Playoff Picture Shifting in Week 15
I’m struggling to accept that the season is almost over. A season that’s been chock full of injuries did not let up steam during Week 15. But we also had some of the most entertaining football of the year between Saturday’s record-setting comeback by the Vikings and Sunday’s Raiders versus Patriots blunder.
Matt Harmon and James Koh covered all things good football and bad, as well as what significant injuries mean heading forward, all on this week’s episode of Reception Perception: The Show.
You can’t write the 2022 Week 15 history books without mentioning the ending to the Raiders verse Patriots matchup. James is still arguing about the Keelan Cole controversial touchdown. He’s firmly planted in the “not a touchdown” camp.
Matt mostly can’t believe that the Patriots didn’t get that call in their favor. He says that’s a call they usually get. (We’re living in a world where the Lions aren’t losing on a last-minute field goal and the Patriots aren’t getting calls in their favor, what is happening?!)
If you need a good chuckle, listen to these guys talk about the Jakobi Meyers play. Matt talks about how close it was to getting back to Mac Jones, from like 20-30 yards downfield. James: “what was Mac Jones going to do if he got that ball?!” The ensuing laughter put a smile on my face. A little disclaimer, if you’re a New England fan this won’t be as funny to you.
The matchup also spawned a discussion this week on teams that aren’t fun to watch but have been fringe playoff teams all season. For Matt, that team was the Patriots. And I mean this when I say you can hear it in his voice that he’s relieved the Raiders helped put a final nail in the Patriots’ metaphorical playoff coffin.
So, who are some other teams the guys are ready to cast off? James nominates the Ravens. Their offense is lacking playmakers, their defense is average, and they’ve got a good head coach so they aren’t getting blown out of games. They’re just playing boring games. The only highlight for James is JK Dobbins returning from injury.
This kind of blew my mind, but the Ravens are averaging 13.8 points per game over their last five games.
Matt’s glad that Lamar Jackson isn’t playing right now but more on that later. He’s also got the Buccaneers on his castaway list. And reminds everyone we’re probably going to have to watch them in a playoff game. FUN!
Jalen Hurts Hurting
The most important question is what does this mean for the Eagles’ offense? James says he’s excited to see Gardner Minshew out there running around, should he need to step in for Hurts. Matt does not share that sentiment. Matt would put Minshew in the Taylor Heinicke tier, the Dollar Store Ryan Fitzpatrick’s if you will.
This stinks for fantasy football, Hurts has propelled a lot of teams into the semifinals. Outside of the fantasy world, Hurts was making a push for the MVP Award. Matt’s not sure if we’ll even see him again before the NFL playoffs. I think we can all understand making sure your starting quarterback is fully healthy for a post-season run.
There’s so much that the Eagles do well because of Jalen Hurts. There was some noise last week about whether or not Hurts was a “system quarterback”, Matt says “he’s not a system quarterback, but he makes that system go.”
James asked Matt which offensive weapon he was most worried about moving forward if Minshew is the gunslinger. “DeVonta Smith”, but Matt dives further into his concerns.
The Philadelphia offense is so consolidated. On Sunday AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith combined for over 300 receiving yards, no one else surpassed 10 receiving yards. Matt is worried that Minshew is going to come in and start spreading the ball around. Offenses that are concentrated like that are so fantasy-friendly. We don’t need Minshew peppering Quez Watkins with targets, ya know?
Jahan Dotson Shines in Primetime
The first-round rookie had himself a night on Sunday, catching 4 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown. It was his first 100-yard game of the season. Dotson started the season strong but missed a chunk of football due to injury. It is good to see him back and balling out.
Matt was particularly pleased with the Dotson performance in Primetime. He says Dotson is showing up “sizest” in the NFL. It’s me, hi, I’m the problem it’s me. Matt has been waiting for the Dotson breakout.
In his Reception Perception Prospect profile, Matt noted that Dotson had the best hands in the 2022 draft class. His profile also shows he’s great in contested catch situations, a great route runner, he’s great against zone coverage. In the 2022 Reception Perception In-Season Rookie Report, Dotson had a couple of up and down weeks to start the season.
In the same way you could hear the relief in Matt’s voice when he was casting away the Patriots, you can hear his joy in shutting down wide receiver sizest. He even draws a comparison to Tyler Lockett for Dotson’s ball-tracking skills.
While they were on the subject of Washington, James asked Matt if he thinks this is a good spot for a veteran quarterback next year. Someone like Tom Brady? Matt says the Commanders would need to fix their offensive line first. Especially considering Tom Brady’s complete aversion to getting hit this season.
He does think it’s an intriguing spot for a quarterback to land, though. Terry McLaurin, Brian Robinson, Jahan Dotson, Curtis Samuel, and Antonio Gibson could certainly speak to a traveling QB. Matt does pose some concerns about the overall appeal due to the ownership/management mess. It’s also exactly what they tried to do with Carson Wentz, swing and a miss.
If I Were Lamar Jackson…
In this essay, I will…
No, seriously. I told you there was more Lamar Jackson talk and it does not disappoint. Matt thinks Jackson needs to enter his Aaron Rodgers era. “I’m not taking another snap until you build up this offense.”
The passing attack in Baltimore is lackluster at best, but it’s not strictly a Greg Roman problem. James thinks they need a difference-maker on offense but Matt argues they’ve already got a guy he thinks can be that different-maker.
Rashod Bateman looked great to open the season and then injuries eventually ended his 2022 campaign. Even early on though, a guy like Demarcus Robinson was getting meaningful snaps at wide receiver. The Ravens lack depth, and they lack it badly.
The guys voice some concerns about the attractiveness of Baltimore for a free agent wideout. They don’t think it’s about not wanting to play with Jackson, though. How appealing is a conservative, run-first offense called by Greg Roman? That’s asking the important questions.
Dolphins Bounced Back in Loss
Look, I know there’s no such thing as moral victories but if there were this would be one. Miami’s offense had struggled for two straight games leading up to the Bills’ snow globe game. It was nice to see Mike McDaniel and Tua step up to the plate.
Matt says the matchup made him feel better about both teams, but Miami in particular. Mike McDaniel leaned back into the run game in Week 15. Something that wouldn’t have been a shocking statement in August, but after the last few months was a good surprise.
In the two previous games, the 49ers and the Chargers played press coverage defense. The Bills did too. James asked Matt his opinion on if it was a coaching adjustment or if Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle knew what they’d be up against for the third week in a row and made player adjustments.
Matt says the problem was never Hill and Waddle being incapable of beating press coverage. The problem was where to send them on their routes. Getting those two guys outside instead of the middle of the field was crucial. Tua Tagovailoa threw outside the numbers 17 times on Sunday. So, Matt tips his hat to McDaniel and the coaching staff making that change.