Wild Card Weekend 2016 Recap: Road Warriors

By The Ruddy Report Staff nfl nfl playoffs

For the first time in NFL history, all four road teams come away with wins! Who needs reseeded playoffs? Who needs home games? R-E-L-A-X. Let's get to it.

Kansas City 30, Houston 0

Kashev: Remember last Friday when I said I don't know how to predict scores? I did a pretty okay job with this one. 1 As I predicted, Kansas City was able to move the ball basically at will, and the Texans were not. At all. Overall, not really a fun game to watch.

Things I Liked:

Things I Didn't Like:

Patrick: I...don't remember this game. I think I spent more time playing Trivia Crack than actually watching the game. It was really boring.

The major takeaway for me is that I have to get the Chiefs out of my Super Bowl pick. The defense was as advertised but the offense is in a ton of trouble.

On the surface, the Chiefs scored a very respectable 30 points.6 Let's see how many of those points I'm willing to give the Chiefs offense credit for:

  1. Knile Davis 106 yard kickoff return. The offense is awarded 0 points for this, as it was all special teams.
  2. Cairo Santos 49 yard field goal. After their special teams touchdown, the Chiefs traded punts, then traded interceptions with the Texans.7 Then the Texans fumbled and instead of fumbling themselves, the Chiefs drove a whopping 27 yards to lead to the long field goal. Most of the credit goes to special teams and defense. Their offense is awarded 1 point.
  3. Cairo Santos 49 yard field goal (again). The Chiefs offense actually drove 40 yards this time; I'll award them 2 points.
  4. Alex Smith 9 yard pass for a touchdown. This came off of a 94 yard drive; 7 points to the offense.
  5. Spencer Ware 5 yard rush for a touchdown. 71 yard drive, 7 points for the offense.
  6. Cairo Santos 33 yard field goal. This came off of a 6 yard drive following an interception. 0 points awarded.

When I add that all up, I get 17 points. The offense managed only 17 points. This happened despite playing all day with generally favorable field position thanks to the 4 interceptions and a fumble recovery generated by their defense. What about the non-scoring drives? Did the Chiefs at least move the ball effectively?

No. In their 5 non-scoring drives the Chiefs averaged only 15.2 yards per drive, culminating in 4 punts and an interception.8 Granted, the Texans defense is very good. They were tied for 7th in the league with only 19.6 points allowed per game this season. The Patriots, the Chiefs' next opponent, allowed 19.7 points per game this season.9 Basically, it's not going to get any better.

The Chiefs' offensive situation is dire enough already, but could become tragically bad if wide receiver Jeremy Maclin is out or limited due to an ankle injury suffered during the game. At this point he is considered to be day-to-day, which seems optimistic. After famously going the entire 2014 NFL season without a touchdown by a wide receiver, the free agent acquisition has been a stud for Kansas City. So far this season, Maclin has 87 receptions for 1,088 yards and 8 touchdowns. The next 4 Kansas City receivers have a combined 67 receptions for 769 yards and 3 touchdowns.10

Yeah, the Chiefs are screwed.

Pittsburgh 18, Cincinnati 16

Patrick:

Unacceptable.

That's the only word I can use to describe this...whatever it was. It wasn't quite a football game, wasn't quite a brawl. At times, it got close to resembling either.

The NFL knew it was coming. I knew it was coming. The players foreshadowed the coming debacle in thinly veiled public death threats. Understand that "painting that boi" does not refer to coloring Burfict real-estate-beige to make him more marketable. It refers to shooting him so many times that he will be painted with blood and bullets.

Unacceptable.

The game itself slowly got worse and worse. It started early, with a coach seemingly yanking a player's hair. This led to taunting, fighting, and head-to-head hits. This, surprisingly, led to more taunting, fighting, and head-to-head hits. Roethlisberger may have been intentionally kneed after being down by the same man who may have targeted his ankles only a few weeks earlier. As Roethlisberger was being carted off the field, fans cheered his injury and threw their garbage at him. An official may have been pushed. After the game, the fans got into fights, too. The players continued to blame anyone but themselves for their performance and behavior.11

I've been watching sports for a while, and I can't remember a time where I have been afraid for the safety of the players and the fans until this game. The situation was toxic. If I were at that game with a young child, I would have left in the 3rd quarter. Ticket price be damned, that stadium was not a safe place to be. Mike Tomlin even rushed his players off of the field and into the locker room after the game, sensing the need to get away.

This game was not a product the fans want to see. This game was not a product that the NFL can stand by. The players, the coaches, the refs, the organizations, and even the fans are all culpable for the disgusting display of professionalism which permeated and ruined this game. It was the worst thing I've seen since a man who has since named himself World Peace punched a fan in a giant brawl.

I agree with Rodney Harrison, who said of Marvin Lewis (though in my opinion, can be applied to all authority figures involved in this game): "if you can't control your players, then maybe somebody else should be trying to control them."12 Playoffs or not, when players start acting the way they did last Saturday night, a real coach benches the players.

It doesn't matter that many of the players involved in the taunting and fighting made excellent football plays. Their actions went beyond football. It's not about the game, it's about safety in the workplace. Remember that for the players, the field is their office. What do I think about threats, throwing garbage at people and fighting in the office?

Unacceptable.13

Kashev: Patrick got the vitriol out of the way, so I don't have to. It was an ugly, divisional game. That's most of what I'll say about that. At least it wasn't a blow out!

Things I Liked:

Things I Didn't Like:

Seattle 10, Minnesota 9

Patrick: Morten Anderson II: The Shank Strikes Back16

Kashev: This game was predictably low scoring due to the extreme, extreme cold. I was struck by how you could see the breath of all the players. I was struck by all the fans freezing their asses off. I understand why the Vikings normally play in a dome.

Patrick and I both grossly over estimated the score for this one. Neither Teddy Two Gloves nor Russell Wilson seemed to make a huge difference in this game, save for one fantastic Wilson scramble, which should remind all who see it why every talking head is 'afraid' of the Seahawks this post season.

Despite this, the difference here was razor thin. This game was not won or lost because a team was home or away, or because of a difference in caliber of running back or quarterback or even defense. Football is a game of inches, and the only reason Patrick and I got this one right was because of a botched chip shot kick at the end of the 4th by Blair Walsh. However, there's some controversy: the laces were on the kicking end of the snap. 17 It's only after things like this happen that we bother to learn the name of the holder. But c'mon.18 This was less than an extra point. People have since rushed to the defense of both these players; it doesn't matter where the laces are, doesn't make that much of a difference. They're all human, and they make mistakes, leave them alone.

Doesn't make the Vikings fans feel any better. See ya next year!

Things I Liked:

Things I Didn't Like:

Green Bay 35, Washington 18

Kashev: This right here was a team loss. I don't know how they did it, but the Packers got their Mojo back. Receivers who were usually covered were catching balls anyway. Kirk Cousins didn't throw any interceptions, but got sacked five times. None of this would have surprised me all that much, except for the fact that Washington started out 11-0, a weird score which was made possible by a safety and a missed extra point. Aaron Rodgers seemed to turn this thing around by sheer force of will. Remind me not to bet against him in the playoffs. 21

Things I Liked:

Things I Didn't Like:

Patrick: The NFC East and the AFC South were the worst divisions in football all year. It didn't seem real that their champions were teams deemed worthy of hosting a home playoff game. However, in the end, it didn't matter. Both divisions have now been knocked out the Super Bowl chase, and non-New Yorkers can stop being upset that the Texans made the playoffs instead of the Jets. It's hard to argue against playoff reseeding based exclusively on team record, but remember, if division winners were not guaranteed a playoff game, then Beast Mode would have never existed.

On the other side of the field, the Packers are back. When Jordy Nelson went down for the season, the Packers lost a big playmaker. The Packers would need time to adjust. When Mike McCarthy reclaimed playcaller duties late in the season, it was basically like the Packers switched offensive coordinators. Again, the Packers would need time to adjust.

The Packers have adjusted. Sure, it was just one game, but in the context of the past few seasons, the handful of bad games in the middle of this year was the true anomaly. When Rodgers starts smiling, the Packers start scoring. This defense is better than Green Bay has seen in years, so if the offense can click, this team has no ceiling.22 Remember that the last time the Packers won the Super Bowl, they did so as a Wild Card road team. Don't bet against this team.

Recap

Patrick Kashev
Playoff Record 4-0 3-1
Playoff Bracket Perfect Intact, More Or Less

We'll be back later this week to talk about this weekend's games.

Footnotes

  1. The Ruddy Report's NFL Playoff Brackets.

  2. Brian Hoyer threw four picks. Not good.

  3. J.J. Watt will have surgery to repair groin injury on Tuesday

  4. I stole this joke from Shea Serrano. I'm sorry. Sorta.

  5. I am really sorry I can't find a video of this for you right now. But there are tweets!

  6. Since they scored 30 points.

  7. A true gentleman's game!

  8. ESPN

  9. ESPN

  10. All stats from ESPN

  11. This game was bad, but it was an isolated incident. Sure, NFL players get in trouble, just like the rest of us, from time to time. However, statistically, NFL players are involved in significantly less crime than their average demographic.

  12. From Mike Freeman

  13. It wasn't a good week in general for notorious athletes.

  14. There's no reason. I'm petty.

  15. He's New! He's Improved! It's really his team this year. A fantastic read, by Robert Mays, an ex-Grantlander, whom Patrick and I both adore.

  16. Full admission: this is a cop out. I missed most of the game.

  17. Vikings kicker shanks 27-yard potential game-winner snapped with the laces in. - SB Nation

  18. C'mon Man!

  19. Especially on the Patriots.

  20. Thanks, Patriots. Thanks a lot.

  21. Be on the lookout for me to do exactly that this week.

  22. I mean, football wise. Don't expect this team to bring world peace unless the offense really clicks. That would probably at least require Nelson to come back healthy.