We are all giddy at the NFL playoffs’ start. We are, in fact. Hookhand Johnny slipped and fell, and it was just enough to put out the fire that Pegleg Pete started by rubbing his artificial leg together instead of on its own. But we’ll get it sorted out.
Anyway, in order, the games, starting with today’s matchups:
Las Vegas Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals — Quick, what does the year 1991 mean to you. Don’t give up! This was the Bengals’ most recent win in a playoff match. Cincinnati didn’t so much as make the playoffs again until 2006. They were eliminated in round one. Subsequently, the Bengals didn’t make the playoffs until 2010, when they lost in the first round. They skipped one year and were then in the playoffs each year from 2012 through 2016. Each time they lost, it was in the first round.
It’s not like their opponents have done much better. The Raiders are only one team that has made it to the playoffs since 2003’s Super Bowl. They lost this game in 2002. This is a fascinating definition of excellence and commitment, ye autumn wind.
However, that was then, and this isn’t. The Bengals feature a high-octane offense led by sophomore quarterback Joe Burrow and his old college buddy Ja’Marr Chase. Except for one small area, the Raiders offense boasts very similar statistics to those of the Bengals. Las Vegas had 86 less points than the Bengals in minor areas. While the Raiders scored more points (63) in defensive play, the teams still rank around the middle.
Cincinnati beat Las Vegas 32-13 last November when the Raiders were slumping, but whether this is any indicator of what we’ll see today is dubious. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has the skill and the fire, so don’t be surprised if this game goes to the wire and beyond.
New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills — Exactly which sadist thought a Saturday night game in Buffalo in January would be great fun is unknown, but here we are. To make it to the playoffs, the Patriots used Mac Jones as their rookie quarterback and have allowed only two points to be permitted on defense. In the meantime, the Bills are putting together a more solid defense that leads the league in allowing the most points. Buffalo was third in the NFL scoring in offense. New England isn’t far behind.
Both teams played in two matchups during the regular season, with one team winning. The game promises to be the football equivalent of Yogi Berra’s observation that good pitching will always beat good hitting, or vice versa.
Continue on Sunday.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Philadelphia Eagles — Did you know the Eagles had the best rushing offense in the NFL this year? The Buccaneers were the NFL’s best passing team, even though they had 374 receiving options. Evidently, Tom Brady can be a good quarterback.
Tampa Bay’s defensive stats are slightly worse than Philadelphia’s. The Buccaneers have Brady, despite Antonio Brown’s injuries, COVID, and other issues. Although Jalen Hurts is the Eagles’ quarterback, this will likely be an uphill task for Philadelphia.
San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys — There will be no Joe Montana to Dwight Clark moments in this game. Perhaps Jimmy Garoppolo will be compared to George Kittle. But Jimmy G, cute as the ladies consider him to be, ain’t no Super Bowl Joe. On the other hand, Dak Prescott is the real deal and runs the NFL’s best offense. The 49ers have a better defense than the Cowboys, so we’ll see.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs — Although they improved as the season progressed, the Chiefs were not the unstoppable juggernaut of recent years. Kansas City was terrible against both the pass and the run defensively. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh was no great shakes on either side of the ball yet still managed to prolong Ben Roethlisberger’s career at least one more week. This figures to be it for Big Ben, but that’s why they play the games. Because you don’t know. You don’t know, and neither do others.
The Monday Night Game is the final.
Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams — Talk about two teams with wrong-way momentum heading into the postseason. The Cardinals were the league’s biggest pleasant surprise during the first half of the season but were dreadful in the second. The Rams also started strong, but wildly inconsistent play by Matthew Stafford and an inability to stop the run dogged them during the season’s concluding stretch. Los Angeles still has Cooper Kupp, Odell Beckham, and Jalen Ramsey, on offense. Arizona has … um, a disadvantage.
All are welcome to enjoy this extended weekend.