Rams bully Cardinals in Monday Night playoff game

Kyler Murray INT vs Rams in playoffs 2022

The NFL continues to cash in, now adding a Monday night playoff game to its annual bundle of playoff goodies.

The game wasn’t very competitive, however, as the Los Angeles Rams bullied Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals. I suggested laying the points in this one and it was pretty much over in the first half.

Murray was a mess the entire game, making one wonder the extent to which he’s still feeling the effects of his ankle injury. We didn’t see the explosive running, but being banged up is reality in the NFL, particularly for quarterbacks who run around. Murray has been playing hero ball all season, and it caught up to him big time last night. The low point was an embarrassing interception where Murray just flung the ball to avoid a sack, leading to an easy pick-six for the Rams.

Meanwhile, Matthew Stafford earned his first playoff victory and Cam Akers returned to spark the Rams running game. The Rams travel to Tampa for a date with Tom Brady and the reigning Super Bowl champs. That one should be fun . . .

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Packers and Chiefs favored to meet in the Super Bowl as NFL playoffs commence

NFL futures january 2022

The NFL playoffs kick off today with the Las Vegas Raiders visiting Cincinnati in the opening game. Playoff weekend extends through Monday night as the NFL pushes to continue its dominance on television and maximize ratings.

As we start the payoffs, NFL futures have the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs as the favorites to meet in the Super Bowl as you can see above. Both teams are playing great football and a matchup of these two squads would probably give us a great Super Bowl, though we all know the NFL playoffs rarely work out that way. This is what makes the NFL great.

Here’s a quick look at the NFL lines for the playoff games:

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Browns answer critics and run over Ravens

The Baltimore Ravens started the season against the Miami Dolphins, easily one of the worst teams in NFL history. Then they played the woeful Arizona Cardinals. After easy wins, naturally many in the press jumped to the conclusion that the Ravens were one of the best teams in the NFL. Oh, and suddenly Lamar Jackson was a cut below Patrick Mahomes.

Meanwhile, the Cleveland Browns had plenty of hype coming into the season, and many in the pressed relished watching them struggle in their opener and then suffer some horrible play calls from Freddie Kitchens last week against the Rams. Many loved mocking Baker Mayfield for his slow start.

This poll from last week summed up the silliness we’ve been hearing. Lamar Jackson is a very talented player with a unique skill set, but there’s no way you take him over Baker Mayfield.

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Cards top Packers in wild one

The NFL delivered another wild playoff game last night, as the Cardinals salvaged an overtime win after blowing it in regulation.

I’m a huge fan of Bruce Arians as a had coach, but some of his aggressive calls on offense and defense late in the game almost blew up in his face. On their past possession in regulation, the Cards had an opportunity to run out a good chunk of the remaining clock by running the ball, but he he had Carson Palmer try a difficult pass up the sideline to Larry Fitzgerald in an attempt to seal the game, but that incompletion gave Aaron Rodgers enough time to launch the game-tying Hail Mary. On that incredible play, Arians chose to go with a blitz as opposed to stacking defenders in the end zone, and that cost him as well.

In overtime, Palmer redeemed himself after some shaky play in regulation with an incredible throw across his body to Fitzgerald after scrambling away from pressure, and Fitzgerald rumbled all the way to the 5 yard line to set up the game-winning score.

This is just one of the many wild playoff games the NFL has produced this season and in recent years. The league has some issues, including the overall quality of play during the regular season, but many these playoff games have been incredible.

NFL Preseason Week 3 Observations: Rex, sleeper contenders & more

+ At this point it would be an upset if Rex Ryan wasn’t handed his pink slip before the end of the regular season. What he did Saturday night in New York was a joke, inserting his starting quarterback Mark Sanchez into a game that didn’t matter and watching him get planted by Marvin Austin. The result was rather Jets-like: Sanchez was injured and now Ryan will likely be forced to play rookie Geno Smith Week 1. (And that isn’t a good thing, as Smith looked completely overwhelmed in a disastrous performance on Saturday.) What was it all for? Apparently the annual “Snoopy Trophy,” which is handed to the winner of the Jets-Giants preseason game. Ryan and the Jets have progressively gotten worse every year he’s been head coach. He doesn’t have a handle on how to manage quarterbacks, he hires overmatched assistants, and no offensive player has show improvement under his guidance. He should go back to doing what he does best: Coordinate defenses.

+ Don’t fall asleep on the Lions this year. The interior of their defensive line is going to cause headaches for opposing quarterbacks and Jason Jones might turn out to be one of the more underrated signings of the offseason. He had his way with New England right tackle Sebastian Vollmer on multiple plays last Thursday.

+ Speaking of the Lions, they’ve been searching for years for a complementary piece for Calvin Johnson and they may have finally found that weapon in Reggie Bush. He remains a home run threat when he gets the ball in his hands, which Detroit plans on doing plenty of this season. While he still tries to bounce too many runs outside at times, he’s difficult to tackle in open space and the guy has the ability to take a screen pass 60-plus yards in the blink of an eye. He provides the Lions offense with an element they haven’t had since they drafted Johnson in 2007.

+ The Patriots’ passing game will be fine as long as Tom Brady is still under center. He has the rare ability to put the ball in places only his receivers can catch it, including when said wideout otherwise blanketed in coverage. That said, it’ll be interesting to see how much growing pains Brady’s new weapons will go through this season. Kenbrell Thompkins scorched Detroit for eight catches and 116 yards, but he also dropped a pass on a potential first down in the first half and fellow rookie Aaron Dobson needs to play with more physicality. While they should win the AFC East with relative ease, it’s fair to wonder whether or not this new receiving corps will hold the Patriots back this season.

+ Halfway through the first quarter of the Falcons-Titans game I was ready to write about how Atlanta’s reshaped offensive line won’t be as big of a problem as some believe. Then came Tennessee’s five sacks and the police report that Matt Ryan filed on RT Lamar Holmes for the abuse he suffered in the second quarter. The run-blocking was good for a second consecutive week, but pass protection could be a recurring issue for a team that has Super Bowl aspirations heading into Week 1.

+ While new OC Dowell Loggains would be wise to lean on Chris Johnson this season, Jake Locker has improved as a pocket passer. He threw a couple of frozen ropes in his 133-yard, one-touchdown performance on Saturday night versus the Falcons. He remains most effective when he can use play-action, deception and mobility to free up receivers, but his confidence is growing in the pocket. He specifically looked good during a second quarter drive that resulted in him completing all three of his pass attempts for 41 yards and a touchdown strike to Nate Washington off a play-action fake.

+ Opponents will find it difficult to run against the likes of Haloti Ngata, Arthur Jones and Terrence Cody in Baltimore. Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil will also continue to be headaches for opposing quarterbacks from a pass-rush standpoint, and getting cornerback Lardarius Webb back from injury will benefit the secondary greatly. The Ravens lost a ton of leadership and experience when Ray Lewis retired and Ed Reed left for Houston via free agency. But from an overall talent perspective, they didn’t suffer much of a drop off and this idea that Baltimore will ultimately sink to the bottom of the AFC North is an overreaction to the losses they experienced this offseason.

+ Luke Kuechly is going to keep plenty of offensive coordinators up at night. Last Thursday he forced a fumble on a perfectly timed read in Baltimore’s backfield, intercepted Joe Flacco in the red zone, and damn near decapitated Aaron Mellette when the receiver went over the middle (which led to a penalty). He plays like a man possessed and he’s seemingly involved in every defensive play Carolina makes. He’s the exception to the current notion that teams should wait to draft linebackers in the middle rounds.

+ The biggest reason the Seahawks will survive Percy Harvin’s injury is because they have a fantastic stable of backs, led by Marshawn Lynch. The trio of Lynch, Robert Turbin and Christine Michael is the best in the NFL and each runner brings something different to the table. Lynch is a bruiser but he’s also versatile in that he can change directions quickly and explode through open lanes. Turbin is more of a plodder but like Lynch, it’s difficult to bring him down on first contact and Michael’s speed and quickness complements the other backs’ styles. Toss in Russell Wilson’s running ability and Seattle’s backfield will once again be a headache for opposing defenses.

+ While nobody will argue that the Cardinals are an improved team, they’re still going to struggle offensively this year. Carson Palmer is a significant upgrade over the signal-callers that Arizona trotted out last year but he’ll have no running game to lean on and he’s likely to face as much pressure as Kevin Kolb and Co. did a year ago. Losing Jonathan Cooper to a potentially season-ending fibula injury was a crushing blow.

+ Some are expecting a massive rebound from the Saints this year and given how much explosion they have offensively, it wouldn’t be shocking to see them atop the NFC South again. That said, they better average 30-plus points a game because the defense is liable to give up 40 on a given Sunday. Former first-round pick Cameron Jordan is emerging as a stud but the Saints are going to need more than him and newly acquired Parys Haralson to drum up a pass rush. Matt Schaub did a nice job of getting the ball out of his hand quickly on Sunday but there were a handful of times when he had all day to allow his receivers to find openings in the Saints’ zone. The first-string wasn’t much better on run defense for New Orleans, which allowed Ben Tate to gash them for 6.7 yards per carry. Rob Ryan is a creative playcaller but he simply doesn’t have the manpower to keep top offenses in check.

+ Rams fans had to be encouraged that four of their offseason additions made impacts on Saturday versus the Broncos. While rookie LB Alec Ogletree continues to struggle getting off blocks, he caused a fumble of Ronnie Hillman, recovered the ball and ran it into the end zone for a touchdown early in the contest. Then later he got excellent depth in coverage and intercepted one of Peyton Manning’s passes down the seam, then nearly had another pick of Manning in the end zone. Fellow rookies Tavon Austin (81-yard punt return) and T.J. McDonald (blocked field goal) also made impacts, as did tight end Jared Cook (4 catches, 50 yards, 1 TD), who could be in store for a breakout season. Throw in another stellar performance by a motivated Jake Long and St. Louis’ collective 2013 offseason had quite a night.

+ There’s little to suggest that Christian Ponder will start all 16 games for the Vikings this season. Thus far, he’s completed 62.2 percent of his passes but his 4.97 YPA average paints a much clearer picture of his abilities. While his mobility is a plus, his slightly above-average arm will continue to hold Minnesota’s offense back. If Adrian Peterson doesn’t rush for another 2,000-plus yards, the Vikings are a horrible bet to make back-to-back playoff appearances.

+ The Bills need to resist the temptation of rushing E.J. Manuel back to the field. He’s their franchise signal-caller and while Week 1 will be an ass-kicking that Jeff Tuel has yet to endure, Doug Marrone and his coaching staff need to keep their eyes on the future. Heading into a season where they’ll be fortunate to win four games, it makes no sense risking further injury to Manuel in hopes of receiving less of a beat-down from New England in the opening week.

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