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The Air Raid Emperor Has No Clothes

Kliff Kingsbury

Kliff Kingsbury

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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The Horizontal Raid Fails Again
I’m glad to see that this season’s tradition of awful Monday island games continues! The Los Angeles Rams thrashed a hapless Arizona Cardinals team 34-11 and the final score is almost far too generous to the Cardinals. The Cardinals’ late-season meltdown (losing five of their last six) foreshadowed their performance before this playoff game. I should note that Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury is ostensibly an emperor with no clothes. Lauded as an offensive mastermind, Kingsbury’s biggest innovations so far have been too cowardly kick field goals and a passing offense that’s more horizontal than it is vertical. I’d be very interested to see if Kingsbury is back for another season and how the offense might reinvent itself for next year. Kyler Murray was dreadful last night, completing 19 of his 34 attempts for a pitiful 137 yards and two interceptions. Murray did not leave the pocket at all last night, posting a 2-6-0 rushing line. Given that one of Murray’s biggest weapons is his dual-threat ability, I’m still confused as to why the game plan did not require more misdirection. Instead, the team opted to ram the ball up the middle with Chase Edmonds (8-28-0), James Conner (4-19-1), and Eno Benjamin (4-8-0). I should note that the receiving game was just as broken as the running game. Murray’s first target went to “Darrell Daniels” (2-2-0 on three targets), the team’s third-string tight end, which set the tone for the rest of the game. Christian Kirk (6-51-0 on 10 targets) led the way, with Rondale Moore (5-32-0 on seven targets) close behind. However, the team got little to no production from Zach Ertz (3-21-0 on four targets) or AJ Green (0-0-0 on three targets). Looking back, we should’ve known the game was going to be a rout during the first drive.

There really wasn’t much for the Rams to do, given the Cardinals’ ineptitude. I should note that Cam Akers appears to be fully back. Akers posted a 17-55-0 rushing line and caught one of his two targets for 40 yards. It’s an impressive feat for someone who tore his Achilles not too long ago. Akers pushed Sony Michel (13-58-0) for work early in the game and I’ll be excited to see their workload split next week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Bengals Thwomp Raiders
Congratulations to the Cincinnati Bengals for winning their first playoff game in 31 years. Joe Burrow led the team to a 26-19 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders in the AFC Wild Card Game. If we turn our focus to the game itself, it was a shame that the Raiders were unable to push the Bengals into a shootout. Derek Carr completed 29 of his 54 pass attempts for 310 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. The lone touchdown Carr threw was at the end of the second quarter, a 14-yard strike to Zay Jones. Unfortunately, neither offense got much going in the second half, letting kickers Evan McPherson (Bengals) and Daniel Carlson (Raiders) carry the scoring for their respective teams. I should add that Carr’s interception ended the Raiders’ hopes sending the game into overtime, late in the fourth quarter. It was a shame seeing the Raiders go out with a whimper, considering that they were getting a solid performance from their skill players. Josh Jacobs posted a 13-83-0 rushing line and caught four of his five targets for 44 yards. Darren Waller looked healthy, converting seven of his 12 targets into 76 receiving yards and Hunter Renfrow chipped in with a 5-61-0 receiving line. Zay Jones’ revival (5-61-1 on eight targets) has been fun to watch and I hope he gets to return for another year.

The Bengals on the other hand were led by Ja’Marr Chase on offense. Chase posted a 9-116-0 receiving line on 12 targets. Hopefully, we get to see Chase continue to somehow defy all expectations for rookie wide receivers next week against the Titans. I should add that Tee Higgins (1-10-0 on four targets) was a late addition to the injury report last week, which could’ve explained his lackluster performance. CJ Uzomah (6-64-1 on six targets) opened the scoring for the Bengals and was incredibly efficient with his workload. I doubt that Uzomah repeats this performance next week. Joe Mixon’s poor rushing performance (17-48-0) was offset by his receiving game role (4-28-0 on five targets) and he should hopefully be in line for a big game against the Titans next week.

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AFC Divisional Round Re-Match
Given that Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes are two of the most exciting, dynamic young quarterbacks in the game, it comes as no surprise that both teams are set to meet in the divisional round. The Bills and Chiefs combined to score 89 points in their wild card victories over the Patriots and Steelers, respectively. On Saturday, the Bills became the first team to not punt, attempt a field goal, or commit a turnover, en-route to scoring seven touchdowns against the hapless Patriots. The Chiefs on the other hand shredded the Steelers’ defense in six drives. Five of those drives ended in Mahomes tossing touchdowns.

Hopefully, both teams will carry forward the fireworks from last weekend. The last time these two teams met, the Chiefs triumphed, winning 38-24. Mahomes completed 29 of his 38 attempts for 325 yards and three scores and Darrel Williams (13-52-1) chipped in on the ground. I should note that Clyde Edwards-Helaire (6-7-1) punched in a touchdown. Receivers Tyreek Hill (9-172-0 on eleven targets) and Travis Kelce (13-118-2 on 15 targets) shredded the Bills’ secondary, who will no doubt be looking for revenge.

On the Bills’ side of the ball, Allen completed 24 of his 48 attempts for two scores and an interception. Stefon Digs (6-77-0 on 11 targets), Cole Beasley (7-88-0 on nine targets) and Dawson Knox (6-42-1 on eight targets) did plenty of damage but were unable to secure the win. I’m excited to see the change in usage for Devin Singletary, who last time played a rotational role. Singletary has really come on as the lead running back for the Bills, and I expect that he will far outperform his rushing line from last year (6-17-0). I’d be excited to see if the result will be any different this time around.

NFC Divisional Round Re-Match
This is yet another game that is full of playoff history, but I’d look to the team’s Week 3 matchup as a better template for what to expect. Green Bay narrowly beat the Niners 30-28 in Levi Stadium. Aaron Rodgers completed 23 of his 33 attempts for 261 yards and two scores. Davante Adams (12-132-1 on 18 targets) and Marquez Valdes-Scantling (3-59-1 on four targets) were the two recipients of Rodgers’ touchdowns. Aaron Jones posted a 19-82-1 rushing line and chipped in with a 2-14-0 receiving line. Jones got the last week of the season off and is ostensibly looking to improve upon this performance.

The Niners on the other hand are a slightly different team. Jimmy Garoppolo (25-257-2-1 passing line) has played much better of late. Additionally, the team will not be looking to Trey Sermon (10-31-1 rushing line) as their lead ball carrier but will be relying on Elijah Mitchell. Mitchell carved up the Cowboys for a 27-96-1 rushing line and will be looking to reprise his performance against the Packers’ run defense. George Kittle (7-92-0 on nine targets), Deebo Samuel (5-52-0 on 10 targets), and Brandon Aiyuk (4-31-1 on six targets) will look to improve upon their receiving numbers from earlier this season when these teams meet in the divisional round.