It wasn’t purported to be like this — particularly this season. The Buffalo Payments have been the lover workforce. Everybody’s second workforce. The group who have been purported to lastly break via their glass ceiling of disappointment, but we’re right here, once more, with one other playoff loss, and one other exit earlier than the AFC Championship, and this time it didn’t come by the hands of the Chiefs.
There’s one thing that simply doesn’t really feel proper about saying goodbye to the Payments. That’s not a knock in opposition to Cincinnati, however particularly after the entire Damar Hamlin scenario it felt just like the stage was set for this to be a generationally defining season, one the place Buffalo lastly broke via and defied its longstanding historical past of letting its followers down on the worst second.
I don’t suppose it’s time to begin penning an indictment to the Sean McDermott period, however there’s little doubt that one thing is improper and this workforce must determine it out. It’s one factor to lose to Cincinnati, an unquestionably gifted workforce — one other fully to lose in Buffalo in the snow, and doing it whereas the Bengals have been with out three beginning offensive linemen.
If you wish to search for one thing responsible it’s the very same challenge we have been speaking about again in September: Buffalo had no run recreation. How this workforce didn’t see the problem is past me, but it surely actually reared its head within the playoffs when Josh Allen needed to grow to be the largest risk on the bottom — whereas Devin Singletary and James Prepare dinner carried the ball a mixed 11 instances for 37 yards.
In the end that is going to be a narrative, simply not of the 2022 Payments, however the NFL as an entire. We’re seeing offenses shifting again from the all-pass domination of the previous few years. We’ve been seeing a gentle sample within the league, actually for the final 10 years of so, the place offense units the tone, protection catches up — and the primary groups to regulate win out, after which we repeat the method. Buffalo’s huge drawback was that it concentrated a lot vitality to overload on protection that it failed to deal with a serious gap on offense. The weirdest half is that this was so simply seen as a chance.
If you’re a workforce this good, with each probability of the playoffs being routed via your cold-weather, northern stadium — there’s most likely an odds-on probability it is best to have a working recreation that’s as much as snuff. It’s just about soccer 101: When climate is unhealthy, you run the ball. But, the Payments solely carried the ball 19 instances, together with Josh Allen scrambles — in comparison with the Bengals who ran the ball 34 instances. It was a whole misstep. Buffalo grew to become a hole, one-dimensional workforce and the Bengals took benefit of it in an enormous means. They compelled Allen to be the entire rattling present, took away Stefon Diggs as an choice — and the complete workforce crumbled consequently.
The saving grace in case you’re a Payments fan is that there’s nonetheless a lot to construct on. This workforce will likely be a part of the dialog for a very long time — however that’s chilly consolation this morning as a season ends that promised extra.
Winner: Cincinnati Bengals
Was the angst over the presale of AFC Championship tickets in Atlanta warranted? No.
Did this workforce handle to harness the facility of “us in opposition to the world?” Completely.
The Bengals turnaround this season has been nothing in need of exceptional. This is a corporation that went from wanting like victims of the largest Tremendous Bowl hangover in latest reminiscence, and now they’re one recreation away from returning to the sport once more.
Every part is clicking for Cincinnati proper now. Offensively we knew the expertise of this workforce, but it surely’s the protection that severely stepped up in Buffalo and confirmed fortitude that I truthfully didn’t know existed. Shutting down the Payments passing recreation was no simple feat, however the Bengals stepped up in each space to set the tone.
Patrick Mahomes will likely be a wild card getting into the AFC Championship, however even at 100% the Bengals have proven they’ve the expertise, and the sting to win yet one more and march again to the Tremendous Bowl.
Loser: Daniel Jones
That was simply unhappy. All week Jones’ turnaround had been talked up, after which he went to Philadelphia and stuffed his pants on nationwide TV.
Okay, that’s harsh — but when the shoe suits. Jones confirmed each considered one of his unhealthy tendencies in an important recreation of the season, and it was largely resulting from Philly’s protection completely exposing him. This season he’s been roughly a one learn quarterback who has thrived by groups overcomplicating their defenses and giving him the primary learn. The Eagles have been capable of key in on his No. 1 receiver for almost all of downs, and with out that choice he crumbled into mud.
It’s a bizarre time now for the Giants. Can they win with Daniel Jones? Sure — however there’s a ceiling. He’s by no means going to grow to be a prime quarterback, so are you comfy having respectable however by no means nice? That may decide what the workforce does with the place shifting ahead and there’s a really actual probability that settling isn’t adequate for Brian Daboll, which means that’s the final we’ll see of Jones quarterbacking the Giants.
Loser: Dak Prescott
Woof this was a nasty weekend for NFC East quarterbacks not names Jalen Hurts.
In truth, I believe among the takes following the Cowboys’ loss about Dak have been too harsh. “Commerce Dak” was trending on Twitter for a lot of the night time, and this did not account for the truth that exterior of CeeDee Lamb this workforce had no actual second receiver. They gambled huge on Michael Gallup, which didn’t repay — and an absence of weapons is what sunk this workforce in opposition to the 49ers.
Nonetheless, that’s not going to tug Prescott out of the fireplace because the quarterback of the NFL’s most seen workforce. It’s going to be a protracted offseason.
Sure, y’all misplaced to the Chiefs — however this season is essentially the most encouraging constructing block this workforce has ever had.
Duval doesn’t want validation from me, however the vibes surrounding Jacksonville proper now make this really feel like a workforce able to lastly take the following step and solidify itself as a drive within the AFC for years to return.