The NFL regular season is over. No need for RedZone, or multiple televisions set up in the den to properly enjoy football. There is a single matchup remaining on the college football calendar, and the NFL will play out one game at a time over the next five weeks — along with a flag football and a skills contest in Las Vegas
New Year’s Day has passed, which means there are very few football games left on the calendar until September. However, the ones remaining are some of the most important on the entire sports calendar. March Madness style. Game 7s all around.
That’s where the 2022 football season is now. Georgia and TCU will play for a title on Monday night, but once the weekend arrives the pros begin their single elimination tournament.
As always, there were enough backups projected to take the field in Week 18 that the championship game in most of your fantasy leagues was last weekend. I enjoyed the irony of a game-breaking mistake from the Indianapolis Colts actually hurting the victorious Houston Texans, but it’s largely known which teams have the best shot at hoisting the Lombardi trophy come Feb. 12.
However, even the best are not perfect, so let’s explore some of the imperfections they must overcome for ultimate victory,
Is the Kansas City Chiefs’ roster strong enough?
The Kansas City Chiefs decided to drop the weight of the entire franchise on Patrick Mahomes’ shoulders, and did so at a bargain price when looking at the quarterback contracts signed this past offseason. When you win an MVP in your first season as a starter, a championship the next one, all while tallying fever-dream statistics, management is going to put an “you” in team.
With that faith in Mahomes, the Chiefs refused to make Tyreek Hill the highest paid wide receiver in the NFL. Instead, they brought in Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Juju Smith-Schuster to help shoulder the load. They combined for 182 receptions, but neither totaled 1,000 receiving yards. Also, a defense that was top-15 in weighted DVOA last season has tumbled to 20th.
Even if Mahomes is the best player in the NFL, there are 22 people on the field at all times in this sport. He will need several players in all phases of the game to make crucial plays. If not, a new round of Jake from State Farm commercials might be getting filmed early.
Can the Buffalo Bills win it all with Josh Allen as their quarterback and best rusher?
All season long, the Bills have struggled running to establish a running game. It’s not as if Devin Singletary and James Cook have been ineffective, but much of their success can be attributed to Josh Allen’s performance on the ground. He has carried the ball 124 times, and is leading the Bills in rushing touchdowns and yards per carry.
That could be why shades of the old ill-advised, football launching, Allen have made some appearances in the second half of the season. An offense not having a complete backfield is a problem. An offense that relies on their quarterback to shoulder the burden of both the running and passing game is too much for even the best to handle.
Fortunately, for the Bills, they have some dependable pass catchers, but if Allen has to carry the ball nearly 20 times and still make all the throws, it could be too much to ask.
Have the San Francisco 49ers built the 2000 Baltimore Ravens 2.0?
A rookie who didn’t practice as a starter until Week 14, and also was the absolute last pick of the draft. It would be logical to believe that anything that the 49ers would get out of third-string Brock Purdy should be considered found money.
In that case, the 49ers are swimming in loot like Scrooge McDuck, and Joe Lacob and the Golden State Warriors because they have not lost a game with Purdy as their QB 1. They didn’t even lose the game in which he was forced into action for an injured Jimmy Garoppolo.
Purdy has averaged more than eight yards per attempt in all five of his starts, and now the whole cavalry is back. Deebo Samuel and Elijah Mitchell both played in the 49ers’ Week 18 38-13 victory against the Arizona Cardinals. Combine them with Christian McCaffrey, George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk, Trent Williams, and the best defense in the playoffs, Tony Banks and Trent Dilfer could only wish they had it so good.
Still though, a seventh-round rookie who didn’t start until after Thanksgiving is going to have the ball in his hands on every offensive play for the 49ers in the NFL playoffs. Currently, his most notable postseason success is a Fiesta Bowl MVP he received after throwing for 159 yards and a single touchdown while Breece Hall ran the ball 34 times.
Are the Philadelphia Eagles ready to put last year behind them?
Lane Johnson is going to tough it out. He is going to delay surgery on his torn adductor and give the Eagles all he’s got in the postseason.
That’s great news for the No. 1 team in the NFC. With Jalen Hurts also managing pain in his throwing shoulder, they need the wall in front of him to be as sturdy as possible. They will all get another week to heal up after earning a bye week before they attempt to erase all memory of last postseason.
It’s the only reason to question the Eagles. Against the vulnerable Tampa Bay Buccaneers they played worse than anyone could’ve predicted. The Buccaneers might as well have given them those 15 second-half points in a gift bag.
However, that Eagles team squeaked into the playoffs at 9-8. This year, Hurts is an MVP candidate, they added A.J. Brown, and might have a better roster than the one that won the Super Bowl in the 2017 season. The stage at State Farm Stadium and the Lombardi trophy are staring them in the face, as long as they don’t fall on theirs the way that they did in Tampa.
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