1a. The Patrick Mahomes-Josh Allen matchup feels more like a budding “Tom Brady-Peyton Manning” than any other QB head-to-head has. There’s the fact that they’re meeting for the fourth time in two seasons—including for a second consecutive postseason—and the fact that, right now, both quarterbacks are operating at the height of their immense powers.
After a first half of the season filled with fluky turnovers, Mahomes has turned things around in part by adopting a “take what the defense gives you” approach more often. But, also, after weeks of those shorter throws bouncing off and going through receivers’ hands, the Chiefs are now just executing better. In two of their last three meetings—including the 38–20 win in October—Buffalo has backed off and played coverage, daring the Chiefs to beat them with sustained drives. It worked in the last meeting. It didn’t back in the 2020 regular season, and the difference between the two games was Allen’s performance.
Going all the way back to the meeting at The Ralph in October 2020, the Bills fell short because Allen was simply scattershot all game. It is still fair to wonder, as hot as he is right now, whether that’s a possibility on Sunday considering his overall body of work over the last two seasons, while MVP-caliber, has been streaky. He didn’t have to throw it a lot in the 2021 win in Kansas City, but when he did he threw it well, especially when attacking downfield. A new wrinkle in Buffalo’s offense has been increased use of fullback Reggie Gilliam, who both forces the opposing defense to play heavier personnel and, unlike some of their two-tight end looks, seems to have given Buffalo a more consistent run game with which to regulate the offense. That has caused opponents to stop going after the Bills with a torrent of sagging split-safety looks, and helped open up more opportunities in their frequently-used play-action game. But, all that aside, Allen has just been spectacular of late.
1b. The argument against Mahomes-Allen becoming Brady-Manning is that, stylistically, Mahomes and Allen play a less sustainable style of football. Brady and Manning were both about efficient (and, at times, mind-numbingly dull) exploitation of rudimentary defenses. Mahomes and Allen are ripping apart more sophisticated defenses with more difficult plays. So, if nothing else, at least the Mahomes and Allen rivalry will feature a more exciting brand of football.
2. There will be a will he/won’t he situation with Tom Brady whenever this season ends. Should Brady choose to return to Tampa next season, he could be looking at a much different roster. Chris Godwin (who took the franchise-tag discount for 2021 only to tear his ACL), Rob Gronkowski, Ryan Jensen, Jason Pierre-Paul, Ndamukong Suh and William Gholston are all free agents and Tampa will have little in the way of cap flexibility. Antonio Brown is gone. This postseason very much has a last dance feel to it for the Bucs.
On Sunday, they’ll be short on weapons and possibly on offensive linemen (depending on the statuses of Tristan Wirfs and Ryan Jensen) when they host a Rams defense coming off a dominant performance on Monday. It’s going to be a steep challenge for Brady, who is 0–2 against L.A. since joining the Bucs, but regardless of what happens, it might be a peak into what another season in Tampa would bring.
3. We ran down Josh McCown’s supposed coaching bona fides a year ago when his name first surfaced for the Texans’ job. In short, he’s a QB mentor (whose mentees were Johnny Manziel, Christian Hackenberg and Sam Darnold) and he’s coached at the high school level. So, yes, it would be unusual to hire such a person for the highest profile job in an organization that purports to be a professional football team.
That said, the Texans organization is and organization that has done a lot of unusual things. They did this stuff. Last year their head-coaching hire was a 65-year-old who had never held so much as a coordinator role in the NFL. He went on to quadruple their expected win total, and they fired him.
It’s baffling that the organization feels the need to go to their loyal surrogates if a feeble attempt to legitimize McCown’s non-existent credentials. This is an organization that either stopped caring about appearances years ago or deluded themselves into thinking they’re not an utterly ridiculous operation. So if they believe Josh McCown is a coaching savant—so much so that he doesn’t need any experience, of any kind, as a professional football coach—then just go ahead and hire him. What are you worried about, people laughing at you? They already are. Just hire McCown. And if you’re right, we’ll all owe you a coke.
4. The Matt Rhule situation was touch-and-go in Carolina. It seemed he had coached himself out of a job in November and December as every aspect of his team regressed, and in response he fired the best coach on his own staff. Ultimately, the owner who gave him a seven-year contract decided to keep him past Year 2. But, with a broken roster that remains more than a year away on the offensive side of the ball (no quarterback, no offensive line), there’s plenty of reason to look at him as a soon-to-be lame-duck coach.
And that’s what made it especially difficult to land the kind of offensive coordinator who could figure out a way to salvage this mess of an offense. Everyone watched last fall as Rhule fired a quality offensive coordinator, Joe Brady, for reasons that remain unclear. Perhaps the only thing less appealing than accepting that job from Rhule is accepting that job from Rhule when you know he’s unlikely to make it to 2023. Unless it’s accepting that job from Rhule when you know he’s unlikely to make it to 2023 and also a prerequisite to the job is binge-watching Bull, because he likes to make small talk about episodes of Bull.
With that in mind, just . . . be nice to Ben McAdoo. He’s taking a job that no one else particularly wanted, and that’s probably the only type of offensive coordinator job we was going to get. That’s the situation David Tepper and Matt Rhule have created, and it’s probably not going to go well for McAdoo. But can we lay off the David Byrne “Stop Making Sense” suit this time? You’re not such a snazzy dresser yourself, what with your short-sleeve tees and your jeaned trousers.
5. Ladies and gentlemen . . . Talking Heads!
• Question or comment? Email us.