Hey, it’s Moneyline Mo, the man in the know, hoping you listened to me last week because I went 6-0. Now, I know I can’t gloat too much because I took five favorites and a popular underdog. Plus, only two of the games actually ended up being competitive. Regardless of how it happened, it was a still a perfect round of the playoffs for yours truly. Would I trade my undefeated week in exchange for more competitive games? The football fan in me absolutely would have preferred that, but the man in the know in me wouldn’t want anything less. I think we can all agree, the best-case scenario for this weekend is that I remain undefeated, but hopefully in a more compelling way.
Now, as a Green Bay fan, it was great to enjoy a stress-free round of the playoffs, but now I’m hoping for three rounds of feeling anxious, pacing and panicking while rooting for my team. It’s one of the great contradictions of my life, I love playoff football and I love rooting for Green Bay but watching Green Bay in the playoffs typically makes me miserable. But once again, here we are and, in my heart, I know I’d want it no other way.
Before we dive in, I just want to give kudos to each of the playoff teams who, despite weeks of outbreaks across the league at the end of the regular season, all managed to avoid placing any players on the COVID-19 list this past week. I’m sure that all testing is being adhered to in the same manner as it was during the regular season and that there is nothing coincidental about or worth questioning about the lack of positive test results now that we are in the playoffs. Wouldn’t it be something if that trend continued for all participating playoff teams this week? Fingers crossed! Let’s get to this weekend’s divisional games.
TENNESSEE OVER CINCINNATI
Congratulations to Cincinnati on getting their first playoff victory in 31 years! It won’t be another 31 years before they get their next playoff win, but I don’t think it will be as soon as this week. They are definitely a team to watch over the next few seasons, but right now they kind of remind me of the Houston teams from the past decade that never made it past the second round of the playoffs. I’m not saying that will also be Cincinnati’s fate over the course of the 2020s, but I think they still need some seasoning before they take that next step. Now that they have a playoff win, that’s a huge part of the development of this young core and something to build on for the future. But like all those previous Houston teams, I don’t think they are ready at this point to make the leap into conference championship contention. I think this game will close, but I think Tennessee will ultimately be too much for them this game.
I’ve been banging the drum for Tennessee all year, so I’m pretty stunned at how forgotten they seem as the #1 seed in the conference. Even over the past week, I have not heard of offensive coordinator Todd Downing or defensive coordinator Shane Bowen interviewing for any of the head coach openings throughout the league. Both Matt LaFleur and Arthur Smith come from Mike Vrabel’s coaching tree, so I would think his current coordinators are also deserving of consideration coming off Vrabel’s best regular season as a head coach. Maybe this will all work to Tennessee’s advantage, though, because by not interviewing for another job, Downing and Bowen can be completely focused on this game.
You’ll never convince me that coordinators interviewing for head coaching positions doesn’t impact their work with their current teams. Any time I’ve interviewed for something, I’ve stressed about the interview itself for days before it takes place and then am a mess the day of. And unlike these coordinators, I haven’t ever been in an interview where I’m going for my dream job that I’ve worked my whole life towards. So, for these coordinators that have multiple interviews taking place, how can they possibly be fully dedicated to their game plan for the playoff game(s)? Sure, I know Cincinnati’s staff aren’t really interviewing elsewhere either, but I just think Tennessee is ready to roll for this game. And I can’t give up on the team I picked to win it all…at least not yet.
GREEN BAY OVER SAN FRANCISCO
Dallas botching the end of the game against San Francisco is about as good as it gets for me as a football fan. I don’t even know if a Green Bay championship this year will make me as happy as watching the team I’ve hated since I started watching football in the ’90s lose control of the clock and then have their fans throw garbage onto the field. We’re all winners after seeing “America’s Team” implode in such a spectacular fashion. If there’s been one thing that I’ve been consistent about throughout my columns all year, it’s that Dallas fans were not prepared for the Mike McCarthy playoff experience and that good ol’ Mike would find a way to lose in an excruciating way. Sunday’s loss to San Francisco checked those boxes, baby!
During his time in Green Bay, I always thought McCarthy needed a clock coordinator and that glaring flaw of his popped up again in the worst possible moment. Even if the quarterback run had worked, the thought process behind the play doesn’t make sense to me. I would absolutely take two shots at the end zone from the 40-yard line as opposed to a chance at taking one shot from the 25-yard line. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve rewatched that ending, but I love Jim Nantz right away thinking that Dallas is going to lose while Tony Romo initially believes they have enough time before letting out a “oh my gosh” as the ball isn’t snapped in time. And then, they both do 180s as Nantz thinks time might be put back on the clock but Romo insists the game is over. For the rest of my life, I’ll always smile thinking of that ending. On my tombstone, please etch a QR code linking to it.
did this seriously just happen pic.twitter.com/MmUk8E1XSL
— SB Nation (@SBNation) January 17, 2022
And so, now we have a Saturday night showdown between San Francisco and Green Bay. Typically, I have a bad feeling about Saturday night playoff games for Green Bay: 2002 against Atlanta, 2013 against San Francisco, 2015 against Arizona…those are all bad Saturday night divisional memories. Yeah, I know they’ve had a couple of playoff wins on Saturday nights over the past decade including 2012 against Atlanta, but I’ll always be leery of this time slot.
We’ll hear plenty about how Aaron Rodgers is winless against San Francisco in the playoffs and about how San Francisco could have drafted him first overall. Not that I love who Rodgers has become, but I think he’ll finally get his playoff victory over the team he’s used as motivation throughout his career. Listen, I think San Francisco is a heck of a team with some impressive weapons (I’m expecting a huge game from George Kittle in particular on Saturday night) and any other season, the realist in me would probably pick against Green Bay in this spot.
However, there is so much riding on this game (a loss to San Francisco sure feels like it would be the end of the Aaron Rodgers era in Green Bay) that I can’t help but think Green Bay pulls it out this time. This season has been a strange journey to say the least, but I don’t see it ending just yet. It seems like the stars are aligning for Green Bay as we’ll see the return of some stars in alignment on the field. I think Green Bay has just enough to hold off San Francisco this time, but like their regular season matchup this year, I think it’s going to come down to the wire.
This Saturday night, you have permission to party with Milwaukee Record at the Cactus Club to enjoy the game and a halftime performance by Peshtigo. Proof of vaccination, masks, and an appreciation of synthpop are all required.
LOS ANGELES OVER TAMPA BAY
Did you know that the Tom Brady documentary series is still airing new episodes?! Turns out the thing is 10 hours long! I knew it was an attempt to cash-in on the success of The Last Dance, but that series had the decency to air two installments at a time, so it only ran for five weeks total. The timing of the Brady series is fucked up on multiple levels. Like I’ve said before, it’s dumb to air this while he’s still an active player and I think it’s even dumber to have it released concurrently with the football season. Save it for the summer when people might be starved for football content. As a huge football fan, I should want to watch this series, but I also feel like its release has been so badly managed that I should boycott it purely out of spite.
Both Los Angeles and Tampa Bay are coming off huge blowouts where the outcome was never really in doubt. I truly thought that Los Angeles and Arizona would be the best game of the first round and instead, that thing was a clunker. However, I think this will be a great game on Sunday and while Tom Brady isn’t going to get rattled like Kyler Murray, I think that the Los Angeles defense has the same tools as New Orleans did during the regular season to pressure Brady and disrupt the offense. I know it is foolish to go against Tom Brady, as he has thirty-five career playoff wins and Matthew Stafford only has one, but based on where these teams are at, I’ve got to go with Los Angeles.
Also, it doesn’t seem right that we’re getting the Sunday Night Football broadcast for a Sunday afternoon game. It’s one thing to get the B team for the Saturday wild card game (and believe me, I’m dreading the inevitable future when Mike Tirico and Drew Brees become the A team for NBC) but if Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth are on the call, the game is supposed to be at night! This is going to mess me up Daylight Saving Time style on Sunday.
KANSAS CITY OVER BUFFALO
No, we’re not talking about a battle between barbecue and wings, silly! It’s a rematch of last year’s conference championship and we’re lucky enough to get it in the divisional round this year. Going into last weekend, Kansas City over Pittsburgh was the one absolute certainty of the wild card round. So even with Kansas City not playing their best game, they still managed to crush Pittsburgh. I’ll forever have resentment towards Las Vegas and Los Angeles not just agreeing to tie and instead forcing us to endure another primetime tribute to Ben Roethlisberger. Sure, Rich Bisaccia managed to keep Las Vegas together for a playoff run, but the collateral damage from him going for the win in Week 18 is enough that I won’t weep for him probably getting the boot this month.
I have a funny feeling about how Buffalo performed in the wild card game against New England. You know there’s a rivalry between the two teams and New England has been so dominant for the past two decades that to me it looked like Buffalo wanted revenge and to get that monkey off their back. It had the feeling of a college team running up the score and while I’m sure it was cathartic for Buffalo and their fans, I have serious concerns if they may have burned themselves out last week. They made the conference championship last year, so why were they working so hard to beat New England as if they had something to prove? If they were playing at home again this week, maybe Buffalo could ramp themselves back up again, but I think they are going to miss the energy and dildo-throwing of the home crowd in Buffalo.
Ultimately, I think this game swings for the home team so while I would love to see Buffalo get a win, I think Kansas City wins the playoff matchup once again. Oh, and if it was Kansas City barbecue versus Buffalo wings, I’m picking the same result as well. Does anyone make a replica Z man sandwich locally? Sound off in the comments below!
LAST WEEK: 6-0