New members: Every Thursday morning (Thursday afternoon this week!), we send out the Angles email — in which we take a critical, “overview” look at the slate ahead.
The Lay Of The Land ::
Total Main Slate Games: 13
Every year, we use the Angles Email during the last week of the regular season to run through the scenarios at play in each game. This year is particularly unique, however, in that there is more uncertainty than normal. We pushed back the Angles Email a bit, hoping we would have some clarity on the Bills and Bengals situations, but with no timeline available for answers, we’re rolling out what we know at the moment.
Let’s take a look at what each game offers based on the information we have. If anything changes from here, we’ll have you covered on OWS!
Bucs (18.25) at Falcons (22.25)
Neither team has anything to play for in this one — with the Bucs locked into the four seed in the playoffs, and with the Falcons eliminated. Todd Bowles has said that Buccaneers starters will play, while Vegas is signaling to us that they expect the Bucs to eventually move their starters to the sidelines, with Atlanta favored by four. For whatever it’s worth, however, the Bucs were in a similar situation in 2020 (they couldn’t move above the five seed and were highly unlikely to fall below the five seed, but still needed to continue building momentum before the playoffs), and they elected to play their starters for the entirety of their final game. That’s an interesting angle to consider here. The Falcons, of course, have moved Tyler Allgeier into a featured role and have expanded the emphasis on Drake London over the last month, and both of these should continue in this spot.
Patriots (17.75) at Bills (24.75)
The Bills need to win this game — the question is, “In what way?” Had the Bills defeated the Bengals on Monday night, a win here would lock up the 1 seed for them, which would mean the only bye in the AFC and a home game in the AFC Championship (assuming they were to make it that far). If the NFL decides to still play the Bills/Bengals game, this scenario remains in play; if the NFL decides to instead cancel that game and go to win percentage, Buffalo will not only have the unbelievable emotional roller coaster of the last few days, but will also lose out on the 1 seed through no fault of their own (assuming Kansas City handles business against the Raiders on Saturday). If the Bills were to lose this game and the Bengals were to beat the Ravens, Buffalo would be tied with the Bengals and would lose the tie-breaker based on strength of victory (the fourth tie-breaker available, by the way), thus dropping the Bills to the 3 seed. Summing all that up: the Bills will play this game to win, regardless of how everything “outside their control” shapes up. The Patriots, meanwhile, have an easy path to the playoffs: Win this game, and they’re in. (Lose this game, and they need help.) Both teams should be taking their standard approach in this one.
Vikings (25.25) at Bears (17.75)
You may recall that Nathan Peterman has 13 interceptions and only three touchdown passes on 141 career attempts. He’ll be under center this week for the Bears as they give a banged-up Justin Fields an opportunity to start healing early. The Vikings’ loss to the Packers last week dropped them from the 2 seed to the 3 seed in the NFC, but they can get that 2 seed back with a win and a 49ers loss. Because the 49ers are playing in the late slot, the Vikings should be expected to approach this game with maximum effort — though of course, if they have a big lead deeper into the game, there is a chance they pull some starters.
Ravens (17.0) at Bengals (24.0)
This is where things with the Bills/Bengals game get really messy. If the Bills/Bengals game is rescheduled, the Bengals still have a shot at falling as low as the 5 seed with losses to both the Ravens and Bills, though they also have a shot at the 1 seed with two wins and a Kansas City loss. If the game is not rescheduled, and the NFL goes to win percentage to determine playoff seeding, the Bengals will lock up the AFC North regardless of the outcome of this game. In this scenario, they will still have something to play for, as a Bengals win and a Bills loss would bump the Bengals up to the 2 seed (the 1 seed will be out of reach in this scenario), but there is also a chance the Bengals will decide that resting some players before a first-round playoff game is more important than putting players at risk in the hopes of moving up to the 2 seed. This is a spot where you will want to keep in touch with the news, as the Bengals are (obviously) a high-caliber offense capable of producing slate-topping scores, but they are also an offense at some risk of resting key starters, depending on a variety of scenarios and decisions.
Texans (17.75) at Colts (20.25)
The Texans and Colts have nothing but pride to play for. The Colts will be starting Sam Ehlinger, while the 38.0 total for this game gives us a good sense of what we should expect.