The first round of the NFL playoffs is in the books, and the candidates differed from the pretenders. We have three new obituaries in the Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals.
The Eagles’ 2021 season will almost unanimously be considered a success as they reached the playoffs, as most thought they would not. This time a year ago, the team had just finished a 4-11-1 season and were heading into an offseason where they were in cap hell, with no obvious answers for the quarterback, and a list filled with glaring holes. Now, after finishing 9-8 behind the No. 1 rushing offensive in the NFL, the team had at least one identity, even if it was only for one season, and much more reason for optimism.
But there are still some honest points to make about this team’s 2021 season.
• In an effort to make more money, the NFL made its product cheaper by adding a seventh playoff team to each conference. In the two years under the new playoff format, 7 seeds are 0-4 with a combined points difference of -50. The two 7 seeds this year, the Eagles and the Steelers, were both completely smoked. The Eagles were at one point down 31-0 to the Bucs, while the Steelers of the AFC were down 35-7 in their game against the Chiefs. These two teams would not have participated in the tournament before 2020.
• The teams that the Eagles beat had an overall record of 53-99-1 (0.350). They beat one team with a winning record this season. That would be the Trevor Siemian-led 9-8 New Orleans Saints. They beat zero teams that reached the playoffs. The quarterbacks they beat were as follows:
- Matt Ryan
- Sam Darnold
- Jared Goff
- Teddy Bridgewater
- Trevor Siemian
- Zach Wilson
- Garrett Gilbert
- Jake Fromm / Mike Glennon
- Taylor Heinicke
• When playing someone half-decently, they lost, often in skewed games. The blowout loss to the Bucs in the playoffs only reinforced that even though the Eagles are clearly better than the worst teams in the NFL, they are not close to the big boys.
Going forward, it will be interesting to see what the Eagles do as a quarterback. Howie Roseman emphatically supported Jalen Hurts as the team’s starter in 2022. Of course, that does not really matter, just as it did not matter when he said losing Carson Wentz would be like losing fingers. Still, Hurts may have played from July good enough to keep the Eagles in quarterback purgatory for at least another season, which in the end could be worse than if he had simply been bad.
MORE: Roseman says Hurts will be the Eagles starter in 2022 – what other choice did he have? | Eagles sign a bunch of guys for futures contracts | Eagles 2022 mock draft roundup, version 1.0
It’s hard to decide which was more cruel – the Cowboys’ idiotic play calls at the end of their loss to the 49ers, or their pathetic hesitation to judge the game in the wake.
Let’s first relive the play:
I mean, LOL. It’s the dumbest play call I’ve ever seen in my life. When I saw it live as soon as Prescott started running, my immediate thought was, “OMG this game is over.”
I remember covering training camp exercises during the Chip Kelly years, and from one snap to the next, when they were at an extremely fast pace, they got plays from one to the next in about 10-11 seconds. And it was in an offensive where the only thing they did was run pace, and 10 seconds was the best thing they could do in a controlled training environment without a referee who was behind in the game who had to put the ball himself before it could be snapped at the next game.
And somehow Mike McCarthy and the Cowboys ran this game seemingly unaware that they had to rely on the referee to make an athletic game to spot the ball to get the snap / tip off in time. McCarthy even blamed the official for not discovering it quickly enough.
If you go back and watch the play again, the official actually did the Cowboys a HUGE favor. See where Prescott begins his roller coaster. He’s at the 26-yard line. That was where the ball should have been spotted. Instead, the Cowboys discovered it themselves at 23. The official moved it a few feet back, but not so much that the entire offense had to move a few yards back and be reset before being snapped. Had they been snapped / tipped off in time, the Niners would have had a legitimate reason to be furious at the wrongly spotted ball.
As players and officials left the field, bottles and miscellaneous waste rained down on the field.
Dak Prescott was asked about this fan’s behavior at the end of the game. At first, when he thought the projectiles were aimed at players, he was a bit like, (GIP!) “IT’S SCANDING !!!” When he was told that the trash was probably aimed at the officials, he basically said, “Well, in that case, they deserved it.”
When Prescott’s agent or lawyer or literally anyone other than Prescott was aware that Prescott was soon on his way to Prescott, he wrote the following apology on Twitter.
“I deeply regret the comments I made regarding the referees after Sunday’s game. I was trapped by the feeling of a disappointing loss and my words were unsolicited and unfair. I have the highest respect for NFL officials and have always respected their “professionalism and the difficulties of their jobs. The safety of everyone who participates in a match or on the pitch for a sporting event is a very serious matter. It was a mistake on my behalf and I’m sorry.”
In the end, it was just the latest in a long line of Cowboys playoff choke jobs over the last quarter-century. And it was delicious.
Speaking of choke artists, the Cardinals were in the best position to get to the playoffs in 2020, but they lost their last two games and it went against Cabo.
In 2021, the Cardinals had at one point 10-2 and in a great position to land 1 seed in the NFC. They then went 1-4 down the stretch, pissing the NFC West Division away, and were then hit by the Rams in the wild card round. In about a month and a half, Kliff Kingsbury went from “This guy should be NFL Coach of the Year” to “This guy should be fired.”
4) 49ers (11-7): I loved the Niners’ matchup against the Cowboys this Sunday. The Cowboys have a playmaking defense, but they are also undersized up front and they tackle poorly in the secondary. I was a little in doubt that YAC machine guys like Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle would play and that the Niners would be successful in the race. The only fear I had was Jimmy Garoppolo, because well, Jimmy Garoppolo stinks. Example:
The Packers are another interesting match for the Niners this weekend. If you remember in the 2019 NFC Championship Game, the Niners ran in 285 yards while Garoppolo only attempted 8 passes as if they were Nebraska in the 1990s playing Kansas. In 2021, the Packers allowed 4.7 yards per carry. carry, which was the third worst in the NFL.
The Niners will eventually lose a match because of Jimmy G, but maybe they can hide him again in Green Bay?
Last week: 6
3) Aries (13-5): The Rams quietly have the best defense of the remaining teams in the NFC, which is a weird way of saying it when they hire Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey and Von Miller.
Last week: 4
2) Buccaneers (14-4): Chris Godwin finished for the season with an ACL? No problem. Antonio Brown kicked the team off? Meh. No problems. Tom Brady can win with Mike Evans, Rob Gronkowski and a bunch of mediocre skill players otherwise.
BUT … If Tristan Wirfs (sprained ankle) can not walk on Sunday, it is potentially a big problem for the Bucs, as backup RT Josh Wells could not block … (checking notes) … Ryan Kerrigan!
Von Miller should be very excited on Sunday if he gets to meet Wells.
Last week: 2
1) Packers (13-4): The Packers have won double-digit matches 10 teams in the Aaron Rodgers era, which included a season of 15 wins, a trio of 13-win seasons and a season of 12 wins. This will be the fifth time they have a bye in the first round during that time. In the four previous seasons where they got a goodbye in the first round, they were 3-4 in the playoffs and never reached the Super Bowl. I look forward to seeing how they blow it this year.
Last week: 1
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