What we can learn from the divisional games

From Cincy:

  • Coaches can improve. Zach Taylor and Lou Anarumo were widely pilloried in the early part of their careers and rightly so, but they’ve improved dramatically over the past few years, culminating in the master class against Buffalo.

From Buffalo:

  • Evaluation matters. The Bills spent a lot of draft capital on their DL and none of them are impactful. Greg Rousseau (1st), Boogie Basham (2nd) and A.J. Epenesa (2nd) all failed to show up against yesterday and Cincy’s makeshift OL made them pay. Now they produced more when Von Miller was around to take the focus of the opponents’ OL (which is probably why Buffalo brought him in to begin with), but as soon as he went down they were cooked. Also Ed Oliver, while a force as a pass-rusher, is too easily moved aside in the run game (Calijah Kancey concerns?).
  • Running game matters. The Bills have thrown plenty of resources at RB, a 2nd rounder (James Cook) and two 3rds (Devin Singletary, Zach Moss). But for all of that they’re one of the worst rushing teams in the league. Part of it is commitment, but the bigger part is their OL, who just don’t create much push in the run game.
  • A passing attack that relies on explosive plays can be schemed away. At times a QB has to take what the defense gives them, but can anyone imagine Allen doing it? Nickel-and-diming his team down the field? Brady does it, Burrow does it, even Mahomes does it when he needs to. Allen is danger of falling into the Russ Wilson, Aaron Rodgers pre-LaFleur hero ball approach, and teams know how to beat that in the playoffs.

From KC:

  • A running game can be cobbled together from spare parts. Isaiah Pacheco is a 7th round rookie and Jerick McKinnon was picked up off the scrap heap, and yet they’re one of the most successful duos in the league. Sure having Mahomes helps immensely, but our awesome OL and pass offense should help our RBs immensely too.
  • A monster in the middle of the defense is a force multiplier. There’s not a lot of Chris Jones’s out there, but man could we use one. He affects everything the opposing offense wants to do and the rest of their D benefits. Maybe a trade up for Carter isn’t an awful idea.

From Jax:

  • It’s better to be lucky than good. Seriously, same record as us, easier schedule, plus we absolutely crushed them like a month ago, and yet they’re still playing? If only we’d been in the NFC South, we could have beat Dallas.

From Philly:

  • If you believe in your evaluation, it’s never wrong to draft a QB. Everyone forgets how silly everyone thought the Eagles were when they drafted Hurts. Wentz was a year removed from an MVP season, had come back strong and looked like the future. Now maybe they knew something we didn’t, but it was still a bold move with a valuable pick. And it’s paid off in spades.
  • The value of depth on the DL. No one rotates up front as much as the Eagles and it keeps them fresh through the game and allows them to weather an injury better than most (as they did recently with Josh Sweat).

From NYG:

  • Passing game matters. Sort of the inverse of Buffalo, a team who can’t throw the ball with any consistency is doomed. Our staff knows this, but it’s a reminder to everyone who wants to recreate the Titans (not as much of an issue now as it was last offseason). Without a passing game you become one-dimensional, and one-dimensionality is the bane of any offense.

From SF:

  • The importance of continuity. When Shanahan lost Rich Scangarello, he promoted Mike McDaniel. When he lost McDaniel, he promoted Bobby Slowik. When he lost Robert Saleh, he promoted DeMeco Ryans. And I suspect when he loses Ryans this offseason, he’ll promote from within as well. In an ideal world, that’s the way a team should operate. Reward your own coaches. Keep your players comfortable with guys they already know.
  • Have contingencies for your best laid plans. The 49ers wanted to get away from Garropolo so much they traded 3 first rounders for Trey Lance. Things haven’t worked out. But they wisely brought Jimmy G back just in case, then they drafted another QB. We all know who that is. If Brad decides to take a punt on QB this year or next, he would be wise to do the same.
  • Clutch kickers win games in the playoffs. I can’t believe the Bears let Gould get away.

From Dallas:

  • Paying RBs is stupid. I was really hoping they’d make the same mistake with Pollard, but they may have dodged a bullet with his injury.
  • McCarthy sucks. I guess most of us already knew that.



Good stuff.


I like some of the lessons but at same time others are harsh.
Eagles ran away from Dallas to win division but not by much.

How much changes if Dallas is at home ?

Pollard got injured. That would effect a close game and a running back off scrap heap wouldn’t be expected to do what pollard was doing

Dak gets ripped by Dan o for not hitting TY for the walk in touch down
Because he threw a pass to his all pro wide out that hit his hands …

Dallas kicker woes had not too much to do with running back

Bills game , also kinda flukes my weather We might expect bills to be better but game turned quick making it a bit of a funky game. We saw weather impact lions but might think in a rematch lions would handle panthers better.

It’s interesting because a case could be made these other coaches eliminated or who don’t win Super Bowl suck like McCarthy due to squandered opportunity.

How hard is it to win if you have josh Allen ?
Or Burrow on a rookie deal ? Or mahommes on rookie deal than a paid deal ?
A Bosa on a rookie deal ?

mccarthy Wasted opportunity with Aaron and Dak yet Bills coach is wasting Allen ?

To me it seems like coaching and vision matter so much these days
And draft makes it a coach needs to adapt because you can’t be sure
You won’t draft a Houston on the 6th
But when you do
You gotta play him

Single game elimination in playoffs mean it could be any ones Sunday

True but there are still plenty of lessons to be learned. And most of them could be seen coming beforehand. The Bills lack of a running game and mediocre OL, for instance.

I admit by the time I got to Dallas I mailed it in a little. I don’t think Dak sucks like a lot of people but he’s maddeningly inconsistent. And overpaying at RB has been a problem for them 2 years, not only this game.

I never said the Bills coach was wasting Allen. I’m saying the design of their offense makes them easier to scheme against in the playoffs. Sometimes Allen is so good it doesn’t matter, as he was against KC last year. But sometimes it does.

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I agree w/most of this stuff & appreciate the time & effort that went into it.

Lions will crush the field, next post season.
SF & Philly have a chance to keep us out of the SB.
Everyone else is toast.

Cinci is more physically tough than I thought, & I won’t be even remotely surprised if they beat KC (rooting for them to do exactly that)

Also – Josh Allen is awesome

Home field advantage is important. Well built teams like Cincy can win in the road but it sure is a huge advantage to play at home. We can’t start slow and blow winnable games. That’s a major reason we haven’t won a playoff game in 30 years. If we play Dallas at home in 2014 we win.

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What I learned is Josh Allen is overrated and Dak is average. Great thing they have a team around them to make them competitive, however neither are put the the team on their back guys

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They just need everything to be perfect around them. It’s a thing these days

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If Ragnow’s foot is still a problem next year, Ezekiel Elliott is not a viable replacement.


Allen can, he did it last year against KC, that was one of the best performances by a QB I’ve ever seen, he put the whole team on his back. But he’s mistake-prone too like Russ, Favre and Erin. He taketh and giveth away.


Great post. I’d add one more lesson from the Bills/Bengals game: there are intangible benefits to effectively running the ball that go beyond the yardage. It’s gotta be really demoralizing for a defense when they can’t stop the run, and a huge confidence boost for the offense. In a playoff game, especially outside in bad weather, I’d think that’s amplified even more. From Cincinnati’s first drive, when they were reeling off 5-6 yard chunk plays up the middle, you could tell Buffalo was in trouble.

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Might add that:

“Kellen Moore is no play calling genus” if indeed he made that last play call. Tough thing to defend during any upcoming interviews for head coach;)

Yes, great point! It’s why a good running game will never go away in the NFL. Football is a tough man’s sport, and there’s no better way to impose your will than dominating in the run. We can all disagree about how we arrive at that great running game, but I think we can all agree that it’s necessary.

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I think he’s probably a little overrated, but that Niner D is capable of making even the best offenses look silly, especially now that they’re healthy. Really interested to see how the Eagles fare against them next week.

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Ok, i agree with this, but am also a bit confused. It’s exactly why im good with Bijan in the 1st or maybe Gibbs in the 2nd. You pay more for an avg fagent, resigning Williams will cost more per yr than Bijan in the 1st.

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I was thinking just more for discussion because I do agree with you

Also often the weakness of team if a theme throughout regular season , shows up in a close playoff game. The weather was bad for buffalo and my point was the start also helped throw game off a bit.
Not many saw Cincy oline is being that good. Many have said , they’ve neglected oline so if they lose , that’ll be a lesson too.

The bills secondary was dropping like flies which is another consideration of how their team was exploited

I liked when Caldwell said , throwing backhand shade at Patricia , that he felt the team he got hired to was his team. He couldn’t just wait for his guys so had to adapt to the talent on hand. Now he may not have been great but that seems like a lesson in nfl where injuries turn strength to weakness yet most games are still close.

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I should have said paying RBs top-of-the-market money is stupid.

The RB value question is more about relative savings. The cost discrepancy between paying rookies at high value positions is far greater than the discrepancy between low value positions, allowing for more flexibility with roster building.

Running back is one of the lowest paid positions in football, coming in behind kicker and above only punter and long-snapper. So while Williams might get some decent offers, I don’t think they’ll be for too much. Not at his age. Probably right around what Bijan would make. Robinson’s a much better player with a much higher ceiling, but he also costs a premium pick on top of what we’d have to pay him. Williams doesn’t.

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Certainly injuries play a part in every game and can greatly affect it one way or the other, but the Bills were as healthy in their secondary as they’d been all season for this game.

You’re right about the Cincy OL, but that goes back to my point about evaluation. Some of those guys took their lumps adjusting to the pro game, but the Bengals believed in their evaluation and they were proved right, at least for one game.


I think Ben and Dan have a plan with the offense. And in my mind it’s creative, explosive and innovative. Positional value aside, I’d be stoked if we draft Bijan, because it means they have a specific idea how he fits into the offense.

Long gone are the days where we draft Calhoun because…we’ll just because

For me a perfect first round is Bijan and Gonzales. Then get a space eating two gap DT in the second and a high end C/G to plug in beside Sewell