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14 takeaways from Super Wild Card Weekend

Here’s a whole mess of NFL thoughts from the playoff games on Super Wild Card Weekend.

NFC Wild Card Playoffs - New York Giants v Minnesota Vikings Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

You ever do a brain dump?

They’re very helpful. Sometimes the human brain gets overloaded with input, whether it be things read on the internet, internal thoughts and worries, stuff on your calendar, short and long-term goals, and one of the most useful ways to free your mind of all that clutter is to just grab a sheet of paper and write everything down that is on your mind.

In other words, dump everything out of your brain and onto some medium that allows you to look at it and organize it. It’s a decluttering, and it’s very helpful.

This weekend, we watched five mostly outstanding wild card games played over the course of two days. There is a lot to unpack, so much that I needed to do a Super Wild Card Weekend brain dump.

Here’s what I’ve got.

1) Daniel Jones is going to be a problem

Watching Jones and the Giants’ offense, led by offensive coordinator and soon-to-be head coach Mike Kafka (that Andy Reid tree ain’t getting pruned anytime soon) was like watching Jalen Hurts and the Birds’ offense. A lot of RPOs, Jones tucking and running for big chunk plays, and a highly efficient offense that was never really challenged throughout the game. Jones, in particular his legs, are going to be a problem. His stat line last night looked downright Hurtsian: 24-for-35, 301 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 17 rushes, 78 yards.

Jonathan Gannon needs to find ways to keep Jones contained in the pocket or else he’s going to give them a taste of their own Hurts-flavored medicine.

2) The Vikings defense was the worst in the NFL

As I mentioned above, the Giants’ offense was outstanding against Minnesota. The proof:

But it should be mentioned that the Giants did this against what is perhaps the worst defense in the NFL. Minnesota allowed 25.1 points per game this year, only two teams allowed more. Their 388.7 yards allowed per game was 2nd-worst, behind only the Lions, and their 38 sacks were 21st. The only reason Minnesota was able to win as many games as they did was due to their offense and a +2 turnover differential, which still isn’t all that great.

New York’s performance was unquestionably impressive, but they’ll face a stiffer task against the Eagles No. 1-ranked pass defense this Saturday.

3) Minnesota’s one-score record was unsustainable

The Vikings were 11-0 in one-score games. They lost their first one-score game yesterday. If only we could have seen this coming.

4) Beating a team three times in one year is NOT unusual

Some Eagles fans will be rubbing their face with worry over the prospect of beating the same team three times in one year. On the surface, it does seem like it would be harder to do. However, NFL history tells us different.

It is far more likely a team that has won the previous two match-ups earlier in the season will win that third game and sweep their divisional rival in the playoffs, as noted by Jeff Goldberg a year ago.

Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, there have now been 23 occasions of a team meeting for the third time after one team won the first two matchups. In those 23 playoff games, including Sunday, the “sweeping” team is 14-9. And the more recent the sweep scenario has played out, the better the results have been for the team going 3-0. The first such third meeting featuring a regular-season sweep was the 1982 Miami Dolphins beating the New York Jets in the AFC Championship Game.

But including the next seven sweep scenarios through 1994, the sweeping team was 4-4, with wins and losses alternating each of those eight years. Basically, three-game sweeps were as likely to occur as not.

But from 1994 to 2021, teams having beaten an opponent twice went on to complete the three-game sweep 10 times out of 15, a winning percentage of .667.

Goldberg’s article was written days ahead of the NFC Championship Game, when the Rams bucked the trend and defeated the 49ers on their home turf, averting the three-game sweep. That would make it 14-10 since the ‘70 merger and 10-6 since 1994, but then the 49ers finished off a three-game sweep of the Seahawks on Saturday, pushing those records to 15-10 and 11-6, respectively. Typically, as will be the case in Philadelphia Saturday night, the team looking for the sweep has the better regular season record and home field advantage in that third meeting, as was the case with San Francisco this year.

Let’s also consider the second game against the Giants a throwaway, given how vanilla the Birds’ offense was and New York was playing second and third-stringers. This will be the Eagles’ first opportunity to win a third game against a divisional opponent in the playoffs, although they were the victims of the Dallas Cowboys doing it in 2009 and, ironically, to the Giants in 2000.

5) Brock Purdy’s bubble may not burst

We keep waiting for Mr. Irrelevant to live up to his nickname, but it doesn’t appear to be happening. Purdy wasn’t good in the first half, but calmed down and allowed the amazing roster around him to make plays in the 2nd half, turning a tight contest against a game Seahawks team into a late rout. I’d still love to see how Purdy does in a playoff game on the road, but that won’t happen unless he gets to Philadelphia in two weeks. And that’s putting the cart before the horse. Still, the echoes of Tom Brady’s 2001 season are growing louder with each passing week.

6) The 49ers haven’t played anybody, either

Some complain about the Eagles’ schedule and note “they haven’t played anybody.” Well, during the current 49ers winning streak, now at 11 games after their 41-23 win over Seattle, it’s fair to note San Francisco hasn’t really played anybody either.

They’ve beaten the awful Rams, the Chargers, the Cardinals twice, the Saints, the Dolphins, the Bucs, the Seahawks twice, the Commanders and the Raiders. Sure, there are some playoff teams in there, with the Chargers and Justin Herbert their toughest opponent, but during that same stretch, the Eagles played the horrendous Texans, the Commanders (lost), the Colts, the Packers, the Titans, the Giants (twice), the Bears, and the Cowboys and Saints with Gardner Minshew. The Cowboys are better than the Chargers, and the Giants were the 6-seed and have reached the divisional round of the playoffs while Seattle was the 7-seed and lost to San Fran.

This isn’t to say the 49ers aren’t legitimately good, because they are, but it’s also fair to note they’ve faced about the same level of competition as the Eagles during their late-season blitz. Their play against Dallas and/or Philadelphia over these next two weeks would tell us a lot more.

7) Doug Pederson’s emotional intelligence is off the charts

Pederson is a great coach. Everyone in Philadelphia knows this. In his first year in Jacksonville, Pederson took the team with the worst record in football each of the last two years and got them to the divisional round of the playoffs. His play-calling and schemes coming back from a 27-0 deficit to win the third-biggest comeback in NFL history merely adds to his legend. But while he’s obviously a great X’s and O’s coach, he also is an emotionally intelligent person. You have to be, to know how to convince your players that you can come back from a 27-point deficit in a playoff game. There’s a psychology involved there that can’t be taught, and it’s clear Pederson’s ability to rally his teams from adversity is a skill, not luck.

8) We got Trevor Lawrence’s entire career in one game

Lawrence has played two seasons in the NFL so far. In the first half of his career, last year’s rookie season with Urban Meyer, he was a disaster. In his second season with Pederson, he became everyone thought he’d be coming out of college — a bona fide star. In the first half of Saturday night’s comeback, he threw four interceptions. After that, he threw four touchdowns.

That’s a ride.

9) Chargering is a thing

There are lists of the Chargers’ most heartbreaking playoff losses, and not even an all-world quarterback like Justin Herbert could save them from Brandon Staley’s incompetence and the historical anchor that tugs around that franchise’s neck. Saturday night’s collapse has to take the cake. Man.

10) What works for one didn’t work for the other

Trevor Lawrence saw something in how the Chargers’ defense was lining up for his two-point conversion that pulled Jacksonville to within two points late in the 4th quarter, keeping the ball and leaping over the top, the ball outstretched and over the goal line for the key two points that ultimately resulted in them winning the game.

Tyler Huntley tried doing the same thing with the Ravens driving for a go-ahead touchdown in their wild card game Sunday night. He had the ball knocked out of his hand and returned for a 98-yard touchdown, a 14-point swing that decided the Bengals’ victory.

Sports are the best, except when they’re the worst.

11) The worst two minutes by a good coach I’ve ever seen

John Harbaugh, Baltimore’s Super Bowl winning coach who could one day be in the Hall of Fame, had one of the worst two minutes I’ve ever seen a good coach conduct. He tried to explain why he continued to huddle under two minutes and his team outside the red zone, and why he called running plays with his team still down 7 and two timeouts left. It didn’t make any sense in the moment, and after his postgame explanations, it still doesn’t.

12) Josh Allen turned the clock back... in a bad way

The criticism of Buffalo’s star QB early in his career was his carelessness with the football and inability to reign himself in. The talent was never in question and, over the last two years, Allen has refined himself and his game to the point where, if he’s not the best QB in the league, he’s one of the three or four best. But on Sunday, Allen turned back the clock, and not in a great way.

After one of his interceptions, Allen tried to take out his aggravation and started a brawl.

Of course, Allen made a couple of ridiculous throws to put the Bills in a position to win, so you take the good with the bad when it comes to Captain Chaos.

13) No. 1 seeds historically have overwhelming success, but not last year

Worried about the Eagles this weekend? It’s understandable. The team has not looked all that great the last month, and there are real concerns about how well Jalen Hurts will play given his balky shoulder (although I believe they may be slow-playing it a bit to lull the Giants into thinking it’s worse than it is, but I digress). Take heart, No. 1 seeds in the playoffs are overwhelming favorites to win at least their first playoff game.

That’s right, the No. 1 seed has won their divisional round match-up just under 75% of the time since 1990. The first-round bye and home field advantage are not to be ignored, and it should be noted that the Eagles have NEVER lost a home divisional round playoff game, either as the No. 1 or No. 2 seed.

Of course, last year, BOTH No. 1 seeds, the Titans and Packers, lost their divisional round games at home, so that ain’t a great recent precedent, but it’s very unusual.

And while the Giants certainly looked good against Minnesota in their wild card win, virtually EVERY team that enters the divisional round off a wild card victory looks good. It’s hard to win a playoff game and, when a team wins in the wild card round, one can expect hand-wringing to begin.

Yes, the Giants played very well this weekend. The Eagles’ earlier victory in New York, when both teams were healthy, their first round bye and home field advantage are far greater advantages than the good vibes the Giants may be feeling after taking care of the Vikings.

14) Rooting for Dallas over Tampa?

As for tonight’s game between Dak Prescott and the Cowboys versus Tom Brady and the Bucs, who does one root for?

Obviously, Eagles fans aren’t rooting for either opponent. Everyone hates Tom Brady and everyone also hates the Cowboys. It’s villain vs. villain, and that makes for compelling TV.

The reasons to root against the Cowboys are obvious. First, you want to see Cowboys fans in pain. You want to see their recent, decades-long run of failure in the postseason continue, and the Bucs are a much worse team than Dallas. As an Eagles fan, you’d rather play them in the NFC Championship Game than the Cowboys, if your ultimate goal is to reach the Super Bowl.

The reasons to root against Tampa is to watch Tom Brady’s season crumble in front of him, and because, if Dallas wins, the Cowboys would be a tougher match-up against San Francisco in the divisional round. If you deem the 49ers to be a bigger threat than Dallas (which I do), then it would make more sense to root for Dallas to beat Brady and then pull off the upset against the 49ers next week, setting up a Dallas vs. Philadelphia NFC title game that would absolutely blow the roof off Lincoln Financial Field.

Pick your poison, Eagles fans.

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