Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

Most Recent FO Features

RiceSid07.jpg

» Sidney Rice: What Could Have Been?

Sidney Rice has retired. Is he the most random single-season DYAR leader ever? One-year wonder? Injury prone? We offer a career retrospective for the second-best wide receiver named Rice in NFL history.

08 Dec 2008

Audibles at the Line: Week 14

compiled by Doug Farrar and Vince Verhei

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 2009. 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.

Thursday, December 4

Oakland Raiders 7 at San Diego Chargers 34

Doug Farrar: Chargers-Raiders. San Diego's 24.1% pass defense DVOA vs. Oakland's -27.1% pass offense DVOA. It's almost like professional football!

Well, the good news for the Raiders is that in Chris Johnson, they've found someone who can get blown by on a sideline route just as well as DeAngelo Hall. Priceless "Hey, this is just like scrimmage!" look from Norv Turner on the sideline as Vincent Jackson scored. Oakland has actually improved pretty drastically in Defensive DVOA against the pass in the second half of the season, but that was nasty.

Aaron Schatz: How bad was this game? Nationally broadcast game and it gets one Audibles comment. Honestly, what else was there to say?

Bill Barnwell: I watched the game for two and a half quarters. Then I started flipping through the channels and saw that there was a show on a 637-pound woman on. I watched that instead. It turns out she's fat.

Mike Tanier: Goal-line fullback potential?

Bill Barnwell: I thought they were moving McNabb to fullback?

Elias Holman: Ooh, I was hoping she was 100 pounds with a 537-pound tumor. I gave up after this sequence:

3-2-SD 46 (12:16) A.Walter pass incomplete short left to D.McFadden.
4-2-SD 46 (12:12) (Shotgun) A.Walter pass incomplete short left to D.McFadden.

After which Walter unbuttoned his chin strap and made this sort of "Oh well, so much for that" face, and Darren McFadden looked like he was going to punch someone in frustration.

The announcers did have an interesting discussion about what was going on with LaDainian Tomlinson, with someone (can't remember how) contending that because the Chargers were 4-8 going into the game, Tomlinson didn't get to pound the ball in the fourth quarter to run out the clock and so he wasn't breaking off resulting long runs that pad his numbers. Versus last year, his success rate is down from 45 percent to 40 percent, and his DYAR and DVOA are way down, but based on the play-by-play data, is there any truth to the "no long runs in the fourth quarter" theory?

Aaron Schatz: This may require more research, but here's a cursory look... It does look like Tomlinson has a history of being better in the fourth quarter. From 2005-2007, every year his DVOA was higher in the fourth quarter than the other three quarters.

Last year was very odd, because Tomlinson's value was remarkably slanted towards the fourth quarter. He had DVOA over 40% in the fourth quarter with DVOA in single digits the other three quarters. However, those runs didn't come with huge leads. In the fourth quarter, he had 20 carries for 185 yards with a lead of a touchdown or less, and 15 carries for 32 yards with a lead of more than a touchdown.

In 2006, Tomlinson had his highest DVOA in the fourth quarter, but he actually had more yardage in each of the other three quarters. In 2005, the yardage was evenly distributed, pretty close to equal among the four quarters.

This year, once again, he is better in the fourth quarter. It is the only quarter where he has positive DVOA. However, the main reason is that he has 19 carries for 108 yards with the Chargers down by 0-8 points in the fourth quarter. That's not stat padding.

On initial glance, it does not look like the Chargers' record is the reason for Tomlinson's dramatic statistical drop.

Sunday, December 7

Jacksonville Jaguars 10 at Chicago Bears 23

Vince Verhei: Devin Hester has been nothing special as a punt returner this season, but Jaguars punter Steven Weatherford still treated him with some healthy respect. He kicked three punts out of bounds (and averaged 41 yards on those punts, so he wasn't sacrificing distance to keep the ball out of Hester's hands). Hester did get his ball on three kicks. One was returned for 22 yards; the others were both fumbled (and recovered, by Hester).

Minnesota Vikings 20 at Detroit Lions 16

Bill Barnwell: The Detroit-Minnesota color commentator notes that someone on the Lions "...still moves good." Yeah, you're not a professional or anything. Don't sweat English.

Mike Tanier: Dude is covering a Lions game...

Bill Moore: Gus Ferrotte carted off the sideline (as opposed to carted off the field of play) just before halftime. I missed what happened to him. Tarvaris Jackson warming up.

Doug Farrar: Gosder Cherilus needs to be suspended for the rest of the season for the blatant cut block he put on Jared Allen. You're messing with careers when you do stuff like that.

I just re-watched the Cherilus-Allen play again, and there's no doubt in my mind that Cherilus went after his knee. Cherilus was on his knees getting up from the turf, and he saw Allen pursuing Culpepper pre-throw when Culpepper was about 5 yards away. His head was above Allen's knee, and he leaned his helmet down and in, aiming right at the side of Allen's left knee.

Bill Moore: Doug, can you explain what the violation was? I saw the play. I know you can't chop block when the defensive player is engaged with someone else. In this case, Cherilus was lying on the ground. Allen was coming across the offensive side of the line unencumbered. Cherilus lurched his body at Allen and, because he started from a prone position, hit him low. I'm not necessarily defending him; I just don't know what made it illegal.

Doug Farrar: I'm not 100 percent sure what the rule is regarding that kind of thing, and I really don't care after seeing it again. He should have been thrown out of the game. If there isn't a rule that immediately penalizes a player who goes after another player's knee, there certainly damn well should be. There are clear-cut rules regarding what is and isn't cut blocking and clipping, and I think it would be a clip since he wasn't engaged with another player. Bill, what did you see?

Tim Gerheim: I just saw the highlight, and I'm no expert on the rule, but regardless of the legality of it, for a ligament-tearer like Jared Allen to lose his mind about a questionably legal block just proves what a jackass he is.

Bill Moore: Tim, they mentioned something like that on the DirecTV Red Zone coverage.

Doug, it's hard to say; I only saw it once. Allen was running down the quarterback. Cherilus was on the ground. He saw Allen coming, lifted himself up push-up style and flung his body toward the oncoming Allen. It looked to me like he hit Allen in the shin. It didn't look dirty, but Allen was clearly BS. The DirecTV announcer seemed to be surprised Cherilus wasn't thrown out. Considering Allen wasn't engaged with another offensive player, I didn't know why it was illegal.

Ben Riley: I just have to say, there is some irony in Jared Allen flipping out over being victimized by a questionable cut block. Ask Matt Schaub, I'm sure he'll agree with me.

Doug Farrar: Yeah, I get that. I get that Allen has done this, too. But at some point, it has to stop. Maybe if the NFL fined players more for dirty hits than they did for excessive celebration, that would help.

Bill Moore: But my point is, Cherilus could not physically hit Allen anywhere but below the knee based on his starting point. Unlike a chop block where the blocker chooses to cut the rusher as opposed to hitting him dead on, this is a case where Cherilus had only two choices -- hit low, or not hit at all.

Bill Barnwell: It was a legal play that was a cheap shot. Allen was acres away from the play.

Doug Farrar: I think that's the most accurate way to describe it.

It looked to me that Cherilus could have lunged at him with his hands, at least throwing him off his angle, as opposed to lowering his helmet at that time. Had Allen not been so far away from Culpepper, I could understand -- blockers make split-second decisions to protect their quarterbacks and it isn't always pretty. But that far away from the play? I'm having difficulty with the idea that he had no other option.

Tim Gerheim: I don't think you can make the argument that Allen was too far away from the play to merit Cherilus trying a last-ditch block attempt wherever it could be had. If Allen had made it around to make the play, Cherilus would have caught hell from the coaches when they reviewed the tape (assuming Detroit
coaches do their jobs the same way as NFL coaches do). It's like saying a backside defensive end (like Allen) shouldn't blow up a tight end or blocking back to chase down a run to the opposite side. Maybe Cherilus went at Allen's knee in an inappropriate way, but to say he shouldn't have tried to block him is like saying he shouldn't have tried to play.

Bill Barnwell: Allen was on the other side of the play. There's a huge difference in the backside when your halfback is a yard behind the line of scrimmage and inside the hash as opposed to Culpepper, who was six yards away and well outside the hash. They're totally different situations.

Vince Verhei: Minnesota came into this game in first place, looking to put away the league's worst team and strengthen their playoff position ... and (are we still allowed to say this about football players?) shoot themselves in the foot. Four offsides penalties in the first quarter, then Gus Frerotte threw a brain-lock interception before being injured. Fortunately, they were playing the Lions, so they were able to overcome all this even with Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback.

Late in the first half, Detroit had a pair of fourth-and-1s in field-goal range -- once at the 37, once at the 6 -- and went for it both times. From the 37, a Daunte Culpepper pass fell incomplete. From the 6, Culpepper ran a quarterback sneak right into Williams & Williams, Inc., and that also failed. I'm not going to throw Detroit under the bus for going for it twice, though the sneak is probably the last play I would call against Minnesota; why not try a fade to Calvin Johnson in the end zone? But I also wanted to point out that if Detroit converts one or both of those first downs, or kicks a pair of field goals, this game likely has a different outcome.

Late in this game, Jared Allen found himself being blocked one-on-one by Casey Fitzsimmons. Who is Casey Fitzsimmons? A career backup fullback who has started 11 games in six seasons in Detroit. The fact that this man could not penetrate the starting lineup for DETROIT in six years speaks volumes. And in a tight game, he was left alone to block a former sack champion. Unsurprisingly, the result was a strip sack. This is why the Lions are the Lions.

Houston Texans 24 at Green Bay Packers 21

Bill Barnwell: Green Bay has moved Charles Woodson to safety this week since Atari Bigby is hurt, and Texas is abusing the Packers secondary with double-moves and deep stuff. The Packers were lucky enough to get a fumble recovery inside the 5 and Tramon Williams had a nice pick on a quick out, but the Texans are dominating what is a 7-7 game. Steve Slaton looks really impressive, converting a run and a quick hitch for first downs on third-and-11-plus.

Doug Farrar: Kinda surprised they're keeping Woodson at safety with those receivers, but no surprise that Slaton could blow up Green Bay's mega-bad run defense.

Tim Gerheim: For those of you who remember TMQ (and me for that matter), Steve Slaton had one of those "hidden plays" that Gregg Easterbrook occasionally exults. The Texans had the ball at the Green Bay 45 with 9 seconds left in the first half. They threw a flat pass to Slaton, who broke free and headed up the field in the direction of the sideline, but alertly ran out of bounds at the 20 with 1 second left because he most likely wasn't going to be able to score, so he preserved a chance for a field goal. Kris Brown pushed the kick wide right by about a foot, so it came to naught, but it was a really heads-up play by a rookie.

Vince Verhei: Green Bay had a bunch of mental breakdowns today. Two defenders ran into each other on Kevin Walter's long touchdown, they had a kickoff return for a score negated by a holding penalty, and Aaron Rodgers threw a dumb interception late in the first half to set up Steve Slaton's nifty step out of bounds.

Houston ran at least 1,000 naked bootlegs off of play action, the kind of play that usually leaves an end or linebacker with an unblocked route to the quarterback. I hate these plays, because it seems like nine times out of ten the pass rusher is not fooled by the run fake at all, but the Green Bay ends never had a clue, and Matt Schaub found himself standing all alone, with no blockers or pass rushers to impede his vision, over and over again.

It's small consolation to Green Bay, I'm sure, but Aaron Rodgers' pass on the last play of the third quarter -- a 63-yard bomb to Greg Jennings that zipped just over the fingers of both Jacques Reeves and Brandon Harrison -- may have been the best throw I've seen all year.

Atlanta Falcons 25 at New Orleans Saints 29

Mark Zajack: FO whipping boy Jason David guesses right on a Matt Ryan-to-Roddy White quick out to set up the Saints' first score. Not sure if the Saints freed him up to play more aggressively and get more safety help, but he didn't hesitate to jump that route. I see some Roddy White double-moves in his future.

Doug Farrar: 197 total yards. Have I mentioned that I love me some Pierre Thomas? I believe I have.

Vince Verhei: For perhaps the first time this year, the Atlanta passing game succeeded because of the receivers more than the play of Matt Ryan. On one play Ryan scrambled to his right, and Roddy White broke open 5 yards behind the defense. Ryan threw up an absolute duck, a lob pass that White had to come back to. By the time it came down, both Josh Bullucks and Roman Harper had a chance at the ball, but White pulled it down for a big gain. Later, Ryan threw a pass high and in front of Michael Jenkins, but Jenkins made a great leaping catch.

The White play was another example of Atlanta receivers now knowing to get open, not block, when the quarterback scrambles. Ryan is great at keeping his eyes downfield as he moves out of (or up in) the pocket.

Also wanted to congratulate Brian Finneran, who missed all of 2006 and 2007 after having his left knee turned inside out and put back together a couple of times. He scored a touchdown today, his first since November 6, 2005, against Miami.

Philadelphia Eagles 20 at New York Giants 14

Bill Barnwell: Eagles are playing an interesting scheme early on. The corners are giving a cushion, but it looks like they're pushing the safeties up and playing a lot of Cover-1 and Cover-0. Domenik Hixon is going to have to beat them deep.

Bill Moore: Bang. Antonio Pierce shots through the gap. He blasts Brian Westbrook, who was coming through like a bullet.

Bill Barnwell: OK, Mike. I know that you're fuming about the Eagles' offensive scheme apparently involving building a house for the Giants in the backfield and making DeSean Jackson the primary running back. But say something nice about Andy Reid calling a timeout with four seconds left so that David Akers could kick a 50-plus-yard field goal with the wind at his back.

Mike Tanier: Andy Reid successfully noticed a stinging 30-mph wind that sent my Christmas decorations three blocks down the street. I am shocked Akers can still make 50-yarders.

Bill Barnwell: And then Hixon beat the Eagles deep ... and dropped the pass.

Doug Farrar: You can't throw a deep ball any better than that. Wow.

Brandon Jacobs' 23-yard run at the start of the second quarter was another argument that the Giants' offensive line is the NFL MVP this year. He headed right behind perfect blocks from the line and his fullback, and he looked like he was walking through the Eagles' defense.

Mike Tanier: Pretty happy with the defensive play right now, especially if Hixon's drop somehow counts as "defense."

Aaron Schatz: Question: If it had been Antonio Pierce who shot himself, and Plaxico Burress who was just the guy hanging out with him, would the Giants have been as forward about suspending Pierce for the rest of the season -- and would Giants fans be as copacetic about the whole event?

Bill Moore: Sal Pal on ESPN this morning had a source inside the Giants' front office who said (and I forget the exact words) that they have had to put up with a lot with Plax, and most of it hasn't made itself into the public realm.

I believe there is quite a bit of protection built into Plax's latest contract, and the Giants might be protecting their financial interests by reacting fast. I think they would have let the situation play itself out more if it had been Pierce.

Giants fans have a bit of an invincible feeling lately (and rightly so), so if Pierce is out instead, they take that in stride too.

Bill Barnwell: It's a combination of things, and I don't think it'd be any different if, say, the Patriots had the same incident with Randy Moss playing the role of Burress and Tedy Bruschi playing the role of Pierce. Burress has been fined frequently by the Giants -- I've seen some places report more than 20 times. He suffers some from being a wide receiver, as those guys have the reputation for being flakes. He was also ably replaced by Hixon, which I think is the biggest thing. If the Giants offense was struggling without Burress, fans would want him on the roster.

Remember, after the Super Bowl, there wasn't a single Giants fan who wouldn't have wanted Reese to resign Burress. It was the Mike Lowell thing all over again.

Doug Farrar: I will say this: This is exactly the kind of weather game in which Burress has proven to be so valuable, with his physicality inside and Eli Manning's comfort with him. I haven't seen Manning on the wrong page with his primary receiver on this many plays since his rookie year.

(Down 10-0 late in the first half, the Giants block a field goal and return the ball for a touchdown.)

Bill Barnwell: There are no words.

Mike Tanier: Ahh, the joys of running up the middle from a power formation on first-and-10. Sometimes the simple solutions are the best. But boy, the Giants always answer with a good kick return after giving up a touchdown, don't they?

Bill Barnwell: The Giants are approximately 0-for-373 in the first half on third and fourth down. Wow.

Aaron Schatz: Doesn't Kenny Phillips block L.J. Smith in the back on the field goal block return? Is that not a penalty on a field goal block like it is on a punt return or kick return?

Bill Barnwell: Mike, are you alive? Done yelling? I'm legitimately concerned.

Mike Tanier: Tra la la la la la la. Being an Eagles fan is fun! Tra la la la la la la. Now we get 32-yard field-goal attempts blocked. Twice. In the same game.

Aaron Schatz: This third-string left guard for the Eagles is playing well today, no problems at all. Of course, part of that is the fact that the Eagles have actually been running some -- gasp! -- run-heavy, clock-eating drives instead of passing all the time.

Russell Levine: Having landed at Newark right around 3 p.m. this afternoon, I can certainly vouch that the wind was No Joke (in caps) today. It was white-knuckle the whole way, and people applauded the landing.

Bill Barnwell: OK, is this Eagles win going to be DVOA Game of the Year? They're up 20-7 with two minutes to go and they've shut out the league's best offense in their own stadium.

Aaron Schatz: Well, two things. First, I don't have home-field advantage figured right into DVOA yet, so the fact that this is in Giants Stadium is something to be considered subjectively and separately. Second, the final Giants drive when the Eagles were in prevent defense will make up a bit of the difference between the teams. I know, people say "it was a meaningless drive," but it did put the Giants in position to make an onside kick -- which could have given them the ball with a chance to win. Doesn't seem meaningless to me.

New York Jets 14 at San Francisco 49ers 24

Bill Barnwell: Phil Simms: "Some stats in the NFL can lie. The 49ers don't have a lot of sacks, but when you watch them play, they hit the quarterback a lot, and I think that can be more dangerous because it can lead to turnovers."

OK.

A) Stats don't lie. People who use stats incorrectly lie.
B) Of course, Phil is pointing out that a stat is lying by quoting what would be another stat instead -- hits. He just doesn't have it tracked.
C) In Phil Simms' world, sacks don't lead to turnovers?

Doug Farrar: The best thing to do when Phil tries to sound intelligent is to pat him on the head and give him a cookie.

Aaron Schatz: Anyone catching any Jets-49ers? Are the matchups discussed in Numbers Crunching (Jets struggling against offenses in shotgun, 49ers defense playing well against empty backfields) coming into play at all?

Mike Tanier: The Jets are using their usual low-protein diet of short passes on offense. Scrappy-Doo is playing well and the Niners have been able to sustain a few long drives with a lot of passing.

I just watched a bad empty backfield play by the Jets, but I saw a 24-yard completion from an empty set earlier, so I am not sure.

Oooh, Brad Smith was just clocked by Patrick Willis on a 7-yard gain from an empty set and he looks all fouled up. The AFC could be a muddle after today.

Aaron Schatz: Actually, I think the AFC is pretty far from a muddle. Tennessee and Denver are going to win their divisions. Even if Pittsburgh had lost to Dallas today (I'm assuming they hold on to win here...), and even if Baltimore loses to Washington tonight, I think both those teams are in. Indianapolis is almost assuredly in. The only really open spot is for the AFC East, currently a three-way tiebreaker that the Jets win solely because they haven't played as many division games yet.

Mike Tanier: A three-way tiebreaker sounds like a muddle to me!

Aaron Schatz: Right, but just that division, not the whole conference. The NFC is a bigger mess because all the teams in the South and East have winning records.

New England Patriots 24 at Seattle Seahawks 21

Vince Verhei: Just to drive Doug crazy, here is an actual headline in last Friday's Seattle Times: "Seahawks' Deion Branch has been a questionable investment."

Doug Farrar: The only thing I have left to say about the Branch trade is that I hated it from the moment it happened. I was not in the group who thought it was a ballsy, proactive move. My first thought was, "Gosh -- I thought Al Davis was the only one who overpaid Super Bowl MVPs who haven't done much else?"

Aaron Schatz: It is strange hearing Dick Enberg and Randy Cross express so much shock as the Patriots' zone coverage schemes give up pass after pass. They seem shocked that New England isn't playing great defense. Guys, you've done like half of this team's games in 2008. Have you even been paying attention? The Patriots have given up tons of passing yardage all year long.

And hey, here's a shock, it turns out that the 75-year-old Junior Seau isn't fast enough to cover a rookie tight end.

Bill Moore: Notice no Deltha O'Neal today. Jonathan Wilhite in his place.

Aaron Schatz: I have no idea if you mean that this is positive for the Patriots, or negative.

Bill Moore: Not enough data on Wilhite to know if it was positive or negative, but it appears that O'Neal got benched after a week of getting ripped in the Boston press. O'Neal made an appearance late in the game. It may have come after Wilhite let up when Seneca Wallace was headed toward the sideline, then literally watched Wallace scamper down the sideline for another 10-plus yards.

Doug Farrar: Apparently, the Seahawks took their long post-Thanksgiving break to deal with a little thing called tackling. Their ability to contain, especially in the last month, has been absolutely abysmal, but they're wrapping up and making a few plays. That I'm actually taking time to note this tells you just what kind of season it's been around here.

And I'm glad Seneca Wallace is in there today. Matt Hasselbeck was playing hurt, and the offensive timing was gone.

Oh, and they appear to not be using their linebackers to cover downfield receivers one-on-one. That's probably a strategic improvement.

On Seattle's touchdown drive at the end of the third quarter, Branch looked, for the very first time in a long time, like the receiver who could actually live up to what the Seahawks paid for him. He took a short pass from Seneca Wallace at the right sideline and ran all the way to the left sideline, eluding about five defenders with the benefit of impressive blocking, for a 63-yard gain. Then, he brought in a one-handed catch from Wallace in the end zone. Pretty incredible.

I would like to think that plays like these are what we'll see in the future as opposed to a few big bangs being the cause of the team deciding to bring Branch back next year at a major cap cost, watching him through more of the same schematic and injury issues, and failing to build a total receiver corps because they're expecting X amount from this guy and he just can't deliver.

Note to the Seahawks: Marcus Trufant on Randy Moss, yes. Josh Wilson on Randy Moss, nooooooooo. Giving up a foot to the guy you're covering is never a good idea.

Aaron Schatz: It looks to me like Trufant is using a lot of hand contact on Moss when he's covering him. It seems like there have been four or five passes today just past Moss's reach, where it seems like Moss is moving towards the ball much slower than he should be. And then they fade to Moss in the end zone, and he covers Moss well enough to force a field goal.

Doug Farrar: The Pats have this little motion thing they like to do. At the snap on the long pass to Moss that set up the winning touchdown, Moss did a shake-and-bake, Trufant took Wes Welker short, and Wilson was left with Moss down the sideline. Great play by Welker to set up that confusion presnap, because he started out outside Moss and motioned inside, which took Trufant's press on Moss away.

Patrick Laverty: Now, that's just not right. Slightly more than two minutes to play, Seneca Wallace takes off out of the pocket, cuts to the sideline and slows down. Whole defense slows down too. Wallace cuts it back toward the field for another 5 yards and a first down. If the defense touches him when he slows down, it's 15 yards. That's probably the biggest thing that is wrong with the NFL right now, the overprotection of quarterbacks.

Ben Riley: We've talked a lot about the injuries to the Seahawks' wide receiving corps, but did anyone notice the starting offensive line today? Sean Locklear over at left takle, Mansfield Wrotto making his debut at right guard, and Steve Vallos starting his second game at center -- and making Chris Spencer look like a genius at making blitz adjustments. Unsurprisingly, the game ended when the Hawks failed to account for a Brandon Meriweather safety blitz. Meriweather, by the way, happens to be the guy the Patriots selected with the Branch trade pick. (Although to be fair, Branch had his best game as a Seahawk this year.)

There have been a lot of rumors swirling around this team -- no, Jim Mora isn't going to the University of Washington -- but the most intriguing one is that Hasselbeck might be cut. That seems extraordinarily dumb to me, particularly since he could be a great mentor to (Tim Tebow!) or whoever the Hawks end up acquiring. That said, Seneca Wallace continues to show just enough talent to be intriguing.

Ned Macey: I haven't watched a bunch of New England this year, but they did not look good even in winning today. So, just for mindless speculation, what do people think their record would be if Tom Brady had not been hurt? The Pats fans will be better on the game-by-game, but my sense is that due to the defensive issues, they'd be sort of the same quality as the Ravens or Steelers, just below the Titans. The defense would be protected if the offense was better, but it is just bad.

Aaron Schatz: That sounds about right. They would be as good as the Ravens or Steelers, but the strength would be on offense rather than defense. They've had two three-point losses and I think it is reasonable to believe that they would have likely won those two games with Brady leading one of the league's top two or three offenses. At 9-3, they would be floating around that second seed, but they still would have lost to the Dolphins (where the defense couldn't handle the Wildcat), the Chargers (where the defense couldn't handle anything), and the Steelers (where the offensive line couldn't handle the pass rush in the second half). It's pretty clear that the secondary has to be the focus of the offseason transactions and draft picks.

Bill Barnwell: One of the things that doesn't factor in is the fact that the Patriots are slowing the game down more and teams are seeing fewer drives against New England. Last year, the Patriots were giving up 1.42 points per drive, third-best in the league. This year, that's all the way up to 1.96, which is 19th. If Brady was around, the Patriots would be playing at a faster pace, have more drives against them, and allow more points.

Bill Moore: Out of their five losses, I think they beat the Colts and beat the Jets -- all else the same. They may or may not have beat the Dolphins. That game turned on a bunch of bad Matt Cassel plays before the Wildcat buried them. The defense still gets burned, but Brady most likely puts up many more points on the Dolphins' D. The Steelers game is impossible to say. That game was close up through half, and then...

The Steelers could have played Brady just as tough. Matthew Slater still fumbles. James Harrison still beats Matt Light on the edge and still likely records a strip sack.

So, they are 10-3, or maybe 11-2. That puts them amongst the top of the AFC.

The defense as been terrible (pass defense particularly), but they have been in most games anyway.

Aaron Schatz: I think Bill is right that they might not have let the Miami game get away from them so egregiously if Brady had been the quarterback. Cassel did play poorly, and there was generally a feeling that the Patriots were in a complete state of panic.

This is actually what the DVOA projection system expected from the Patriots this year. Their defensive projection was one of the worst in the league -- but their offensive projection was so high and their schedule so easy that it wasn't going to be a real problem. Take out Brady, put in Cassel, and make the Patriots a slightly above-average offense instead of a great one, and this is what you get... 8-5.

St. Louis Rams 10 at Arizona Cardinals 34

Vince Verhei: Ken Whisenhunt is like Sean Payton in that he sometimes can't resist getting cute for no reason. Today they put Antrel Rolle in at receiver and threw him the ball on a little bubble screen. Because they were the playing the Rams, Rolle was able to slip some tackles and pick up 9 yards. But there's no need to use a safety on the other side of the ball when your offense is already choked with playmakers.

They put up an amazing stat in this game: The Rams are last in the NFL in red zone drives AND last in red zone efficiency. So they almost never get close to the end zone, and on the rare occasions they do, they still screw it up.

Dallas Cowboys 13 at Pittsburgh Steelers 20

Bill Barnwell: Presented without comment.

Aaron Schatz: Anyone have an idea what happened with the coverage when Pittsburgh completed that deep pass to Nate Washington that set up the Heath Miller touchdown? Wow, Washington was wide open.

Bill Barnwell: I assume Dallas was in a Cover-4 and Pittsburgh did a great job of pickup.

Doug Farrar: Well, that's moot. Romo throws a pick to DeShea Townsend directly over Jason Witten's head. Mike Tomlin swings his headset like Roger Daltrey used to swing his microphone (because a Towns(h)end made the play, perhaps?), and there's your ballgame.

Bill Barnwell: This game basically came down to the pass rush. When the Pittsburgh pass rush was getting to Tony Romo, he was struggling to create on the fly. When the Dallas pass rush got to Ben Roethlisberger, he was basically useless.

It still amazes me that James Harrison was an unrestricted free agent who bounced around two practice squads and was a Clark Haggans injury away from being out of football. I think a lot of people don't realize how tenuous players' paths to stardom are, and how the distinct possibility exists that there are stars buried deep in depth charts -- or worse, out of football.

Aaron Schatz: Have you ever read the Bill James essay "Revolution" from Baseball Abstract 1988? A lot of it is about this particular issue. The fact is, talent evaluation is going to be imperfect. Some good players will be missed. Others will not become good players until they develop later in life, after the age of 22 or 23 when they would be drafted by the NFL. Because the NFL has no minor leagues, there's nowhere for players like this to play until they get noticed or develop into major-league quality talent. (There's Arena and CFL, but those are games played by different rules which tend to favor certain types of talents.) James' essay was about how baseball owners couldn't have scabs like the football owners had in 1987 because the gap between major league talent and unsigned talent was so much larger in baseball than in football -- because while baseball players can toil away at AAA for years, hoping to fulfill their dreams, the equivalent football talent is out there finding other jobs because there's nowhere to play.

Bill Barnwell: The essay that espouses that there should be something closer to 200 major league baseball teams? Yeah, I've read that. I think that's pretty reasonable. Certainly, most European football/soccer leagues have three or four 18-team divisions, so I'm willing to bet that football can support the same deal. The value found in guys like Harrison, Romo, etc., shows how much work there is to be done in college talent analysis and acquisition. Those guys are worth $10 million to $15 million above a replacement level player a year, and teams are essentially backing into them.

Vince Verhei: After Ike Taylor made a leaping interception in the second quarter, he waved his hand in front of his face, a la pro wrestler John Cena's "you can't see me" gesture. In this case, I'm not sure whether Taylor was celebrating or explaining what happened on the play, because I think it's true that Tony Romo couldn't see him.

Washington Redskins at Baltimore Ravens

Aaron Schatz: Did Trevor Pryce say he went to Multiple Choice University?

Games like this make you ask why teams seem to change in quality so much from season to season. The Ravens ran the same scheme last year, with basically the same guys, so why weren't they this dominant on defense?

Will Carroll: Ray Lewis wasn't healthy last year, right?

Bill Barnwell: I would say injuries, but the Ravens have actually been the most-injured team in football this year.

Last year, the Ravens had the worst average starting field position of any team in football. This year, they're sixth-best. That goes a long way.

Aaron Schatz: Well, DVOA is supposed to filter that out ... which I suppose leads to the question: Does the starting field position of your drives change the definition of "average defense" in a way that's different from simply what yard line each individual play is taking place on?

Bill Barnwell: I don't know if I can answer your question, but the Baltimore defense has gone from -25.8% to -6.1% to -28.4%. That's not an impossible level of variance for the same defense with some specific personnel/injury issues over a three-year period.

Aaron Schatz: Oh, sure. There is no question it could just be statistical noise.

Mark Zajack: Is McGahee's "one-way mirror tinted face shield" on backwards tonight? He dropped and kicked a screen pass, dropped and kicked a pitch, and is running to darkness on every handoff. Unless the Ravens need a drop-kick to win, I think it might be time for more Ray Rice.

As for comparing the Ravens D, to last year. I think it is the corners. Last year they were without Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle for about half of their games. Corey Ivy started 13 games last year. This year he has started one. Ivy was alright as a nickel guy (I guess), but I don't think Rex Ryan wants him starting.

They also signed Fabian Washington in the off-season to help. He seems to be doing a decent job in McAlister's place tonight.

Aaron Schatz: Ah yes. Um ... duh. The corners are not the same.

I say we give Colbert to John Harbaugh for that rollout play-action pass to Todd Heap on fourth-and-1. Good stuff.

Doug Farrar: Was that the play where they went against their unbalanced line? That was sweet.

DeAngelo Hall, Innocent Bystander. He's like Mike Brown or Ed Reed, sans coverage skills.

Bill Barnwell: Jim Zorn takes the Colbert back for going for it on fourth-and-goal. This thing isn't over yet...

OK. So considering that the upside to that challenge was Jim Zorn gaining 5 yards, do you think he just didn't know that unsuccessful challenge plus successful challenge does not yield a third challenge?

Mark Zajack: I was wondering the same thing. Only excuse I could think of (if he did know) was that if Baltimore gets into field goal range it's game over ... so 5 yards at midfield is valuable? But that's a real stretch, since it was a Ravens first down no matter what.

Either way, beautiful 8-minute drive by the Ravens. Lo Neal, Biggie Smalls McClain, and a few plays with an extra tackle ... did they set a record for heaviest offensive set? They need to sign Jared Lorenzen for those kind of drives.

Posted by: Doug Farrar on 08 Dec 2008

135 comments, Last at 10 Dec 2008, 4:58am by John

Comments

1
by Jets Fan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 10:45am

Good grief. This is gettin' ugly.

2
by BostonHawk (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 10:47am

the giants went for a 4th and 1 from the shotgun and Eli's feeble pass fell incomplete. The Giants have the best run offense in the game. Does anybody else question this play call? I mean, to keep the eagles off balance, they could have just gone with a play action pass and roll out...

11
by Harris :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 11:50am

I just assumed Gilbride had stolen Reid's play sheet. The Eagles bottled up the Giants run game pretty effectively (88 yards on 24 attempts) and Jacobs was out of the game, but you'd think the Giants would have faith that Bradshaw could gain a yard behind the OL and a sledgehammer like Hedgecock. That said, I really enjoyed watching the Eagles benefit from dumb play-calling for a change.

"A little celery is always nice after a good pee."

12
by Temo :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 11:57am

The Giants may have the best running game in the league, but they're not the best at power situations. They convert power situations at a 62% clip, good for 24th in the NFL.

Granted, however, the difference between the Giants and the best power run team (Redskins) is only 16% (Redskins convert 78% of power opportunities). And running successfully 62% of the time is pretty close to Eli Manning's completion percentage (62.3%), so running is probably still the better play in that situation.

13
by Tom Gower :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 12:03pm

The Giants are 24th in the NFL in Power situations. Giants fans and/or people who watched the game can probably comment more intelligently on the playcall and its merits, but a shotgun pass isn't necessarily a bad play for them in that situation.

24
by Travis :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 12:46pm

It isn't.

However, a shotgun pass with Sinorice Moss as the primary receiver is always a bad idea. Moss got bumped off his route, none of the secondary receivers got open in time, and Eli was forced to make a sack-avoiding throw.

86
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 3:56pm

On 4th and 1, why do you care about a sack?

I mean, sure, it's yardage. But tucking the ball and attempting to run (even if the chance is pretty low) seems like a decent gamble if you've got no options.

95
by Travis :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 5:22pm

Eli was on the move, but two Eagles were about to tackle him. There was (almost) no chance he could have made it to the marker.

28
by Dales :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 12:50pm

I think the context matters a lot. As mentioned above, Eli's comp % has been pretty close to the Giants success % in power run situations, which makes it a defensible play call. But the context is:

1) A very windy day, where history has shown Eli struggles in the wind,
2) Where the Giants are still adjusting to life without Plax impacting the coverage,
3) And the Eagles were stacking run even more than normal, due to 1, 2, and to the success teams like Arizona had in slowing the running game.

#3 is a reason to throw, but #1 and #2 are reasons not to throw.

Since it did not work, it struck me as the wrong playcall. When they came out in the formation they did, I thought they were going to run a draw, but obviously not.

The Giants didn't lose that game because they missed on that 4th and one. They lost it because for most of the game either the receivers could not catch the ball or Eli couldn't hit them, and because the defense could not make stops on third down. The Eagles played well, and the Giants did not.

The big concern I have is that Eli still seems to struggle in the elements more frequently and to a bigger extent than most quarterbacks. Given that the Giants will likely be playing at home most, if not all, playoff games this year and that the Meadowlands tends to have difficult conditions in December and January, that's not good.

75
by Mark S. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 3:11pm

I agree...most of Eli's bad games down the stretch last year (BUF, MIN) were in poor/windy conditions. He was good against the Pats in moderately strong wind in WK 17, and I take some comfort in his performance in the NFCCG in GB, but yeah his struggles in conditions are concerning given that he's going to have to deal with them in January. That said, the pass to Hixon was a thing of beauty that should have changed the game, and Smith also had an inexcusable drop on 4th down. Hedgecock, not surprisingly, dropped an easy screen - it's baffling that they keep calling that play. He cannot catch!

I had a real problem with the shotgun formation on 4th & 1. Even if you're going to pass, you have to use your running game (best in the league) as a decoy, at the very least. By lining up in Shotgun you eliminate a lot that deception. Something like a bootleg would have been much preferable.

My other problem with the playcalling was trying to rush to the edge way too much instead of pounding the middle. They were having a lot more success up the middle, and Jacobs was falling for 3 yards even when the play didn't develop. Shame they didn't exploit that further.

The defense was OK, TBH. There was one critical play they didn't make that absolutely killed them - when Phillips whiffed on LJ freaking Smith on 3rd and long, allowing the Eagles to convert. That was a big play in the 3rd Quarter drive that allowed the Eagles to kill most of that period and take firm control of the game.

All that said - the Eagles played very well. And they did a great job to take the momentum back with a great drive coming out the half after that backbreaker of a FG. I thought McNabb looked awful in the first half, but settled in later.

80
by Dales :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 3:34pm

"Hedgecock, not surprisingly, dropped an easy screen"

Well, that one should have been easy, but it really wasn't. Manning had no touch at all on that pass.

3
by zlionsfan :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 10:54am

FWIW, Casey Fitzsimmons is a backup TE, not a backup FB. Still the wrong guy to be blocking Jared Allen one-on-one, though.

The problem I had with the Revolution essay (one of the two Abstracts I own, both after Tigers postseason appearances) is that it assumes that all the baseball-playing talent is available for playing baseball, and I don't think that's the case at all. We know about the players who have major-league talent in both sports (or at least make major-league attempts), but I suspect there are a lot of other players who are capable of playing baseball and are not. If there were, say, 60 MLB teams instead of 30, those players might still be playing basketball or football or whatever.

Besides, there's no guarantee we'd see any difference in the quality of play. After all, we certainly don't have 30 ML-caliber franchises, right? (That holds true in all sports, I think. We know there aren't 32 NFL-caliber franchises in the league.)

I am so not looking forward to Lions-Colts.

4
by el plaga :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 10:54am

Hey vince, john cena stole that dance from 50 cent and tony yayo in g-unit. john cena is not that original or cool

49
by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 1:40pm

That dance is probably hundreds of years old, literally.

5
by tylerdolphin :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 10:57am

"The only really open spot is for the AFC East, currently a three-way tiebreaker that the Jets win solely because they haven't played as many division games yet."

If Miami wins out, they win the division. It was the same for the Jets before this week. I'm not sure what that loss did for them as far as controlling their destiny. Bills are out. Patriots don't control their destiny. They need help to win the east.

In week 17 when Miami plays the Jets it could very well be for the division. All Miami has to do is beat KC and San Fran.

17
by Travis :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 12:22pm

If the Jets win out, they win the AFC East. They play Buffalo at home and Seattle on the road the next two weeks, so they have a decent chance at being 10-5 going into the Week 17 matchup with Miami.

However, given the Jets' history of late-season collapses and the way they've looked the last two weeks, I wouldn't be surprised if they were eliminated by that game.

18
by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 12:27pm

Yup. Even if the Pats win out, they'll need both NYJ and MIA to each lose at least one game. The Pats do get one game for "free" because NYJ and MIA play each other the final week.

Actually, the best result for the Patriots is for the NYJ/MIA game to end in a tie. Then the Pats take the division (if they win out) even if NYJ and MIA win both win their next two games. Not that I'll be holding my breath waiting for that to happen.

Which brings to mind...

(1) Since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule, how many 11-5 teams have missed the playoffs?
(2) Since the NFL went to six teams from each conference (which was originally 3 division winners and 3 WCs), how many 11-5 teams have missed the playoffs?
(3) Since the NFL went to the current 4-div/2-WC format, how many 11-5 teams have missed the playoffs?

20
by Travis :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 12:34pm

It's a short list: Denver, 1985 (when there were only two wild cards per conference).

56
by BucNasty :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 2:12pm

I don't have my PFP with me, but I do keep a print-out of the playoff odds table on page 215 at work. I'm not sure how far the table goes back, but I assume the data at least goes back to realignment. It's expansive enough that each team makes up only .2% points of data(if I remember right). According to the chart, there has never been an 11 win team that didn't make it, and 90.7% of all 10 win teams have made the playoffs.

If either the Bucs or Panthers end up missing out on the playoffs, which is a possibility (though one made less likely after the Atlanta loss), they'll be the first 9-3 team that did not go on to make the post-season.

6
by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 11:26am

Parcells has done a good job this season to find 22 starters for the Dolphins but man the roster is shallow. The Dolphins have the feel of Saban year 1 about them. The draft was very top heavy. Can the 30+ defense really hold out another season? Seems like this team is riding a rather unimpressive schedule to future disappointment. This team could be much better next season yet finish 7-9 and face the wrath of a very unrealistic fan base:(

50
by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 1:43pm

I always love when that happens. Schedule strength is probably the single biggest weakness in the average fans understanding of their team. Nothing like a team getting worse and going from 8-8 to 10-6 because of an easier schedule and the fans getting all excited.

7
by JMM :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 11:32am

"After Ike Taylor made a leaping interception in the second quarter, he waved his hand in front of his face, a la pro wrestler John Cena's "you can't see me" gesture. In this case, I'm not sure whether Taylor was celebrating or explaining what happened on the play, because I think it's true that Tony Romo couldn't see him."

See the link below. Ike has been doing this for some time now. It is tied to his personal marketing campaign.

http://www.facemeike.com/

77
by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 3:14pm

If only it were as nifty as Fred Smoot's circa-80s face-framing dance...

8
by panthersnbraves :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 11:32am

Is it true that the Panthers could end up anywhere from 1st Seed to missing the playoffs, with 14 15/16-weeks worth of games completed?

9
by starzero :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 11:34am

I love that the Colts-Bengals was so meaningless it doesn't get a mention. I'd be surprised if it was broadcast anywhere but Indy and Cincy. It'll be the same with that Lions game.

Does a team like Indy, which has struggled finding itself this year, gain much from playing scrubs like the Bangles and Lions? Are those games confidence boosters, or are they basically just practice games?

68
by Dales :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 2:44pm

Seeing as my fantasy team's first playoff game is against a guy who has Peyton Manning, I heartily endorse the idea of the Colts playing their scrubs next week as soon as they get an insurmountable lead so as to minimize the damage to my chances.

10
by James Harrison (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 11:46am

In Phil Simms' world, sacks don't lead to turnovers?

Who is Phil Simms?

14
by fmtemike (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 12:15pm

Do you think it is a coincidence that James Harrison played a year in NFL Europe, which was proven by virtually all US based pundits and execs not to be able to develop NFL players?

19
by panthersnbraves :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 12:31pm

... and Delhomme, and Warner, and....

88
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 4:05pm

Do you think it is a coincidence that James Harrison played a year in NFL Europe, which was proven by virtually all US based pundits and execs not to be able to develop NFL players?

NFL Europe was proven not to make money, which was way more important to them. The success rate of NFL Europe at developing players was almost zero, so the 'development' is really not a good argument for owners - I'd be surprised if the success rate of NFL Europe (in producing NFL level players) was better than that of 7th round draft picks. The fact that NFL Europe allowed a player to develop was a benefit for the players, not the owners.

NFL Europe's goal was to promote the NFL overseas, but the regular-season games overseas do that too, and make money at the same time.

15
by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 12:17pm

"Fortunately, they were playing the Lions, so they were able to overcome all this even with Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback."

The Vikings won that game in large part due to Jackson's fine play. Jackson made several very key throws in a very tight game. He threw up one lollipop floater that should have been picked when he threw too late under pressure - which is Jackson. But, he led 4 drives (61TD, -4, 90TD, 54FG).

Jackson is what he is - but when a guy plays well give him the credit.

This team will be better offensively with Jackson at QB.

33
by zdneal@yahoo.com :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 12:58pm

I was hoping they'd put him in after Frerotte's 2nd int, before I knew Gus was hurt. If you're going to have a guy throw INTs he may as well be athletic.

79
by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 3:24pm

Back of the throttle there, jimm. This team has the potential to be better offensively with Jackson in. That they will be better is far from certain.

Here's what I see:

1. Mobility - with a mobile QB, the Vikes can force opposing defenses to pay more attention not only to Purple Jesus, but to the possibility of the QB sneak, etc. He might not be so athletic that he demands an assigned shadow, but he can still pull in a LB in a way that Frerotte could not.

2. Passing - good-bye Bernard Berrian, downfield threat. Unless and until Jackson proves to me (and his opposition) that he can toss the ball more than 20 yards with accuracy, then the defenses will give up defending against the deep threat.

3. Leadership/pocket presence - we'll see, but I don't think Jackson's in Frerotte's class yet.

4. Coaching - sadly, this is the most likely to limit any potential 'improvements' that Jackson could bring. Other than calling bootlegs and rollouts, I don't think the coaches are going to make any significant changes to the playbook to account for Jackson's presence in the lineup. Same plays, just passing from a different spot behind the line. That's a failure. An athletic QB, 2 starting-calibre RBs, and a great blocking line (including Kleinsasser)...they could take some opponent by surprise by mixing in 'Wildcat-esque', single-wing type plays. Which would probably be a better fit for a QB like Jackson, who can't hit an open WR more than 30 yards away.

16
by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 12:20pm

Seneca Wallace takes off out of the pocket, cuts to the sideline and slows down. Whole defense slows down too. Wallace cuts it back toward the field for another 5 yards and a first down. If the defense touches him when he slows down, it's 15 yards.

That reminded me of a play the Pats got burned in a playoff game quite a few years ago. Kordell Stewart scrambled with a LB in hot pursuit, headed for the sideline and slowed. When the LB pulled up to not hit him, he straightened out and took it down the sideline for a 60 yd or so TD.

21
by panthersnbraves :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 12:34pm

which leads Peppers to get fined for $10,000 for a late hit for making sure that the QB that had been scrambling all day was definitely going out.

22
by MJK :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 12:41pm

Thoughts on the Pats game (the only one this weekend that I saw):

-I hate the announcer teams (Randy Cross and ???)? Calling out wrong information confidently (who called a timeout, etc), not correcting things when they got it wrong, going on and on with non-apt "color" stories instead of talking about actual events, and failing to mention key injuries when they occurred (it would have been nice to know Wilfork went out early and didn't return instead of spending the entire first half wondering what the heck happened to the middle of the Pats run defense). Plus they seemed kind of Seahawks biased as well (my wife came in, sat down, watched about 10 minutes of the game with me, and then asked why I was watching a feed with the hometown Seattle announcers).

-What's the penalty tendencies on the ref crew working this game? Apparently they're not fans of calling either holding. Yes, I know they called both penalties occasionally, but I saw at least 500 plays where a D-lineman beat his man and was arm barred or outright tackled by an O-lineman, buing the QB a second to get the ball off. The broken play to Branch was one such play...

-I think the point of starting Wilhite over O'Neal was to try to make the reads tougher on the opposing QB. To date, the opposing QB's reads against the Patriots have been:
1) Whichever WR just blew by Deltha O'Neal
2) Whichever WR was supposed to be covered by the safety who had to go help Deltha O'Neal, since, if #1 isn't open, #2 must be
3) The TE

-Agree on the QB portection thing, but it's worth noting that the Patriots have benefitted recently, too. Remember the Baltimore game where they had a critical conversion and Brady scrambled right past Ray Lewis? It was because Lewis slowed down because he expect Brady to slide. Ideally, once a QB crosses the LOS, the refs and the defense should just forget about the number on his jersey and treat him like a normal player. However, human nature being what it is, that won't happen.

-Agree with the "Brady versus Cassel" arguments. San Diego is definitely still a loss. Can't say about the Jets game--Cassel played a heck of a game--or the Pittsburg game, where instead of being close early, the Pats probably would have had the lead, but would have had just as much trouble with the Pittsburgh rush. They probably beat Indy. The Dolphins game is interesting...I think with Brady in there it's close, not a blowout, and maybe the pull it out. So with Brady they're sitting between 9-4 and 11-2, instead of 8-5.

-One of the Boston area newspapers suggested an awesome caption for a picture of Branch blowing by Junior Seau: "The Old Man and the Seahawk".

32
by Dales :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 12:57pm

"I hate the announcer teams (Randy Cross and ???)? Calling out wrong information confidently (who called a timeout, etc), not correcting things when they got it wrong,"

It wasn't just that announcing team. Not sure who was doing the Eagles/Giants game, but there were a number of times where those of us talking on the chat server mentioned one thing while the announcers said the exact opposite (and I am pretty sure we were right). While I am struggling to remember exact examples, another beauty of a comment they made was asserting that Bill Parcells was a prime example of a coach who believed in establishing the pass first in a game in order to set up the run. Especially during his Giants tenure, that is precisely and exactly the opposite of the truth-- the Parcells' Giants teams were of the nature of "we are going to run to establish the run, and then we will run some more with an occasional bomb thrown in."

36
by Travis :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 1:04pm

Dick Stockton, Darryl Johnston, and Tony Siragusa.

They also botched the end-of-the-1st-quarter scenario - they thought Coughlin had called the timeout, and said that the Eagles were going into the wind even though they had said the exact opposite earlier in the quarter. Then they blamed the refs.

48
by tylerdolphin :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 1:37pm

The guys calling the Fins game mixed up Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown's first and last names like 100 times (like Ricky Brown)

53
by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 1:51pm

Yeah I liked the "Eagles are going into the wind", end of quarter, "Eagles are still going into the wind" sequence. I know it can be blustery in those stadiums, but I don't think that is why they messed it up, and it was high comedy imo.

83
by Conor :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 3:44pm

Oh, the whole end of the quarter thing was great. I am pretty sure they first said Coughlin called the time out, and praised him for making the smart move. Then after the FG was made, they came back from commercial and corrected the mistake, saying it was the Eagles who called the TO...and then proceeded to talk about what a smart move it was by Andy Reid.

76
by Chief (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 3:11pm

The Stockton-Johnston-Siragusa announcing team was as bad as I've ever heard them. Early in the game, Johnston made a comment after a somewhat ticky-tack defensive holding penalty (?) against the Eagles that "we have to give the refs credit, this signals how they're going to call the game, and they'll call it consistently this way."

Later, after a couple non-calls, including a shoulda-been defensive PI against the Giants in the redzone, Siragusa says, "Like you said, they signaled they were going to let them play, and they weren't going to call plays like that."

Based on the awkward silence that followed, I'm guessing that Johnston and Stockton both knew that Goose had actually disproved the whole consistency angle, but couldn't figure out how to contradict him gracefully.

58
by RugbyRuss (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 2:14pm

I was in the stands and saw a lot of holding from both sides that didn't get called. Seems to be a league wide thing this year to not call holding. What I didn't see was the defensive holding that got called on Seattle to keep the NE drive alive nor anything meriting the pass interefence call on Trufant in the end zone that led to a Patriots score.

I did see that on all of those wide receiver screens or bubble screens or whatever they call them that NE was running, on every one of them OL #72 (don't know his name) was coming down and creaming the Seattle corner in the back while he was being blocked. Seems to me that would be a penalty too but no flag there either.

All in all though, it was a very good exciting game.

69
by MJK :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 2:47pm

I figure both offensive lines were holding all day. I saw a bunch of flagrant holds by the Seahawks. I didn't notice as many by the Patriots, but I recognize that I have very Patriots-colored glasses, so whenever I notice the refs calling a game a way for one side, I assume they're doing it for both. So I would guess the Patriots were holding just as much (or if they weren't they should have been, since the refs were obviously letting it slide).

Your're right in that the penalties they called were kind of strange. The PI they called on Trufant in the end zone was the sort of contact that is probably technically pass interference, but happens on nearly 100% of such plays and goes uncalled 90% of the time. On the other hand, they didn't call PI later in the game when Trufant (?) basically shoved Randy Moss out of bounds while the ball was in the air, without turning his head around. The ball was a little off target and maybe the refs thought it was uncatchable, but it looked far more flagrant than the one they did call. No flag.

They showed a replay on the defensive holding call on TV. It wasn't very clear, but it looked like Dan Koppen (the Patriots center) tried to pull, presumably to either lead block or to kick out so that (Sammy) Morris (?) could run off tackle (it was 3rd and 1). It looked like the D-lineman grabbed him to keep him from pulling, which, if he did so, would be a holding penalty. However, it wasn't very clear, and it seemed a lot more ticky-tack than when LeKevin Smith (the Patriots backup nose tackle) got flagrantly tackled while rushing Wallace (yet no flag).

I don't want to argue a lot about it, because I recognize that its not cool to gripe too much about the refs...they were the same for both teams, and both teams fought and played hard. If they were calling pass protection holding loosley, then both teams can benefit by it. I just wondered if this particular crew had a reputation for not calling offensive holding, because that's one of my pet peeves with the way the current rules are enforced...life is hard enougy for CB's, if you're going to put a point of emphasis on defensive contact in the secondary, you need a point of emphasis on offensive holding to balance it out.

93
by beargoggles :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 4:36pm

Interesting: in the Jets/49ers game, the Hochuli crew called about 3 phantom holds in a quarter. 2 of them were pancakes! What are you not allowed to physically dominate your opposite number? I have no idea what they were seeing.

107
by Gihyou (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 6:55pm

This was a 2-10 team with mostly backups on the offensive line and QB holding their own against the vaunted Patriots, them of the perfect season last year, and playoff aspirations this year. The fact that the announcers praised the Seahawks for hanging in the game (and, at one point, leading by 8) would hardly qualify as 'the Seahawks' hometown announcers'. You should hear the real Seahawks' hometown announcers, BTW, you'd quickly realize how ridiculous they really are.

126
by MJK :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 12:42pm

I'd like to. It's fun to hear the hometown announcers. They are experts on their own team, of course, but they frequently do a lot of research on the opposing team, too, and are often better prepared than whatever National team CBS/FOX/ESPN/NFLN assigns. Maybe I'm just spoiled, though. The only hometown announcers I have really listened to are the Patriots' and the Niners', and both those local teams seem to be very good. Seattle's aren't?

It's a good point though about the Seahawks exceeding expectations, and hence getting more praise. However, I can't figure out WHY the Seahawks are 2-11. This is the first Seahawks game I've watched this season. Now you can say that they only looked good because the Pats are overrated if you want, but comparing them to other teams that I have watched the Pats play, the Seahawks that showed up on Sunday are easily as good as the 9-4 Colts team that showed up against the Patriots, or the 8-5 Jets team that showed up against them. But these Seahawks play in one of the worst divisions the NFL has ever seen. How is it that they have such a poor record?

128
by RugbyRuss (not verified) :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 12:56pm

Personally I don't like the Seahawks announcers that much. Steve Raible gets on my nerves a lot. I'm not the only one either. They pipe in the radio feed to the bathrooms at Qwest Field, which is pretty cool when you're waiting in line to take a piss. One game Raible was making some inane observation when someone called out "Shut the fuck up Raible" that was greeted with loud cheering. We lost a great announcer when Pete Gross passed on.

You saw probably one of our best games on Sunday. Seriously, that is not the way it's gone for us this year at all. My opinion on why my team has sucked so bad: injuries at WR and QB. Bryan Russell, Deion Grant and the rest of our defense not playing together at all. It's a combination of scheme and too much free lancing without the gap integrity. The LBs, especially Tatupu and Peterson, have played horrible. Tackling is nonexistent. Notice that most of the problems are on defense?

Another problem is the inability of the coaching staff to make adjustments on the fly. A good example is Welker. He's having a great day and is obviously Cassel's go to guy on the need plays. Cassel isn't even looking anywhere else sometimes, just staring down Welker. Do we adjust at make the CB jam him at the line, especially on the two point conversion? No, Josh Wilson is too busy faking the blitz and gets left for dead at the snap. That happened all freaking game and has happened all year.

23
by Scott P. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 12:46pm

If Miami wins out, they win the division. It was the same for the Jets before this week. I'm not sure what that loss did for them as far as controlling their destiny. Bills are out. Patriots don't control their destiny. They need help to win the east.

Can you explain this? Assume Miami and Patriots win out. They have same record, same record in division, split head-to-head. Does Miami win on better conference record?

30
by Travis :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 12:54pm

Miami would win on the 4th tiebreaker, conference record (Miami would be 8-4, the Patriots would be 7-5). They'd tie on the 3rd tiebreaker, common opponents. (Conference record is the 4th tiebreaker in in-division tiebreakers, but the 3rd in wild card tiebreakers).

39
by MJK :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 1:13pm

An interesting scenario arises if the 'Phins lose one of their next two but beat the Jets, the Jets win their next two but lose to the 'Phins, and the Patriots lose to Arizona but beat Buffalo and Oakland (a fairly likely scenario). Then you have to play 3-way tiebreaker, and I think in that scenario the Pats can win the ties, depending on who Miami loses to (they have the same division record as the Jets and beat them on common opponents, and could take Miami on one of the other tiebreakers in that situation).

46
by Travis :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 1:35pm

If it comes down to that scenario, it depends who Miami loses to.

The Jets get knocked out of either scenario based on common opponents. If Miami beats Kansas City but loses to San Francisco, Miami advances on better conference record (8-4 vs. 7-5).

If Miami loses to Kansas City and beats San Francisco, it comes down to strength-of-victory. If San Diego finishes with a better record than Kansas City (one more SD win or KC loss would do it), Miami advances. If San Diego loses out and Kansas City wins out, it goes to strength-of-schedule, which would be whether Baltimore+Houston (for Miami) has a better record than Pittsburgh+Indianapolis (for New England). Pittsburgh+Indy is 4 games ahead right now.

In a nutshell, it is unlikely that New England would advance over Miami in that scenario, but would definitely advance over the Jets.

73
by RickD :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 2:56pm

What's going to happen is...
Jets, Dolphins, and Pats will win their next two games.

Ravens will win at least one game, too.

Pats will enter week 17 needing a tie between the Jets and Dolphins to have any chance at making the playoffs.

When Dolphins beat Jets to win the AFC East, Pats' fans will be scratching their heads at the inequity of an unbalanced schedule that has the Pats playing the Colts and the Steelers while the Dolphins play the last-play teams from the AFC North and South from 2007, the Texans and the...oh, the Ravens.

Well, that point was going to be more impressive until I realized that the Ravens were the last place team in the AFC North last season.

81
by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 3:37pm

You're joking about the 'inequity of the unbalanced schedule' thing, right? Because teams that finish 1st in their division play 2 (out of 16) games assigned against other 1st-place teams from that previous year.

14 of 16 games are the same in current scheduling, unlike the old way that had 6 of 16 matchups based on last year's record.

I think the Dolphins have more to complain about, since the NFC North 'prior 4th place' opponent was a fluke last season.

82
by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 3:38pm

Oops - make that 'AFC North' prior 4th place opponent...

97
by MJK :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 5:26pm

What will really make Pats fans scratch their heads if the Pats lose to the Dolphins on tiebreakers (assuming both teams win out) is why the NFL has such a screwy system where a team that beats the Cardinals but loses to San Diego is judged to be less deserving of advancement than a team that loses to the Cardinals but beats San Diego, just because in whatever league realignment last occurred, one team was placed in the AFC and one in the NFC. Seriously...the conference have absolutely no meaning any more--why weight conference victories in the tiebreaking scheme? It would be like baseball getting rid of the one-game playoff to resolve ties and instead arbitrarily handing the division to whatever team did better if you subtract interleague play.

Strange tiebreakers suck. Almost as bad as a coin toss to see who gets the ball first in OT.

114
by Eddo :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 11:43pm

But the games against the Cardinals and Chargers will already both have been accounted for twice: overall record and record against common opponents. And once you get past the common opponents tiebreaker, you have to select a somewhat arbitrary set of games. Would you prefer using non-conference games as a tiebreaker instead of intra-conference games? Or just skipping ahead to strength or victory? That means that the Patriots would win or lose a tiebreaker based on the Chargers-Saints game. How is that any better?

And yeah, MLB has the best tiebreaker method, a one-game playoff. But that only works because baseball teams don't need a full day off between games, so an extra one can be appended to the season without any scheduling issues.

127
by MJK :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 12:55pm

Well, if it was up to me, I'd forget about conference record and traditional "strength of schedule" measures, since those measures don't really use mathematically based principles, and instead use some sort of mathematically-based method of determining strength of schedule like the BCS does, such as beatpaths or Maximum Likliehood Estimation , to be the tiebreaker after (or maybe even before) record against common opponents.

Or I'd switch the master system to some kind of point system that is more finely graded than wins, so that ties are less likely. You'd have to design it so that more wins pretty much automatically means more points, at least for teams within the division, so that flukes would never result in a 9-7 team beating out a 10-6 team, but it's doable (one idea I've had is give each team a point for every win that every team they beat accumulates, and subtract a point for each loss that every team they lose to accumulates. So if you beat 10 11-5 teams and lost to 6 14-2 teams, you would end up with 10x11 - 6x2 = 98 points). I've thought about this idea for a while, and it would ALMOST eliminate ties (plus it give the fan a rooting interest in more games).

But I doubt the casual fan would ever go for any of these ideas, let alone the NFL...

132
by Eddo :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 9:04pm

That's a very interesting system. I'd be in favor of implementing that and have it weight for some amount, and then have straightforward record weight for another amount. Kind of like how the BCS used to add one point for each loss, back when the lowest score was best. That way, it was very likely a team with no losses would finish ahead of all one-loss teams, unless the undefeated team had played no one worthwhile.

But you're right, fans would never go for it; look at how the computers get blamed for the BCS woes.

121
by nat :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 10:58am

I'm a Pats fan, and I have no problem with the tiebreakers. Who would argue with division record (as long as we determine "division winners"), head-to-head record, or common games?

But we also have "conference champions" - like the Pats last year, remember? So conferences do matter, and it makes sense to consider conference record when deciding who gets a chance to represent the conference in the Superbowl. It's only the fourth tiebreaker, because you are mostly determining who wins the division.

Reasonably enough, for determining the wildcard, conference record moves up to the second tiebreaker. And also reasonably, it's arranged so the third place team in a division can't beat the second place team in that same division for a spot in the playoffs.

I'd like the Pats to make the playoffs. But, by virtue of a great season last year, they have a harder schedule than anyone else in their division. And now, that means they have to be the clear leader in order to make the playoffs. That's just life.

37
by MJK :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 1:04pm

I analyzed the playoff scenarios last night. They're quite complex. I don't have my notes in front of me, so there may be an error, but as I recall, here's the situation.

If either Miami or the Jets win out, they win the AFCE (the both can't win out because they play each other in Week 17), even if NE also wins out.

If both NE and MIA win out, Miami wins. Both would have the same record, they spit the head to head, and both would have 4 division wins, both would have 10 wins against common opponents (NYJ, BUF, ARI, SF, STL, SEA, OAK, SD, KC, DEN). The Dolphins would win the tiebreaker because they have one more conference win than NE (8 to 7). What dooms the Patriots here is that all five of their losses so far have been to conference opponents (MIA, NYJ, PIT, IND, SD), whereas one of Miami's losses came to Arizona. The key is that Miami beat San Diego instead of Arizona.

If both NE and NYJ win out, then the Jets win the division. This one's easier. Both have the same record, they split head to head, but the Jets would be 5-1 in the division, while the Patriots would be 4-2. The key here is NE losing to the Phins once, while the Jets (in this scenario) would have beat them twice.

It's interesting...all three teams have at least one haunting close loss and at least one painfully narrow win. And in most cases it was to a very relevant team (either one of the three, or Indy). Change any one of those outcomes, and the playoff picture becomes very very different.

54
by tylerdolphin :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 1:52pm

Conference games. If Maimi wins out, they will be 8-4 in conference. Even if NE wins out they will be 7-5. The first tiebreak is head to head. They split. Second is division games. They will both be 4-2 if they win out. Next is common opponents. They will both be 5-1.

So if Miami wins out they win the division. Same goes for the Jets. The Pats would need the Fins and Jets to lose plus win out I think.

Miami has San Fran and KC coming up before the week 17 showdown with the Jets. Could be a dramatic finish

25
by Thok (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 12:46pm

Simms could be correct (if hits lead to interceptions more than sacks lead to fumbles: by definition, a sack can't end in an interception unless something weird happens, and I think a hit can't lead directly to a recovered fumble.)

Of course, sacks have other benefits that hits don't have (guaranteed loss of down and loss of yardage.)

In other words, Simms may be wrong, but I don't think it's obvious that he's wrong.

26
by MJK :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 12:48pm

By the way, is anyone else annoyed at the refs calling a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penelty on Ben Watson for "celebrating"? After scoring a TD, he placed the ball under his jersey (as a shoutout to his pregnant wife and unborn child), and high-fived (?) another Patriot. We rail about the "No Fun League", and this is probably another example. I can understand trying to discourage Randy Moss "mooning" the crowd, or Chad Ocho-Cinco being a ridiculous clown, or teams preparing elaborately choreographed group dances, or taunting. But calling a penatly that could have a significant effect on the game because the guy put the ball under his shirt and looked happy? He wasn't taunting anyone, his "celebration" did not take a lot of time, be excessively showy, slow the game down, or even draw a lot of attention to himself (the announcers actually credited the grab to Moss at first and only corrected themselves well after the fact). It was not an offensive gesture or a "gang sign"... The refs couldn't be bothered to call holding the 300 times that pass rushers were tackled on their way to the QB, but you better not stick the ball under your jersey after a TD, as a personal shoutout to a loved one! That would just destroy the integrity of the game!

34
by Dales :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 12:58pm

"By the way, is anyone else annoyed at the refs calling a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penelty on Ben Watson for "celebrating"? After scoring a TD, he placed the ball under his jersey (as a shoutout to his pregnant wife and unborn child), and high-fived (?) another Patriot. We rail about the "No Fun League", and this is probably another example."

Annoyed? Sure.

However, at least they are being consistent here. They did the same exact thing last year to Brandon Jacobs for the exact same celebration.

35
by Travis :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 12:59pm

Brandon Jacobs was fined (but not penalized, for some reason) for the same thing in 2006. It's a very stupid rule, but it's a rule.

40
by Dales :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 1:14pm

He was penalized. From the same article you just linked-- " This time, he was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and later found a letter from the NFL waiting on a stool in front of his locker informing him of the fine."

I think the confusion is that he did it a few weeks earlier and was neither flagged nor fined.

61
by Harris :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 2:18pm

Except for slowing down the game, I really don't care if they lead Ohio University Marching 110 across the field, kick-stepping the whole way. If you don't want a guy to celebrate a touchdown, keep him out of the end zone.

"A little celery is always nice after a good pee."

27
by chris clark (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 12:50pm

The audibles were really great this week. I particularly loved the notes that home field advantage is not factored into DVOA yet and that maybe starting field position affects defense more than is incorporated into the stats.

29
by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 12:50pm

I thought it was pretty silly when I read many speculating the loss of Burress wouldn't mean much the Giants. I think players like Burress make a big difference in that teams have to adjust their defence to deal with the star player. It makes everyone else on the offence better.

I think this year any one of 10-12 teams has a very legitimate shot at the Super Bowl. I don't think that Giants are appreciably better than Balt, Tenn, Pitt, Phil, and TB.

31
by zdneal@yahoo.com :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 12:55pm

It's like how the Vikings running game had problems after they gave Moss away. Superstar receivers with competent QBs alter the game much more than their stat line would suggest. Even Moss 'taking a play off' would draw affect the D.

38
by Andrew B :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 1:04pm

Aaron and Bill:

The uncovered UFA talent that is out there is certainly an arguement for at least a modest expansion of the NFL - say to 36 teams (six divisions of six teams?). There's certainly cities out there that could probably support them - LA, Memphis, Oklahoma City, Norfolk, Columbus OH, Hartford, Portland OR, San Antonio, Salt Lake City, Orlando, Raleigh, Las Vegas, to say nothing of Mexico City or Toronto or Vancouver.

The biggest weakness in the NFL though is a lack of QB talent. More NFL teams would just dilute this worse.

The Original Andrew

44
by Dales :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 1:33pm

I would love to see an OKC team, but please put it in the AFC. Right now, I'm getting the best games on Fox, and don't want that to change to regional coverage.

ETA-- is the biggest problem really lack of QB talent, or is it possibly the lack of identifying the right QB talent? Cassel has looked positively adequate. There is the whole Kurt Warner experience. Had Bledsoe not been blown up, would we have ever found out what the Pats had with Brady? For years, Flutie languished while lesser QBs got opportunities. Parcells found Romo, but is Romo the only Romo out there? Hostetler was a career backup who likely could have had a decent career as a starter.

I do not know the answer. However, it does seem plausible to me that part of the issue with QB depth is just incompetence on the part of certain teams in identifying and developing QB talent.

72
by MJK :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 2:55pm

I'm of the opinion that a lot of the problem is coaches not being adaptable enough. There aren't enough Tom Brady/Petyon Mannings out there for 32 teams, yet almost every coach wants an accurate pocket passer. A lot of coaches have a "system" and they insist on making their players play according to the system they have in mind (look at how bad the Jets defense was when Mangini was forcing pretty good 4-3 personnell to play a 3-4). If an offense line can't protect for a solid 4 seconds, you shouldn't be calling seven step drops, no matter how integral to your ideal offensive system such plays are. I think a lot of coaches have QB's that could play well if you design the system around their and their teammate's skills, but very few coaches have the ability to design such a system, and even fewer have small enough egos to abandon their trademark or favorite system in favor of a new one.

85
by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 3:50pm

I agree with MJK on that one.

Think of it this way (since the NFL does); the NCAA provides a 'pool' of ~120 Division 1-A squads, and we're not even including the Division 1-AA and Division II schools, each of which has sent some very successful players to the NFL.

That's 120 QBs, OLTs, OLG, C, etc. etc. playing every week for 12 weeks. Subtract out those that are underclassmen and/or ineligible or unlikely to declare early, and you have - at a guess - 40-50 QBs (again, just from the 1-A schools) to be selected among at the pro level.

It's coaches and their 'gotta find this kind of player for my scheme', combined with poor scouting or poor development (for example, I would think that some of the major '1st-round bust QBs' would actually have panned out had they not gone to teams that suck at teaching a QB the pro game).

We don't need more pro teams, although I wouldn't complain (longer season to determine who the playoff teams would be, longer playoffs). We just need better front offices and developers, and more adaptable coaches.

100
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 5:53pm

"I agree with MJK on that one. "

As do I. In the last 10 years, with just the Patriots alone, we've seen everythign from a 4-3 power running defensive team to a 3-4 team that broke the scoring record passing 40 times a game.

And yet, we have teams with players like Oakland, and (previous to this year) Atlanta, where they keep trying to jam the same square peg into a round hole.

I think coaching in the NFL is the problem, not QB talent.

Orton is another example of a decent player who has been kept back by an inferior starter.

51
by mawbrew :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 1:48pm

I'm surprised that some of the FO folks think Cherilus should be somehow punished for a perfectly legal block. Allen was about chasing Culpepper and was about six yards away. If Culpepper stops to set and throw, how long will it take Allen to cover thant six yards? Not too darn long. To suggest that Allen was somehow out of the play seems ridiculous to me. He certainly didn't think he was.

As for the potential of the hit to be career-ending (or at least cause severe injury), well, yeah. Potentially career ending hits happen in every game. They are the risk that players take. Ward's hit on Rivers certainly caused serious injury but there's (rightly) no outcry against that. It's understood to be part of the game.

Cherilus' block is similar to the block Trent Green threw that caused his last concussion, except that Green had the opportunity to go high and chose not to. I don't remember to much complaining about it then (except from the player he blocked).

41
by Joseph :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 1:19pm

Pierre Thomas is just another example of the aforementioned difficulty in talent evaluation. In NOLA.com it was mentioned that he has only been stopped for no gain or a loss on 2.6% of his carries (2 of 78). I believe it was only 1 of 16 yesterday. I wonder if his 88 yd KR counts towards his DYAR for Quick Reads--cause if it does, he'll be on there. http://blog.nola.com/saintsbeat/2008/12/new_orleans_saints_pierre_thom.h...
(the info is toward the end of the linked article)

Also interestingly, it's amazing how a commitment to the running game makes life easier for your team. Bush & PT combined for 182 yds on 26 carries (exactly SEVEN ypc). Even if you take out Bush's 43 yarder (which was a 1st & 10 draw right up the gut), that's still 5.6 ypc--no slouch. Somebody tell me, is the Falcons Run Defense DVOA really bad? Or is this the results of Payton trying to be balanced in his play-calling and finding out that it really works? I have to believe that if he does it for the last 3 games, even if the Saints don't make the playoffs, that it will bode well for next season.

42
by Soulless Merchant of Fear (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 1:25pm

STUPID BILLS!! WHY YOU SUCK SO MUCH?

AAAAAAAAHH!!!

AAAAAAAAHH!!!

I need to find a new team. Preferably one that won't be leaving the country soon. Hey, Raiderjoe, any room on the Oakland bandwagon?

43
by B :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 1:31pm

There's plenty of room. Bring beer. You will need it.

65
by DGL :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 2:38pm

I still say all NFL games played in Canada should be required to use CFL rules.

45
by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 1:34pm

Souless - I live in Toronto - we don't want the Bills - you can keep em.

On a serious note - NFL fans in Toronto follow all sorts of teams so if Toronto ever gets a team they will always have about 5000-20000 fans cheering against the home team.

47
by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 1:36pm

zdneal - further to your point - I remember tracking the yards per game one season when Moss was out - the Vikings went from averaging 400 a game to 300 when Moss was out.

52
by Lance :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 1:49pm

Re "Certainly, most European football/soccer leagues have three or four 18-team divisions, so I'm willing to bet that football can support the same deal"

To some extent, it's even greater than this, since it's not just one league-- it's lots of leagues: Germany, Spain, Italy, France, England, Scotland, etc., etc. The difference is that their pool is much larger. It's not just Europe, it's South (and North!) America, Africa, and Asia.

55
by Anonymoose (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 2:04pm

Couple points on the Cherilus block:

1. Cherilus was lying on the ground with his head turned away from Culpepper, so he was not able to tell how far away Culpepper had scrambled. Regardless, if Allen is going to hustle then he could very well catch up with the play depending on a variety of outcomes, so there's no point in saying he shouldn't be blocked.

2. Cherilus was lying on the ground and Allen was several feet away from him. There was very few options. Either he dives low to block him, reaches with his hand to trip him (this is a penalty; I'm surprised one of the FO guys even suggested it) or sit there and let him run by. There really wasn't an option to block him high.

3. It looked like he hit Allen with his shoulder, not his helmet. And it looked more like he dove with his body in front of Allen rather than a hit to the side of the knee. To me it looked like Cherilus tried to use his body to trip Allen to prevent him from making the play.

I think it was legal and borderline clean. Really it happened so fast and it was in such unusual circumstances that you have to think "There's no way this fat man planned to injure Allen on this play."

57
by kevinNYC (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 2:13pm

The Giants played like crap and coached like crap. The 4th and 1 shotgun pass was a mind-numbingly stupid return to "old Kevin Gilbride... professional drive killer". I couldn't understand Spagnuolo's refusal to blitz McNabb when the front 4 couldn't get pressure. McNabb had 43 seconds to throw on the Westbrook TD reception. I don't want to even get into the Hixon and Smith drops.

The Eagles' offensive line played an EXCEPTIONAL game.

59
by morganja :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 2:14pm

So, would the mini-Patriots beat the '86 Giants?

60
by Anonymous111 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 2:18pm

Colbert should go to Sean Payton for going for it on 4th & 1, down by 3 and in FG range with 6:16 left in the 4th quarter. They picked up the first, and went on to win the game.

62
by morganja :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 2:19pm

Most countries are like the English Leagues, which aren't just 4 or 5 levels, but go all the way down to neighborhood teams. I think there are somewhere near 140 leagues in England. This is what we need in the US, not only for identifying talent at the top, but for consistent teams to play in after people leave college and high school. Anyone who wants to play should be able to find a league no matter their relative age and skill level.

66
by JasonK :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 2:39pm

The problem with this for American football isn't the talent, it's the cost. To play a soccer game, you need a flat grassy field with some chalk lines, two easily-constructed goals, a ball, a few referees, and a pair of cleats and shinguards for every player. To play American football you have more players and more coaches, goalposts, and some rather expensive protective equipment. That higher overhead cost can make a big difference in a lower-level league's efforts to sustain their existence with ticket sales and sponsorships.

84
by Sometime FO reader (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 3:47pm

The problem is mainly finding enough people crazy enough to play tackle football on a regular basis. The injury risk is so high that most people prefer to play flag or touch. I imagine that there would also be insurance/liability issues for any entity that ran such a league, but I'm far from an expert on that.

It's no accident that you can go down to your local YMCA/rec center and sign up to play just about any sport you want...with the notable exception of the single most popular spectator sport in the country.

91
by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 4:29pm

Hockey has a similar level of injury risk and while up here in Minnesota we play a ton of rec/pickup and mens league there is very little of it which allows heavy contact. So certainly the injury concern deters the idea of hitting in a rec football league (tackling actually isn't as serious and I think would be permissible?).

As far as cost though, hockey is insanely more expensive (ice is 150-300 an hour and we often go play with around 10 guys). A adequate stick + skates +equipment can easily approach $1000 and even skimping it is somewhere around $400-500. This cost doesn't seem to slow down the mens leagues very much. I think it might honestly just be something so simple as culture.

No culture of neighborhood or bar sponsored men's teams.

I would love to play some men's league football but there seems to be very little of it around in most states. We could organize tackle games in our fairly regularly through college but then after that not enough people wanted to play anymore.

105
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 6:22pm

So certainly the injury concern deters the idea of hitting in a rec football league (tackling actually isn't as serious and I think would be permissible?).

Uh, what? Am I missing something? You seem to be suggesting that tackling is somehow different than hitting in football. I'd love to hear the reasoning, considering that most hitting is done in an attempt to tackle.

122
by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 11:49am

Hitting is running into someone with your shoulder in an attempt to knock them down. Tackling is using your arms to pull them down. The difference is if you are using the force of the impact to bring them down, or using your body weight to bring them down by attaching it to them with their arms. I think the difference is more clear to people who play hockey because hockey has hitting and no tackling.

They are very different things and hitting is much more dangerous. Yes they can shade into each other a bit, but people know the difference well enough for it to be something a ref could adjudicate.

Just think about playing tackle with your buddies in high school or college. When the receiver was running a crossing route did anyone lay into their chest with a shoulder like would happen in a padded football game? No. They tried to stop the pass or baring that wrap the person up with their arms.

133
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 10:59pm

Just think about playing tackle with your buddies in high school or college. When the receiver was running a crossing route did anyone lay into their chest with a shoulder like would happen in a padded football game?

If it was tackle, sure. If it was rough touch, it was frowned upon, but it happened. Rough touch actually contains hitting, but no tackling. Believe it or not, tackling is probably far worse than hitting. Dragging someone to the ground is Very Bad for knee/ankle ligaments.

Heck, if it's two-hand-touch, it happens. You don't always have eyes in the back of your head. Hitting's really not that bad. You might break a bone or two, or get a concussion. Tackling can be really, really bad.

All the stuff I've read about injuries in football in college suggest that knee/ankle injuries from bad tackles are the real bad culprit in college.

63
by RickD :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 2:32pm

Bill Moore: But my point is, Cherilus could not physically hit Allen anywhere but below the knee based on his starting point. Unlike a chop block where the blocker chooses to cut the rusher as opposed to hitting him dead on, this is a case where Cherilus had only two choices -- hit low, or not hit at all.

Make the switches Cherilus -> Pollard and Allen -> Brady, and you get exactly what I have been saying all season about how Pollard tore Brady's ACL back in week 1.

(modulo the comment about a chop block)

64
by jimbohead :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 2:37pm

"OK. So considering that the upside to that challenge was Jim Zorn gaining 5 yards, do you think he just didn't know that unsuccessful challenge plus successful challenge does not yield a third challenge?"

So, I'm missing the link, but I read a while back that Mike Nolan would occasionally call challenges as timeouts, with the hope that you might be able to keep the timeout. From that perspective, the decision makes a little more sense. With Washington's defense on its heels, Zorn may have decided they needed time to regroup, but also needed all three timeouts for later. With just 6 minutes left of challengeable time left in the game, the timeout was probably just more valuable to him than having a potential challenge available.

67
by Dennis :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 2:44pm

What's the logic that the Pats would've beaten the Jets with Brady? His presence would've prevented Watson from fumbling? He would've made the coin land in the Pats' favor?

78
by Tom Gower :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 3:14pm

Marginal improvements in productivity, of the sort Brady instead of Cassel would be like to provide, are most likely to matter in the closest games. It is all, of course, somewhat of a pointless thought experiment, but I would argue that's a weakness of the counterfactual genre as a whole, rather than the lack of justification for the Outsiders' position that the Patriots' probable record with Brady healthy for the whole year is 11-2 or 10-3 instead of 8-5 (a position that, as the above might tend to indicate, seems eminently reasonable to me).

108
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 7:05pm

There were also a ton of situations that game where a marginal improvement at QB would've resulted in a big difference. The failed 4th down conversion in field goal range. The botched snap. Those are just the obvious ones. You also have to ask "would Brady have been able to get a TD with 1st and 10 at the Jets 13 yard line?" I think most people would take that bet.

120
by Dennis :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 10:51am

And Brady doesn't scramble like Cassel does so they would've lost those big plays.

129
by MJK :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 1:09pm

But maybe those big plays wouldn't have been necessary because Brady would have hit recievers on 15-yard crossing pattern better than Cassel on earlier downs. We're not talking about leaving the game exactly as is, and then inserting Brady for Cassel only on critical plays. We're talking about an entirely different offense (and for the record, Brady can't scramble with Cassel's straight-line speed, but he is better at floating around in and out of the pocket to buy himself time and space, so maybe he wouldn't need to scramble as much as Cassel).

People tend to only focus on the second half of a close game, especially an overtime game, but it is important to remember that the game was close because of what happened in the first half.

In the first half of that game, the Patriots were playing terribly and let the Jets get out to a huge lead. If Brady's in there, maybe that doesn't happen. If Brady is in there, maybe the Pats take the lead, and Favre, trying to force the ball, throws a killer interception sometime in the second quarter. Maybe not. Maybe this is Brady's once-per-year four INT including one from his butt meltdown game. But you can't say for certain. The only certain thing is that the hypothetical Brady-led Pats are almost certainly at least marginally better than the Cassel-led Pats, and that a marginal improvement in a game that was tied at the end of regulation and essentially lost on a coin toss could very easily have made it into a win.

70
by morganja :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 2:49pm

Not really. You don't need twenty coaches, and the equipment, especially used, is surprisingly cheap. I think the last team I played on used old equipment from a high school. The goalposts are no more expensive than a soccer goal, and are already everywhere. The coaches were all volunteers.

I think it is the will as well as high schools, colleges and professional football being worried about losing fans, though I can assure you that no one goes to see a semi-pro game now. A little support would go a long way to establishing leagues and a much larger pool of talent developing their skills, and being recognized.

89
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 4:17pm

Not really. You don't need twenty coaches

But last time I checked, you do need a lot more players. More players than soccer, baseball, or basketball, by a lot. And that probably would be the biggest cost - even if you pay them peanuts (and then who would play!?) you still have to insure them if you pay them.

Minor league baseball rosters are typically 25 players, the same as the active roster in MLB. You'd need twice as many players per team in football.

96
by zdneal@yahoo.com :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 5:23pm

For a community team you could make do with a lot of two way players. Somehow nearly every community in America can field some sort of high school football team. If every player on a HS football team who didn't go to college played some sort of Semi-pro football you'd have a large enough pool of players in a couple years.

104
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 6:15pm

For a community team you could make do with a lot of two way players.

Sure. And since finding a full-size field could also be difficult, you could shrink the field a bit. Maybe drop the number of players required on the field? That'd help too. Then to balance the size of the shrunken field, you tighten up the goalposts to make field goals more difficult.

Changing the rules - and you'd have to, as a full-size roster would have a massive advantage over a non-full size roster - changes the game. And if you want it to be a minor league for the NFL, it has to be the same game.

Somehow nearly every community in America can field some sort of high school football team.

High school football teams pay their players?!? When did this happen!?

Oh wait - they don't. Which makes them amateurs, rather than professionals.

If they had to pay their players, I'm pretty sure that almost no communities in America could field a team.

Amateur tackle football leagues exist all over the place. We're talking about professional football leagues.

125
by zdneal@yahoo.com :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 12:41pm

Who is? Morganja appears to be talking about non-professional english soccer leagues and then replying to a claim that more coaches and players would be needed for Gridiron. He does mention semi-pro, but that doesn't really mesh with the english soccer comparison. I wasn't talking about an official NFL minor league team in any sense. The leagues Morganja refers to in the UK are not associated with the Premier League at all.

And besides, you just described the Arena league. It's produced a 2-time MVP, and many replacement level backups. It's not an official minor league, but it is a place where players can work on football related skills despite the fact that the roster and field look nothing like their NFL equivalents.

There are also differences between leagues with for profit teams and teams with professional players. In the US there are for profit amateur inter-city baseball teams. This isn't rec league. It is regional, there are tryouts, managers, and tickets are sold. However the players aren't paid. These teams aren't even low minors, but a way for good HS and college players to keep playing. The barrier to entry is probably high enough that it would be hard to get such a football league going, especially now, but if it did it would likely not resemble an NFL franchise in average roster size.

131
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 1:52pm

The barrier to entry is probably high enough that it would be hard to get such a football league going, especially now, but if it did it would likely not resemble an NFL franchise in average roster size.

And it would offer absolutely nothing to the NFL, because the players it would produce would be nowhere near what the NFL has. No one would be able to afford the training required on a volunteer basis, and even if they did, the competition level would be way below even the lower-division college football teams.

112
by greennogo (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 8:47pm

You can't compare the player integration approaches of American football to the assco. game, largely because of injury issues. A minor league gridiron game played with low payed post collegiate professionals is still likely to cause things like debilitating concussions and ACL injuries, while association football (soccer) isn't. And the fact is, is that both sports would involve players trying to pay their mortgages with supplamentary incomes involving normal day jobs, and the gridiron players may not be in the financial position to sacrifice the conventional work time. A better comparison is League vs. Union Rugby. League exists because a number of lower class players from Northern England couldn't devote the time to developing as players without paying jobs, unlike the Union players who were protected by class status. Therefore, you have a prevelence of prep style Union code sides all over the world, but fewer sub-pro League code organizations.

71
by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 2:50pm

I have to say how satisfying a win that was for the 49ers over the Jets. I don't know if I've ever seen a football game where one team held the ball for twice as long as the other. The score was 24 to 14, but the play was much more dominant than that.

So, naturally, everyone in SF is talking about keeping Singletary as head coach and Sean Hill as our starting quarterback next year. I like Sean Hill, but I suspect he's in for that slump new quarterbacks go through when opponents start getting film on them. Still, are we likely to find a better quarterback in free agency? People around here are talking about Cassell, but good grief, I'd be tentative about taking him when he's throwing to Arnaz Battle instead of Randy Moss.

As for Singletary, I'm pulling for him. He's at least entertaining, and we need something around here.

The other big discussion is -- who will be our O.C. next year? Martz called a fine game yesterday, but as everyone hastens to point out, it's not hard to call a fine game against that Jets secondary. People are saying that the dream scenario for S.F. would be if the Chargers keep tanking and Norv Turner is let go. Then we could pick him up, and his power-running style of offense suits the personnel we have, etc. The big advantage Martz has is that if we stick to him, for the first time in many years we'd have offensive continuity in September. Every year we pick up steam at the end, then have to start over because of a new offense. It's frustrating -- why are our offensive coordinators so attractive to the rest of the league? That's also a reason Norv would be attractive, since most of the players would have played under his system, as well.

Okay, I'm blabbering and summarizing, but still, this fan is very excited about the first good-looking win from his team in a long, long time.

I'd forgotten what that felt like.

74
by MJK :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 3:03pm

Dear 49ers,

Please play as well, or better, against the Dolphins next week as you did against the Jets this week.

--A Patriots fan (married to a Niners fan)

106
by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 6:34pm

This University of Maryland fan would love to see you stick with Shaun Hill, who led Maryland to its best season since at least the days of Boomer Esiason and is something of a cult hero.

(Formerly "The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly")

87
by JimZipCode (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 4:03pm

> Games like this make you ask why teams seem to change in quality so much from season to season. The Ravens
> ran the same scheme last year, with basically the same guys, so why weren't they this dominant on defense?
> ... I would say injuries, but the Ravens have actually been the most-injured team in football this year.

Actually the answer is "injuries", along with improved depth. You already mentioned the corners. Late in the season last year the Ravens were starting guys off the street -- last week in a press conference, Rex Ryan said they were starting guys who are now out of football. This year, they've really improved their depth in the secondary, with Fabian Washington & Jim Leonhard & Frank Walker. (You wouldn't normally say Walker was an upgrade over someone, but compared to last year he is.) So even though they've taken some injury hits at the same position as last year, they've been better able to absorb. MacAllister and Dawan Landry have been out almost all year, but the Ravens are still able to put 4 NFL-caliber DBs on the field.

Also Trevor Pryce missed most of last season, and he's back this year.

The other injuries they've had this year have not been as damaging as they could have been, thru luck or improved depth. They lost Kelly Gregg, who's long been a crucial piece of the defense, and they also lost Dwan Edwards: but they got Marques Douglas in a trade with Tampa, plus Trevor Pryce returned, plus Justin Bannan has played better than expected, plus they stole Brandon McKinney from the Chargers off waivers, plus Haloti Ngata has grown as a player over last year. That might even be net positive for the Ravens on the D-line from last year to this year.

And The Ravens LBs have been healthy all year.

I guess sometimes it's not how many get hurt, but who gets hurt. Of the 17 players the Ravens have on IR, 5 of them were rookies, and 4 of those were likely to be cut in training camp. Another 2 or 3 were veterans likely to be cut. Maybe 3 or 4 projected as backups or practice squad guys. And the Ravens got luckey with the injuries on offense.

Losing Kyle Boller was addition by subtraction; Troy Smith's illness opened the door for Flacco, and it turned out that Flacco was the rare rookie QB who could prosper in the right environment. Losing Marshall Yanda was bad, but Chris Chester was available. Having Adam Terry bounce in and out of the lineup was bad, but they picked up Willie Anderson and he has helped. Demetrious Williams seems the only guy who wasn't adequately replaced: but as the 3rd WR in a power running offense, he wasn't super crucial this year. Backup TE Quinn Sypniewski was very valuable last year; but with Heap playing every game, and Dan Wilcox returning from last year's injury, the Ravens have been ok there.

90
by mm (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 4:18pm

I was looking around the internet a few weeks back about the new UFL, and was surprised to see there is not one, not two, but four professional football leagues that claim they will start in the next year and a half.

You can all look up their web pages yourselves, but you have the United Football League, which wants to compete in the fall with the NFL, college, and high school football; the All American Football League, which looks to build on college rivalries; the United National Gridiron League, which wants to focus on recent graduates and pretty clearly is designing itself to be the perfect minor league for the NFL; and, finally, a re-born USFL, which claims it will not try to leave the Spring this time.

I certainly would like to see a league succeed, both because it could train future NFL players and because it'd be nice to have football to watch in the spring. I certainly think there's a market for spring football, presuming its marketed as football and not the reality-show the XFL tried to be. Of course, you have to wonder if some of these will ever get off the ground, especially as investors will be wary of the other leagues they will be competing with. The AAFL has already postponed it's start once.

92
by Yuro Buc (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 4:31pm

NFL Europe may have been killed because it didnt make money like overseas games do, but it certainly did allow players to succeed, if not always 'develop' them in the sense of a minor league. Guys like Brad Johnson, LaRoi Glover, Brian Waters never get a chance to play if they dont acculuate tape, get bigger, whatever in Europe. Position changes like Matt Lepsis (Te to OT) or Keith Traylor (LB to DT) dont happen. Guys who take multiple years, like Delhomme, Corey Ivy, Sean Morey to finally get a look at the right time with the right team never make it. Mike Beisel, like James Harrison, gets cut and goes home. Given that most teams sent suspects to Europe, rather than prospects, inm exchange for roster exemptions, the league's success rate was pretty amazing...

102
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 6:08pm

Guys like Brad Johnson, LaRoi Glover, Brian Waters never get a chance to play

Might never. You don't know that they wouldn't've gotten a shot without NFL Europe. They might've bounced between teams, always on and off the roster, but then finally stuck somewhere and succeeded. It's happened before.

Given that most teams sent suspects to Europe, rather than prospects, inm exchange for roster exemptions, the league's success rate was pretty amazing...

Success rate implies dividing by the number of players who passed through NFL Europe. There were a lot of them, and the vast majority did nothing. The whole "suspects rather than prospects" makes little sense - the reason a player goes undrafted, or is picked in the 7th round, is because they're a "suspect" player rather than a "prospect." You would actually expect NFL Europe to have a higher success rate, because the team's retaining the player rather than releasing him.

I really doubt that a player who goes to NFL Europe's success rate is higher than, say, a 6th or 7th round draft pick. Yes, you can name Kurt Warner, Brad Johnson, Jake Delhomme as QBs - but you've got plenty of non-NFL Europe QBs who were late-round draft picks who succeeded after a few years of developing on a team's practice squad. Hasselbeck, Romo, Tommy Maddox, etc.

Even in Johnson, Warner and Delhomme's case, you have no idea if NFL Europe was really a benefit. They both had significant time on practice squads before starting, and both only had one year of playing in NFL Europe (Delhomme had a second year as a backup).

94
by hectare (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 4:45pm

Just saw The Who last month. Daltrey still looks killer swinging the mic, and Townsend has plenty of juice left.

Adam Rank's work (don't bench Romo!) makes me want to vomit. Why can't NFL.com and NFL Network hire a few people with talent?

98
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 5:33pm

"t may have come after Wilhite let up when Seneca Wallace was headed toward the sideline, then literally watched Wallace scamper down the sideline for another 10-plus yards."

I see that play all the time, and I hate it. The DB hits the QB, its a foul, 15 yards, he was "going out of bounds". He doesn't hit him, its a 10+ yard gain.

99
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 5:39pm

"It's pretty clear that the secondary has to be the focus of the offseason transactions and draft picks. "

Aaron, I don't think I could disagree more. They've got two high round picks from last year who both look good. (Wilhite and Wheatley). They've got a decent but not great starter on the other side. Merriweather is starting to show he was worth the pick.

The problem isn't the secondary, its the absolute lack of anything even close to resembling a pass rush from the OLBs. Vrable is awful. Pierre woods isn't much better.

I expect better from you.

101
by skol (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 6:00pm

Clearly, Tim Gerheim is a bitter Chiefs fan. Allen ain't coming back. And he's awesome. And you're not.

103
by chubbypuppy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 6:09pm

For the record Woodson started at safety on November 30th versus the Panthers.

Bigby's owie is the "excuse". It has more to do with trying to get the best four cover guys in the lineup (Tramon Williams/Harris/Collins/Woodson).

The sad thing about the Packers season is that Thompson/McCarthy got it right on Rodgers....and WRONG on everything else.

--no depth on O-line so when Tauscher/Clifton got old overnight the line had no fallback position

--no depth on D-line so when Cullen Jenkins got hurt and KGB never got his first step back the pass rush evaporated

--cutting a below average punter for a terrible one the day before the season began

Those are but a few of the challenges facing GB this offseason....

109
by I am excellent at making love (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 7:20pm

I say the Pack outkicked their coverage last year at 13-3. In the long run, MM and TT would have preferred lower expectations this year. Now they are 8-10 in their last 18 regular season games, and the dumber fans are screaming for blood.

Good luck rebuilding those lines on the fly, especially with a GM who abhors spending big money on free agents and tends to give his draft picks more chance than they deserve to prove him right. Even if they can load the lines back up quickly, within two years both Harris and Woodson should be off the roster, and they'll be looking for new corners.

Rodgers, however, has been better than expected. Yes, it helps to have Jennings and Driver, but still. This season's disappointment has not been his fault.

110
by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 7:45pm

I keep reading that one of the big problems with GB is the OLine and how its not Rogers fault they are 5-8 this year. I predicted at the beginning of the year that GB's offence wouldn't be any where near as effective because Favre had a great ability to get the ball out and avoid sacks. Rogers has been sacked about 6% of the time this year while last year Favre was sacked 2.7% of the time.

Rogers simply is not the QB that Favre was last year and GB isn't as good an offence.

Rogers may not be the biggest reason for GB's decline but I'm quite certain he's a significant part of it.

115
by I am excellent at making love (not verified) :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 11:44pm

Rodgers does hang on to the ball too long, a mistake that may or may not be corrected. Favre was better at that, as well as making a safety pay for cheating up in to the box (or audibling into a run when the safety was deep).

I'd love to find more fault with Rodgers, but I can't. He's 11th in DYAR, has thrown 20 TDs to 10 picks, is averaging almost 300 yards a game, and is willing to take off at a moment's notice. He has yet to single-handedly "win" a game for Green Bay, but he hasn't lost one for them yet.

The good members of the O-line are rapidly aging, and the young ones in the middle are pedestrian. Favre made them look better than they were, but they're still the weak part of the offense.

111
by troycapitated p... :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 8:07pm

Interesting note about the weather at Heinz Field yesterday: Of the 37 points scored, only 3 were scored when the offensive team was going toward the closed end of the stadium.

After the Keystone Cops first half of traded turnovers, the Cowboys had their best offensive possessions in the third quarter, heading toward the open end of the field. Then, the Steelers turned around in the 4th quarter and put together their longest, I believe, scoring drives headed toward the open end- Although, the long pass to Santonio Holmes occured before the direction switch.

***Edited for spelling the field name like the receiver. LOL.***

113
by BlueStarDude :: Mon, 12/08/2008 - 9:41pm

Re: "I haven't seen Manning on the wrong page with his primary receiver on this many plays since his rookie year."

Didn't watch last year's game against the Vikings I guess.

116
by morganja :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 2:12am

What is this weird hangup about paying players in the low level leagues? Are you under the impression that lower level soccer players are paid? Most people not on the top level play sports for fun or for the hope to get exposure and get noticed. There is no need for pay. Players pay for their own equipment, their own travel, their own everything, including chipping in for field rental, coaches and officiating, as bad as it normally is, though I note not much worse than the NFL.

Also, you are mistaken about the number of injuries in soccer. In the leagues I have played, there has always been more injuries on soccer teams than football teams.

There are minor leagues out there, but they come and go quickly. If there was even a minimal amount of support from a national football association, there would be a whole lot more.

117
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 2:55am

What is this weird hangup about paying players in the low level leagues?

Because without pay, by definition, they're amateur leagues. And I don't think anyone's talking about an amateur football league, of which there are plenty.

Also, you are mistaken about the number of injuries in soccer.

According to the NCAA, football is the highest injury rate sport in college.

118
by Solomon (not verified) :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 3:23am

No one else (I think) commented on this, so I will. Childress opted for a 50-yard FG attempt with a little under 30 seconds left, Vikings leading the Lions, 17-16. Lions were out of timeouts. I figured the Vikes would pooch punt, setting up the Lions inside their own 20 (maybe their own 10) with about 20 seconds left. Even for the best kickers, the FG seems like a less than 50% bet (I do not know offhand how good Minny's kicker is). If he misses, the Lions (starting at about their own 40) just need about 30 yards (one or two completions with the receivers getting out of bounds) for their own game winning FG attempt. It worked out for the Vikes, but I am not convinced this was the optimal strategy. Granted, they may net only a few yards on the punt. Any thoughts? Normally, I would never suggest punting after crossing the 50, but this was a special end-game situation.

The Lions have a good shot at 0-16, and the Saints are proabably their best shot at a win. I would like to see a team go 0-16 at least once.

On an unrelated note, I hope that Troy Smith gets a chance to play/start sometime. He showed promise at the end of last season, and his injury gave Flacco an opportunity this year. I am not suggesting the Ravens bench Flacco or anything, but I hope Smith gets another opportunity in Baltimore or elsewhere. He might be good, or he might stink, but I would like him to have the opportunity to find out.

124
by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 11:55am

The VIkings punt coverage has been horrible this year.

130
by MJK :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 1:22pm

Good question. To me it's a real close call, and all comes down to (1) how well is your defense been playing in known passing situations, (2) how good is your punter and punt coverage (punt coverage is slightly less of an issue because, on short punts, you either boom it into the endzone for a touchback, or you get it really high with lots of hangtime and force a fair catch), and (3) how likely are long FG's?

The last is the most important. As the probability of making a long FG goes up, it strongly tilts the decision towards opting for the FG yourself, both because it increases the chance that you'll go up by 4, and increases the chance that if you don't go up by 4, the other team will be able to win it with a long FG themselves. On the other hand, if you're at Heinz field on a blustery day, and even 30 yard FG's are chancy, obviously you punt, since you probably won't make it, and they'd have to get really close to win it, so you want to keep them as far as possible.

Was this game in Minnesota or Detroit? Does it matter? (I can't remember if the Lions play in a dome...)

119
by chubbypuppy (not verified) :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 9:22am

jimm:

That is the most incorrect thing you have ever written in this forum. Seriously.

I was going to write "dumbest" but out of respect for the bulk of sensible posts I pulled back.

As pointed out Rodgers does hold onto to the ball at times. Also, he hasn't developed Favre's "radar" in the pocket for oncoming linemen. But other than that he has MORE mobility than Favre. Rodgers is hamstrung by the following:

Clifton's erratic play. From pitching a shutout against Allen on opening night to getting embarrassed in multiple games. UP and down play like that is the most obvious sign of a guy on the downside. He can get up one week and then fumbles around like a wounded water buffalo the next.

Tauscher's overall play has been below his usual standard with the most significant sign being completely manhandled in Week 2 by a no-name Lions D-lineman. Now out with a knee injury who knows how he will come back.

The guard play, as is now the standard in GB, has also been hit and miss. Literally. Sometimes the guys hit someone and other times they whiff completely.

Daryn Colledge in Sunday's game let a guy get to Rodgers in a heartbeat. Bob McGinn, who covers the Packers, timed the sack in just over 2 seconds. Good grief.

The headline article about the Packers was a feature talking of the desperate situation of the offensive line.

Don't believe me? Every beat writer of the Packers has written about it. The coaching staff has acknowledged it. Certainly every Packer fan can see it.

Your post reads as if no matter what evidence is presented you are going to insist that Rodgers is the issue in Green Bay. I challenge you to provide evidence.

Because once you look at the situation with the entire defense, the offensive line and the horrible punting game I would LIKE to believe a normally sensible fellow would reconsider........

123
by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 11:54am

I would agree that rogers seems part of the solution not part of the problem. I am guessing he will be around for many years.

134
by Solomon (not verified) :: Wed, 12/10/2008 - 1:09am

I did not watch the Seahawks-Pats game, so I cannot comment about the announcing per se in that game. However, Dick Enberg (who called that game) is horrible. I am always disappointed when his team calls a Colts game. He gets his facts mixed up all the time and almost never corrects himself. His partner does not bother to correct him either. Enberg is like listening to that grandpa talk about sports who does not quite know what he is talking about but thinks he does.

Some of the better announcers in my opinion are Jaworski, Harlan, Madden (he says a few odd things but knows his stuff) & Michaels, Eagle/Wilcotts, Gus Johnson (good for college b-ball as well), & Aikman.

I do not see the need for crews larger than 2 people (1 analyst, 1 play-by-play). The 3-man crews are awkward and usually lead to having someone like Maguire or Kornheiser included. The sideline reporters are superfluous as well. Other than maybe Erin Andrews, would anyone miss them if they went away?

135
by John (not verified) :: Wed, 12/10/2008 - 4:58am

James Harrison is a woman beater