The NFL playoff field is set.
After an absolute roller coaster of a season that featured countless twists and turns, we are set for a postseason tournament that, at least on paper, appears to be wide open.
The Green Bay Packers will enter the playoffs as the consensus Super Bowl favourite at +380. According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, the Packers have a 20 per cent chance to win it all.
That’s the lowest percentage for any favourite entering the postseason since FPI began week-by-week projections in 2015.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Pittsburgh Steelers will enter the playoffs with the longest odds to win it all at +9000.
The Steelers deserve full marks for winning four of their final six games to finish 9-7-1 and keep their postseason hopes alive.
However, as we sit here this morning looking at the playoff picture, I can say that no one person is more directly responsible for Pittsburgh making the playoffs than the head coach who lost on Sunday Night Football.
Here’s the TSN EDGE Morning Coffee for Monday Jan. 10, 2022.
Raiders in, Chargers out after thrilling finish
While the playoffs don’t officially start until Saturday, we did get a win-and-in regular season finale to jump start the big dance.
The Chargers and Raiders both needed a win or tie on Sunday night to clinch a playoff spot.
After rallying from down 15 points in the final 4:28 of regulation to tie the game, the Chargers were 10 minutes away from booking their ticket.
For everything they have been through over the years, that overtime must be up there among the most painful experiences Bolts’ fans have had to deal with.
Per ESPN Stats & Info, Los Angeles is the only team since 2000 to convert five fourth downs in the final six minutes of a game.
However, it was the fourth-and-one from their own 18 the Chargers didn’t convert in the third quarter that everybody was talking about with the game headed to overtime, as it directly led to three points for Las Vegas.
After a thrilling finish to regulation, the potential for a tie was suddenly back in play.
The Raiders had just blown a 15-point lead in the final five minutes of regulation. The Chargers needed that 15-point comeback just to get to overtime.
After exchanging field goals in the extra frame, the clock ticked down to the two-minute warning with the game tied.
On first and 10 from the L.A. 45, the Raiders ran the ball for a one-yard loss.
No timeout. No urgency to get to the next play.
On second and 11, Jacobs ran seven yards to the Chargers 39-yard line.
No timeout. No urgency to get to the next play.
With under a minute left in overtime, the Raiders could run one more play and then let the clock run out for a 35-35 tie that would send both teams to the playoffs.
That’s when Chargers head coach Brandon Staley called timeout.
With 38 seconds left in overtime, the Raiders handed the ball off to Jacobs, who ran 10 yards for the first down and set up the game-winning 47-yard field goal to send Las Vegas to the playoffs and eliminate the Chargers.
To be fair, no coach in the history of the NFL has ever been in the situation that Staley was in on Sunday night.
But with the other team already approaching field-goal range and showing zero urgency to move the football any closer to give them a better shot at converting the game winner, that clock couldn’t run down fast enough for the players, and they weren’t hiding it.
There are plenty of decisions that added up to the Chargers going from -500 odds to make the playoffs in Week 15 to missing the postseason altogether.
None of them had a more definitive impact than Staley’s decision to call timeout in overtime.
For what it’s worth, Staley was the favourite to win NFL Coach of the Year in October.
From that point on, the Chargers went 2-3 against opponents that failed to make the playoffs, including losses to the Minnesota Vikings, Denver Broncos and Houston Texans.
Staley’s decision-making from last night’s game will be questioned for a long time coming, but the reality is that one win against any one of Minnesota, Denver and Houston and L.A. would have clinched a playoff spot.
NFL wild-card weekend lines
For as exciting as the regular season finale was, that could be as good as it gets for Raiders and Steelers fans.
Las Vegas and Pittsburgh enter the playoffs with the longest odds to win it all.
The Raiders will travel to face the Cincinnati Bengals as a six-point underdog.
The Steelers are a 12.5-point underdog for their date with the Kansas City Chiefs, the AFC Championship winner favourite at +175.
Meanwhile, the New England Patriots will travel to visit the Buffalo Bills for the third time this season in the other AFC wild-card weekend matchup.
As of this morning, Buffalo is a 4.5-point favourite.
The Bills are the third choice to win the Super Bowl at +750. The Patriots are +2200 to win it all.
In the NFC, Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are an 8.5-point favourite against the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Dallas Cowboys opened as a three-point favourite against the San Francisco 49ers.
The Los Angeles Rams are laying four points for the third meeting of the season against the Arizona Cardinals.
My first thought looking at the board is that every single underdog, but one has a legitimate chance to pull off an upset this upcoming weekend.