Older AFCE

Older AFCE

AFC North Afternoon Roundup: Wild Card Edition

AFC North Afternoon Roundup: Wild Card Edition
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Does a quarterback really matter?
 
To answer my own, albeit ridiculously obvious question, yes; truly a quarterback matters. But given the scarcity of quality starting quarterbacks around the league and, some would argue, in the current playoff draw, it’s legitimate to ask.
 
Here’s your 2016 NFL Playoff Wild Card starting quarterbacks: Russell Wilson (Seahawks), A.J. McCarron (Bengals), Alex Smith (Chiefs), Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers), Brian Hoyer (Texans), Aaron Rodgers (Packers), Teddy Bridgewater (Vikings), and Kirk Cousins (Washington). Wilson, Roethlisberger and Rodgers are title-winning experienced playoff veterans; Alex Smith, slightly less so. Bridgewater, McCarron, Hoyer and Cousins have no playoff experience, and all but Bridgewater were slated as backups within the last calendar year; yet here they are, poised to make runs at a title.
 
Interestingly, McCarron is the only QB in the draw that came by his starting position due to injury; Hoyer was named the starter after incumbent QB Ryan Mallett violated several team rules and was dismissed, and Cousins was shockingly named the starter at the season’s outset, although observers of the Washington team could hardly be criticized for expecting him to be replaced at any moment.
 
So, you have Rodgers facing off against Cousins, Roethlisberger against McCarron, Wilson against Bridgewater, and Smith against Hoyer. Four games, all featuring an established veteran quarterback against a playoff first-timer.
 
My money’s on the veterans.
 
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Around the AFC North:

 

Baltimore Ravens
 
Oft-criticized left tackle Eugene Monroe addresses his injuries with some favorite clichés.
 
My Take: Well, Eugene, since left guard Kelechi Osemele is a free agent, can play left tackle, and has proven more effective and reliable, I’d say your favorite cliché should be something akin to “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”

 

Cleveland Browns
 
SI’s Tom Verducci expand on the Browns’ latest hire, his Moneyball connections, and his surprising football acumen.
 
My Take: It’s an original strategy for an NFL franchise, although analytics have been used in almost every professional sport to some degree. I’m going to withhold judgement of DePodesta for, who’s clearly a bright and well-regarded guy, for a couple of years, as he (probably) can’t do worse than many of the Browns’ recent – and former – decision-makers.

 

Cincinnati Bengals
 
The Bengals and Steelers have been issued warnings prior to their Wild Card matchup this Saturday night.
 
My Take: Not surprisingly, the league appears to be overreacting, as the skirmishes in the previous two meetings between these teams weren’t particularly serious. Bengals’ linebacker Vontaze Burfict is certainly a focal point right now, if trouble were to start.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers
 
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger clarifies his comments regarding wideout – and teammate – Martavis Bryant.
 
My Take: Simply, Bryant is key to potential Steelers success in the passing game on Saturday, as he has the size and speed to beat most deep coverages, and the ability to draw defenders away from premier receiving threat Antonio Brown. Roethlisberger is surely aware of this, hence his repeated comments to Bryant.

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