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19 Dec 2016

Audibles at the Line: Week 15

compiled by Andrew Potter

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around emails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can).

On Monday, we compile a digest of those emails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.

While these emails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Steelers or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors solely to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.

Miami Dolphins 34 at New York Jets 13 (Saturday, December 17)

Tom Gower: Dolphins up 13-10 at the half. Matt Moore had led a few three-and-outs, but put together enough throws for the first score and got the second on a huge throw to Kenny Stills against the blitz. Bryce Petty has looked better than I expected for the most part. That may be a product of my expectations, since he has two turnovers (a bad pick right to Cameron Wake and a fumble-sack in the red zone). He has hit a couple nice crossers in particular, with some of the expected "Dolphins back seven in space" results. Really feels like the Jets should have more than the 10 points they do, or maybe my brain is just underrating the turnovers.

34-13 final. Blocked punt returned for a score to make it 20-10, then Moore hit three big pass plays, two on one drive and the other where Jarvis Landry outran Calvin Pryor for 66 yards and a score. That made it three scores in 4:01 and turned a surprisingly competitive game into a blowout where the only thing to see was if Bryce Petty would make it through the game unscathed. He did not.

Detroit Lions 6 at New York Giants 17

Aaron Schatz: Alert the presses. The Giants ran their first three plays out of 12 personnel instead of 11, and they actually got a touchdown on a goal-line fade to Sterling Shepard. OK, it was sort of a corner-fade, but I'm going to count that as a fade because it's rare that anything resembling a fade actually works.

We're now three quarters into the Lions-Giants game and I wish I had something to say here. I feel like this game has just been a drip, drip, drip of 5-yard passes and 3-yard runs and I can barely remember that the last two hours of my life even happened. Long drives that end with field goals, or a punt on fourth-and-8 from the Lions 37 instead of Robbie Gould trying a 55-yard field goal. (At least Brad Wing landed it on the Lions 4.) The Giants defense is great, though. Both pass rush and coverage, even with Janoris Jenkins going out earlier in the game with a back injury.

Rob Weintraub: It was a short pass, but a meaningful one as Odell does his thing with a one-hand grab for a touchdown. G-men up 17-7 midway through the fourth. In other words, Stafford has 'em right where he wants 'em.

Aaron Schatz: Troy Aikman keeps talking about how the Giants have finally got the running game going today. Giants running backs have so far accounted for 101 yards on 27 carries, 3.7 yards per carry, against a defense that has allowed 4.3 yards per carry on the season.

Vince Verhei: This is the second week in a row we have mentioned how boring Lions games are, even as they have set a record for fourth-quarter comebacks. NFL football in 2016 often seems like a never-ending series of checkdowns, and that's especially true of the Lions on both sides of the ball. They're just not worth watching unless it's a close game in the fourth quarter.

Tennessee Titans 19 at Kansas City Chiefs 17

Cian Fahey: There was a strong reaction this week to the Joe Mixon tape of him punching a woman. Predictably, none of that lasted long enough to make anyone feel uncomfortable about Tyreek Hill running in a long touchdown to open the scoring in the Chiefs-Titans game. Imagine we had video of this.

Andrew Potter: Plays like that are why NFL teams (and soccer teams, and other sports teams too) will always have some degree of willingness to ignore the crimes of their players as long as they're able to contribute positively to the team.

This Chiefs team is so unexpectedly exciting to watch now. Hill has taken the Dexter McCluster role and supercharged it, which adds a whole new dimension to the offense. On the touchdown, he took a shotgun handoff out left (I think technically off tackle, though Spencer Ware was in the tackle's usual location as Eric Fisher was blocking a defensive end away behind the play) and weaved it like a punt return for a 68-yard touchdown. Solid blocking from Ware and Chris Conley helped pave the way, but it was Hill's acceleration and vision that turned the well-blocked big gain into a score.

Aaron Schatz: I asked on Twitter last week, and apparently Hill has shown some contrition for what he did.

However, we shouldn't pretend that the Chiefs were smart to get some sort of late-round steal here. There's a reason Hill dropped to the fifth. The Chiefs just were the first team willing to take the gamble.

Andrew Potter: On Tennessee's next drive, the Chiefs defense turned a big play given up into possibly the biggest play of the first quarter when a 35-yard completion to Rishard Matthews was punched free by Eric Berry and recovered in the end zone by Daniel Sorensen. Sorensen returned the fumble near midfield, and with Jason McCourty on the sideline Kansas City hit a bomb to Jeremy Maclin against Brice McCain on the next play. Alex Smith finished the drive with a 10-yard touchdown scramble, and looks like the first quarter will end with the score 14-0 to the Chiefs.

Tom Gower: Chiefs up 17-7 at the half. Ball's been on the ground four times, and they have gotten it every time. Some of those you'd expect them to get; others were much more random, like the deep completion to Matthews that took a hop forward into the end zone. Feels like both teams should have more points than they do, as the Titans have spent parts of the day ripping off chunks in the ground game and with Marcus Mariota 8-of-10 for 116 yards, but turnovers and third-down stops have been the story of the game. Or fourth-down stops, as in the Chiefs and stuffs from the 1 on two consecutive plays (though they would add the field goal late in the half from the short field after stopping the Titans on a three-and-out).

My shtick on Twitter for this game has been counting big plays. That's currently at 4-2 in favor of K.C. Titans have the fourth-and-goal stop and a big completion on the flea-flicker that set up their score, while K.C. has the Hill run, the Matthews fumble, a Mariota third-down fumble, and a 44-yard shot play to Jeremy Maclin.

Cian Fahey: Seems to be an epidemic across the league today based on my Twitter feed, but the early games have been pretty dull. The Chiefs-Titans game has been a lot of dink-and-dunk with heavy run focus. Besides DeMarco Murray looking excellent and one great play on the ball from Ron Parker, it has been a game to forget in freezing conditions

Aaron Schatz: That was the 14th email in today's Audibles thread, at 3:30 p.m. Eastern... and the first three emails were about Saturday night's game. So, yeah, that sounds about right.

Andrew Potter: Well now, the Titans just scored a touchdown to pull the score to 17-16 in Kansas City with just over three minutes remaining ... then went for two in an attempt to take the lead. Seems a bit early for the two-to-win attempt, no? The try fails, and the Titans kick off down 1.

Rob Weintraub: With no timeouts and 3:30 left, the Titans go on fourth-and-5...and convert on a pass to DeMarco Murray. Murray then runs it in for the score to make it 17-16.

And Tennessee goes for it! And don't make it!

Aaron Schatz: We should give Marcus Mariota props for the back-shoulder throw to Murray that scored the touchdown, though. That was a great throw, and somewhat daring on fourth-and-5. Seems like the kind of play where there could easily be bad timing or miscommunication.

Cian Fahey: The Titans went for two instead of tying the game with an extra point late. Mike Mularkey's play call? A rolling pocket with a seven-man protection where the ball was designed to go to Harry Douglas. Douglas was covered, Mariota was sacked. Idiotic.

Andrew Potter: ...but not as idiotic as icing a kicker on a 53-yard attempt, only to watch him miss it short. Ryan Succop kicks the game-winner after being gifted a mulligan.

Aaron Schatz: Well, well, well. The Titans ended up winning anyway. The Chiefs went three-and-out and punted the ball away with 1:16 left. Mariota and the Titans marched 40 yards on three complete passes, one incomplete pass, and a spike to stop the clock, and Ryan Succop drilled from 53 to win it. Huge win for the Titans, terrible loss for the Chiefs, and things are looking very nice for the Oakland Raiders.

Andrew Potter: Taking nothing away from the Titans, I feel that this was a game of missed opportunities for the Chiefs. After scoring 14 points in the opening quarter, they could only add three more the rest of the way. De'Anthony Thomas should have scored on a sweep in the corner of the end zone, but the ball was in his outside arm and the officials ruled that it didn't cross the goal line before he stepped out of the side of the end zone. Two plays later, the Chiefs were stuffed on a fourth-down run for nil points. That was on a drive that started at the Titans 40-yard line after Dontari Poe forced a fumble on a sack of Marcus Mariota, and Ramik Wilson recovered. The Chiefs got the ball back on a short field after a Titans three-and-out, but still ended up settling for a field goal. Alex Smith had another terrible end zone interception, similar to the one against the Buccaneers -- only this one was worse, as he stared down Jeremy Maclin and threw the ball straight at the face of Titans cornerback LeShaun Sims. That came on another drive that began with great field position due to a great Ron Parker interception. A team that lives on tight margins like Kansas City can't afford to throw away points with silly mistakes, and those mistakes on offense were the difference on a day when the defense did its part.

Tom Gower: It's 3:55 p.m. CT, about 50 minutes after Ryan Succop put the ball through the uprights from 53 yards out in freezing temperatures, and I'm still wondering how the hell the Titans won that game. My game-changing plays count ended up at 6-6 after the double-whammy on the final play; Andy Reid icing the missed attempt, which gave Succop the valuable information that he just needed to forget technique and boot the heck out of the ball, because a normal attempt wouldn't make it the distance in that weather, and then actually making the 53-yard attempt.

The fourth-down pass by Mariota to Murray before the touchdown was fantastic, as noted. I'm pretty indifferent on the two-point conversion decision; the actual play I didn't like more than most other people. Chiefs were plus-2 in turnover margin and recovered all four fumbles in the game (related, obviously) and lost; first Titans win since 2011 where they were minus-2 or worse. Chiefs had five drives that started beyond where any Titans drive started (their 32); heck, their average field position was beyond that (own 37, vs. own 22 for Tennessee).

Neither team sustained much offense. The Chiefs had 13 first downs on 11 possessions, never more than that in a drive and that only once. The Titans had two sustained drives, on which they had 11 of their 21 first downs (never more than three otherwise). Wasn't a big surprise to me, and why I focused on the game-changing plays count for both teams from the start of the game.

That's more stream-of-consciousness than I like my Audibles contributions to be (I try to keep that stuff to Twitter, unless it's that interesting or likely to still be worth noting on Monday), but that's what I got right now.

Pittsburgh Steelers 24 at Cincinnati Bengals 20

Scott Kacsmar: Mike Tomlin's halftime analysis was spot on. This 20-9 half for the Bengals was about penalties. A third-down sack for Pittsburgh was negated by an accidental facemask penalty. An interception opportunity was lost due to Artie Burns interfering in the end zone that put the ball at the 1-yard line. Andy Dalton finally got in on the quarterback sneak for the touchdown. Then Ben Roethlisberger found Antonio Brown for a touchdown, but that was wiped out on a chop block by Le'Veon Bell to set up third-and-22. So the Bengals are making plays, but the Steelers have been helping out a lot too.

Rob Weintraub: Chris Boswell is going to be special teams player of the week due to his six, count 'em, six field goals, but his biggest play was a diving stab at Alex Erickson's feet to prevent a kick return touchdown. Cincy settled for a field goal after starting near the Pitt 20, and thus only have a 20-18 lead.

Inevitability, thy name is Steelers-Bengals. Cincy is really feeling the effects of missing A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard, with all of 28 yards in the second half. Nursing a two-point lead, the Bengals defense now commits four penalties on four consecutive plays, and Pittsburgh will win because that's what's been happening my entire life, with rare exceptions.

Aaron Schatz: I don't think inevitability has struck yet. Most of us are still waiting for a benches-clearing brawl.

Rob Weintraub: Right on cue, touchdown pass to Eli Rogers on second-and-16, and Pittsburgh leads for the first time all day.

Dre Kirkpatrick not exactly playing himself into a contract extension, with three DPI penalties. Sure wish any of those other first-round picks at cornerback would be in place to take over...

Total shutdown of the Cincy offense in the second half. Was reminiscent of the playoff game at Indy in '14 when the short-handed Bengals offense flat-lined in the second half. The defense held on as long as they could, but reality set in when Cincy couldn't get any first downs.

Not sure what was a clearer portent of impending doom -- Burfict sprinting to the tunnel with the ball after a late-game pick in last year's playoff game, or Jeremy Hill abusing a Terrible Towel after he scored to make it 17-6 in the second quarter. 

Will they never learn?

Philadelphia Eagles 26 at Baltimore Ravens 27

Aaron Schatz: The Eagles went for two and failed at the goal line because they hate me. They are now 5-9 despite outscoring their opponents over the course of the season. Ridiculous.

Green Bay Packers 30 at Chicago Bears 27

Rob Weintraub: Wait, how did the Bears come back to tie this game?!

Aaron Schatz: Jordan Howard is very good, and the Green Bay Packers defense is not.

Rob Weintraub: With the game tied, Aaron Rodgers to Jordy Nelson for a bomb to decide it. Where have we seen that before? The only thing I know for sure is that Chris Conte was not defending for the Bears. Green Bay kicks a field goal to win at the gun. Still not sure how this game got close, but an important win for the Pack.

Jacksonville Jaguars 20 at Houston Texans 21

Rob Weintraub: I didn't see much, so I will rely on others for the details, but it should be noted that Houston at long last benched Brock Osweiler in favor of Tom Savage, and sure enough, they came back to win the game. Blake Bortles, not benched, threw the game-clinching interception.

Perfect timing for Savage to conjure a way to beat Cincinnati Saturday night, because that's what happens when the Texans play the Bengals -- a scrub backup quarterback wins it for Houston in ugly fashion. it will be on national TV, so merry Christmas everyone!

I believe this is the third straight season that Bill O'Brien has benched his Week 1 starter. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Hoyer, and now Osweiler. Not exactly great options to pick from, but maybe his preseason selection process needs improvement?

Tom Gower: And there goes Gus Bradley, fired per Ryan O'Halloran. I'll put up an XP. Hard to argue with 14-48.

Rivers McCown: Rumor going around courtesy of La Canfora is that O'Brien had Osweiler forced on him by ownership. I won't pretend that I know who is actually behind everything. Whoever made that mistake, obviously, is not having the best year. 

So yeah, just your typical game where Gus Bradley's Jaguars died on the field. The Texans spotted them six points on Osweiler interceptions and a touchdown on a kickoff return. Didn't matter. The Texans drove at will with Savage on the field. Savage has this ability to throw balls outside the hashmarks that Osweiler does not. My initial take of his play in this game is that Savage is better than he was this time last season in some areas. His process speed is slow, but not as slow as it was against the Colts. In short, he's no franchise savior. But being better than Osweiler has been? That's in play. He can hit easy zone throws, at least, and knows how to throw balls that DeAndre Hopkins can catch.

Indianapolis Colts 34 at Minnesota Vikings 6

Scott Kacsmar: As far as surprising blowouts go, the Colts winning 34-6 in Minnesota has to be as high as any this season. This was only the third win by 28 points in the Chuck Pagano era, and the second since Week 13 (at Jets). Andrew Luck wasn't sacked and was barely pressured by a usually strong Minnesota defense that allowed a season high in points (27) in the first half alone. Adrian Peterson was about as ineffective (six carries, 22 yards) in his return as you might expect from an older back after a long layoff behind a bad offensive line, but the Vikings only ran the ball nine times for 34 yards as a team. Frank Gore put in another 100-yard game, Robert Turbin scored twice, and Luck had the time to hit big plays. The Colts had touchdown drives of 88, 91, and 92 yards. Minnesota had allowed three touchdown drives of that length all season coming into Sunday. Just a very weird no-show performance in a season that will almost undoubtedly be viewed as a disappointment after a 5-0 start.

Oakland Raiders 19 at San Diego Chargers 16

Scott Kacsmar: Travis Benjamin with a wide-open 47-yard touchdown for San Diego. I remember when he was a big deal earlier in the season, especially after the Keenan Allen injury. Benjamin was always likely going to be a Malcom Floyd type in this offense, but he was passed up by Tyrell Williams as the weeks went by. Still, you have to like some of the receiving talent the Chargers have even after losing a gross amount of guys to injury this year. The RB/WR AGL for this team will be insane when we get to those numbers.

Andrew Potter: Put on the Raiders-Chargers after the Saints game ended, and watched four straight plays of Philip Rivers barely avoiding a live burial at the hands of Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin. The torment was only ended when Reggie Nelson caught his hurried fourth-down pass for the game-ending interception. Scott has already mentioned how many players San Diego has lost at the fantasy positions this season, but their offensive line has been a constantly shuffling group of walking wounded for years, and it's a minor miracle Rivers hasn't missed a game since 2006.

New England Patriots 16 at Denver Broncos 3

Aaron Schatz: Patriots offense is off early. Way, way off. Three straight three-and-outs. Tom Brady is completely missing guys. On the second drive, which they only had because Jordan Norwood muffed a punt, the Patriots passed the ball twice even though the Broncos are much better against the pass than the run. Then they ran a draw on third down and Von Miller clearly knew it was coming and killed it. Even the run isn't working great; LeGarrette Blount entered the game for the first time on the third drive and lost 3 yards on his first carry.

Halftime in Denver and this game is about what you would expect. The Patriots don't have a great defense, but it's good enough to force Trevor Siemian into mistakes. The Broncos have a great pass defense, and they have mostly shut down Tom Brady, but you can't shut him down entirely. Brady went 0-for-6 on pass attempts in the first quarter, but then Siemian threw a pick when Logan Ryan jumped an out route to Emmanuel Sanders, and Brady marched the Patriots on a 46-yard drive for a touchdown. That has been the difference in what is currently a 10-3 game. It's interesting to note that LeGarrette Blount has just 8 yards on five carries so far, although one of those carries was a 1-yard touchdown. Dion Lewis has 59 yards on 11 carries. I would expect Blount's numbers to get better as the Patriots use him to hammer away at the Broncos defense in the second half.

Tom Gower: Normally I'm glued to the screen for Broncos-Patriots, but I'm not finding myself that engaged in it. Part of it may be I'm still decompressing from the Titans game (Mariota in the second half: 11-of-22, 125 yards, and that was good enough to come back from a 10-point deficit!?!), but part of it is this game. The 2016 Broncos are not the 2015 Broncos on defense -- the run defense going from good to bad makes them much less compelling to me, plus the Pats aren't as interesting without Gronkowski as a matchup threat and the intrigue of that. On the other side of the ball, New England is blah, and Denver's offense is one of those frustrating ones -- the offensive line is bad enough and they don't have a special back, so they have basically no ability to sustain offense. That leaves them reliant on a passing game that isn't naturally explosive the way the Cardinals are, so it's unlikely they'll go boom for 6 on any given play, but has some of the same traits nonetheless in that Trevor Siemian is willing to attempt some tight-window throws but isn't that good at completing them. It's not that it's that much worse than last year's offense (-9.9% DVOA coming in v. -8.7% last year), but at least I found watching Bad Peyton Manning interesting on some levels. Now, I want to say it feels more like watching an upgraded version of Jacksonville.

If there were a lot of dramatic plays, I might feel a little differently. But it's 13-3 after 45 minutes, so I don't have that going to really hook me into this game either.

Aaron Schatz: New England actually isn't blah on defense. They're as imbalanced as the Broncos. No. 2 against the run. No. 27 against the pass. But the Broncos can't take advantage of it. They haven't had a first down in a quarter and a half.

Scott Kacsmar: Patriots-Broncos is about what I expected today. Denver defense is doing its job, but the offense can't get anything going behind Siemian. I mean, Emmanuel Sanders doesn't even have a catch yet. If the score holds for Denver, New England will take over as the No. 1 scoring defense. If not, then Seattle is in line to lead the league for the fifth year in a row.

Aaron Schatz: The Patriots are 30th in adjusted sack rate right now and they have four sacks today, and they have harassed Siemian all day. The Broncos offensive line isn't discussed much but it's a big part of the struggles of this offense

New Orleans Saints 48 at Arizona Cardinals 41

Andrew Potter: Genuinely didn't expect Chandler Catanzaro to make it this far, but he might not go any further. Holder Drew Butler was cut this week, partly in an attempt to solve Arizona's field goal woes. It hasn't worked. Catanzaro has now missed a field goal (albeit from 55 yards) and yet another extra point. Snap and hold were good on both. Catanzaro simply missed.

Rob Weintraub: After a strip sack that Calais Campbell runs back for six, it stays that way as Chandler Catanzaro misses yet another extra point. Mike Nugent lost his job but this guy is still employed?

Tom Gower: Catanzaro's 55-yard attempt was the first field goal miss by an NFL kicker this week. NFL kickers are something like 49-of-50 on field goals to this point (his XP miss was, I believe, the third though).

Aaron Schatz: Drew Butler was also cut because he has been one of the worst punters in the league for three years.

Andrew Potter: Yep, and so was Ryan Quigley while Butler was injured ... Matt Wile has a lot to live down to. His first punt today was a 36-yarder from his own 26 to the Saints 38 though, so he may well be down to the task.

Meanwhile, Drew Brees has put his scoreless streak behind him and has three touchdowns in the first half here: one short one to Travaris Cadet, and two big plays to Brandin Cooks. Cooks has 127 yards on four catches, including touchdowns of 65 and 45 yards.

Halftime in Arizona, in a bit of a dead rubber game -- technically, the Saints aren't eliminated yet, but both teams are playing for little more than pride. It has been quite entertaining: for all the discussion of Cardinals punters, Wile's 36-yarder was the only punt of the first half. The Saints are in front largely because of two missed Cardinals kicks, with every Saints drive ending in points -- 24 for New Orleans and 7 for Arizona on a Calais Campbell fumble return after a Markus Golden strip-sack.

The Cardinals lost points on the punt, the missed kick, and a Larry Fitzgerald fumble -- less rare than it sounds, it's Fitzgerald's fifth lost fumble in four seasons. A corner route touchdown from Carson Palmer to J.J. Nelson brought the score to 24-20 just before halftime, and the half ended on a Calais Campbell sack while Drew Brees tried to buy time for a Hail Mary. Surprisingly, David Johnson has been largely contained by a defense that ranks last in the league against receiving backs by our numbers -- even the 49-yard rushing touchdown was a big play for Kerwynn Williams, not Johnson.

Carson Palmer just made an awesome play to David Johnson for a 25-yard gain, with Roman Harper on a safety blitz flushing him right into the path of David Onyemata. Palmer escaped Harper and was able to reset knowing he was about to be drilled by both. Despite this, he dropped the ball perfectly over Craig Robertson into Johnson's arms. One play and two Saints penalties later, Johnson takes a handoff up the middle for the game-tying touchdown. That Palmer play to Johnson was definitely the highlight, however.

Vince Verhei: Willie Snead had what looked like a sure touchdown taken away and ruled incomplete. He had possession and a knee on the ground, then possession with his ass on the ground, then time passed, then the ball came out, and it was ruled incomplete. They even reviewed it and called it incomplete. How long do you need to have possession of the ball to prove you have possession of the ball?

Andrew Potter: Tim Hightower's second rushing touchdown makes the score 48-34, so this is officially the highest-scoring game of the 2016 season so far with three minutes left to play. That drive, however, was extended by a very controversial roughing call on a third-down sack of Drew Brees when roughly four Cardinals defenders got to Brees. Automatic first down, probably should have been a Wil Lutz field goal attempt instead.

When the Cardinals get the ball back, Carson Palmer nails a deep ball down the left sideline to J.J. Nelson, who promptly drops it. Palmer then throws slightly high for David Johnson, who lets the ball go through his hands. Third down, false start. Following that, Palmer goes to Larry Fitzgerald three times in a row to get the fourth-down conversion and another first down, then nails another beauty of a throw down the left sideline to John Brown to make it 48-41. This is easily the best game I have seen Palmer play this year, but it's no coincidence that it has come against the Saints defense.

Rivers McCown: By the end of this game after refs had flagged the Cardinals offsides on a short-distance field goal that gave the Saints four points, and a questionable roughing call Drew Brees ... drew ... that ended the game, I was pretty sure Bruce Arians' head was completely red.

San Francisco 49ers 13 at Atlanta Falcons 41

Rob Weintraub: This game was over about two minutes in but it did provide a surprise -- Blake Bell is on the 49ers?! The BellDozer!? I had no idea. He's playing tight end, and just caught a deep ball. Good for him to find a spot in the NFL by switching positions, which other similar players who shall remain nameless refused to do.

Bryan Knowles: Just got off eight hours of planes and delays, and went to flip on television for the first time today -- and the first thing I see is Falcons third-string running back Terron Ward rumbling for a 45 yard gain against the 49ers' porous rush defense.

Maybe I should get back on the plane.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20 at Dallas Cowboys 26

Aaron Schatz: 17-6 Dallas at halftime and the gap would be greater if the Cowboys didn't currently have six penalties to Tampa's one. So much for that super-improved Tampa Bay defense, as the Cowboys' offensive line is giving Dak Prescott plenty of time to find his receivers.

Tom Gower: Bucs have been getting a lot of credit for their defensive resurgence. By DVOA the last five weeks, they have been alternating great games (-46% to -50%) with below-average ones (12.8%, 13.0%). Giving up 17 points in the first half, with two long Dan Bailey missed field goal attempts, certainly suggests a performance much closer to the latter grouping of games. The pass rush in particular has been mostly MIA, with Noah Spence making about the only appearance. Long fields haven't helped the other side of the ball, either, with one of the scores coming off the better field position after the first miss.

Andrew Potter: One of the important points made when scouting this matchup was the size discrepancy between the teams. The Buccaneers have notably small, quick defenders, and Cowboys linemen are on average 80 pounds heavier. Even Jason Witten is 30 or 40 pounds bigger than Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David. Dallas hasn't punted, but they don't have a lot of big plays either -- which is what the speed is built to prevent. Instead it's 4.8 yard-per-carry, 9.1 yards per reception, a relentless grind of 10-play drive, 11-play drive, 10-play drive, 9-play drive ... exactly what the matchup would suggest.

OK, hands up, whose stupid idea was the reverse on third-and-2 when your median carry is gaining 3 yards?

Aaron Schatz: Bucs have figured out where to find the holes in the Dallas zone coverage in the second half. They started with an eight-play touchdown drive, and their second drive is now up to eight plays and just reached the 10.

... and two plays after I wrote that, touchdown pass to Cameron Brate. Nice catch there, although not as impressive as Adam Humphries catching the first touchdown pass off a tip rebound.

Tom Gower: Couple of touchdown drives by the Bucs to take the lead early in the second half. Jameis Winston's method is fun to watch when it's working -- he's fearless in a good way, and can find, is willing to risk, and can fit the ball into more windows than, say, Trevor Siemian can, plus Tampa's receivers have been more adept than Denver's at making the one-vs.-one plays to win against a defender to adjust to the ball's location. And it hasn't all been Mike Evans, from whom you might expect that sort of thing, but, say, Adam Humphries on the deep ball.

Vince Verhei: Saw this stat repeated several times on Twitter:

I guess this is supposed to prove Evans is clutch. Well, I did the math. Coming into tonight, Evans had 51 targets on third downs. Only five of those targets were thrown short of the sticks. (All five were incomplete.) When they literally never throw short passes to you, well then yeah, all your catches are going to go for first downs.

Andrew Potter: Jameis Winston is also playing better since halftime. He had a bunch of overthrows in his first dozen attempts, but has eliminated them since the interval. That's a recurring theme this year: Tampa Bay's passing offense is noticeably better in the second half than it is in the first.

Aaron Schatz: And as soon as poor Andrew writes that... Jameis Winston sails the ball high over Adam Humphries and into the hands of Jeff Heath of the Cowboys. Bad timing, Andrew.

Andrew Potter: His arm was hit as he threw on that one. Not really a lot he can do about that.

Winston has had a couple of overthrows to end the past two drives, however. He missed Russell Shepard deep downfield on the drive before the Cowboys made it 26-20, and now missed Mike Evans open deep on the drive after it. Both misses were on third down, and now Dallas has the ball on first down at the two-minute warning, looking to end the game. Their offense was made for this situation.

Posted by: Andrew Potter on 19 Dec 2016

212 comments, Last at 22 Dec 2016, 2:50pm by Steve in WI

Comments

1
by deus01 :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 10:29am

Peyton may have not been able to make throws last year but he was able to at least get them in the right play which seems to be the difference for winning these low scoring games. The coaching on the offensive side of the ball is terrible and think Kubiak is going to have to get rid of the OC this year to save his own job. They should probably get rid of the special teams coach too, keeping Norwood in with 4 muffed punts in two games is indefensible as is having guys continue to run kicks out of the end zone only to be tackled at the 15.

15
by rageon :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 11:10am

My thinking is that if he can't put together a decent line and running game using mostly the guys they started the year with, what's the point of employing Gary Kubiak?

39
by BroncFan07 :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 12:40pm

Yesterday Denver had a 3rd and 1 in the second half and ran a passing play that featured a 7 step drop back by Siemian, which resulted in a sack. I mean, really? And this isn't the first time it's happened this year. The 2013 team could convert 3rd and 11 easier than this team can convert 3rd and 1. It's hard to say what's been the biggest issue on offense this year: 1) The play calling, 2) The QB situation, 3) The O-Line, or 4) The CJ Anderson injury. I say it's the O-Line, but it's probably all things. Oh well, they did win the Super Bowl last year.

47
by deus01 :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 1:13pm

Some of these problems were apparent last year. The O-Line is definitely a problem and they just lack the strength to play in the NFL; there are too many plays where the lineman are immediately driven back into the QB.

The play calling is also terrible. There are too many times where Kubiak seems to be playing like he's expecting to win by having the Defense get multiple take-aways each game.

58
by theslothook :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 1:50pm

Yesterdays game did make me wonder how much better this offense would be with a healthy "bad Peyton Manning".

145
by ramirez :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 10:35pm

How you figure? I'm just curious, because right now Siemian is at 6.23 ANYPA and the Broncos offense is 23rd in points per drive. Last season, Manning was at 4.52 anypa and the team finished 24th in points per drive. In the playoffs, Manning came in at 4.54 anypa. So how does any of that suggest that Denver would be doing better on offense with Manning?

149
by theslothook :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 1:30am

I said it made me wonder, not be certain. For instance, I knew Manning was horrible, but your anya refresher is a good point.

In some sense, the few edges Manning had were a) the o line, as bad as it is now, was worse than a year ago(according to pff). b) he could at least check to a run when the down and distances supported it.

108
by doktarr :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 4:55pm

The depressing thing is that it seemed like the O-line was improved for the first couple games. It had me really excited. Then things just slid away. Maybe Donald Stevenson was actually a good signing, but he and Virgil Green both never really recovered from their week 2 injuries?

114
by BroncFan07 :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 6:11pm

Could entirely be possible. I don't know what Okung's deal is, though. But my Seattle fan friend didn't exactly sing his praises when Denver signed him.

48
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 1:15pm

"Kubiak is going to have to get rid of the OC this year to save his own job."

Is coach who won the Super Bowl less than a calender year ago really in danger of getting fired?

50
by deus01 :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 1:22pm

I don't think he's actually at risk of being fired. However, the offense has been garbage for two years now so he's going to have to do something because they aren't going want to continue wasting years of this quality of defense.

51
by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 1:33pm

People love to make pronouncements like this with literally zero actual information about how likely that is the case (which probably almost entirely has to do with what is going on with the owner/GM et cetera. It is always silly.

141
by TimK :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 9:18pm

The OL has been just awful lately. There was a brief period early on (weeks 2-3 sort of time) when it started to look like it might pull together but it seems as though all the OTs are fragile and unable to play through injury, and the OGs are just-a-guy type players. A pretty good, young, OC who is playing through being dinged up (don't think Paradis has practiced much in the second half of the year) gives someone to build one, but not sure if many of the others do. 3 man rush gets pressure and Siemian doesn't have the moxey of an aging Manning to cover, and CJ Anderson is missed for his pass blocking as much as anything else.

On defence they went in arguably a man light on the DL and lost Walker very early for the year and other injuries on the DL/ILB plus the offence not being able to give the defence a break seems to be a major reason why the run defence cannot manage to be at least average. Plus the pass defence is still good enough that many teams would push the run anyway.

The general lucky breaks that help make a good team great haven't been around this season. Patriots initial score came after a muffed punt, their second came on a drive where they fumbled twice but got them both back. Last year the Broncos were both better and luckier. The rest of the division is generally playing well, even the Chargers can be competitive despite everything for periods.

It is disappointing as a fan after last season, but I'd also rather have the luck when already a team with a real shot of winning it all then have had bad luck last year and good luck most likely meaning nothing more than a wildcard win this year. Considering the situation after Elway's retirement the post-Manning season hasn't been so bad, and the primary weakness in the trenches at least gives an obvious target to draft and for free agency.

No idea if the team has a long term QB solution on the roster, but there is enough to at least evaluate behind a rebuilt line next year without panicking. My biggest reason for worrying about coaching is health - Kubiak and Phillips both had hospital trips this year for very different reasons. A change of special teams coach might be biggest possibility - he didn't do well when he took over whilst Kubiak was ill, and returners doing silly things (and other meltdowns like the utterly stupid too many men overloading one side vs KC that turned a FG into a TD) have been too frequent this year. Not sure what the long term situation is though, I'd be surprised if Kubiak has more than 5 more years before health makes him consider retirement, and Phillips too, simply on age. It could be all change again inrelatively few years, but I'd be surprised if Kubiak isn't back next season unless his doctors tell him otherwise.

2
by MrBismarck :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 10:30am

" if Bryce Petty would make it through the game unscathed. He did not."

This is a really low key way to describe what happened to Petty.

I'm glad he could joke about it the next day.

86
by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 3:26pm

At least he wasn't the one who almost got him killed. Not sure whether to blame the center or the tackles on that one. Reminded me of the play that ended Boomer Esiason's Jets career. Bruce Smith got a free run at him on a false start, and it was bad.

3
by steveNC :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 10:46am

5/51 = "literally never"?

7
by johnnyxel :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 10:57am

It's not like he caught any of them and converted them.

12
by Joe Pancake :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 11:02am

He probably meant to say "complete" instead of "throw" since the tweet only referenced completions.

23
by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 11:32am

I, literally, don't know what you are talking about ;)

4
by big10freak :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 10:46am

I was simultaneously watching Steelers/Bengals, Lions/Giants and Packers/Bears. And while there were penalties called it sure seemed like the officials were letting secondaries grab a lot and same with offensive linemen on d-linemen. Saw multiple what seemed like obvious PI's not called in each game. Not begging for more flags but thought this was interesting.

Anyone else notice this yesterday?

25
by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 11:33am

They were calling the Vikings game pretty tight. Not that this made much difference, but maybe it hurt the Vikings secondary a bit since they are pretty aggressive.

26
by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 11:33am

They were calling the Vikings game pretty tight. Not that this made much difference, but maybe it hurt the Vikings secondary a bit since they are pretty aggressive.

5
by big10freak :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 10:51am

The Packers defense could not get a pass rush and after Barkley turned it over 3 times in the 3rd quarter Capers called zone. Well, Randall stinks at zone and immediately began giving up completions. Then the GB offense went 3 and out twice in a row in the 4th quarter while Rollins replacing a benched Randall provided little relief.

The much, much, MUCH and deservedly maligned Micah Hyde made the defensive play of the game batting away a 3rd down goal line pass that would have given the Bears the lead. REally cannot ding Fox for not going for it on 4th down as he had to think the Bears defense would hold and his team would move into FG range. And once it was 3rd and 11 the Bears looked to be on the verge of sticking it to GB.

Rodgers drives Packer fans nuts with his propensity for going downfield on short 3rd downs seeming to refuse to accept the first down in the hopes for a big play. Nobody was complaining late yesterday.

6
by strannix :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 10:57am

I disagree - I thought it was basically unconscionable for Fox not to go for the 4th down. Bears were 3-10 and Packers had plenty of time to drive for a FG and the Bears defense is ... inconsistent at best. As a Bears fan, I don't like their odds of 1) stopping the Packers and forcing OT, and then 2) winning in OT.

But for the love of the gods, if you're going to kick on 4th down, the Bears absolutely had to run it on 3rd down instead of pass. Packers were out of timeouts and the Bears could have run down the clock to about what, 30 seconds? Much better odds of stopping the Packers' offense and getting to OT.

But again ... 3-10. You have two chances to get a TD from the 3 yard line. Win the damn game.

9
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 10:59am

Yea, I have to agree here. I had a rooting interest for the Packers to lose this game, and when Fox trotted out the field goal unit, I immediately thought "game over, Packers will win". When you're the inferior team, you have to take risks to try to get the upset.

10
by big10freak :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 11:00am

The third down play call observation is absolutely correct. Bears should have run the ball.

21
by Joe Pancake :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 11:28am

Yep... And once this fails, you should go for it on 4th down. You simply shouldn't count on stopping Aaron Rodgers from getting into field goal range *and* winning in overtime.

John Fox could have played it conservatively or aggressively -- instead he split the difference and got the worst of both worlds.

24
by big10freak :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 11:32am

Field goal range though yesterday was about a 35 yard kick or closer. Crosby told the coaches anything beyond that was pretty iffy. I am sure Fox was thinking along the same lines so had to like his chances of stopping the opposing team to get to the 25 or so even with Rodgers. Especially the way his pass rush had played the entire second half.

Even when GB was moving the ball the Chicago pass rush was caving the pocket.

74
by Sentient :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 2:47pm

It would seem this discussion should be influenced by Soldier Field's conditions (orientation/weather/wind?): 51 points were scored in one direction, only 6 in the other.

Assuming the teams were adapting to that, it would make a quick, successful GB march / Rodgers' 60 yard bomb all the less predictable, considering the direction they were going.

It also suggests that winning the flip, and choosing direction, would have decided the game had it gone into overtime.

61
by strannix :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 1:57pm

Fair point about diminished FG range. I'd counter that by pointing out how much time GB had, and the fact that GB is simply a better team and so OT favored them, but still you're right that normal considerations about FG range did not apply.

65
by Jay Z :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 2:18pm

I don't think Rodgers has ever won an OT game, though. Regular season or playoffs. I don't think he has even achieved a first down yet.

It's fluky, has to do with some turnovers and losing the toss a lot. But still. I think the Pack's last OT win was when Favre hit Greg Jennings with an 80 yard pass on Monday night, back in 2007.

105
by Arkaein :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 4:29pm

You're right about this, although I don't think it's significant.

In 7 OT games that Rodgers has played, he never had the ball in 4 of them, where the other team got the ball first and scored in one possession.

In 2009 Rodgers threw for a first down that was negated by penalty, then had another 14 yard completion on 2nd and 20, before losing the game on a terrible uncalled fasemask.

The other two chances Rodgers actually did get the ball were in back-to-back weeks in early 2010. In the first game against the Redskins the offense was decimated by injury (lost Ryan Grant in the opener, Jermichael Finley and backup TE Donald Lee earlier in the game). Rodgers threw an INT on a play where he was hit and got a concussion, but again no flag. The nest week he played the Dolphins after missing practice all week recovering from his concussion, which would have really helped given that the offense had to be retooled to focus more on the WRs than on Finley.

Even if you do think Rodgers OT performances are meaningful, Rodgers hasn't actually run a play in OT since 2010, two MVPs and one Superbowl ago.

13
by Arkaein :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 11:03am

Rodgers was quietly brilliant yesterday.

Held the ball too long as if he didn't have hamstring and calf injuries that limited his mobility, but otherwise was near perfect throwing the ball. If Nelson and Adams don't drop four passes for 100+ yards and 2 TDs, that game is never close. Unfortunate to see Rodgers streak of 2+ TD pass games end like that.

Great to see Ty Montgomery finally get a full workload. Hard to believe he was never a full time RB, he has better patience and vision then Starks ever had. Will be interesting to see how Packers address RB position in offseason. Lacy is a FA but probably won't be able to get a big contract with long term guaranteed money given his weight and injury problems, and the draft sounds stocked with RBs. However, if Montgomery continues to perform, and if Michael is solid enough to hang on to, then GB won't need to invest too much in the position, and Lacy may be willing to come back on a shorter term prove-it deal like GB has been handing out to guys like Nick Perry lately.

14
by big10freak :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 11:07am

Those two Adams drops were horrible. The passes were right there.

In defense of Nelson on the one pass the Bears defender had his one arm locked up. Pretty obvious PI that went uncalled. But as I wrote earlier until the very end of the game the refs were letting both teams hold with impunity. Rodgers had to hold the ball given that his receivers always struggle against physical coverage. I think Cobb was completely shut out on Sunday which is pretty common for him when teams are allowed to clutch/grab. He is not strong enough to break free and stay on his routes

44
by dank067 :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 12:58pm

McCarthy and Rodgers probably both share blame for this, but their 3rd and 4th down playcalling and decision-making continues to be frustrating. On that 4th and 2 in the first half no receivers appeared to even be running routes within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage and surprise, no one got open vs. man coverage. Even when it's less grabby than it was yesterday, the current receiving corps does not excel at getting open vs. man coverage and it's frustrating to watch them revert to things that haven't been working for going on two years. It played into Fangio's hands as well, given some of the delayed blitzes and pressure from the corners he was sending. This is all on a day where Rodgers and the offense otherwise played pretty well against a decent but banged up defense.

45
by big10freak :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 1:02pm

That 4th down call was just abysmal. And how that call isn't matching up Montgomery with a linebacker is just weird. Or Cook on a quick out.

The Packers overcomplicate things at times.

49
by dank067 :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 1:16pm

Absolutely. And since you mentioned Cobb, it also seems like they don't make any effort to find plays for him anymore. He obviously benefited earlier in his career from there being more space on the field for him to work into when his fellow receivers were stretching defenses, but he's made enough great plays with the ball over the course of his career that I certainly think he deserves more route combinations designed to get him free and get him the ball. Instead they're paying him $10 million dollars per year to be an easily-press-covered cog in the machine.

53
by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 1:36pm

As someone who doesn't watch the Packers a ton, he looks a lot slower and less quick tome this year. I assumed they were not using him because he couldn't get open and his main skills are gone.

76
by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 2:51pm

Doesn't Adams basically always do that? I have always found it to be insane that they keep feeding him balls he will catch maybe half of when they have other receivers on the roster who are good at football. In particular Randall Cobb (one target).

80
by big10freak :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 3:06pm

Adams has been much more reliable this season. Adams catch rate is better than Nelson's but less than Cobb's. But then Adams passes are further downfield which decreases the conversion chances.

Be it DYAR or DVOA Adams has been a top 20 receiver in 2016 thru last week

41
by dank067 :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 12:47pm

I wonder if part of the reason Montgomery hasn't gotten more reps to this point has been because he doesn't have much experience in traditional RB alignments and running downhill when the QB starts from under center. But he seems to be doing ok in pass protection, which is what I would have guessed was the limiting factor in him playing RB.

Either way, given Rodgers's injuries, they're probably going to be almost exclusively running out of the pistol and shotgun the rest of the season so we should see plenty of him going forward.

46
by big10freak :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 1:05pm

As we say in Packerland as to why an obvious thing isn't happening, McCarthy.

Montgomery is clearly a step up from anything else available at running back. That the corpse of James Starks was getting reps can only be answered by the Mikester.

20
by TomC :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 11:24am

The 3rd-down play by Hyde on the goal line was very good, but the timing and routes on that play got all screwed up by the GB D-lineman running on the field at the snap. I have looked at the official nfl.com replay several times, and I'd need all-22 to be sure, but he sure was close to not making it on the field before the snap, in which case it should have been a penalty, and it would then have been 3rd and 2, in which case the Bears almost certainly run the ball and either win the game or go to OT.

That's a minor complaint, though, about a very entertaining game. Sure, it was like a recurring nightmare for Bears fans to see a GB scramble-heave to win the game (could have been 2012, 1994, or, hell, 1989 with Don Majkowski), but at least it was compelling to watch, unlike many other games yesterday.

22
by big10freak :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 11:30am

I doubt the officials would have noticed much less called anything given their approach yesterday. It was a free for all until about the last 6 odd minutes of the game when there were some random holding calls on both offense and defense. GB was called for a defensive hold which relative to earlier play was completely benign. Then down near the goal line the Bears were called for offensive holding which also paled relative to what both teams doing all game.

36
by TomC :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 12:21pm

Well, substitution penalties are different (especially since coming off the bench after the snap and interfering with the play is a "palpably unfair act") but your general point is taken. Again, it's a small complaint; I'm mostly curious what would have / should have happened if that guy really did miss the snap (because god knows Burkhardt and Lynch didn't have anything interesting to say about it).

16
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 11:13am

"NFL football in 2016 often seems like a never-ending series of checkdowns, and that's especially true of the Lions on both sides of the ball."
-Vince Verhei

This is by design for the Lions. They are aware their defense is bad. On offense, they try to have ball-control/long drives to limit opposing possessions (sometimes it seems like actually scoring points is their secondary goal). On defense, their primary goal is to not give up big plays, so the best way for the opposing offense to attack is to dink and dunk their way down the field.

This strategy of "try to hide your defense" actually works, to a degree, since the Lions have the 10th-ranked scoring defense, and 14th by total yards allowed, despite being pretty bad on most per-play metrics. Unfortunately, I think they're hamstringing their own offense in the process.

27
by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 11:41am

People complain when the games are not close, they complain when the games are low scoring and the defenses do well.

And now they complain when the offenses are doing fine by attacking the defenses with short passes (which is becoming more and more common). I am starting to think like half the football punditariat just doesn't actually like football. They don't like defense, they don't like running, they don't like short passes.

Maybe they should watch some 5 on 5 passing drills or something? Or a flea flicker only league? I really don't understand all these people who seem to spend large amounts of time watching football but decry anything that isn't a 45-38 gun-slinging between top5 QBs with garbage defense and 4 PI calls a team "boring".

No one is making you watch football. You can stop if you hate it so much.

30
by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 11:53am

hve noticed on twietter that most people compalin about football things. not sure I understand ti. also big is people making fun iof teams and ripping player sbns coaches all the time like are geeks in circus or animals in zoo. not a lot of rtespect in other word.s even see this fromm people who ghet paid to write about the sport.

32
by RickD :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 12:05pm

This is how I feel about the apparent boredom regarding Pats-Broncos.

55
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 1:43pm

I like watching good offensive line play. That narrows the options.

72
by theslothook :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 2:35pm

There is a difference between low scoring and good defense. Fine distinction I suppose.

I personally have great disdain for short passing because it feels like the easiest throw to make and somehow the risk reward ratio is heavily tilted in its favor. Its like the pistol being the only weapon of choice in your favorite first person shooter.

75
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 2:47pm

Blocking on short passes is defintely the least demanding thing to ask of an o-lineman, which is why the Viking offense is pretty much just short passes. It is the least interesting task to watch an offensive line attempt to execute.

78
by ChrisS :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 3:01pm

I really only hate short passing on third and long. And to the extent that the dependency of a team on the short passing game makes these type of calls more likely. Just punt on 3rd down and 15 if your are going to throw in the flats 3 yards behind the LOS.

109
by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 5:18pm

I like the kind of short passing game that's designed to get YAC. Open-field running is fun. The Walsh/Seifert/Mariucci 49ers were like that...receivers never hit the ground unless they were tackled.

110
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 5:39pm

Running the ball, and very sound offensive line play, were extremely significant elements of the Bill Walsh offense.

113
by theslothook :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 6:05pm

I mean, its effective, but it doesn't require the same level of skill as a down the field passing game. Its not even clear you need good route running to operate the short passing game. A clever scheme of option routes and pick plays seems to be the minimum requirement. While not that easy to implement, its a heck of a lot easier to do than finding an Antonio Brown or Julio Jones along with a Matt Stafford level qb and some decent blockers.

117
by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 6:32pm

"I mean, its effective, but it doesn't require the same level of skill as a down the field passing game."

I see no evidence of this claim.

It clearly requires a different skill-set, but the idea that just anybody can run an efficient NFL offense utilizing short passes is just silly.

Frankly, the team with the most successful short passing offense in the NFL over the last couple years seems to have more trouble finding WR talent with sufficient intelligence and route running skills than anybody else. Guys like Edelman don't grown on trees either.

119
by theslothook :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 6:49pm

The evidence is subtle. There's been a general leaguewide trend towards short passing. Even so called long ball teams are throwing short more than ever. And the passing wide anya still continues to grow. So that tells me - its easier and still quite effective.

130
by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 8:13pm

That's not evidence that it's easier (and it's not evidence at all, it's a claim).

The NFL is a copycat league. The best offense in the league over the last decade has been a short passing offense - teams are copying that.

131
by theslothook :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 8:24pm

Sigh,

Do you really want me to dig through the numbers to show this? On a lark, I did it a while back.

And yes, its not evidence that its easier. Its just my subjective take. The fact that everyone is doing it suggests to me that its easier to adopt than trying to do something else that has been wildly effective.

133
by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 8:36pm

Or it's a sign that short passing is just more effective, irrespective of its difficulty.

138
by eagle97a :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 9:00pm

The fact that everybody is copying and doing it suggests to me that short passing is effective given the present day league rules and environment. It doesn't suggest that short passing is easier from a skills perspective, it just shows that short passing is the way to control possession and effectively score points but in conjunction with the running game and sprinkled wih intermediate and long passing. Short passing requires different skillsets like insane accuracy in a crowded field and very fast relase as compared with deep passing which needs more time to set up and more skill from the wide receiver adjusting his route. Deep passing is more volatile since the risks and rewards are both higher but any competent defense that limits big plays will effectively neuter deep passing while flawless execution in short passing with complementary runs and occassional deep passes will almost always win football games.

Deep passimg is really exciting from a highlights perspective and visually appealing. For me flawless offensive execution using a lot of short passes with some runs and deep passes is more beautiful than a bombs away volatile offense which in the current era is more likely to not work. Even the Giants switched over to more modern era offense despite their 2 SB rings recently. See the Cardinals for volatility when it comes to a primarily deep passing offense.

Short passing and long passing are totally different skillsets and both difficult to execute in a very competitive league like the NFL.

150
by theslothook :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 1:31am

We have different aesthetics, but it would be arrogant of me to expect yours to match mine. I admit, my opinion based on the data is just that- an opinion so i'm not going to disagree with you because I think you are wrong necessarily.

Look - the league is transitioning to shorter passes. Is it because its easier to build or its more effective? hard to say. Combination of both maybe, but which effect dominates? I don't know. I will say - short passing in theory is easier than medium or deep passing because the ball goes further. This is reflected in completion rates.

To see short passes receive near equivalent gain as the medium but with whatever x percent less risk is a surprising result and one I'm at a loss to explain. Are dbs really just not good at defending short? And if so..why? IN theory, a short pass is an easier route to defend.

I just feel like - the easiest pass route should not have such high returns as a more complex route.

Thats my gist - but I admit its an opinion

153
by eagle97a :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 2:06am

I agree aesthetics will vary depending on preference but have to disagree on the theory that shorter passes are easier than longer passes because completion rates. Its more nuanced than that, probably better to compare long passes with shorter passes in combination on their success rates on getting first downs/touchdowns. As I said earlier they are different not necessarily different in difficulty. It is more accurate saying short passes are an alternative to rushing offense with the deep passes complimenting them. In any case there are many ways to win football games with short passing one of them and more succesful nowadays due to current rules and environment.

154
by theslothook :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 2:19am

Well, let me word it this way. Is a short pass the same difficulty as a longer pass? I mean, think in terms of shooting a basketball or throwing a baseball. Distance is a hinderance. I suspect(though I don't pretend to know) - football is the same way.

155
by eagle97a :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 2:57am

You are looking at it from a purely physical standpoint. The further a ball has to go the more power needed to drive it thru and the farther the distance obviously the more accuracy becomes a factor. That is why I commented earlier that deep passes require skill from the wideouts adjusting their routes to catch it.

Mechanics and anticipation with wideouts are far more important in passing given a baseline NFL level passing. Short passing requires pinpoint accuracy, zip, anticipation in completing it. Intermediate routes require more touch passing, floating the ball correctly if needed while deep passing requires power and wideouts adjusting their routes to complete passes. All of these passes require good mechanics, good pre snap reads, good decision making to make it work. All of the three are also affected to varying degrees by the environment specially wind and rain.

My take is passing in the NFL has a lot of nuance and the different length of passes doesn't necessarily mean different degrees of difficulty. We have to remember before you make it even as an undrafted practice squad qb in the NFL there are minimum physical and skills reqs to qualify and throwing the ball approx 80 to 100 yards probably is the most basic requirement.

157
by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 10:26am

"Well, let me word it this way. Is a short pass the same difficulty as a longer pass? "

Maybe, maybe not. You need a way higher success rate for the offense to be successful though.

The throw is easier, but timing, scheming, and a handful of other things that all require skill are more difficult. You're often throwing the ball hard and low in the middle of the field, which means there are going to be more defenders with opportunities, overthrown balls are more likely to be picked off, etc. Balls are more likely to be tipped by lineman. Short passing compresses the field, so the windows are much smaller.

You're very rarely going to get the benefit of pass interference calls with a short passing offense.

There's an entire school of offenses that largely subsist on pass interference calls on underthrown deep balls, and the fact that it's basically impossible in the modern nfl ruleset to correctly defend a fast receiver on a slightly underthrown ball. Hit two or three long passes in a game, and you've got yourself a working offense.

119
by theslothook :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 6:49pm

The evidence is subtle. There's been a general leaguewide trend towards short passing. Even so called long ball teams are throwing short more than ever. And the passing wide anya still continues to grow. So that tells me - its easier and still quite effective.

135
by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 8:39pm

Most teams that run short passing attacks don't seem to run the kind of short passing attack I'm remembering fondly. So often I see someone catch the ball on a short pass and, in the process, go to the ground or step out of bounds. That's so different from offenses that are designed to get the ball to the receiver in full stride.

181
by nat :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 3:03pm

Is there any data to back up Vince's idea that 2016 is somehow unusual for the number of check downs? Or is this just complaining about nothing real?

I looked at 2011-15 and then 2016. I looked at a related (but not the same) idea that the passing game had evolved to be less about long gains and more about dink and dunk short gains. In particular, I simply asked how many long gaining (>= 30 yards) pass plays there were each season. I pro-rated 2016 to make it comparable to the previous five years.

2016 (pro-rated to 16 games): 629 plays
2015: 653
2014: 603
2013: 633
2012: 573
2011: 606
2011-15 average: 614
2002-26 average: 519

So it looks like not much has changed in five years. Explosive pass plays are just as much a part of the game as they have been since 2011. Using the PFR play finder, I can't look at "air yards". But who cares? If you can't get excited about a 30+ yard screen pass, then you should give up watching or commenting on football.

Long gaining pass plays are much more common (+18%) now then they were at the start of the century. So if there are more short gain passes (check downs and the like) then they aren't pushing out big pass plays.

It turns out they aren't pushing out long gaining rushes either. Those are up about 8% (comparing 2011-15 to 2002-06).

I am sure there are other ways to look at this. Maybe there are just more plays per game now. Or maybe people just like to complain, and make assumptions that confirm that need.

But can I hear a cheer for actually looking at some data?

8
by big10freak :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 10:58am

As an independent observer boy are the Bengals a jerk team. Maybe I only catch them on their bad days, but by chance I have watched them four times this season as part of a larger watching experience and each time some Bengals player is instigating, baiting and otherwise being obnoxious.

Cannot believe this team is much fun to root for given that MO.

11
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 11:00am

I'm just happy the Bengals have taken the mantle from the Jim Scwhartz Lions for being the "dirty team" that everyone else dislikes.

31
by dank067 :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 11:59am

Along those lines, hopefully this is the end of the line for Jeff Fisher and Gregg Williams too.

85
by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 3:22pm

Understand the hatred for the Bengals at the moment, but the Dolphins have knocked out more quarterbacks this year (the last one was not a dirty play, just a stupid one by the Jets). Perhaps it was all Suh and not Schwartz. I have to apologize about blaming Schwartz; his year in Buffalo was a great one for the defense, but they weren't dirty at all. The opposing quarterbacks just got benched or completed less than 50% (Aaron Rodgers). A lot of my trepidation about Schwartz was that he came from the Jeff Fisher coaching tree.

137
by Theo :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 8:58pm

His comment was not hatred. Just an observation.
And the things the Miami defense do, dont make the Bengals any less obnoxious.

28
by jtr :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 11:46am

Naturally, both Burfict and Pacman Jones committed 15-yard penalties over the course of the game. I thought most of the first half was awfully clean by AFC North standards; by which I mean that team-wide shoving matches happened only occasionally. That stepped up more in the second half.

Also, Burfict and Decastro had to be removed from the field after they collided helmet-to-helmet in the first half, but both players quietly slipped back into the lineup for the second half. Goes to show how serious NFL teams are about head injuries when they occur to star players in a division matchup...

17
by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 11:16am

"The Patriots are 30th in adjusted sack rate right now and they have four sacks today, and they have harassed Siemian all day. The Broncos offensive line isn't discussed much but it's a big part of the struggles of this offense"

It's not that simple though.

The Patriots have the most varied philosophy on pass rush I've probably ever seen - there are games where they rush a ton of guys and get a bunch of sacks - like this one, and then other games where they sit in a 3 man rush and never get near the QB all day.

Part of it is the offensive line, but part of it is the Patriots actually deciding to rush this week.

33
by RickD :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 12:11pm

The variation in the pass rush philosophy is a function of the QB's mobility. They're not very aggressive towards Russell Wilson because his scrambling ability is so dangerous. In recent weeks they've been facing less mobile QBs (Flacco, Siemian) and that's allowed them to bring more pressure.
Also, the pass rush has improved considerably with the decision to give more snaps to Trey Flowers. And even Sheard appears to have had his come-to-Jesus moment.
Still, even yesterday there were a few plays when they appeared to be insufficiently aggressive, even on 3rd and long, and gave Siemian far too much time. To the extent the Pats have had a weak pass defense this year, it's more a function of weak pass rush than poor secondary play (though dreadful coverage from LBs early in the season was also a factor).

35
by PirateFreedom :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 12:15pm

Good point about mobility.
If you loop ninkovitch around the whole o-line the way they got flacco once you might be handing tyrod taylor a long run

60
by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 1:55pm

Wilson was weird to me, because he had an ankle injury (iirc?)- so I expected more pressure.

My point was really that the adjusted sack rate is probably more a bimodal distribution - and just comparing them to their yearly average doesn't really give an accurate representation of what the Broncos O-Line was dealing with.

They're 30th overall, but they're probably something like 15th in half their games and 32nd in the other half.

34
by PirateFreedom :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 12:13pm

They seem to need blitzes and stunts to get pressure.
The stunts in particular are something they are doing a lot more often than I remember from the earlier part of the year.
The blitzes seem more varied than the double a gap stuff from earlier as well.
I don't know if this stuff is finally looking good in practice or if it is opponent specific but they played against a lot of bad QBs early in the year as well.
Maybe Gronk being out makes them think they need to take more chances on defense.

54
by voytron :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 1:42pm

I think people also underestimate how much Belichick coaches knowing that the team he has in September is not the team he'll have in December, or if they are, he and his staff aren't doing their job. I think he got rid of (Jamie Collins) or benched (Sheard) guys they couldn't trust to be in the positions they need them to be in. When the patriots say complimentary football, they mean it. So they don't care if a linebacker is a 5 tool athlete, if he's out of position on too many plays, he worthless to them. They don't care if they give up yards or plays, as long as they keep points down to a minimum. Maybe they wanted to do those stunts earlier in the year, they just didn't have the guys trained well enough to do them without risking the big play?

57
by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 1:44pm

Yes, as much as opponent offense is a legitimate criticism of NE's defense overall, they have played an unusually high number of mobile QBs which significantly lowers any sack or pressure efficiency metric.

64
by jtr :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 2:18pm

I don't think that's true. Generally, mobile QB's tend to have HIGHER sack rates since they're more willing to hang around behind the line of scrimmage rather than get rid of the ball. Here is the list of top QBs by sack rate in 2013 (http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stat-analysis/2014/2013-quarterbacks-tr...), which seems to be the last time FO specifically posted an article on these stats. Notice that the top 10 (hardest to sack) is almost all traditional pocket passers, plus whatever you consider Fitzpatrick to be, while the bottom 10(easiest to sack) is largely noted scramblers like Newton, Kaep, Wilson, and Terrelle Pryor.

81
by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 3:06pm

Tendencies aren't really what we're talking about though. We're talking about shifts in the level of pressure that the NEP defense applies based on what type of quarterback they're playing. They play an almost entirely different scheme against guys who can move.

The problem with just looking at sack rate is you're not really able to separate out coverage sacks from pressure sacks. Sacks are a very small part of the 'pressure' environment.

For instance, they sacked Wilson 3 times - but rushed 3 most of the game and dropped 8 guys into coverage (sometimes 7 and a spy).

Against Goff they rushed 4, 5 and often 6, and pressured him all game (and sacked him 4 or 5 times).

The Patriots are difficult to analyze from a straight stats perspective - because they're more situational than anybody else in the league.

100
by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 4:21pm

It is undoubtably true for the Patriots. Against mobile QBs, they seldom use more than a 3 or 4 man contain rush. The games and blitzes come out when they don't need to force the guy to stay in the pocket.

18
by Joe Pancake :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 11:19am

Few things make me smile more than watching a coach lose because he iced the kicker -- especially so when the icing actively benefits the kicking team, instead of just being a non-factor waste of time, like it usually is.

Not only did Andy Reid give Succop a free practice kick (helpful, given the conditions, as pointed out in the article), but he reset the play clock and let the Titans snap the ball at their leisure. During the miss, they barely got it off before being hit with a delay of game penalty.

Three other great moments in icing history:

1. Joe Gibbs "double ices" the kicker resulting in a 15-yard penalty, turning a long kick into a short one.

2. John Gruden ices Adam Vinatieri in the already very icy Tuck Rule Game, giving the Patriots a chance to clear a spot for the hold.

3. Pete Carroll ices Matt Bryant in the 2012 playoffs, giving him a second chance at the game-winning field goal (he pushed the first one wide right), which he makes, ruining a great comeback by Russell Wilson and Co.

Actually, I'm a Seahawks fan, so I hated that last one, but still...

19
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 11:23am

Could not agree more. I can only hope that icing the kicker backfires in a few more high-profile situations so that coaches stop doing it.

37
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 12:28pm

There's definitely cases when it 'worked', right. I think in Week 1, the Broncos iced the Panthers and Gano hit the kick that didn't matter and then missed the real kick.

I'm sure there are others. I don't think there is any advantage gained, but I don't think it is to a team's detriment to try it.

56
by Joe Pancake :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 1:43pm

I'm sure there are examples of all four combinations: make-make, make-miss, miss-make, miss-miss. Almost certainly the vast majority of the time it doesn't matter one way or the other, so you are right that it's usually not to a coach's detriment to do it. However, it is to my detriment as a football-watching fan, and I hate when coaches do it, so I like it when it backfires.

And I think the times when it does matter, it works *for* the kicking team (gives the kicker a free practice kick to gauge the conditions, allows the kicking team a chance to groom the kicking area, resets the play clock, etc.). I suppose you could dream up a scenario in which it would work against the kicking team -- it just started pouring down rain and you want the field to get wetter, you need more time to install a special block play, etc. -- and if that's the case then I wouldn't be too annoyed by it. But I certainly don't think that a minute extra of wait throws off a professional kicker's psyche and negates years and years of practice-honed muscle memory.

29
by rj1 :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 11:46am

Denver's offense the past 2 weeks with a wild card berth on the line have accomplished pretty much nothing. Siemian I think will have a decent-paying career as either a quality team's backup or a starter for a mediocre side and good luck to him, but I hope Mr. Lynch is our starter come Labor Day 2017. Even though we'd likely lose in first round, still sucks to not make the playoffs and at least be part of the party.

38
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 12:29pm

Aren't the Broncos the natural landing spot for Romo? They can sit Lynch 1-2 more years, or at least have a highly-drafted player as a backup if/when Romoe gets hurt.

Romo in that offense can do a good job, particularly if they shore up the o-line a tad.

With that defense, you don't need a great offense. You just need one that can get ahead early and limit the other team to passing against that ridiculously good pass defense.

40
by BroncFan07 :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 12:43pm

The problem with getting Romo is then you need someone to play the other 7 games. The problem with Lynch is, so far, he's shown nothing. I bet the coaching staff thought he'd be the starter by now. Hopefully they can shore up the O-Line in the off-season and pick up a decent RB.

96
by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 3:58pm

The problem with getting Romo is that all the cap space in Denver is already spoken for, because that defense great though it is does not come cheap. Romo is a top (five?) QB in the league, below Brees Rodgers and Brady but as good as anyone else. He's worth $20M + even with the injury history.

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by theslothook :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 4:03pm

I'm not sure what Romo is. The last time he was seen on the field was over a season ago and that was coming off a long layoff from injury. The last good season was 2 seasons ago and with his age and injury history - its possible he ages like Mcnabb rather than Manning.

He'll get money because teams are desperate, but there's going to be a fair amount of uncertainty with him.

123
by JIPanick :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 7:08pm

Romo was second team All-Pro at 34, an age where McNabb had already hit the wall and been dropped by the Eagles.

Unless he ages like Favre or Brady he's only got a year or two left.

106
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 4:48pm

At this stage of his career, would Romo would be willing to go to a SB contender on the cheap? A ring being worth more than the $127m career earnings.

The problem with going to Denver is the rise of the Raiders and Chiefs. Winning the division in Denver is no longer a given.

98
by theslothook :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 4:04pm

If Lynch isn't the starter going into next year, then you need to be severely concerned that he's never going to make it.

115
by BroncFan07 :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 6:15pm

That's kind of what I'm getting at. I barely watch college football so I never heard of Lynch before they drafted him, and I don't really know what it is he's supposed to do well. But from what I've seen, he's not very accurate and throws off his back foot. I take it as a bad sign when the team is openly hoping Siemian gets out of the walking boot so he can play.

136
by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 8:40pm

Here's what he does well: he's tall and strong.

42
by Purds :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 12:55pm

People here in New England are trying to figure out how good or not the NE defense is, based on the teams they have played. A quick look via opponents' offensive DVOA up to last week:

Ari 28
Mia 17
Hou 31
Buf 10
Clev 29
Cinc 11
Pitt 9 (without Big Ben)
Buf 10
Sea 18
SF 23
NYJ 30
LARam 32
Bal 26
Den 25

So that's only one team in the top 10 offenses based on FO stats, and that was Pitt without Big Ben. (I'm too lazy to calculate an average) One could argue the NE defense isn't as good as some conventional stats (points against per game) suggest, and that they may not even be good at all because they haven't faced any real offenses, but even as an avowed NE hater, I have to admit that one of BB's best traits is the ability to win the games when he's favored heavily, and to win those games decisively. You can't blame them for beating the teams in front of them. However, when we get to the playoffs, do you guys think their defense will hold up? I haven't been watching much football this season, but it's time for me to dial in as we approach the playoffs. So, what should we expect from NE, particularly on defense?

69
by RickD :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 2:29pm

A few points there. First, the season-long DVOA doesn't matter so much as the strength of the team when they play the Pats. That's most obvious when they played the Steelers, but I think it also applies in the other direction with regard to the Cardinals and Seahawks.

Another point is that, with all of the bad offenses that the Pats' have played this season, how would we know if they actually had a good defense? Opponent adjustments really drag down their DVOA. Also, the way Belichick runs the defense, he's usually content to let the defense loosen up a bit if the game appears to be in hand. It's a strategy that won't maximize DVOA but might improve win probability.

From the eyeball test, the defense has improved in the past five weeks. Yes, I know that it coincides with playing five teams in the bottom third of offenses.

The Week 17 game vs. Miami should be interesting. I hope the Pats don't mail it in like they did last year.

As for the playoffs, even though Pittsburgh and Oakland have high-powered offenses, they both seem too sloppy. The Chiefs are good enough to beat anybody on a given Sunday, and then to lose to a much worse team seven days later.

Dallas with their monster line and their talent at the skill positions has to be the scariest offense in the NFL. They can probably score on any defense. If it's a NE-DAL Super Bowl, it probably will be high-scoring.

71
by theslothook :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 2:33pm

If I were Ne, id be afraid of the giants and not just because of their recent history. Short of Pitts D being for real, the Giants feel like the only team with talent enough on both sides of the ball to be pesky for anyone. If Eli can put it together that is.

79
by RickD :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 3:06pm

You don't have to tell Pats fans to beware the Giants. The fear of the Giants has reached ridiculous levels in Patriots Nation.

The Giants don't really have a high-powered offense, and Eli has been dreadful recently. Of course he does that from time to time. The defense is excellent, but in my prior comment I was focusing on teams with great offenses. (I might also have mentioned the Falcons, but they really need to prove themselves in the playoffs.)

I don't think the Giants would win a playoff game in Dallas. Or Seattle for that matter. Or at least - they shouldn't be favored. But they're playing so well right now they have to be considered a credible Super Bowl contender.

104
by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 4:27pm

"You don't have to tell Pats fans to beware the Giants. The fear of the Giants has reached ridiculous levels in Patriots Nation."

Yes, the apprehension NE fans have for the Giants could probably warrant some kind of psychological classification. I genuinely have an automatic physical reaction to seeing them in a random game.

77
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 2:57pm

I know they are somehow 9-5 and will have a tough time even getting there, but Atlanta is terrifying on offense on their day.

They are on track for the quietest 500+ point season I can remember. They blew some winnable games early, but that offense when it is on is to me the best in the NFL this year, especially if Julio can get healthy.

82
by RickD :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 3:07pm

It would be great to see the Falcons make a deep playoff run. I don't trust them.

84
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 3:22pm

I don't either. They really should be better than 9-5 - and if they were just one game better they would have a clear path at the #2 seed.

Anyway, this will be an interesting test to see if Matt Ryan wins MVP. His stats are ridiculous. He's having the best season of any QB. But we rarely see an MVP on a team that loses more than 4 games.

I think the last one was Adrian Peterson, on a 10-6 Vikings team in 2012, but before that you have to go to Rich Gannon (11-5 was good enough for #1 seed that year), and Marshall Faulk (10-6).

Matt Ryan should win MVP. I have a real fear he won't.

91
by MJK :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 3:42pm

In my mind, there are only two candidates for MVP this year--Brady and Ryan--and Ryan should be the winner. Anyone else being discussed is just silly.

Elliot? Half of what he does is that O-line. I could average 4 ypc behind that aline. Prescott? He's a rookie, granted a pretty good one, that is likewise carried by a strong line and a solid running game. Carr--certainly a strong candidate, but not as strong, by numbers or by the eye test, as Ryan or Brady. Bell--definitely a great running back, but a running back on a team with many other strong players.

93
by theslothook :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 3:51pm

Well, based on how people vote for MVP, Eliot should be the winner. In a sense, the mvp to a running back is as close as your going to get with recognizing excellence from the offensive line.

Beyond him(and really all the o linemen with him); it should probably go to Ryan. I realize Brady's suspension is unfair(this is not meant to prompt a deflate gate comments - I never cared about the issue) - but he missed a quarter of the season while Ryan has played all of it. That to me matters.

102
by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 4:25pm

Forget the suspension, there are easy arguments to make that even on a per-play (rate) basis Ryan has been better. You can probably argue for Brady as well, but that is a close toss-up.

Add in four additional games of value and it's pretty clear.

103
by Purds :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 4:27pm

Rick, I completely agree with the second point, the one about not knowing how good the defense is based on playing bad offenses. For all I know, and I haven't watch them for more than a game total all year, they could be the best defense ever. I just don't know, and while I would usually look at statistics, because they played such an abnormally weak group of offenses, I was hoping that people who had seen them play would chime in.

I am not aware of the Seattle offense of changes you're talking about. But I'll believe it.

Finally, I don't think we will really learn anything from the Miami game. Miami is OK at best, but without Tannehill, they will be bad, won't they? Maybe I am missing something

116
by pats-fan-in-nyc :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 6:25pm

I think a NE-DAL matchup would be interesting. The Pats run D seem like they could greatly limit Elliot, if not completely take him out of the game. It would be on Dak Prescott's shoulders to win the game. He would have all day to throw, but he's also a rookie who hasn't seen Belichick coverages.

43
by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 12:57pm

I will say watching Jameis Winston play QB is never, ever boring. There's an endless combination of amazing things and frustrating things, so at least it stays interesting. Makes great throws after getting away from pressure, and then misses guys near the end of the game.

Dallas should have just killed Tampa last night, and it looked like it was going to happen. It's certainly nowhere near the 2002 Bucs defense, but there's a similar philosophy and similar weaknesses--it's clearly built for speed, and power running teams can push them around the field. There were just enough Dallas penalties to keep it interesting.

Winston played better than he has in most night games, though; he tends to get a little overly hyper and screw up early when he's on the big stage, and he seemed reasonably calm last night. Ah well, a six-point loss in Dallas is way better than expected.

63
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 2:13pm

Kind of on the subject, I would like to give you my sympathies for having to watch former Matt Millen 1st round draft pick Gosder Cherilus play football. I'm no offensive line play expert, but that was brutal. The block he completely whiffed on that screen pass (that looked like it could have been a big gainer) must have been particularly painful.

70
by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 2:30pm

I have watched a lot of very bad offensive linemen semi-play for the Bucs over the years, so I'm used to it. Then again, Cherilus was a spectacular kind of awful last night, just utterly whiffing on that screen pass and getting flattened on what didn't look like that much of a power rush, so it was really a brand-new level of bad. It was reminiscent of "Josh McCown, Tampa QB".

We can sympathize with each other in two weeks when both our teams miss the playoffs.

90
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 3:35pm

"We can sympathize with each other in two weeks when both our teams miss the playoffs."

Sigh... yes, I'm already mentally preparing myself for going to bed depressed after that week 17 Lions/Packers game (which I'm sure will be flexed to Sunday Night). The funny thing is, I had pretty low expectations for this season, so a 9-7 season is pretty good in the grand scheme of things (I'm sure you have similar feelings about the Bucs). But to slide out of the playoffs after 3 losses in a row is just going to be painful. To top that off, history suggests they are due for big-time regression in 2017, with their crazy comebacks/record in close games, and excellent special teams (which we all know is volatile from year to year).

It's like how it's far more painful to date the hottest girl in school...only for her to dump you later, than it is to not even have a chance with her in the first place.

95
by theslothook :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 3:56pm

"It's like how it's far more painful to date the hottest girl in school...only for her to dump you later, than it is to not even have a chance with her in the first place."

This basically describes a good chunk of my life so far and in high school. In fact, that described my last weekend. As my best friend said after it was over - "hey, you got a lot further than some people ever did." I'm not sure I agreed.

Anyways its good you can see the bullet coming. After the Packers annihilated the seahawks, I pretty much felt like the Lions similarly had to run the table or else they were going to lose the division. :/

52
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 1:33pm

I wish I could say that I was shocked by the Vikings being blown out, but I wasn't. In any game the Vikings defense starts slowly,a blowout is a distict possibility, because there is such little possibility of the offense being competent. The Vikings had 5 possessions in the 1st half, and ran 13 plays. At 10-0 it was largely over, and at 17-0 it was definitely over.

I was hoping the defense would fight like hell for the last 3 week, but I guess they decided not to do so yesterday.

66
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 2:22pm

I was shocked by that game. What happened to the defense? Surely Harrison Smith can't be THAT important.

The Colts should petition the NFL to be moved to the NFC North, whom they are 3-1 against (including fairly easy road wins against the Vikings and Packers). Their odds to win the division might be higher than they are in the AFC South!

73
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 2:38pm

My best guess is that the defense gave up that 90 yard td drive, and knew it was over, as the offense had 10 plays and 23 yards on their first 3 drives, then 2 plays and a turnover on their 4th drive.

59
by techvet :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 1:51pm

"Baltimore Ravens 26 at Philadelphia Eagles 27"? Rod Serling just called from beyond the grave - he wants to feature this final score in a Twilight Zone or Night Gallery episode.

62
by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 2:04pm

DVOA compuyer wrote that

83
by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 3:14pm

*Whistles innocently.*

Fixed.

67
by johonny :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 2:26pm

Mia/NYJ- Miami's defense has been lit for big games by not that exciting QBs the past few weeks so the Jets looking terrible against Miami's DBs probably means they could really really use a QB. Miami did enough to win, but with Buf and NE next they're going to need their running game that hasn't been the same since the oline injuries. There's not much to say about the AFCleast. Last year I congratulated the pats on winning it this year. I wasn't being funny. There simply is no doubt they will win the division year after year at this point. None of the other organizations seem to be able to have a 12-4 run to the Superbowl so why pretend the Pats won't win it again in 2017 too. As I've said, if the NFL wants to know why I've stopped watching as many games as I used too...it isn't overexposure. No, it's the fact I knew last season who would win the division this season and I know now who will win it in 2017. When there's no doubt to the outcome, you're not watching very much football...just saying.

68
by theslothook :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 2:29pm

I have not watched a single browns game all year, so anyone who was - are they one of the worst teams people have ever seen, dvoa be damned?

I vaguely remember some of the 2008 lions. On defense, they were legitimately one of the worst units of all time, but the offense was just garden variety bad. The worst team I ever saw with some regularity was the 2004 49ers.

88
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 3:32pm

Mike Tanier once did a retrospective on all the winless teams in NFL history, and he called the 2008 Lions "the Cadillac of winless teams", which is one of my favorite Tanier lines. They were terrible/had terrible luck in close games. They were either leading or within 1 score in the 4th quarter of 9 of their 16 games (almost like the polar opposite of the 2016 Lions). The 2009 2-14 Lions were actually worse, according to DVOA.

Your recollection of offense vs defense is correct. Despite his silly accidental safety, Dan Orlovsky was around a league-average passer. And Calvin Johnson had a breakout year. The defense, however, was junior varsity level.

In short, I think this year's Browns are much worse. As far as my living memory, the 1990 Patriots and 1991 Colts stand out in my mind as the worst teams I've ever watched (they had a couple of prime time games in those seasons).

89
by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 3:33pm

I got to watch the Patriots play the Jets in 1990. Ken O'Brien had his second career perfect game, 15 of 16 for 228, something like that. 42-7 final. The 1990 Jets went 6-10, and lost to San Diego by a combined score of 77-20, and got dominated by Pittsburgh and Buffalo earlier in the season at home. I bring this up to Patriots fans all the time, to remind them of the good old days, especially when they don't remember them.

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by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 3:43pm

"I bring this up to Patriots fans all the time, to remind them of the good old days, especially when they don't remember them."

Ha! I guess a similar thing for Lions fans is when Wayne Fontes, from 1988-1991, went 6-2 against the Packers. Then Ron Wolf traded for Brett Favre, and it all went to hell after that.

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by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 4:22pm

weel before that Pates-Jets clobbering, Patesd were on Saturday aftermnoon football at home vbs Redskisn. very sparse crowd, nasty rain. Rain caused mirror effect on field. Redskins wopn 25-10. e. byner had good game rushing. other games having that type of mirror effect-Clots at Pates Monday night football 1978, and some doklphins at Pates game 1987n or 1988

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by Otis Taylor89 :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 7:56pm

The 1978 MNF game was the one where Joe Washington single handily destroyed the Pats - caught a TD, threw a TD to Roger Carr and returned a kickoff for a TD.
Joe Washington could have been an all timer, but injuries cut back on some of that.

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by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 4:14pm

1990 Pates witjh Rod Rust had super craptastical season. 1991 clots utter garbage,too,. 1986 bucs- putrid. 2008 Lpions el stinko. 2016 Browns very bad. tough to sya what is worst here. kinda think maybe 1990 Pates

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by duh :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 4:49pm

1981 Pats were pretty special too played in the 'stupor bowl' with the Colts last day of the year for the first draft pick.

What I really remember was being a kid and my dad getting us season tickets starting in 1967. We kept the tickets for 7 years till the guy he was giving the money to every year to buy the tickets disappeared money and all.

In those 7 years from 1967 to to 1973 the Pats won a total of 27 games ... over 7 years! The 'high water mark" was 6. In one 3 year period (70-72) they were outscored by over 500 points. There many memorable beat downs during that time. Being a fan of that team convinced me my team would always find a way to lose. Heck one of their head coaches almost got electrocuted at his introductory press conference (Clive Rush)

I'm still scarred from having been a kid rooting for that team.

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by Otis Taylor89 :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 8:04pm

The SB early 70's MIA teams vs. the early 70's Pats teams were not a good mix as they usually beat downs of epic proportions and on AstroTurf/Concrete.

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by MJK :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 3:29pm

For all the talk of the NE-DEN game being boring (and it was), it did have one cool thing in it. Belichick has found a way to circumvent the Competition Committee making his ineligible receiver formation illegal.

http://www.espn.com/blog/new-england-patriots/post/_/id/4798757/patriots...

He lined a LB (with an ineligible number) up in a "looks eligible but isn't" position on offense, and it worked. Von Miller ended up covering him as a pure decoy, instead of covering someone for real, blocking throwing lanes, or rushing the passer. Unfortunately, Bennett dropped the pass.

But a fun little twist, nonetheless.

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by nat :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 3:55pm

Hardly a pure decoy. In the photo in the linked article, #58 has back-peddled to get behind the QB. He might have been an ineligible receiver, but he could have received a lateral if Von Miller hadn't stayed home to account for him.

Now that would have been cool.

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by Rich A :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 8:34pm

That would've been awesome. Pats will probably break it out in the divisional playoffs versus the chiefs.

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by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 5:47pm

Another must-win weak against a week opponent, and the Fighting Omars came out and tried their damndedest to lay an egg. Thankfully (nor not, depending on perspective), the Bengals managed to crap their collective pants and let the Steelers off the hook.

Oh well, another season, another draft pick in the 20-24 range after a crushing and humiliating 1st round playoff defeat.

DIAF CAPTCHA!
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by theslothook :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 6:02pm

I have a question. If they win at least one playoff game, are you going to give Tomlin credit? I mean, clearly, even if they get humiliated in the second round, they will have vastly overachieved by your expectations.

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by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 6:40pm

Give him credit for beating the Matt Moore Miami Dolphins? That's the level of expectations we should have for the "9th winningest HC of all time" (with 100 games) to be credit worthy?

Hahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh

Oh wait, you're serious.

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by Eddo :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 6:56pm

So, no.

What would they have to do? Win the AFC? The Super Bowl? And then again next year (and the next year (and the next year...))? Because you genuinely give the impression that there is nothing Tomlin can do to be anything more than a punchline to you.

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by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 7:15pm

A guy who gets dealt pocket Aces, limps with them, checks the flop, and then manages to let a flush draw get there for free on the turn deserves to be a punchline.

He never , ever, puts his team in the best position to win. They could have a legit shot at a 1st round bye if they take care of business against the non-Cleveland worst teams in the league, every season almost. We won't talk about how he lucked into a winning strategy against Brady once, and has abandoned it since. We won't talk about how he's supposedly a DB guru and their secondary has sucked under his entire reign almost. We won't talk about how it took him 4 seasons to realize Jarvis Jones sucks. We won't talk about how he puts players in his "doghouse" arbitrarily. We won't talk about how he gets 2 free wins a season to inflate his record. We won't talk about how he has never managed more than 5 wins in a row. We won't talk about how he doesn't understand when to be aggressive vs conservative. We won't talk about how he is running the wheels off Bell just like they did to Parker. We won't talk about his misuse of the clock and timeouts like the 2nd coming of Andy Reid. We won't talk about how his KR'ers, who couldn't break the 25 if the other team didn't defend at all, still bring the ball out. We won't talk about how he trots out a WR with broken fingers and expects him to catch the ball then benches him when he doesn't. We won't talk about how the team manages an above average amount of non-contact injuries. We won't talk about how his team is like 4-20 against sub .250 teams. We won't talk about how he has an array of fast/agile skill players and won't get field turf at his home stadium. We won't talk about..... screw it, I'm tired.

So other than the fact the players seem to like him, what DOES he do well in YOUR opinion. Cite something other than the fact he won a SB. Barry Switzer did that in the same circumstances. I mean I guess he does a good job looking tough on the sidelines (when they're winning)... and he's probably the best in the league at getting in a returner's way on the sidelines...

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by theslothook :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 7:21pm

It might be easier if you tell us what YOU think he needs to do to win you over. Then at least we have something we can hold you to.

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by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 1:23pm

Not do most of the above listed stuff.

In short, have a team with a top3 QB routinely finish near the top3 of the league.

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by LyleNM :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 1:33pm

Let's see. P. Manning, Brees, Brady, Rodgers...

Nope, Tomlin's never had a top 3 QB.

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by theslothook :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 1:50pm

Can you put a tangible single goal down? Does he need to win the sb? Does he need to get to the afc championship game? Or does he need to do all of those things while needing the team to blow out each of its opponents?

Since your tag is the standard is the standard - please give me a very concrete object that will convince you. I suspect not even another sb win would convince you Tomlin is anything above a dunce.

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by young curmudgeon :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 8:36pm

I agree that Tomlin has many shortcomings. But, rather than complaining, please make a constructive suggestion: with whom do you replace him? Or, to put it another way, let's list all the coaches that are demonstrably superior to Tomlin:

1. Belichick
2. Carroll
3. ?
4. Do I hear Buddy Holly? No, those are just the Crickets.

Is Andy Reid better? Kubiak? Jason Garrett? (?!?!) Bruce Arians (widely hated while he was in Pgh, then apotheosized the moment he left)? Rivera? Zimmer? I remember when there was a huge consensus that Shanahan was a great coach...does his record compare all that favorably to Tomlin's? (I honestly don't recall) This is not just snark and I'm not signing up to be in the Tomlin Fan Club; I'd genuinely like to hear opinions from a number of people on this site as to whose overall accomplishments as a coach mark him as decidedly better than Tomlin, and perhaps a short outline of why.

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by Theo :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 9:12pm

I also think Tomlin is a coach with some major major shortcomings. Which were listed quite clearly. Hes a total tool in game management and it is just never repaired.
Its not that i want him fired, i just want him to progress into a better coach. Even is he wins multiple superbowls in a row, if it's with bad game management and without Bell because he ran him into the ground... then I will still think Tomlin is a tool.

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by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 10:15am

I don't understand why you think running Bell into the ground is a bad thing. Runningbacks are rarely worth giving long term deals to, and generally provide almost all their value on their rookie contract. Running them into the ground is exactly what you want to do.

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by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 1:24pm

Not when they are also your 2nd best WR and have no depth behind @ either position.

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by MJK :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 9:39pm

Off the top of my head, here's an incomplete list of present and recent coaches that I think are superior to Tomlin:

Belichick
Harbaugh
Carroll
Rivera
Del Rio
Coughlin
Kubiak
Gruden

And you might be able to argue McCarthy and Payton. Yes I know Tomlin's win % is slightly better than some of those guys, but there are other factors to control for. Tomlin has never had to want for a franchise QB. He has always played in a division with a perpetual Brown doormat and a hapless Bengals franchise. You never think of him as one of the "great innovators" like Belichick, or winning through audacity, like Del Rio or Rivera.

If I was a GM and had my pick of coaches, I would hire any of those guys ahead of Tomlin. I would probably also include Jim Harbaugh as well.

So Tomlin is not a terrible coach, but he's not elite. Certainly not top 5. Maybe borderline top 10, although there are a number of other coaches that are probably about on his level (Quinn, Arians, Reid, McCoy), so he could sit anywhere between 10-15ish.

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by BJR :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 10:01pm

Del Rio ahead of Reid? Recency bias much?

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by MJK :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 11:37pm

No, actually. I think Reid is a good coach, but with some baffling shortcomings (time management!) that he has always had that have kept him from being a great coach. And I've always liked Del Rio. I thought he was underrated in Jacksonville, and am very pleased to see him thriving now in Oakland.

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by theslothook :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 1:41am

You would rather have Del Rio? Reid has been successful with two different franchises for a prolonged period of time(he's been with the chiefs for 4 years). That kind of track record Del Rio simply hasn't had.

Why is Del rio ahead of Tomlin. And why is Kubiak. Its not like Denver has been with winning offense since Kubiak arrived and Kubiak was at the helm of a 2-14 team(yes matt Schaub imploded, but that hasn't happened to Tomlin and the steelers were pesky even when Big Ben missed games). Don't get me wrong, I like Kubiak a lot as a coach.

And what about Gruden? He's not even been in the league 2 years and the panthers this year have been a major disappointment, just as they were 2 years ago when they were a sub 500 playoff team that lucked into ryan lindley as a qb.

Notice, btw, you didn't say John Fox despite two sb appearances. That is pretty telling.

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by MJK :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 12:15pm

As I said, I've always been a Del Rio fan, for a couple of reasons. First, he knows his X's and O's. He helped build the legendary Ravens 2000 defense, and contributed to the current Broncos recent success, especially on defense.

Second, he's now taken not one but two terrible franchises and got them respectable in a season or two. The Jags were terrible when he took over, and he had them in the playoffs within two seasons, and decent (ableit not great) over an extended span. Keep in mind he shared a division with the Manning-led Colts for almost his entire tenure in Jacksonville. His final undoing came from David Garrard not really being a franchise QB. Now he's taken the third worst franchise in the league for an extended period of time (Oakland) and has them contending for HFA...a feat I can only recall Jim Harbaugh accomplishing in recent years.

Third, I confess that (as a hardcore Patriots fan), I'm a bit swayed by Bill Belichick's opinion. Belichick has at various times cited who he thinks some of the best other coaches in the league are, and Del Rio always figures strongly on his list. I figure the opinion of the best coach in the league counts for something...

Fourth, I see Del Rio on an upwards trend--his coaching ability seems to be evolving and improving--versus some of the other coaches we're discussing (especially Tomlin or people like Marvin Lewis) are fairly stagnant in their skill. I confess this may just be recency bias, or confirmation bias, but that's my perspective.

Finally (and this is fairly important), I tend to like aggressive coaches who innovate and break from conventional wisdom. Going for it on 4th, making the controversial decisions when the math bears them out, etc. One reason I love Belichick is that things like the (in)famous 4th-and-2 call were the right call, regardless of results. I see Del Rio evolving in that direction, especially with his play this year. Same reason I like Rivera.

My big problem with Fox is that when you look up "conservative, by the book, old school coach" in the dictionary, you basically see John Fox's picture. He never met a 4th and short he wouldn't punt on.

Also, when looking at SB appearances, I try to look at context. I don't give Fox very much credit for his success in Denver. In 2011 he squeaked into the playoffs with a 0.500 record due to being in a weak division. After that, Denver's success was largely due to shrewd personnel moves by Elway, Del Rio's defense, and Peyton Manning on Offense.

Fox is a fine coach who gets his team prepared. If you give him really good talent he won't screw anything up. I don't see him as a "turn the franchise around" guy the way I see Del Rio.

I like Kubiak because he's an innovator. Although, I'll grant that you could argue Tomlin over Kubiak and it's not an open-and-shut case either way.

I do really like Reid (clock management notwithstanding) and think Philly fans that badmouth him are kind of foolish. But I would rather have Del Rio right now. Reid is at this point kind of static. I don't see him innovating, getting better as a coach, pushing boundaries, or doing anything to correct his deficiencies. I think the Chiefs are lucky to have him, and upon further reflection, I would put him above Tomlin.

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by tuluse :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 12:54pm

Fox is not an aggressive coach, but he is not schematically conservative.

He made an offense work with Tim Tebow, he made an offense work with Jake Delhomme just throwing to Steve Smith a third of the plays, he let Peyton Manning do his thing when he had him, and he's running a respectable offense with Matt Barkley right now.

He's also run both 4-3 and 3-4 defenses in his career.

"In 2011 he squeaked into the playoffs with a 0.500 record due to being in a weak division. After that, Denver's success was largely due to shrewd personnel moves by Elway, Del Rio's defense, and Peyton Manning on Offense."

Yes it is easy to not like a coach if you give him no credit for anything that happens on his team. Do you really think he had no input on Elway's personnel moves? Do you think he played no part in developing the players they had? Do you think he had no input on the Del Rio's defense?

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by theslothook :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 1:47pm

Fine points on Del Rio, but I feel like with Fox and Reid, they've been coaching long enough that you see their individual warts, but the others on your list haven't been coaching so long so you don't see there's. Its a bit like the backup qb syndrome when your incumbent starter isn't very good.

Jay Gruden has 1 playoff appearance and will now miss the playoffs. So will Rivera and the panthers have underachieved under him several years.

If you're going to credit Del Rio for the ascension of the jags, you must be consistent and blame him for their slide into the abyss. After all, he was the one at the helm when they began their descent from plucky pesky wild card team to cellar dwelling sad sacks.

Hell, a look over the seahawks and their perennial #1 dvoa finishing and you might scoff and say, like Reid antagonists do - 4 years with the best dvoa in football and all you got was one lousy sb against a largely injured opponent?

I don't care for Tomlin that much, but once the standard for good coaching becomes multiple sbs, all your left with is belichick. To me, that's not a meaningful standard at all

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by Winterguard78 :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 2:54pm

Anyone who can say (or type) that Jack Del Rio is a better head coach than Andy Reid with a straight face has 0 credibility (I will also throw in Kubiak who is obviously inferior to John Fox- the best coach in Denver is Son of Bum) We constantly give too much credit to a HC based on SB victories. There are between 3-7 HOF QBs playing in any given year and with the rule changes to ramp up offense any coach who is consistently able to reliably have his team in the postseason without one of those QBs gets the most of my respect. There are very few coaches I would feel confident in predicting them to post multiple winning seasons in a row with middling QB play. I am sure Reid can. I think if Jack Del Rio coached the 2016 Chiefs they're probably closer to 6-8/7-7. In a related note if Miami actually makes the postseason (and not by backing in) I would think Adam Gase had done a remarkable coaching job.

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by tuluse :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 7:06pm

Just to throw some numbers on all of this. Over their careers, Reid has won 60% of his game, Fox: 54%, and Del Rio: 50%.

Interestingly, all 3 have so far done better with their second team.

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by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 12:12pm

I'd say what's most of all kept Reid from getting the "great" label is that he's never had a premium quarterback. It's hard to think of a great coach without a great QB. Give him Brady or Luck or Roethlisberger and Reid becomes great.

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by MilkmanDanimal :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 12:26pm

Peak Donovan McNabb was pretty close to a "premium" QB, though. He's not going to waltz into the HOF, but was clearly very much a top-tier QB for a number of years. There was often crap for a receiving corps, but Reid's major failing in Philly was he managed to be the coach of just not quite the best team for a number of years.

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by Winterguard78 :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 3:37pm

I think that's probably true. A very even-handed analysis of Reid, and yet I'd argue McNabb was never that much ballyhooed label 'elite'. His name in a HOF discussion is rightly scoffed at and he was consistently going against gold jacket QBs in the postseason. The criticisms of Andy are largely overblown in my opinion and it's sort of like those Marv Levy Buffalo teams where people act like they are a punchline when in reality they displayed a consistent level of excellence and Levy deserves as much credit or more for his career than say Jimmy Johnson. The mentality of Super Bowl or he's a joke is not one I'm fond of. I could be biased as a Chiefs fan (I'm sure I am) but I thought Reid was a top 3 coach in Philly. I also think Marty Schottenheimer is at least as deserving of HOF induction as Tony Dingy or Bill Polian- they could even do the right thing and get him in while he is able to understand it. I'd argue Andy is a little better just because Marty could beat you 1 way and I've seen Reid adapt things a lot and improve on just about everything except answering every question after a loss with "Its my fault, I've got to get better at that- etc." You watch your team get run into the ground by rotten fruit from the Patriot coaching stump and Andy with warts and all is like a football God right up there with Belecheck+Carrol+Harbaugh(s?) In my book.

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by Scott de B. :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 11:11pm

Coughlin and Gruden are retired, and Harbaugh is coaching college, so it seems to me you're putting Tomlin in the top 6 of NFL coaches, which sounds ... pretty reasonable to me? And not something you would mark as a major weak spot in your team.

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by MJK :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 11:38pm

I meant John Harbaugh in my list, so Tomlinson is at best about seventh. But there are a bunch of other coaches that I mentioned that are about on par with him, and I just don't watch enough of their games to rank them 1-N definitively. I think Tomlinson is between 7th and 15th.

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by Eddo :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 11:36am

Given your "pocket aces" comment, you expect him to win the Super Bowl nearly every year (after all, pocket aces should win a hold 'em hand nearly every time).

I'm not even saying Tomlin's a great coach - in fact, I'd go so far as to say that the Steelers probably should move on in the next few years unless Tomlin does correct his flaws (namely, in-game management).

That said, he has strengths. He should get credit for Antonio Brown's development into the best WR in the league. Every year, the Steelers offensive line is maligned, and yet they put together a good offense. The defense is never god-awful. And they are consistently in the playoff picture, every year (often making it). There are very many alternatives that would be worse.

And frankly, it's your demand for perfection that's so off-putting. You have never, ever given Tomlin credit for anything he's done. Do you really feel he is 0% responsible for any Steeler success?

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by jtr :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 11:55am

>He should get credit for Antonio Brown's development into the best WR in the league.

Plus all of the other low-drafted guys that the Steelers have made useful WR's out of: Wallace, Sanders, Bryant, Wheaton, and so on. With the exception of this year's injury-and-suspension ravaged receiving corps, every year under Tomlin they have had an above-average set of receivers without ever using a pick before the third round on a WR. Tomlin's coaching background is in both defensive backs AND receivers--and he had more experience at WR than DB as a player. For some reason, the DB's always get brought up as a mark against Tomlin, but the WR's aren't usually brought up as a credit to him.

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by aces4me :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 12:09pm

Given your "pocket aces" comment, you expect him to win the Super Bowl nearly every year (after all, pocket aces should win a hold 'em hand nearly every time).

Poker related not football related. A common misconception is that pocket aces are a sure thing. In fact they only win 33% of the time. That is more than any other pair of cards but hardly a lock.

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by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 12:11pm

...after all, pocket aces should win a hold 'em hand nearly every time....

No, pocket aces are only 5:1 favorites against most random two cards. If there are more people in the hand, odds of winning go down drastically. With 5 players in a hand you're no longer even a favorite most times.

With 32 players....

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by Eddo :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 12:52pm

Thanks, aces4me and bravehoptoad. I actually know that, I guess I just overplayed my statement.

Still, pocket aces are considered a favorite in any hand they're involved in. I think it's very misleading to claim that Tomlin "was dealt pocket aces" - that implies the Steelers should be the Super Bowl favorite every year, which is quite simply not true.

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by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 1:00pm

To that point, he inherited a Steelers team that went 8-8.

While they did win the Super Bowl just two years before, they were already missing several god starters and solid contributors from that Super Bowl team due to roster attrition:

Jeff Hartings (starting center), Antwan Randle El (starting WR), Kimo von Olhoffen (starting NT), Joey Porter (starting OLB), Chris Hope (starting safety). Add to that a few others that left after '07 (Alan Faneca being the most important).

I find it hard to believe he really inherited 'pocket aces'. It wasn't like he was Gruden stepping into the 2002 Bucs, or even John Harbaugh, who I personally think is a first tier NFL coach, inheriting most of the remnants of one of the best defenses of the decade.

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by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 1:42pm

The 8-8 he inherited was because the QB nearly died twice in the off/pre-season, lost his weight/strength, got concussed and spent the first 9 weeks of the season useless. They closed the season 6-2, much more reflective of the roster talent.

Be honest, he inherited a roster stacked with 5-6 HOF caliber players including @ QB, 2 DPOYs

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by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 4:40pm

Both of those DPOYs won that award when Tomlin was coaching.

5-6 HOFers seems like a real stretch. Ben, Troy, Ward? Who else?

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by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 4:56pm

thanks for making me do the math, I was wrong. He actually inherited (some albeit briefly) 7 players with actual HoF caliber {Not that all will get in}

Ben, Ward, Polamalu, Harrison, Smith, Hampton, Faneca

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by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 5:21pm

Yes, and went 10-6 (9-3 before injuries set-in) and 12-4 (with a Super Bowl win) with those guys.

From '09 onwards, a lot on that list started to get worse (Ward, Smith, Polamalu, Fanaca was gone after '07).

I don't disagree that he inherited a lot of talent, but I don't think he necessarily underachieved with that talent. The worst of the Tomlin years, to me, was 2009 and then 2012-13, but a lot of his initial core that he inherited was gone by that point.

Also, I really have to argue Hampton, Smith, Harrison as HOF caliber. They may have had HOF peaks, but all far quite short of HOF. Hampton might be the closest. Smith was way too injury prone and Harrison started too late.

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by Bright Blue Shorts :: Wed, 12/21/2016 - 6:18am

Ok, so Tomlin inherited a talented roster.

But what did his predecessor (Cowher) do with it? One SB win and a wasted 15-1 season.

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by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Wed, 12/21/2016 - 10:40am

If Tomlin averaged an AFC CG and a SB win every 3 seasons, I wouldn't be complaining.

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by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 12/21/2016 - 11:55am

So basically he had to have Belichick-like results?

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by Eddo :: Wed, 12/21/2016 - 12:08pm

Even then, Belichick has four Super Bowl wins in sixteen years, which is short of "a SB win every 3 seasons" (the Patriots would have to win the next two Super Bowls to get him to six in eighteen seasons). It's also odd that it's in response to a post about Cowher, who had as many Super Bowl wins and appearances as Tomlin in a longer career in Pittsburgh.

Also, as for not complaining: as early as April, 2010, "FireOmarTomlin" (who I'm 99% sure is the same person as "Tomlin_Is_Infallible") was posting on FO ("FIRE OMAR TOMLIN!"). And at that point, Tomlin had - you guessed it - one Super Bowl win in three seasons.

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by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Wed, 12/21/2016 - 12:22pm

Interestingly enough , Belichick 25% hit rate almost mimics the 31% rate for pocket aces against a big field. Tomlin's hit rate is more like being dealt pocket 4's against the same field. I'd argue that (on paper) his rosters are not that much inferior to that of Belichiks.

As to your powers of deduction, yes I am the same person (thank jeeebus the guy who b4nned me for supposedly h4ting Tomlin out of rac1sm no longer contributes here). Imagine his mind pretzel seeing me praise Richard Mann? Anyways, yes, I was pointing out Tomlin's deficiencies as a coach even back then. I realized even back then the team would never win another SB under his control. Sadly, looks like I will be right. Trading Holmes away for nothing should have been an indicator. I.I.R.C. he still cr@pped out about 15 TDs.

FOAD Captcha/spam filter
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by Eddo :: Wed, 12/21/2016 - 12:29pm

It's always fair to point out coaches' shortcomings, even after a championship, if you aren't obnoxious about it. Anyway, you said you wouldn't be complaining if a coach won a Super Bowl every three years, and yet, after three years and one Super Bowl, you were complaining.

Also, I won't argue that Tomlin doesn't have a strong roster - he does - but if you're going to blame Tomlin for trading away Holmes, what sort of credit does he get for putting together the current strong roster?

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by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Wed, 12/21/2016 - 12:12pm

You stated what Cowher did with (the same roster, namely BigBen @ QB)

Tomlin hasn't duplicated that hit rate. Logically therefore, the highest one can grade Tomlin is .....

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by Eddo :: Wed, 12/21/2016 - 12:18pm

Huh? Cowher had one Super Bowl win and two total appearances in fifteen years coaching the Steelers. Tomlin has the same counts, but in ten (I'll even give you this year, though obviously not set in stone).

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by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Wed, 12/21/2016 - 12:32pm

The fifteen years has nothing to do with what we were discussing.

Everyone here is always so focused to try and insult me , or show me I'm wrong (with strawmen like "never praise"), or that I'm this or that. Nobody ever apparently READS. Let's put some color-coded red on here to help emphasize.

http://i.imgur.com/ZZ98XxK.png

If you want to argue that as far back as 2004/2005, the star QB wasn't important and the most important part of "the roster", I suppose you could. But I'm going to tune out at that point.

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The standard is the standard!

205
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Wed, 12/21/2016 - 3:50pm

I don't think anyone is trying to insult you.

We're all just incredulous (or at least most of us are) that you support a team that's been one of its conference's most successful over the past decade and you're unhappy with the coach and don't give him any credit for that.

While I'm not a believer in sticking with something just because it isn't broken; personally I don't think the Steelers are broken. Fans of Green Bay and the Bengals are probably in similar or worse positions.

Fact is, I don't really know why anyone bothers to discuss this stuff with you because you're basically intransigent in your belief that Tomlin isn't good enough. Even if he were to win the Super Bowl this year, I'm pretty certain you'd highlight that it is "the year of no great teams".

208
by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Wed, 12/21/2016 - 10:54pm

If the Burfict and Pacman hadn't lost their collective shit and gifted the Steelers the game last season in the playoffs, Tomlin wouldn't have a playoff win since 2010.

With the offensive talent on this team, that is the definition of "broken"
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The standard is the standard!

209
by theslothook :: Thu, 12/22/2016 - 1:12am

Why is it Tomlin's fault though? Are we going to hold the 11+ players on offense accountable plus the offensive coaches or do you have some incontrovertible evidence that Tomlin is the reason? Btw...when everyone else is reacting to you with amusement rather than serious discord, you really ought to rethink your position.

210
by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Thu, 12/22/2016 - 10:05am

I guess I'm just an old soul in a young body, but I remember "The buck stops here".

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The standard is the standard!

211
by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Thu, 12/22/2016 - 10:07am

"Btw...when everyone else is reacting to you with amusement rather than serious discord, you really ought to rethink your position."

So everyone agrees with me? I don't need to rethink my position then. Fantastic.
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The standard is the standard!

206
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Wed, 12/21/2016 - 7:41pm

Further to my comment in #205 ... Tomlin took over in 2007 and since then he's never had a losing season just a couple of 8-8s.

If I'm not mistaken there's only one team in the league which can better that - unsurprisingly it's the Patriots with double-digit winning seasons every year.

Every other team in the league has had at least one losing season since 2007. Green Bay are close with only 1 losing season in 2008 (6-10). Even taking Andy Reid's stints at Philadelphia and KC in combination - he still had a 4-12 season in 2012.

I don't know what all this accumulates to in win-losses but I'm pretty certain the Steelers are very near the top. Yet somehow you're not happy with that. I understand you think the team could or should have done better but to just rag on Tomlin without ever acknowledging some of the good things seems unfathomable.

I hope when he's gone - the Steelers hire the next Richie Petitborn, Ray Handley or Jim Tomsula so you've really got something to moan about.

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by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Wed, 12/21/2016 - 10:52pm

When you get to play Cleveland 2x a year, 8-8 is not the measure of a winning/losing season.

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The standard is the standard!

212
by Steve in WI :: Thu, 12/22/2016 - 2:50pm

There's a sort of parallel between poker and sports here, in that there is always a favorite but when there are many teams in the league/players in a hand that favorite does not have a really high probability of winning. The NFL is like someone being dealt pocket aces, and then limping into the pot along with the other 9 players at the table. Before the flop, the guy with the aces will be the favorite, but it is still more likely he will lose the hand than win it. (Which goes back to the original analogy and how someone plays their hand. If you raise big and get to a showdown with one other player, then yes, you'll win more than you lose.)

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by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 1:37pm

Pocket Aces only have 49% equity in a 6way against random cards (let's say that yearly there are between 6 and 10 teams with a legit shot at the SB) and 31% or so in a 10way.

They only have 84% equity headsup against any random2. Not sure where you get this "every time" when I said it was limped.

As to AB84, no Richard Mann should get the credit, as should BigBen.

As to yearly playoffs, they get 2 free wins a year against the Browns. an 8-8 season is really a 6-8 season. 9-7 is the real 500.

I never demand perfection, but I will say he gets in their way of succeeding far more than he helps it. That* is why he is a shitty coach and needs to go.

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The standard is the standard!

174
by jtr :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 1:44pm

>As to AB84, no Richard Mann should get the credit, as should BigBen.

When the wide receivers do well, it has nothing to do with Tomlin, it's just the WR coach. But when the DBs play poorly, it has nothing to do with the DB coach, it's all Tomlin's fault. Got it.

177
by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 1:54pm

the Steelers track record of developing WRs has gone through the roof under Mann, not under the entirety of Tomlin.
some might say coincidence. others might simply say occams razor.

regarding your snark though, TOMLIN IS SUPPOSED TO BE A DAMNED DB GURU!
THAT IS HIS CALLING CARD. DO YOU EVEN KNOW HIS COACHING RESUME??!??!?!?!?!
http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/teamdef2002

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The standard is the standard!

179
by jtr :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 2:26pm

His first college coaching jobs were as coaching wide receivers, and as a college player he played WR and TE. His NFL position coaching experience was with DB's, but I don't think that totally negates his experience with WR's.

189
by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 5:02pm

And he was so great at coaching WRs he got hired up to do it at bigger schools, then the next level..... oh wait..... Well, surely after his short stint at TB DB coach, he got promoted to Offensive Coordinator somewhere....

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The standard is the standard!

186
by Eddo :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 4:41pm

Also, Tomlin is the one who brought Mann in (per Steelers.com, but I'm sure that's just full of pro-Tomlin propaganda). But no, no credit for good hires.

187
by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 4:50pm

He also brought Carnell Lake in and promoted Keith Butler.

No blame for bad hires.

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The standard is the standard!

191
by Eddo :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 6:43pm

No, he gets blame for bad hires, too. But here's the thing - you're the only one who insists on Tomlin either being 100% bad or 100% good! Everyone on the "pro"-Tomlin side is simply arguing against your "he's the worse coach EVAR!!!" posts(*), not trying to say Tomlin's some perfect, HOF-caliber coach.

(*) And if you don't believe that, maybe you should tone down your anti-Tomlin screeds, or at least acknowledge some of his positives.

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by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Wed, 12/21/2016 - 12:15am

I acknowledged some of his strengths in a earlier post in this very thread.

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The standard is the standard!

195
by Eddo :: Wed, 12/21/2016 - 10:33am

You mean this?

"So other than the fact the players seem to like him, what DOES he do well in YOUR opinion. Cite something other than the fact he won a SB. Barry Switzer did that in the same circumstances. I mean I guess he does a good job looking tough on the sidelines (when they're winning)... and he's probably the best in the league at getting in a returner's way on the sidelines..."

Forgive me if I didn't think you were seriously pointing out strengths.

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by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Wed, 12/21/2016 - 12:33pm

Nope, he's good at those things. And I'm sure they add *some* chance of winning outcomes.

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The standard is the standard!

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by LyleNM :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 6:56pm

Well, you were the one who said crushing and humiliating 1st round defeat. You didn't specify "unless it's the Matt Moore Dolphins". Don't expect us to sit around and let you have your cake and eat it too.

(Oh my God, I got hit by the captcha. Excuse me while I curl into a ball and sob helplessly for the rest of the day.)

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by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 1:59pm

i don't want my cake and eat it too

I'm predicting they lose in the 1st round; I'm simply saying that (unlike you all) my bar for "give credit for work well done" is *NOT* so low that beating the Matt Moore Dolphins earns it. I'm not giving credit for something that even a HS caliber coach should be able to step in and manage with a week of prep. That doesn't mean I have confidence Tomlin will manage it.

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The standard is the standard!

125
by liquidmuse3 :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 7:16pm

Well Mr. Weintraub, he who shall remain nameless took a less talented Denver team (2nd worst the year before, 24th-ranked D) to the second round of the playoffs, beating the #1 pass defense with 300 yards, and only lost to Belichick on the road (in his 16th career start!) But yes, let's never start him again, and watch Bortles play the Jaguars into the ground, watch Osweiler kill the cap and the chances of winning, and watch Simien take a better team straight out of the playoffs. Overanalysis for the loss.

126
by theslothook :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 7:19pm

Except, when you say " he took... so and so to the 2nd round" - its at that point when you start to detect under analysis. As bad as the defense was, the Denver pass offense was even worse and would have set a low dvoa record had he thrown the ball more or started all 16 games. The fact that the team achieved what it did should be lauded as a miracle; not some kind of blueprint for how to win football games.

Honestly - do you really think Jacksonville would be better off with Tebow? I get the sense that people who make this claim must not be watching him carefully enough.

140
by Theo :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 9:14pm

Have you seen Bortles throw a football this year?

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by theslothook :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 1:33am

I am a colts fan so at a minimum I watch him twice a year. He's better than tebow even as a horrible qb.

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by Dales :: Mon, 12/19/2016 - 9:24pm

Tebow? No. But Allen...?

182
by Winterguard78 :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 3:13pm

Maybe if you traded Allen Robinson/Marquees Lee/Hurns/Julius Thomas for like 3 marquee road grading guards and ran The late 1990's Nebraska or maybe recent Georgia Tech offense Tebow could improve on Bortles W/L record. But Tim Tebow makes Brock Osweiler look like Joe Montana. Jacksonville is the kind of team talent-wise that should be in the market for the closest thing to a game manager type guy and a coach who understands complimentary football. I'd be crushed to lose him from KC, but I think ST coach Dave Toulb would make an excellent HC. As long as it's not Tom Coughlin who must hate his family/golf/whatever older conservative gentlemen of leisure do for fun. Hearing his name and that old rummy Bill Polian's tossed around for jobs that are rarer than U.S.Senate seats is crazy. Maybe I'm an ageist, but let's give some young blood with new ideas a shot, hell, maybe even use the Rooney rule as more than a token interview to get out of the way. I cringe when I see what's happening to the health of Bruce Arians (who is fantastic but ought to take a break)

158
by Winterguard78 :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 10:55am

I don't agree with all of your takes, but let's pump the breaks on comparing Tomlin to Andy Reid. Andy is obviously the much better coach and while his time management leaves a lot to be desired, I think he is much maligned by ungrateful Philadelphia writers. Tomlin my have won 1 SB after being gifted a Ben @ QB and an experienced tough aging D. Andy went 2 4 str8 NFCCs with McNabb and Todd Pinkston type skill guys. If Reid has all the breaks this year I wouldn't count him out. You may disregard everything I said if KC losses in round 1 and doesn't draft a QB in the 1st or 2nd in 2017.

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by jonsilver :: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 3:43pm

Given the lackluster reports on qb's available, I wouldn't draw any firm conclusions about drafting ability and knowledge of your team's weaknesses based on what happens regarding that position in the 2017 draft...