Andrew and Sterling take an awards-style look at the crowded playoff picture. Plus, a special Thanksgiving Loser League announcement!
01 Jan 2007
Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails to each other, both during and after the games. It lets us share ideas for columns and comments, and get an idea of how teams that we can't watch are playing. Be aware that the material in this roundtable might seem a bit disjointed and un-edited. It also might still show up later in the week in other columns, or in comments in PFP 2007. Games are chosen based on our own personal viewing preferences, and are going to reflect the teams we support and the cities where we live.
Hmmm, wait. Based on previous Audibles, this doesn't seem to be getting through to people. Let's try this again.
Does that work for everybody?
Al Bogdan: The NFL Network is showing a program called "Rise and Fall: Story of the 2006 New York Giants" at 4 PM on Saturday. I'm guessing the folks at NFL Films don't like the Giants' chances tonight.
Aaron Schatz: There are people out there who suggested that Tiki Barber wasn't trying his hardest because he plans to retire, and I hope they feel like idiots tonight.
That Tim Carter flop on the PI was pathetic.
Jason Campbell looks really good.
Doug Farrar: I was watching somewhat peripherally, but I started mentally tuning out about the tenth time Collinsworth referred to Eli as "New York Tough" against the 32nd-ranked pass defense, according to DVOA.
Barber looked wonderful, but he was assisted a bit by the Redskins' impersonation of Indianapolis' defense. I haven't seen that many whiffs since Randy Johnson was in his prime.
Aaron Schatz: I also thought Collinsworth was really overplaying the "Kevin Gilbride came in here and fixed things angle." Yeah, it was a combination of Barber looking really good and the Washington defense looking really bad, but Eli looked pretty bad too.
And who the hell throws twice on a must-have drive to David Patten?
Bill Barnwell: Tom Brady?
Aaron Schatz: Sure, in the same way that Brett Favre, five years ago, would have thrown twice on a must-have drive to Antonio Freeman. It still doesn't make it a good idea today. Freeman may be out of the league but he'd probably be better than Patten right now.
Benjy Rose: This was the first NFL Network game I've seen, and I want to agree with just about all that's been said about how terrible Gumbel is. He's just not play-by-play material. On Tiki's third TD, once he broke through the line, Gumbel said "Tiki's gonna score" with about the same sense of excitement as if he said "I have an itch on my elbow."
And then all the accolades put onto the Giants' "awakened" offense; if not for a 55-yard run and a 50-yard run, they may not have won the game. Eli looked awful in the second half.
Campbell looked really good out there.
Al Bogdan: And what does it say about Washington's roster building that the receiver they spent millions of dollars, cap space, and draft picks to replace -- Patten -- is the go to guy on the final drive.
It was also my first NFL Network game. I didn't mind Gumbel so much, but Collinsworth was a bit quick to praise the Giants. The blocks by Shiancoe and Finn that he raved about on Tiki's first two TD's looked like clear holds to me. And I'm with Aaron on Gilbride praise being overblown. With Shockey out, he had a sixth offensive lineman in on every down in the form of Shiancoe. The Giants' most successful plays were when they ran behind the extra blocker, Tiki was patient enough to wait for a sliver of a hole to develop, and then he ran through attempted tackles by Washington's last-string linebackers and defensive backs.
And that praise for Gilbride completely ignores the terrible passing offense. When Ade Jimoh and whoever was behind Ade Jimoh on the depth chart are matched up against Plaxico Burress, you have to figure out a way to get him more than 26 receiving yards. Maybe our game charting stats will show this at the end of the year, but Eli Manning must throw the worst short pass in the league. He seems to have a lot of trouble making accurate throws under five yards. He had one quick pass to Burress to try and take advantage of a one-on-one matchup that sailed a good two feet over his head and one foot to the right.
New York's defense in the second half was atrocious. It was like Tim Lewis hadn't seen any of the Giants' last eight games and thought they'd have no problem holding onto a 21 point lead. In the third quarter, it looked like they went into prevent mode, leaving ridiculously huge cushions on Washington's receivers. I love Mathias Kiwanuka's athleticism as much as Collinsworth does, but instead of praising him for running all over the field making plays, maybe the rest of the defense should be criticized for not making the play that created the need for Kiwanuka to run 12 yards to make a tackle.
Nothing would surprise me about this team going forward. I wouldn't be surprised if the perfect storm of upsets happened and they missed the playoffs. I wouldn't be surprised if they went into Philly next week and lost 47-3. I also wouldn't be surprised if they squeaked out a win against Dallas or Philadelphia next week, won a low scoring game in Chicago the week after, and rode a 300+ yard passing game from Eli to upset the Saints in New Orleans.
Bill Moore: Vince Young just threw a crazy no-look, hook shot throw to the end zone. Randy Cross can't stop fawning over it. "This is why this city is so excited about this guy." If Eli Manning had thrown that pass, people would have been all over him for making a stupid, risky decision. It just goes to show that 'heroic' moves are driven by incoming expectations.
Doug Farrar: I'd like to know why Young didn't even attempt to run in the first half. Were the Pats spying him so much that it opened things up for Travis Henry?
Aaron Schatz: Let it be known that WBCN broadcasters Gil Santos and Gino Cappelletti castigated Young for that hook shot throw.
I'm trying to figure out what happened with Henry. Why is he so much better now than he was two and three years ago in Buffalo? I think he always was good at breaking tackles and pushing forward, and he didn't really look any more shifty -- I think it's mostly the difference between bad run blocking and good run blocking. His two big runs this week were through colossal holes.
It's strange when refs call penalties on the wrong guys. I always wonder if that gets fixed afterwards. They called a penalty on 60, Jacob Bell that should have been on 68, Kevin Mawae, and then a penalty on 94, Ty Warren, that should have been on 99, Mike Wright.
Underrated contributor to Tennessee's late-season improvement: rookie nickel back Cortland Finnegan.
Michael David Smith: Are the Cowboys under the impression that this game is a 4 p.m. kickoff or something? They're playing like absolute crap. Terrell Owens dropped a pass and got slammed to the ground when Dre Bly drilled him, even though Owens outweighs Bly by 40 pounds. Left tackle Flozell Adams was owned by defensive end Corey Smith on the Cowboys' first series, even though I suspect all of you will admit you have no idea who Corey Smith is. They might be able to play like this early against the Lions and still come back and win, but they better not open a game like this in the playoffs.
Note: I think it says a lot about the way we regard Matt Millen that Mike and Doug can write posts about the worst coaches of the year and not even mention Rod Marinelli, the coach of the worst team in the league. When you're coaching Matt Millen's team, you could go 2-14 and do a pretty good coaching job.
Doug Farrar: Yeah -- in my mind, Marinelli gets the same mulligan that Mariucci did. I knew enough about the job Mooch did in San Francisco to understand that for him to get the results he got in Detroit, there had to be a really horrible, disastrous series of decisions going on upstairs. I wonder if that fact, and the job he's done in Philly this year with the playcalling, will have people re-evaluating Marty Mornhinweg and his Abner Haynes Memorial Coin Toss Brainfart.
Aaron Schatz: We need to hear more about this game. Every time I switched over, the Cowboys were playing an interesting new zone coverage called "Cover-Nobody."
The ironic thing about Detroit upsetting Dallas is that they actually figured out a way to blow the number one pick -- not have the number one pick. Does Brady Quinn now hit the tattoo parlor in preparation for his years in silver and black? MDS, are you upset about this?
Michael David Smith: I'm glad the Lions won't have the top pick. They'd just blow it. And I'm not sold on Quinn, either.
Pat Laverty: Vegas has it set at 2-1 that the Detroit Lions will select, from the University of Southern California, Wide Receiver, Dwayne Jarrett.
Will Carroll: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! There is NO chance of this whatsoever. None. Wait. It is the Lions ... and I'm not sure if you're joking.
Mike Tanier: At PJ's in South Jersey, we counted down the final seconds of Lions-Dallas. Three, two, one, Happy New Year! The Eagles are NFC East Champs! Bring in Feeley. Oh wait, you already did. Way to go, Andy Reid.
I believe that Tony Romo has the potential to be a very good starting quarterback. Heck, I don't mind the Pro Bowl selection, because there weren't a lot of options (remember that Jeff Garcia had some of his best games after voting was closed). But when things go too well too early for a quarterback, he can pick up some awful habits. For example, not gripping the ball tightly, and not protecting it in traffic, and waiting forever for a magic play to develop when you could just dump it to Marion Barber and gain five yards.
No one has commented on the "fumble in the end zone" play. There was a prime example of Fumble Luck. Romo fumbles without being touched in his own end zone. Two defenders converge on it, but the ball bounces back into his hands. He's about to get sacked, but he throws a basketball entry pass to Terrell Owens and gets a first down. Two plays later, the Cowboys score. Sure they had to execute to score that touchdown, but this was a 14-point swing that was almost completely dependent on the luck of the bounce. And the same thing almost happened later in the game. Romo fumbled, and about 15 Lions bobbled the recovery attempt.
Mike Martz made some Good Martz calls in this game: the super-aggressive stuff that goes against percentages but can reap big rewards. The Lions scored with nine seconds left in the half on a pass to Roy Williams singled up on the shorter, older Aaron Glenn. Bold call. They threw the ball on fourth-and-short in a later drive, and Jon Kitna hit Furrey or somebody for a nice gain to set up a score. Bold call. And if they fail, stupid calls in some people's minds, but there is no sense playing it safe when you are 2-13.
Finally, the Cover-Nobody is the Cowboys' base defense right now. Glenn is completely finished. Newman is okay but never turned into a shut down corner. Anthony Henry is a nickel safety pretending to be a cornerback. That Watkins kid had an interception today but is a mess. And Roy Williams is a run stopper/cheap shot artist. The Cowboys have to get pressure to beat opponents. And of course they cannot keep handing the ball over.
Al Bogdan: Oakland is called for a five yard penalty for having too many men in the huddle. Aaron Brooks then burns a time out before the next play because the play clock was going to expire. Good stuff.
Doug Farrar: At -34.4%, the 2006 Oakland Raiders would seem to have an outside shot at the Negative Offensive DVOA record, set by the 2005 San Francisco 49ers (-39.8%). Now THAT's something you want on your resume! ("Coordinated record-breaking offense, accourding to Football Outsiders.")
Bill Barwell: The "accourding" there is a good touch because they clearly should be applying to the CFL. Well-played, Doug.
Doug Farrar: Ã‰trangers Du Football?
Aaron Schatz: They didn't get the record, by the way. The Raiders finish at -35.5% on offense.
Benjy Rose: Let me also just say:
This is not a playoff team, but I'll ride the happiness anyway ... plus it gives the young 'uns some playoff experience. I like Little Leon -- gotta root for the short guys. That was a nifty TD run on the shovel pitch.
The D couldn't stop Fargas (who?), and I'm surprised Oakland didn't run even more. Brooks was his normal terrible-with-some-hints-of-goodness. Pennington surprised the world by throwing a successful 15-yard out in the fourth quarter.
All Mike Nugent does is make field goals.
I was in a sports bar with my Dad watching the game, and there was a whole table of Browns fans watching the yuk-fest that was CLE-HOU. Wow. A whole table. Crazy.
Bill Barnwell: The Jets can make any running back look good. If the Jets and Colts defenses collided, the universe would collapse in on itself.
Doug Farrar: Jon Gruden has been watching Seahawks film this week, that's for sure. The Bucs started their first drive with a 32-yard run by Michael Pittman, set up by Chuck Darby's overpursuit up the middle and Julian Peterson's hesitation at the line before getting negated by Mike Alstott. Then, they ran an end around to Maurice Stovall for 18 more yards -- this defense can't handle any manner of misdirection. The second-worst offense in the NFL (according to DVOA) is exploiting all of Seattle's defensive liabilities. With an 8-7 record and coming into this game with a three-game losing streak, is there a team more ill-equipped to handle a playoff run than the Seahawks?
Aaron Schatz: The Cowboys and Giants?
Doug Farrar: D.J. Hackett made a wonderful diving catch on a slant-and-go to sustain Seattle's second drive. I can't say enough about this kid, and he's the reason I questioned the Seahawks giving up their 2007 first-round pick for Deion Branch. Nothing against Branch, but Hackett is just the sort of player that can turn a blowout season into a long-term impact starter's role. In 2005, he was the NFL's leading receiver in DPAR with less than 50 catches. This season, he leads the Seahawks in DPAR after fifteen games. They need to have him involved in the offense all the time, not just when Darrell Jackson's hurt.
Joey Galloway is now tearing up Seattle's secondary. Throw deep on this defense, and you're playing Madden on the "Rookie" setting.
Near the end of the first half, Hackett caught a pass in the end zone that was called incomplete upon review after originally being called a catch. He caught two more passes in the drive, including a second pass in the end zone which was called a TD. The actual touchdown was reviewed by the booth upstairs and upheld. The reason I'm bringing this up is that during the time rookie official Jerome Boger was reviewing the first TD, I was able to cook a gourmet meal, paint my office, give the car a tuneup, and finish Volumes three through seven of Will and Ariel Durant's The Story of Civilization. Wasn't there supposed to be a sixty-second rule with replays this year?
When all was said and done, the Seahawks avoided the indignity of an 8-8 record, though they're still one of the least impressive teams ever to win a division. And the injuries keep piling up. Seattle is now without both of their starting cornerbacks, Marcus Trufant and Kelly Herndon, due to ankle injuries, and LB Leroy Hill left the game with a concussion. Jimmy Williams, the dime corner who replaced Herndon, then suffered a knee injury. D.J. Hackett may have tweaked something. Walter Jones is the only Seahawks offensive player to play in all sixteen games this year. The thought of facing Dallas' receivers next week in the playoffs with a rookie CB (Kelly Jennings) on one side and a free-agent practice squad fill-in (TBD) on the other ... yikes. That should be interesting.
Mike Tanier: Ugly win for the Seahawks. Tim Rattay doesn't have a NFL arm. Once the Seahawks got an early lead and forced a turnover to stop an early Bucs drive, it was clear that Rattay wouldn't lead any comebacks. The Bucs must run a seven-tight end offense. It only looks that way because Maurice Stovall looks like a skinny tight end, but it seems like their whole game is power, power, sneak Galloway deep.
Mike Tanier: I'm not impressed by this Tarvaris Jackson kid. He's a run around guy who likes to dump the ball to his backs all the time. He's a K-Mart scrambler, like Charlie Frye or Bruce Gradkowski, but not as prepared to play.
The Vikings run defense buckled because Steven Jackson is really good and they were on the field all day. The Rams took an early lead and pounded and pounded. This game never ended, and I was sitting next to the only Rams fan in South Jersey. Can we pretty please change to the Chiefs-Jaguars? The score is 41-14. Nope, sorry.
Ryan Wilson: The Bengals' first two plays of their first possession were go routes. Both times Ike Taylor -- who's getting his first start in a while -- was in coverage. Both passes were well defended. On Pittsburgh's second possession, Roethlisberger throws into double coverage and Tory James gets the pick, but on the return Alan Faneca strips the ball before James is down. Even though there's a TV timeout to review the play, the Steelers don't challenge. Cue James Taylor: "Carolina in my mind."
For the second straight week, Willie Parker fumbles at the opponent's one-yard line. Three plays later, Palmer hits Chris Henry for a 66-yard TD. I wonder, at what point do you try and make an adjustment when it comes to fumbling? Apparently, Parker's not there yet.
Pat Laverty: Why doesn't Ed Hochuli just quit with the silliness and tailor his ref's jersey to look like the Kluzewski Cincinnati Reds sleeveless? He flexes every time he's on camera. When do we start drug testing the officials?
Bill Barnwell: Where do you think he gets referee's gear in a Boys L?
Pittsburgh's getting some real questionable calls against them, including three in a row (roughing the passer, fumble that was ruled an incomplete pass, pass interference) on Cincinnati's drive to take the lead 17-14.
And now, on their final drive, Cincinnati was called for a delay of game, but then the referees conferred and granted Cincinnati a timeout. Oof.
I predict the Bengals draft a special teams-specific player on Day 1 of the NFL Draft.
Doug Farrar: In the third quarter, David Garrard threw a little LOS screen to Ty Law. I'm sure there was a back in a Jaguars uniform behind him, but Garrard threw the ball right to Law. Looked right at him, and threw it anyway. Not surprisingly, Quinn Gray is now in at quarterback. We'll see if Gray can just win ballgames.
Gray ran for two touchdowns, but the Chiefs eked out the win. And with 2:33 left in the fourth quarter, Larry Johnson carried the ball for the 411th time this season, breaking Jamal Anderson's 1998 record for carries in a season. In 1999, Anderson ran 19 times for 59 yards and went down in the second game of the season with a knee injury. He was out of the league two years later. As we've said before at Football Outsiders, this would almost be excusable on Herm Edwards' part if a.) he wasn't so stubborn and defiant about Johnson's carries; and b.) he didn't run Curtin Martin out of the league two years ago.
Bill Barnwell: At least we have the Larry Johnson comment for the book done now.
Aaron Schatz: 416 carries for the season. Man, if only somebody, somewhere had written something about Larry Johnson's carries before Friday, or maybe said something about it on ESPN News, maybe this all could have been avoided.
Was Garrard actually PULLED for Gray? Does that mean that Del Rio has changed his mind about ditching Leftwich and making Garrard the quarterback permanently? They've really burned their bridges with Leftwich.
Doug Farrar: Garrard was indeed pulled. Gray put on his helmet right after Garrard came back to the sideline.
Benjy Rose: So with Gray playing for Jacksonville, is this the first time a team has had three black QBs in a season? I remember it being notable that they had two, but I hadn't heard of Gray. I only saw the last 5 minutes, but he looked pretty solid.
Mike Tanier: If a team has three black QBs, which one is the "heady leader"? And which one is the "athlete who just isn't a winner"? Do they go by skin tone or scrambling ability? And will I rot in hell for suggesting that's how players are evaluated by many fans/media outlets?
Doug Farrar: You'll rot in hell for telling the truth? When did that start? We know one thing for sure -- they will all be said to have more "instincts" than "intangibles," and none of them will be "deceptively fast."
Bill Barnwell: It's OK. We're "stat geeks" who live in "our parents' basements."
Will Carroll: Well that's an absolute first. Booger McFarland just took off his OWN helmet (it'd been knocked up since it wasn't buttoned -- and I don't think he even had a chinstrap) and got the sack. Now, besides the really cool looking replay, isn't that a penalty?
Aaron Schatz: Remember when people thought this last week's game might be Miami trying to defend the legend of the 1972 Dolphins against the 15-0 Colts? Heh.
Aaron Schatz: Did anybody just see Ebenezer Ekuban doing a little dance when San Francisco's Adam Snyder was called for a false start? Ebenezer Ekuban: Brining Sexy Back.
I wish I had something constructive to say about this Denver-San Francisco game, but I'm really not noticing anybody playing different from expected, and I have no idea what happened with the refs and that Tatum Bell "fumble." I do say that putting a quarterback back into the game after a head injury MAY NOT BE A GOOD IDEA.
...and the game heads to overtime. And this should be really interesting -- you know how people complain about teams playing "not to lose?" This time, Denver really IS playing "not to lose" because a tie gives them a playoff spot.
Jason Beattie: Turns out the Broncos were trying a new strategy: "Play to not win." I have no idea what happened with that fumble either.
Aaron Schatz: Thanks, Denver. Now we can look forward to:
1) Another week of Mangini-Belichick stories. Kill me now.
2) Indianapolis freaking out at the prospect of playing Larry Johnson.
3) Another 30 and maybe 60 carries for Larry Johnson, which means he is Oompa Loompa dupity screwed.
Mike Tanier: Didn't see the fumble. Saw the Niners execute a long drive in overtime, then punt and pin the Broncos, allow a short drive, and get the ball back with a long return. Saw Karl Paymah lose containment on a reverse, let Gilmore get past him, and saw Alex Smith throw a block on John Lynch. Saw Gilmore catch a deep out pass on third-and-long in front of Abdullah to more-or-less kill the Broncos. Saw Gerard Warren actually stumble backwards off the line on a second-and-short play and I was shocked that Frank Gore didn't run it into that gap and score right then and there. Bottom line: Broncos didn't belong in the playoffs.
Mike Tanier: All. A. J. Feeley. Does. Is. Win.
Seriously, the Eagles have a good bench and all, but could the Falcons have phoned it in any worse than they did? And will Michael Vick make it to his New Years Party? And does he need liquor or is he already groggy?
Doug Farrar: At the end of the first half, Rex Grossman's QB rating is 0.0. As it was halfway through the third quarter against the Vikings on December 3rd. Can we officially start calling him "Blutarsky" now?
Aaron Schatz: And the Bears were playing all their defensive starters. The Bears defense has just crumbled over the last month. Remember, all the testing I do says you should count these Week 17 games in DVOA and the Bears aren't lookin' good out there.
Any Given Sunday: Lions over Cowboys
Every Play Counts: Jets offensive line
109 comments, Last at 03 Jan 2007, 6:44pm by zlionsfan