But seven of the 14 playoff groups didn’t make the sphere a 12 months in the past — Arizona, Cincinnati, Dallas, Las Vegas, New England, Philadelphia, and San Francisco.
Derek Carr, in his eighth season, Kyler Murray, Joe Burrow, Mac Jones, and Jalen Hurts will all be beginning their first playoff video games. (The Raiders certified for the postseason in 2016, however Carr suffered a damaged leg proper earlier than the playoffs.)
Let’s take a deeper look inside this weekend’s wild-card video games and the 2022 postseason:
▪ The Buccaneers gained final 12 months’s Super Bowl as a wild-card group, however that was a rarity. Only seven wild-card groups have gained a championship, with the 2010 Packers, 2007 Giants, and 2005 Steelers final engaging in the feat earlier than the Buccaneers. The 2012 Ravens and 2011 Giants additionally gained Super Bowls after enjoying on wild-card weekend.
But the Titans and Packers, the No. 1 seeds who get home-field benefit and the one first-round byes, have the clear benefit. Only 4 out of 21 Super Bowls this century haven’t featured at the least one No. 1 seed.
▪ A handful of streaks are on the road this postseason. The Chiefs want to develop into the fourth group to succeed in at the least three straight Super Bowls (Miami 1971-73, Buffalo 1990-93, New England 2016-18). The Bengals are in search of their first playoff win since January 1991, having misplaced eight straight postseason video games.
And highway groups have really carried out fairly properly in wild-card video games, compiling a 10-4 file the previous three seasons.
▪ This 12 months’s quarterback subject options gamers which are actually previous (Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Rodgers) and actually younger, with six below the age of 27 (Jones, Burrow, Murray, Hurts, Mahomes, and Josh Allen).
▪ The NFL definitely did the Raiders no favors with the scheduling, channeling the times of Pete Rozelle sticking it to Al Davis. The Raiders performed a 70-minute time beyond regulation recreation in opposition to the Chargers into the wee hours of Monday morning, then drew the earliest wild-card slot — 4:30 p.m. Saturday, three time zones away in Cincinnati. That’s primarily a five-day week to prepare for an important recreation of the season.
Of course, had the Raiders kneeled on the ball and taken the tie in opposition to the Chargers, they’d have gotten to play Sunday night time in opposition to the Chiefs.
▪ Saturday’s Patriots-Bills recreation is the sixth since 2000 to characteristic the NFL’s No. 1 and 2 scoring defenses (Bills had the highest slot). The group with the No. 2 protection was 3-2 in these video games, together with the Patriots’ win over the Steelers within the AFC Championship recreation performed 20 years in the past.
▪ This wild-card weekend options two divisional video games — Patriots-Bills and Cardinals-Rams. In the final seven playoff video games that includes division rivals, courting to 2014, the highway group has gained six. Last 12 months, the Buccaneers gained in New Orleans, the Browns gained in Pittsburgh, and the Rams gained in Seattle.
▪ Brady will proceed to construct on the handfuls of playoff data he owns when the Buccaneers play the Eagles on Sunday. Most notably, will probably be his forty sixth postseason begin, with Peyton Manning second with 27. Brady additionally has 83 postseason landing passes, with Joe Montana and Rodgers subsequent with 45.
▪ The NFL created a Monday night time playoff recreation (Cardinals-Rams). But it’s really the fifth Monday night time playoff recreation in league historical past, becoming a member of Rams-Vikings (December 1988), Rams-Cowboys (December 1983), and two the day after Christmas in 1977, Rams-Vikings and Bears-Cowboys.
▪ The matchup of Murray vs. Matthew Stafford would be the first playoff recreation to characteristic two No. 1 total draft picks at quarterback since Andrew Luck outdueled Alex Smith in a 45-44 Colts win over the Chiefs in January 2014.
▪ Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium would be the ninth one performed in Los Angeles, however the first because the Cowboys beat the Bills on the Rose Bowl in 1993. The AFC would be the dwelling group this 12 months, which raises an attention-grabbing query: What if the Rams make it? They can be the highway group, however an NFL spokesman mentioned the Rams would use their very own locker room. The two Super Bowl groups will use the Rams’ and Chargers’ dwelling locker rooms, not the guests’ locker room.
▪ Finally, postseason shares. If a No. 1 seed wins the Super Bowl, gamers on that group will make an additional $257,500. If it’s a division winner that performs on wild-card weekend, it’s $300,000. If it’s a wild-card group, it’s $295,000.
The breakdown: Division winners get $42,500 per participant this week, whereas wild-card groups get $37,500; everybody makes $42,500 within the Divisional Round, and $65,000 within the convention championships; the Super Bowl winner makes $150,000, and the loser will get $75,000.
THE ENVELOPE PLEASE
Rodgers, Kupp, Watt worthy of awards
The common season is full, which suggests it’s time to award MVP, Coach of the Year, and different season awards. The precise awards might be introduced on the Thursday night time of Super Bowl week. I don’t have a vote, however right here is one man’s opinion:
▪ MVP: Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Tom Brady, Joe Burrow, Kyler Murray, Matthew Stafford, and Dak Prescott are all deserving. But it’s exhausting to go in opposition to Rodgers, who led the NFL in passer ranking (111.9), was high 5 in landing passes (37), threw the fewest interceptions (4), and led his group to a 13-3 file and a No. 1 seed.
▪ Offensive Player of the Year: Rams large receiver Cooper Kupp. I wish to separate this award from MVP, and there have been a number of nice candidates between Jonathan Taylor, Deebo Samuel, Austin Ekeler, and Joe Mixon. But Kupp led the NFL in catches (145), receiving yards (1,947), and landing catches (16), turning into simply the fourth receiver to win the “triple crown.”
▪ Defensive Player of the Year: Steelers exterior linebacker T.J. Watt. With all due respect to Darius Leonard, Nick Bosa, Myles Garrett, Robert Quinn, and Trevon Diggs, this one is simple. Watt tied the NFL file with 22½ sacks whereas including 5 pressured fumbles, 3 recoveries, and 7 passes defended.
▪ Offensive Rookie of the Year: Bengals large receiver Ja’Marr Chase. Mac Jones was wanting just like the clear favourite after a stellar November, however he fell off sharply. Chase completed fourth within the NFL with 1,455 receiving yards, second with 13 touchdowns, second with an 18.0-yard common, and had two video games of 200 receiving yards.
▪ Defensive Rookie of the Year: Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons. An simple selection with 13 sacks, 3 pressured fumbles, and 20 tackles for loss, third most within the NFL.
▪ Comeback Player of the Year: Burrow. It was principally a coin flip between Burrow and Prescott. But Burrow’s 2021 season was arguably extra spectacular on account of him solely being a second-year participant and coming off a horrible knee harm with two torn ligaments.
▪ Coach of the Year: Mike Vrabel, Titans. Several sturdy decisions amongst Matt LaFleur, Zac Taylor, Nick Sirianni, and Rich Bisaccia. But Vrabel guided the Titans to the No. 1 seed within the AFC, and he did it regardless of dropping workhorse operating again Derrick Henry within the center of the season, and getting usually decimated with accidents. The Titans used an NFL-record 91 gamers.
▪ Executive of the Year: Bengals director of participant personnel Duke Tobin. Would have given this award to Bill Belichick had the season ended after November, however the Patriots wheezed to the end line, and some of their free agent signings fell off sharply. And no one anticipated the Bengals to be 10-7 and profitable the AFC North. Tobin has constructed one of the NFL’s most explosive younger groups, surrounding Burrow with gifted playmakers all below the age of 25. Tobin hit a dwelling run in final 12 months’s draft with Chase when everybody was telling him to draft offensive deal with Penei Sewell. And defensive finish Trey Hendrickson was a terrific signing, main the Bengals with 14 sacks.
Time couldn’t cease Brady this season
Tom Brady isn’t my selection for MVP, however he deserves a particular shout-out for compiling an unbelievable season at age 44. If Brady finally ends up retiring after this season, he can all the time say that he went out whereas nonetheless on high.
He established a private finest with 5,316 passing yards, marking simply the second time in his profession that he cracked 5,000 (5,235 in 2011). Brady additionally set a profession excessive with 719 go makes an attempt, second most in NFL historical past (Matthew Stafford had 727 in 2012).
Brady led the NFL with 43 landing passes, the second most of his profession (50 in 2007). He accomplished 67.5 p.c of his passes, additionally the second-highest of his profession (68.9 in 2007).
Brady was additionally one of 11 quarterbacks to begin all 17 video games, enjoying 96.3 p.c of the doable snaps (1,139 of 1,183).
The different QBs to begin all 17: Justin Herbert, Matt Ryan, Ryan Tannehill, Trevor Lawrence, Carson Wentz, Stafford, Patrick Mahomes, Derek Carr, Josh Allen, and Mac Jones. Only Lawrence (3-14) and Ryan (7-10) didn’t have profitable data.
Bad seems to be on fast hooks
The NFL seems to be attempting to make progress in bringing variety to its highest-profile positions. The league’s Rooney Rule now requires groups to interview at the least two exterior minority candidates for the positions of head coach and common supervisor, and at the least one minority candidate for coordinators and business-side government positions.
Last 12 months it resulted in three minority GMs being employed (Atlanta’s Terry Fontenot, Detroit’s Brad Holmes, and Washington’s Martin Mayhew). This 12 months, the Vikings have requested an interview with Catherine Raiche, the Eagles’ vp of soccer operations, for his or her vacant GM job. Raiche is believed to be the primary lady in NFL historical past to interview for a GM place.
Yet it all the time looks as if a case of “one step ahead, one step backward” for the NFL. The league workplace finally can’t management how the 32 groups deal with their enterprise, and it was a horrible search for the NFL this previous week when two of the league’s Black head coaches had been fired by impatient groups.
Brian Flores went 19-14 the final two seasons with a mediocre quarterback, but the Dolphins nonetheless fired him as a result of he wasn’t “collaborative” sufficient, based on proprietor Stephen Ross. And the Texans fired David Culley after only one season, though they had been primarily tanking with out Deshaun Watson.
As of Friday, the one non-white head coaches within the NFL had been Mike Tomlin, Robert Saleh, and Ron Rivera.
Culley, a 66-year-old profession place coach who has by no means been a coordinator, was definitely employed out of left subject final 12 months. Most folks across the league knew Culley was extra of a sacrificial lamb than the Texans’ future at head coach. But Culley nonetheless deserved higher than to be fired after one season. His 4-13 Texans gained about three extra video games than anybody else anticipated. They performed exhausting by way of the tip of the season and surprisingly gained a couple of video games in December. And Davis Mills, the eighth QB taken in final 12 months’s draft, outplayed Lawrence, Zach Wilson, and just about each rookie quarterback not named Mac Jones.
That it’s the Texans firing their coach after only one season is noteworthy. The franchise has been dogged by accusations of racism for a number of years, with former proprietor Bob McNair and present proprietor Cal McNair every having to problem apologies over separate incidents. Tossing Culley apart after one season, through which he wasn’t given a lot of a likelihood, most likely gained’t assist their popularity.
With eight head teaching vacancies throughout the NFL, there’s nonetheless a likelihood that a number of Black head coaches may get employed this 12 months. Several candidates are sizzling names: Flores, Jerod Mayo, Byron Leftwich, Eric Bieniemy, Aaron Glenn, Leslie Frazier, and Jim Caldwell.
But it was a horrible search for the NFL this previous week for 2 promising Black coaches to get fired when their efficiency on the sphere most likely didn’t benefit it.
Colts GM Chris Ballard made headlines this previous week when he declined to decide to Wentz as his quarterback in 2022. But Ballard is in fairly a pickle. Wentz already has $15 million totally assured for subsequent season, and one other $12 million turns into totally assured March 18. No group in its proper thoughts will need to commerce for that contract. If the Colts do need to transfer on, their most suitable option could also be to eat the $15 million and hope one other group can be prepared to tackle Wentz for $12 million. The Colts may flip the $15 million into a signing bonus and unfold the cap hit out over 5 years . . . The 49ers wrecked Sean McVay’s unbelievable streak of their 27-24 comeback win final Sunday. McVay is now 45-1 all time when main at halftime, because the Rams led the Niners, 17-3, on the break . . . The retirement of subject choose Scott Edwards after this season most likely gained’t generate many headlines. But Edwards, an NFL official since 1999, is the final remaining lively official from the well-known Tuck Rule recreation in January 2002. Edwards additionally labored Super Bowls 50 and LII, which featured the Patriots . . . The NFL crushed it in TV rankings once more this fall, holding the highest 16 most-watched exhibits on TV, 48 of the highest 50, and 91 of the highest 100, based on the league. The Raiders-Cowboys recreation on Thanksgiving was the highest-rated recreation of the 12 months, and Brady’s return to Foxborough was fifth. We additionally see once more why the NFL continues to schedule boring matchups on Thanksgiving, as Bears-Lions was the fourth-highest-rated recreation of the season . . . According to @StatsByLopez on Twitter, NFL coaches set data this season for going for it on fourth and 1 (69 p.c), fourth and 2 (39 p.c), fourth and 3 (19 p.c), and 2-point conversions (11 p.c) . . . Favorite stat of final Sunday’s wild Chargers-Raiders recreation: On the ultimate drive of regulation, Herbert was 6 of 19 passing for 78 yards and a landing. He was 1 for 7 on first down, 2 for six on second down, 1 for 4 on third down, and 2 for two on fourth down.