sara.ziegler (Sara Ziegler, sports activities editor): When the NFL took the sector in September, we weren’t certain what to anticipate. How would groups navigate a pandemic? What would a largely fanless season seem like? Would the NFC East proceed to be the worst division of all time? Seventeen weeks later, the NFL’s 2020 common season is within the books, and we all know the reply to all of these questions.
Let’s begin our take a look at Week 17 with the final sport of the weekend, perhaps probably the most ridiculous sport of the season, in one of many worst divisions in historical past: Washington Football Team’s win over the Philadelphia Eagles.
I feel New York Giants retiree Eli Manning mentioned it greatest:
Putting apart for a second that the Giants have nobody in charge however themselves and their 6-10 report for not attending to the playoffs, was mainly each New York participant on social media right? Did the Eagles throw that sport?
joshua.hermsmeyer (Josh Hermsmeyer, NFL analyst): I’m not satisfied this was a tank from the outset — why begin Jalen Hurts if that was the case? But if it was a tank on the finish, I feel it’s wonderful. More than wonderful — it’s sharp. What tradition have you ever constructed this 12 months going 4-11-1 that’s value defending? I’ve heard some say the league is about respect. I’ve heard some say it is a league about successful. But what this league is actually about is cash. That’s what’s driving this weeping and gnashing of enamel. The critics of tanking worry that followers will lose curiosity if the NFL turns into a league the place tanking is normalized. But followers are good, and gaining three spots in draft capital is value greater than the near-term ache of a meaningless loss.
neil (Neil Paine, senior sportswriter): And look, Nate Sudfeld, the *checks notes* sixth-round draft decide out of Indiana with 25 profession makes an attempt in 4 seasons earlier than final evening, deserved an opportunity to indicate what he had!
Salfino (Michael Salfino, FiveThirtyEight contributor): I simply don’t imagine that coaches tank in a sport. Hurts performed badly, however he ought to have been allowed to complete. I feel that is proof that there isn’t any buy-in on Hurts from Doug Pederson.
joshua.hermsmeyer: Hurts was 20th in QBR Week 17 and accomplished simply 35 p.c of his passes for 72 yards. If you’re going to guide a fourth-quarter comeback, you in all probability must do it with a QB who can push the ball downfield efficiently.
So I get the change of route.
neil: So they’d seen sufficient from Hurts to know what they’d with him? That’s the half that makes me go HMMMM.
That they supposedly wished extra tape on Sudfeld. You want extra tape on HURTS!
Salfino: Pederson mentioned they had been attempting to win. I take the “more tape on Sudfeld” as a knock in opposition to Hurts, really.
neil: Although a man named Sudfeld comically wreaking havoc on a New York staff on NBC is meme-able.
“What’s the DEAL with Doug Pederson? Does he WANT to be fired?”
sara.ziegler: I’ll say that the individuals utilizing Pederson going for it on fourth-and-goal as proof of a tank have perhaps by no means watched the Eagles.
neil: Yeah, Pederson is thought to be aggressive there.
joshua.hermsmeyer: Sara, I used to be actually typing that out. It’s loopy to name this a tank from the outset. The Eagles and the Giants break up the season sequence this 12 months, however from my perspective the Eagles are the clear winners.
Salfino: I discover it curious that an Eagles staff that loses so naturally is now being accused of shedding intentionally.
neil: Was it simply one other case of Pederson being too cute for his personal good?
You name one Philly Special in a Super Bowl, and hastily you suppose you may carry Nate Sudfeld in to win a sport …
Salfino: My tackle the fourth down is that it was dangerous situational soccer emblematic of Pederson’s issues this 12 months. At the time, three quarters via the sport, a discipline purpose is value 10 p.c of all factors scored as much as that time, and it ties the sport. This was not a shootout. Points had been extra helpful. Any factors. Not all fourth downs are the identical.
joshua.hermsmeyer: Nah, I feel you go for it. What do it’s a must to lose?
Salfino: The sport.
sara.ziegler: Draft place?
joshua.hermsmeyer: These splitting of the best of hummingbird hairs over fourth-down choices are foolish once you’re the Eagles. You simply line up and do the rattling factor.
Salfino: I used to be not stunned. But in the event you’re a Giants fan, you hated it, which is why you understand it’s a nasty name. When you’re doing the factor the enemy desires you to do, it’s a mistake.
sara.ziegler: I assume it will depend on which enemy you’re speaking about.
neil: The enemy was the enemy of the pal on this case.
Or one thing.
joshua.hermsmeyer: Not all enemies are the identical, Mike. These are the GIANTS.
If the Giants suppose one thing is a successful transfer, the sharp transfer is to do the other.
sara.ziegler: Words to stay by.
The Eagles had been hardly the one staff to look dangerous on Sunday. Going into the weekend, seven playoff spots had been nonetheless up for grabs, with a number of groups controlling their very own future. Two of these groups specifically didn’t appear to need that superior energy: the Miami Dolphins and Arizona Cardinals.
I feel all of us favored the Dolphins at numerous factors within the season. But my goodness did they give the impression of being flat on Sunday in a 30-point loss to the Buffalo Bills. Guys, what occurred there?
Salfino: They got here into the sport with the league’s greatest scoring protection and gave up a fiddy.
neil: Yeah, they wanted to rely particularly laborious on the protection for this one, given Ryan Fitzpatrick’s absence.
Instead, it had a disastrous efficiency.
Salfino: All their BS effectivity on protection (opposing yards per level) caught up with them without delay.
joshua.hermsmeyer: The Bills began Josh Allen and left him in, passing 38 instances in opposition to simply 25 speeding makes an attempt in an entire blowout. They have was bullies through the go. I sort of like it.
Salfino: The Bills are tremendous scorching going into the postseason. We’ll see if that interprets.
Allen is so good. This is an argument for participant attributes over faculty stats and likewise for team-building round a QB. Or perhaps the Bills obtained tremendous fortunate. But I don’t suppose Allen is simply randomly good in the intervening time. I feel he’s actually good, interval.
neil: The Bills actually wished that No. 2 seed, which solely goes poorly for them if Cleveland upsets Pittsburgh and Baltimore wins, which might imply they’d face the Ravens (one other scorching staff) in Round 2.
Salfino: If the Ravens beats their nemesis Tennessee, which they need to.
joshua.hermsmeyer: Allen has been taking part in nice. He’s making an attempt and making ridiculous throws — the sort we count on from Patrick Mahomes. It’s improbable to observe. Whether it’ll proceed into subsequent 12 months goes to be a fiery debate over the offseason. But I like watching him.
neil: Allen has answered nearly each query individuals had about him going again to his rookie 12 months.
The enchancment he’s proven over each of his two NFL offseasons is unbelievable. He improved his passer ranking by 17 factors in Year 2 and one other 22 factors in Year 3!
Salfino: Plus, let’s not neglect Stefon Diggs, the perfect veteran acquisition in historical past (or at the very least rattling shut).
joshua.hermsmeyer: I imply, they might have merely chosen Justin Jefferson.
neil: What a win-win commerce.
sara.ziegler: Maybe another Viking followers really feel in a different way, however I’ve actually loved watching Diggs discover a home in Buffalo.
Back to Miami for a second, the knives are out for Tua Tagovailoa proper now. What do you all make of the decision for the Dolphins to draft one other quarterback?
joshua.hermsmeyer: I like it. Draft QBs till your nostril bleeds.
Salfino: Tua to me appears to have a very gentle toolbox. I’d return in. It’s a free roll.
(But no approach do the Dolphins do it, so we’re simply pretending.)
joshua.hermsmeyer: Daniel Kahneman talks about the worth of taking the “outside view” on necessary choices — that figuring out the overall form of an issue is usually extra necessary than the precise “inside view” particulars. This is precisely a kind of conditions. Experts within the NFL refuse to see the worth in having a number of QBs and spending the draft capital to amass them.
And the explanations for that refusal appear to all the time come all the way down to “you don’t understand the problems it creates.”
Salfino: One argument in opposition to it’s that there aren’t sufficient follow snaps to develop two QBs.
joshua.hermsmeyer: Yeah, suck it up. Be a coach, be a trainer. Be artistic.
neil: The bar for what a QB must do as a rookie is so excessive now. In the previous, we’d take a look at Tua’s rookie season — with some positives and a few clear negatives — and be like, OK, let’s see the place he can go. But the clock is ticking on these entry-level QB contracts so rapidly now.
sara.ziegler: Miami can look to Arizona as the instance of drafting a high QB till one sticks. And but, the Cardinals additionally got here crashing down on Sunday to finish what appeared to be a promising season.
Kyler Murray missed a lot of the first half of the Cards’ loss to the Rams with an ankle harm. How a lot did that harm them, actually?
Salfino: The Cardinals are such a disappointment. Kliff Kingsbury was a nasty rent. The offense has no juice. There’s nothing progressive about it, which is the other of what we had been instructed was going to occur.
neil: Kyler’s shoulder harm again in Week 11 was undoubtedly the turning level of the season, although. Aside from torching the Eagles — which, OK — he wasn’t the identical from that time on.
Salfino: I’ve a tough time with that as a result of he wasn’t even on the harm report the subsequent week, by kickoff.
neil: Yeah, but it surely was clear he was taking part in via it on the time.
joshua.hermsmeyer: Agree, Neil. Murray isn’t the identical participant with out his mobility, and his shoulder in all probability impacted it. The ankle harm definitely did. When Arizona had an opportunity to attain and draw nearer on Sunday, Kliff known as a pace possibility, and Murray saved it and was tackled for a loss. I put that on Kliff, to Mike’s level. He has not been an excellent play-caller. If I had been him, I’d go off these duties and attempt to remake myself as a CEO coach.
Salfino: It did appear that he stopped operating proactively.
Every coach needs to be a CEO coach, IMO. I do know Andy Reid is the counterexample. But coach the entire staff.
neil: It was humorous to see these “Get Ready for the NFL Playoffs!” adverts throughout Sunday Night Football that includes each the Cardinals and Dolphins. You may inform they made these, oh, idk, about six weeks in the past.
No Bears in there.
neil: GLARING absence. LOL
sara.ziegler: Ugh, the Bears. I nonetheless can’t imagine Mitch Trubisky made the playoffs.
neil: As solely the Bears can. Backing in after a 35-16 home loss to the Packers.
joshua.hermsmeyer: Does this imply they preserve Mr. Biscuit?
It’s all so scrumptious.
sara.ziegler: This Minnesota fan definitely hopes so!
Salfino: I feel everyone seems to be again in Chicago. That’s Bad News for the Bears.
neil: Trubisky is not any Kelly Leak.
Salfino: I like this man:
joshua.hermsmeyer: I like that he rattles off all of the explanation why they’re dangerous and ends with “we’re gonna win a playoff game.”
neil: And simply the dedication to have the pro-Trubisky/anti-Foles shirt.
Salfino: But that’s being a fan. The hope all the time overwhelms purpose.
sara.ziegler: Speaking of hope, you gotta be comfortable for followers of the Cleveland Browns, who made the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
joshua.hermsmeyer: I feel having a second “prove it” sport in opposition to the Steelers is ideal.
neil: I assumed they had been going to blow it on that onside kick! But it’s nice to see.
(One of the 2 “guy sits on the ball to recover a potentially disastrous fumble” calls on Sunday.)
Salfino: Also in opposition to the Steelers. Reminds me of this matchup in opposition to the Steelers. Kelly Holcomb. That sport was a 9 out of 10, too.
neil: Cleveland misplaced regardless of main 33-21 with beneath 4 minutes left, ooof.
Btw, does Chris Fuamatu-Ma’afala nonetheless have the longest title in NFL historical past?
Salfino: You’re mentioning misspelling PTSD, Neil.
neil: Nobody has ever spelled that with out wanting it up.
But sure, a whole lot of historical past and revenge using on that Browns-Steelers wild-card rematch.
Salfino: I feel we obtained fortunate with that matchup as a result of neither of these groups is thrashing anybody else.
sara.ziegler: It needs to be a hell of a sport, and it leads me to my final query: In the wild-card matchups this weekend, which underdogs — by seeding, not by the betting line — do you guys suppose might need the perfect probability to advance?
Salfino: I feel the Rams. The Seahawks are taking part in minus-EV soccer on objective.
joshua.hermsmeyer: For me it’s the Bucs and Ravens, each on the fifth seed.
neil: I agree with you, Josh. Both Tampa and Baltimore are much more harmful than their seeds recommend.
“Guaranteed matchup with the NFC East winner? Yes, please.”
joshua.hermsmeyer: The 5-seed within the NFC is a BYE.
So unfair to the AFC,,,
neil: Now, we should always level out that these joke division-winners with .500 (or worse) data do have a historical past of pulling upsets …
Salfino: I can see the Bucs struggling in opposition to Washington in opposition to that go rush and presumably with out Mike Evans (hyperextended knee). If we’re going to see a Seahawks-like upset by a shedding playoff staff, it will likely be there.
sara.ziegler: Anything’s potential this 12 months!
Salfino: Baltimore is No. 1 in level differential. The subject with them is that they play bully ball, and I don’t suppose they will bully the Titans. You ought to go in opposition to the Titans.
Baltimore offers up 4.6 yards per carry. That’s an issue on this matchup. Henry has had probably the most sustained dominance in NFL historical past.
joshua.hermsmeyer: I feel you allow them to run him.
neil: I’m simply shocked that we noticed the perfect 20-game stretch by a RB ever … in 2019 and 2020!!
Running backs like this had been presupposed to be dinosaurs.
sara.ziegler: It’s the age of the operating again, clearly.
Salfino: And then Ty Montgomery goes for 100-plus for the Saints to indicate how fungible they are surely.
sara.ziegler: So clearly we’ve to attend just a little bit to see the Chiefs and Packers play. Which of the Nos. 2-7 seeds has the perfect probability to take out one of many No. 1 seeds?
neil: I feel the Saints are each bit nearly as good because the Packers within the NFC. They had the higher SRS this season regardless of lacking Drew Brees for an enormous chunk of the 12 months.
(In truth, New Orleans had the No. 1 SRS within the league this 12 months.)
Salfino: Baltimore could be very harmful in the event that they get by Tennessee. Playing on the street is not any massive deal now.
And the Packers have crushed whom, precisely? The Jets have extra wins in opposition to successful groups than the Packers. The high 5 seeds can all beat the Packers.
joshua.hermsmeyer: The Bills are terrifying in the event you’re the Chiefs, imo. In some methods, you possibly can view the Bills’ final couple of video games as tuneups for the boat race they hope to have vs. the Chiefs. And that’s a matchup that, if Mahomes isn’t taking part in his best possible, I can definitely see Okay.C. shedding.
Salfino: And Mahomes has to search out it as a result of he’s clearly struggling relative to his regular self.
neil: This Bills staff has been unapologetically dominant and I like it.
sara.ziegler: They’re a lot enjoyable.
Salfino: The Chiefs are just like the basketball staff with two nice scorers. Do they want a 3rd possibility?
neil: Mahomes = Steph Curry
Travis Kelce = Kevin Durant
Tyreek Hill = Klay Thompson?
Salfino: I imply weapons outdoors of QB. After Kelce and Hill, everybody else is a backup singer for the Chiefs.
joshua.hermsmeyer: I used to be instructed Sammy Watkins was the rationale they received the Super Bowl.
neil: Well I do know we hate RBs, however Clyde Edwards-Helaire had 1,100 yards from scrimmage this season, to go together with Kelce and Hill every cracking 1,399.
Salfino: I agree with Josh. CEH is MEH.
joshua.hermsmeyer: Mike, all is forgiven.
sara.ziegler: All proper, let’s wrap this up by getting your predictions on the report as we head into the playoffs. Gut response, don’t give it some thought an excessive amount of: Who’s your Super Bowl winner?
neil: I just like the Chiefs. No deficit is just too insurmountable.
Salfino:Just to be totally different I’ll say … NO.
sara.ziegler: NO approach … do the Saints beat the Chiefs. 😉
Salfino: Josh favored me for 30 seconds.
sara.ziegler: That’s all you get.
Salfino: We can’t all say the Chiefs, who aren’t even taking part in close to their peak.
Baltimore and Buffalo can undoubtedly beat the Chiefs. More doubtless than NO, really.
sara.ziegler: I’ll take the Bills, simply to be totally different.
Salfino: Like it! Why TF not?
sara.ziegler: The Salfino stamp of approval!
Check out our newest NFL predictions.