2023 NFL Super Wild Card Sunday

Posted: January 15, 2023 in All Things Power Spread

Three First Year Head Coaches – 2 Young but established Head Coaches – 1 Old Vet who has won a SB.

A newer rivalry starts us off and we finish at night w/ an old rivalry on this Super WC Sunday!

Dolphins at Bills

The surprise Dolphins struggled late, but did what they had to do to get in. Wow. Sounds like the Seahawks.

Chances are that most viewers are waiting for the second game of the day and more likely the night game. Huh, sounds like the Seahawks again.

Do the Dolphins have a surprise shot to win this game like the Seahawks…? Ummm…not really…

Talent

Bills have a load of expereinced talent led by their QB. Great WR pair, strong Oline, upgrade in the DLine this year, 2 strong veteran LBs and a strong S Tandem w/ a combo of vet and young CBs. This is why they were a lot of people’s SB pick.

Dolphins are an interesting mix of young & old! Even though coaching staff is led by a young first yr HC, but has a lot of experience on the Staff.

Obviously Tua was the focal point for the public. The additions of veterans Mostert, Hill and Armstead to the RB,WR, and Oline groups was to me the big deal for this Offense.

Except for Edge Rusher Ingram and LB Roberts, the Defense is young, but speedy and talented. I love Phillips and Chubb on the Edge and their rookie CB Kohou. Add S Holland and CB Howard to the mix w/ Baker teaming w/ Roberts and there is potential in the Back 7.

One guy I make note of in my podcast is DL Sieler who I call “SISLER”! An undrafted FA from Ferris St is a havoc guy on that DL!

Coaches

McDaniel is a Shanahan guy and runs the same style of Offense. Tua has really taken off in his scheme, but the Defenses threw some tricky stuff Tua’s way the 2nd Half of the year.

McDaniel was smart to keep Boyer and a lot of the Defensive Staff, which is all Belichick 3-4 Hybrid w/ a lot of aggressive M2M + Man Match.

McDermott and Frazier still run their tricky Coverage/Pressure Mix and still do a little too much of that Man Free stuff that killed them in the 2nd Half vs KC in last year’s Playoffs.

OC Brian Daboll left, but the Bills kept the same style of PS Pro. Aggressive PS Runs with Singletary & Allen + a nice WC Spread Pass Game.

Ken Dorsey has his own style in play calling, which was at times conservative and/or a little too “tricky” w/ the scheme, but overall I thought he did well.

For more details on Schemes and Talent check out the Podcast (widget to left).

Momentum + Injuries

Dolphins had a big start to the year, were completely overrated by the overzealous ADD public, then fell back to earth mainly due to a slew of Injuries. They were banged up everywhere, not just QB.

Bills also had a lot of Injuries – losing their leader Micah Hyde on D, then their big FA acquisition Edge Rusher Von Miller! A lot of banged up guys up front, then the big scene in Cincy w/ Hyde’s backup Hamlin.

Amazingly the Bills only lost 3 games thru all the emotional/physical adversity. Plus, Allen’s inconsistency trying to do “TOO MUCH” too many times. Btw, I think he was also banged up more this year than people knew.

For this game the Dolphins look in worse shape. No Tua – maybe no Bridgewater. No Mostert and a banged up Oline. D is a little better, though Chubb is a ?.

The Bills may be the healthiest they’ve been in a while – on paper – but it’s hard to know how they really feel. More importantly, are they ready to take all their Talent & Experience and finally make it to the promised land?

Prediction – Bills

In their first matchup in sweltering Miami, the Bills did not play their best and blew a late lead that sent shockwaves around the football world. They won a tough second game, but their Defense was flat early and struggled vs the run. I have a hard time believing they will be flat or sweltering in this game.

McDaniel had a smart gameplan in the second game, coming out w/ a Fullback and using a Power Run game to set up Tua down the field. The Bills LBs need to RISE and lead this Defense in this Game and during the Playoffs!

The Bills invested in the DLine over these last couple of years – hopefully Jordan Phillips plays (?) – and they need to slow down the run like they did early in the year.

It will be easier w/o the worry of Tua passing to Hill & Waddle. Bridgewater is experienced and Skylar Thompson is a Purdy type, but hasn’t proven anything yet. McDaniel can’t expect to power the ball vs “Run Eyes” in this game.

That means relying on one of these QBs to spread it around to set up some runs and a Defense that needs to play a bit more zone match and keep the explosives down and the Dolphins in the game.

The sun is shining, but it will be cold in Buffalo. A banged up young team vs an experienced team ready for that SB run.. good luck.

Giants at Vikings

THE TCU OF THE NFL = MINNESOTA VIKINGS. Absolutely incredible what first year coach Kevin O’Connell pulled off this year! Improbable close wins again and again. Will this continue into the Playoffs?

The Giants have quietly had a very good year under Brian Daboll, but struggled some down the stretch w/ a tough schedule in the suddenly strong NFC East Division.

A Battle of 1st Yr Coaches. They played a thriller at Christmas and they are back in the Dome for Round 2!

Talent

There is really an influx of good young talent in the NFL right now and there is no shortage with these two teams.

Daboll’s O is led by Josh Allen clone Daniel Jones. The Power game is strong w/ Barkley and tough line led by monster Ts Thomas from GA and Neal from Bama and their Vet C Feliciano.

The Giant’s finally found some WR continuity as Golladay was relegated to the bench and OrSt WR Hodgins took his place as the big possession wr to compliment the speed of Slayton on the outside and James in the slot.

The Giants DLine is led by monster youngster Lawrence out of Clemson and vet Leonard Williams w/ speed rushers Thibodeaux out of Oregon and Ojulari also out of GA wrecking havoc from the outside.

LBs Jaylon Smith and rookie McFadden are athletic, but usually replaced in passing downs with veteran hybrid players Landon Collins & Tony Jefferson. DC Wink Martindale will use a lot of DBs including youngsters Flott, Holmes, McCloud to compliment Love/McKinney at S & Jackson/Moreau at CB.

Minnesota’s Offense is pretty well known. Vet QB Cousins playing distributor to the best WR in football right now – Justin Jefferson(JJ) – along w/ great compiments in Theilen, Osborn & TE Hockenson. Reagor is a big talent off the bench who gets some fly sweep action.

The young Oline has been strong and RB Dalvin Cook is dynamic as both a runner and receiver.

The Defense has a lot of veteran leadership in Tomlinson/Phillips on the DLine and a slew of athletic veteran LBs starting with Kendricks & Hick – the old Philly Duo. ZaDarius Smith has exploded on the scene again as a pass rusher and teams w/ Hunter to wreck havoc on QBs – each w/ 10+ sacks on the year. Patrick Peterson is still around at CB and Harrison Smith at S to lead a youthful secondary.

Coaches

Daboll has brought his PS Pro Offense to the Giants and has a replica of the QB he had in Buffalo – big strong athlete w/ a big arm. The Giants lean more towards Power w/ Barkley and are only lately sorting out the Spread side of this Offense.

The question about Daboll as a HC was his Culture. So far you can see how these players play hard for him and for each other as Daniel Jones is starting to grow into the type of leader like Josh Allen.

Great choice of DC in Wink Martindale, who isn’t blitzing as much as he has in the past w/ a young Defense, but he still brings in that Psycho Pressure at crucial times in the game. He’s mixing the coverages pretty well too – especially when he uses his exotic 7 DB Sets!

O’Connell has an interesting background – the played under Spread Coach Chuck Long (O’Connell was a semi dual-threat!), Josh McDaniels and Brian Schottenheimer. He coached under PS Guru Chip Kelly, then hooked up with Gruden/Callahan/McVay at Washington, following McVay to the Rams.

His OC is Wes Phillips – son of Wade – grandson of Bum. This is a McVay style Offense w/ tweaks. Spread the field vertically + horizontally w/ heavy Power out of motion and multiple sets. The talent & experience fit perfect.

The Culture was also in place. Mike Zimmer did a great job here for years. This was not the rebuilding project that Daboll inherited. O’Connell has really reenergized this Culture in the way McVay did with the Rams.

DC Donatell has a somewhat conservative 4-3 background, but of late is all Fangio. Thus a 3-4 / 2-4 Hybrid w/ mixed Coverage and some surprise Pressure. Because of his talented edge rushers, many times a 4m rush is all it takes, which is helpful to his younger secondary.

Momentum + Injuries

Both teams were pretty injury free compared to a lot of teams this year, but were hit hard to some degree in the 2nd Half of the Season.

The Giants young bookend Ts were banged up some as was Barkley, though he didn’t miss much time. Adoree Jackson’s ankle issues have left a hole at CB, while FS McKinney – so important to Wink’s D – missed a lot of time w/ a freak off-field injury and the D Stats for the Giants took a real hit.

The Vikings were hit on their OLine and DBackfield. Losing CB Dantzler was especially tough as he made a great tandem w/ Peterson.

Also, the Giants played in the tough NFC East and it caught up with them late. Minnesota won so many emotional close games that also caught up to them some late in the year.

The Giants didn’t need their last game and easily could have ended 10-6-1, which is about what I expected at the start of the year. Minnesota was 13-4. I definitely didn’t expect that.

Week 16 – Giants at Vikings

These two played a great game back on Christmas Eve Day w/ the Vikings of course pulling out a thriller once again.

The Vikes Passing Game against the beat up Giants Secondary was strong and set up runs by Cook. But the new found Passing Game of the Giants also came through big and set up a TD Burst late by Barkley.

Jones really looked like the leader many thought he could be and got the 2pt conversion to tie the game, but the Vikings won on a 61 yd FG by a one journey kicker Joseph!! Typical magic of the Vikings this year.

There was also a 1st Half Fumble on a good drive by the Giants and a 2nd Half Peterson Interception with the Giants driving for a score late in the game! Plus an Interception overturned against the Giants and a crazy TD pass to Hockenson late w/ Giants all around!

The Vikings let down badly the next week but recovered in their last game in one of only 2 comfortable wins on the year.

The Giants to their credit played strong the following week – again w/ a strong passing game – and then used backups in their last meaningless game.

Prediction – Vikings (Giants w/ the points)

I am all for the Giants. I believe Daboll is really building something solid that will be in contention for years. He’s bringing this great franchise back to relevance!

But the Vikings are more mature with more veteran leadership. Cousins has been great all year. JJ on fire. And they are in the Dome again!

One thing that may work in the Giants favor is the Injuries. The Vikings DBs are still dinged w/ both Smith and Dantzler ?s. Their RT O’Neil is out for the year, though C Bradbury should be back. They may also be missing their dynamic KR Nwangwu.

The Giants are relatively healthy and should have Adoree Jackson and Xavier McKinney back! This would be huge for a secondary that was shredded in the last game. Plus, I would usually take their Kicker Gano – a solid long time vet – over Joseph in a close game. In most years!

Has the Vikings luck finally run out? Especially now that Jones is more a leader and now has a pass game to go with the strong run game. I would feel a stronger yes if this was being played in NY.

We just saw this with TCU in the CFootball Playoffs. When the Vikings “steam” runs out it may be ugly – in fact we already saw some ugly games from them this year – but until then, if they show up and play strong as they have all year, this will be one tough team to finish off.

Ravens at Bengals

Like the first game of the Day – a rivalry ruined by a top QB not playing. In both cases it’s the away underdog, which makes it worse.

The Dolphins/Bills played two very competitive games during the regular season as did the Ravens/Bengals, but like the first game, this one may not be so competitive.

Talent

I feel that John Harbaugh is in the same position Pete Carroll was in a short time ago. He had to do something about a talented, but old fading team. Carroll has done a great job of transforming his personnel. Harbaugh is getting there.

The Ravens have good depth at every position except WR. A lot of good young talent that has started to make it’s mark. Rookie C Linderbaum & RB Dobbins. DLineman Jones & Madubuike. LBs Smith, Queen, Harrison, Ojabo and Oweh. DBs Stephens, Stone, DWilliams & Hamilton.

The Vets on D leading these youngsters are DL Campbell, LBs Houston & Pierre-Paul, DBs Humphrey, Peters & MWilliams. On O it’s TE Andrews, Olineman Stanley & Zeitler and of course QB Jackson.

Marcus Williams was a big off-season acquisition (CB Fuller). LB Roquan Smith was a big acquisition at mid-season and had a lot to do with the Defensive turnaround. CB Worley is a stop-gap pick up due to all the DB attrition.

Young WRs Bateman and Duvernay appeared ready to take over and improve the passing game, but never really took off. Both were then lost for the year due to injury. Sammy Watkins hasn’t looked the same since he left KC and is a desperation pick up at this point.

The Bengals skill players need no introduction. TE Hurst was a big off-season acquisition. Trenton Irwin has come on as a 4th WR.

The big change was with the OLine. The acquisitions of C/RG/RT Karras/Cappa/Collins eventually solidified a decent line for the Bengals pass and run game. LG Volson has been a solid rookie starter after early year struggles and LT Jonah Williams continues to play strong as the only holdover.

Coaches

The Bengals have an exciting staff, while Harbaugh may need some changes soon.

Zac Taylor runs a more “experimental” type of McVay Offense w/ a mix of different coaches from different backgrounds on his staff. I saw more of a Tempo and Spread Quick Game mix from Taylor than last year – starting with the first game of the year. (Podcast link above)

Anarumo has his buddy James Bettcher with him this year and threw in even more pressure to go along with his tricky coverage mix.

The Bengals are the first playoff team I’ve covered who runs a 4-3 base, but in reality it’s more of a 4-3/3-4/2-4 Hybrid. Pretty much like every other NFL Defense.

Harbaugh runs a power heavy PS Pro with Greg Roman as his OC. This scheme works with Jackson as their QB, but needs more Spread. Unlike his bro, John is open to more Spread Pass (remember Flacco), but just hasn’t gotten it done of late.

On D, Mike Macdonald is a Ravens guy all the way. The Psycho D started by Rex Ryan long ago continues in Baltimore. A lot of big edge rushers and DBs in both pressure & coverage mix.

Maybe due to all the injuries early on, Macdonald called conservative games. After the big trade for LB Smith and with a lot of players back on D, Macdonald showed a lot more of those Psycho Calls Baltimore fans have been accustomed to seeing.

Momentum + Injuries

The Bengals looked like a .500 team during the first half of the year but have been undefeated in the second half. Tweaks on both Offense and Defense and two tough losses to start the year.

Especially the crazy improbable first game with the Steelers where they lost their snapper and missed an Extra Pt and FGs because of it that would have won the game more than once.

Their skill guys, Chase, Higgins and Mixon were banged up during the year as well, but once they were healthy and the new OLine was integrated, the Bengals O took off!

Unfortunately, the Bengals have lost the right side of the OLine late in the year and also their star CB even earlier than that. These injuries could be the one thing that holds them from getting back to the SB.

The Ravens vets healed – they picked up LB Smith mid-season – and they started to roll a bit. But then Jackson and Dobbins went down – along with their WRs – and the Offense struggled.

All the talk is rightfully focused on Jackson’s continued absence, but the rest of the team looks about as healthy as it’s been all year! They are still missing their QB and starting WRs, but at least the Defense looks strong as does the Run Game.

Bengals / Ravens – Regular Season

The last game of the regular season looked totally different than the first game played in the first half of the year.

The Bengals Morale is flying high! This team is rolling into the playoffs on a high, regardless of the injuries.

Joe Burrow – who I’ve watched since his HS Tapes and Spring Ball at OSU – looks the best I’ve ever seen from him. His reads and “eyes” are better than last year and earlier this year. He seems more confident pre-snap of where to go with the ball. His Buddy Ball mentality and toughness under pressure remains top end!

Adeniji seems solid at RT, but I have no idea yet about Scharping under pressure at RG. 2nd Rd Pick, CBTaylor-Britt, has talent but was burned a lot in that last game.

The Ravens look much better with LB Smith and Edge Rusher Ojabo joining Houston, Queen, Pierre-Paul, Oweh and Harrison to wreck havoc from the psycho D!

MWilliams & Clark are a strong S tandem, but they need CB Peters to play and play well as compliment to Pro Bowler Humphrey. Neither one will be able to stop WR Chase w/o help in a Zone Bracket Match D.

NBs Damarion Williams and Kyle Hamilton – both rookies – could really help out as long as they aren’t isolated in m2m too often.

Third String QB Brown was ok – but obviously very inexperienced. Second String Huntley is supposed to play. He has a shoulder injury and is a lot smaller than Jackson. The QB in this Offense HAS to run, because of a lack of the deep threats downfield. Brown may play either way.

Prediction – Bengals (Ravens w/ pts late TD)

I don’t think the Bengals Injuries on the Oline and at CB will be enough to lose this game. I’m not sure about the next one.

Obviously Jackson is a huge miss for the Ravens. I don’t see how they will be able to generate consistent Offense. Especially w/ a make shift WR Corp.

Due to the Bengals OLine woes and all those Psycho Edge Rushers the Ravens now have, the D may hold Burrow in check initially.

In the end, the Bengals Morale is just too good right now – at home – even if Burrow is pressured. I think Mixon may break a couple and Taylor and co. will have some cool schemes up their sleeve to help out Burrow.

Baltimore still has a tough Culture and will fight in this rivalry game!

If Baltimore manages to stay close all the way, I again have to give the edge to a clutch and now experienced Bengals Team over this transitioning Ravens team with their leader on the sidelines.

~PS

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