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» Week 11 DVOA Ratings

DVOA has finally climbed on board the Wentz Wagon! The Eagles move into the No. 1 spot, but they aren't the only strong, well-balanced team in the NFL this year. New Orleans, Pittsburgh, and the Los Angeles Rams make this one of the best seasons ever for multiple teams over 30% in DVOA, and Minnesota isn't far behind.

29 Sep 2016

Film Room: Minnesota Vikings

by Cian Fahey

Mike Zimmer told us this would happen. After Teddy Bridgewater suffered a season-ending and career-threatening knee injury in the preseason, Zimmer told us the Vikings' season wasn't over. It's a phrase every canned tough guy coach in the league utters when his team suffers a bad loss or loses a key player. But Zimmer has never been one for platitudes. Zimmer is real -- too real for some. Zimmer's brutal honesty has been so blunt and unrestrained that it took him more than a decade of excelling as a defensive coordinator to become a head coach.

The peak of his honesty came when asked about Bobby Petrino in 2010. Zimmer had worked for Petrino in Atlanta before the head coach abruptly left for Arkansas. "He's a gutless bastard," Zimmer told Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer. "Quote that. I don't give a shit. Petrino is a coward. Put that in quotes. He ruined a bunch of peoples' lives, a bunch of peoples' families, kids, because he didn't have enough nuts to stay there and finish the job. That's the truth."

What turned so many teams off of Zimmer is what makes him a great coach. His players believe what he says and buy into what he teaches them because of how he teaches them.

Because of Zimmer's ability to develop talent and manage personalities, the Vikings are 3-0. 3-0 records can be misleading -- sometimes bad teams can hit 3-0 by beating even worse teams, or by getting favorable style matchups. That's not the case with Zimmer's Vikings. They beat the Tennessee Titans in Week 1 with Shaun Hill as their starting quarterback. They beat the Green Bay Packers in Week 2 with a quarterback who had only been with the team for two weeks. In Week 3, they travelled to face the reigning NFC champion Carolina Panthers without their starting left tackle, starting running back, and starting defensive tackle ... and (obviously) won.

Zimmer preaches toughness, teaches discipline, and emphasizes execution. He doesn't just do it in press conferences though. He does it on the practice field, and the Vikings are reaping the rewards.

The appropriate question is no longer if the Vikings season is over. The appropriate question now is if the Vikings are the best team in the NFL. That may seem outlandish, but such is the quality of their defense. So far this season the Vikings defense looks every bit as intimidating as the Denver Broncos unit that dragged Peyton Manning to the Super Bowl last year. In successive weeks, Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton have combined to complete 41 of 71 passes (57.8 percent) for 467 yards (6.6 yards per attempt), one touchdown, four interceptions, 13 sacks, and one safety. Newton did run for a touchdown, but his day overall was disastrous.

With no one team in the league that is great on both sides of the ball, the Vikings can be the NFL's best team with a great defense and a complementary offense. The defense is clearly great, and the offense should be good enough if Sam Bradford stays healthy.

Run Defense

Cameron Artis-Payne led the Panthers in rushing yards against the Vikings last week, gaining 47 yards on 12 carries. Artis-Payne also had the longest run of the day for the Panthers, a 12-yard run that came on Carolina's very first offensive snap. For the game, the Panthers as a whole gained 105 yards on 28 carries, a 3.75 yards per attempt average. The Panthers have an extremely difficult running game to defend. Cam Newton diversifies the rushing attack so it is unlike any other. His presence allows the coaching staff to stretch the front seven horizontally while still relying on power principles that free their guards to run over linebackers who are hesitating to read the backfield action.

The Vikings shut down the Panthers' primary threat by maintaining gap integrity, staying disciplined in assignments, winning one-on-one battles at the point of attack, and flowing to the football once the ballcarrier was determined.

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One of the things Newton allows you to do as an offense is run true option plays. Some teams incorporate option looks where the quarterback isn't a run threat or isn't actually allowed to keep the ball. With Newton, you can't give him an inch, or he'll take the whole field. The above play is a great example of how the Vikings created a wall in front of the Panthers running game on every snap. Danielle Hunter (the left defensive end), Anthony Barr (the linebacker who lines up outside of Hunter), and Trae Waynes (the cornerback who lines up to that side of the field) are the three pivotal pieces on this play.

Hunter is a young player who was considered just an athlete coming out of college. You wouldn't know it by this play. Hunter recognizes the potential for an option play based on the offense's alignment: Newton in pistol with one running back alongside him and another behind him. Hunter also sees that the running back is to his side of the field so he knows he is likely to be unblocked unless the tight end crashes down instead of moving towards Barr. Hunter doesn't panic when the ball is snapped. He doesn't rush into the backfield to try and catch the ball between the quarterback and his running back. Instead he establishes his position and waits. He keeps his shoulders square to the running back so he can pursue him as soon as he's certain who has the ball.

While Newton reads Hunter during the mesh point, Barr stays on the outside shoulder of Panthers tight end Greg Olsen. He too shows patience. Barr and Hunter are in positions where they can play two of the three options on the play. Hunter can play the running back and Newton; Barr can play Newton and the other back, who is waiting to take a pitch outside. This means that Waynes can confidently crash down on the tight end's outside shoulder, knowing that Barr is on the outside shoulder of the tight end if Newton pitches the ball.

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In the above GIF, Artis-Payne gains 2 yards up the middle. As he approaches the line of scrimmage, the GIF freezes to highlight the leverage and gap assignments for each Vikings defender. Artis-Payne has nowhere to go and he can't look to get outside in either direction because the defense has set both edges. This is the same play that the Panthers ran on the first snap of the game. On that play the linebackers were drawn towards the backfield action with Newton moving in the opposite direction. They gave up a running lane to Artis-Payne to run right onto the second level of the defense. The above GIF comes from the third quarter, when the defense showed off better discipline having already been gashed by that design.

When Zimmer was the defensive coordinator of the Bengals, he rarely had linebackers with speed. The league has changed over that relatively short period of time to the point that you can't build a great defense with slow linebackers. Not so coincidentally, Zimmer's Vikings spent first- and second-round picks on fast linebackers over the past three years. Anthony Barr was a first-round pick in 2014, and Eric Kendricks was a second-round pick in 2015.

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By using Newton as the running back on power runs, the Panthers can flip the numbers advantage in their favor from any alignment. On this play, Newton is always keeping the ball. The Panthers use their running back like a fullback while pulling their left guard so both players can act as lead blockers for Newton. Barr (55) meets the pulling left guard in the hole and stops him for a moment. The guard eventually pushes Barr back, but the linebacker has won the matchup by slowing down the play design. Meanwhile, the defensive end to that side of the field has pushed the tight end back to knock the running back out of the play. This takes Newton's designed running lane away from him. If he tries to cutback, Linval Joseph (98) has leverage against the center to shut down that gap.

While all of this is going on, Kendricks (54) is tracking Newton behind the defensive line. Kendricks shows off patience and balance with his feet to mimic Newton, then tackles him before he can advance downfield.

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Neither Barr nor Kendricks are big. NFL teams don't like smaller linebackers because they can be washed out of running plays when offensive linemen get their hands on them. At least, in theory that is true. Kendricks and Barr understand leverage, diagnose plays quickly, and use their hands to create strength at the point of contact. They aren't easily washed out of plays or pancaked by bigger linemen. Both are valuable run defenders who fit in a front seven that is full of defenders who consistently carry out their assignments to play with leverage. The above play is another power run from the Panthers that is shut down by the Vikings' assignment football. Joseph beats his blocker, who is trying to seal him down to create a running lane, and beats him so badly that he is held even though no flag is thrown. Hunter again recognizes what is happening and meets the pulling lineman in the hole. Meanwhile, Barr loops around the outside to replace him on the edge.

The edge is set, the lead blocker is consumed, and Joseph is taking away any opportunity to cut upfield. Kendricks creates leverage with his hands and feet before closing to the ballcarrier. Five Vikings get to the ballcarrier before the play is blown dead.

One of those five was Harrison Smith.

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Smith isn't a prototypical free or strong safety. He has a diverse skill set that allows him to maraud the middle of the field or drop into the box as an extra linebacker. One of the few liabilities for the Vikings defense is strongside linebacker Chad Greenway. Greenway still has value as a run defender at the point of attack, but he can be taken advantage of in space. On this draw play from the Panthers, Greenway is the linebacker in position to make the play on the second level. Unlike Barr or Kendricks, he doesn't have the closing speed to get to the ballcarrier. His lack of speed is covered up by Smith's ability to close on the ball from deep. Not only does Smith show off his athleticism, but also his awareness. You can see in the above GIF that he plants his foot to move downhill as soon as the handoff begins in the backfield.

Although that type of aggressiveness can normally lead to big passing plays, that's not the case with Smith. He plays the percentages. In this instance he would have seen the tight end engage with the linebacker directly in line with him and he will have understood the tendencies of the Panthers offense.

Zimmer has built a defense that wins against the run on every level. The defensive line understands leverage and can win one-on-one matchups. The linebackers understand how to find the football and when to to go looking for it. The cornerbacks are willing tacklers and the safeties close quickly to the line of scrimmage. In terms of both scheme and talent, the Panthers are the greatest test for a run defense in the NFL. The Vikings passed that test.

And made it look easy.

Pass Defense

Containing either Cam Newton or Aaron Rodgers is an achievement. Getting the better of one is extremely difficult. Getting the better of both to the degree that the Vikings did within eight days of each other is unfathomable. It's not just that Newton is the reigning MVP and Rodgers is the best quarterback in the league, they also run two completely different offenses. Preparing for Rodgers one week is like taking a test on nuclear fusion Preparing for Newton the next is like taking a test on neurosurgery.

Each quarterback requires that you play with precision in your assignments, the assignments are just different.

Against Rodgers, the Vikings were more aggressive with their coverages. Rodgers forces you to mix up your coverages and disguise them at times to keep him off balance, but the Vikings still played a lot of press-man coverage on the outside. They dared Davante Adams to beat them, and ultimately Adams couldn't. Trae Waynes gave up a few plays when trying to be aggressive through routes from the line of scrimmage, but he also sealed the game with an interception in off-man coverage towards the end of the fourth quarter.

Against Newton, the Vikings used softer coverages to keep the Panthers' big-play receivers from getting in behind their safeties. That doesn't mean they weren't still aggressive. According to ESPN Stats and Info, the Vikings blitzed Newton with six defenders twice as many times as they did Rodgers. Rodgers saw more five-man blitzes, as the Vikings attempted to isolate offensive linemen in one-on-one situations. Five-man blitzes are less effective against the Panthers because the Panthers like to throw off of play-action from seven-man protections. As such, if you're going to blitz the Panthers, it's better to be more aggressive than you normally would be. You want to either outnumber the three receivers who run routes downfield or not give Newton time in the pocket for those receivers to run their slow-developing routes.

Of the eight sacks the Vikings got against Newton in Week 3, one came on a three-man rush and two came on six-man rushes.

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For both of these sacks, the Vikings rush six defenders after Newton and get to him before the slow-developing routes can create an opening downfield. The first play sees Newton bail out as the pocket around him collapses, whereas the second springs Smith unblocked off the edge. Newton had a clear touchdown opportunity down the right seam and was just about to release the ball when Smith got to him. This wasn't luck, it was good gameplanning from Zimmer.

Four of the remaining five sacks came on four-man rushes. Those sacks highlighted the quality of Vikings defensive ends Everson Griffen and Hunter. Griffen has blossomed into one of the best defensive ends in the NFL since signing a contract extension for $42.5 million in 2014. That deal was widely criticized at the time, but represents great value now. Hunter was considered a reach in the third round of the 2015 draft. He was a great athlete but didn't show the technique or instincts that Zimmer has instilled in him since he arrived in Minnesota. Hunter is one of the most exciting young talents in the NFL.

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The Vikings' first score against the Panthers came from the defense via a safety. The Panthers called a seven-man protection with a play fake in the hopes of creating a big play downfield. Their outside routes were slow-developing, so Newton had to hold the ball in the pocket. Because the Vikings' coverage was soft outside, the cornerbacks and safeties were able to stay in position throughout the play. Hunter beat Michael Oher so badly in his initial block that the defensive end hesitated for a second to make sure the ball hadn't been handed off. He showcased his athleticism after that point in the play to close on Newton before the left guard could recover to push him out of the play.

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Although Hunter got the safety, Griffen had three sacks in this game. That leaves him with four sacks on the season after notching 22.5 over the previous two seasons combined. Griffen is a bulky defensive end who lacks the length of his peers, but he is still able to beat offensive tackles in different ways. The above GIF shows off how he beats Michael Oher with his speed rush around the edge. Oher isn't able to match Griffen's low center of gravity to redirect him away from the quarterback. That is a problem a lot of tackles have with the Vikings defensive end because most of them play much taller than he does. Hunter has a nasty spin move, and he can rip through blocks with his hands and bull-rush over blockers who are off balance. He does all this while still being a great run defender who shows discipline when rushing contain.

The Vikings don't have a great secondary. They do have the makings of a great front seven that features at least three pass rushers who can consistently win one-on-one matchups.

Sam Bradford

Bradford has been one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL so far this season. That's without even considering that he arrived in Minnesota late and is playing with a supporting cast that is both lacking in talent and depleted by injury. Bradford is completing 67.8 percent of his passes and averaging 7.7 yards per attempt. He has accounted for 457 yards and three touchdowns in two games without throwing an interception.

The Vikings don't need Bradford to be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. They need him to take care of the football and make timely plays that allow the offense to complement the defense. While that sounds simple, it's difficult when playing behind one of the worst offensive lines in the league with a receiving corps that will be overly reliant on Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph. Diggs is the best receiver Bradford has played with in his career. That seems crazy until you rank Bradford's prior teammates and find Danny Amendola, Brandon Lloyd, and Mark Clayton appearing much higher than you expect them to.

Against the Packers, Bradford threw two touchdowns that not many players in the league can make.

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Kyle Rudolph wasn't even open on this play. Bradford throws him open by perfectly placing the ball in a spot where only his tight end can catch it. This is a dangerous throw that requires sustained velocity. A quarterback with limited arm strength -- say, Shaun Hill -- couldn't make this throw. If he tried, the ball would hang out for the safety to undercut it. Bradford didn't just throw Rudolph open, he also covered for his right guard who was badly beaten in protection. As soon as Bradford releases the ball he takes a big hit from the arriving defender. This is the quintessential example of a quarterback elevating his teammates with his actions on the field. Only the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL make this play.

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Bradford's second touchdown throw was somewhat similar to his first, but arguably even more impressive. As Adrian Peterson was being carried to the locker room through the stadium, Bradford extended the Vikings' lead by throwing Diggs open with anticipation. Diggs ran a good route, but Damarious Randall did a good job sticking with him. Bradford had to put the ball where he did to give Diggs a chance at catching it without letting Randall interfere. The GIF has been slowed down to show just how precise Bradford needed to be. He had to make that throw while the Vikings offensive line failed to pick up a stunt, something the Vikings offensive line regularly fails to do. Bradford doesn't flinch as he releases the ball and is immediately hit in the chest by a defensive lineman.

Neither of those touchdowns were easy in any way. They are two of the toughest throws a quarterback can be asked to make.

Against the Panthers in Week 3, Bradford got off to a sluggish start in an offense that struggled to match the intensity of the Panthers defense. The coaching staff clearly adjusted in the second half and showcased the versatility in Bradford's skill set.

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On this play, Bradford rolls out of the pocket by design. He comes off his first read and makes a precise throw back across his body into a tight window. His arm strength and mechanics made this throw possible.

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Adam Thielen makes a great play on this ball. Had Thielen not been held, he would have been able to make a more comfortable catch. This is a corner route throw from close to the far hash that Bradford places perfectly.

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Without Peterson, the Vikings may be more inclined to spread the field with five receiving options. Bradford was the most accurate quarterback in the NFL last year according to the Pre-Snap Reads Quarterback Catalogue charting, despite struggling through the first half of the season in his return from the second ACL tear of his career. He can pick apart a secondary from spread-out formations. In the above GIF you can see him manipulate Luke Kuechly with his eyes before finding Rudolph with an accurate pass over the middle of the field.

Bradford also connected with Rudolph for a touchdown in this game when he recognized Shaq Thompson had turned his back to the quarterback while trailing Rudolph into the end zone. Bradford may not have the career-long stats to back up his quality, but he is a very good quarterback who only needs to stay healthy to help guide this team into the playoffs.

Zimmer almost never became the Vikings head coach. He admitted that he was reluctant to interview with the Vikings for a second time back in 2014 because of how he had failed so often before. The then 57-year old had previously been passed over after interviews with the Rams, Browns, Dolphins, Buccaneers, Chargers, Titans and even the University of Nebraska

You think any of those teams would take Zimmer today?

Posted by: Cian Fahey on 29 Sep 2016

34 comments, Last at 10 Oct 2016, 3:53pm by Tomlin_Is_Infallible

Comments

1
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 09/29/2016 - 8:49am

Bradford's problems last year wasn't his accuracy, or even really his knee -- it was feeling the pressure and rushing the ball out. When he was comfortable, he was good. But he turned into a turnover machine when he got happy feet.

2
by andrew :: Thu, 09/29/2016 - 9:41am

The offensive line is the achilles heel of the team. It has hamstrung their rushing attack (even when they had Peterson) and coupled with Bradford's injury history is a major concern.

That being said the defense is impressive, especially when you consider what it looked like prior to Zimmer's arrival:

year dvoa rank:

2011 23
2012 21
2013 27
2014 24 (zimmer arrives)
2015 14
2016 3 (3 games, non-weighted)

Anyone who watches the vikings can see the vast improvement in overall techniques and schemes. The last time they had a decent ranking was 2010, when they were #12, but that defense was more a few star players (especially Jared Allen), but you never had a feeling they could shut down the top offenses who could scheme to neutralize players like Allen. Now its the other way around, and the contributing depth he gets from non-starters especially on the D-line is fantastic. The loss of starter Sharif Floyd barely registered (other than slightly less depth).

27
by galactic_dev :: Thu, 09/29/2016 - 10:20pm

I'm shocked their D was only ranked 14th last year. They looked mean and feisty across the board.

28
by Will Allen :: Thu, 09/29/2016 - 10:34pm

The safetys not named "Harrison Smith" were not good, and they were thin at corner, especially when Rhodes was banged up, in large measure due to Waynes needing a ton of work on tehcnique. The safeties not named Smith have been a little better, Waynes, while still with stuff to work on, has improved a lot, and their 2nd round pick from this year, Alexander, is picking things up more rapidly than Waynes did last year. Old Man Newman, to my surprise, still has something left in the tank. The secondary still isn't great, but it's better, and deeper, especially when Rhodes is unhindered by injury.

30
by andrew :: Fri, 09/30/2016 - 8:55am

They were 5th in points allowed, but on a per play basis (DVOA) they weren't quite as good as that. This is one of those cases where the numbers differ from common perception.... their run defense was below median (ranked 18th), and I do remember them being run on at times.

2015 defense.

3
by Will Allen :: Thu, 09/29/2016 - 10:20am

Spielman really had a decent strategy to improve the o-line play this year, but injuries, illness, and retirement played havoc. One glimmer of hope is that Clemmings didn't stink replacing Kalil at LT against the Panthers. Fusco is still on the field, however, which means Bradford's life is in peril.

If you want to get some sense of how haphazard and inexact the head coach hiring process is in the NFL, Zimmer is example 1, especially once you consider that Parcells has been lobbying hard for the guy the entire time. Their o-line may be their downfall this year, but this is easily the best coached Vikings team since Dennis Green had Dungy, Kiffin, and Tice on his staff, and Green, whom I consider to be underrated, is no match for Zimmer when it comes to in-game adjustments. Zimmer has a sense of how to get control of a game that Vikings fans haven't seen since Bud Grant was regularly stealing games.

4
by Raiderjoe :: Thu, 09/29/2016 - 12:06pm

yes, zimmer shodul have gotten head coaching job a lot sooner. was considered too prickly or soemthing

7
by Will Allen :: Thu, 09/29/2016 - 12:27pm

He seems constitutionally incapable of engaging in any bullsh*t, which means it is kind of funny to think of him out on the recruiting trail, if he'd been hired by Nebraska. I can see it now, Zimmer in the kitchen of a prized recruit, being given something to eat by the recruit's mother....."Well, Mrs. Recruit's Mom, your brownies have about as much flavor as a gym sock, so, no, I don't think I'll have another"........

5
by andrew :: Thu, 09/29/2016 - 12:09pm

The vikings have been able to wear their purple jerseys all three weeks so far despite being on the road twice as Tennessee and Carolina opted for white jerseys at home. The vikings are home the next two weeks, followed by a bye meaning it may be week seven at tge eagkes before they wear white.

6
by jtr :: Thu, 09/29/2016 - 12:17pm

Sacks against Oher should only count as half-sacks in the stat sheet. That was some absolutely brutal pass protection in those two gifs.

12
by theslothook :: Thu, 09/29/2016 - 1:48pm

I remember watching the blindside and my friends all asked me - so did Oher become an awesome player in the nfl? I didn't know whether to feign ignorance or ruin the romance of it all.

I decided to say no comment.

9
by theslothook :: Thu, 09/29/2016 - 1:32pm

One of my favorite quotes from Zimmer was his threat to fight Joyner/Greg Williams last year after the cheap shot to Bridgewater.

Great coaches deserve to get talent to play with. As a fan of good defense(and also a team that rarely plays it) - I like routing for such teams.

8
by Raiderfan :: Thu, 09/29/2016 - 1:23pm

A really excellent article--well laid out and informative. The two things that came out clearly to me--who does not follow the Vikings at all--are the coaching of the defense (which I had at least read about) and Bradford's skills and arm (which I had not). Great stuff.

10
by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Thu, 09/29/2016 - 1:36pm

Things I learned: a RH QB throwing across his body generates a pass that still travels to the right.

--------------------------------------
The standard is the standard!

32
by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Fri, 09/30/2016 - 11:37am

I guess everyone else already knew this seemingly little known fact.
Which begs the question: why did it need to be written?

--------------------------------------
The standard is the standard!

34
by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 10/10/2016 - 3:53pm

I missed the game this weekend, did Slingin Sam make any more throws that violate the laws of physics again?

-------------------------------------
The standard is the standard!

11
by snakerjaker :: Thu, 09/29/2016 - 1:47pm

I've been noticing recently the similarities in how both Zimmer and Chuck Pagano talk and (seem to) approach the game... their speech is very similar, they seem to be saying the same thing. but when the rubber meets the road one is a top-tier coach in the NFL, while the other is a punch line. Everywhere in the NFL the line between pass and failure is so tiny...

"You never miss a shot you don't take."

15
by Cian Fahey :: Thu, 09/29/2016 - 2:54pm

The original draft of this article actually went into much greater length on Zimmer often sounding like the Paganos and Ryans of the world. I think the major differences are Zimmer's intelligence and adaptability. Pagano literally believes that running more automatically means you have a better chance to win. Zimmer doesn't use that kind of logic at least.

19
by dmstorm22 :: Thu, 09/29/2016 - 4:01pm

On the defense side, it may come down to personnel differences.

I'm amazed with Pagano that Indy has fielded even competent defenses the last three years given the lack of talent he has to work with.

20
by theslothook :: Thu, 09/29/2016 - 4:30pm

Yeah, I don't like Pagano as a coach really, but the colts defenses have never bottom out by dvoa in a way their talent would suggest. To that extent and to be fair, its worth acknowledging that.

22
by Eddo :: Thu, 09/29/2016 - 6:00pm

"Pagano literally believes that running more automatically means you have a better chance to win."

How do you know that? The Colts run a pretty pass-heavy offense, and as you point out, a coach can say these things publicly but not actually believe them.

33
by jtr :: Fri, 09/30/2016 - 3:49pm

How about we phrase it like this: in two different seasons, Pagano somehow thought that giving Trent Richardson 150 carries would somehow give his team a better chance to win.

13
by theslothook :: Thu, 09/29/2016 - 1:51pm

"with no one team that is great on both sides of the ball" - Hate to disagree and I especially hate disagreeing when its this particular team in question - but there is one team that will go from tough to terrifying in exactly one week from now.

23
by whateverdude :: Thu, 09/29/2016 - 6:14pm

Defensive DVOA of 24th would indicate otherwise.

14
by lokiwi :: Thu, 09/29/2016 - 2:10pm

Really excited to see the pass D with Rhodes playing a full complement of snaps. He's shown flashes of being an elite corner and (I think) showed up in the top 10 of some of your rate statistics last season. If he's on the field, Sandejo is the only below-average player getting every down snaps, depending on how you feel about Greenway and the mix of Waynes/Alexander/Newman.

16
by panthersnbraves :: Thu, 09/29/2016 - 3:18pm

Thanks for the detailed PTSD.... excellent, if painful, write-up.

17
by andrew :: Thu, 09/29/2016 - 3:19pm

Given that Treadwell has barely seen the field part of me laments what could have been with say a Cravens or Jack added to the mix for the few perceived lesser pieces of the unit (Greenway or Sendejo), but I guess Spielman knows what he is doing.

18
by Will Allen :: Thu, 09/29/2016 - 3:49pm

I really wanted Spielman to go all in on defense, and use his first on that side of the ball. I' m taking comfort in the fact that Zimmer just does't rush rookies on to the field until he has confidence that they aren't going to be mental mistake machines.

21
by techvet :: Thu, 09/29/2016 - 5:07pm

The Petrino remarks are classic.

24
by skepticismissurvival :: Thu, 09/29/2016 - 7:46pm

First of all, fantastic article, and I really don't want to nitpick here but felt this needed mention:

"Neither Barr nor Kendricks are big."

Size was certainly a knock on Kendricks coming out, but Barr was an edge rush prospect and at 6'5" and 255 lbs. he's absolutely massive for a LB.

25
by t.d. :: Thu, 09/29/2016 - 9:13pm

I thought the trade for Bradford was foolish at the time, but, while it's hard not to overreact, he was clearly the best quarterback on the field in their game against Green Bay, and this is obviously the best coaching staff he's ever played for. If the offensive line doesn't improve, it won't matter because he won't make it through the season, but, if they do, their ceiling is Super Bowl champs. Zimmer has got to be a top 5 coach.

26
by jmaron :: Thu, 09/29/2016 - 9:57pm

That was my first reaction as well, but then I thought if they are actually a decent team the 1st rounder will be a late pick and also if Bradford plays well and Bridgewater comes back healthy you have a shot at gaining back what you gave up for Bradford by trading one of them.

29
by EnderCN :: Fri, 09/30/2016 - 12:06am

Packers had WR open all day long against the Vikings, they just played very poorly and Rodgers missed a good 100+ yards in open receivers.

Carolina's line is a complete mess and they are going to be crushed by every team who can rush them hardcore.

It is a good defense but it has played over its head statistically this year. If NFL teams are commodities on the market I advise people to sell on the Vikings. Their value is just going down the rest of the season.

31
by BJR :: Fri, 09/30/2016 - 10:26am

The turnover margin and defensive/special teams scoring rate are certainly unsustainable. OTOH, the opponent adjustments are guaranteed to make the past two week's defensive performances more impressive. Carolina's line has looked a mess against the Broncos and Vikings, but it remains to be seen whether other teams will be able to exploit this apparent weakness. Green Bay isn't the juggernaut of 2014, but it is still going to be a top 5 offence.

Monday night's game will be fascinating: I keep waiting for the Giants' offence to explode because the talent at QB/WR is phenomenal (although the blocking remains dubious), but they are being utterly hamstrung by turnovers. There ought to be some sort of turnover regression, but perhaps not until after they've visited a rowdy Vikings home stadium in prime-time.