if they’re disposable.
Kenneth Walker is the favorite to win offensive rookie of the year at -125. The other contenders are Garrett Wilson (+200) and Brock Purdy (+450). Garrett Wilson probably would’ve won it if he didn’t have Zach Wilson as his QB for most of the season, as his numbers without Zach Wilson at QB were amazing and his numbers with Zach Wilson were abysmal.
I think Walker is a fine choice for the award, but I just want to do a little resume comparison with another rookie running back who nobody is considering for OROY:
I’m not saying Allgeier should win the award, but his numbers are pretty close to Walker’s. My point here is that Allgeier has been pretty good under the radar, that’s all.
The draft order is set for the top 18 picks:
I’ve already gone over this in my last post, but this is the dream scenario for the Bears. Ideally, they will work out some sort of trade with the Colts to allow the Colts to move up to #1, ahead of the Texans, and the Bears move back to #4 while stockpiling some picks for either this year or next. The Bears will be able to draft either Will Anderson or Jalen Carter at #4, assuming the Colts and Texans both draft quarterbacks.
Arizona will then get their choice of Anderson or Carter, which I’m sure they’re thrilled about.
However, if the Bears think Will Anderson is significantly better than Jalen Carter (or vice versa) then maybe they just stand pat and draft at #1. I’m not really opposed to this; I would actually prefer if they don’t try to get cute and just take one of those two guys because they’re both incredible prospects. Just don’t fuck this up, Bears. And the only way to not fuck it up is to just draft one of them at #1. Trading adds an element of uncertainty to the mix. The Bears need to realize that getting Will Anderson or Jalen Carter is the priority here. Trading down and adding future picks is the icing on the cake.
Okay, with that out of the way, let’s just run through the bottom 18 teams in the league and give a one sentence summary of their 2022 seasons:
Bears: Fields showed promise, now you have the opportunity to draft the anchor of your defense for years to come; the building blocks should be in place after the draft.
Texans: Absolute train derailment of a franchise.
Arizona: A disaster on so many levels; their GM and head coach have been fired, their franchise QB is out for at least the next 9 or 10 months with a torn ACL–it’s just a mess in Arizona.
Colts: Opportunity to draft a QB for the future and a fresh start at head coach; not a big mess, in my view, could be a quick turnaround in Indy.
Broncos: Next head coach had better be Jim Harbaugh as he’d be a great fit due to his focus on defense and running; would be able to take the pressure of Russell Wilson and just ask him to be a game manager a la his role with Seattle early in his career.
Rams: Going to be rebuilding for a long time if McVay is indeed out…
Raiders: Derek Carr wasn’t the problem, your defense was.
Falcons: It’s time to stop drafting offensive weapons in the first round and get a quarterback.
Panthers: Solid roster, need a home-run hire at head coach and a long term solution at QB.
Saints: Yet another team that is in need of a long term solution at QB with an otherwise solid roster, however, there will be a salary cap reckoning in New Orleans soon.
Titans: Mike Vrabel deserves a great quarterback; notice a common trend here?
Browns: Stefanski has one offseason and one regular season to validate the DeShaun Watson trade, because this season was a total waste, and Watson looked pretty bad.
Jets: Drafting Zach Wilson was an unmitigated disaster that might set the franchise back years; zero touchdowns scored in their final three games of the season.
Patriots: Mac Jones just isn’t a special QB in my opinion.
Packers: Start of the Jordan Love era?
Commanders: Sam Howell showed some promise in Week 18…
Steelers: All depends on Kenny Pickett’s development; I think he has some potential.
Lions: Future is bright in Detroit, just keep bolstering the defense.
The NFL is really a Have/Have Not league when it comes to quarterbacks. You look at all these teams that missed the playoffs, the majority of them have massive question marks at quarterback.
Then you look at the playoff teams, and the quarterbacks in the playoffs: Mahomes, Allen, Burrow, Hurts, Lamar, Herbert, Lawrence, Brady, Kirk, Dak (although I think Dak is certified mid), Tua–it’s a QB driven league. The teams that don’t have elite QBs (Giants, Seahawks, 49ers) still got above-average production from the position.
The two NFC teams that were just on the cusp of making the playoffs, the Lions and Packers, are good at QB.
I want to close with this: Jim Harbaugh would be the perfect fit for the Denver Broncos head coaching job. Even better than Sean Payton. Because Sean Payton is going to want a better quarterback than Russell Wilson. I don’t see Sean Payton as a guy who would get along with Russ, be willing to put up with his schtick, and want to rehabilitate him.
Harbaugh, on the other hand, would come in and lay down the law. That’s the kind of guy he is. His way or the highway.
What do we know about Jim Harbaugh as a head coach, in terms of football philosophy, system?
He likes to build his teams around running the football and strong defense. The quarterback is pretty much secondary. He almost won a Super Bowl with Colin Kaepernick. He went to the NFC Championship with Alex Smith. His system isn’t reliant on having a Patrick Mahomes-level quarterback.
The pieces are already in place for him in Denver. He wants to run the ball and play smash-mouth football? They’ve got Javonte Williams who should be healthy and ready to go next year.
He wants a great defense? Denver already has one. Might be the best in the league. They were #3 in the league in yards per play allowed this year.
The Jim Harbaugh formula is already in place in Denver. All he’d need to do is get Russell Wilson to buy in to his system, and I think he’d be able to. He’d make it clear to Russ: we don’t need “Mr. Unlimited,” we don’t need you to “cook.” We just need you to take care of the ball, scramble from time to time, and be able to lead us down the field on scoring drives late in games. We don’t need you throwing the ball 45-50 times a game.
Harbaugh would basically be rebuilding the Legion of Boom era Seahawks team, where Russell Wilson wasn’t asked to put the team on his back because they had Marshawn Lynch and an all-time defense.
The Broncos seems like the best job available for Jim Harbaugh. I think he’d be the best fit for them, and I think they’d be the best fit for him as well given the pieces already in place there.
Look, Harbaugh has a lot of reasons for wanting to go back to the NFL. I don’t think he likes the way college football is heading, with the portal, NIL and just how brutal the recruiting schedule is nowadays. Plus, he just got a Level 1 NCAA violation for buying a recruit a cheeseburger. He’s probably at wit’s end with college football.
But the real reason, above all, is that his big brother has a Super Bowl ring and he doesn’t. Losing in the Super Bowl to his brother–that’s probably been eating at him for a decade now. Jim Harbaugh has unfinished business in the NFL. He wants to get that Super Bowl ring to get even with his brother. In fact, he probably wants two Super Bowl rings. It’s a sibling rivalry here. That’s deeper and more personal than even coaching his alma mater.
So I do think that Harbaugh will be coaching in the NFL next season if he’s offered a job. I think he’s determined to get back there and get even with his big brother. And I think the allure of the NFL is the only thing that could lure him away from Michigan. Michigan fans have got to understand: Harbaugh loves Michigan. I’m sure it was the honor of a lifetime to be able to coach at his alma mater.
But the man has unfinished business in the NFL. He can’t get even with his brother if he stays at Michigan. He’s got to go to the NFL. He’s got to win a Super Bowl ring. Suppose Harbaugh wins a National Championship at Michigan. Does that ring compare to the Super Bowl ring his big brother has? I don’t think so.
Jim Harbaugh has to at least try to get even with John. He has to. I think Denver is the best place to do it.
You’ve got the richest owner in the league now, you’ve got the best defense in the league, a great running back, and quarterback that could be either rehabilitated or retrofitted into a Super Bowl contender. I think Denver is the move for him.