Chris Wesseling has had it up to HERE with the faulty football logic he's seen flying fast and furious lately. Below, he thoroughly -- if a bit crankily -- debunks some of the more galling popular fallacies that have taken root:
Texans have "a damn good defense"
Let us stop praising defenses, which have been no match for the highest-octane offenses enjoying home-field advantage. Freshly minted No. 1 in total defense, the Ravens went into New England and surrendered a season-high 496 yards in Week 14. Leading the NFL in several major categories over the previous five games, the Buccaneers' defense allowed 449 yards in Dallas in Week 15, putting Dak Prescott back in a groove. The Broncos' championship defense was gutted by Kansas City in Week 16, hemorrhaging big plays in a 33-10 laugher.
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Ah, but the Giants' defense truly was the gold standard, improving steadily and significantly throughout the season. Surely, the surging Packers were ripe for an upset in the Wild Card round? Poppycock! Aaron Rodgers shredded the ridiculously named "NYPD" secondary for 38 points in the final 35 minutes of the game.
That brings us to this week's battle of top-ranked defenses: Houston's No. 1 total defense vs. New England's No. 1 scoring defense. When Tom Brady tells us the Texans have "a damn good defense," he leaves out the mediocre results away from NRG Stadium. Romeo Crennel's defense ranks 18th in points per game (24.4) on the road this season, allowing 28.6 more total yards and roughly 20 more rushing yards per game outside of Houston. The Texans rank eighth in Football Outsiders' weighted defensive metrics and 12th in takeaways plus forced punts.
The Texans do not have a shutdown defense. For that matter, neither do the Patriots. Yes, Bill Belichick's defense has improved since his surprising midseason banishment of Jamie Collins. But context is important. Since Russell Wilson's Seahawks walked away from Gillette Stadium with a 31-24 victory in Week 10, the Pats have been "tested" by the feckless string of Colin Kaepernick, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jared Goff, Joe Flacco, Trevor Siemian, Bryce Petty and Matt Moore in the final seven games of the regular season. Now they open their postseason run with Brock Osweiler, a delightful gift from the football gods.
Speaking of Osweiler ...
Brock is back!
The bar is so low for Texans quarterbacks that Osweiler's three-pass sequence to Will Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins in the two-minute drill stands as the season's high-water mark. Outside of that four-play, 60-yard touchdown drive, Osweiler's offense was held to 231 net yards on 14 possessions -- an incredible sign of inefficiency.
The best quarterbacks pull the trigger on deeper contested throws, allowing their talented receivers to make a play at the catch point. Osweiler struggles to take advantage of defenses outside the numbers and down the field, so he tends to settle for contested passes short of the sticks. That's the recipe for an offense with the fewest touchdowns (25) by a playoff team in a non-strike season since the NFL season expanded to 16 games in 1978.
O'Brien's game script for a shocking upset against the Patriots emphasizes avoiding mistakes against a superior opponent. That's going to be a Herculean task if Belichick succeeds once again in shrinking the field, removing No. 1 receiver DeAndre Hopkins from the equation.
If Osweiler doesn't take calculated chances, he won't move the chains. If he does risk throws into tight coverage, the odds of a mistake happening increase exponentially. O'Brien finds himself in a Catch-22 with a limited quarterback benched by two different coaching staffs in two consecutive years with the playoffs on the line.
The Giants' yacht crew failed Eli
So "Playoff Eli" showed up in Lambeau Field, only to be done in by a drop-plagued wide receiver corps that spent the week partying with Justin Bieber in South Beach instead of properly preparing for the Packers?
Let's clarify a few things.
Eli Manning came out firing in the early minutes, hitting throws he had been missing since Halloween. His receivers did indeed fail him in the first quarter. After dropping a third-and-5 pass in field-goal range, a twisting Odell Beckham couldn't quite corral a 28-yard pass that hit him on the finger tips for a lost touchdown. From the second quarter on, though, it was Eli misfiring as much as his receivers bungling.
While Aaron Rodgers was throwing his receivers open and hitting them in stride for big plays, Eli was throwing behind his targets or hitting the wrong shoulder.
As for Beckham's miserable performance, wouldn't the lingering effects of a potential yacht hangover affect his ability to get open against double coverage as much as -- or even more than -- his ability to make tough catches? I've seen "gunner" coverage at the line of scrimmage four times over the past decade: on Randy Moss, on Calvin Johnson and the time Bill Belichick wallpapered Tony Gonzalez near the end zone. The fourth time was last Sunday, with two Packers cornerbacks sticking Beckham on third down.
What's more credible? Beckham's initial third-down drop got in his head, snowballing over the course of the game as he battled through double coverage? Or he suffered from the first six-day hangover humankind has seen since the Romans over-celebrated during the festival of Bacchus?
Giants fans can caress the fabled notion of "Playoff Eli" if it helps them sleep at night, but that myth ignores a harsher reality:
Eli "Playoff" Manning has won a playoff game in only 2 of his first 13 seasons.â Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) January 9, 2017
Make that 24 points just once in 12 career playoff games.
While I'm at it ...
1) Whether you prefer the "Killer Bees" or "Triplets" appellation, don't let the hype over the Steelers' star-studded offense overshadow a swarming defense that leads the NFL with 30 sacks since Week 11. Since 2015 first-round pick Bud Dupree came off the PUP list in mid-November, Pittsburgh has boasted the league's most active linebacker corps with James Harrison, Ryan Shazier and Lawrence Timmons. The ageless Harrison was a monster last week, recording more quarterback pressures and defensive stops than the entire Dolphins defense.
2) Once upon a time, Jordy Nelson was the NFL's litmus test. Those yet to realize he was the league's premier boundary threat and a top-tier receiver by 2013 and 2014 clearly weren't watching enough Packers games. Doug Baldwin might prefer the Steve Smith comparison, but he's now Nelson's successor as the top-tier receiver standing as the litmus test. Since the start of the 2015 season, the Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski connection (126.9) is the only one with a higher passer rating than the Russell Wilson-to-Baldwin (126.3) magic.
3) Christine Michael is back in the spotlight with Green Bay after washing out in Seattle, Dallas, Washington and Seattle again. While Ty Montgomery spent last week's game running east-to-west at the line of scrimmage, Michael gave the Packers' offense a shot in the arm with tackle-breaking bursts through the teeth of New York's defense. Montgomery was helped off the field with a fourth-quarter ankle injury, perhaps paving the way for Michael to take center stage against a Cowboys team that never gave him a chance to unseat Joseph Randle early last season. Michael can't replace Montgomery in shotgun formations because he hasn't mastered his assignments in the passing game, but last week's effort suggests he could be an upgrade as a pure runner.
4) The Lions finished the season 0-6 against teams that reached the playoffs. Can we credit Matthew Stafford and Darius Slay for fourth-quarter heroics while still acknowledging that this was a mediocre outfit that was lucky to find itself in the postseason? You can watch football for the rest of your days and never see another playoff team that was losing 16 of 17 games in the fourth quarter.