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» Week 4 DVOA Ratings

Five different teams from last year's DVOA top eight rank in the bottom half of the league through four weeks of 2014. What can we learn from other teams with similar starts in the past?

22 Jan 2013

Conf. Championship Quick Reads

by Vince Verhei

In the first halves of their respective championship games, the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots had a combined lead of 37-21. In the second halves, however, they were outscored 35-0, and now both teams will head into the offseason looking to make repairs rather than celebrating a Lombardi Trophy. Although the two teams shared similar fates on Sunday, they have opposite weaknesses that must be addressed. The Falcons need to add some muscle on both sides of the ball, while the Patriots need to overhaul their secondary and find more targets for Tom Brady.

With Matt Ryan slinging the ball to Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Tony Gonzalez, the Falcons had little trouble getting ahead in games this season, but hanging on to those leads proved to be a problem, particularly in the playoffs. (And by the way, Gonzalez is still one of the best tight ends in football, and convincing him not to retire should also be an immediate item on the Falcons' to-do-list.) In that situation, you'd like a powerful running game to grind out the clock, but Atlanta's rushing offense was surprisingly inept for a 13-3 football team. The Falcons finished the regular season 29th in Football Outsiders' rushing offense rankings, and Michael Turner was among the bottom five running backs in football. That'll happen when you average just 3.6 yards per rush. The Falcons got better results out of Jacquizz Rodgers, and in many games he ended up getting more carries than Turner, but he averaged only 3.9 yards per carry. He's not the long-term answer, either.

This is not to say that Atlanta can just grab a running back in the first round and consider their offense fixed. The offensive line had trouble opening holes all year, finishing 24th in FO's run blocking rankings, and dead last by a wide margin in conversion rate on short-yardage runs. Three projected starters (guard Garrett Reynolds, who missed most of the year with a back injury, plus tackle Sam Baker and center Todd McClure) are entering free agency, so this unit could be in for a complete makeover.

Atlanta's rushing defense was better than their rushing offense, but it was still a problem. They were especially vulnerable to long runs (only four defenses were worse in FO's Open-Field Yards metric), and eight runners this year burned the Falcons for at least 80 yards and 5.0 yards per carry in a single game. Frankly, it's hard to find a particular unit that's responsible for this. Every level of the Atlanta defense had some players who were somewhat active against the run for their position, which suggests the problems were due more to scheme breakdowns than a lack of individual talent. Still, if a monster defensive tackle falls into their laps, the Falcons should waste no time in making him feel at home.

While Atlanta could use a small upgrade to the front of their defense, New England needs radical changes to their back end. As FO boss Aaron Schatz wrote in our AFC Championship Game preview, the Patriots pass defense improved after a midseason roster shuffle that put Aqib Talib and Alfonzo Dennard at cornerback and moved Devin McCourty to safety. On Sunday, though, Talib was injured on the second series of the game. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was 1-of-4 for 18 yards before Talib's injury, but for the rest of the first half he went 5-of-8 for 64 yards. Both teams then made major adjustments at halftime. The Patriots, realizing that Talib would not be returning, and cognizant of the way Baltimore's Torrey Smith had torched Denver's Champ Bailey one week prior, switched to a very conservative zone scheme that left the middle of the field wide-open. The Ravens, meanwhile, were well aware that Talib was out of the picture, and they opened the playbook and put the game in Flacco's hands. In the first half, the Ravens had more runs (14) than passing plays (13), but they opened the second half with 25 passes and eight runs before adding 11 runs (and no passes) on their last two clock-killing drives. New England's strategy slowed Flacco down, but they couldn't keep him out of the end zone. He only averaged 10.6 yards per completion after halftime, but he also threw touchdowns on three straight drives. The first step for the Patriots is re-signing Talib in free agency, but even if they get that done, it's not enough. As more and more teams use three wide receivers in their base offense, it's going to be critical that teams have at least three starting-caliber cornerbacks on their roster.

As long as the Patriots are fixing their pass defense, they could stand to patch up their pass offense as well. New England scored the most points in the league this year, but they did it with efficiency, not explosiveness. The Patriots simply didn't have any receivers who could reliably make plays downfield. Counting defensive pass interfence calls as completions, Tom Brady was only successful on 35 percent of his deep passes (balls that traveled more than 15 yards in the air past the line of scrimmage) in 2012. There were 32 quarterbacks with at least 50 deep passes this season, and only two (Cleveland's Brandon Weeden and Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger) were less accurate with the long ball. Wes Welker (assuming he re-signs), Brandon Lloyd and Deion Branch will be a combined 98 years old next season. It's time for the Patriots to find some fresh legs and stretch the field.

Quarterbacks
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
1.
Matt Ryan ATL
30/42
396
3
1
199
200
-1
It was a tale of two halves for the Falcons' quarterback. First half: 18-of-24 for 271 yards with three touchdowns and 11 other first downs. In that time, the Falcons had Ryan's three scores, plus one field goal and one punt. Second half: 12-of-18 for 125 yards with six first downs with one interception, one fumbled snap, and one sack. The Falcon's drives after halftime: the two turnovers, a three-and-out with a punt, a failed fourth-down play in the red zone, and a one-play 24-yard drive that accomplished nothing other than to run out the clock.
2.
Colin Kaepernick SF
16/21
233
1
0
144
141
3
First three drives: 6-of-9 for 51 yards (27 on one play) with two first downs and a sack. Next three drives: 7-of-8 for 137 yards, with every completion going for a first down, including a touchdown. And then he finished 3-of-4 for 45 yards and two more first downs. If there was a hole in Kaepernick's game, it came on third downs, where he went 1-of-3 for 27 yards and a sack. Of course, the fact that he only had four third-down plays is a pretty good sign.
3.
Joe Flacco BAL
21/36
242
3
0
117
111
6
Flacco is known best for his deep balls, and while he threw a ton of them against the Pats, he wasn't especially effective, going 4-of-11 for 90 yards. In the red zone, though, he was a machine, going 7-of-8 for 44 yards. Three of those completions went for touchdowns, one other went for a first down, and the other three were all successful plays.
4.
Tom Brady NE
29/52
320
1
2
40
43
-4
Brady was pretty effective over most of the field, but he had all kinds of problems in scoring range. Outside Baltimore's 40-yard line, he went 22-of-31 for 249 yards with 13 first downs. Inside the 40, though, he went 7-of-21 for 71 yards with one touchdown, five other first downs, and two interceptions.


Five most valuable running backs
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Bernard Pierce BAL
52
0
8
0
31
24
7
Pierce was stuffed just once in nine carries, with six runs that gained 5 yards or more, two that gained 10 yards or more, and three first downs. He also caught the only pass thrown his way for an 8-yard gain on second-and-8.
2.
Frank Gore SF
90
2
0
0
24
24
0
Ten of Gore's 21 carries gained 5 yards or more, and two gained 10 yards or more, with two touchdowns and three other first downs. He was stuffed three times.
3.
Ray Rice BAL
48
1
22
0
14
17
-3
Rice carried 19 times against New England, with four stuffs, one touchdown, and three other first downs. He also caught three of the four passes thrown his way. One of those was a 4-yard loss on first down, but the others went for 26 total yards and two first downs on second-and-8 and second-and-10. Frankly, it wasn't a particularly great day, but it was championship weekend, and only seven backs qualifed for these tables.
4.
LaMichael James SF
34
1
4
0
13
13
0
I'll just list James' six plays here in order: 4-yard reception on second-and-6; 15-yard touchdown on second-and-10; 3-yard gain on first-and-19; 1-yard gain on first-and-10; 7-yard gain on second-and-12; 8-yard gain on first-and-10.
5.
Michael Turner ATL
30
0
0
0
10
10
0
Turner had one stuff and one 10-yard run, with two first downs. Six of his carries came on first-and-10. The others came on second-and-2 and second-and-6. Championship week, everyone.


Least valuable running back
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Stevan Ridley NE
70
0
0
0
-16
-16
0
Three of Ridley's 18 carries resulted in no gain, and none gained more than 9 yards, although four of them went for first downs. However, the last of his carries resulted in a frighteningly violent collision and a lost fumble. By the way, the only running back who qualified for these tables and hasn't already been listed is Atlanta's Jacquizz Rodgers, whose rushing totals were very similar to Michael Turner's. As a receiver, though, the Falcons threw him one pass on second-and-4 and two on third-and-4, and they were all incomplete.


Five most valuable wide receivers and tight ends
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
Julio Jones ATL
11
13
182
16.5
2
105
This was, by far, the best game for a wide receiver in the 2012 season. The prior leader (with updated opponent adjustments) was Michael Crabtree's eight-catch, 173-yard, two-touchdown day against Arizona in Week 17. That game "only" scored 83 DYAR, and only three other players all season (Dez Bryant, Reggie Wayne, and Andre Johnson) passed the 80-DYAR mark. Jones had two touchdowns and six other first downs, with four gains of 20 yards or more. His other three receptions (8- and 6-yard gains on first-and-10 and a 5-yard gain on second-and-7) were still successful plays. He converted all of his third-down opportunities, with gains of 27 and 13 yards on third-and-10 and 5 yards on third-and-4.
2.
Vernon Davis SF
5
6
106
21.2
1
48
First quarter: One target, an incomplete pass on third-and-9. Second quarter: four catches in four targets for 75 yards, with the first three receptions each gaining a first down and at least 19 yards, and the fourth a 4-yard touchdown. Third quarter: one catch in one target for 31 yards. Fourth quarter: no targets.
3.
Tony Gonzalez ATL
8
8
78
9.8
1
45
Dear Tony Gonzalez: Please don't retire. You are still great. And almost perfect, with just one failed play on the day (a 5-yard gain on third-and-6). Otherwise, he had one touchdown, four first downs, and three successful short completions.
4.
Anquan Boldin BAL
5
8
60
12.0
2
37
Boldin only saw two targets in the first half, both incomplete. Then in the third quarter he had a 26-yard gain on third-and-9, a 12-yard gain on second-and-10, and an 8-yard gain on first-and-10. And then in the fourth quarter he had touchdowns of 3 and 11 yards, though his last target was an incomplete pass on third-and-11.
5.
Wes Welker NE
8
12
117
14.6
1
34
It was not a great day for Welker on third downs, with just one reception for 1 yard in four targets (although that one reception was a touchdown). Besides the scoring play, he had four other first downs.


Least valuable wide receiver or tight end
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
Brandon Lloyd NE
7
14
70
10.0
0
-22
Passes to the left side: 4-of-9 for 33 yards with two first downs. Passes to the middle and right: 3-of-5 for 39 yards (each reception gained 12 or 13 yards) with three first downs.

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 22 Jan 2013

88 comments, Last at 24 Jan 2013, 7:09am by Bab

Comments

1
by Mikeyboy (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 12:29pm

I'm interested in hearing how Brady had 52 more DYAR vs. the Ravens this week than Manning did last week. Both had 2 INT's, Manning was more accurate (65.1 comp% to 55.8 comp%), Manning had 3 TD's to Brady's 1, More YPA (6.74 to 6.15). Is 1 fumble really the difference between the two?

7
by nat :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 12:52pm

Sacks and fumbles, both. If you think of those sacks and the fumble as pass attempts (which they were), the %comp and YPA don't look so good. And a sack/fumble is a very bad result, even when you adjust it for the expected recovery rate.

No, FO and DYAR aren't out to get Peyton. He was simply one of the eight QBs to have below replacement level games in the playoffs this year. Shit happens, even to great QBs.

Brady had an above replacement level game, but not by much. It was quite a change from the previous week, when he posted the second best QB performance of this year's playoffs. It just goes to show that match ups and pre/in-game schemes matter a lot.

12
by RickD :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 1:11pm

Manning was sacked 3 times. Brady wasn't sacked at all.

Completion percentage isn't the right stat to look at. A completion can be a negative play. Success rate would be more useful.

20
by Kal :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 1:40pm

Well, Brady had 54 attempts and only 29 completions; stands to reason that his success rate isn't all that high.

26
by DavidL :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 2:01pm

Certainly, but Manning's 28 completions on 43 attempts (and then add in the two sacks and a fumble, which gives you a completed pass on 60.8% of dropbacks) don't necessarily mean his success rate was any higher.

58
by Dave B (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 11:02pm

I'm not sure Manning's first fumble where there it didn't matter because there was a penalty should be counted.

According to pro-football-references expected points model

Denver pass offense(manning) was worth 6.22 pts
Patriots pass offense (brady) was worth 2.32 pts

These include the interceptions by brady and lost fumbles by Manning

advancednflstats had

manning at 0.29 Win probability added, 6.5 expected pts added for the game vs the ravens

brady had 0.09 win probability added and 2.3 expected pts.

Theses model don't penalize manning for the fumble that was negated because of penalties but even if they did I can't see how Manning still wouldn't come out even rather than significantly behind as he does in DYAR. By the pfr model the fumble that wasn't would have been worth -4.5 expected pts. Making Mannings EPA in both models about 2.0 to Brady's 2.3

69
by thsunga (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 7:20am

When it comes to the first fumble, Denver would probably have challenged the ruling if it hadn't been overturned by penalties.

Because it sure seemed as if Manning's knee was down before he lost control of the ball.

61
by steve10c (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 1:32am

Manning increased the probability of his teaming winning by a lot and Brady didn't, so when you watch it you think "it wasn't really Manning's fault" Denver lost, but it kind of was Tom Brady's fault the Pats lost. On top of that most people noticed the PI/tipped ball on the pick 6 and blown tuck/fumble call, so you tend not to blame Manning for those plays. DYAR doesn't take situation into account or bad officiating. Still, by most traditional and advanced metrics Manning was better so DYAR's result is still odd.

2
by RickD :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 12:34pm

Jeff Demps could stretch the field if that's what it took. Or Shane Vereen. I know neither is realy a WR, but they're both fast (and Demps is very fast). Also, Edelman should be coming back. WR is really far from the biggest issue.

I don't think the problem on Sunday was lack of deep receivers so much as it was the wind. Brady wasn't going to be accurate on a deep throw to 2007 Randy Moss on Sunday. There's a lot of talk about how he could play until 40, but I think that's a bit delusional.

A real question is whether Ryan Mallett will compete for the QB job in the next two years or if he'll be sent away even if Brady's arm strength is becoming an issue on deep passes. Belichick is notoriously intolerant of any drop-off in athletic performance.

But the real problem is the defense. It's better than it was last season, but it's still very far from championship caliber. And that blame has to fall on Belichick himself. He has not managed resources well back there. He gave up on Darius Butler, who had a good season for the Colts and is certainly better than Kyle Arrington.

3
by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 12:40pm

I still can't get over how, in the only word I can think of to describe it, passive the Pats defensive front looked on Sunday. I don't think I've ever seen an offensive line have a statistically decent day while expending less energy than I saw the Ravens get two days ago. It was really weird to me, but like I said before, I didn't watch the Patriots all that closely this year.

11
by Gus (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 1:09pm

They looked like they just stopped trying in the late third quarter. Now granted, Chandler Jones only played two snaps due to injury, but...yuck. At least TRY to pressure Joe Flacco, guys.

14
by RickD :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 1:13pm

They missed Chandler Jones badly. I thought Nink got close a few times, and indeed got a sack eventually. Actually the Pats got two sacks while the Ravens got zero. But it seems like the Pats were the ones with a weak pass rush.

I blame the coverage.

17
by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 1:25pm

Yeah, that sack came when they made Mckinnie do what he hasn't done well for a long time; handle a good speed rush unassisted. There were lots of plays, however, where Mckinnie didn't have to move any faster than he pushes himself away from the dinner plate, which, for most of his career, has been a somewhat languorous activity. At least Denver made him establish that he wasn't a large potted plant. Maybe it was injury and bad coverage; it just seemed off to me.

22
by Gus (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 1:50pm

It was more that since everyone knows Flacco doesn't play as well/identify blitzes as well under pressure, everyone knew that pass rush for the Pats could be a big factor.

4
by Silm (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 12:47pm

The wind was a huge issue for both teams. As a Ravens fan I was nervous it would nullify our deep ball (I think it did) and you could see a few passes that we had open, Pitta on a wheel route, and Jacoby Jones on a wide open TD, and Torrey on an open deep ball, where the wind appeared to sail the ball out of bounds or out of reach. The Pats didn't seem to have many deep balls or passes that looked like wind would affect them (the 1Q welker pass maybe) but still i bet thats annoying for any QB. Really have to have laser passes to get around it. I wonder if the Pats try for a big play WR. I thought Lloyd would be a huge addition for them and while certainly an upgrade over Branch, I wonder if they're getting enough. But at the same time, it doesn't seem like Brady has the deep ball proficiency that he used to.

9
by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 1:06pm

Brady's deep ball has never been great, especially in the wind. People do not understand how much of his success on deep passes in 2007 was Randy Moss being Randy Moss.

The passing in this game was much more interesting for Flacco's ability to complete slants, outs and comebacks than for anything Brady did. Brady had a Brady wind game. Flacco completed passes consistently (!).

15
by RickD :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 1:16pm

I think it was clear that Flacco had the stronger arm Sunday, and that helped a lot. But it's also true that most (all?) of Flacco's success came in the 2nd and 3rd quarters when he had the wind. Brady was also pretty good with the wind in the 1st quarter.

In the 4th quarter he was pressing and throwing into the hands of jumping linemen.

21
by A_man (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 1:42pm

Wait a second... didn't Flacco have the wind in the first quarter? The Pats won the toss and elected to recieve, and so the Ravens chose to kick into the wind, right? Or am I totally misremembering it?

24
by Andrew Potter :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 1:58pm

Almost. The Ravens won the toss and elected to defer. Baltimore was certainly playing into the wind in the 2nd quarter.

31
by Travis :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 2:21pm

The Ravens defended the North goal (and had the wind at their backs) in both the 1st and 3rd quarters; they were going into the wind in the 2nd and 4th.

33
by RickD :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 2:45pm

The game book you link to says that the Ravens elected to defend the North goal in the 1st quarter, while the Pats elected to defend the South goal in the 3rd quarter.
So the Pats had the wind in the 2nd and 4th quarters.

Hmm...they did best against the wind in the 1st quarter, and did poorly with the wind in the 4th.

34
by RickD :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 2:46pm

The Patriots never elect to receive. If they receive at the beginning of the game, it's because they lost the coin toss. If they win the coin toss, they defer to receive at the start of the 2nd half.

I remember Mike Reiss saying that part of the reason that the Pats didn't go for the FG from the Ravens' 34 in the 3rd quarter was because it was against the wind. Hence, the Pats had the wind in their face in 2nd and 3rd quarters, and at their backs in the 1st and 4th quarters.

edit: game book indicates I was misremembering the 1st half.

23
by sundown (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 1:57pm

Totally agree with your comments about when they had Moss. And it is clearly by design that they don't throw deep very often. They've got more weapons in the passing game than anybody and they thrive on creating bad matchups. Their plan seems to be that shorter passes that they can consistently complete work better for them than long passes they may not. Possibly a flawed plan, but they don't even really try to stretch the field.

More troubling than their lack of deep passing is their inability to score points in big games. Against the Ravens, Brady's passing was down (probably partly due to the wind) but they managed to run for almost 100 and they had 25 first downs. But they didn't put up many points. Not all that different from last year's Super Bowl or the playoff loss the year before to the Jets. You'll watch the game, they'll be moving the ball and things will seem to be under control, then you'll look at the scoreboard and notice they don't have much to show for their efforts.

64
by JimZipCode :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 3:59am

Ravens have been pretty good defensively in the red zone all year. Bad (by their standards) on D everywhere else, but good in the RZ.

67
by RedDog (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 7:10am

I think Brady needs receivers with a huge "catching range". Gronkowski is the poster child, he catches everything from his feet to 2 yards above his head. He had long arms and covers a lot of space around his body.

I think Moss in 2007 also had that ability, to catch a not perfectly thrown ball, even with defenders in the vicinity.

Brady isn't very accurate. Welker is smaller, but on the underneath routes, he also catches balls other receivers wouldn't.

I also think there should be a big variance in yards after catch on the Pats. when Brady is on target, the receiver can run. Against Baltimore, Brady also got uncomfortable/frustrated (my interpretation of the Reed slide) and probably less accurate.

You can't really blame Brandon Lloyd for not being able to stretch the field. Brady is very inaccurate on throws that travel a long way thru the air, and Lloyd isn't the tallest receiver. he had to make some serious acrobatics on some Brady-throws.

I see how important Welker is for this offense, but I say again what I said last season: let him walk, if only to push Brady out of his comfort zone.

72
by A_man (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 10:09am

Tom Brady is 35 years old. I don't think now is the time to try to "push him out of his comfort zone" - I would do more to get the kind of guys he needs to succeed now, before he's done.

5
by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 12:49pm

The people who manage dome teams are always tempted to build a defensive roster wich relies excessively on home field advantage, and tends to be fundamentally prone to getting outmuscled by good, very physical teams. The Vikings were very much like this in the '90s. Against most teams, at home, with the crowd making the opposition go with a silent count, such a defense can look more than adequate. However, on the road, or against a very physical opponent, they just get outslugged.

Seattle is another team which would greatly benefit from acquiring a Ngata/Wilfork/Pat Williams type; in fact, in the Seahawks' case, such a player would have a chance of making them extremely, extremely, formidable, and every team without such a player would obviously benefit from having one. They are pretty hard to find, however.

6
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 12:51pm

Throughout the 2012 season the local writers were branding Green Bay as soft. Ted Thompson has since agreed with that assessment.

8
by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 1:02pm

I think that is a temptation teams with great qbs tend to fall prey to as well, no doubt due in some part to how much of the salary cap is invested into one player, once he gets into his 2nd or 3rd contract. I think the Seahawks have a real window of opportunity here. No doubt they are going to have to let Wilson wet his beak somewhat, given his performance this year, but I don't think they'll have to give him a big, huge, gulp for another year or two, and if they can use that time to add quality in the few places where they lack it, they could be a rare team which wins multiple championships in a short time frame. If Pete Carroll doesn't screw it up.

As a guy who loved watching Wlison when he was in Madison, his success this year is something I really enjoyed.

16
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 1:16pm

Under the new CBA the Hawks cannot give Wilson a new contract for two more years, by which stage he'll probably deserve really quite a lot of money. As for you saying that they need a Wilfork type, they have Branch, Bryant and Mebane, those are some rather good players. I would have thought that any spare cap room will be allocated to trying to keep that secondary together, I thought that Thomas and Chancellor were the best at their positions in the NFC last year and are approaching contract time. They are going to be pricey.

18
by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 1:28pm

Yeah, I don't know their contract situation. Whenever I see an already very good team getting great qb play for well below market prices, I see an opportunity.

74
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 12:12pm

I'm not even sure the Seahawks fall into that bucket. They're getting great play from Russell for way below market price, and they're getting no play from Flynn for way above market price. Taking the QB position as a whole, it probably evens out.

75
by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 12:21pm

I doubt that the Seahawks will be willing to pay Flynn the, what, 7 million?, he is contractually due for in a few weeks. I suspect they'll roll the dice a little, bring in a back up at a pretty low price, and draft another guy, fourth round or later.

77
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 1:19pm

Probably so, but he's still on the roster as of right now. Cutting him triggers a partial cap hit, and trading him is probably not likely with his contract. I agree that he'll probably be gone, but I wouldn't say it's a 100% lock.

I also once read on a fairly reputable website that Flynn's realistic floor was to be a Pro-Bowler, so Seattle might just decide to keep him.

http://www.footballoutsiders.com/quick-reads/2012/week-17-quick-reads

68
by RedDog (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 7:17am

Isn't that non-renegotiable rule stupid for the teams?

I mean, when Wilson gets a new contract, if he continues to play as well as he has, he will want huge money for the coming years (say 16-18 million per year plus inflation) plus a compensation for the first three years where he clearly was paid below market value. So tack on another 6-8 Million per year.

That won't work really well, will it?

70
by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 8:49am

They won't have to pay him extra to compensate for him overperforming in his first three years. The ceiling for the deal will be set by the franchise number for qbs. As Seattle will be able to tag him at least twice he'll get a five year deal with 2-3 times the tag as a guaranteed bonus, depending on how healthy he's been. Unless both sides agree to do a longer deal which would increase the bonus money proportionally.

10
by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 1:08pm

Isn't Ngata more a Kevin Williams 3-tech/5-tech DT/DE than a nose tackle? Other than that, I agree with all of this, for the most part. I just would have cited an NT/1-tech.

13
by Gus (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 1:12pm

He is, yes - the Ravens will move him around depending on the look, but he was not the regular NT. That was usually either Kemoeatu or Cody.

25
by Danish Denver-Fan :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 1:59pm

I think that when you have a dominant defense already, it is silly to invest more money there. The marginal return of investment gets smaller the better your defense are. Maybe it makes sense to, at a low price, invest in depth, so that a Clemons or Sherman injury wont derail the defense.

To be clear I mean NEW investments. Investing in keeping that fantastic secondary together is a great idea. I'd rather invest in some recieving weapons than a DT however.

28
by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 2:16pm

Well, a team shoud never get too position specific, with the possible exception of qb, when looking for more talent. Certainly, if they can get a receiver who really stretches things vertically, that would make them a lot more formidable as well. I think they have a qb who really is going to be good at keeping the ball. If they are really, really, good at all phases of defense, and they are pretty close to that already, I could see them enjoying a lot of 30-13 victories, against pretty good teams.

35
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 2:51pm

I think their receivers are pretty good; Sydney Rice has shown in the past that he can be effective when healthy, Tate really began to emerge down the stretch and as a 49er fan I have already begun to regard Doug Baldwin as a royal pain in the arse, he's outstanding working the middle of the field.

41
by Danish Denver-Fan :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 4:11pm

I agree somewhat.

The fact is that the Seahawks are amazingly good overall. There's not really a lot of positions where they need help. My estimation is that WR is the position where they are least excellent

As a general point it's my feeling that defense in particular is very hard to untangle. If you change one piece it'll have a big trickle down effect on the other parts, therefor you must think twice before tinkering with an elite defense. Whereas, and we're working anecdotal evidence at best, offense seems to be slightly more plug-and-play.

48
by zenbitz :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 5:54pm

49ers are in a similar position. They will probably go to the well again for more WR depth (since they have a 1st round pick with 0 catches, an old man, and 2 guys on IR).

Kicker, obviously.

They *could* get more depth on the DL but then they would be rotating... and I don't think they want to rotate.

After that... a 2nd TE without hands of stone? "Everyone needs a shut down corner".

They might replace Sopoaga at NT and Goldson at FS.

They have ~13 picks in the draft.

51
by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 6:24pm

Goldson is vastly overrated but is talked about as the best at his position. I agree, he's not, but he isn't a priority for replacement. They need to get a decent 2nd or 3rd cornerback to add to Brown/Culliver/Rogers. Other than that they could considered trading out for future picks; the team is that good and that deep.

Presumably they are going to get to play their 1st round pick last year at some point, so WR ought to be a strength.

56
by zenbitz :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 9:33pm

He might be replaced because he leaves as a FA (i.e, $$ reasons).

60
by beargoggles :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 12:47am

Yeah, I'm not excited about paying top of the league money for Goldson, although he does seem to have synergy with this group.

My favored needs (despite my handle, I'm Niners' fan):
1) more defensive warm bodies, replacement level or above. We can't really get away with our injury luck another year, can we? I guess Haralson was out, but that's it until J Smith. So preferably D-line. I'll defer to coaches on whether to rotate guys but we need depth
2) corner (maybe I shouldn't overreact to last game, but Tarrell Brown was torched).
3) WR; if Jenkins can't see the field even now, I'm worried there's a fundamental problem.

The good news about these: if Niners have 13 picks, these are the types of things that can be improved immediately via the draft. There's not one position of glaring weakness. Well.... maybe kicker. Or maybe we decide that Akers regresses somewhere between 2011 and 2012 and is acceptable

63
by Aloysius Mephis... :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 3:35am

I think the fundemantal problem with Jenkins is that he got himself in Harbaugh's doghouse by showing up to camp out of shape. Most probably he (like Jacobs) didn't respond well to being in the doghouse and as a result he's never been able to get out. He was a healthy scratch in all but three games during the regular season. He saw one pass, which he dropped. This level of inactivity has to be some kind of a record for a first-round receiver who hasn't been injured.

71
by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 9:08am

What was annoying about Goldson turning Jones loose on that first TD is that it's precisely the error that he's been avoiding this year. He used to do that sort of thing every three or four games but had really improved this year. I think he's well inside the top ten at free safety but we might have to pay him because safety is just so undermanned leaguewide.

We do need defensive linemen, Soapy and RJF are free agents and we need to find someone we are happy to hand the reins to when Justin Smith is done. Some big shoes to fill there.

I wouldn't overreact to that game from Jones, he's like a more mature version of TO and he'll do that to a lot of people. Wasn't there only one big play over Brown anyway? (The TD catch in the corner of the end zone where Brown actually had decent coverage)

We might need a receiver, to insulate against problems with Manningham and Williams' rehab as much as anything. They will probably only activate four receivers next year as James will have taken over for Ginn on returns. I want a new TE, preferably Zach Ertz.

86
by beargoggles :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 8:47pm

I'm looking forward to some good clean Ginn-free living.
The other issue with Goldson is he's good for 1 reputation based 15 yard penalty per game (and some are deserved)

76
by Tyler (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 12:31pm

Goldson isn't the overall best at his position, but as far as ballhawking and blowing people up goes, he's pretty near the top (maybe the Seattle safeties have an argument and a few others) which is very useful for this D. Skill position players sure seem to start playing like they are hearing footsteps partway through a game against the Niners, but that's just anecdotal, not statistical analysis.

78
by bravehoptoad :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 2:42pm

I didn't think Goldson was very good last year, or any year before that, but this year has made me a believer in the guy. His coverage has been good and he hasn't lost his hitting.

But yeah, I hate the way our defense never substitutes. It gives them distinct weaknesses; they wear out in long games and as the season progresses. They're more vulnerable to injury because they rely more on fewer people.

Still, I think the main thing that defense "needs" is another Justin Smith, and since that's not likely to happen, I imagine they'll have to re-invent how they play before too long. The whole man-cover-2-deep-safety-rush-four thing doesn't work without him.

27
by MehlLageman56 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 2:03pm

Don't the Seahawks have Red Bryant, and a pretty good run defense? If you mean they could use a guy like the ones mentioned above, one who effects the passing game as well as the running game, I could see it a little. They depend a lot on substitutions in the front 7.

29
by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 2:17pm

I'd describe them as a little better than average against the run. If they could get better against the run, I think they woud have a chance of being a historically great defense, especiay with a qb who helps control the clock.

30
by Kal :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 2:21pm

For whatever reason the Seahawk's run defense frankly sucked the second half of the season. Doesn't appear to be injury related, though Bryant was nursing a foot injury apparently.

Defensively the seahawks really could use a better pass rush. Irvin was a liability on non-passing downs and Clemons only was good, not great, and recorded a lot of his sacks in bunches. They failed often to put good pressure on QBs throughout the season. Shoring up the run defense might be nice, but probably is not necessary; very few teams are going to be able to beat the Seahawks with a dominant rushing game alone.

On offense they must get a better line. Period, full stop. Their guards were below average and often a massive liability, especially on pass blocking; Wilson bailed them out of so much. Carpenter at this point is probably a bust, meaning they have to figure out if they want Giacomini as their RT despite having massive penalty issues or if they want to try again. Depth is an issue as well.

32
by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 2:30pm

kal, you obviousy know them better than I do, but I must say this post reads as an embarrassmnt of riches type. Believe me, there are many teams, wich didn't win 8 games, which have fans who could say they sucked in one major phase of defense for half the season, need to get better at another major phase, and must absolutely get better in a major offensive unit, and be a little more convincing, than when that description is applied to a team which was about 30 seconds away from playing in the Conference Championship.

39
by Kal :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 3:50pm

I don't think so. The Seahawks had a good team this year but a lot of their goodness was because of their absurd home field advantage. On the road their weaknesses really showed - losing to teams like Miami, for instance. Or St. Louis.

Their line was the reason they lost the Atlanta game. Especially their guard play. JR Sweezy was the one that completely whiffed his assignment which caused the sack at the end of the first half and was a big reason why they stopped running dive plays as much.

And Atlanta also showed that while having a great secondary can stop some teams it'll not stop really good teams with lots of receiver depth. That's probably fine against the 49ers - but against Atlanta, Denver, the Pats (again lost on the road and did so before Talib got there) it'll be an issue.

Now, fortunately fixing the line is not so horrible. Guards should be easy to get. Getting more depth to deal with the invariable line injuries shouldn't be hard either. I don't think the Seahawks are far - but I do think that they're about as far as they're going to get given that the 49ers are also in their division.

49
by Perfundle :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 6:01pm

"On the road their weaknesses really showed - losing to teams like Miami, for instance. Or St. Louis. "
The weaknesses they showed in these two games are not even remotely connected with one another. Wilson was shaky in the Rams game and great in the Dolphins one. The rush defense was great against St. Louis and horrible against Miami. Finally, St. Louis' special teams completely dominated, with two 58+ yard field goals, two others, and one fake one for a touchdown.

Besides, it's not like they were invincible at home, as the last game against St. Louis showed.

"And Atlanta also showed that while having a great secondary can stop some teams it'll not stop really good teams with lots of receiver depth. That's probably fine against the 49ers - but against Atlanta, Denver, the Pats (again lost on the road and did so before Talib got there) it'll be an issue."

Um, it's an issue for every single team. Seattle has one of the best secondaries in the league, and the fact that receivers sometimes burn them only shows that no secondary is impregnable.

"I don't think the Seahawks are far - but I do think that they're about as far as they're going to get given that the 49ers are also in their division."

Are far to what? Winning their division? If New England had completed the comeback and everything else stayed the same Seattle would've been the second seed.

53
by Kal :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 6:47pm

Their weaknesses: they had problems defending the pass rush in both St. Louis games. The Miami game showed what happens when you can't generate a pass rush.

They aren't invincible at home - but if they want to get home field advantage consistently they're going to have to rely on winning more games on the road.

What Ryan and Atlanta showed is that without a pass rush they can just bide their time for corners to make mistakes or other receivers to get open. It also showed that Irvin is just not ready to be out there on anything other than passing downs. For those reasons they could use another good pass rusher. Their running defense failing was...odd. I still don't know what they can do to fix that.

They aren't far from where they need to be to consistently compete. If New England had completed a field goal at the end of the half they would have won; if the replacement refs weren't on the field they would have likely lost to GB as well. We can play the what if game all day. Especially with Seattle given how close so many of their games were. They barely lost to Arizona. They barely beat Chicago. They barely lost to Miami and Detroit. Etc, etc.

85
by Perfundle :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 7:24pm

"Their weaknesses: they had problems defending the pass rush in both St. Louis games. The Miami game showed what happens when you can't generate a pass rush."

So? They couldn't generate a pass rush in the Patriots game either, and that was at home. These weaknesses are not only showing up on the road. For games like the Packers' one where they did generate a pass rush, the rest of the season showed that it was more about the Packers' line sucking that anything to do with home field advantage.

"They aren't far from where they need to be to consistently compete. If New England had completed a field goal at the end of the half they would have won; if the replacement refs weren't on the field they would have likely lost to GB as well. We can play the what if game all day. Especially with Seattle given how close so many of their games were. They barely lost to Arizona. They barely beat Chicago. They barely lost to Miami and Detroit. Etc, etc."

Yes, Seattle had a lot of close games. my point was that I don't know why they aren't already at the point where they can consistently compete, and what it has to do with SF being in their division. The entire NFC is very good, so every NFC team has a very good team in their division. SF didn't exactly stop them from doing well this season.

Just because a team didn't make the Super Bowl doesn't mean that they aren't already at Super Bowl-level strength. Obviously fans will notice the flaws that led them to lose, but the Super Bowl teams have flaws too (San Francisco is also lacking at pass rush with both Smiths injured, for instance). If Lynch had fumbled a tad earlier on that touchdown run and Seattle recovers and eventually punches it in, they probably would've won that game while still being flawed at pass rush, secondary depth and pass protection.

87
by Kal :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 10:00pm

I guess I look at it differently; I think that Seattle got somewhat lucky (especially getting the Pats and Packers at home and getting the Bears when they just got a bunch of injuries). I saw them dominate a few teams - but I also saw them barely skate by a few fairly weak ones. It's not that they can't compete with anyone. It's that they're going to have a hard time consistently competing until they get a few things done.

The other issue is that they were fairly lucky at injury and didn't have to deal with much lack of depth. They got injured at the OLine, but that seems to be because they have Carpenter who is about as injury prone as can be (and not that great when not injured). They had a bit of bad luck for a couple weeks at corner, but only barely. Otherwise they were essentially unscathed until Clemons and the playoffs. That isn't likely going to happen again, and we saw how 2011 turned out when they got unlucky at the OLine in injury. More depth there regardless would help significantly.

65
by Duff Soviet Union :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 6:05am

Is it just me or do fans of every team think that their offensive line sucks? It's a reverse Lake Wobegon effect. Everyone is below average.

73
by A_man (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 10:10am

I actually don't think the Ravens offensive line sucks right at this moment. Next year is a different story, but they have been killing it. Joe owes them all something big when he gets his contract.

79
by RickD :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 3:12pm

The Pats' have a good O-line. It's one of the only units that is rarely criticized.

Pats fans tend to love the O-line and esp. love Dante Scarnecchia, their coach.

19
by jimbohead :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 1:39pm

Comment on Vernon Davis having no targets in the 4th quarter is a little misleading. Remember, ATL had the ball from 8:30 to 1:10 of that quarter, and a 1:30 3-and-out earlier in that quarter. Niners drives consisted of Crabtree fumbling at the 1 at the beginning of the quarter; a 38-yd drive for a TD, with 5 runs and an 8-yard reception by Crabtree on 2-2, which took 3:20 off the clock; and a 3-and-out "take take the clock down to 6 seconds" drive with only runs. There was not a lot of room for Davis to contribute, or for the Niners offense to get him involved, in that quarter.

36
by TJS (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 3:11pm

It should be noted that Colin Kaepernick is also playing on a fairly cheap 2nd round pick scaled contract

37
by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 3:46pm

I still don't think the Patriots defensive issues are talent related.

I think BB gets overly conservative on defense when he doesn't trust his cornerbacks. He plays soft zone with little pass rush, and they get killed.

The way to deal with bad corners is to be more aggressive. Yeah, you'll give up some big plays when guys get beat, but thats better than giving up 10 yards every play. There are very few quarterbacks in the NFL, and none in the playoffs who won't kill you when you give them 5+ seconds to find a receiver on every play.

40
by Kal :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 3:52pm

This is how they played in the first 8 games of the season. it didn't work out well for them. They gave up season highs to every QB they played - even the bad ones. This was how Seattle ended up beating them, for instance.

42
by MehlLageman56 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 4:25pm

If you give up ten yards a play, but force a bunch of turnovers, you end up doing much better in points allowed than yardage, which has been the case for the Pats for a while. The way they play now, when guys get beat they give up 10-20 yards, not 60 yard touchdowns. They make you drive the whole field to score, and hope for turnovers; unfortunately for them, the Ravens didn't oblige them this game.
They also switched to a 4-3 from a 3-4 a couple of seasons ago, and couldn't even field 4 down linemen against the Ravens for most of the game due to injuries. The fix from my perspective, as a Jets fan, is to add edge rushers and a corner in the draft or free agency.

43
by RickD :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 4:35pm

Building a defense that relies upon turnovers is a sure way to lose in the playoffs, when you face teams that are much better at avoiding mistakes.

I find myself agreeing with the Jets fan about what the Pats need. Now if only the Jets would be so generous as to lend the Pats Revis for a while. :)

47
by Sgood (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 5:15pm

Counterpoint: 2009 New Orleans Saints, who won the Super Bowl with a defense that ranked 20th and 25th in points and yards respectively, but 3rd in turnover differential.

Great offense + porous yet opportunistic defense = a championship. You probably remember Tracy Porter picking off Peyton Manning for a TD to seal the win.

54
by RickD :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 8:15pm

Didn't work for the 2006 Bears.

The Saints didn't win the Super Bowl because of their defense, FWIW. Their offfense was much, much better than their defense. They also had the fortune of facing a team (the Colts) that was built along the same philosophy. One of them had to win!

80
by Sgood (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 3:17pm

Agreed, their offense was excellent. Likewise, the Colts offense that year was also excellent. Because of their offensive excellence, they could afford to be very aggressive on defense, playing for turnovers and giving up big plays. As you mention, both teams were built with the same philosophy and both teams were in the Super Bowl. The 2006 Bears offense was not in the same class as the 2009 Saints, 2009 Colts or 2006 Colts, so they couldn't keep pace with the Colts in that Super Bowl while waiting for a game changing turnover. Not too surprising, since horses are generally faster than bears.

81
by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 3:33pm

Bears can outrun horses at certain distances, with much depending on the breed of the horse.

50
by Perfundle :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 6:02pm

"Building a defense that relies upon turnovers is a sure way to lose in the playoffs, when you face teams that are much better at avoiding mistakes."

Generally speaking, yes. Atlanta, Washington and New England were such teams this year, and all three teams lost to opponents who were very careful with the ball (all in the top 8 in TOs per Drive). But I'm pretty sure the Saints won their Super Bowl with such a defense. They forced two turnovers against Arizona, five against Minnesota and a gigantic one against Indianapolis. They were outgained in the final two games but relied on turnovers to clinch the victory.

66
by Duff Soviet Union :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 6:09am

"Building a defense that relies upon turnovers is a sure way to lose in the playoffs, when you face teams that are much better at avoiding mistakes."

Bingo. Another similar example would be last years Packers. For 16 weeks timely turnovers masked how horrible their defence was. In the playoffs they forced 1 turnover and gave up 37 points and 420 yards. Season over.

45
by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 4:47pm

The problem is, that sort of defense doesn't seem to work at all when you play good teams. At some point, conceeding a couple long plays while forcing a couple 3 and outs is a lot better than giving up 10 yards every play.

46
by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 4:53pm

I guess it just seems really strange to have a team whose record setting offense is based on the idea that consistent short-to-medium gains will lead to an awful lot of points would turn around an just allow another team to have those short gains uncontested.

38
by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 3:48pm

"It's time for the Patriots to find some fresh legs and stretch the field."

Unless they find another Randy Moss, its a waste of resources. Brady can't hit the guys anyways.

44
by Purds :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 4:47pm

The comment about NE needing three starting-quality cornerbacks is true but useless. There aren't enough quality DB's in the league to even come close to the needs of the teams. In fact, doesn't every team in the league need another quality DB? I can't think of more than 4 or 5 teams that have two great starting CB's, much less three of starter quality.

I get the point, but I think it is true of just about every team out there.

52
by PatsFan :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 6:39pm

NE doesn't need three starting-quality CBs (well, they do, but so does everyone and as you note, it's impossible) -- they need backups that at least sniff replacement level rather than being absolutely awful.

55
by Tino (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 8:52pm

I think Pats fans have been spoiled by success. Their backup corners may be below average, but "absolutely awful"? I've seen far, far worse performances than they ever gave this year.

57
by RickD :: Tue, 01/22/2013 - 10:17pm

The Pats were pretty close to the bottom of the NFL in pass defense in 2011. Their starters at the end of the season, Dennard and Talib, were newcomers to the team. The primary backup at corner, Arrington, was a big part of the 2011 problem. He really isn't qualified to cover anybody other than mediocre WRs. It was comical in a sad way to watch him try to cover Anquan Boldin or Torrey Smith.

59
by Vincent Verhei :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 12:04am

I'm interested in hearing how Brady had 52 more DYAR vs. the Ravens this week than Manning did last week. Both had 2 INT's, Manning was more accurate (65.1 comp% to 55.8 comp%), Manning had 3 TD's to Brady's 1, More YPA (6.74 to 6.15). Is 1 fumble really the difference between the two?

Both had two interceptions, but Brady had no sacks, while Manning had three sacks and two fumbles. Also, since others have asked, Brady’s Success Rate was 56 percent, while Manning’s was 49 percent.

62
by Dave B (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 3:14am

Mannings success rate on advnflstats was listed as 54% and Brady's 52.7% . Any idea why they are so different from yours?

82
by Bab (not verified) :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 4:14pm

"Flacco is best known for his deep balls."

83
by Insancipitory :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 4:17pm

For some reason I read that in Alec Baldwin's voice.

84
by Hurt Bones :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 6:38pm

Bon Scott's voice was what went through my mind.

88
by Bab (not verified) :: Thu, 01/24/2013 - 7:09am

Was that an oblique Glengarry Glenross reference? If so, bravo. If not, still funny.