Welcome to the War Room, where Yahoo Sports’ football minds kick around the key topics of the day. Today, we’re talking NFC champions and snow game plays. Onward!
With Philly dinged, who wins the NFC now? How does Carson Wentz’s injury reshape the landscape for the Super Bowl?
The Carolina Panthers are my new pick for the NFC crown. With Ryan Kalil back to anchor the offensive line in front of the dynamic Cam Newton, the Panthers were able to move the ball on the ground against a tough Minnesota run defense. That’s a really good sign. On the other side of the ball, the defensive line has been playing outstanding football as of late, and the linebacking corps is one of the best in football. The Panthers are well-equipped to handle any elements — and any NFC opponent — moving forward.
I’m going with a homer pick and taking the Vikings. Yeah, they looked bad against Carolina, but they played their one of their worst games and still almost beat the Panthers on the road. If they get a bye they will almost assuredly move to the NFC Championship where they could conceivably have home field again if the Eagles slip, and even if they have to go to Philly, I like their chances against Nick Foles over Carson Wentz. Yes, I’m also fully aware I just jinxed them.
I’d like to formally welcome my Yahoo colleagues to the LA Rams bandwagon. I don’t blame you all for sticking with Philly for so long, hell I’d go as far as to say I admire it, but now your team is toast and you’ve rightfully looked to the West Coast to solve your problems. Come and bask in the glow of Jared Goff’s much-stronger-than-it-looks arm. This doesn’t change my Super Bowl prediction at all. I’m still going Rams-Chiefs. Especially after KC bounced back against Oakland — a much-needed win that leaves plenty of room to grow.
I’m going to have to go with the Saints. Los Angeles and Minnesota both have strong teams, especially on the defensive side of the ball, but I’m going to bet on Drew Brees over both Jared Goff and Case Keenum. The scary thing is that thanks to Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, and a revitalized defense, New Orleans hasn’t really needed Brees to be Brees yet. I do think Wentz’s injury also swings things back onto the AFC’s side when picking a Super Bowl favorite because of how strong New England and Pittsburgh as well as their playoff track record.
Shalise Manza Young
I think I’d like to play the contrarian today and take the Rams. Talk about a rags-to-riches story: Los Angeles lost its last seven games in 2016 and finished with an interim head coach after (finally) parting ways with Jeff Fisher, then hired the youngest head coach in modern NFL history, and he’s already led the team to its first winning season since he was in high school. The Rams have lost to fellow NFC contenders Minnesota and Philadelphia, but that doesn’t mean they’d lose to them again in the playoffs.
Because I am in the bag for anything Atlanta, I’ll take the Falcons, despite the fact that every single person here has made a more cogent argument for other teams than I could for the Falcons. I just want to be able to point to this article a month from now and say I was right all along.
Why not the Eagles? I like the Saints pick too (Drew Brees is the best quarterback left, or maybe Russell Wilson if the Seahawks get in), but the Eagles are still a fine pick. Carson Wentz was great but Philadelphia is 11-2 for reasons beyond its quarterback. The Eagles also have a manageable schedule and can still get the No. 1 seed. And Nick Foles isn’t incompetent. The Eagles can win two home games in January to win the NFC. Getting the top seed is huge for them.
Coach for a day! Imagine you’re the coach in the Buffalo-Indy snow game. What play do you call?
I’d call the ole fumblerooski. With that much snow it’s so hard to see that placing the ball and going one way will get the defense flowing while the center or guard can pick up the football and rumble onward. Plus the only thing better than big guy touchdown is a big guy touchdown dance in the snow. –Velaski
When you’re playing in that much snow, the hardest thing to do is change direction. Thus, I’d try to create some pre-snap adjustments for the defense. I’d bring a wide receiver in motion as if he’ll get the jet sweep and then counter it with a quick pitch to the running back heading the other way. As long as the running back catches the pitch, he should find lots of space given the linebackers are flowing the wrong way. –Pereles
Brandon stole my answer (sigh). Ok, I’m going flea-flicker. It’s risky, but here’s why: As soon as the RB gets the ball everyone will put their head down to avoid snow in their eyes anyways. A quick pitch back and the QB should be open for an easy toss. It doesn’t have to be a long throw, but it should work. On the flip side, there’s so much room for hilarity if the play goes wrong. –Schuster
Could you imagine the chaos that a Flea Flicker would cause? The Bills and Colts ran the ball 97 times on Sunday so the defenses were betting big on the run. Take the risk, call the play action on steroids. Sure, a lot could go wrong, but I’m betting if you could get the pitch to the QB right and toss the ball just 30 yards downfield, you’d have an automatic touchdown. (P.S. Decisions like this are why I’m not an NFL coach or particularly good at Madden) –Sulla
Yes, passing was tough for the Bills and Colts – the quarterbacks were a combined 18-for-38 – but I’d draw up a double pass. As Zach said, in those conditions, quickly changing direction is really difficult, so use the long lateral to draw the defense toward one side of the field, and while they’re scrambling, the quarterback gets the ball back and hits a receiver on a straight go-route. It probably can’t be a 50-yard completion, like we’ve seen other teams pull off, but it just might work for a pass that’s a little shorter and won’t be as affected by wind. –Young
A lot of quarterback runs, or direct snaps to running backs. Snow games turn into old-school football so turn it into a Wing-T game with all direct snaps. Fewer handoffs to botch. One more blocker (when a quarterback hands off he takes himself out of the play, leaving 10 offensive players for 11 defensive players … that’s eliminated on direct snaps). It was good enough for Army-Navy in the snow, so it’s good enough for the NFL too. –Schwab
Hidden ball trick! Decoy receivers laying down in the snow! Big Ben! Triple reverse! Misdirection is the key here; the defense is going to have enough trouble keeping its footing, much less trying to figure out where the damn ball is. So I’m breaking out everything up to and including my running back stuffing the ball under his uniform. Turkey Bowl rules! –Busbee
That’ll do it for this week! Got a suggestion for our crew to kick around? Hit us up via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy Week 15!