The Houston Texans started the 2020 NFL season 0-4 and were essentially eliminated from contention in September. So, as we enter conference championship weekend, why is Deshaun Watson the talk of the league?
Emphasis on quarterback play and the passing attack has never been greater in the NFL. The four remaining teams — Buffalo, Kansas City, Green Bay and Tampa Bay — all rank in the top-nine in completion percentage, passer rating and yards per pass attempt. The same could be said for last year’s final four teams where Tennessee, Kansas City and San Francisco were No. 2, 3 and 4 in yards per pass attempt in 2019.
Green Bay and Buffalo can specifically point to improvements in the passing game as the reason both teams are title contenders this year. Both teams made the playoffs a year ago, but neither was viewed as a serious threat because of their limitations on offense.
Josh Allen generated 6.7 yards per pass attempt in 2019 (25th among starting quarterbacks), while Aaron Rodgers gained 7.0 yards per pass attempt (17th). One year later, Allen is No. 5 in the league at 7.9 yards per attempt and Rodgers is No. 3 at 8.2 yards per attempt.
The Bills added a deep threat in Stefon Diggs to compliment John Brown and Cole Beasley. Ironically, the Packers did not add anyone to their offense. Coach Matt LaFleur and Rodgers simply found better ways to use guys like Davante Adams, Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
So, as we watch this weekend’s games, keep an eye on the news surrounding Watson and some of the coaching and coordinator hires around the league. We know which direction the league is heading. Which teams are preparing their teams to keep up?
Despite all of the turmoil surrounding the Texans, losing his best receiver and losing his coach midway through the season, Watson finished the year No. 1 in yards per attempt and No. 2 in passer rating behind Rodgers.
The 25-year-old quarterback could provide an instant upgrade in a team’s passing attack, similar to ones that have propelled the Packers, Bills and Bucs to the level that they are currently at.
Buccaneers at Packers, Total 51: Green Bay’s offense played at the slowest pace in the league during the regular season. If your response is, “Well, it makes sense because the Packers won 13 games and were comfortably ahead in the fourth quarter in a lot of those games, which allowed them to bleed the clock,” you would be right.
However, the Packers play at a snail’s pace all game, not just in the fourth quarter. Green Bay’s offense was the slowest in the first half of games, too.
One of the of the biggest takeaways from last week’s Saints vs. Bucs game was how much Tampa Bay’s secondary has grown over the course of the season. Carlton Davis is the Bucs’ oldest player in the secondary at 24 years old. Antoine Winfield Jr. is a 22-year-old rookie. Sean Murphy-Bunting is 23. Jordan Whitehead is 23. Devin White is 22. That unit is brimming with confidence after shutting down the Saints.
In the first meeting between these two teams, the Buccaneers intercepted Aaron Rodgers twice and held the Packers’ passing game to 160 yards. I doubt they will be able to pull that off again, but I do think they will do enough to keep this under the total. UNDER
Bills +3 at Chiefs: Beware of the trendy ‘dog. Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ struggles will dominate the headlines this week. I have bet against Kansas City multiple times during this skid against the spread that they are on. But the buck stops here.
Oddsmakers had this line pegged at Kansas City -4 before Mahomes was knocked out of Sunday’s game against the Browns. Mahomes and Andy Reid both said after the game that the star quarterback was feeling fine.
Since 1970, home teams are 68-32 straight-up in the conference championship round of the playoffs, including 56-44-2 against the spread (Courtesy The Gold Sheet). Early money and ticket reports suggest that Buffalo will attract the majority of public betting support.
The Colts had 75 more yards and five more first downs than Buffalo on Wild Card Weekend. The Ravens had 120 more yards, two more first downs and won the time of possession battle by 11 minutes against the Bills last week. I think Buffalo is getting a little too much love heading into Sunday. CHIEFS
Last week: 1-3