Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» Scramble for the Ball: Getting it Right?

Instant replay review is one of the cornerstones of the modern NFL. The process and its myriad special rules have been internalized and constantly debated. Mike Kurtz wonders: is it worth it?

21 Dec 2008

Audibles at the Line: Week 16

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 18

Indianapolis Colts 31 at Jacksonville Jaguars 24

Doug Farrar: Pocket Hercules is the man. God, I love this guy. Runs with great power and I swear, he de-materialized to get past a Colts defender early in the second quarter. He was there, and *Poof!* then he wasn't.

Note to Walt Anderson's crew: You know when the NFL came out with the memo in 2006 that you had to SEE the hold instead of just assuming it had to BE a hold because a defender went to the ground? We're all still waiting for the hold you called on Khalif Barnes when he was blocking Dwight Freeney halfway through the second quarter. The Jacksonville Jaguars would like their drive back.

Not sure what the Jags are doing at the end of the first half after Adam Vinatieri's 30-yard miss, going pass-happy when a draw to Jones-Drew is like a gift certificate for a 10-yard gain, and David Garrard came very close to throwing a pick-six to Tim Jennings that would have tied the game.

And what on earth has gotten into Dennis Northcutt? He ate the Packers alive last week and he's doing the same to the Colts.

Ben Riley: This has nothing to do with tonight's game, but I'm sitting here watching Inside the NFL (by the way, it's infinitely better with J.B., Phil Simms, Warren Sapp and Cris Collinsworth hosting) and they have footage of Bill Belichick cracking jokes with Jerod Mayo about owning three trucks, and giving Matt Cassel a game ball due to the death of his father. Here's my question, and I know I ask this at some risk of inflaming certain folks in management here: Why can't this Bill Belichick show up during press conferences? By all accounts, in private he's a semi-gregarious guy, and certainly it's on display during this segment on Showtime, so what exactly is his problem when he has a microphone in front of him?

Will Carroll: How many questions did you see asked while he was being gregarious?

Elias Holman: Both Education of a Coach and Patriot Reign imply that he believes that any information he might impart via press conference might offer a tactical advantage to a future opponent, and therefore he makes every attempt to avoid answering questions in any meaningful way. There is also the undercurrent that the press is actually evil for trying to get him to reveal this information since they presumably want the home team to win, and therefore he has the right to be standoffish, if not outright hostile.

While I have no sources for this, I personally always wondered if he has just been around football so long that it seems weird that people show up and ask him questions about it, so he's just plain bad at it. Like if suddenly the press started showing up at my office everyday and asking me a bunch of random questions about how my day went -- "How was the coding today? Did you expect the database to crash like it did? How come you didn't return that last phone call?" -- I'd be like, listen idiots, no one cares, and you won't understand my answer anyway so why don't you go bother someone else?

Ben Riley: Also, during this same episode of Inside the NFL, there's a very interesting feature about the "Zeus" computer simulation that two physicists have been pushing to NFL teams. After an informative five-minute segment explaining the benefits (and limits) of Zeus, Cris Collinsworth states that he would absolutely purchase the program to at least know the predicted percentage of certain play calls.

In contrast, Phil Simms -- channeling his inner Joe Morgan -- announces that "he hates it" and that no computer program would ever show the same cojones as Bill Parcells did during some game in 1984 when Simms threw two passes in a row. (This came after Simms announced earlier during the show that the much-disputed touchdown in the Steelers-Ravens game must have been correct because the evidence Walt Coleman saw "must have been indisputable to him.") In a related story, we'll be adding a new feature to Scramble for the Ball called "Stupid S**t Phil Simms Said This Week."

Doug Farrar: From a word count perspective, that's probably a separate article. Or maybe if Herm gets canned, we can have "The Week in Phil."

Aaron Schatz: First of all, thanks to the folks who came to Chickie and Pete's in Philadelphia on Thursday. We had to share the back room with what may have been a group of mafiosos, we're not sure, but once we got the Colts-Jaguars game on a TV that was not blocked by mafioso heads, all was well. We even had a couple folks come up from D.C. to hang at the beer feed and, you know, feed on beer (and crab fries, which apparently do not contain crab).

When the Jaguars play the Colts next year, they need to take the "drop Derrick Harvey and force him to try to cover Dallas Clark" play out of the playbook.

I think the Colts' struggles to run this year may be an underreported story when we all go through the "watch out for the Colts, they're dangerous" bits during Wild Card week. In a related note, I'm so, so sick of slow developing sweeps on third-and-1. I don't care which team is running them, I'm just sick of them.

When the fourth quarter came along, the way that game was going, you just knew the Jags were going to melt down, but the end of the game was worse than I ever expected. That game ended like bad sex. All that buildup, and it was going so well, and then suddenly it was over and I was stuck staring at the television muttering, "Is that really it? That can't really be it, right?"

Will Carroll: On the Colts and the stretch on third, they simply can't run up the middle. Jeff Saturday can't get a push and the rest of the line is pathetic. Maybe Tony Ugoh is useful, but I can't tell. If all seven picks next year aren't used on linemen (either side is fine, Bill) then I'm taking hostages.

Doug Farrar: Well, they did take three centers in the 2008 draft...

Saturday, December 20

Baltimore Ravens 33 at Dallas Cowboys 24

Aaron Schatz: It seems slightly wrong to have the national anthem at the last ever game at Texas Stadium performed by a trumpet and not some Texas-affiliated country music star. What was Willie Nelson up to tonight?

Doug Farrar: DeMarcus Ware is just playing out of his mind lately. He's so fast off the line, people aren't even blocking him. This happened on his first sack against New York last week. It isn't even a matter of blocking him; it's whether you can get your feet set before he destroys your quarterback.

Aaron Schatz: How tight is the Baltimore coverage on the midrange routes tonight? Man, it seems like Tony Romo hasn't even tried to throw a route of 10 or 12 yards. And those deep balls that Ed Reed picked off were just chucked up there, like a junior high school game.

Bill Barnwell: I'm on a plane right now. What are the Ravens doing to cause Romo such trouble while apparently letting Tashard Choice run free?

Aaron Schatz: The Ravens are getting a great pass rush, but they are getting knocked back a little bit on the runs, and they overpursue sometimes, which leads to some nice cutbacks for Choice.

Doug Farrar: The Cowboys are also having success with the same draws and delays that worked against the Steelers. This works well with Choice because he has a good combination of patience before he hits the hole, and burst when he does.

Aaron Schatz: Midway through the third quarter, Le'Ron McClain fumbles the ball, it is in Ken Hamlin's hands, and it slips out ... and into Derrick Mason's hands. Man, that's one for the all-time "fumble luck" film reel.

Doug Farrar: Another Ware-caused fumble. Is anyone better at going for the ball?

SWEET fake field goal by the Ravens for a first down late in the third quarter, going against the left-stacked line. They really have to foil the Dallas defense now, though.

We give the Colbert award for play-calling "balls," but man, we need to give Derrick Mason something for the real thing. The way he's playing with that shoulder injury is amazing.

Bill Barnwell: Willis McGahee is in ur stadium suckin out ur air

Ben Riley: Ah, I forgot what it was like to see Ken Hamlin miss on an open field tackle in the secondary.

Doug Farrar: It's like Brian Russell, but faster.

Aaron Schatz: Freedom of Choice ... is what you want!
Freedom of McGahee ... is what you got!

Vince Verhei: I formally request a play diagram of McGahee's long touchdown run.

Baltimore came out with an unbalanced line, with Jason Brown at center, guard Chris Chester playing next to him at right tackle, and Todd Heap at tight end to that side. For the Cowboys, Marcus Spears lines up over Brown, Anthony Spencer lines up over Heap, and Zach Thomas lines up off the line between them. McGahee takes the ball and starts left, towards the strength of the line, but cuts back right when Brown and Chester double-team Spears into oblivion. Heap handles Spencer, leaving the cutback lane open. As McGahee hits the hole, Chester peels off the double-team and takes care of Thomas. At that point it's merely a good run, a 7-yarder or so, but both safeties take bad angles to the ball and McGahee has enough zip to get by them.

I've been watching this game off-and-on while charting the Seahawks-Rams game from last weekend. Three guesses which is more fun.

Aaron Schatz: And then, a few minutes later, they let Le'Ron McClain score an 82-yard touchdown with what looks like the same play.

Vince Verhei: McClain's long run was the result of a missed tackle by every Dallas defender ever, including Bob Lilly, Chuck Howley, and Charles Haley.

Mike Tanier: After a bleary look at the highlights, the McClain and McGahee runs were not the same play. McGahee's touchdown was from a single-setback formation. It was a zone-stretch play with two double-teams on the line; one of the doubling linemen peeled off to take on the linebacker to spring McGahee. McClain ran from an I-formation and there was an O-lineman trapping on the backside of the play.

Will Carroll: This has been the most insane end-of-game I've seen, maybe ever. TWICE?

Bill Barnwell: I cannot wait to get home and see this. Does Wade Phillips even make it to Week 17?

Will Carroll: Has a coaching star ever fallen faster than Jason Garrett?

Bill Barnwell: I still think Garrett gets the job. Offense isn't really the problem there.

Doug Farrar: Coming into this game, Dallas was first in Defensive Rushing DVOA in the second half of the season. Something tells me that's going to take a hit. For all the talk about the skill position guys and all the flash that offense was supposed to bring to bear, the Cowboys are in a position where they're going to stand or fall on the merits of their third-string running back, and their defense. Wade will get fired, and people will remember how that defense improved when he started getting more involved, and he'll have his choice of jobs as a defensive coordinator again. Probably be a relief for him at this point.

Bill Barnwell: I think a really interesting issue is going to be what the Cowboys do with Choice this season. His value's probably at his peak, and he's simply not going to have enough chances to get the ball behind Marion Barber and Felix Jones at halfback and with the dozens of receiving targets they have. There are lots of teams that would want a back for their rotation next year; a quick survey would include Cleveland, Houston, Jacksonville, San Diego, Chicago, Detroit (where he'd start), or Seattle (where he'd also probably start). Would one of those teams give up a 2 for him?

By the way, Choice had a 106.7 Speed Score, an excellent number for a fourth-rounder.

Doug Farrar: Tim Ruskell would probably give up a 2 for a guy who was a fourth-round pick. Hell, he wasted a first on Deion Branch and a fifth on Keary Colbert. Honestly, I think Dallas will keep Choice. Just makes sense when his only chance at doing what he did came through injuries to Barber and Felix Jones.

Aaron Schatz: I think it would be a good idea to try to get a second or a third for Choice, then just use a 2009 fourth-rounder to take another third-string running back.

Benjy Rose: Nothing to add on the game itself, but I want to say how much I enjoyed Marshall Faulk and Deion Sanders as commentators. I found them insightful, informative, and entertaining in a way that most ex-players aren't.

Aaron Schatz: Eh, Faulk I could take or leave. He seemed pretty ordinary. "Tashard Choice isn't just a running back, he's what we call a football player." But Sanders is awesome. I would love to hear him in a three-man booth with Jaws or Collinsworth.

Will Carroll: I think Sanders' announcing career depends on who's running the NFL Network. Sanders says some things that we and hardcore fans would enjoy. There was a great comment about playing a guy inside and only losing him if he did a certain route. He also did a great job with the pass interference that saved a touchdown from Todd Heap after a wicked move. The problem is that most people have no idea what he's saying and to play on Sunday, he'd have to (I can't believe I'm saying this about Deion) dumb it down. He also quoted Notorious B.I.G. tonight, so maybe he can quote Lupe Fiasco next.

Bill Barnwell: I think whichever people (looking at you, NFL Live crew) were lambasting Tyler Thigpen -- a quarterback -- for his lack of effort on an interception return coming at him against the Raiders a few weeks ago need to go after Terence Newman for that job he did on the McClain touchdown.

Mark Schlereth is throwing Romo under the bus on SportsCenter because he apparently gets worn down by too many distractions in December. Jesus.

Vince Verhei: Sterling Sharpe threw Terrell Owens under the bus at halftime for not fighting for the ball on either of Romo's interceptions. Advantage: Sharpe.

Sunday, December 21

Cincinnati Bengals 14 at Cleveland Browns 0

Ben Riley: Anyone watching this game? Cedric Benson with 115 yards in the first half? Romeo Crennel still the head coach? Any updates from Ohio appreciated.

Doug Farrar: I'm not watching that. I did a DVOA Matchup article for Scout.com's Browns site in which I wanted to come up with ten things each that didn't suck about the Browns and Bengals. It took about two hours, and I had to stop at six. And the Browns haven't scored an offensive touchdown since 1973. My guess, however, is that the Bengals are doing what every Browns opponent does: double- or triple-team Shaun Rogers, and run anywhere else, because there will be lanes everywhere.

Vince Verhei: I didn't watch a ton of this game -- I mean, why would I? -- but turned to look at it every once in a while when I realized what ridiculous numbers Cedric Benson was getting. From what I saw, the most amazing thing is that he should have had even more yards. It seemed like he got Reggie Bush disease, trying to bounce to the outside when there was perfectly fine yardage to be had between the tackles.

All I know about Rogers is that he had two offsides penalties in the first quarter, apparently trying really hard to win the game by himself.

Unbelievable stat I saw during this game: Cleveland leads the NFL in takeaways. WHAT?! And it's not just fumble luck; they have 22 picks, tied with Baltimore for first in the league. How can this be?

Ben Riley: Partly it can be because of D'Qwell Jackson, the best linebacker in the NFL who no one ever talks about. He's directly responsible for three of those interceptions, and I'd be willing to bet that his excellent pass coverage indirectly led to a few others.

San Francisco 49ers 17 at St. Louis Rams 16

Ben Riley: I flipped over to this game briefly and just saw Keenan Burton score his first NFL touchdown. Congratulations, Keenan. Meanwhile, Jay Glazer is reporting that the Rams will soon fire team President/G.M. Jay Zygmunt, which is the right move, albeit one that comes about four years too late. And that fulfills my contractual obligation to say something about this riveting NFC West battle.

Wait, one more thing -- just saw the "Get to Know Richie Incognito" segment, where he reveals that A) his name rhymes with mosquito, and B) he likes country music now because "chicks like country, and I like chicks." Do chicks like false starts too, Richie?

Doug Farrar: He should ask Alex Barron, who would know.

New Orleans Saints 42 at Detroit Lions 7

Bill Barnwell: Reggie Bush placed on injured reserve with 1 DYAR. Enjoy the Pro Bowl, Mike.

Mike Tanier: I hope to turn that Pro Bowl chat into some kind of end-of-year extravaganza. And I don't plan to be sober when I do it.

Vince Verhei: I've been saying for a while now that Detroit should just lob the ball to Calvin Johnson on every play. For a while there, it almost looked like that was what they were trying to do. First quarter, down 7-0, first down at the New Orleans 43. They lob the ball deep down the right sideline. Johnson is open for a touchdown, but the ball is slightly underthrown and Randall Gay is able to get a finger on it. Second down, an incomplete deep pass to Adam Jennings on a play I missed. Third down, Johnson gets behind Usama Young and Dan Orlovsky hits him a for a 43-yard touchdown -- but the play is called back on a Gosder Cherilus illegal procedure penalty. On third-and-15, Orlovsky goes deep, but it's not to Johnson -- it's to somebody named John Standeford, who is triple-covered, and the ball is intercepted by Jason David. Game over, 9:45 remaining in the first quarter.

Pittsburgh Steelers 14 at Tennessee Titans 31

Doug Farrar: Nice ESPN piece on Dick LeBeau and his annual reading of 'Twas The Night Before Christmas, but when did Kevin Greene turn into Danny Bonaduce?

Ben Riley: Midway through the first quarter, the Titans have sent James Harrison to the sideline with what may be a separated shoulder, and the defense just pasted Big Ben at the goal line, forcing a fumble and leaving him very woozy. Even without Albert Haynesworth, I can't believe the Titans are the alleged underdogs in this game.

And just to follow that last comment up, Harrison has gone into the locker room, and Byron Leftwich is attaching the chin strap as we go to commercial. Random grammar question: Is a team an "underdog," or made up of "underdogs?" And should I maybe slow down on the Bloody Marys this morning?

Is Cortland Finnegan the new De'Angelo Hall, only much better in coverage? He just had yet another facemask penalty, after racking up 32 personal fouls in last week's game. To quote Lloyd Dobler: Dude, you must chill. YOU MUST CHILL.

Nick Harper must be the only man in America who despises Ben Roethlisberger more than me. On third-and-8, Roethlisberger scrambles to his left and jukes Harper just before diving for the first down. Next play, Ben hits Santonio Holmes streaking past Harper for a 35-yard touchdown. And we all remember what happened in that playoff game in 2005, when Roethlisberger saved the Steelers' season by tackling Harper after the Jerome Bettis fumble, and the Steelers went on to ... sorry, I need to go clean the vomit off my keyboard now.

Doug Farrar: How is Tennessee's interior line doing without Haynesworth? They have some pretty decent subs in there.

Ben Riley: Not bad, all things considered. Jason Jones is doing a nice job shedding his blockers. The Titans haven't been blitzing very much, but they are still getting decent pressure due to Roethlisberger's tendency to hold onto the ball a second more than he should. The Steelers running game hasn't produced anything.

Roughly 642 times this year, I've proclaimed my "down low" love for Chris Johnson. But Chris, for the love of all things unholy, do not start high-stepping on the 5-yard line while waving the ball around with one hand as Troy Polamalu is closing in you. By the way, Johnson scored on a pitch on fourth-and-inches -- very dangerous play call by Fisher, even though it did result in six points.

Eschewing the tired, overplayed "Welcome to the Jungle" for their post-touchdown kickoff music, the Titans go instead with Marilyn Manson's "Beautiful People." Did not see that one coming.

By the way, KCW this week is going to "Someone on the Steelers defense" for getting an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on fourth down at the 2-yard line with the Titans lining up for a field goal -- don't know who it was because the ref's mic has gone out. That's a four-point swing and all sorts of momentum killed.

Jason Jones just forced his second fumble of the day. Is "Titans DT" sort of like "Broncos RB" -- just plug any rookie in and watch magic happen?

Doug Farrar: I think "Steelers OL" is generally a pretty good balm for what ails you.

Mike Tanier: Most of the rush I saw the Titans get was from the outside. They ran a lot of twists, getting their tackles to the outside. They were typical sacks against Roethlisberger: There was time to get pressure from the edge because he waited forever to throw a few times.

Ben Riley: Jason Jones with his THIRD forced fumble and third sack in the game. Who are these guys?

Hey, remember that new Scramble feature, "Stupid Stuff Phil Simms Says?" Here's Phil calling Big Ben's late game pick-six that ended the Steelers hopes of mounting a comeback -- "Just an impossible throw" (in reality, Hines Ward was open and Roethlisberger just skied it over his head), followed by "great effort trying to make the tackle" (as Michael Griffin stiff-armed him and then ran back 83 yards for the touchdown).

Miami Dolphins 38 at Kansas City Chiefs 31

Ben Riley: All tied at 31 with four minutes to play in the third quarter, and I have no idea how or why or what's going on. This will be fun to watch on Shortcuts later.

Vince Verhei: During this game, I decided that I believed in Tyler Thigpen. He seems accurate enough. He's a terrific runner, and it's more than just his scrambling; the Chiefs ran a shotgun-option play early in the third, with Thigpen giving the ball to Larry Johnson, then faking a run to the right. Joey Porter followed Thigpen, allowing Johnson to run by him for a 33-yard gain. But more than that, Thigpen was making good decisions. When they caught the Dolphins offsides, with a free play, he threw deep. When he scrambled near the end of the first half, he was sure to get out of bounds to stop the clock.

And then it fell apart. He had Devard Darling open on a corner route for what looked like a touchdown late in the third quarter, but threw the ball short and wide and it was intercepted by Nate Jones. Then he started forcing passes to covered receivers. And then on fourth-and-1 in Miami territory, needing a touchdown to tie, Thigpen faked a handoff and ran a bootleg (which was a stupid call by Herm, but anyway) -- and then he slipped and (appropriately) fell down to earth. He would add two incompletes, a sack, and an interception within his own 10 on the Chiefs' last desperate possession. By the end of the game, I was envisioning Matt Stafford in a Kansas City uniform.

Doug Farrar: Too early to tell, I'd say. He was a 1-AA star who didn't even get a Combine invitation. I think he has earned a shot, but so much depends on who's in charge there next year. Thigpen and Chan Gailey have built something interesting there offensively, though there are the traditional option limitations. The Pistol seems like a good hybrid addition to NFL spread-style formations.

Vince Verhei: I didn't see much if any Pistol from the Chiefs today. They stuck mainly with basic shotgun sets.

Arizona Cardinals 7 at New England Patriots 47

Aaron Schatz: The Pats came out with backup guard Russ Hochstein playing fullback, and they're stuffing the ball down Arizona's throat. Fourteen plays in two drives, 10 of them runs, and one of the passes was a 42-yard screen to Sammy Morris. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have 11 yards by Tim Hightower on five carries, and only one Kurt Warner pass, incomplete. 14-0, Pats.

I understand that it is snowing out here, but the Cardinals aren't even trying to pass the ball ... and this is a team with no running game whatsoever. This is not working. Better the Cardinals lose playing their game than lose trying to play the "tough East Coast snow team" type of game.

Sean McCormick: Seriously. During halftime, someone might want to send Ken Whisenhunt some tape of the Buffalo Bills circa 1990.

Ben Riley: To give you some idea of what kind of pass rush the Cardinals are generating, the Patriots just ran play-action, THEN a pump fake by Cassel, followed by a beautiful 40-yard pass that went off of Moss's fingertips. The entire first quarter of this game has been played on Arizona's side of the field. Ladies and Gentlemen, the pride of the NFC West!

Doug Farrar: They started the second quarter with a draw on third-and-15, backed up to their own end zone. Might as well put in your backups now, guys.

The last weather disadvantage I saw like this was Seattle's playoff loss in Green Bay last season, when the Seahawks were pushed around all day. It informed their entire offseason strategy -- they brought in T.J. Duckett and drafted Owen Schmitt to accentuate a power running game that didn't exist, and drafted Lawrence Jackson and Red Bryant to beef up a defensive line that Ryan Grant gashed for 5,000 yards. Games like this can define your draft board. They're gonna get killed here. That's obvious. Question is, what do they do from here?

One thing about their offense: Given his size and toughness, I think they're missing the one guy in Anquan Boldin who could star in conditions like this.

Ben Riley: I was about to say the same thing, Doug. People don't realize just how valuable Boldin is to this team, in terms of making tough catches over the middle, blocking downfield, and -- to channel my inner Tom Jackson -- bringing a certain "mental toughness" to the Cardinals. But this is the problem with relying on Kurt Warner to lead your team: Disrupt the rhythm (whether through blitzing or blizzard) and watch the offense collapse.

Doug Farrar: Interesting adjustments for the Cards in the second quarter. They're faking the draw and going with quick outs to guys like Jerheme Urban and Early Doucet, players with size and after-catch ability. Makes more sense than the slow-developing plays they tried in the first quarter against a defense that's as quick on a field like this as any in the NFL. Then, Hightower tried to hit the edge and fumbled short of the first down. The interesting portion of this game has officially ended.

Aaron Schatz: The Patriots go for it on fourth-and-11 from the Arizona 30, and Matt Cassel manages to scramble for a first down. FOX goes to commercial playing "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies," which I think accurately describes how the Arizona Cardinals are playing today.

Doug Farrar: Oh, that's outstanding. The Gillette crew cleans up the field at halftime, and the Cards still suck. First play from scrimmage in the second half is a little screen to Moss one yard behind the line of scrimmage from the New England 24. Moss runs 77 yards for a touchdown. Untouched. Completely. And we have entered a Bizarro World in which Ellis Hobbs can cover Larry Fitzgerald one-on-one.

Aaron Schatz: I'm starting to wonder if this game is going to cost Kurt Warner the MVP award. The guy can't connect with anybody, and you can't fully blame the weather considering that Matt Cassel is currently 14-of-24 with 268 passing yards and three touchdowns.

I'm still wondering ... would I be happier with Sunday Ticket and the Steelers-Titans game, or angrier because the snow and wind would mess up the dish?

Doug Farrar: I think a defensive player should win it this year anyway, but it certainly won't help his candidacy.

Ben Riley: I think Warner's MVP candidacy was already going in the same direction as that other guy from Arizona -- namely, down and hard. I think Adrian Peterson has the inside track at this point, with Peyton Manning annoyingly in the mix as well.

As someone who has had Sunday Ticket for some seven-odd years now, let me tell you Aaron, watching herky-jerky, pixellated football is worse -- but only slightly -- than watching an NFC West team get blown out in the snow.

Who would you give the MVP to, Doug? Harrison? Reed? Haynesworth? Ware? Tuck?

Doug Farrar: My thought process is that most of the real individual value players are on defense this year. Drew Brees would be my choice on offense, and that ain't gonna happen. Peyton's starting to grow on me, though.

You could go one of two ways, really -- best guy on the best defense, which is how Alan Page won it in 1971. In that case, Polamalu's my man. Or, you can go with the biggest difference in his absence, in which case it's probably Albert Haynesworth or Shaun Rogers. Rogers is kinda my underdog candidate -- yes, the Browns have a bad defense, but he's doing things that you shouldn't be able to do with no help whatsoever.

I'd choose Polamalu, for the sheer "What The F**k?" factor. I've watched a lot of Steelers games this year, and in every game, he makes one or two plays that I have to rewind, just to make sure I'm seeing what I think I'm seeing.

Ben Riley: Yeah, Polamalu is defensible, although I (and Tony Dungy) would argue that he can only fly around like a madman because Harrison is busy making the quarterback run for his life.

Doug Farrar: One more addition to the MVP thought: Aaron, was it you that suggested that the Giants' entire offensive line get the award? The Dallas game aside, I think it's one hell of an idea.

Aaron Schatz: It was actually Mike Reiss who suggested it in the Boston Globe a couple weeks ago, if I remember correctly.

Ben Riley: Aaron, are you still watching the Patriots game? Do you think they will score more than 60 points today? That's not a rhetorical question.

Aaron Schatz: No, when it hit 44-0, I decided this would be a good time to go outside and shovel three days worth of snow. The good news is that we got an answer to my question about whether I should have Sunday Ticket so I could have switched to the Steelers-Titans game when this one got out of hand, or whether the snowstorm would have screwed up the dish.

My neighbor is outside and he doesn't have Sunday Ticket, but he does have DirectTV ... but not today. Storm knocked out his dish. Cable wins!

Mike Tanier: I know what gave you the snow shoveling idea: The shot of the snow shovel the TV crew flipped to about 30 times late in the game. It was like the yule log of football. If they put a picture of Brett Favre on the shovel, it would have been the perfect picture.

I'm glad that Pats game finally ended. I was looking around the bar at meaningful games, and they were all midway through the fourth quarter. The Pats and Cards still had a minute left in the third, and both teams were still throwing the ball. Guys, the game is over. Hand off and let the frostbitten fans go home.

San Diego Chargers 41 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24

Doug Farrar: What the hell is going on with Tampa Bay's defense the last three weeks? Is it as simple as Monte Kiffin's announcement, or is something else going on here? Russell?

Russell Levine: The ratio of the ugliness of Phillip Rivers's passes to their effectiveness should be its own stat. The guy throws wobblers, ducks, and balls that come down with a parachute. But they come down in the arms of his receivers. San Diego had a great game plan to exploit the midrange out patterns in front of Phillip Buchanon, who got abused all day. Rivers also twice found Antonio Gates for late opening touchdowns after the protection broke down.

I think I have a similar Jon Gruden and I have similar opinions of Jeff Garcia. He's maddening, but somehow effective. He might also be the toughest human being on the planet. The guy took his standard half-dozen kill shots today, many of which he ran himself into. The last one was delivered by Quentin Jammer when Garcia dove forward (as he always does) at the end of a scramble. Jammer arrived simultaneous to Garcia hitting the ground and delivered a devastating blow to his head that left Garcia dazed and with an ugly cut on the bridge of his nose. Jammer will probably get fined, but he shouldn't. Garcia refuses to slide so he should be fair game.

The Bucs were badly hurt by Darren Sproles on kicks and punts today, constantly setting up the Chargers in good field position, which is the last thing the Bucs' fading defense needed.

This felt very much like an end-of-an-era type game for Tampa Bay. You have Monte Kiffin on his way out the door, with his aging defense (at least the biggest names, anyway) limping to the season's finish. The Bucs lost their third straight and would now have to be considered a long shot to make the playoffs. They have some decent young talent, particularly on the offensive line, so it's not like the roster needs to be blown up, but you have to wonder if the whole Gruden era hasn't maybe run its course. I know the fan base is lukewarm about him at best, and missing the playoffs with a bad collapse could mean it's time to make a change.

Vince Verhei: Stunning stat in this game: LaDainian Tomlinson, who for whatever reason is having a LOUSY year, has a higher percentage of his team's carries then anyone else in the league. Who do we blame that on? Norv, for not using Darren Sproles more often? Or the front office for not acquiring a backup runner after Michael Turner left town?

Aaron Schatz: I don't think it is quite as ridiculous as it sounds. L.T. himself was only seventh in the league in carries through last week. Through Week 15, the Chargers only had 353 carries, which was 23rd in the NFL. Not counting quarterback kneels, they only had 20 carries by non-running backs, which was 24th in the NFL.

Houston Texans 16 at Oakland Raiders 27

Vince Verhei: Andre Johnson was targeted 153 times in his first 14 games. Against Oakland, he was not targeted until the fourth quarter. He finished with two catches: one against Thomas Howard, one against Hiram Eugene. I kneel down before the greatness that is in Nnamdi Asomugha.

Doug Farrar: Yep. Had Asomugha not suffered a neck injury/concussion/whatever in the fourth quarter, the shutout might have been complete. The NFL really needs to come up with some sort of life raft for him and Calvin Johnson.

Vince Verhei: It was the day of stupid decisions to go for it on fourth down (see the Vikings and Jets). Texans had a fourth-and-1 at the Raiders' 5 midway through the fourth, down 9. They needed a field goal at some point anyway, and even if they had converted the fourth down, a touchdown was not guaranteed. But not only did Houston go for it, they passed it, an incompletion to Kevin Walter. They never got inside the Oakland 40 again.

New York Jets 3 at Seattle Seahawks 13

Aaron Schatz: Well, you Seahawks fans may be frustrated with your team, but right about now I love the Seattle Seahawks. Love 'em! Thanks for giving the Patriots hope, guys. Where the hell has this pass rush been all year?
I've only been watching this game since halftime, but they've had Brett Favre running for his life for pretty much the entire second half.

Ben Riley: You are welcome, Patriots fans. Darryl Tapp tends to have one huge game per year, and today he decided to have his huge game. That, and defensive coordinator John Marshall seemed to dial up the corner and safety blitzes at exactly the right time; the Jets seemed to not have done their homework on that front.

The other story of this game was the absolutely incredible play of the Seahawks' offensive line. Did you know that Kyle Williams was playing left tackle? Yes, that would be third-string, just-signed-off-the-practice-squad Kyle Williams. And somehow, Steve Vallos managed to neutralize Kris Jenkins all day.

Don't look now, but there may also be a quarterback controversy in Seattle this summer. This is the second straight week where Wallace has thrown well, made good decisions, and converted the occasional third down with his legs. Matt Hasselbeck is a better WCO quarterback, but Jim Mora may have other ideas for the offense next year.

Aaron Schatz: That's nice and all, but it doesn't really make sense to make decisions on Hasselbeck's future based on his performance when injured. If they want to get rid of him because of economics, OK, but he's the better quarterback.

Ben Riley: Well, part of the problem is that Hasselbeck gets injured on a near-annual basis. Even when he came back this year, he had no idea who he was throwing to, and couldn't rely on calling audibles at the line because his receivers (and linemen) wouldn't know what to do. I think the question is, has Wallace done enough to make the Seahawks hold off on drafting a quarterback this year? I would have laughed at the idea a few weeks ago. Now I'm not so sure.

Doug Farrar: I can't make any judgments about either line based on those field conditions today. I went down to start my car a few hours ago, and almost fell on my ass twice.

Pass rush, Aaron mentioned? Where has the safety help been all year? Where has Kelly Jennings been all year?

Great win, though. My mind was flashing back to all the rough spots in Mike Holmgren's team-building when he first came here. Going through the first positive steps of the Ruskell era and the Super Bowl, before everything tipped over to the other side. I think there are times when a coach fires a front office by leaving, and is justified in doing so, but I'm just glad he got the last home win after such a disappointing season. His final "victory lap" will be a warm memory I'll try and use to placate myself when he's actually out of the picture.

It's a lot like when Lou Piniella left the Mariners; I don't think people realize the space he's going to leave behind. Piniella's departure was a similar "firing of the front office," and I think there are many reasons for concern that the Seahawks are now on the same path that the M's have been ever since. The odd surprisingly good season (though a postseason miss, because they're just not that good), balanced by inevitable falls to the bottom.

There is now one dominant personnel voice in this organization, and it's not a strong one at all. I eagerly look forward to the next three years of witness-protection SEC receivers, anonymous offensive linemen, average running backs, and the furtherance of the Midget Defense Theory.

As for Holmgren, I hope he enjoys his time off, and I hope it drives him just crazy enough that he comes back to the NFL soon. He's one of those guys that the league is just weaker without.

Vince Verhei: A quick note about Seattle fans and how amazing they are. This team has been at best boring, and at worst miserable, to watch this season. And as most of you saw during the game, Seattle was hit with a harsh winter storm this weekend. For most fans, going to that game meant a virtual guarantee you would still be on the road when the Sunday night game ended. They had every reason in the world to stay home, safe and warm. But they turned out, maybe not to capacity, but in great numbers, and they were loud and rowdy and raucous and passionate, and they were into this like any of the playoff games we've seen there
this decade. Compare this to the Cleveland crowd today. I think there were more people in my sports bar than at that game.

Josh Wilson got a sack today. I thought it was a great call, because if Wilson is rushing the passer, then he cannot be burned in coverage. Wilson added two interceptions, making more big plays in this game then he has all season.

Speaking of interceptions, boy was Brett Favre awful. Yes, the Seahawks pass rush showed up, but Favre was underthrowing -- yes, UNDERthrowing -- everything today.

Your KCW of the year: Jets have a fourth-and-2 at their own 20, down 7, with 2:21 and ALL THEIR TIMEOUTS remaining. And they go for it. And the play call is Favre going deep over the middle to a double-covered Laveranues Coles. Seahawks take over, run three times for no yards and kick a game-clinching field goal.

Boomer Esiason after the game on what the Jets should do next: "Maybe they can trade for Chad Pennington."

Atlanta Falcons 24 at Minnesota Vikings 17

Aaron Schatz: You know, Tarvaris Jackson doesn't look so bad today. He's not going to be a fundamentally strong pocket quarterback, but he's doing a good job of finding the open man, particularly if the open man is Vishante Shiancoe.

Matt Ryan may be the first quarterback to ever specialize in throwing accurate passers while falling backwards to avoid the pass rush. He looks like Larry Bird throwing fall-away jumpers out there.

2:30 left in the fourth quarter, Ron Edwards just tried to twist Matt Ryan's head off when he went around on a bootleg. I have no idea how that was not called a facemask. I wonder if the refs are calling fewer facemasks this year because they're afraid of mistakenly giving an offense 15 yards. When you had the incidental facemask, you could make a mistake calling the five-yard facemask and not feel too bad about it. But now it is 15 or nothing. Through Week 15, we've got 80 facemask penalties, which means we're on pace for roughly the same number of 15-yard facemasks we had last year, 92. That also means the 29 five-yard facemasks have been replaced by ... nothing.

Ben Riley: Well, if the idea was to have fewer facemasks by making the penalty harsher, it's possible the missing 29 five-yard facemasks are the desired result. How else could we measure whether the new rule is working?

That said, I saw the same play, and it was dangerous and should have been called for something -- unnecessary roughness maybe.

Vince Verhei: Little-known reason for Atlanta's success this year: They've allowed 42 total punt return yards. Sixteen teams -- half the league -- have allowed that many yards or more on a single PLAY.

Mike Mularkey must do something wacky every game. They line up in a single-back set, then Roddy White motions to tailback. Harry Douglas lines up in the slot, and takes a handoff going left, with White as his lead blocker. Hey, Mularkey: Don't you have halfbacks and fullbacks to take care of running and blocking?

You have, for example, Jerious Norwood, who is absurd. On one play he cut left, then up, then right, then up again, without ever changing speed. WILL SOMEONE IN ATLANTA PLEASE GET THIS MAN THE BALL MORE?

Tarvaris Jackson has looked good for three weeks in a row now. Did he get better after spending all those weeks on the bench? Or is it just that he has played against Detroit, Arizona, and Atlanta?

Minnesota went for it on fourth-and-7 at their own 47, down two scores with more than eight minutes to go. Why would you not punt there? There was so much time left in the game, they still ended up scoring and then getting the ball back with a chance to tie the game. Seems like a panicked decision.

Ridiculous point made by Bob Costas after the Giants-Panthers game: If the Falcons beat St. Louis next week and the Saints beat Carolina (in New Orleans), then not only do the Panthers drop to the 5 seed, but Atlanta becomes the 2 seed. My God.

Philadelphia Eagles 3 at Washington Redskins 10

Mike Tanier: Eagles-Redskins was too boring and depressing to really talk about. As I write this, the booth is checking the review of the Reggie Brown stop at the 1-yard line that ends the game. I just wish even one stray whisker came within an inch of the goal-line on the play so I could work up some righteous indignation.

Now, I look at that three-game winning streak, and the fact that the Eagles are still technically alive, and I wonder if that means I have to go through another season like this next year.

Aaron Schatz: OK, folks, who choked harder today -- Denver or Philadelphia? It's nice that the Eagles came within inches of tying the game in the final seconds, but that doesn't make up for their attempt to set a record for most consecutive three-and-outs when down by a touchdown in the second half.

Russell Levine: Can I throw Tampa Bay into that poll?

Aaron Schatz: Yep, and the Jets go in there too. At least Minnesota and Dallas lost to fellow playoff contenders this week.

Ben Riley: I don't think Denver choked per se. They did what they always do, i.e., give up way too many points on defense and run their entire offense through Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall, until Cutler forces one (or three) too many passes into double-coverage and ends up losing the game. (In other words: The Broncos are who we thought they were!) And now we get a sweet mini-playoff game against the Chargers. No pressure, Norv.

Carolina Panthers 28 at New York Giants 34 (OT)

Doug Farrar: Aaron Ross is going to go back and watch that long completion to Mushin Muhammad several times this week, and I don't think he's ever going to know how he could have jumped perfectly for that bomb to Muhammad, let the ball go right through his hands, and right into Muhammad's hands. That was like Carolina's version of the Tyree catch.

OK, Carolina, I think it's time to stop getting cute with the receiver screens when your guys can beat their zone.

Aaron Schatz: No penalties so far tonight, but that doesn't stop Muhsin Muhammad from popping up and waving his arm in a violent "throw the flag" motion after a perfectly legal pass defensed. I'm the guy who says that there should be no penalties for celebration or taunting, but damn, I'm ready for them to create a penalty for begging for DPI on every single friggin' pass.

Will Carroll: At risk of outing myself as a soccer fan, I think when they do this, they should get the talking-to from the referee. "Oh no, Ronaldo is getting the dreaded lecture" is one of my favorite things to hear during a match. DPI-begging is fast becoming the flop of American football.

Aaron Schatz: Whoo, DeAngelo Williams is good. Explain to me again why on earth this team was starting DeShaun Foster over this guy for two years?

Doug Farrar: It's Williams, but it's also that they know what they want now and he's a great fit. Out with the tricky zone, in with power. They made a concerted effort to get back to power. That involved drafting Jonathan Stewart, drafting Jeff Otah, moving Jordan Gross left, moving Travelle Wharton inside. Now, they love throwing two tight ends on the edge and punching your lights out, and they have the personnel to do it. Getting Muhammad back on the roster has taken the second-level blocking up about 15 notches. You have to admire the way John Fox and Marty Hurney wanted to rectify their problems on the ground and just went after it.

Aaron Schatz: Man, we really saw the Meadowlands wind on the John Carney field-goal attempt at the end of the fourth quarter. That sucker was head-on until the wind got it.

Bill Barnwell: John Kasay field-goal attempt, not Carney.

Aaron Schatz: Oh, right. John Carney is the Giants kicker who was absurdly chosen for the Pro Bowl even though, according to Football Outsiders stats, he has been the worst kickoff man in the league this year (-6.7 points worth of field position on gross kickoff distance). Did I mention he has not attempted a field goal more than 48 yards all season? In fact, he has only attempted five field goals of more than 40 yards.

On a lighter, more pro-Giants note, I think getting Brandon Jacobs back tonight proved to be an awfully good thing for Big Blue.

Bill Barnwell: This is really going to be a fun offseason when you consider the free agents who are going to be available. (Likely) Nnamdi Asomugha, Matt Cassel, Derrick Ward...

Aaron Schatz: This had to be one of the great no-touchdown games of all time. 215 yards, no touchdowns.

Bill Barnwell: Best games by a running back with no touchdowns, 1995-2007:

  • Ricky Watters, Week 6, 1995: 25-139 rushing, 11-90 receiving
  • Curtis Martin, Week 15, 2003: 30-174 rushing, 4-54 receiving
  • Tiki Barber, Week 6, 2006: 26-185 rushing, 3-42 receiving

Frank Gore ran for 212 yards without a touchdown in Week 11 of the 2006 season. That's the closest figure to Ward.

Doug Farrar: That was as good a game as I expected, and it played out pretty much like I thought, though I had the Panthers as a touchdown better. I started to see it slipping away for Carolina on their last drive in regulation -- just sensing that Jake Delhomme was looking downfield when he should have been OK with shooting par. Maybe I'm wrong, but that's the impression I got. They had a safety up top for Steve Smith, and there were holes underneath. A touchdown is not required!

Posted by: Doug Farrar on 21 Dec 2008

141 comments, Last at 27 Dec 2008, 1:50am by BC

Comments

1
by Doug English (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 8:15am

Hey

as distraught UK based Broncos fan was hard to read why we lost only following the SI.com game blog.

Was it as simple as giving up 30 points and turning the ball over in few key situations. My March will be made if we manage to trade up for Taylor Mays.

99
by DangerGnat :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 4:55pm

Here is one Bronco Fan's take on the game, since FO seems to frequently leave them out of the Audibles. Ben Riley's comment about giving up too many points and abandoning the running game is essentially correct. But when you look a little deeper, some interesting things are going on.

DEFENSE
- The thing that has caused me the most heartburn this year is that our starting middle linebacker, Nate Webster is TERRIBLE. He couldn't suck more. Need a MLB who is late to the hole and chases the RB down the field on each and every running play? Webster is your man. Our defense played better overall the weeks that he was hurt, and yet he's right back on the field as soon as he's healthy. How can the coaching staff watch film on this guy, grade him out, and say "yeah, he should be our starter"? I just don't get it. Wesley Woodyard, Jamie Winborn, and even Spencer Larsen (the fullback!) are all better linebackers. It doesn't help that Webster expends more energy jumping around and yapping after every play (good or bad) than he does during the play.
- Dre Bly gets too much blame from the media, fans, and even the FO staff. The guy certainly isn't spectacular, he has made some bad plays and given up a few TDs this year, but I think he's above-average in coverage and tackling, and his flaws are magnified because he plays across from Champ Bailey. I really hope the coaching staff recognizes this and keeps him on the team. But they'll probably keep Webster and get rid of Bly.
- We're probably getting another D Coordinator after this season, it will be our 4th in 4 years. This will allow Shanahan to shift the blame to the defense again, he really is untouchable at this point. I don't necessarily think we can find a better coach than Shanahan, but changing the plan year-after-year on defense, and trying to completely rebuild with new players to fit a new scheme, clearly isn't working.

OFFENSE
- The play-calling was horrible. Shanahan is too much in love with his passing toys. Drives end quickly because of too much passing, and this in turn puts more pressure on our below-average defense. Our offensive line has been a bright spot this year - it seems like when we do run, we gain 5+ yards. But we completely abandon it at the most crucial junctures in the game. Especially in the second half of games this year, we pass every down. It's ridiculous.
- We need a RB who can run the scheme, AND block decently, AND who can stay healthy for more than two games at a time. Everybody thinks Denver can "plug n play" any RB, but it's simply not true. We might be able to produce similar yardage in the running game, but the other aspects of RB performance are overlooked, and having a guy in there we can depend on helps all other aspects of the offense. Our offensive performance will not be consistent until this happens.
- Everything else is fine on offense. If we can just get a more consistent/productive running game, we will be nearly unstoppable, and the defense won't even have to be that good - they can get more rest and stay off the field.

122
by Phoenix of Fury :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 10:03pm

- I agree completely with your thoughts on Webster. I have no idea how he's stayed around for so long, I always thought the guy was horrible.
- I also agree with your thoughts on Bly. He's not an elite level CB, but he's certainly better than average.
- I'm not sure I agree how horrible the play calling was. On that first drive, it seemed like they were rolling like clockwork. I feel like the stalls for the offense are always either due to dropped passes or turnovers, fumbles and the like. Marshall catches some amazing balls, but he drops some of the easy passes that a 6 year old could catch. And don't even think about letting 'Stonehands' Graham hold your baby. It seems to me that Sheffler and even Jackson are much better receiving tight ends, why even through to Graham?

I do believe the major issues are on defense. If the defense gel for even one year, they'd have a legitimate shot at the title.

2
by BucNasty :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 8:15am

Simple game plan for anyone who wishes to pass on the Bucs:

Locate Phillip Buchanon.
Throw.

I see now why he was cut in Houston, but I think Jermaine Phillips being out is also a big part of what happened yesterday. Without him we don't really have an enforcer, and he also makes plays on the ball from time to time. Piscitelli has his moments, but he's still developing and isn't effective as a full time starter yet. I've now decided to root for Atlanta to take the division just so we can continue the nifty trend of worst to first that's gone on in the NFC South since its inception.

Oh, and go Eagles.

3
by lifeonmars :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 8:47am

You have the MIA/KC score reversed. MIA won the game.

57
by MJK :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 2:04pm

Editorial Freudian slip reflecting wishful thinking on Aaron's part?

4
by chubbypuppy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 8:51am

The poster "BadgerT1000" must be laughing his *ss off watching Favre tank this last month. Dude said the old guy would crash and burn as the season progressed and that be the case. Favre was pathetic yesterday, pass rush or no.

I totally buy Polamalu for MVP and completely dismiss the Harrison angle. Thanks to the gf I have seen a half dozen Steeler games and that dude is crazy good. He routinely comes off the edge, is across the line of scrimmage, sees something, jams on the brakes, and then takes off like a dog with its tail on fire and when the play is done he's breaking up a pass 30 yards downfield. Yet he looks to have shoulders five feet wide and runs like he's a bowlegged old cowpoke. I swear he has hidden trap doors installed at Heinz Field so that at opportune times he vanishes only to reappear in time to make the play. That or Troy is some freak from the future where they have figured out how to bend the Time/Space Continuum so that at the snap of a finger he can be someplace else in the blink of an eye.

Gushing? No way. Just impressed. After about ten times of this insanity you figure there has to be trickery or sci-fi involved. Because nobody is that good with plain human skills. Can't be.

I see the FO whizerati is geetting s*cked in by the Tavaris experience. Gents, his coach is Brad Childress. Brad, I have had a playoff berth at my fingertips playing at home two years running, Childress. The man who couldn't coach a pig to grunt. Couldn't teach the wind to blow. The man is so rock stupid he thinks Western Union is a cowboy fraternity.

As for throwing while falling backward c'mon, when Favre was younger and not a spaz he PERFECTED that move. Cracker ain't got the arm NOW but back in the day that was some supersweet stuff he had going on........

24
by Independent George :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 11:23am

I don't have Sunday Ticket, and so only get to watch Pittsburgh maybe 4 times a year. Polamalu does something that makes my draw drop in every one of those games. Even when he doesn't make the play, he will do something amazing that changes the outcome.

140
by galactic_dev :: Wed, 12/24/2008 - 1:11am

Polamalu often makes my jaw drop, but he's never made my drawers drop yet.

135
by bengt (not verified) :: Tue, 12/23/2008 - 12:19pm

Polamalu's nickname on some Steelers message boards actually is 'Neo'.

5
by BucNasty :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 9:00am

The Gillette crew cleans up the field at halftime, and the Cards still suck. First play from scrimmage in the second half is a little screen to Moss one yard behind the line of scrimmage from the New England 24. Moss runs 77 yards for a touchdown. Untouched. Completely.

He ran right by the Arizona bench on that play, and it became apparent from like 50 yards out that he was going to score. If this were a playoff game (and if they weren't down like 40-nothing), would you stick your foot out there and trip him?

6
by JasonK :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 9:12am

Go search the NFL digest of rules for "palpably unfair act."

7
by Travis :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 9:16am

If Arizona did, the referees would have awarded New England a touchdown and the tripper would have been ejected. This is covered in the rules under "Palpably Unfair Act" (Rule 12, Article 3, Section 3). See also Dicky Moegle and Tommy Lewis, 1954 Cotton Bowl.

8
by BucNasty :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 9:26am

Thanks. I figured the tripper would be ejected, but I didn't know the offense would get spotted a TD. I figured 15 yards, an ejection, a fine, possibly a suspension, but also the possibility that you just saved the game.

9
by Kalyan :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 9:49am

How are we going to explain Favre receiving the pro-bowl berth and not Chad Pennington. Heck, i think Matt Cassell deserves it more than Favre and that would have been blasphemy last year.

~~~~~~~~~
Kalyan

59
by MJK :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 2:17pm

I think almost everyone (maybe even PK) agrees that Favre to the Pro-bowl is the silliest thing about the whole Pro-bowl affair this year. Usually it's only offensive and defensive linemen and linebackers that get in on reputation. Still, I can understand how it probably happened. Favre obviously won the fan voting, because most fans don't understand that he's a distant sixth behin Alan Faneca, Thomas Jones, Kris Jenkins, a pathetic schedule, and Bernard Pollard as the factors most responsible for the Jets resurgence.

The you have that the press loves him.

Still, you're right that there are several more deserving AFC QB's than Favre. Pennington being the glaring one, but you could make an argument for Joe Flacco or Matt Cassel, too. Cassel has certainly played better than Favre, against essentially the same schedule (Favre had to face Tennessee, but Cassel had to face Pittsburg and Indy).

72
by Jonathan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 2:54pm

Holy crap, really though? No one mentions Philip Rivers as a snub? Take away his best game of the year yesterday and you still have the QB with the best rating and best disparity between TDs and INTs not getting a Pro Bowl berth. You're dang right the Pro Bowl is overrated, and it will continue to be that way until the NFL wisens up, holds off the voting until the week after the Super Bowl and has the Pro Bowl sometime during the offseason.

75
by Jonathan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 3:02pm

By the way, Pennington, Rivers, Cassell and Manning have all played better than Favre OR Emo-kid Cutler this year, but the Jets and Shanahan are two of the NFL's darlings, so....

110
by MJK :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 5:30pm

My bad. The Rivers snub was so prominent that I had forgotten that it had happened, oddly enough. For some reason, I thought the AFC QB's were Manning and Rivers...
I think I was confusing my Pro-bowl opinions with what actually happened.

10
by laberge :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 9:50am

I would like to add my disgust for slow developing runs on 3rd and 1. Even bad defenses have a good chance of stopping you if you give them that much time when they are probably keying on the run. I would also like to add the "surprise" handoff to the fullback who rarely ever touches the football to that list. I swear I have seen that play fail over a dozen times this year.

12
by BucNasty :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 10:04am

I'm not a fan of sweeps or tosses in general, let alone on third down. I'm all about the fullback handoff, though.

61
by MJK :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 2:23pm

Tosses work well in a balanced situation, especially against teams with slow LB's or in cases where the LB's are worrying about the slot reciever. Horrible call on 3rd and 1.

In general, my system would be:

3rd and less than 1: QB sneak
3rd and between 1 and 2: I-formation power run
3rd and 2-3: spread the field and, based on the defensive formation, either run a QB sneak (if no one lines up in the center), a quick slant (if you see a blitz), or a throw to the flat (if they give you cushion).

Mix in a couple of direct handoffs to the FB and a couple of playactions for a deep pass on (rare) occasions, and you'll have a lot of success.

78
by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 3:17pm

Thank you! I was hoping that someone, anyone, remembered how ridiculously easy QB sneaks are when you need a single yard.

11
by dbt :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 10:01am

Nnamdi Asomugha has already been designated Oakland's franchise player next year, I believe.

Notes from the Raiders game, which I caught from a [free] luxury box over the black hole right on the goal line:

Actual attendance could not have broken 35,000.

You rightly decry the 4th down call near the end of the game, but Kubiak dialed up a QB sneak in the second quarter on 4th and 1 at the Houston 40. Great call. And this was after Oakland called a great onside kick in the first quarter. Some pretty damn good coaching today, including not asking Jamarcus to throw the ball more than once or twice per drive after midway through the 3rd quarter. Higgins' punt return was great, working to the sideline and back to the middle before he broke it, but that TD catch was even better.

That's about it. Go Bears tonight! Do they even have a shot at the wildcard at this point?

21
by Travis :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 11:17am

Bears get the wild card with all of:

1) win over the Packers;
2) win over the Texans;
3) Vikings win over the Giants (if the Vikings lose and the Bears win twice, the Bears would win the division);
4) Buccaneers loss to the Raiders;
5) Eagles win/tie against the Cowboys.

23
by Mark S. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 11:22am

You can't designate the franchise player tag until after the season's over, so it's not official yet. Although the rumor is the Raiders have already decided to slap it on Nnamdi. I don't usually support players holding out, but I would be all for Nnamdi should he choose that course.

51
by Jimmy :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 1:40pm

If I were Asomugha's agent I would have already made it very clear that if Davis applies the tag I would have my player sign it as fast as is humanly possible and then refuse to come to terms with any team the Raiders tried to trade him to. Whilst Davis might want to tag and trade him, Asomugha would have to play ball, and why should he? Whilst I let him know that I would also tell him that if he tried to use the tag the following year he should expect the same treatment. The tag would be a little short of $10m for Asomugha next year and probably about $14-15m the year after, if Davis wants to pony up that kind of cash whilst retaining absolutely no power to keep the player after he has finished paying him like a prince then let him. Asomugha would get $22-25m over the next two years followed by the biggest signing bonus a defensive player has ever received. Let Davis use the tag, it should be a very expensive mistake.

I think holding out is asking for trouble from either injury or reduced productivity, just make it clear to Davis that he will get no benefit from applying the tag.

96
by dryheat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 4:51pm

If I understand your point, that's some pretty bad advice. There is no better outcome for management that the player playing on the franchise tag. Why do you think so many hold out? The Raiders get to pay him for the season for market value, and assume to injury risk past the 2009 season. And as you say, he can keep tagging him. It worked out for Walter Jones, but players generally want the long term contract with large signing bonuses...not a one-year deal with no signing bonus.

98
by dryheat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 4:52pm

That = than, to = no. carry on.

13
by Harris :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 10:13am

Things I learned at the Philadelphia Beer Feed:

1) Schatz is much funnier and more profane in person
2) He also hates your team
3) Mike Tanier hates you specifically
4) Schatz is such a Patriots homer that he is frantically recalculating stats to make the Pats #1 in DVOA. Look for "Contributions by gritty, throwback WRs" and "Completions by QBs who didn't start a game at QB in college" to make up 70% of total DVOA in the near future.
5) Few of the Outsiders bother to follow the comments anymore, the thoughts of the unwashed rabble being beneath their notice, but they do occasionally collect some of the stupider responses just to laugh at you. You, specifically.
6) The Outsiders meet regularly to brainstorm new ways to disrespect your favorite team.
7) Tanier goes over the Audibles every week to make sure any and all comments praising your favorite team are removed, though the Outsiders usually make a point to ignore games involving your favorite team just to spite you.
8) Tanier really likes Andy Reid, but knows controversy is good for page views

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

28
by I am the world's greatest lover (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 11:31am

Thing I learned from reading your post:

1) You should be writing regularly for this site.
2) Your candor will prevent you from ever landing that gig.

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

36
by billycurley :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 11:52am

How would it be verified that you're the world's greatest lover?

79
by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 3:21pm

Verified!!

Oh...was that out loud?

14
by zlionsfan :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 10:31am

Man, no love for the Boilers this week. It's Ray Edwards, not Ron Edwards - I wondered about that non-call myself. (I actually have a Ray Edwards jersey, kind of ... went to a Purdue-Northwestern game when he was there, stopped by one of the sidewalk sales on the way to the stadium, realized I didn't have a jersey, picked up one on sale. Had no clue who #10 was.) John Standeford is the former Colts practice squad player appearing as "Lions WR Opposite Calvin Johnson", or the more generic Lions #2 WR. Considering what happened to the first three guys to play that role this year, he shouldn't be looking for a house in the Detroit area. Well, not that anyone should be right now ...

It is nice being far enough south that I really don't get much dish interference, but yeah, those times when you want to watch something and snow/wind/rain prevent it ...

I don't have a problem with the Texans' 4th-and-1 attempt, and really, not even with the play call. For some reason, even though they do fairly well running on 3rd and 4th down, they've really struggled to run in the red zone (as they showed on other occasions during the game). As someone who owns Steve Slaton in a keeper league, I find this a little disconcerting. Anyway, while it's true you need a FG as well as a TD, 4th-and-1 at the 5 is pretty good in terms of TD position, and it does put the Raiders in a tough spot if you don't get six.

15
by Independent George :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 10:49am

The NFL really needs to come up with some sort of life raft for him and Calvin Johnson.

They already have one: free agency. All they need to do is get rid of the steel chain called the franchise tag, and Asomugha is a cloud of dust in Oakland.

123
by armchair journe... :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 10:14pm

if i remember correctly, the steel chain called the franchise tag was the core concession that won free agency for the players.
_______________________________
armchair journeyman quarterback

16
by JasonK :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 11:08am

A few thoughts on CAR-NYG:

The refs clearly wanted to minimize the time they spent freezing their butts off out on the field, and thus called only the most obvious of penalties (4 in total). There were a number of easy motion penalties that went uncalled, as well as probably dozens of offensive holds in the run game. Both teams had great running days largely because they could hold almost at will. The only one that was called was on Steve Smith (CAR), and it was just too obvious to miss-- he grabbed the CB by the shoulderpads and literally pulled him away from the play for 5 yards.

With Tuck barely able to walk in a straight line, the best player on the Giants' defense last night was Corey Webster. He gave up one slant to Muhammad (who had a great first step to the outside to get inside of Webster) for an important 1st down. Outside of that play, he was locking his man down. His coverage was a big factor in Steve Smith doing nothing in the 2nd half.

Given that the wildcard teams (ATL and one of TB, DAL, or PHI) are looking considerably more dangerous than the division winners in the NFCW and NFCN, I'm not sure that I'd rather be the #1 seed in the NFC than I would the #2 seed.

20
by Insancipitory :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 11:15am

In Seattle they were telling the clown in dayglo orange sleeves to cram it, TV timeouts were going to be held to an absolute minimum, and if he didn't like he could no doubt die in a blizzard.

31
by Mark S. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 11:37am

I agree completely about the #1 seed - I was thinking as the game went into OT that I was glad the Giants seemingly got back on track, but wasn't sure if it was in their long-term best interests to win for exactly that reason. Then again, it's entirely possible BOTH WC teams will win in Round 1, so...

And yeah, that officiating decision was interesting. I saw a few outright holds right in front of the play go uncalled (not that the NFL will call more than 1 offensive holding a game now...), and there could have been a DPI or two.

I felt bad for Tuck last night - he was staggering around the field like a drunk. I admire the toughness, but he probably shouldn't have played, TBH. And you're right, Webster was really good. That pass he deflected away from Smith on the crossing route was beautiful.

44
by TomC :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 12:30pm

"freezing their butts off"?! It was 32 degrees! That's not even cold enough to get
steam off black guys' heads.

Tonight at Soldier Field -- now that's going to be cold.

52
by Spoon :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 1:47pm

Hilarious! Thanks for the link!

84
by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 3:49pm

I'd forgotten about that article. That's some quality stuff.

Perhaps the FO staff can invite an Onion staffer as a 'special guest'.

17
by Insancipitory :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 11:10am

I don't know how many FOers get to go to Seahawks games. I have season tickets. But let me talk about the storm. The closest comparison for me is a storm nearly 25 years old. Even if one were to be more conservative, it's a one in 10 to 15 year event. The trip to the stadium was pretty decent, clear and road conditions were good, which is to say if I have to go to the store I'm walking. People are cross country skiing, and snowmobiling around the slice of suburban sprawl I call home. Piles of snow 6 feet high were left in the middle of the streets in south downtown area.

It looked like more than 40k people showed up to the game, many late due to the transportation issues. There were maybe, and I'm being generous, 20% of the normal law enforcement contingent. More than half of the Stadium concessions were closed due to lack of staff. All the familiar stadium staff were absent. Major sponsors of stadium events couldn't get anyone there to set up their booths (Jone's Soda, and Johnsonville Brats etc). They couldn't even get enough people to hold the giant flag for the Star Spangled Banner, or anyone to show up for a halftime show.

I know all the people around me. Last home games are special; presents are exchanged before the game, hugs, well-wishes and superbowl plans after. When the Packers were last hosted by the Seahawks I and many others didn't get home until 3am. It doesn't matter what it takes, how much it will hurt, not going isn't an option. Not everyone feels the same way to be sure, but yesterday I got to hang out with the people who do feel that way. It was the right way, in so many ways, to send off a man who'd done so much for the franchise.

I might have 100 MB of pictures from the game, it was just fantastic.

18
by Temo :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 11:12am

I swore off football for the weekend after the disaster on Saturday night. Then I somehow got suckered into the second half of the Eagles-Redskins game and now all is good in the world.

I was just one more 3-and-out away from creating a shrine for Andy Reid in my house, commemorated with a laminated play sheet labeled "Plays to use when down 7 points with a quarter left to play" that features all shotgun formations.

89
by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 3:58pm

It really was as if, for one weekend, no one in the NFC really wanted to earn those wild card slots.

Except for Atlanta, against my Vikes.

Stupid, stupid fumbling Vikes.

Speaking of which - does anyone else think that, by the time they are professional NFLers, defenders should probably know to bat a fumble out of the back of the endzone? So they get the ball back at the 20, without the Chaplinesque 'fall on ball, watch it bounce away' activity?

Which proved to be the winning points in the game, for Atlanta.

Although I do have to: 1) congratulate Atlanta's DC for some good play-calling within the 4-minute mark, and; 2) castigate Brad Childress (yes, again - go figure) for some horrible, wretched decision-making.

First off, Atlanta; they figured out that, when you've got a young QB who hasn't demonstrated either a cool head under pressure, nor any accuracy beyond 20 yards, blitzing during the '2-minute drill' is effective. Making him try to beat your safeties with blitzing corners is even better. Jackson sucked running that offense.

Now, Childress; you know what you've got in Jackson. You also know what you've got in a now-healthy Frerotte. Why, why, why did you not put Frerotte in for the final drive or two? Who's the better passer again? Who's the QB that could've gotten the ball accurately into Aundrae Allison's (or Berrian's) hands downfield?

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Childress - the coach who may well be watching the playoffs from home again (and hopefully, unemployed this time).

19
by hector :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 11:14am

Will Carroll: This has been the most insane end-of-game I've seen, maybe ever. TWICE?

Hyperbole of the week, Mr. William Carroll. There's always a tendency to overrate what's in front of us, especially in a stand-alone game. Stay grounded, son.

Schatz: We had to share the back room with what may have been a group of mafiosos, we're not sure, but once we got the Colts-Jaguars game on a TV that was not blocked by mafioso heads, all was well.

Which reminds me, had Tony Soprano still been alive, this Jets finish to the season would have killed him.

33
by Travis :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 11:41am

Jets' seasons in Tony Soprano's lifetime that ended similar to this one:

1986 (started 10-1 with chance to win division, lost last 5, still made playoffs)
1993 (started 8-5 with chance to win division, lost last 3 to miss playoffs)
1994 (started 6-5 with chance to win division, blew 24-6 lead in fake-spike game, lost last 5 to miss playoffs)
1997 (started 8-4 with chance to win division, lost 3 of final 4 to miss playoffs, including loss to 1-12 Colts)
2000 (started 9-4 with chance to win division, lost last 3 to miss playoffs)
2001 (lost Week 16 to 2-12 Bills to blow chance at division, still made playoffs)

35
by Temo :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 11:52am

Heh, I was about to say the same thing, only without the actual stats. There's a reason why Jets fans are arguably the most cynical football fans out there.

Gotta love me some Jets, though. The most un-New York of all New York teams.

22
by Brian G. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 11:19am

The Broncos and Jets are worthless. The Broncos can't beat Buffalo AT HOME to clinch a division title and playoff spot?!?!! And the Jets can't win to keep a division title in hand AND effectively eliminate the Pats, their hated rivals?

As a Colts fan now looking at the possibility of both the Chargers and Pats not only making the but being a higher seed, I can only say...Goddamn it.

And also - the NFL needs to change the way it seeds playoff teams. I think division winners should be guaranteed a playoff spot but seeding should be based on record. It would still reward teams for winning the division but would also force teams to keep playing for playoff seeding. I think it would also allow for fewer meaningless late season games.

65
by MJK :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 2:31pm

And what do the Broncos and the Jets have in common? They both got beaten by the RAIDERS.

The NFL should add a temporary rule that any team that loses to the Raiders is automatically eliminated from the postseason.

76
by DGL :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 3:02pm

I first thought this was a RaiderJoe post, but then I saw the spelling and grammar.

106
by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 5:11pm

Sad, isn't it? Ever since the Raiduhs have been clearly eliminated from the playoffs, he's been...sadly absent. No ironic responses of 'Is poster drunk?', nary a peep.

25
by hector :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 11:24am

Benjy Rose: Nothing to add on the game itself, but I want to say how much I enjoyed Marshall Faulk and Deion Sanders as commentators. I found them insightful, informative, and entertaining in a way that most ex-players aren't.

Strongly disagree here. I thought Faulk was horrendous, and it sucked to be without Collinsworth on this game.

Here's just one example of Marshall's cluelessness, transcribed from DVR:

- Bob Papa (who I like a lot, fwiw): "Don't we also have to credit Baltimore's defense?"

- Marshall Faulk: "Yes, the job that they have done tonight is uh, umm, I mean, can't go without mentioning. You look at the score, it's very indicative."

Faulk also mentioned late in the game that Dallas needed to sustain some offense to "keep its defense off the field." He could have also mentioned that Dallas was down two scores and it was the fourth quarter, so yeah, offense was a good idea right about then.

37
by Temo :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 12:00pm

I don't see how that makes him "horrendous". When I think horrendous, I think Brian Baldinger.

Faulk was right in general, though his timing may have been off. For most of the game, it was the Dallas offense that screwed their defense, the last 8 minutes or so notwithstanding.

40
by Joe T. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 12:18pm

I would contend that the absence of Chris Collinsworth is addition by subtraction, under any circumstances.

119
by hector :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 6:38pm

Obviously opinions will vary, but I think Collinsworth is as good as anyone calling a game. He's constantly pointing out stuff you can't see on the screen, watching the action away from the ball. For my money he's as good as anyone in the business right now, and he's quickly established chemistry with Bob Papa, too.

124
by armchair journe... :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 10:20pm

I'm surprised by this comment... I would think that most FO readers would prefer Collinsworth-type analysis over the bulk-rate alternative.
_______________________________
armchair journeyman quarterback

26
by Wanker79 :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 11:29am

Firstly, I hope Andy Reid chokes on a ham. He chokes at every other opportunity, so why should Christmas dinner be any different?

And secondly, I was literally on the verge of becoming violent when Aikman started praising Jon Runyan for making such a good play to save a touchdown on a play that started with Runyan doing his best impersonation of a pylon thereby allowing Jason Taylor to cause & recover the fumble in the first place.

27
by FullMoonOverTulsa (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 11:31am

Vince Verhei: Sterling Sharpe threw Terrell Owens under the bus at halftime for not fighting for the ball on either of Romo's interceptions. Advantage: Sharpe.

Of course, the first pass was to Roy Williams, but let's not get in the way of the hate.

29
by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 11:34am

I'm trying to understand how this Dolphins team won 10 games this year. They almost gave up 500 total yards to KC. They manage to run Williams more than Brown again. They even turned the ball over this week. Oh well I can't remember the last time Miami won on the road in NY in December. If the coaching staff some how manages that he deserves coach of the year. The Giants receivers still looked terrible. I wonder if they would have been better off losing and getting to play on the road. They just never seem to throw well in that stadium. I'd like to thank FOX for showing every second of the exciting Cardinal- Pats game. The only thing that made the game watchable was the fact poor Tony was forced to sit on the sideline freezing all 4 qrts. WTFox? The Pats got a 40 point lead I think it's safe enough to let poor Tony inside. You know a game isn't exactly gripping it's viewers when the announcers start telling you to stay tuned highlights from better games are on there way. After 1 hight light they seemed to start begging for the studio to show them another one.

67
by MJK :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 2:37pm

How did they win 10 games?

* They weren't as bad a 1-15 last year. They had oh so many heartbreaking losses by just a hair.
* Pathetically easy schedule. You'd have to work really really hard to lose more than 1 or 2 games to the AFCW and NFCW, so that's six to seven wins right there. Plus their 1-15 record last year means they got two games against teams that were also bad last year, so that's probably another win right there. Now you're at 7-8 wins or so, and only need a few things to break your way and a marginal improvement to get to 10.

Agree on the NE-ARI game. I'm a Pats fan, and I got bored.

104
by E :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 5:06pm

You'd have to work really really hard to lose more than 1 or 2 games to the AFCW and NFCW ...

More praise for the Jets, whose really really hard work earned them losses to Oakland, San Diego, Denver, San Fran AND Seattle (with the last 3 coming in the last few weeks while trying to make a playoff push). And they should have lost to KC too.

That's also another way of saying that what Miami has done should not be dismissed simply due to an easy schedule. Lots of teams have easy schedules every year and don't come anywhere close to 10 wins. Buffalo, New England and the Jets had virtually the same schedule and Miami has the best record of the bunch. It's too easy to say that they "should" beat those NFCW and AFCW teams - a team that went 1-15 (and was predicted by FO to win around 4-5 games, schedule notwithstanding) has no easy wins. Color me impressed

112
by MJK :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 5:46pm

Buffalo, New England and the Jets had virtually the same schedule and Miami has the best record of the bunch.

Ummm, New England has the SAME record as Miami. If both teams win their final game, Miami would win the tie with NE because of the FOURTH tiebreaker, and only because losing to San Diego is considered worse than losing to Arizona by the tiebreaking formula.

Not diminishing what Miami has done...it's impressive to go from 1-15 to (possibly) a playoff birth. However, you have to admit that Miami's 10-5 record is significantly less impressive than Baltimore's 10-5, or even Dallas's 9-6.

Last year Miami was a 4-5 win team that had some lousy luck. I see Miami this year as a 7-9 win team that will get 10-11 wins due to an easy schedule. So they've improved, from bad to average or slightly above average, which is impressive to do in a single year. But be leary of getting too caught up in the magic of 10 or 11 wins.

118
by E :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 6:37pm

Miami's 10-5 may have been easier to attain given their schedule than Baltimore's 10-5 or Dallas's 9-6, but I would not say that it is "significantly less impressive".

Baltimore's 5-11 record last year was clearly an abberation - FO predicted them to have a winning record this year without much turnover in their roster. The year before they went 13-3 and won their division by 5 games. In my opinion, 10-5 is about where they should be (though I am impressed by Flacco).

Dallas's record is not the least bit impressive. They were the #1 seed in the NFC last year and picked by many to go to the Super Bowl. They have clearly mortgaged at least some of their future to win this year (see Roy E. Williams trade and contract). They are a 9-6 disappointment.

Every team goes through up and down cycles - it's the nature of the NFL. A typical team like the 2007 Dolphins, with an easier schedule, better luck, better coaching and the Parcells factor, whould have improved to around 7-9 this year, maybe 8-8. The fact that their on the verge of 11-5 and a division title - both unprecedented for a team coming off a 1-loss season - is being way underappreciated. (Full disclosure: Though I'm not a Miami fan, I hate the Jets and am quite happy today.)

30
by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 11:36am

7 Fumbles in one game - maddening. One Fumble for the other team that two Vikings completely miss and Atlanta recovers for TD - acceptance.

Peterson fumble rate got me to check up on how he compared to top RB's of all time. I looked at most of the top 20 to see how they compared and Peterson falls roughly in the middle. But it seems fumbles rates of more recent players are far lower.

Allen 426 19 4.46%
Harris 376 15 3.99%
Simpson 301 12 3.99%
Dorsett 498 19 3.82%
Payton 507 19 3.75%
Dicker 769 27 3.51%
Thomas 505 16 3.17%
Sanders 535 14 2.62%
Brown 459 12 2.61%
Smith 606 15 2.48%
Faulk 603 13 2.16%
Peterson 580 12 2.07%
Riggins 387 8 2.07%
James 756 13 1.72%
Watters 414 7 1.69%
Tomlins 711 11 1.55%
Bettis 613 9 1.47%
Martin 684 9 1.32%
Dunn 469 5 1.07%
Taylor 423 3 0.71%
Dillon 495 3 0.61%

Are fumble rates declining over the years? Has this been covered here?

38
by JasonK :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 12:04pm

I don't recall whether FO has commented on historic trends in fumble rates, but the P-F-R Blog had a good post on the topic this past June:

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/blog/?p=522

39
by Tom Gower :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 12:06pm

It's been mentioned here before, and covered on PFR blog (in a post I'm too lazy/don't have time to look up right now), but yes, fumble rates are way, way down from 20-30 years ago. You shouldn't necessarily think less of Walter Payton because he fumbled 3.75% of the time-that was probably fairly close to league average.

101
by dryheat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 5:02pm

I believe back in the day, the ground could cause a fumble. Also, replay wasn't used, so none of those fumbles were overturned.

The PFR blog might say this...I should read it before posting.

132
by Stevie :: Tue, 12/23/2008 - 3:28am

The fact the guy has fumbled 8 times plus a botched hand-off attributed to Jackson that was totally his fault and no one calls his out for being early tiki-esque is amazing. He gets talked about for MVP and he fumbles in the 4th quarter of an important game after he's already dropped the ball twice in the same game I'm flasberghasted.

I also would like to say I'm down with Cable staying on as Raider's coach. He kept them playing hard, he made some dumb calls but he also PLAYED TO WIN THE GAME doin ghte things bad teams need to do to win like have good special teams, trick plays etc. he'd be better then Fassel

32
by Biebs (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 11:38am

Just an utterly shameful performance by the Jets. The coaching staff simply stinks. Favre isn't getting the job done either, but the Jets, while not super talented, certainly had average to above average talent this season and was outplayed by significantly less talented team on 4 occasions (Chiefs, Raiders, 49ers, Seahawks, arguably Broncos, Bills, and Chargers this season)

The bad coaching decisions that stick with me.

1) 4th and a foot from the Seattle 2. 1st drive of the game, in the snow, the Seahawks have not shown an ability to stop the run in the game, the Jets are a fairly good running team (though not so great on short situations). The kick the field goal. Later, Manigni says that he wanted points because of the weather. That's crap. Realistic worst case scenrio is that they are stopped and the Seahawks, in terrible weather conditions have the ball at the 2 or 3 yard line.

2) Jets attempt a 45 yard field goal that Feely hits with ease. Jets get called for a stupid delay of game penalty, setting up 4th and 12. The Jets punt. Feely clearly had the distance on the last kick. There's no logical explanation for not letting him kick again. None. He claimed something about wanting to pin the Seahawks deep. If that's the case, just punt from the 27. If your field goal kicker makes the kick with the necessary yardage on the play before, why would you not let him kick it.

As for going for it on 4th down. I actually didn't mind that as much as the other calls. I didn't think the Jets would get the ball back if they punted either. The Jets receivers have had a terrible season andhave not gotten open all season. Their OL was not good against the Seahawks, but the Receivers did have a good 6 or 7 seconds to create separation on the 4th down play.

The Jets defense only gave 13 points, but their inability to get to the QB or stop the Seattle run extended drives on multiple occasions. There's no way the Jets DL should have been stood up by the makeshift Seahawks OL.

I'm usually loathe to blame coaching (for example, Favre's first INT was just terrible, that's not coaching). But, to be constantly outplayed by inferior teams is a sign of bad coaching. The constant inability to score in the 2nd half of games, is a sign of bad coaching. The Jets just never seem to make in-game adjustments (or make the wrong ones, it's hard to say).

34
by hector :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 11:45am

Opposing defenses don't have to game plan for Leon Washington, the Jets eliminate him for you. Three touches from scrimmage in a critical game?

42
by Dennis :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 12:20pm

Totally agree on 1 and 2. When they kicked the field goal on the first drive I said that was the game, they lost. My wife will back me up on that. It was a totally gutless call. As a very weird man once said, "you play to win the game".

On #2, if Mangini didn't want to try the longer field goal, they should've gone for it. Punting in that situation is inexcusable.

I agreed with the going for it on the last 4th down, but the play call was ridiculous (although Coles should've caught it).

I totally blame the coaching for this season. Your comment about their inability to make adjustments is dead on.

Before the season, I said best-case with or without Favre was 10-6 and losing in the playoffs. And that's still the best case. I'm almost hoping they lose Sunday because I don't want the Pats to win the division. But this being the Jets, they'll win and it will be too little, too late. It sucks rooting for this team.

47
by Travis :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 12:45pm

Jets' 2008 coaching strategy, as encapsulated by this game:

1. Never go for it on 4th and short on the first drive of the game - most recently, a 4th and 2 punt from the 49ers' 38.

2. For the most part, avoid using Leon Washington on offense. Tony Richardson, the Jets' fullback, had more touches (5 to 3) than Washington on offense yesterday.

3. Run the same plays over and over on the first two drives of the game, then don't use those plays for the rest of the game.

4. Throw deep on 3rd downs, even when a short pass would suffice.

5. Use the empty backfield set occasionally, even though it only works in end-of-game situations and usually leads to disaster.

6. Rush 3 if at all possible. If you must blitz, make sure it's a delayed blitz.

7. When calling plays and making game decisions, never take weather conditions into account.

69
by MJK :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 2:41pm

Why oh why couldn't they have just followed those simple rules when they played New England the second time...

41
by Greg (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 12:19pm

This was pretty sweet. No audibles for the Colts against the bengals and lions, but hey, they are on thursday night, so we'll get to hear something about them, then...

Oh, wait, something about the Patriots that couldn't wait till the Sunday game, phew.

And Jeff Saturday is the best O-lineman on the team. He's the ONLY one that gets push, Pollak and Diem are turnstyles and Johnson and Ugoh would feel complimented if you merely said they were inconsistent.

46
by Spoon :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 12:44pm

I was going to comment on that too, but figured maybe it was just me and I should hold my tongue. I guess it wasn't just me after all.

An absolutely fantastic performance by Manning, even with no run game and a defense that didn't show up until the fourth quarter, and yet half the section was spent talking about Bill Belichick? No wonder only one guy mentioned Peyton in the conversation regarding MVP.

91
by Greg (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 4:19pm

Yea, who is this Ben Riley moron? He's been railing on the Colts' all year, said they would never win 10 games, said they would never make the playoffs. OOOPS. I guess he's so irritated about looking like a little girl that lost her barbie that now he has to say 'Peyton Manning is annoyingly in the mix as well'.

Thats like saying Ben Riley is annoyingly working for this website.

43
by lionsbob :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 12:22pm

Tashard Choice would not start in Detroit. I guess Kevin Smith closing in on a 1000 yards as a rookie does get missed when the Lions suck this bad.

125
by armchair journe... :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 10:26pm

Also found that curious, but I'm chalking it up to reflex.

At this point, after WR1, you just assume that any free agent is an upgrade in Detroit.
_______________________________
armchair journeyman quarterback

45
by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 12:40pm

Jason K - thanks for that link. It certainly seems that fumble rates are declining. Peterson is fumbling at about twice the league average for 2007. What makes it seems worse is 5 or his 8 fumbles came in 2 of the last three games and he had another 2 credited to the QB on exchanges and 2 called back on challenges.

So that's 9 times on the turf in 3 games. No wonder it feels like he's going to fumble every other drive.

48
by Tom Gower :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 1:14pm

I just wanted to cast my vote for Peyton, for the same reason people are voting for Polamalu. Every single game, he makes a couple passes that no quarterback has any right at all to throw. Two I remember from Thursday's game, both to Clark-the first was at the end of the first half, on a seam route. I swear the ball is in a perfect arc, then plummets straight down to hit Clark exactly in stride. The second one was the long gain up the right sideline, right past the defender, far enough where Nelson can't get over in time, and once again exactly in stride. The announcers praised Garrard for a good throw into a tight window later in the game, and it was a decent throw, but that window was gargantuan compared to the holes Peyton puts stuff in, and he does it every single game.

102
by turbohappy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 5:05pm

I'd have to vote against Peyton and I root for the Colts. The MVP is for the whole season and he was NOT Peyton for the first half of the season. He's been mostly brilliant the second half, but it's not a 2nd half MVP.

49
by MJK :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 1:20pm

My pain post in a second, but first, thoughts on Belichick and the press: Patriot Reign also talks about how Belichick has harbored a grudge against the press ever since Cleveland. Parcells never let his assistants talk to the press (as Belichick does not now), so Cleveland was his first time dealing with them...and he feels that a lot of his troubles there were due to his mis-handling them and their resultant demonizing. He's also had to deal with some particularly notable hostile attacks from the press--Tom Jackson's comments about how the Patriots hate him (for which he still apparently hasn't forgiven him), constant attacks by the chief beat writers for the Herald and the Globe when he took over the Patriots and cut off the extensive and exclusive locker room access Pete Carrol had given them (forcing them to do actual, I don't know, work), The fabricated Spygate story right before the SB last year.

It is worth noting that if you ask him about injury status, or tactics that he plans to use against the upcoming opponent, he'll (understandably) stonewall you, and if you ask him about his or his players' personal affairs he'll (rightly, to my mind) shut you down, and if you ask him about "heart" or "clutch" he'll (also rightly) treat you like you're an idiot, but if you ask him about the history of the single wing, or the way that the middle linebacker position has evolved over the last twenty years, or how he breaks down a particular type of play often used by some other team, or the types of things that good scouts do, he'll talk your ear off for twenty minutes, if you're willing to listen. The problem is that the press just doesn't ask the right questions. He's more of a Football Outsider, whereas the press is more like the FOX message board posters.

71
by Boston Dan :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 2:50pm

Absolutely correct, MJK.

People should read the press conference transcripts on the Pats website. He will go on and on about certain topics, educating one along the way, but the HC has a real disdain for reporters that want him to give the house away in terms of strategy and injuries.

81
by Eric (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 3:24pm

And his weekly radio appearance on WEEI the Monday after games. WEEI brings in Steve DiOssie and Fred Smerlas as guest hosts those days, and you can reliably depend on half-hour dissections of hand stance and weight positioning in 2-gap defensive line play.

128
by Purds :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 11:53pm

Yeah, but the problem is that reporters and fans don't want to hear BB pontificate on the history of the game; they're not asking about football background info. What they want to hear is a bit of honesty, and something about the current season; BB's too full of himself to condescend to actually talk about players or games or plays or decisions.

To everyone outside of New England, BB sounds like Nixon -- hateful of the press even while wildly winning (first as president., and then as the sure winner of the next election). Both had secret tapes, hmmmm....

134
by Wanker79 :: Tue, 12/23/2008 - 10:34am
141
by BC (not verified) :: Sat, 12/27/2008 - 1:50am

I'd agree that BB's conversations include a greater respect for the history of the game than any other head coach in the league, but in-game decision making is also a part of his conversations - particularly whether or not to try and convert a 4th down as well as the decision to go for a 1 point or 2 point after TD attempt. He doesn't disclose any of his specific decision-making tools, but he seems as forthcoming as any coach I've heard when it comes to that.
He does not openly discuss injuries or the distractive subjects in the personal lives of himself, his coaches, or his players. That's pretty much on par with the rest of the league.

(I actually might consider one of the comments above to be more of a dick statement than ANYTHING BB has said all year. Wear it like a badge, Purds, I know you enjoy trolling when it comes to Pats hate)

50
by chubbypuppy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 1:29pm

Tom:

Agreed on Manning. I just think someone should recognize the best defensive player on the best defensive team.

They should share the award. Though personally being absolutely sick of quarterbacks hogging major awards I am mighty partial to Troy winning it outright.

Harrison is a fine player by the way. But better than TP? N-O W-A-Y........

56
by Yaguar :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 2:01pm

My issue is with running backs taking too many MVP awards.

Quarterbacks legitimately are the most valuable players in the league most years. Shaun Alexander, though, was a total joke.

53
by Danish Denver-Fan :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 1:49pm

In Denmark, when a soccer-player is standing all alone, wide open, in the penalty-area we say he's naked.

Vishante Shiancoe was naked all day.

54
by Bronco Nut (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 1:51pm

"Is "Titans DT" sort of like "Broncos RB" -- just plug any rookie in and watch magic happen?"

No, if they were anything like "Broncos RB", the Titans would be on their 143rd string DT right now.

88
by Tim Kirk (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 3:56pm

Yup.

And yet again Bronco had a worthwhile start from their latest starter, only to find him down and out by halftime (don't think Pope even managed to get through the second drive - but he was certainly doing enough before then). Young was banged up at least once during the game as well, so if you want a reason why the Bronco's offense seems to move towards too much Brandon Marshall maybe the fact that everyone else who might carry a significant chunk of load keeps breaking has something to do with it. First two drives seemed good football, but play-action and roll-out plays both work better when have some kind of offensive threat in the backfield, and Tatum Bell (or a banged up Selvin Young) does not provide enough to keep the defense honest it would seem...

Still wouldn't put it past them to beat the Chargers next week (wouldn't put any money on it either, though!) but all in all given the number of injuries to one position the offense looks like it has a lot of potential for next year and beyond. The defense though, well, I'm hoping that they can somehow find a DT and S (to begin with) in the draft - though maybe their is bizarre solace in the fact that they don't have to that good to make a noticable improvement...

107
by Tim Kirk (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 5:18pm

Pope & Young both to IR now - hamstring and back (torn, ruptured disk, respectively).

Lots of people used to say they could run for yards behind the Denver OL, that may still be true, but would you dare risk it given the seeming inevitability of unpleasant injury?

55
by MJK :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 2:00pm

* Haven't watched much Cowboys this year, but from the few games I've seen, and espcially on Satruday, DeMarcus Ware is probably in the top 3 for DPOY. You don't stop him. You just hope to slow him down until the QB gets the pass off.

* Derrick Mason is an iron man. Did people see him still running routes and catching passes essentially one armed, grimacing in pain as Cowboys defenders (possibly purposely) slammed into, wrenched, and twisted his bad shoulder?

* I didn't see the end of the Ravens-Cowboys game (only watched the first three quarters), and when I left Baltimroe looked like they were winning. And they did. Can someone summarize what was so extraordinary about it, or is to so involved that I should go read a recap/watch highlights?

* Apparently the Seahawks have a pretty good pass rush, but only when playing teams from the Northeast.

* The NE-ARI game did seem interminable, and this is coming from a Patriots fan. Usually blowouts end early once each team realizes it's over and just runs the clock out. NE looked like they wanted to run the score as high as possible, and ARI looked like they were desparate for some morale points.

* A bunch of weather games this weekend. You can talk about how the weather, and not the Patriots' defense, shut down the Cardinals, but somehow in that weather the Patriots managed to score a gajillion points, largely with a balanced rushing and passing attack.

* Amusing NFC west note. After SF narrowly beat STL, my wife (a casual Niners fan) asked if SF was still in the running for a playoff birth. I told her no, the Cards have already clinched the division. Having watched the NE-ARI game with me, her next comment was "wait, that was a DIVISION LEADER and a PLAYOFF team we just watched against the Patriots?"

* The NFL really needs to make good calling of holding (and not calling it) a "point of emphasis". Another week goes by, and hold after hold on pass rushers go uncalled. Didn't see any phantom "holds" that did get called, but the Outsiders mentioned some. The big thing is that all crews need to call holding the same way, and every team needs to be clear on what that way is. During the NE-ARI game, the announcers actually started arguing over what constitutes a hold (one of them seemed to be an ex-offensive lineman), and even they couldn't agree.

* I'm amused by the fact that Aaron addressed a comment to "Seahawks Fans" and was answered by "Ben Riley". Come on! The Seahawks have got to have a least two fans!

* If Favre retires/is run out of town, who else thinks the Jets will pursue Cassel?

60
by Spoon :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 2:21pm

I only caught highlights, but it was interesting to me how most every Patriots pass seemed to be no more than five yards, with almost all the yards coming after the catch. Of course, every yard gained in such a manner went down in the box score as a passing yard, but it seems like those stats might have been deceptive as they kept the ball on the ground more often than not - a great strategy considering the conditions. For those that watched the game, does this sound accurate?

Anquan Boldin's been great with the ball in his hands for the Cardinals, even taking hand-offs during the season. I wonder how much his presence might have been able to bail out Warner, allowing him to dump the ball off and just let Boldin head straight up field. Of course, Boldin can't play defense, but maybe keeping the offense on the field longer helps the Cardinals D as well.

*edit* Oops, guess the FO guys already beat me to it. That's what I get for just reading the MVP discussion and not the whole section on that game.

70
by MJK :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 2:50pm

most every Patriots pass seemed to be no more than five yards...For those that watched the game, does this sound accurate.

Largely, but not totally. They definitely scaled the passing routes back to be on the shorter side for this game, and most of their biggest pass plays from scrimmage came on screens (of course, the Patriots run more screens than most teams, so this isn't entirely a change in philosophy). The Patriots did have a few critical completions of 15-20 yards down the middle of the field, and a few more 6-10 yard sideline patterns in their gameplan. Plus, Cassel went deep (30-40+ yards in the air) at least three times--twice to Moss and once to Gaffney. (Interestingly, both of the passes to Moss were put right on his hands, and he dropped both. The Gaffney pass was over thrown and Gaffney had to leap for it, but he made the catch). They did this presumably to force the Cardinals LBs and safeties to play deeper, but the way the Cards' LBs and safeties were playing, I'm not sure it was really necessary.

62
by Danish Denver-Fan :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 2:24pm

The NFL play-by-play will do a good job of telling you everything about the 4th quater og BAL @ DAL. It might even give you a good laugh (assuming you aren't a Cowboys-fan).

83
by nat :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 3:33pm

It's funny about our impressions of "running up the score": they're almost always wrong. The Patriots ran much more often than they passed in the second half, and scored their only TD on a play that was obviously designed to be a ball-control pass - on the first play of the half. The fourth quarter was classic blow-out fare: the third-string QB gets one set of downs to try some basic stuff, then it's all runs after that.

True, they kicked three field goals, but the alternative was - what? - intentionally missing them or punting from inside the twenty?

Put the blame where it belongs: the game was boring because the Cardinals made it boring by being very, very bad.

58
by Razz84 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 2:13pm

Great link by JasonK to P-F-R regarding the fumble frequency situation. I had noticed that backs/receivers seemed to fumble less often now than they did in the 70's/80's, but I wasn't aware just how much the fumble rate had declined over the years. It does seem, however, that QBs fumble with roughly the same frequency as in the past, so I started to wonder why that would be. The single biggest reason that I could come up with is one that, in retrospect, should be obvious (but wasn't mentioned in any of the P-F-R comments): gloves. Virtually all backs/receivers wear tacky gloves today (tacky as in "sticky", not tacky as in "ugly"). The gloves make it easier to grip the ball and not lose control when you are being hit/tackled. QBs, however, rarely wear gloves on the field, because the gloves would make it more difficult to throw the ball, so QB's would be more likely to lose the ball when being sacked/tackled. As an aside, I would also contend that there are fewer passes dropped by receivers today than in the past due to the gloves, but that is much tougher to prove due to the lack of "dropped passes" data for the 60's/70's/80's. Comments?

126
by buzzorhowl (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 11:10pm

If you go back to the early 80s and before, though, you have to factor in the fact that Stickum was legal back then.

63
by nativefalcon (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 2:25pm

We got Lucky, Its not like we haven't had enough bad luck last year. It's not our problem thst the Vikings came down with a massive case of Fumbleitis. We were +7 in takaways in the last 3 games and the falcons fans were worrying about that. But it seemed like the Vikings were trying to catch up to us. :)7 fumbles in one game and we get 4 of them. We won.

And for And for Jared Allen and his Binky, the real pro bowler was John Abraham, who got a sack and didn't have two massive DTs to work with all year. Kind of made Allens job easy. john Abraham was robbed and jared Allen shouldn't be in it.

And yes Mr. Verhel, if we win and the Panthers lose, next week. Which we have beaten the Panthers and they have beaten us this year. We will get the No.2 seed. And the NFC South at home is like 23-3 and the Saints Drew brees is like 400 yards away from breaking Dan marino's Record. It looks like the Panthers might be going to 5th. I'm sure the Saints will want to play spoiler.

5th year running Worst to first in the NFC South.

64
by Richie :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 2:25pm

Ridiculous point made by Bob Costas after the Giants-Panthers game: If the Falcons beat St. Louis next week and the Saints beat Carolina (in New Orleans), then not only do the Panthers drop to the 5 seed, but Atlanta becomes the 2 seed. My God.

And given that no NFC South team has won a divisional game on the road this year and that the Rams suck, this is a likely outcome. Wow.

73
by mm (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 2:57pm

Well, Bob Costas (frustrated grammarian) also said that teams can't control their destiny. As the Falcons were last place in the NFC South last year, destiny has taken over the last few weeks to ensure that they continue the run of worst-to-first in the division.

It was destiny that blew Carolinas kick wide that would have won them the division. It was destiny that prevented the Buccaneers from showing up to play yesterday. The Falcons are just along for the ride.

(note, author is a Saints fan hopeful for 2009)

66
by DZ (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 2:34pm

This has to be single most ridiculous idea put forward by the usually smarter than that FO crew.

5 players are more valuable than one? No kidding. If you get to nominate the Giants 5 O-linemen, then I should nominate Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, and Anthony Gonzalez. I'd say those four players are more valuable than any one player in the league.

Sometimes, people should take a step back and consider what they are saying. 5 really good players are almost always more valuable than one great player, not just this year, but every year. If ONE Giant lineman were demonstrably better than the rest, then that ONE player could qualify for MVP, which by freaking definition needs to go to one player.

While we're at it, let's nominate the Titans TEAM for MVP! They have the best record in football, and without them, they wouldn't win any games at all!

Also, if you have to debate whether Harrison or Polamalu is the most valuable player on their defense, then neither one would make a very good league MVP.

Who I favor is obvious, and disagreement is fine. I just feel like it should at least make sense.

80
by DavidL :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 3:22pm

Counterintuitive though it may be, the MVP award doesn't have to go to a single player. The league's rules for choosing an MVP allow voters to cast their ballots for position groups, although nobody actually uses that option.

92
by DZ (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 4:32pm

Can you verify that?

The NFL doesn't even have an MVP award. The most famous one is given by the AP. What are the AP rules? Can you give to WRs as a group? To a starting and backup QB?

94
by DZ (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 4:42pm

I posted a comment without hitting reply. I found the BG article, but want more explanation.

Given the source, I want more proof and details that this is true.

Sorry if I don't trust unverified Boston Globe stories.

100
by DavidL :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 5:00pm

Quoth SI:

Best asked Dave Goldberg, one of the AP football writers with intimate knowledge of the process, about the possibility of awarding the MVP award to a team's entire offensive line.

"We do a Player of the Week every week, and a couple of weeks ago we did the Giants' offensive line. We have 50 voters, and it's up to the 50 voters. But I would think there is nothing to prevent it. If X number of people voted for it, and they got the most votes, you'd say, yeah, it's five guys, but we've had ties. We had Brett Favre and Barry Sanders. It's kind of a novel idea. There's no clear-cut winner. You look at Drew Brees, who's going to put up big numbers on a last-place team. Kurt Warner has dropped off."

109
by DZ (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 5:24pm

THANKS! That's what I was looking for. I take it back. It's not Schatz and Reiss that are dumb, but the AP Voters for considering such a ridiculous option.

The problems with allowing votes for units are obvious, primarily that it isn't an MVP award, but a MVU award.

I nominate the Pittsburgh Steelers defense as the Most Valuable Player. Is that any more ridiculous than wanting votes for the Giants O line?

Insane.

95
by DavidL :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 4:45pm

I misspoke about "league rules," yeah. That should have been the AP. Anyway, I can't find the rules online (since there are only 50 voters, I guess they don't really need a public site to archive them), but Mike Reiss talks about it here: http://www.boston.com/sports/football/articles/2008/11/30/new_line_of_th...

97
by DZ (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 4:51pm

Yeah, I found that. I don't think it's true.

I can't find anywhere else that that information is repeated.

It sounds like more lazy work from the Globe to me. It doesn't make any sense? Could you vote for two QBs? What about three running backs? 4 wideouts?

I want independent verification before I trust an uncredited statement from the Globe.

Shouldn't we all?

105
by DZ (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 5:10pm

Mike Reiss says he "talked to an AP writer to verify the statement". He offered no other clarification or explanation. I've written the other AP guys I know and the AP. I really want clarification on this. Could Eli Manning, Brandon Jacobs, and Ward be the MVP? They are an offensive backfield. Is that a valid 'position grouping'?

68
by pete (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 2:39pm

I would be interested in getting the panel's thoughts on Cassel. Is he another Scott Mitchell? I mean, the guy clearly has a large enough body of work to think he could be a competent, all-pro nfl quarterback. This isnt a back-up who came in for 7-8 games ala Schaub. he played a whole year, albeit in a great offensive system, and in my mind has played very well. If you are the Jets, would you rather sign him to a huge deal or put all your ducks in the Kellen Clemons basket?

74
by Eddo :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 2:57pm

Are you implying that being the next Scott Mitchell is a good thing?

77
by verified (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 3:09pm

Who puts ducks in baskets?

86
by TomC :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 3:52pm

I do, but only after I have all my eggs in a row.

114
by MJK :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 5:54pm

TomC wins the thread. I just had to close my office door to muffle the sound of laughter.

117
by E :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 6:20pm

These last 2 comments were the funniest things I have read all year on FO. Can commenters be quoted on "The Week in Quotes"?

120
by hector :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 6:43pm

Cassel is an ordinary talent, very smart, obviously paid plenty of attention in all the meetings at USC and in New England, helped by the outstanding coaching and receivers at his disposal. If it all clicks, maybe he's another Brad Johnson, *maybe.* That's the full upside. Don't pay him like he's a star or a sure thing.

82
by DavidL :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 3:25pm

And what on earth has gotten into Dennis Northcutt? He ate the Packers alive last week and he's doing the same to the Colts.

I don't know, but it's murdering my Loser League team. Benson, too. When the hell did the Bengals discover the running game?

85
by CoachDave :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 3:51pm

Nice commentary on the Colts/Jags game...cause when I think Colts and Jags...Manning throwing 17 straight completions and an all round good game...I immediately think about Bill Belichick and how he conducts himself in his press conferences.

And no...of course this site isn't slanted towards covering the Pats, of course not. Why would anyone think that?

Give me a break.

87
by TomC :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 3:56pm

Is zlionsfan still around? Mr. zlionsfan, could you possibly create a version of your DVOA troll template for this thread?

In the meantime: RTFI, Coach Dave. Same goes for Greg & Spoon.

90
by dancingeek@gmail.com :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 3:58pm

"For most fans, going to that game meant a virtual guarantee you would still be on the road when the Sunday night game ended."

I was supposed to be at that game, but the bus I take didn't show up during the 45 minutes I was waiting at the stop =( The route was still running, it was just really really really late.

93
by DZ (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 4:39pm

Link in my name is to the Boston Globe article where Mike Reiss makes this claim. He offers no evidence, and doesn't clearly explain the charge.

I can't independently verify it anywhere else...

Oh crap. Not this again...

103
by Tom Gower :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 5:05pm

It seems like this'd be pretty danged easy to verify, with a look at the AP's official ballot. Reiss may have gotten a copy, or he may simply be citing Lombardi, who did the same. I know you're a Colts fan and may feel obligated to calumny all things MA-related at every opportunity (and I generally sympathize with those thoughts), but Reiss is known as an excellent reporter, and if there's false information being spread by that column, the blame has to be pointed at either Reiss or Lombardi.

111
by DZ (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 5:44pm

It was verified in the thread above. I wasn't questioning it because it was from Boston, but because it sounded so incredibly insane. Reiss has been very helpful in our email exchange, but his own knowledge of the subject is limited. I've raised several logical problems with voting for 'position groups' (limits, definition, ect), and no one seems able to answer them.

The AP has opened an unnecessary can of worms by allowing votes for more than one player on a unit.

108
by turbohappy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 5:20pm

I'm pretty sure Jeff Saturday hasn't been 100% all year...he's been in and out of the lineup. And I agree that Ugoh is the only other member of the line that has shown to be useful (and he is still inconsistent). They got the 3 rookies so they should be OK next year except for at right tackle where Diem has unexpectedly become terrible.

113
by Doug Farrar :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 5:52pm

Seattle fans -- exclusive photo of Brian Russell's revolutionary butt-tackling technique here!

116
by DavidL :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 6:10pm

He's been playing too many Mario games, if you ask me.

137
by Wanker79 :: Tue, 12/23/2008 - 2:37pm

This may be the greatest picture ever taken during an NFL game.

115
by MJK :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 6:05pm

One interesting thing that no-one has commented on is the fact that the Patriots have apparently decided to convert backup center Russ Hochstein into an H-back. He often comes in as a 3rd TE, and now they're using him as a "heavy" fullback. Curious...

In other news, the NFL just announced that both the NYJ-MIA and the Baltimore game have been moved into the late afternoon time slot, while the Pats will play the Bills at 1:00. I'm kind of pissed about this. If the Pats win and Baltimore seems to have its game in hand, the Jets then have absolutely no motivation to try to beat Miami. In fact, one could imagine Mangini throwing the game just to stick it to Belichick. The only good news is that the Baltimore game got moved, too, and the Jets can make the playoffs with a win and a Baltimore loss, so at least their motivation isn't totally destroyed unless the Baltimore game becomes a blowout in Baltimore's favor.

Still, I think this is irresponsible. The NFL should do week 17 scheduling so as to keep the maximum number of teams motivated to play as hard as they can. In other words, if there is danger of one game outcome making the outcome of another game irrelevant, then the first game should be played at the same time or later than the second.

121
by Tom Gower :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 9:16pm

It seems kind of bad, except that NYJ has a chance to make the playoffs if they win. It's therefore kind of incumbent upon them to, y'know, try to win. Weird stuff have happened, and the rewards of going to the playoffs tend to be fairly outsize (see the last two years, "anything can happen"), and BAL will be very hard pressed to put up the kind of margin where it makes any sort of sense for NYJ to stop trying. For one, that'd be pretty danged stupid of Mangini, and he'd need to get his players and coordinators to buy into it-if he doesn't mind getting fired, that sounds like a reasonable claim for "breach of employment terms", which could mean the loss of his future payments if he does get fired. Far easier to just quit, for him. This is in no way Austria-West Germany, 1982.

127
by Travis :: Mon, 12/22/2008 - 11:22pm

Also, the Jets had every reason to tank in Week 17 last year, but beat the Chiefs in overtime. They moved from the would-be #3 overall pick to #6, and wound up with rookie bust Vernon Gholston. (Ryan, McFadden, Dorsey went 3 through 5.)

129
by the silent speaker (not verified) :: Tue, 12/23/2008 - 12:41am

But they probably wouldn't have taken Ryan, and McFadden and Dorsey haven't been all that special either, have they?

Anyway, you always play to win. Besides the obvious point about how the 6 pick is not markedly more likely to be either a bust or a breakout than the 3 pick, higher picks cost more to the point that you can't even flip them for lower picks in greater numbers.

(CAPTCHA follies: what the hell is a Scheelc?)

131
by Travis :: Tue, 12/23/2008 - 2:17am

Why wouldn't they have taken Ryan? After all, they did make a move at quarterback in the off-season.

And if they didn't want him, they almost certainly could have flipped the #3 pick for something of value, even if it weren't full value on the draft chart. Just for comparison, the Patriots exchanged the #7 overall pick and a 5th rounder for the #10 overall and a 3rd rounder in the 2008 draft.

136
by the silent speaker (not verified) :: Tue, 12/23/2008 - 1:59pm

Yeah, but that was for Brett Favre Brett Favre Brett Favre, and he was coming off maybe the best season of his career and even then they didn't do it until the price came down to like a fourth-rounder.

As for the pick flipping (by the front office, not Favre's), I recall seeing something about a recent draft where the Lions had a 1 or 2 pick and couldn't get rid of it. Even compared to a 7 pick, the price of a top-three pick is in the stratosphere.

130
by JordanT (not verified) :: Tue, 12/23/2008 - 1:32am

I know people like to pile on Madden, but I may have seen one of his worst moments. The Giants had a 3rd and 10, and Madden went on about how the Giants can't get into 3rd and long situations because they don't have that type of offense. First of all, 3rd and 10 sucks for any team. Second, as he was saying that a graphic was posted that said the Giants were best in the NFL in converting 3rd and 10+. Al Michaels did say a couple of plays later that the Giants were actually the best in the NFL in those type of situations, while Madden sat there speechless with a dumg look on his face.

133
by A Fire Snake (not verified) :: Tue, 12/23/2008 - 5:32am

The Problem with the Jets going all out or not is not Mangini. I think it is the owner Woody Johnson - getting a draft pick for "I quit as HC of the NYJ" Bill Belichick was a bad deal me guesses.

And the Manginius not following orders would be insubordination, wouldn't it?

The whole stuff the NFL did to the schedule is just ridiculous. Scheduling Fins Jets as the late game sucks rotten eggs.

138
by Jon Silverberg (not verified) :: Tue, 12/23/2008 - 7:44pm

For what it's worth, at his Monday presser, what Mangini said implies that the 4th & 2 play was designed to go shorter and those options looked covered to Favre before he saw Coles turn upfield, seemingly open...

139
by c_f (not verified) :: Tue, 12/23/2008 - 7:56pm

Steelers RB Mewelde Moore deserves credit for doing his best to attempt to bring down Michael Griffin on Griffin's pick-six. Moore got blocked, then turned around and ran a healty distance to try to head off Griffin at the sideline, near the 10, but it was not enough. Still, Moore deserves credit for trying.