This article is part of our Beating the Book series.
What a bizarre weekend of games. Josh McCown was the primary QB for the Eagles, Marshawn Lynch got carries for the Seahawks and Frank Gore honestly gutted the Bills during his brief appearance between obligatory announcer tributes. Hard to believe this happened in 2020.
• The Texans-Bills might have been the strangest of the lot. First off, the announcers – overly excited master-of-the-obvious Booger McFarland and the play by play guy who emphasizes syllables and events as if at random, like he were covering a sport he'd never seen before in his third language – were beyond unlistenable, so much so the always mediocre Joe Buck and Troy Aikman sounded positively symphonic the next day.
• That game also had a throwaway TD on the second half kickoff that had to be reversed and a Josh Allen lateral to no one with a full minute left in the game – a play that would have supplanted Chris Webber's timeout call in the NCAA tournament as the least present in any sport all time had teammate Dawson Knox not recovered it.
It had punts on 4th-and-short in plus territory, but not on 4th-and-27 with the Bills down three on the edge of field goal range (the one time where a team should have punted or attempted a long kick.) Even when the Bills got into field goal range at the end of regulation, the plays they attempted were so much more likely to result in game-ending interceptions than touchdowns, you wondered why they even bothered. On Deshaun Watson's game-breaking overtime play, the Bills had him dead to rights, but seemed almost to hold him up with offsetting hits.
And that's not even getting into the Bills coughing up a 16-0 lead, their Philly special first TD or the Bills destroying two drives by handing the ball to Gore for God knows what reason. The end-of-half handoff was psychotic.
• Josh Allen is Cam Newton 0.9, i.e., he's an athletic, strong-armed mobile QB, capable of making amazing plays, but neither accurate nor consistent. I say 0.9 because Newton at his peak was a better passer and slightly less boneheaded.
• Devin Singletary looks like peak Maurice Jones-Drew, breaking tackles, fighting for extra yards and making plays as a receiver. He'll push a second-round ADP at next year's drafts.
• Watson made the game's key play in overtime and was big in the second half. But he started slowly and took seven sacks.
• Duke Johnson always looks good to me, but he could be peak Marshall Faulk, and Bill O'Brien probably wouldn't increase his role.
• J.J. Watt returned, got a key sack to hold the Bills to a field goal and keep the game at two scores (16-0.) The sack was no big deal as an incompletion would have accomplished the same thing, but the game seemed to turn at that point.
• The Patriots were what I thought they were all year – a bad dink and dunk offense that couldn't make a play despite being given many chances to do so against a Titans squad that scored only 14 points on offense before the final pick six. The Patriots lacked the personnel to make plays against a beatable Titans defense, and no amount of magic or cheating could change that.
• I didn't get the idea (or the praise) behind Mike Vrabel pulling a Bill Belichick and running so much clock on the Titans punt with five minutes left. Yes, he killed time, but the Titans were only up one point, and the Patriots had all their timeouts left. Do you really want to run clock when the other team merely needs to get field goal to beat you?
• Normally, I'd think Vrabel should have gone for it on the initial 4th-and-4, but that's a little long for a hand-off to Henry, I get not taking your chances against the Pats pass defense and wanting to make the Pats' terrible offense have to put together three or four first downs to set up their below-average kicker.
• The Vikings were the better team and deserved to beat the Saints Sunday. It was nice to see it happen in overtime though, just to add another variation of horrifying heartbreak for the third straight year.
• I imagine Brees has another year to show he still has something left – he was good for most of the season, yesterday's game notwithstanding, but the crop of all-time greats that dominated the first 20 years of the century is on its last legs. (Aaron Rodgers might be the last one standing, but we'll see what happens if he plays poorly and loses to the Seahawks next week.)
• Dalvin Cook is Exhibit A why you should almost always draft elite players on underdogs over mediocre ones on favorites for contests that span the entirety of the playoffs.
• Once Carson Wentz went down, the last game of the weekend was mostly a foregone conclusion, but the Seahawks did their best to make it competitive.
For starters, they squandered so many early down plays on runs up the middle. I don't mind their running tendencies as much as some, but that's when they had a healthy offensive line, Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny. And while facing any team but the Eagles, who stuff the run, but are especially generous against the pass. Russell Wilson converted so many long third downs, why not just call some of those plays earlier in the series?
• Lamar Jackson deserves the MVP, but Russell Wilson is the NFL's best player. His running, passing, passing on the run, arm strength and decision making are the best skill stack in the league. (A healthy Patrick Mahomes might be a close second.)
• Marshawn Lynch looks slow, but he showed on his TD run, he still runs with power and has a nose for the end zone.
• It's amazing how spry McCown still is at age 40.
• If you want to understand the Eagles' season, read the Book of Job. They lost all their receivers, their tight end, their starting running back, two Pro Bowl offensive lineman, and yet that wasn't enough. They needed to lose their starting QB a few minutes into their playoff game too. It was a great job by Doug Pederson keeping it together, but had Jason Garrett been even remotely competent, there's no way this team would have made the playoffs.