2023 NFL Wild Card Saturday

Posted: January 14, 2023 in All Things Power Spread

Two game involving 3 young teams and 1 veteran team. A look at the Talent, Coaches, Momentum and Injuries.

Do the upstart youngsters of Seattle and Jacksonville have a chance? Will the Chargers and Herbert finally make their mark? Is SanFrancisco actually in danger of a big upset, or does the gravy train continue to roll?

Seahawks at 49ers

The surprise Seahawks struggled late, but did what they had to do to get in. The 49ers have won 10 in a row and are a big favorite.

Chances are that most viewers are waiting for the second game of the day and will probably skip this game. I would tell those viewers to hold on a minute.

Talent

I go into much more detail in the podcast but Seattle has a great young nucleus as Pete Carroll really refreshed the talent on this team. Especially with the help of a great 2022 Draft! They have rookie bookend Tackles, plus a dynamite rookie RB. They also have a great rookie CB + NB.

Seattle has a veteran QB + WR corp and their leader on D is veteran S Diggs, but there are young guys sprinkled throughout the starting lineup and roster. This team is on the rise, but will they be able to handle playoff pressure vs a veteran team?

Most fans know the talent on the 49ers at this point. A lot of veterans, though their third QB of the year is a rookie who’s become a big name after an undefeated finish to the regular season – Jack Purdy.

The 49ers made a huge acquisition mid-season with RB McCaffrey, but continue to have injury ?s heading into this game including their star RB.

Coaches

Kyle Shanahan runs a great OScheme. I call it the WCPST – which I explain in the Podcast. You can also do a Shanahan search on this site to see all the cool stuff I’ve written about this innovative offensive coach.

His Culture has been questioned in the past, but after all his continued success with a variety of issues over the years, I think we can safely say that he has resurrected a strong Culture here in SanFran.

No matter the talent he uses a lot of motion, misdirection play-action to create explosive offenses that are balanced in both Power and Spread.

His Defense has been strong as well. First with Robert Saleh and now with Saleh’s protege, DeMeco Ryans. I call Saleh’s Defense the STEEL TRAP (podcast), but Ryans also combines a pressure mix that harkens back to his days under Joe Kines (Joe Lee Dunn) at Bama.

Pete Carroll has gone back to the youthful energetic Culture he originally had at Seattle and now has upgraded his schemes to go along with that talent and energy.

He has an OC from the Sean McVay style of Pro PS Offense (search site under McVay), which came off of what the Shanahan’s were doing at Washington. With Geno Smith at QB, Shane Waldron has been able to run a lot of Pro Spread and Geno has had by far his best year. From the Spread, the Power has thrived w/ Walker at RB.

Carroll’s specialty is D and he has upgraded to more of a pressure/coverage mix than in the past. This time he bases out of the 3-4 Hybrid unlike his old 4-3 Hybrid that he used for so many years.

Momentum+Injuries

Defenses started to catch the “new” Smith on film and adjusted accordingly to more coverage mixes (Zone + Man Match) that gave Geno problems down the stretch. Still, Seattle played tough in a lot of these games as their D improved and they battled through some injuries.

Make no mistake, this is not a sad team coming in to these playoffs. They are excited to be here, view it as a gift, and will play with nothing to lose.

Everyone knows about the QB injuries of SanFran. What many may not know, is that they had injuries all over the team – especially DLine & DB. Plus, their all-everything WR Samuel was banged up throughout the year.

Purdy was drafted by Shanahan because he’s a Garoppolo clone – a little Point Guard distributor to run this variable offense. Notice the struggles switching from Dual-Threat explosive Lance to PG Garoppolo, but then no tail off between Garop & Purdy. That’s not a coincidence.

The 49ers are still a bit banged up, but their Personnel + Schemes are in place and rolling for this game at home. The Seahawks are definitely the question.

To me it comes down to the RBs both McCaffrey and Walker were questionable all week. They are now cleared to play. Seattle needs Walker to win! His exciting backup Dallas is still questionable. Other than McCaffrey, the 49ers look set on O!

On D, Armstead, Kinlaw, Bosa and Greenlaw are all cleared to play for the 49ers. Big news. For Seattle it looks like their S Neal is also cleared to play. A bigger deal than most would think as I do not like their depth at S right now.

Prediction – 49ers (Seahawks w/ the points)

So why do I think the Seahawks can cover the points on the road vs an experienced PO Team? Because they were making some adjustments late in the year to what the Defense’s were doing and they young, talented and fired up – the way Carroll likes his teams!

If McCaffrey and some of the others get hurt for SanFran, then I really believe Seattle can win this game. But the report looks good right now for the 49ers so you have to take them to win.

Still, I think Seattle can make this close and maybe win by mixing that Power Run game with Walker and the Spread Pass Quick Game with Smith. Then on D when they mix the tricky coverages, they must take advantage of Purdy’s mistakes.

In their last game with the 49ers, Seattle down late in the 1st Half 3-7 dropped an interception (Diggs), then fbled a short completion which led to a quick score by SanFran. A 10-7 lead at half became a 3-14 deficit! After a big secondary breakdown (Diggs again) to start the 2nd Half, Seattle was suddenly down 3-21!

Seattle’s D needs to have a little more Variety Mix and not be so over aggressive as they were on some of the big runs and big passes to Kittle. They have to convert TDs behind Geno and Walker. Then they can win.

Even then, it will come down to who plays at the end of the game. I feel it’s Geno who will be more prone to the mistake than the rookie Purdy. Especially playing on the road with possible rain in front of a hostile crowd.

Seattle can definitely pull off the crazy upset if SanFran doesn’t take them seriously (ala Michigan vs TCU), but the I have to go with the 49ers at home vs such a young team.

Chargers at Jaguars

Again, this game may not be as obvious as it looks. The Jags are a young team w/ a new coach and were lucky to get in. The Chargers have been expected to be a playoff team for at least two years and are finally here.

Chargers all the way, right… not so fast.

Talent

A lot of speed and talent on both sides of the ball. They both have more speed than heft on D and are geared more to the Pass Game setting up the Run than the other way around. Their Olines are ok – not great. Each Team lost their LT during the year – a bigger loss for the Chargers than the Jags.

My Podcast goes into more detail, but the Chargers have the more veteran team surrounded by youngsters, where as Jacksonville is just young period. The big names for the Chargers, when they’re healthy, are James, Bosa, Mack on D and Eckler, Herbert and his WR corp of Williams, Allen and Palmer on O.

For the Jags, it’s a more speedier troop of WR/TEs + the Clemson Duo of Lawrence & Etienne. On D they play the same 3-4 base with big time edge rushers and speedy LBs as well. Both teams have solid DB as the Jags have their own monster S in Jenkins to compare to James.

Coaches

Doug Pederson is finally getting his over due recognition. Just do a search for Pederson using the widget on the left and you will see all I wrote about his brilliance both as an offensive mastermind and a head coach that understands Culture.

He literally turned this team around mid-season by giving them the belief that they still could make the playoffs. Which they did. His Offense consists of a lot of short passes in the WCO style he inherited from Andy Reid. But he also uses a lot of Power Spread from Chip Kelly (Press Taylor the OC – Podcast) in the form or ROs, RPOs, MisDirection Play Action and Breaking Tendency.

Brandon Staley has received a lot of flack in his first ever head coaching job with the Chargers, but he has them in the playoffs. The big names on the team really put pressure on Staley to win now, but the truth be told, this is a team that is a work in progress. Even Hebert has a lot of growing to do and the injuries early on didn’t help.

Staley is a Defensive Coach and his scheme has progressed some since his time with the Rams. In the Podcast I go into more detail, but it’s a Fangio style of mixed coverage with some mixed pressure. A lot of roll into Single High Safety w/ Match Man underneath.

Mike Caldwell is the DC for Pederson and the Jags. He has a lot of influences (Podcast), but is lately what I would call as “Bowles” guy. He’s not nearly as aggressive as Bowles, but will pull off surprise aggression off his base 3-4 Man Free Defense w/ and 5 man rushes.

Momentum + Injuries

These teams almost mirror each other in Talent and Scheme. Young speedy Talent (Chargers with some big vets) with Offenses based on the pass w/ big young QB Talents and D based on speed out of the 3-4. They each finished the year strong, but that’s where the similarities end.

The Chargers sluggish start was due to a beat up team still trying to find it’s footing. They played well against the Chiefs, but were beat up and let down in the 2nd Half of their next game vs these same Jags.

As they got a little healthier and Hebert began to really take charge as a leader, they went on a roll ending up 10-7 (11-6 if not for a meaningless game vs the Broncos).

The Jags were a different story. They had a mess to fix and though they played well early, they had trouble finding ways to win. After Pederson’s big statement about making the playoffs, they won almost the rest of their games.

The passing game behind Lawerence started clicking and opening up the run game with Etienne. The D started to really play strong, especially the Back 7 along with Edge Pressure up front.

The biggest difference though was the way each team finished. The Jags had a lot of comebacks and had to fight for everything. Sort of like TCU in College. Even their last game vs Tennessee was a battle to the end for the final AFC Playoff spot.

The Chargers looked stronger and more solid in their finish. Herbert’s WRs were all finally healthy and their Back 7 and Edge Pressure was also strong down the stretch. They are definitely the stronger team coming into the playoffs.

Prediction – Chargers (Jags w/ the points)

So why not just go with the Chargers and call it a day? That’s what I would have done, but like the first game, as I researched the teams, I found some surprises.

First off – the Chargers are still banged up. It looks like they are healthy on Defense and at Oline and RB, but WR Williams is out again. The health of the WRs has been a problem this year. The Jags have been one of the healthier teams on the year and look solid except at RG where Sheriff may be out, but I expect he will play.

Secondly – the Jags have a great energy right now. At least as good as Seattle, maybe better. The Chargers are strong, but will the Williams injury plus playing a night game in Jacksonville in a cool temp have some effect? The better team having to travel in the whacky WC Playoff System.

Third – The Jags w/ Etienne’s late showing – the speedy WRs, Engram at TE and the speed Defense impressed me on film more than I expected. Of course I knew Pederson was impressive already. My big ? is how well the Jags DC Caldwell hangs in with Charger OC Lombardi w/ Herbert on his side.

The loss of Williams is big, but Carter is actually a speedier slot guy anyway. If Lombardi makes good use of him, this negative turns into a positive. If the rest of the Chargers are as healthy as it looks on paper then they are still the favorite.

If it comes down to Lawerence vs Herbert at the end then I take Herbert. Not as much because. of his big arm, but because of the leadership he has showed down the stretch .

Staley’s D needs to aggressively attack the short pass of the Jags and slam the run even though it’s the weakness due to injuries to 2 of their big DLineman. Take their chances w/ Lawrence hitting deep shots. If he does it, then too good. But in their last game, Lawrence ate the Chargers with the short pass game on all the big downs.

Stop the Jags on 3rd dn and give the ball to Herbert and mix in some tricky runs/screens with Eckler and the Chargers will win. If Lawrence hits the big ones and the D of Caldwell is more aggressive vs Chargers w/o Williams, then it’s a Jags celebration in chilly Florida!

~PS

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