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» NFC Championship Preview 2018

Somebody has to Jeff Hostetler their way into Super Bowl LII. Will it be the Eagles, with a tenacious defense and home-field advantage? Or will it be the Vikings, who've gotten a better performance (and more of it) from backup-turned-MVP candidate Case Keenum?

24 Dec 2017

Audibles at the Line: Week 16

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.

Indianapolis Colts 16 at Baltimore Ravens 23

Carl Yedor: I haven't found anything particularly interesting thus far in Colts-Ravens (shocker). Frank Gore scored a touchdown, which I guess is impressive considering that he's 34 years old and in his 13th year in the league. He's over 1,000 all-purpose yards on the season. Joe Flacco has missed some WIDE open receivers, but the heavy wind and rain are likely having an impact there. Michael Campanaro almost gave the Colts a gift of a chance to score just before halftime when he muffed a punt, but Baltimore was able to recover it. The Ravens then punted, leading to Adam Vinatieri attempting a 60-yard field goal with the wind at his back as time expired. It fell short. Currently 13-7 at the half, and I think I've seen enough for this afternoon. One-word summary of this game: meh.

Dave Bernreuther: The first half of this now-rainy thriller has mercifully gone by quickly. The Ravens marched right down the field out of the gates, only to stall and take a field goal after easily converting a fourth-and-1 inside field goal range on the previous series. Somewhat surprisingly, the Colts methodically drove the other way, nearly chewing up the entire first quarter in one drive apiece before Adam Vinatieri's field goal attempt was blocked, which I believe puts the nail in the coffin for the $500,000 bonus that Jim Irsay ought to pay him anyway.

Thus far both quarterbacks have amused me with some negative-ALEX decisions made while not even under duress. Two plays before the field goal, on second-and-8, Flacco decided to throw a pass to a completely covered Alex Collins 4 yards behind the line of scrimmage when he could easily have thrown it away. That play had no chance at all, and it was easy to see. Jacoby Brissett's ended up far better. After being given what felt like seven seconds as five Colts blockers completely stonewalled five Ravens rushers (this might have been the best pass protection by a Colts line since Tarik Glenn retired), he checked down to Jack Doyle, who then ran for a first down.

If Trent Green is to be believed, the Colts -- they of the highly regarded pass rush -- managed to flush Joe Flacco from the pocket when sending TWO pass-rushers near the end of the half. That amused me.

Otherwise there's not much to say. The Ravens are not a good team, but they're the better team, so they moved the ball against a terrible Colts defense and have scored three times to take a 13-7 lead. Baltimore's defense, honestly, doesn't look too interested in playing hard today. The Colts have moved the ball well on two drives, which shouldn't be the case against a defense that's capable of pitching shutouts. Other than pass block better than anyone gives them credit for, the Colts have not done anything unusual or impressive on offense. Jack Doyle has been their star, with several catches and also solid blocking on the screen pass to Gore that went for a touchdown. Nothing about this Ravens team so far is anything that should scare paranoid Patriots fans about January.

Oh, man ... They let Vinatieri try a wind-assisted 60-yarder at the end of the half and he hit it dead straight ... and it damn near made it. I stand by my earlier comment about his $500,000 bonus for 90 percent makes. Two tough asks in a blizzard, a block, and a desperation 60-yarder ... none of those four misses should be held against him.

Scott Kacsmar: You can't say the Kamar Aiken revenge game isn't living up to the hype, because it never had any hype to begin with. Remember when Aiken caught 75 balls for 944 yards for the 2015 Ravens after all of their receivers were hurt? He has done very little since then. For Indianapolis this year, he came into the game having caught 14-of-41 targets for 131 yards. He dropped his only target today, which was an ugly one since it would have given the Colts a first down and helped make a field goal easier for Vinatieri. Sometimes wide receivers break out because they're truly gifted players who just needed an opportunity. In Aiken's case, he was just the last guy standing in 2015.

Dave Bernreuther: I fell asleep for most of the second half, so I will go ahead and echo Carl's one-word description of this one.

The Ravens just barely won a home game that went to the wire against a 3-11 team with a terrible defense, pretty much entirely because Jacoby Brissett is bad, and they're now virtually a lock for the playoffs in the 2017 AFC.

Minnesota Vikings 16 at Green Bay Packers 0

Bryan Knowles: Man, this game looked a lot more exciting before last week, didn't it? Aaron Rodgers coming back, possibility of a miracle playoff run in play. Instead, we're getting a relatively snoozy contest in freezing cold weather, with both teams looking like they'd rather be anywhere else.

The Packers are the walking wounded -- besides Rodgers, Damarious Randall, Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Jahri Evans, and Davante Adams were all inactive coming in, and Jason Spriggs hurt his knee on the first play of the game. It's safe to say that has had a BIT of a chilling effect on their play in this one. That being said, you'd expect the Vikings to be rolling through -- they're a playoff team against a busted up offense and defense, and yet ... it's just 10-0 at the half, and they were a Brett Hundley red zone interception away from being in a one-score game. The Vikings have lost Nick Easton, Kevin McDermott, and Shamar Stephen as well, so it's not like they're at full strength, but I don't know -- I was expecting to see a little more out of the offense. We'll see how the second half goes.

The most interesting moment of the first half was an officiating snafu -- the Vikings were driving in the two-minute drill, but Adam Thielen was stopped short on a second-down play. Confusion with the chain crew, however, led the Vikings to think they had gotten the first down, and they were slightly peeved, a play later, to realize it was fourth down and time to punt. Turns out, third-down and first-down strategy are a little different, and they were rightfully chewing the refs out as they went to the locker room.

I can confirm that a football game happened, and that it took 60 minutes. That's about all you can take from this one. From the score, you'd think the Packers just got nothing going all night, but they actually outgained the Vikings (by 3 yards, but still). It was actually a fairly equal game -- had the Packers managed to turn their two red zone opportunities into points (rather than an interception and a turnover on downs), this might have gotten into a bit of a tricky situation for the Vikings at the end. Still, you can't knock the team's first shutout in 24 years, and part of their low yardage total might have been the lack of any real need to push the ball downfield.

Atlanta Falcons 13 at New Orleans Saints 23

Bryan Knowles: Marshon Lattimore versus Julio Jones is going to be a fun matchup to watch, today and going forwards. Lattimore ends a promising drive with a heck of a play on Jones on a third-down play. Jones looks healthy, though, which was a big question mark going in. Good! Games of this magnitude should be decided by healthy players, and that matchup is going to be something to shadow all day. Falcons moving the ball fairly well early, but a Jake Matthews holding call pulled back a long Devonta Freeman run. The Falcons got the better of the yellow hankies two weeks ago; we'll see what happens today.

The Falcons may be aware of people going "oh, well, if Alvin Kamara had been healthy, they don't win the first matchup." The Saints just tried a toss to him on third-and-3 in the red zone, and I'm pretty sure the entire Falcons defense sniffed it out and tackled him, forcing the Saints to settle for a field goal.

Vince Verhei: Biggest play of the first quarter technically never happened. Falcons had a fourth-and-1 at their own 40 and went for it (!), even calling a timeout to make sure they were all on the same page in the noise of the Superdome. Devonta Freeman looked to pick up a first down on a simple I-formation off-tackle run, but the Falcons were called for a false start. So they ended up punting.

Surprising star of the quarter: Manti Te'o. He has already made a couple of tackles for loss, and Freeman and Tevin Coleman haven't done anything at all on the ground yet.

Zach Binney: With about 12 minutes left in the second quarter, the Falcons piled up enough penalty yards to face a first-and-40! Does anyone know the record for longest first down to-go distance? I'm not sure I've ever seen that.

Dave Bernreuther: I forgot to mention the second-and-32 that Flacco ran himself into last night, which is up there among the highest I've seen. I think 37 is the highest I can remember, and it was certainly on third down. I've never seen a 40, let alone on first down (!)

Vince Verhei: That was amazing, and worth breaking down in detail:

  • First-and-10, false start, loss of 5.
  • First-and-15, facemask on Freeman (grabbing Te'o's facemask -- he's still making an impact), loss of 15.
  • First-and-30, offensive pass interference on Mohamed Sanu, loss of 10.
  • First-and-40, Freeman run for 5.
  • Second-and-35, Ryan-to-Hooper, gain of 5.
  • Third-and-30, Cameron Jordan sack, loss of 5.
  • Fourth-and-35, 55-yard punt, fair catch.

In the end it's just one drive and it won't kill them, but that was an amazing streak of incompetence in what feels like a must-win game.

PFR lists two first downs with 40 or more yards to go since 1994. One was just a few weeks ago. The Vikings had a first-and-40 against the Packers in October of this year. Before that, you'd have to go back to 1997, when the Saints had a first-and-44 against the Raiders.

Bryan Knowles: Guys, it's not even the first first-and-40 ~this season~. Vikings-Packers back in October, thanks to a facemask and illegal blindside block. They didn't convert.

Oddly, those are the second- and third-longest first downs in PFR's play database (going back to 1994). There was a first-and-44 in a 1997 Saints/Raiders game, which is as far back as PFR's play finder goes. Not a lot of plays in your playbook and so on and so forth with the cliche.

Zach Binney: Thanks for looking up that penalty yardage stat, guys! I swear I know how to use PFR, I just didn't feel like fiddling with it on my phone.

Bryan Knowles: Butt-ception! Matt Ryan's slant, off of his receiver's hands, on to Marshon Lattimore's posterior, scooped up for the interception. Is there anything that rookie can't do? Good, uh, butt control.

Andrew Potter: #Assterception!

I'm sure I described something like that in this week's Scramble, though I thought if it would happen to anybody, it would happen to the Chargers.

Vince Verhei: Something about high-stakes games makes coaches courageous. Saints have a fourth-and-1 at the Falcons 12, and they turn down the automatic field goal to go for it. Brees stumbles coming out from center and then bumps right into Mark Ingram, but the handoff is clean, and the play is blocked so well Ingram gets the first down anyway. Saints can't do anything after that though, and after a fumbled handoff on third down, they end up kicking a field goal from the ... 11. It's good for a 6-0 lead.

And then Matt Ryan's insanely unlucky year continues as we get the BUTT-INTERCEPTION. Ryan's pass hit's Marvin Hall right in the hands, but Hall tips it into the air. Marshon Lattimore falls to his belly trying to make a play on the ball, but the ball comes down and balances right on his heiny. I'm not sure certain if he knew it was there or not, but it sure looked like he was delicately trying to just maintain position and not let it fall to the turf. Then he curled it up in his hamstring and secured it for the turnover.

And that leads to Brees hitting Ted Ginn on a deep corner route for a 54-yard touchdown, and suddenly New Orleans is up 13-0.

It was Desmond Trufant in solo coverage on Ginn's long touchdown, by the way.

Falcons offense really was quiet that half. I suppose that's obvious since they have zero points, but they also have only five first downs, they're 0-for-4 on third downs, and they haven't run a play in New Orleans territory yet.

     

Scott Kacsmar: Wild start to the second half. Saints were looking to go up 20-0 after a big kick return by Alvin Kamara, but a tipped pass by Brees was intercepted, nearly for a pick-six. Just when you think the Falcons could cut the lead in half, Devonta Freeman fumbles at the 1-yard line and the Saints got it back again. The 2017 Falcons give new meaning to "game of inches" with all these plays this year.

Vince Verhei: Well, plenty of excitement in the first 90 seconds of the second half. Saints have Alvin Kamara returning the opening kickoff (he had just five kick returns all year coming into the day). It looks like he is going to be tackled inside the 10, but he is incredible and slips away, cuts across the field, and runs it out nearly to the 50. Brees' pass then hits Ginn in the hands on a short curl, but Ginn gonna Ginn, and the ball is tipped in the air and Deion Jones intercepts it and runs it back to the Saints 2. One way or another, the Falcons' first score seems inevitable, but then on second down Devonta Freeman loses the ball and Te'o is there again with the fumble recovery. Saints take over as every takes a deep breath and just starts the half over.

Bryan Knowles: Cam Jordan has his "triple-double": double-digit sacks, tackles for a loss and passes deflected. Since the NFL started tracking defensed passes 10 years ago, only two players have put up a triple-double: Jordan and J.J. Watt. Been a heck of a season for him; he should be in the conversation for defensive player of the year.

Saints sitting on a 20-3 lead and are about to clinch a playoff berth for the first time since 2013. Amazing what having a competent defense can do for a team.

Vince Verhei: OK, I realize they had a fourth-and-17 at their own 3, but Atlanta just punted down two touchdowns with four minutes to go. I'd rather take my chances on one deep shot to Julio Jones than expect to get the ball back, score, and then get the ball back and score again. Matt Bosher's punt doesn't even reach midfield, and the Saints take over at the 33. They can gain zero yards on this drive and still try a game-clinching field goal. And in fact, they gain 3 yards and no first downs, but Wil Lutz connects from 45. Saints now up 23-6 with barely three and a half minutes left and this one seems done.

Realistically, though, the game ended on the first play of the fourth quarter, when Freeman was stuffed for no gain on a fourth-and-goal at the 1. That was the second time this half the Falcons had a first-and-goal and came away with zero points. Down 17, it must have been a very hard decision to go for it or kick the field goal there. I can't fault them for being aggressive, but it didn't go their way.

Rivers McCown: Buttception aside, this felt like one of those games where the Falcons just weren't coached well enough to win. I think we all knew to subjectively downgrade Atlanta a bit because of Kyle Shanahan leaving and pure regression hitting their offense -- but Steve Sarkisian's inability to have any nuance pre-snap for Matt Ryan to read is malpractice.

Buffalo Bills 16 at New England Patriots 37

Aaron Schatz: We're early in the second quarter. The Bills just made it down to the goal line based almost entirely a 46-yard deep pass to Deonte Thompson, who whipped Malcolm Butler early in the route by starting right then switching to go left across the field. Left Butler three or four steps behind him. It's going to be interesting to see what happens to Butler in free agency. Everyone around the Patriots press agrees that he's had a poor year compared to last year. I think he's at least an average NFL starting cornerback, and that's a good thing to have. It's a good thing to have in your No. 2 corner. You don't pay that guy like a No. 1 corner, and Butler wants to be paid like a No. 1 corner.

But the Bills play calling leaves something to be desired. A couple of times, they've gone empty on third-and-2. This is a team with LeSean McCoy. He is ON THE TEAM. Hell, on third-and-2 from the 6 he was split wide and was the intended receiver. You don't want a threat of a run from McCoy on a third-and-2? Near the goal line? The Bills at least put him in the backfield when they went for it on fourth-and-2. That was a good decision, because field goals are unlikely to beat the Patriots. But McCoy went on a route, and Tyrod Taylor got sacked. So it's still 3-3. For now, field goals would beat the Patriots. I have a feeling that won't be true by the time we hit the fourth quarter.

Dave Bernreuther: As a Colts fan, nothing critical I say of Tom Brady will ever be taken seriously, but I wonder if perhaps the opinions of my Pats fan friends might: Brady is, again, slowly losing arm strength and accuracy as the season goes on.

Cian Fahey pointed this out about last year, showing how in games 13, 14, and 15 of his season (the playoffs), he threw far more interceptable passes than in the rest of the season, culminating in the Super Bowl, which still worked out well of course. But the same thing seems to be happening over the last few weeks, since about the Miami game. It's still the Pats, of course, so you can bet they've planned for this for a while. I'm sure there's a reason he's on a pitch count and is sitting out practices lately. I wonder, though, if that's enough for him to have enough juice for Game 19 this season. (You'll note that I'm just making the assumption that they're playing in February anyway.)

He's still ridiculously good and smart, though, throwing a completely safe and accurate pass directly at the pylon ... but even so, good lord that's a ridiculous catch by Rob Gronkowski for the touchdown.

Vince Verhei: Oh my god. Rob Gronkowski's one-handed touchdown catch to tie the game in the second quarter. Good lord. That guy is ridiculous.

Aaron Schatz: I'm very frustrated by the overturned Kelvin Benjamin touchdown that ended the first half of the Buffalo-New England game.

First, I'm frustrated because I don't know what happened to the concept of "incontrovertible evidence." I don't know why we're overturning plays when the replays don't make it clear the play should be overturned. I don't think there was clearly evidence that Benjamin was still juggling the ball when he had his foot tap in-bounds, and didn't have clear possession until the foot was out of bounds.

Second, I'm frustrated because there are a lot of otherwise respectable journalists on Twitter who have fallen into conspiracy thinking when it comes to the Patriots. I understand that this is the second "ball is being juggled" catch rule interpretation that has taken a touchdown off the board against the Patriots in the last two weeks. I understand that many people also still remember the Austin Seferian-Jenkins play. It's still ridiculous to think that there's some sort of edict from the NFL offices in New York ordering the league's officiating crews to always interpret every challenge in the Patriots' favor. The Patriots were not involved in the Calvin Johnson game. The Patriots were not involved in the Dez Bryant game. The Patriots did not force Derek Carr to fumble through the end zone a couple weeks ago. We've been going through this stuff with both the catch rule and the touchback-through-the-end zone rule ALL SEASON LONG, and with all 32 teams, all over the league. Whatever the problems with the catch rule, whatever the need to tweak it or clarify it or whatever we want to do with it, the problem here is the rule, not some sort of league-wide conspiracy that favors the New England Patriots. You know, the team whose fans are obsessed with telling the commissioner to go screw himself.

It's now 23-16, start of the fourth quarter. After marching up the field again, the Bills just tried a 50-yard field goal instead of going for it on fourth-and-1. Why? They have Shady McCoy. They're down 7. It's the Patriots. They're on the road. They have Shady McCoy. They have a mobile quarterback if they want to zone-read. Did I mention Shady McCoy???

The kick was short.

Dave Bernreuther: Why is there only one coach in football who is aware that outdoor 50-plus-yard field goals are not a sure thing?

Fourth-and-1 and the Bills choose to try a long field goal. I don't care how good Steven Hauschka is, that's not a gimme. You're outdoors, on the road, against a much better team, and you're down by a touchdown in the fourth quarter. GO FOR IT.

Outraged, the football gods pushed it wide (and short -- it didn't have a prayer), and TMQ wrote the words Game Over in his notebook.

Tony Romo with the funny... called a fan wearing a Grinch mask Bill Belichick.

Ugh, that's so frustrating as an upstate New Yorker ... you haven't been stopping them. Even if the field goal was good, you're probably 50/50 to get the ball back down 7 to 11 points. Even if that field goal was a 100 percent chance, rather than 33 percent, that was a stupid decision.

The Pats are already at the 10 going the other way just while I looked down to type this.

Aaron Schatz: And Dion Lewis scored as I read your email. There's no run defense without Marcell Dareus. It's a shame because the pass coverage has been phenomenal today. Tre'Davious White, of course, but also Shareece Wright, and the safeties, Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde. I mean, sometimes Gronk is just going to catch it no matter how good the coverage, but there have been plenty of times Brady falls back with strong protection and he just hasn't been able to find anyone open.

Rivers McCown: The Kelvin Benjamin play was a great argument to end instant replay, which took five minutes to reach exactly the wrong conclusion. What will instead happen is that the NFL will go back to the drawing board, make the catch ruling even more convoluted somehow, and then make every instant replay go straight to commercial break.

Buffalo made four trades since August, Dareus to the Jags, Sammy Watkins to the Rams, Benjamin from the Panthers, Ronald Darby to the Eagles. E.J. Gaines has a bottom 20 success rate among qualifying cornerbacks, Benjamin has 14 receptions in five games. The Bills had the 28th-ranked run defense DVOA coming into today and gave up 193 rushing yards. All four of the teams they traded with are already locked into the playoffs. This is in addition to starting Nathan Peterman and constantly using Mike Tolbert in 2017.

If you can't spot the sucker at the table...

Aaron Schatz: Meanwhile, I decided to take my own look at Cian Fahey's theory about older quarterbacks declining at the end of the season. I put a quick-and-dirty study together during breaks in play and halftime. I took every quarterback at age 36 and over since 2000, and compared DVOA in Weeks 1-13 to Weeks 14-17. I only included quarterbacks who started at least 14 games in a given year, since the idea is that older quarterbacks get tired and therefore guys who played half a season shouldn't fall prey to the issue. Now this is only DVOA, not looking at specifics like accuracy or throwing deep. I also looked at regular-season only, and didn't go get the playoff stats for these guys.

There was no clear trend for the 36-year-old quarterbacks. But the trend for the quarterbacks at 37 or above is very, very strong. This should be a bit of a worry for Patriots fans AND New Orleans Saints fans. There are 18 seasons on this list, and 13 of them saw the quarterback's passing DVOA drop by at least 10 percentage points in the final month of the season.

Player Year Team Age DVOA 1-13 DVOA 14-17 Dif
Carson Palmer 2016 ARI 37 -8.9% -4.1% +4.8%
Vinny Testaverde 2001 NYJ 38 -8.9% -5.9% +3.0%
Peyton Manning 2013 DEN 37 43.2% 43.1% -0.1%
Brett Favre 2009 MIN 40 34.7% 33.7% -1.0%
Brad Johnson 2006 MIN 38 -17.5% -23.7% -6.2%
Rich Gannon 2002 OAK 37 24.9% 13.6% -11.2%
Brett Favre 2006 GB 37 1.4% -9.9% -11.4%
Drew Brees 2016 NO 37 26.6% 14.3% -12.3%
Vinny Testaverde 2000 NYJ 37 6.5% -8.0% -14.5%
Doug Flutie 2001 SD 39 7.2% -7.4% -14.5%
Tom Brady 2015 NE 38 22.4% 7.2% -15.2%
Vinny Testaverde 2004 DAL 41 6.6% -10.0% -16.7%
Brett Favre 2007 GB 38 27.6% 9.0% -18.6%
Tom Brady 2014 NE 37 24.2% -3.4% -27.6%
Kurt Warner 2008 ARI 37 22.8% -8.6% -31.4%
Peyton Manning 2014 DEN 38 31.0% -2.8% -33.8%
Brett Favre 2008 NYJ 39 0.1% -35.3% -35.5%
Kurt Warner 2009 ARI 38 27.0% -27.7% -54.7%

Los Angeles Rams 27 at Tennessee Titans 23

Bryan Knowles: We're going to have more kicking tryouts in Los Angeles this week. Replacing All-Everything kicker Greg Zuerlein, Sam Ficken has now missed a field goal AND an extra point. No es Bueno. The Rams have been very fortunate with injury luck in this, the season where everyone and everybody seems to be hurt. But Zuerlein was just SO good; the drop-off from him to Random Kicker On The Street is massive.

Vince Verhei: Just saw a highlight of Todd Gurley's 80-yard screen pass touchdown, and ... goodness, that is very fast big man. (Remember, I am a professional football analyst. Please don't attempt this kind of cunning insight at home.)

Tom Gower: Holiday obligations limited my viewing of the first half of Titans-Rams, but Todd Gurley with 133 yards receiving through 30 minutes was not a surprise against the defense ranked 31st against running backs by DVOA. Ditto Marcus Mariota's first interception, another ugly pick after an underneath defender didn't bite on what the Titans wanted him to bite on. What I saw looked more like the 17-6 game we could have seen without a missed extra point and short field goal by Not-Greg Zuerlein -- and a short return score of a Jared Goff fumble-sack after a missed block up front left Jurrell Casey free -- than the 13-13 score we got.

Carl Yedor: Crazy stuff in Tennessee. Tennessee catches the Rams coming onto the field late after the touchdown and they pull a surprise onside kick, which they recover because there wasn't a Rams player in sight. But then, we see a flag (likely for offsides), but the officials blow the play dead because they never ruled the ball ready for play (I think?). It wasn't clear, and the crowd is unhappy. After a missed false start on Los Angeles's last touchdown drive, the crowd is now letting the refs hear it every time a call doesn't go their way, regardless of whether or not the call was correct. It will be interesting to see whether the Titans get a favorable call later on due to crowd pressure.

Vince Verhei: As the Titans explain, the Rams called a timeout right before that onside kick that was nullified.

Tom Gower: Rams win 27-23. The Titans seem to be adapting their offense somewhat, running more three-wide receiver sets from more spread looks on early downs even outside comeback and hurry-up situations, and moved the ball last week and decently again this week (or at least that was my casual impression; I'll see what the numbers say later). But the Rams made enough plays. Todd Gurley is the key player for that team, while Jared Goff is, at least for now, very much an on-schedule player who needs things to be right around him. Good enough for an NFC West title this year, but a road playoff game or two will be a different sort of test. As a Rams fan, though, I'd just be enjoying an end to the playoff drought. Heck of a season for that team, no matter what January may bring.

Miami Dolphins 13 at Kansas City Chiefs 29

Dave Bernreuther: It's always noteworthy when Alex Smith throws a deep ball, so I feel obligated to point out that he just threw a DIME to Albert Wilson. Hit him in stride, in the hands, for a sure touchdown ... and Wilson dropped it.

That was not ideal.

Zach Binney: The Miami Dolphins 2017 Season: A Play in One Play. The Dolphins, with around three minutes left in the second, had their longest pass of the season ... a flanker screen to Jakeem Grant for a 65-yard touchdown.

Cleveland Browns 3 at Chicago Bears 20

Vince Verhei: The snowy weather here may actually be making Hue Jackson a better play-caller. All year long, the Browns have been very pass-wacky, even though they are good at running and bad at passing. Today, at halftime, they have 16 passes and 15 runs. The early returns haven't been great -- they're trailing 6-3, they're only averaging 3.5 per carry, and DeShone Kizer has still thrown an interception -- but the first win of the year is there for the taking.

Mitchell Trubisky is doing his best Russell Wilson impression today. He has run for a pair of third-down conversions and a team-high 40 yards. Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard have only 15 yards on seven carries. This is your reminder that Cleveland's run defense is very good.

     

Remember when I said Cleveland's run defense was very good? Well, their coverage against running backs sucks -- 30th in DVOA on passes to running backs coming into today. After a penalty wipes out a Myles Garrett pick-six, they force to short runs to get to third down, but then Benny Cunningham takes a screen pass 40 yards down to the Cleveland 16. Next play, Chicago finally gets a good run as Jordan Howard goes over left guard for the touchdown. Bears lead 13-3, and that feels like ballgame.

Another stuffed run for the Cleveland defense leads to a third-and-14. Trubisky then makes a great play. Browns bring a twisting blitz that leads to an unblocked rusher right in Trubisky's face, but the rookie still delivered a perfect pass to Cohen over the middle for a 13-yard gain. The Bears challenged the spot and lost, bringing up fourth down. And then something amazing happened: with a lead, in the red zone, John Fox opted to go for it on fourth-and-1 rather than kick an easy field goal. Howard converted on a run up the middle, and Trubisky scored a 4-yard touchdown run shortly thereafter. We're still only in the third quarter, but 0-14 teams aren't likely to come back when they're down 20-3.

Everyone do a shot -- the Browns turned the ball over in the end zone. Kizer hit Rashard Higgins on third-and-3. Higgins fell down, but got up and was slipping and scrambling hither and yon across the field and the Bears couldn't bring him down, but then Danny Trevathan clobbered him from behind and the ball got knocked into the end zone, where Prince Amukamara recovered it. That's the ninth time this year Cleveland snapped the ball in the red zone and turned the ball over. Nobody else has more than three.

Bryan Knowles: I'm terrible at wrapping presents. They're sloppy, they have random bits sticking out, they have bows and labels stuck in key, structurally integral positions. They're wrapped at the last minute so that they have to stay together for the shortest possible time. This is because I only wrap things once or twice a year, so any lessons I learned from the time before are forgotten before I get another chance to apply them.

See also: the Cleveland Browns red zone offense.

With their loss today, the Browns have wrapped up the No. 1 draft pick. That rarely happens before the end of the year! Congratulations Cleveland.

Rivers McCown: Imagine being 1-30 under a head coach and sticking with him.

Scott Kacsmar: I'm definitely convinced that the Browns are worse than the 2008 Lions. At least that Detroit team had several close calls and was really more like a 4-12 team who just couldn't catch any breaks. These Browns are just dreadful, and I don't see how you can bring back a coach who is likely to be 1-31 in two years.

Dave Bernreuther: To be fair, Rivers, I don't think the Browns' organizational plan under the Harvard Brain Trust was to try to win. 1-30 is basically their ideal situation as written in April 2016, I think.

Rivers McCown: OK. I don't think the Browns made the talent infusions they did this draft thinking that they'd go 0-16, and I'm not sure how you can't look at the way Hue has handled Kizer's ups and downs by throwing him under the bus and conclude he has the trust of the locker room. Frankly, he has been a massive disappointment as an offensive mind. They expected losses. I don't think they expected things to be this bad.

Vince Verhei: The problem with firing Jackson is, every single move the Browns made this offseason was to get better in 2018 and 2019, not 2017. If you're going to hold Jackson accountable for what happens this year, you don't make the Deshaun Watson trade especially, and you probably don't make the other trades that get you so many picks in the 2018 draft. The goal was not to win this year, it was to get younger and build a team with one strength (the defensive front), which is much better than a team with no strengths, which they have been for years.

But that said, the Browns' coaching this year has been horrible. The offensive game plan is too pass-focused. The defensive secondary plays way too deep most of the time. The handling of DeShone Kizer has been abominable. And, obviously, the draft picks coming down the road weren't enough to save Sashi Brown's job. The Browns said they would retain Jackson when John Dorsey took over, but sometimes plans change.

Rivers McCown: This is a good point. Independent of what happens with Jackson, Gregggggggggggg Williams is an abominable defensive coordinator who deserves to be fired.

Bryan Knowles: It's worth noting that DeShone Kizer extended his record today -- he's the first quarterback in history to lose his first 14 starts. One more (for the 0-16 season), and he'll pull off the anti-Roethlisberger.

There have been plenty of other talent-starved teams in NFL history. None of them have come up shorter more often than Hue Jackson's Browns.

Andrew Potter: The Browns didn't expect a winning season. I don't think for a minute they didn't expect to win at all.

Dave Bernreuther: Oh, I agree. They weren't trying to win, but there was no reason to believe they'd go 0-16 either.

To be clear, I didn't understand Hue's hiring, I don't think he's a good coach, and I don't think he has gotten the most out of a team that, as pointed out, DOES have a strong unit.

But I also think it's unfair to blame him for the fact that Kizer is terrible (he was inaccurate and pretty much awful in college too, so it's not like this was a surprise) or to scapegoat him for a result that is turning out to be better for the team in the long term.

It's a tough call. If I was a Browns fan I wouldn't want him as my coach in 2018. But I also don't blame him much for 2016 or 2017 either.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 19 at Carolina Panthers 22

Aaron Schatz: Well, the Bucs self-destructed at the end of what would have been a huge upset. Chris Baker got caught in a neutral zone infraction on fourth-and-3 from the 5, which then made it fourth-and-1 from the 3. Panthers went with a seven-lineman power set and Jon Stewart picked up the yard. And on the next play, Cam Newton ran QB power and scored despite dropping the ball behind the line of scrimmage and having to pick it up before he ran it in.

That left the Bucs with 35 seconds and no timeouts, and on the first play, Kawann Short sacked Jameis Winston and forced a fumble. And something happened at the bottom of that pile because Winston went completely ballistic. The Panthers recovered, and Winston went crazy, and got an unsportsmanlike conduct flag. Then after the Panthers' first play, he ran off the bench again and started yelling at the Panthers and his teammates had to hold him back. Will be interesting to see what the hell happened there.

New York Giants 0 at Arizona Cardinals 23

Dave Bernreuther: It looks like maybe Odell Beckham is still having an effect on this year's Giants, as Roger Lewis just turned the wrong way, reached behind him with one hand, and reeled in an Eli Manning pass for a catch that rivals Gronk for the best of the day and was far less likely to hold up to review than the Benjamin catch that got reversed.

Nobody cares about this game at all, but that one deserves a gif:

Jacksonville Jaguars 33 at San Francisco 49ers 44

Dave Bernreuther: Raise your hand if you had the 49ers marching straight down the field for a touchdown to open the game. (Liar!)

I know I pick on Blake Bortles a lot, but he just had Dede Westbrook wide open deep and missed him by several yards, leading to a punt. A 49ers field goal later, he threw an easy pick, which came off the board due to a drop.

There's still a chance this team can get the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

Bryan Knowles: *Raises hand, looked around, slowly lowers hand.*

No, no, I didn't have that. The Jaguars have been calling this week "hat-and-t-shirt week," as they have planned to celebrate their divisional title with an easy win over a bad 49ers team. They do get to celebrate that title thanks to the Rams -- but now they're fighting on the sideline, arguing and yelling. The Jags, remember, have a history this season of dropping unexpected games to lower quality teams...

Of course, now we know that the Patriots traded Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers to get a scouting report on a potential playoff opponent. TINFOIL HAT! PRO-PATRIOTS CONSPIRACY!

Wild 30 seconds here. Bortles gonna Bortles, throwing a deflected pass which Dontae Johnson (having a terrible year) intercepts and returns for a touchdown. The ensuing extra point is blocked, and returned all the way for a defensive two-point touchdown, which is still new enough to feel exciting and unusual. 16-2, 49ers, and we're looking at a possible Scorigami.

Aaron Schatz: I know this is a subjective, not analytical point, but San Francisco definitely feels like the better-coached team today. The defense is swarming to the ball, looks really inspired, and the offense is scheming guys open, especially Kyle Juszyzck.

Bryan Knowles: Turns out, Blake Bortles can throw touchdowns off of deflections, too! The man can do anything as long as the ball hits another player first.

All kidding inside, impressive one-minute drill from Jacksonville to tie the game at 16 just before halftime. It looked like they were about to take a two-score deficit into halftime, but Garoppolo threw a wobbler that was intercepted in the end zone, and the Jaguars were able to capitalize. 16-16 going into the half.

I agree with Aaron's point about the coaching, but the big difference between the recent games and the beginning of the season for the 49ers is how offensive plays ... don't end if one thing goes wrong. With Brian Hoyer or C.J. Beathard under center, any pressure ended the play. The primary receiver being covered ended the play. A slip in the backfield ended the play. Garoppolo can sense pressure, keep plays alive and make things happen. That's new! That's not something the 49ers have seen for some time.

Tom Gower: One of the things I looked at lately was what percentage of a quarterback's passes were thrown no more than 5 yards downfield. Hoyer had one of the highest percentages. In his first couple starts, Garoppolo had one of the lowest. Execution, and willingness to throw, matters a lot.

Aaron Schatz: While we're bitching about refs ... the call of forward progress that nullified Matt Breida's fumble in San Francisco seemed awfully quick on the draw. The Jaguars haven't helped themselves with all the penalties, including a couple of unsportsmanlike conducts on that drive. Handsome Jimmy G. just connected with Trent Taylor and it's now 30-19 San Francisco. Jacksonville's inconsistency has struck again today.

And then Blake Bortles throws his third pick of the day on a big miscommunication, he thinks Keelan Cole is turning around to get the back-shoulder throw about 3 yards before Cole actually turns around, and it goes right into the hands of the 49ers defensive back, Ahkello Witherspoon.

Bryan Knowles: Construction of the Jimmy G statue will begin Tuesday morning. 21-for-29 for 242 yards and two touchdowns (and an interception) against the Jaguars defense, and we're in a blowout now.

This is actually mildly annoying, as it takes MORE drama out of Week 17. While this game mattered less for Jacksonville than next week's, it could mean the two bye weeks in the AFC are locked up (if Pittsburgh handles Houston tomorrow). A Jaguars win would have kept three teams in play for two slots.

Vince Verhei: Coming into today, the best NFL passer rating by a starter against Jacksonville was 86.2 by Jared Goff. With about eight minutes left in the game, Garoppolo is at 105.8. He is going to destroy the Quick Reads tables.

Seattle Seahawks 21 at Dallas Cowboys 12

Bryan Knowles: This is a playoff game! Loser goes home (or, uh, plays a meaningless game in Week 17), winner stays alive. Let's just say that I hope the real playoff games are slightly more interesting than this one, which has started with four punts, two of them three-and-outs.

Vince Verhei: No score at the end of the first quarter. Best play of the game might have been by Byron Jones, downing a Chris Jones punt at the 1 and basically turfing a Seattle drive before it even started.

The two themes of the quarter have been the steady success of Ezekiel Elliott (51 yards on 11 carries, with no run longer than 6 yards), and the beating Dak Prescott has taken so far -- no sacks, but three quarterback hits and another big shot on a QB keeper.

Also worth noting that Tyron Smith started the game, but left after the first series, a three-and-out.

Elliott is now up to 15 carries, and ALL of them have gained 2 yards or more. But on third-and-2, instead of just handing off to him, they run an option play to the right side. Elliott is there to take the pitch, but Prescott keeps instead, and he is buried for a loss. That call makes zero sense to me when your quarterback is already getting slammed around. Worse for Dallas, there's a crackback penalty on the play and a 15-yard loss. Prescott hits a short completion to Rod Smith on third-and-long, and then Dan Bailey doinks in a field goal off the upright to put the Cowboys up 6-0 with a little less than six minutes left in the half.

Since Fox doesn't actually care about football, they have devoted most of their coverage to Dez Bryant pouting or whatever on the sidelines for most of the game. He was held without a catch in the first quarter. He finally caught a pass in the second, but Byron Maxwell punched it free and the Seahawks recovered. That led to Jimmy Graham drawing a DPI in the end zone, which in turn set up Graham's 3-yard touchdown to put Seattle up 7-6. Cameras then immediately cut to ... Bryant. Because nothing matters unless viewed through the eyes of how it affects the Cowboys and their players.

Seahawks, by the way, officially have 2 net passing yards on 14 dropbacks. That does not include the 10 yards on Graham's DPI, but it does include yardage lost on three sacks, including Demarcus Lawrence running Wilson down from behind as Wilson was scrambling away from the line of scrimmage, dragging him down for a loss of 22.

Carl Yedor: Byron Maxwell forces a fumble on Dez Bryant's first catch of the day, and Seattle then scores a touchdown with about 1:30 to play in the first half. For a second there, I thought that Russell Wilson might not be involved in an offensive touchdown, but it was not to be. The only time this year where Russell Wilson was not involved in an offensive touchdown was a J.D. McKissic run against the Colts way back in Week 4.

Seattle has recovered both fumbles that hit the ground in the first half, and that is certainly helping them overcome the massive disparity in yards gained. We head to halftime with Seattle somehow only down 9-7.

Vince Verhei: That's two 51-yard field goals for Bailey, one off the right upright, one just inside the left. Dallas has outgained Seattle 179 to 44 and yet you could argue they're lucky to be ahead.

Dave Bernreuther: I was one of those people that figured that Dallas and Dak's 2016 success was unsustainable and bet against them this year, but the reason I'm right is primarily the schedule (possibly also a bit of the suspension and the fires their owner has stoked). Prescott really does appear to have the goods. Despite taking a beating all half, he's as calm as can be, first using some eyes in the back of his helmet to sense Michael Bennett (who came from the strong side but didn't win until he was behind Dak, who was looking left and couldn't possibly have seen him) and step up before running for a first down, then on the next play slipping out of the pocket to throw a pretty pass to Williams for another, leading to the two-minute drill field goal to enter the half up 9-7. That's the kind of stuff you can't teach. He's not quite as adept as the opposing quarterback at throwing with touch when extending plays, but he still does things that make him far more than just a quarterback who benefits from his running game. He's a lot of fun to watch, and count me among the many people who look forward to a decade plus of Dak-Wentz battles.

Bryan Knowles: The Dallas Cowboys are beating the Dallas Cowboys. Dak Prescott just threw a pick-six, giving the Seahawks the lead again. That's his fourth pick-six of the season, the most in the league.

Vince Verhei: Prescott horribly overthrows Elliott, and it's an easy pick-six for Justin Coleman to put Seattle up 14-9, despite being outgained 182-53. Just a terrible throw by Prescott. He had plenty of time, but seemed focused on his primary read. Then when pressure eventually got to him, looked like he panicked. Coleman then jumps in the Salvation Army bucket, which is a penalty because reasons.

Dave Bernreuther: I think I just jinxed Prescott. That pick-six to Coleman was even worse than the stuff for which I routinely mock Bortles. That was at best terrible mechanics on an easy throw; at worst both an awful decision and a worse throw.

With Atlanta thoroughly likely to lose to Carolina next week, that play could well put the depleted Seahawks into the playoffs. Yikes.

Scott Kacsmar: I would rank that Prescott throw up there with the worst of any throw this season. Just late and totally overthrown. Dallas gets a break, though, with a questionable defensive pass interference penalty on the ensuing drive. But another third-down sack of Prescott leads to another field goal. Seattle leads 14-12.

Vince Verhei: There's few things I hate more than bitching about refs, but Dallas just got a 43-yard gain on a penalty when Cole Beasley locked Coleman in a classic Verne Gagne sleeperhold, yet somehow COLEMAN was called for pass interference. Fortunately for Seattle, they get two sacks in the next three plays to force another field goal, and now lead 14-12. One of those sacks was by Shaquil Griffin, which is not unusual today -- Seahawks have used a lot of secondary blitzes today, way more than I can recall in a single game.

Dez Bryant giveth, and Dez Bryant taketh away. Prescott scrambles and finds Bryant deep down the left sideline for a diving catch and a 33-yard gain. But two plays later, Prescott throws behind Bryant on a shallow cross, and Bryant tips it up and into the arms of K.J. Wright. Dallas' offensive numbers after crossing the Seattle 40 are going to be fuuuuuuuuugly.

Third quarter ends with Seattle finally getting a big completion, a 20-yarder to Doug Baldwin on a corner route. They still have just 101 yards of total offense, but they still have a 14-12 lead and the ball in Dallas territory with 15 minutes to play.

Doug Baldwin just scorches Chidobe Awuzie on a corner route for a short touchdown. He was so wide open Wilson only had to lob the ball softly to the corner of the end zone. Officially a 5-yard play, that pass traveled about 10 yards vertically, 20 yards horizontally, and 30 yards over the field surface. Seahawks up 21-12 with 12 minutes to go.

Aaron Schatz: Actually, I believe that's a 22.3-yard diagonal. :)

Andrew Potter: I was just about to say the same! Trigonometry class, Vince!

Vince Verhei: I misspoke. I didn't mean the diagonal of the pass, I meant the elevation. He threw it so high it was like he was trying to hit the roof.

Dallas' best play today has been the DPI against Seattle -- this time on Maxwell in coverage on Noah Brown for 29 yards. That leads to a first-and-goal from the 3. This is Ezekiel Elliott's time and everyone knows it -- except Scott Linehan, who has Prescott passing out of the shotgun on first and second down. Again, from the THREE. Crowd was booing the formations, even before the ball was snapped. Both passes are incomplete, and the second is wiped out by a holding penalty that moves Dallas back. A sack then forces them back more, and Bailey comes on to kick the field goal ... but he's wide right from 34 yards out. Seattle takes over, still up nine, with about five minutes to go.

Bryan Knowles: How on earth do you not give Elliott at least ONE crack at it from there? That's terrible coaching.

Vince Verhei: Interesting call here as the Cowboys have a first down in Seattle territory with about a minute to go, but they're out of timeouts. They spike the clock, but Michael Bennett is offside. (Being offside on a spike is the most Michael Bennett thing ever.) Jason Garrett then calls for the field goal on first-and-5. The thinking here is obviously "We need two scores, let's get one quick so we'll still have time for a second after we get an onside kick." But Bailey misses from 48, the Seahawks kneel out the clock, and that's ballgame.

I keep going back to that Coleman pick-six. It really might have been the worst play of the year. I have no idea what Prescott was doing. I have no idea what Elliott was doing. I don't even know what Bryant was doing behind Elliott -- he gave up on the play before the ball was even in the air. It was really, really weird.

Fox comes through with this fascinating graphic: Seattle becomes the first team to win a game with more penalty yards (142) than offensive yards (136) since 1966.

And now, somehow, all Seattle needs to get into the playoffs is a win over Drew Stanton and the Cardinals, and have the Panthers (who may have a division title and home playoff game to play for) beat the Falcons in Atlanta. Still unlikely, but pretty miraculous after that beatdown against the Rams last week.

Carl Yedor: Making fun of broadcasters on Twitter is a lot of fun, and there are obviously times when it's deserved. Sometimes the things that they point out are so obvious that it doesn't really sound like it should count as analysis. But at one point earlier today, Troy Aikman said that settling for field goal attempts is bad and hurts your chances of winning. In a world where I've heard broadcasters say, "any drive that ends in a kick is a good one." Full stop. I appreciate that Aikman pointed out something that seemingly obvious.

After all, it definitely played a major role today. Seattle got two offensive touchdowns on their drives into scoring territory. Dallas settled for six* field goal attempts. Groundbreaking analysis? Absolutely not. But it certainly helped Seattle become the first team to win a game in which they have more penalty yards than total yards (thank you to the FOX broadcast) since 1966. The Zombie Seahawks are still alive, somehow.

*I will say that for all the criticism Garrett will take in the aftermath of this game, that sixth field goal attempt was a smart decision, even though Bailey missed from 48 yards. You need a touchdown and a field goal to win, and you have 1 minute and no timeouts. Better to give yourself time for a potential onside kick-to-GWD scenario than try to get your touchdown and run out of time for the field goal in the process.

Scott Kacsmar: That ending was high on the absurdity level. First, I disagree strongly with Aikman. You can get a touchdown from the 30 with 65 seconds left with enough time to set up the long game-winning field goal. One completion is all a team needs sometimes for the field goal. It's even more reasonable than thinking you'll complete a Hail Mary or whatever. Not to mention the whole onside kick recovery is a big pipe dream, but still, that was terrible strategy. With 65 seconds left and a first-and-5 (not even first-and-10) from the opponent 30, you have to take a shot in that situation to get closer. Bailey was clearly shaky before that kick today. Just awful strategy and we're being reminded why the Cowboys have typically been a .500 club under Garrett when expectations should be for more.

Bryan Knowles: Seattle should hope that they DON'T flex Carolina-Atlanta to Sunday Night. The Panthers won't have anything to play for if the Saints win earlier in the day, and the Seahawks NEED the Panthers to go all out.

Posted by: Andrew Potter on 24 Dec 2017

100 comments, Last at 28 Dec 2017, 4:33am by Subrata Sircar

Comments

1
by RickD :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 12:17am

Regarding Brady's late season decline: that's been very noticeable for the past three years (2015-2017). It's pretty simple: he's older, he gets tired, he needs more time to recuperate, and he doesn't get that with only a week between games. The good news is that he does recover when he has more time. And after the Jets game he'll have at most one more game with only one week rest. And Brady looked very good in the Super Bowl last year. (Well, after the idiotic pick six.)

Brees is in tougher shape because the Saints won't get a bye. (At least, I don't think they will. I'm assuming the Vikings will win next week.) But Brees is a touch younger and I don't know if there's an established pattern of decline for him.

3
by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 1:12am

And on top of that general decline, he's been fighting a bruised achilles for several weeks (finally came off the injury report this week but I still don't think the foot is 100%). I'm sure that didn't help, either.

2
by RickD :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 12:30am

"Bryan Knowles: Seattle should hope that they DON'T flex Carolina-Atlanta to Sunday Night. The Panthers won't have anything to play for if the Saints win earlier in the day, and the Seahawks NEED the Panthers to go all out."

The NFL would definitely not do that to the Seahawks. (Well, probably not.)

It's a shame the Titans lost today, otherwise the NFL could have Jax@Ten for the AFC South, and that would be the obvious choice. Actually it's still a reasonably good choice: Tennessee will get the final Wild Card spot if they win, and will be out if they don't. Jax will have less to play for, but they're a playoff team, a big rival of Tennessee, and would almost certainly play to win after the egg they laid in San Francisco today.

I don't see a way for the NFL to get their desired "play for the division title" matchup, though.

Yeah, I wouldn't be surprised to see them flex Car vs. Atl over Ten vs. Jax. Just a lot more rooting interest in the first game.

4
by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 1:18am

league made decision to have no sunday night football gmmae this next sunday

5
by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 1:44am

"As a Colts fan, nothing critical I say of Tom Brady will ever be taken seriously, but I wonder if perhaps the opinions of my Pats fan friends might: Brady is, again, slowly losing arm strength and accuracy as the season goes on."

As a Patriots fan, I absolutely agree with you. I'm a lot more pessimistic about his 'long term' prospects than I was going into this season. I was thinking 2-3 more years, but I'd be surprised if he's still in the league in '19 now.

I'm hoping its just the Achilles bothering him, but he's thrown an awful lot of really ugly passes this year - and a lot of them have been with no pressure.

On the subject of Pats/Bills - I think I said this the last time they played - but Tyrod Taylor's receivers really don't do him any favors - they drop an awful lot of catchable balls.

7
by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 2:32am

I'm hoping its just the Achilles bothering him, but he's thrown an awful lot of really ugly passes this year - and a lot of them have been with no pressure.

For example, he had Gronk wide open early in the game, with time to throw, and threw it 3 feet behind him. And there's been a lot more passes like that this year than I can remember in a long time.

In addition to the inaccuracies, there have been an unusual number of "why the hell are you throwing it there???" throws.

I think he doesn't last past 2019 (as a starter, anyways).

I also really wonder if there is something to the earlier buzz that Kraft forced Belichick to trade JG, either by ordering the trade or (more likely, IMHO) by telling BB that Kraft would not allow Brady to be cut or traded until Brady decided to hang up the cleats.

If JG does really well in 2018 I wonder if the BB forces will leak information to that effect. (And while I'm not expecting it, if there were to be a surprise BB retirement/resignation after this season, then I would take that as confirmation that Kraft interfered in whatever plans for Brady and JG that Belichick had.)

29
by RickD :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 11:45am

I don't think there's anything to the speculation that Kraft is the one who chose to keep Brady over JG. I've seen reports that, back when the Patriots were trying to trade Jimmy G, a couple franchises asked about Brady instead. To which Belichick's response was something along the lines of "You're asking me if I'd trade the greatest QB of all time?"

My gut feeling is that, given his age, Belichick is planning to retire at about the same time Brady does. He's 65 now. If we give B&B two more years, he'd be 67. He's said in the past he doesn't want to be coaching into his 70s like Marv Levy did.

Viewing any action by Belichick as "confirmation" of an unsupported theory feels very dubious. Belichick only took the job with the understanding he'd have total control. Kraft doesn't interfere in football decisions. The Boston media has a habit of refusing to leave well enough alone, and they resent the fact that Belichick treats them like idiots, so they constantly invent theories about how he's having some deep friction with Brady or Bob Kraft. It's just so much nonsense.

42
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 12:49pm

Pretty certain I heard in an interview BB confirm that he had told Robert Kraft when he will retire. Now that could be any one of a number of things e.g. "When I'm 70", "When Tom retires", "When I have surpassed Shula for most career wins", "When I've won double-digit Super Bowls" etc, etc.

For some reason, I won't be surprised if it turns out to be the end of this season although I can't tie that to any particular reason.

If he's after records then he's probably got a minimum of six years left to surpass Shula assuming things continue to go well ...
- he's already got all the important playoff/SB/CC/div titles records.
- He's 49 wins behind Halas and 72 behind Shula.
- He's got 15 consecutive double-digit win seasons - one behind 49ers 16 from 1983-98.
- He's got 17 consecutive winning seasons - three behind Landry's Cowboys 67-86.

10
by Yu Narukami :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 8:24am

He's clearly playing worse comparing to early season, but he was pretty pretty good against Steelers last week (pick excluded). He was also #8-#20(No-Gronk)-#10 in DYAR last three weeks, so still above average. Also, there was a drop-off in OL playing those weeks, particularly from the LG, Thuney (yesterday he was ok).

I would have been on board with a 2016 scenario implying resting him the first 4 games of the season, but that would have been impossible for a lot of reasons.

23
by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 10:24am

Given that last year's supposed lost arm strength has no support to it, "again" isn't an apt term. But there is no doubt that he's playing worse in just about all phases over the last month.

6
by jacklaughing :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 2:04am

It's a little weird and slightly disturbing how football writers will use adjectives like "handsome" for white QBs and then use adjectives for athleticism for black QBs.

Maybe stop using "handsome" or "debonair" or "sharp" (or any of the other tired terms) to describe Wonderbread players like Brady, Garrapolo, etc, and just talk about their playing instead.

8
by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 3:01am

Your argument would be a lot stronger if both the QBs in question couldn't pass for fashion models (and one hadn't actually done some modeling)

Not everything is about race.

30
by RickD :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 11:47am

But it is noteworthy that none of the same writers uses the word "handsome" to describe Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Dak Prescott,...

There is definitely whiteness implied when the word is used. And that comes from the wider culture.

48
by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 1:58pm

"Handsome" also isn't used for Brian Hoyer, Cade McNown, or Andy Dalton.

You could be right. The population of black QBs is just so much smaller. Maybe if Taye Diggs were a professional QB people wouldn't call him handsome. Hard to believe, but maybe.

9
by PirateFreedom :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 3:09am

relax, it's just a Garropolo meme a lot of people are having fun with right now, either that or half of r/NFL is now men with gay crushes.

44
by Aaron Schatz :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 1:02pm

It’s been my goofy Garoppolo nickname for years and it’s just because he looks like Brandon Routh. Let me know when we get a QB who looks like Tyrese and I’ll use the nickname for him too.

76
by MC2 :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 10:27pm

It's "a little weird and slightly disturbing" how some people interpret every little comment (even ones made in obvious jest) as a manifestation of bigotry.

Maybe stop trying to hijack football message board threads, and just go to a political site if you really want to talk politics.

84
by ncuba :: Tue, 12/26/2017 - 9:58am

Who mentioned politics?

92
by MC2 :: Tue, 12/26/2017 - 5:17pm

Unfortunately, in the world we live in, race and politics have become inseparable. If you doubt that, just scroll to the bottom of this thread and check out the "antisemitic conspiracy" discussion (none of which, by the way, is any more ridiculous than is the idea that describing Jimmy G. as "handsome" represents some covert attempt to disparage the looks of black QBs).

87
by TomC :: Tue, 12/26/2017 - 12:57pm

I think it's a legitimate topic of conversation (not rule 1). As one counter-example, though not QB-related, the meme about Mike Tomlin's looks is older and stronger than any meme about any QB.

11
by big10freak :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 8:47am

I have a fairly big family and the Pats/Buffalo game was on in the background. When the Benjamin catch was being reviewed the overwhelming sentiment was that A) it was a catch B) the call would be reversed.

At that point the channel was changed to the Saints/Falcons game. Lots of fairly intelligent folks stating that the NFL was just a patsy to the Patriots and no interest in the playoffs as the fix was in so why bother.

Just sharing. I prefer posters not mock my family as again, just sharing a view that I hear not just at home but in various places throughout the Midwest in my travels. It's pretty fascinating.

25
by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 10:36am

Show your family this:

https://twitter.com/michaelFhurley/status/945016296269320195?ref_src=tws...

The idea that the NFL is fixing things to favor the Patriots is patently absurd.

EDIT: You can also show them footage of Pitt's first TD where they got away with a clear ineligible man downfield penalty.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9wbMzkVseE

Interestingly, the flag was picked up despite the infraction being overt and instrumental to the success of the play.

28
by big10freak :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 11:06am

Not hear to argue.

There are multiple factors at work, but I don't think it's ridiculous to suggest that the NFL brand is not helped by one team seemingly benefiting each week from decisions that the viewing public neither understands nor agrees with by inspection

32
by RickD :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 11:55am

Given the larger picture, it's ridiculous to argue that the NFL takes this approach with the Patriots. Roger Goodell bends over backwards to entertain any complaints or accusations against the team. Only one franchise has ever been docked a #1 draft pick, and that's happened to the Patriots twice. The second time it happened it was for fictional rules violation of the type that had never been punished at that level before anyway. (Indeed, it was usually just ignored.)

Patriots fans are incredulous that anybody could even advance such a ridiculous argument. "Well sure, the NFL just stole two draft picks from your team for the offense of playing football on a cold, wet day when our rules enforcers didn't know squat about air pressure. But really, the NFL favors the Patriots."

If the NFL favored the Patriots, they wouldn't have gone to such extreme lengths to trash the Patriots' reputation. And it's more than the rules enforcement process itself: for a year the NFL keep planting anti-Patriots stories at ESPN.com and SI.com at regular intervals.

There's a lot of selective memory with NFL fans. It's easy to cherry pick a small number of video reviews that have happened over the decades that have benefited the Patriots. There have also been many that went the other way, but the biased minds of other teams' fans forget those.

35
by Waverly :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 12:19pm

Maybe there's a bias in favor of the Patriots to make up for Deflategate. It need not be an informal policy established within the NFL's offices, i.e. no conspiracy, but just tendencies in certain people who happened to think the penalties were unfair.

37
by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 12:28pm

Not to mention that (as came out in the Brady court case) when the NFL finally gave NE the correct PSI numbers they explicitly refused to allow NE to tell the correct numbers to anyone.

53
by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 2:48pm

There are multiple factors at work, but I don't think it's ridiculous to suggest that the NFL brand is not helped by one team seemingly benefiting each week from decisions that the viewing public neither understands nor agrees with by inspection

So what should the NFL do, be biased against NE because they caught a break last week?

34
by Rocco :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 12:07pm

So which holding penalty against the Pats the last two weeks has upset you the most? Which opponent drive extended by DPI the last two games got you the angriest?

40
by RickD :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 12:47pm

The penalties not called against players holding Patriots have annoyed me the most. And it's really kind of galling to see an opponent get away with holding five times in a row, finally get called for it, and then have some guy show up out of the blue claiming that the Patriots are being favored because holding was called on the sixth play.

43
by Rocco :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 12:59pm

Imagine how upset Pats opponents have been the last two weeks when the Pats haven't been called for holding once. Meanwhile the Pats have benefited from holding calls to derail drives and DPI drives to extend drives. Pats fans complaining about officiating the last two weeks when they've been flagged 3 times for 10 yards are just hilarious.

47
by Alternator :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 1:35pm

And yet...look right below for commentary on the Vikings-Packers game, where the officiating also sucked. There's no conspiracy here, the refs are just doing a horrible job across the board, and pretending otherwise just makes you some carny's mark.

58
by Rocco :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 3:12pm

Sure, though my point is that Pats fans shouldn't be complaining about officiating right now when they're currently getting a run of good fortune.

61
by Alternator :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 3:34pm

Complaining about the quality of officiating is always justified this season, full stop. Doesn't matter who you are, there's something valid to complain about, because there's been so many wrong or missed calls.

I think the refs might actually be worse than the Browns.

52
by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 2:39pm

So which holding penalty against the Pats the last two weeks has upset you the most? Which opponent drive extended by DPI the last two games got you the angriest?

Huh? Would you care to make your point in English?

59
by Rocco :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 3:16pm

There have been as many replay revsersals in the Pats favor (3- the two TDs, and the Dion Lewis 4th and 1 run) the last two weeks as there have been enforced penalties against the Pats (3- 1 against Pittsburgh, 2 against Buffalo). So why exactly are you upset about the officiating?

82
by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 12/26/2017 - 9:51am

"Upset about the officiating"? There is a difference between a complaint and a response that demonstrates mistakes made against the Patriots to rebut a supposed pro-Patriot bias.

39
by JMM :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 12:39pm

All of the actions cited by the conspiracy theorists are calls made by Al Riveron. The actions of one person don't necessarily point to a conspiracy. It would be interesting to see how close to "random" his reversals/uphelds are for Pats vs the field.

41
by RickD :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 12:48pm

Obviously you'd get crushed by small sample issues there.

Right now the entire nation appears to be in an uproar because the Patriots got two calls their way in two weeks.

Statisticians everywhere are in tears.

45
by JMM :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 1:16pm

I don't know, every TD is reviewed plus all turnovers, plus all coaches challenges from both sides. Might be enough over a season to be suggestive if not definitive.

66
by Digit :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 6:28pm

Al Riveron has been fairly consistent about overturning calls based on something that's apparently clear and obviously only to the replay center out there.

It's not a Patriots-only thing, that's for sure.

http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2017/11/13/clear-and-obvious-standa...

http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2017/11/02/its-clear-and-obvious-th...

It just seems like whatever they're seeing, they're not showing us.

91
by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Tue, 12/26/2017 - 3:32pm

I think its just that "Clear and Obvious" is a very different thing when you're viewing a play from multiple angles using time-synched video than it is when you're watching a tv broadcast.

For example - the Kelvin Benjamin overturn - its clear to me that he bobbles the ball a bit before gaining control, and that his foot comes off the ground - and that the timing of when each happens is critical - I really can't tell which happens first, because you can only see each from different angles.

But if you have the equipment to sync both videos and watch them side by side , and advance frame by frame (or just timestamp both videos), it may be both clear and obvious that the foot came off the ground before the ball was controlled.

IMO, part of the reason why they went to centralized replay is so they could do stuff like this - the referee on the sideline with a Surface tablet under a hood was always a terrible idea.

94
by Alternator :: Tue, 12/26/2017 - 7:41pm

I think that nearly every fan would agree that if it isn't clear and obvious until you're syncing up multiple cameras, then it's not clear and obvious enough to overturn.

97
by PatsFan :: Tue, 12/26/2017 - 8:04pm

Maybe reviewing them all de novo is the right thing to do. I certainly lean towards "get it right no matter how it was called on the field".

However, that's not what the current rule says. If the standard of review is going to be de novo, then change the rule to reflect that. Otherwise, enforce the standard of review as written.

99
by Noah Arkadia :: Wed, 12/27/2017 - 11:49am

I'm going to need someone to walk me through why it's so obvious it was a catch, because the way I saw it by the time he controls the ball (first angle), one foot hits the ground hard but the other is in the air (second angle) and almost certainly doesn't land inbounds. I didn't go looking for the third angle to confirm the latter. I'm definitely missing something, though.

12
by big10freak :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 9:04am

Random comments about Packers/Vikings game:

--Kenny Clark is generating tremendous inside pass rush the second half the season. This pick is looking better and better
--Diggs is a high level taunting jerk. He's clearly very good and great to watch. But man does he detract from the experience with the in your face I'm awesome you suck ha,ha approach
--Harrison Smith shoving Richard Rodgers aside like he was nothing to tackle Hundley on the worst read/option play ever pretty much captures the Packers offense sans number 12
--Reggie Gilbert spent all season the practice squad and then pushes the pocket all game. Meanwhile Ahmad Brooks stumbles around and spends most of the game on the ground. One of the main concerns about the Packers coaching staff is that it really seems like the coaching staff has no ability to tell who can play until it's a real game. Because stuff like this is happening far too often to be coincidence
--why do the Vikes seems to be managing the crummy field than the home field Packers?
--McCarthy was saved by the refs conveniently ignoring a challenge where he was going to claim Keenum passed the line while making a pass when Keenum was a yard or 2 behind the LOS. MM needs a challenge admin.
--Lance Kendricks short armed multiple passes with no Vikes defender in the immediate area. Such a disappointment
--After calling a ticky tack PI on GB for 39 yards that led to the only TD the refs then allowed both sides to beat the snot out of each other the rest of the game. Again, it's not that officiating is abysmal its that it's the worst kind of abysmal. Instead of just not throwing flags crews pick weird times to throw game changing flags or make nonsensical review decisions. Better to just call procedural calls and keeps guys from fighting than this current insanity.
--Case Keenum had 3-4 passes that if not for the cold ball would have been intercepted. This guy has been great but fortunate all season. If I am a Vikes fans I hope the defense continues it's incredible play. Because I see a 2-4 interception game in the playoffs.

17
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 9:56am

Other random thoughts, as I await family members waking up...

Keenum did really have his worst game of the year, by a wide margin. I wonder how short the leash is, if he has a bad 1st half in the playoffs. Now Bradford is ready to practice again, too. What a weird situation.

Losing Nick Easton to a broken ankle really places the Vikings o-line on the precipice of a return to last year's disaster. Who knows how recovered Rieff and Remmers are, and while Hill is a competent tackle (I think he has been better than Remmers), he can only play one spot. There is no margin for further health problems. I expect dysfunction in the Vikings offense. The defense is going to have to dominate, but I also think Griffin's plantar fasciitis is starting to significantly affect him. The need some real health/injury recovery good luck.

Hundley should not be given up on just yet. He had zero help from his receivers, and kept competing.

18
by big10freak :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 10:07am

Also not helped by the placalling. MM calling plays that go east/west against a fast/smart defense where relying on guys to make cuts to get past defenders on a bad track is insane. Beyond insane.

Hundley has been a train wreck at Lambeau. No refuting that.

20
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 10:14am

Yeah, and yet there has been enough there to not make him a hopeless cause just yet. If some guys make some reasonable catches Saturday night, his performance may have looked significantly different.

21
by big10freak :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 10:17am

It wasn't the receivers missing guys downfield by 10 yards. Yes Nelson and Kendricks had drops. But Hundley was not helping either

Word out of the clubhouse was that the offensive line was super ticked at MM and Hundley. They thought they blocked the Vikes to a draw if not better and that it was wasted.

22
by billprudden :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 10:23am

Will -

Is Bradford on season-ending IR or can he be brought back? Can Minn go into playoffs with all three QBs available?

Bill

26
by Xexyz :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 10:46am

Bradford can be brought off IR after next week's game.

31
by billprudden :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 11:49am

Gotcha,thanks.

So they can go into the playoffs with a very simple, or, if they prefer, very complicated QB situation. With a possible home game SB in the balance.

Never boring!

57
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 3:06pm

I do not have even the slightest inkling of a clue as to how Zimmer should handle his qb situation. I agree with BTF that a 4 int game from Keenum in the playoffs would not be a surprising development in the least. On the other hand, he does handle a pass rush pretty well, while the Vikings o-line reverts back to being injury depleted, who knows if Bradford has any mobility, and Bridgewater hasn't seen meaningful competitive games in two years. Hell if I know what to do.

63
by billprudden :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 3:55pm

In addition to the you-play-to-win-the-game aspects of the situation, I am also curious about the multi-generational money that may be in play. If one of the three pulls a Flacco in the playoffs, here, please have this $100m contract, thank you very much, whether from Minn or some other club. The next guy might get a Glennon or even one-year Cutler contract, and the third, what? Kap's old team-friendly pay-as-you-go deal?

In a season in which the on-field product has been frequently awful, this off-season stuff interests me more and more.

13
by BJR :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 9:04am

Jimmy Garoppolo and Kirk Cousins are going to set the new market for QB contracts this spring, and all power to them. Both have had to wait for their opportunities, and then backed themselves when it came around. Good to see.

14
by big10freak :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 9:15am

JG is younger and has completely revitalized an offense that was somnolent if not close to death. That young man is going to break the bank unless the rules allow the 49ers to franchise him.

15
by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 9:28am

Since his contract with NE (which SF assumed in the trade) didn’t have a no-franchise clause, I don’t see any reason why SF wouldn’t be able to franchise him.

16
by big10freak :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 9:37am

I don't claim to be able to follow the contract rules in the NFL. Much like the rules on the field things are applied haphazardly with no defined logic

33
by RickD :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 12:05pm

Generally speaking, using a franchise tag on a QB is a terrible idea. (Looking at you, Bruce Allen.) It just delays the inevitable real work of negotiating a long-term contract, and in the case of Cousins, it ended up with him getting a ton of money for two years.

Bizarrely, some Pats' fans have argued that the Pats "should have franchised Garoppolo" even to keep him as a backup. The franchise tag for QB is going to be over $25M next year. That's way too much for any QB who isn't already an established elite player.

The 49ers should have the inside track on retaining Garoppolo. Clearly he likes the system and gets along with Kyle Shanahan. But yes, he'll get paid.

49
by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 2:03pm

Even without being used, the franchise tag is powerful. Without it, the 49ers wouldn't have traded for Garoppolo.

75
by zenbitz :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 9:16pm

Obviously the niners are going to make a play to keep JG. But would he consider directing his agent to refuse most reasonable offers and play 2018 under the tag? Risky, if he gets injured but could be worth a lot of do-re-me.

90
by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 12/26/2017 - 2:32pm

...and 2019, and 2020? That's an awful lot of football to play with no guarantees. Kirk Cousins might do three in a row, though.

68
by BJR :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 6:58pm

Jimmy G is flavor of the month, but Cousins has had a terrific season in an offense decimated by injury (check out Von Miller's quotes from yesterday). He now has a large sample of significantly above average QB performance, and his next 5 years ought to represent his peak. He is worthy of a massive contract.

27
by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 10:56am

Remember when the 49ers lost 5 games in a row by either 2 or 3 points, two of them in overtime? If they'd had Garoppolo earlier in the season, would they be 10-5 now?

60
by Bryan Knowles :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 3:22pm

If you assume Garoppolo added four (net) points to the team's performance, then yes.

In fact, if you were to only count the games after the Garoppolo trade (BG and AG, as it were), the 49ers would be a playoff team in the NFC at 5-2, holding on to the sixth seed (and bumping out the Falcons/Seahawks).

So, San Francisco fans have plenty of reasons for Massive, Unbridled Optimism going forward. We'll see how much of that translates into actual success.

19
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 10:10am

I saw Jerry Jones on Sports center last night, as stockings were being stuffed. In 30 seconds he illuminated why Cowboys fans can have zero hope. He criticizes his coach's playcalling, as if that public statement is going to improve his team's situation, while one of his coach's strongpoints, in Jerry's view, in all likelihood, is that the coach is willing to never tell Jerry to shut up, and thus likely won't be fired.

24
by billprudden :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 10:25am

JJ's prospects for becoming overhead projector-era Al Davis are pretty good...

36
by big10freak :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 12:25pm

What happened to the Lions yesterday? The Bengals looked like they were sleepwalking through the remainder of the schedule

56
by BJR :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 2:57pm

Bengals had some players returning from injury. Burfict, Mixon, Jones to name three. And I suspect Marvin Lewis was able to galvanise his squad for what is likely to be his last home game in charge.

38
by big10freak :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 12:33pm

Joe Schobert looks to have taken a big step forward this season. Really fun to watch

46
by big10freak :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 1:24pm

And lest I forget Merry Christmas ya filthy animals

50
by OldFox :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 2:24pm

Regarding Hue Jackson ...

It's totally bizarre that Jimmy Haslam is determined to keep Hue, but at the same time it's typical of the way Jimmy has run the Browns. He's been making weird decisions ever since he bought the team. So his decision to keep a 1-30 coach didn't entirely shock me. I think he likes doing the unexpected. If he coached the team, he'd run a flea-flicker several times a game.

That being said, count me among those who wonder whether the decision will be reversed. I'm sure the new GM would rather pick his own coach, presumably one who has never gone 1-30. The Browns fans I speak to are unanimous in saying that Hue needs to go. Even the Cleveland media guys, who were pro-Hue a year ago, are now at the point where they're openly advocating his dismissal. In the face of all this, Haslam might yet be forced to relent.

What I keep hearing however is that the players would prefer to keep Hue. I guess that's a point in his favor, but I tend to dismiss it because (a) players tend to hate change of any kind, and (b) I get the impression that the players like Hue because he's nice to them even when they lose all the time. Can you imagine what it would be like if your coach was Vince Lombardi and you lost all the time? You'd be worse off than the guys in the Black Hole of Calcutta (Google it, kids).

54
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 2:57pm

What I find laughable is the rumour that the Bengals are considering Hue Jackson if Marvin Lewis steps aside. That said, they'll need a Rooney rule candidate so maybe they're just saying that to tick a box.

62
by OldFox :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 3:39pm

I'm not sure I believe the Hue-to-Cincy rumors, but Mike Brown can be kind of quirky and it's known that he likes Hue, so there could be some truth in there. But I really doubt it. Hiring a guy who has done nothing but lose for the last two years would be a tough sell to the fan base. Promoting one of the coordinators seems more likely.

If the Browns do fire Hue, I'm curious as who would be brought in as the new HC. John Dorsey seems to prefer old-style football guys. Jimmy Haslam reportedly liked Greg Schiano a few years ago when he was doing one of his many coaching searches. Could he be a candidate?

77
by MC2 :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 11:15pm

When Schiano was in Tampa, he came across as a total asshole. I imagine it will be hard enough to attract free agents to a team that has won 1 game in the last 2 years. With a guy like Schiano in charge, it would probably be damn near impossible.

55
by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 2:57pm

Ya'gotta be crazy to give any thought to player preferences on a team that has won 1 game in two years.

88
by TomC :: Tue, 12/26/2017 - 1:05pm

I liked Hue very much as an OC, both in Oakland and Cincinnati, but holy moly is Cleveland ever a poorly coached team right now. I am a Bears fan, and the current version of the Bears loves to lose games by being stupider than the other team, but their stupid had no chance against Cleveland's stupid. The Browns mostly outplayed the Bears in the first half, but every time they were in a position to take over the game they did something stupid. After the crowning achievement of stupid (the nullified pick-six), they just gave up, but until then they were probably the better team.

51
by Anger...rising :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 2:25pm

While we're bitching about refs ... the call of forward progress that nullified Matt Breida's fumble in San Francisco seemed awfully quick on the draw.

I think the problem there was actually a failure to recognize the fumble when it occurred rather than the whistle being too quick. It didn't seem that the play was blown dead in the interval between the hit and the fumble, but rather when Breida ended up on bodies with the ball basically resting on his shoulder before it popped up in the air. This should have been reviewable, because the progress call appears to have been made only due to the mistaken belief that a fumble hadn't already occurred.

64
by morganja :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 5:23pm

" Whatever the problems with the catch rule, whatever the need to tweak it or clarify it or whatever we want to do with it, the problem here is the rule, not some sort of league-wide conspiracy that favors the New England Patriots. You know, the team whose fans are obsessed with telling the commissioner to go screw himself."

Here's the problem with that statement. There is no evidence to back up the statement that there is no 'league-wide conspiracy'. But there is a long, long, long history of evidence that supports the statement that there are shenanigans going on.

I'm not sure why those that dispute the evidence before their eyes start with the strawman idea that the NFL is directing these shenanigans. Why would the NFL be directing the refs to consistently favor the Patriots? Occam's razor here tells us to start with the fact that Kraft's best buddy is Sheldon Adelson, who is a gangster whose racket is gambling. Sheldon Adelson is also from Boston.

The perception is very real. Almost all of the people I know who used to watch football, and don't anymore, cite that the game is fixed, almost invariably for the Patriots. They are tired of investing in a sport in which they have zero confidence that the outcome is decided on the field.

Denying people's perception isn't going to get them to come back to the NFL.

65
by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 5:29pm

Damn those Joooz. Messing up our all 'Murican football (and our precious bodily fluids as well).

69
by sbond101 :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 7:49pm

References to Dr. Strangelove are really underutilized.

85
by roguerouge :: Tue, 12/26/2017 - 10:31am

Next we'll be hearing fluoridation is an NFL-Vegas conspiracy to give Brady his unnatural longevity. You never see a commie drink a glass of water, do you?

70
by aces4me :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 8:23pm

Are you asserting Adelson is risking his gaming license to fix Pats games as a favor to Kraft or to make more money for sports betting portion of his vast casino operation?

73
by morganja :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 8:49pm

That is the most absurd thing I have yet heard. Are you claiming that Adelson 'risks' his gaming license? In your imagination, the Vegas gambling commission consists of upright, honest citizens who police gambling for the benefit of the common man?
No doubt, Al Capone would never have bootlegged. My goodness, he would have put his liquor license at risk!
Adelson owns the gambling commissions. He owns the police. He owns the judges. He is a gangster. He doesn't 'risk'anything. That's why you buy government in the first place.

67
by Digit :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 6:32pm

Well, for starters, Occam's razor would indicate that if the refs were to favor the Patriots, they would -not- be making calls that go against the Patriots that requires the NFL replay office in New York to overturn them.

71
by ClavisRa :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 8:39pm

Lest ye all forget: the Patriots were hit with the stupidest 'scandal' ever manufactured, on the eve of Superbowl XLIX. It was a massive distraction that actually took a significant chunk of Belichick's (and Brady's) time to address. The Patriots won anyway. Then they won another Superbowl, despite losing Brady for four games. They are still down a 1st and a 4th round draft pick. Last time I checked, 1st round picks were an exceptionally valuable commodity, value you can't replace with spending because of the cap. The idea that the league is helping the Pats is a total and laughable non-starter.

Also, the whole line of argument around this is ridiculous. No one is arguing he actually got his second foot down after control. (He didn't.) They are arguing that the NFL shouldn't be able to say he didn't, aka, rules-lawyering. Rules-lawyering is bad in actual courts of law, and really bad for a sport when the goal is to deny the version of reality favored by evidence, and try to supersede that with uncertainly to appease the most butthurt fans.

Also, I have yet to see anyone imagine a catch rule where the James play is a catch and the rule makes sense. The current catch rule is good! Not perfectly written, but it's good, clear and fair, and 99% of the time it jibes with common sense. (Catches are certainly called a lot more consistently and fairly than holding and pass interference.)

72
by morganja :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 8:42pm

It's always fascinating to watch the Patriot fans convolute themselves into complete idiocy in order to explain away what is perfectly obvious to the rest of the world. Despite all evidence to the contrary, they still seem to think that Brady didn't deflate footballs, so I guess having them believe their lying eyes about the incredible run of miraculous luck they have experienced the past 15 years, is asking too much.
It wouldn't be so bad, if they could just accept their miraculous 'luck' over the past 15 years with class and graciousness. Instead, they do things like whine incessantly about the THREE (3) OPI calls against Gronk this year and justify his homicidal assault as what any decent American would do if he had been called for THREE (3) OPI's in the same 16 game season.
But it doesn't matter. What does matter is the perception. Whether or not there is any truth to it, the perception is real, and growing every year, and it is not unlikely, that it is the primary cause of the drop in NFL viewership.
If the NFL had any kind of competence, they would fire Al Riveron tomorrow, before the playoffs, or at least remove him and replace him with someone not on Adelson's payroll.

74
by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 9:05pm

The NFL’s own bought and paid for consultants (who when paid by tobacco companies said 2nd hand smoke is harmless), publicly concluded that the NE footballs were 0.2PSI lower than they “should” have been given the game conditions, an amount well within the measurement error of the gauges being used. So how about explaining for all of us how Brady’s minions managed to be so accurate as to only withdraw 0.2PSI and why Brady would set that all up for 0.2PSI?

78
by Aaron Schatz :: Mon, 12/25/2017 - 11:25pm

I had put a long comment here but I’ve decided the ridiculous antisemitic conspiracy theories are not dangerous. They’re more just good for a laugh.

80
by RobotBoy :: Tue, 12/26/2017 - 3:06am

I'm not so sure that your optimism is justified: The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and 'We lost the war because the Jews stabbed us in the back' are pretty ridiculous and also caused horrifying damage.
I'm always fascinated by how conspiracy theories can be absolutely seamless, except, of course, for the initial false premise.
'But the NFL has been punished worse than any other team in football history, on some extremely flimsy evidence,' would seem to be a fairly strong rebuttal to 'NFL-Patriots Illicit Dealings' and yet once you've accepted the false premise unconditionally, nothing is easier than coming up with counter-argument, 'You would think so, but actually, the Patriots should have been punished much worse' followed by links to paranoid rantings of various stripes.

81
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/26/2017 - 9:50am

I am putting in a request similar to one I have made in the past. Could we have a seperate permenant thread for all conspiracy related numbskullery? The audibles thread is my favorite, and to have that real estate consumed with Illuminati-grade nitwittery (without even addressing the ugly historical undercurrents that have developed as of late) is really unfortunate.

I really do appreciate how lightly the threads are moderated, but maybe having a designated area for howling at the moon would be a good compromise.

86
by roguerouge :: Tue, 12/26/2017 - 10:32am

Yeah, I second that. I've emailed to ask that the site do something about this, just like they did with the Manning-Brady debate.

89
by contrarycomet :: Tue, 12/26/2017 - 1:16pm

Thirded.

83
by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Tue, 12/26/2017 - 9:58am

His posts are universally 1 of 3 things:

1) The Patriots are cheaterz and there's a giant conspiracy by the nfl to help them cheat.

2) Robert Craft and Bill Belichick are both terrible people.

3) Sheldon Adelson and his jew-army are fixing the nfl for Robert Kraft (also a jew)

Is this a standard of discourse that you're comfortable with? What does he bring to the table that offsets the fact that he's an antisemite?

93
by morganja :: Tue, 12/26/2017 - 5:57pm

Wow. That's some extreme racism there, my friend. I haven't said a single thing about anyone's religion, nor would I, as an extremely religious person myself. I have drawn absolutely no connection, nor reference to anyone's faith or background. You did all that by yourself.
Adelson's and Kraft's relationship has nothing to do with their religion or background. Out of all the nonsense I have heard out of Patriot fans on this site, your post has got to be the worst I have ever seen.

The fact that they are close friends is a well documented and well--known fact. Here is just one reference in the Seth Wickersham article Sin City, about the Raiders moving to Las Vegas:

"On March 1, Adelson called Kraft -- the native Bostonians have been friends for more than three decades and are members of the same synagogue -- to commiserate over what had happened. "Jerry is running wild," Kraft said. "I can't believe this."

"I'll kill this if you want me to," Adelson replied."

Your comments are way beyond the line. Accusing someone of antisemitism after the horrors of the Holocaust is an extremely serious charge. Perhaps you are too young to even have second hand knowledge of that ultimate evil. Conflating the genocidal murder of millions, including young children, to people who dislike the behavior of the football team you prefer, shows a complete lack of compassion for the millions tortured, starved and murdered, as well as showing a deranged sense of perspective.
I have never insulted anyone on this site personally. Please refrain from making personal attacks on me in the future. Perhaps take a break from Boston talk radio for a few weeks, get outside and exercise. Spend some time with family. If that doesn't help, get some therapy.

95
by Alternator :: Tue, 12/26/2017 - 7:41pm

Please go back to Stormfront.

96
by sbond101 :: Tue, 12/26/2017 - 7:53pm

stop that!

There is no reason based on anything the guy has written here in the last 3 months to believe he's an anti-Semite unless you assume that's the reason he is possessed of an irrational belief in conspiracies involving the Pats. Plenty of people believe nonsense about game fixing, it doesn't make them racists, just deeply misguided.

I do second the call for moderation of the repeated conspiracy theories. This is supposed to be a forum about the games, if anyone really thinks their fixed by the refs/nfl/whoever so that the Pats always win, then there really isn't any point in talking about those games. Let the rest of us talk about those games in peace.

98
by CaffeineMan :: Tue, 12/26/2017 - 9:42pm

"I do second the call for moderation of the repeated conspiracy theories. This is supposed to be a forum about the games, if anyone really thinks their fixed by the refs/nfl/whoever so that the Pats always win, then there really isn't any point in talking about those games. Let the rest of us talk about those games in peace."

I third this.

79
by BroncFan07 :: Tue, 12/26/2017 - 12:33am

Can’t believe no one has discussed the Kirk Cousins Free Agency Pageant from yesterday... This Denver season has ranged from pathetic to downright incompetent, but yesterday was so sorry that it was the first time I’ve thought the entire regime needs to go. Including the GM. That of course is not likely to happen, so I’ll offer the GM some advice: when drafting a QB this time, let’s draft one who was actually good in college.

100
by Subrata Sircar :: Thu, 12/28/2017 - 4:33am

I was at the 49ers game and the eye test says that the 49ers were the 10-win team while the Jaguars were struggling to get out of the basement. Don't know if it was the west coast trip, an off-day or injuries, but the Jaguars did not look ready to play. Even Fournette didn't look great (dropped a pass and was absent for long stretches).

On the plus side, the game had:
- a blocked extra point run back for two
- an extra point doinked off the upright
- a successful onside kick
- a successful two-point conversion
- a pick-six
- a same-team deflected TD pass
- a Scorigami as 44-33 was a previously unseen score