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HoosierCat

Wild Card Weekend: Raiders @ Bengals

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Order of preference:

Raiders > Ravens > Steelers > Patriots > Chargers > Colts > Bills

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I would like to avoid Ravens/Steelers.   Its hard to whoop somebody 3 times in a season.   Not impossible but tough. 

I would like either Chargers as revenge game or somebody they haven't beaten or played.   Emphasis on a weak run defense too.

 

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Saw on another board that ticketmaster appears to only have secondary market tickets available.  So I guess its sold out already.

 

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1 hour ago, AMPHAR said:

Saw on another board that ticketmaster appears to only have secondary market tickets available.  So I guess its sold out already.

 

I got mine through re-sale on Ticketmaster. Wasn't terrible, all things considered, given that I am travelling for it. Paid $200 each (plus fees) for north end zone lower bowl. 

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I’ll be up in 309 earning as many dirty looks as possible from casual fans that don’t like me beating the shit out of my chair for noise.

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Debating on whether to go.    I trust they'll have rocking sold out crowd.    That last home playoff loss was a killer for me.    My first game was the last playoff game they won against Houston.  I've been to every home playoff game since and even some on the road.

Its probably time I sit one out. 

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I know the last seven playoff appearances have been miserable, and the last one ruined my fanhood for a solid three seasons. I couldn’t get past it and watched games with zero soul.

But this time we have Joe Burrow. If folks have the means, I encourage attending with all my enthusiasm.

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ArmyBengal Jr. and I will be there losing our minds and voices in the process !!

Ticket prices are just going to keep going up.  Glad I got in there when I did !!

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Packers? Favorites. Bengals? Sleeper. Rams? Don’t trust ’em. Ranking Super Bowl contenders in Week 17 NFL reality check

https://theathletic.com/3048426/2022/01/04/packers-favorites-bengals-sleeper-rams-dont-trust-em-ranking-super-bowl-contenders-in-week-17-nfl-reality-check/

Quote

 

By Sheil Kapadia 3h ago 73 

Going into Week 18, 11 teams have clinched playoff spots. Fourteen teams have officially been eliminated. And seven fall somewhere in between.

Given that we have a group of teams (I’m looking at you, Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles) that don’t have much to play for in the final week of the regular season, now seems like a good time for a reset as we look ahead to the playoffs.

The question is simple: As things currently stand, which teams have the best chance to win the Super Bowl? Let’s rank them, with one being most likely to hoist the Lombardi Trophy and 16 being least likely. This is based on how dangerous each team would be, assuming it got in. Note that the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers — two teams with less than a 10% chance to make it — were not included.

Stats are courtesy of TruMedia and Pro Football Focus. EPA stands for Expected Points Added and is used as a performance metric. Success rate measures consistency but puts less weight on explosive plays and high-leverage turnovers. You can learn more about both of them here.

1. Green Bay Packers (13-3)
They’re the slight favorites. The Packers have the most efficient offense in the NFL. They rank first in EPA per drive and third in success rate. Green Bay has continuity with play-caller Matt LaFleur and quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Davante Adams is playing as well as any wide receiver in the NFL. And the Packers have an efficient rushing attack.

But perhaps most importantly, they’ve already clinched the top seed and a first-round bye. That’s a big deal. In the past five seasons, nine of the 10 teams that appeared in the Super Bowl had a first-round bye. And the Packers are 24-3 at Lambeau Field with Rodgers and LaFleur. 24-3!

Can they be beaten? Sure. They’re far from a juggernaut, and the playoffs are wide open. The Packers’ defense relies on producing turnovers, which can be somewhat random, and they have the worst special teams in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders. Just last year, we saw the Tampa Bay Buccaneers stun Green Bay at Lambeau. That could certainly happen again.

But if we’re looking at which team checks the most boxes and has the best chance, the Packers are at the top of my list.

2. Kansas City Chiefs (11-5)
The bad news: They got bumped from the top seed (for now) after losing to the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 17.

The good news: Their offense is humming. The problem Sunday wasn’t that they couldn’t score. They produced touchdowns on four consecutive possessions in the first half. The problem was their offense had only three second-half possessions, and their defense got shredded.

Despite the loss, Patrick Mahomes and company appear to be peaking at the perfect time. There have been 512 league-wide offensive performances this season. The Chiefs have had four in a row that qualify as great (75th percentile or above in EPA per drive). They hadn’t previously had a streak of offensive consistency like that all season.

Though the defense has carried the Chiefs at times this year, that was never what was going to get them back to the Super Bowl. The plan was to lean on an elite offense and a competent defense. The pieces are in place for that plan to succeed.

On the season, Kansas City’s offense ranks second behind only the Packers in EPA per drive, and it’s first in success rate.

Had the Chiefs already secured a first-round bye, I might have had them first here. Bottom line: This is still a really, really good group with a high ceiling.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-4)
It would be foolish to doubt the Bucs. Their +134 point differential is second in the NFC and fourth overall. They have Tom Brady and a great offensive line. And they’re the defending champs.

Having said that, the Bucs have gone a league-best 6-0 in one-score games. And their fortunes could hinge on how healthy they are by the time the playoffs start. We know that Chris Godwin is out for the season, and Antonio Brown is off the team. The Bucs still have Mike Evans, but Rob Gronkowski has gone from complementary piece to featured piece. And Tampa is leaning on guys like Tyler Johnson, Cyril Grayson and Breshad Perriman. Leonard Fournette, meanwhile, is on injured reserve.

Todd Bowles’ defense was without Shaq Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Lavonte David in Week 17.

Offensively, Tampa ranks fourth in EPA per drive and second in success rate. Defensively, they are ninth in EPA per drive and 10th in success rate.

This is a well-balanced, veteran team with an outstanding coaching staff, and they can win different types of games. If the Bucs get some key starters back healthy for the playoffs, they’ll be well-positioned to be one of the last teams standing.

4. Buffalo Bills (10-6)
Their 10 wins have all been by 10 points or more. Of their six losses, five have been one-possession games. There’s an alternate universe where the Bills go 2-3 in those coin-flip games, are 12-4, and are viewed as the clear-cut favorites in the AFC. But it didn’t play out that way, and now they could have to win two road games to get to the Super Bowl.

Are they capable of pulling that off? Absolutely. The Bills have the best point differential in the NFL at +177. On Sunday, Josh Allen threw three interceptions, and they had a punt return gaffe that resulted in a safety. Yet they still beat the Atlanta Falcons by two touchdowns.

The Bills are capable of beating any team in the NFL, but they’re also capable of beating themselves. Their offensive line has been up and down, and it feels like every time they lose a game, poor pass protection is at least part of the reason why.

On the glass half-full side, the Bills have shown that they’re willing to use Allen more in the run game. And that’s something they’ll need to lean into in high-leverage situations in the playoffs. There’s no doubt in my mind that this is a team that can catch fire and make a Super Bowl run.

5. Dallas Cowboys (11-5)
They looked sloppy in a loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday and lost wide receiver Michael Gallup for the season. But I still believe the Cowboys are a legit contender.

Their +147 point differential is third league-wide and tops in the NFC. With Micah Parsons, DeMarcus Lawrence and Trevon Diggs, the Cowboys’ defense can take over games. They’re third in EPA per drive and fifth in success rate defensively. Do they create a lot of turnovers? Yes. Does the defense get lit up when they don’t create turnovers? No. This is a sound group.

Surprisingly, the question with the Cowboys is offensive consistency. If we isolate just the snaps when they’ve had Dak Prescott, they’ve performed like roughly the 13th-ranked offense in terms of EPA per play. Early in the season, Dallas looked like an offensive juggernaut. Since Prescott’s been back from the injury, they’ve shown flashes of getting back to that form, but they’ve been much more inconsistent.

The good news for the Cowboys is they can win in a variety of ways. If the defense is dominating, that’s great. If the defense is caught in a bad matchup, the offense has the firepower to go toe-to-toe with opponents in a shootout. If both sides are clicking, their ceiling is as high as any team in the NFC.

I don’t know if they’ll be consistent enough to go on a run, but the Cowboys are definitely talented enough to win the Super Bowl.

6. Tennessee Titans (11-5)
It might surprise some to see the Titans this high, but they’re positioned to earn the top seed and a first-round bye. And that’s a really big deal.

There are two different questions we need to answer when discussing the Titans’ prospects.

The first is: Are they as good as their record suggests they are? If you look at pretty much any of the advanced metrics that we traditionally lean on, the answer is no. The Titans are 5-2 in one-score games. They have 11 wins despite outscoring opponents by just 62 points. For context, the San Francisco 49ers have outscored opponents by 59 points and are 9-7.

The second question is: Should the Titans be taken seriously as Super Bowl contenders? And the answer there is yes. Why? Because having the top seed matters. As mentioned above, nine of the last 10 teams that have made the Super Bowl have had a bye. Having to win two games instead of three is an obvious advantage.

It’s also possible that the version of the Titans we see in the playoffs is different than the version we’ve seen over the past two months. Derrick Henry could return for the playoffs, A.J. Brown is back (he missed four games), and perhaps Julio Jones will benefit from some time off before the postseason.

Let’s be clear: This is not a great team. But they’re in the playoffs for the third consecutive year, and two years ago, they were in the AFC title game. The defense is better than it was the previous two seasons, and the offense can be efficient and explosive if it gets healthy. The Titans don’t have to prove that they’ve been a great team all along. Assuming they take care of business in Week 18, they just need to be the best version of themselves for two games to get out of the AFC. If you look at it that way, their odds are pretty good.

7. Los Angeles Rams (12-4)
If you just look at the numbers, the Rams make plenty of sense as a frisky Super Bowl contender. They have 12 wins and a +91 point differential, which is tied for third-best in the NFC. Their offense is fifth in EPA per drive and seventh in success rate. Their defense is 10th in EPA per drive and 16th in success rate. With Aaron Donald, Cooper Kupp, Jalen Ramsey, Odell Beckham Jr., Von Miller and others, they have plenty of star power. The Rams look the part of a well-rounded, competitive team.

But do you trust Matthew Stafford to be good enough for them to go on a three-game run and make the Super Bowl?

Stafford has five interceptions and a lost fumble in his past two games. Sean McVay pointed out that all of the turnovers weren’t on Stafford. That’s fine. But the truth is those six turnovers could have easily been eight or nine if opposing defenses had capitalized on additional opportunities. Stafford is just making a lot of mistakes right now.

The good news for the Rams is that Stafford doesn’t have to be perfect. They can win in different ways. They have playmakers. McVay can scheme it up. The defense can lead the way in certain matchups. Stafford just has to be good enough.

He will get a chance to write his own narrative in the playoffs. But if you’re asking me if I trust Stafford as much as the other top quarterbacks in the NFC, the answer is no.

8. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)
Surprised to see them this high? You shouldn’t be. This exercise is all about teams’ ceilings.

After a Week 14 loss to the 49ers, I used this space to criticize Zac Taylor’s conservative approach. In the past two weeks, the Bengals have morphed into one of the NFL’s most fun teams. At some point, Taylor decided that if the Bengals were going to lose, they would do so with the ball in Joe Burrow’s hands. And that mindset has served Cincinnati well.

Burrow has thrown for 400+ yards and 4+ touchdowns in back-to-back games. The rest of the NFL has done that three times all season.

The Bengals are one of the most explosive offenses we’ve seen in some time. That’s not hyperbole. Burrow has 12 completions of 50-plus yards. That’s the most by a quarterback in a single season since at least 2000 (that’s as far back as TruMedia’s database goes). He has more 50-yard completions this season than Mahomes, Brady, and Allen combined. Because of that quick-strike ability, it’s nearly impossible to put away the Bengals. They’re always just one or two throws away from completely changing the complexion of a given game.

There’s evidence to suggest that the Bengals are finding themselves at the perfect time. Among the 512 single-game offensive samples we have across the league this season, the Bengals’ performance in Week 16 ranked third in EPA per drive, and their Week 17 performance ranked 13th.

The Bengals are a flawed team. They have offensive line issues, and their defense is going to give up points against strong opponents. But sometimes in sports, a superstar makes the leap a year sooner than anyone expected. If that’s what we’re seeing with Burrow, who’s to say the Bengals can’t go on a run?

9. New England Patriots (10-6)
They are flying under the radar a bit, which is probably just how Bill Belichick prefers it. But the Patriots’ +168 point differential is second league-wide to only the Bills.

What we know about the Patriots is that they’re going to be well-coached, and they’re going to be competitive in pretty much every matchup. They have wins against the Bills, Titans, and Los Angeles Chargers. They took the Cowboys and Buccaneers down to the wire.

The problem with the Patriots is they’re far from the most talented team on this list. If an opponent plays its A-game and doesn’t beat itself, New England is probably going to be in trouble. That’s what we saw with the Bills a couple weeks ago. The Patriots just don’t have a lot of firepower on offense, so if their defense isn’t getting stops, they might not be able to keep up.

And as things currently stand, they won’t have an easy path, likely playing all their games away from Foxborough. Needing to win at Buffalo and at Kansas City just to get to the AFC title game would be asking a lot.

Having said that, New England’s defense is legit, and its offense can perform at a high enough level to win games. If things fall right, they could make some noise.

10. San Francisco 49ers (9-7)
They have a 57.6% chance of getting in, according to The Athletic, and a 62% chance of getting in, according to FiveThirtyEight.com. They are in with a win against the Rams or a New Orleans Saints loss against the Atlanta Falcons.

As of this writing, we don’t know if their quarterback is going to be Trey Lance or Jimmy Garoppolo, who is still recovering from a thumb injury.

Of the 49ers’ 16 games, their offensive performance with Lance last week against Houston ranked 11th in EPA per drive. The 49ers’ offensive performance in Lance’s first start (Week 5) was their worst of the season. Lance has shown flashes, but the idea that he could suddenly lead the team on a Super Bowl run is far-fetched.

Garoppolo can be frustrating, but with him on the field this year, San Francisco has performed like roughly the seventh-best offense in terms of EPA per play.

Defensively, the 49ers rank 13th in EPA per drive and sixth in success rate.

They are a solid team that could be a tough out. But given the quarterback situation, it’s tough to see the 49ers competing for a Super Bowl this season.

11. Arizona Cardinals (11-5)
They started the season 7-0 and have since gone 4-5. But the Cardinals showed some signs of life with their win against the Cowboys in Week 17. Kyler Murray can put the team on his back for stretches at a time. If we isolate just the snaps when the Cardinals have had Murray, they’ve performed like roughly the eighth-ranked offense in terms of EPA per play.

The problem is that when Murray is not carrying the Cardinals, they don’t really have a Plan B — especially with DeAndre Hopkins sidelined.

Defensively, coordinator Vance Joseph has done a nice job. The Cardinals are fifth in EPA per drive and 14th in success rate, indicating that they’ve been somewhat turnover-reliant.

In a single-game matchup, the Cardinals with Murray are dangerous. But the likelihood of them being consistent enough to win three in a row seems low.

12. Indianapolis Colts (9-7)
The Colts have between an 89% and 92% chance of getting in. They just need to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 18.

There’s a lot to like about this team. Jonathan Taylor has been one of the best players in football this season. Their offensive line can dominate. Their defense is fundamentally sound. And they’re well-coached.

But can Carson Wentz be good enough and steady enough for three consecutive games to get them to the Super Bowl?

Against the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday, Wentz completed 16 of 27 passes for 148 yards. He averaged 5.5 yards per attempt (YPA), and even that number is inflated. Wentz threw up a prayer that easily could have been intercepted but instead turned into a 45-yard touchdown to T.Y. Hilton. He later missed a wide-open Hilton down the left sideline. He had a left-handed pass that hit an offensive lineman. He had eight yards passing with two minutes left in the first half. It was just an all-around shaky performance.

Zooming out, the Colts’ offense ranks sixth in EPA per drive. They have wins against the 49ers, Bills, Patriots and Cardinals. They’re 9-4 in their last 13, and all four losses were one-possession games. Frank Reich’s team has played well and surprised after a slow start.

But Colts fans have to be in “believe it when I see it” mode in terms of Wentz getting hot in the playoffs. And I’m the same way.

13. Los Angeles Chargers (9-7)
It’s pretty simple for the Chargers: Beat the Raiders on Sunday night, and they’re in. Lose, and they’re out.

They have a couple things going for them. One, Justin Herbert is capable of putting the team on his back. He’s been incredible this year and ranks fourth in EPA per pass play. The Chargers’ offense ranks third in EPA per drive, behind only the Packers and the Chiefs. They are fifth in success rate. That type of offensive efficiency makes the Chargers legitimately dangerous.

The other positive is they’re getting healthy on defense at the right time. As The Athletic’s Daniel Popper outlined, they had their full first-team secondary on the field last week for just the third time all season.

This is a flawed team. They’ve had offensive line issues, and their defense ranks 28th in EPA per drive and 31st in success rate. And it doesn’t help that getting in could mean going to Kansas City in the first round. The truth is they’re probably a year away from being a real contender. But if you’re a Chargers fan, you know you have Herbert on your side, and that’s always going to give you a chance.

14. Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)
They’ve overachieved this season and somehow clinched a playoff berth before Week 18. The Eagles completely changed their identity after a 2-5 start, shifting to a run-first approach with Jalen Hurts, and it’s worked well. Under first-year head coach Nick Sirianni, the offense ranks 10th in EPA per drive. That’s slightly ahead of teams like the 49ers, Cardinals and Cowboys. It’s also a huge jump from last year when they finished 27th.

The defense, meanwhile, has played well against bad quarterbacks and been overmatched against good quarterbacks.

The Eagles overall have consistently been better than the bad teams and not quite as good as the good teams. They’re 0-6 against teams that are currently projected to be in the playoffs.

The Eagles have a great offensive line, a quarterback who is a dual threat and a couple nice weapons in DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert. Given their strengths on the lines of scrimmage, they’ll have a chance to pull off an upset in the first round. But anything beyond that would be a surprise.

15. Las Vegas Raiders (9-7)
If you would have told Raiders fans before the season that they’d have a “win and you’re in” game in Week 18 to make the playoffs, I’m sure they would have been happy to sign up for that. This group deserves a lot of credit. From Jon Gruden to Henry Ruggs III, it feels like they’ve had about four different seasons. But here they are with a chance to get in.

There’s not really anything that the Raiders do great. They’re 20th in EPA per drive and 13th in success rate offensively. They’re 27th in EPA per drive and 18th in success rate defensively. And they have a -68 point differential, which ranks 22nd. If they make the playoffs, they’ll be the only team to do so with a negative point differential.

Having said that, if you’re a Raiders fan, the appropriate response is probably: Who cares? This franchise has made the playoffs just once in the past 18 years. You’re not asking for perfection. You’re asking for a seat at the table.

The ceiling for this team is probably the divisional round, but good for them for staying in the hunt this long.

16. New Orleans Saints (8-8)
They need a win against the Falcons and a 49ers loss to the Rams to sneak into the playoffs. The Saints’ defense has been great. It ranks second in EPA per drive, first in success rate, and is one of the most physical units in the NFL.

The problem is the offense, which has been consistently tough to watch.

The Saints are a perfectly mediocre team, which is fine. If they get in, their ceiling probably tops out at pulling off an upset in the wild-card round.

 

 

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FWIW football outsiders has the Bengals at a 17.3% chance of a conference championship appearance, a 6.1% chance of a conference win, and a 2% chance of a Super Bowl victory.

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I toyed around with ESPN's playoff simulator. If every remaining game goes the way I believe is most likely (which I realize is inherently unlikely), the Bengals get the 5 seed Raiders. A few other permutations given the two least predictable games in my view (CIN @ CLE and LAC @ LV):

If all major AFC favorites (BUF, TEN, NE, KC, IND) win their games, and...

CIN beats CLE and LV beats LAC --> 6 seed Colts @ 3 seed Bengals
CLE beats CIN and LV beats LAC --> 5 seed Raiders @ 4 seed Bengals
CIN beats CLE and LAC beats LV --> 6 seed Patriots @ 3 seed Bengals
CLE beats CIN and LAC beats LV --> 5 seed Colts @ 4 seed Bengals

espn.com/nfl/playoffs/machine

playoff-simulator.png

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Nevermind, I screwed all that shit up by clicking MIA over NE by mistake. So all of that is probably wrong!

Whatever, figure it out yourselves. *throws laptop in the toilet*

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If it ends up vs. the raiders, I’d bet it’s the 4 pm game either saturday or Sunday.

Versus Colts, that’s got 1 pm written all over it. (Ravens here too)

Pats is kind of a wild card (no pun intended). Most likely 1 pm but could get the Sunday night slot. (also Steelers)

MNF will be almost certainly be one of the big NFC market(s) games. IMO of course.

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59 minutes ago, HoosierCat said:

Path to two home playoff games.

 

That’s worth playing starters for.  The problem Titans and Texans play same time as bengals

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CBS has their computer run the simulations and (unsurprisingly) comes up with the same answer as espn's computers: Bengals host the Pats.

https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/nfl-2021-playoff-picture-here-are-the-14-projected-playoff-teams-with-rams-bills-securing-division-titles/

 

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