Short-yardage passing had a good year, except at the end of the Super Bowl. We look at the return of quarterback runs, the rise in pass-happy strategy, and 2014 success rates for offense and defense.
by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz
Tom: Well, Mike, it is time. Time to perform another twice-yearly exercise, that of discussing the current crop of Loser League names. Those may be viewed at this link.
Mike: This seems like an exceptional bunch of names.
Tom: It really does. I try not to look at list of names until we do the column, so it's my spontaneous reaction to the list of names. I pulled up the link, checked out the results, and started chuckling.
Mike: Likewise. Well done, internet. I was really excited for Dolphjaganeers, until I found that only one player from any of those clubs (Mike Glennon) is actually on the team.
Tom: Sadly, I did not save the list of team names from the first half, but we'll try not to honor any repeats. But, please, Sing us a song you're a Schiano man. Continuing with the musical theme, I might listen to Case Keenum's Top 40. One of the songs I would listen to is LeVeon on a Jet Plane.
Mike: I think at this point it largely consists of moaning, while in the fetal position.
Tom: Is it actually true that Ziggy Hood Always Up To No Good? That we would get a Miami Dolphins Leadership Council team among the plethora of Incognito-related choices seemed inevitable.
Mike: Yes, and there are a few clunkers. But by and large, the Incognito jokes were pretty good. Of course, we at Football Outsiders have been writing Incognito jokes for years, so our staff and readers got a massive head start.
Tom: There are two I particularly like, Incognito World Peace and Riley Cooper's problems just went Incognito.
Mike: Yes, I was about to nominate the latter. Back to the musical theme, I appreciate Insane Clowney Posse. Particularly their now-famous lyrics, "#$^#%$ RUN DEFENSE, HOW DOES IT WORK?!"
Tom: I just know that NO BLAINE, NO GAIN. That seems so obvious it should be a repeat, but I don't remember it before.
Mike: Neither do I, although the lack of Yo Gabba Blaine Gabbert hints that it was a previous entry. Fortunately, there are many other superior options. The Haley Bubble Screens sounds like a bad Motown R&B act, but is sadly an actual component of the Steelers' offensive strategy.
Tom: I enjoy Dalton's law, but it feels like one that should have been better. Maybe Andy Dalton's law of partial receiving options?
Mike: Dalton's Law of Neverending Potential.
Tom: Eh, that doesn't quite work with the actual Dalton's law in my mind.
Mike: No, but it is a lot more germane, and a lot funnier.
Tom: Fair enough. Da Bearly Functioning is too much a commentary on the actual Chicago football team.
Mike: Yes, and not in an amusing way, like Surprising McCown Competence
Tom: Sadly, that does not seem to be Rivers' team. That would have amused me greatly. Illiterate Read Option is another one that feels like it should been used before. 12 Years a Dave (Carr) is very nearly a great team name. It's timely, with the movie 12 Years a Slave coming out. It fits well with the player's name, as Dave for Slave is an easy substitution. And of course it would be David Carr's 12th year in the NFL. If he were actually in the NFL, which he is not.
Mike: Adding the parenthetical is like explaining the joke
Tom: Would you like the name better if it were 12 Years a Dave Carr? I think that's the conventional way of solving the problem.
Mike: Yes, I think that would be much better.
Tom: Maybe not much better, but I think I agree that would be better. So close to being a great name, yet so far away thanks to Curtis Painter and a less conventional way of appending the last name. Also, Think Pink-ston would've been a great name 12 years ago. I'm in favor of timelessness in general, but not in this specific instance.
Mike: I'm not surprised that Beauty Mode has not been used before, but it is incredibly clever and just about perfectly hits the trifecta of relevance, humor, and vaguely sexist insult.
Tom: Also, what's the Beauty Mode reference?
Mike: Beast Mode.
Tom: That should have been obvious.
Mike: But it's not! That's the beauty of it!
Tom: Indeed. While we were mentioning the musical names, I should have noted Schiano On You Crazy Soon to be exCoach.
Mike: And that is why Beauty Mode is my pick for the best second-half Loser League team name. Really, though, you have all outdone yourselves. Only one reader, however, can win the Manganese Keyboard of Commenting Tomfoolery.
Tom: Ray Rice killed my Fantasy Team, you are not alone. But my favorite team name from this second half slate is The Enemy's Yates is McCown. Maybe that is a bit of a specialized reference, but a great job of incorporating two NFL player names and with the Ender's Game movie a fall release, a timely one.
Mike: And the team, like Ender's Game, is a complete failure!
Tom: Naturally. Our leading team currently is In like Flynn.
Quarterback: For the third consecutive week, Geno Smith will sits atop the Loser League standings for that week, a stretch of dominance that would be positively Gabbertian were it only not something even Blaine Gabbert had not accomplished. The longest streak in recent years was in fact by Christian Ponder, who finished last in Week 16 and Week 17 of 2011. Smith's -1 was six points worse than runner-up Mike Glennon.
Running Back: It was a bad week to be an Alabama running back or a number two man in a committee. Mark Ingram was last with 2, while Shonn Greene, Eddie Lacy, Bernard Pierce, and Robert Turbin each had 3 points.
Wide Receiver: Donnie Avery, Earl Bennett, Jacoby Ford, Darius Johnson, Marvin Jones, Lance Moore, and Jordy Nelson each had 1 point without the benefit of a fumble.
Kicker: Everybody picked Garrett Hartley for their Loser League team, right? Yes, the Saints kicker only managed a single extra point, which he made for 1 point in his team's loss in Seattle.
For full weekly and to-date standings, check out the results page.
KEEP CHOPPING WOOD: Pierre Garcon really would like all the attention from Sunday Night Football focused on the head linesman screwup late in the game. That way, everybody will forget the passes he struggled to catch or the ball he had ripped away from him to snuff out Washington's attempt to obtain a result.
MIKE MARTZ AWARD: The one of your Scramble writers that uses Twitter declared on Saturday that the University of Michigan's decision to spike on first-and-goal in the final minute of the eventual loss to Ohio State would be this week's Martz Award winner. Since we try to reserve this award for NFL decisions, that is actually not the case, but Brady Hoke must be grateful that the Wolverines (a) scored on second down, on the sort of fade route that could easily have been thrown on first down rather than wasting it and (b) he then went for two, the discussion of which seems to have sucked the oxygen away from discussing the screwup he made just before it.
But seriously, Marc Trestman, "field goal range" is not a binary variable.
Tom: At the end of the season, I'll have to add up our records, as last week continued the disturbing trend where the team I picked covered and the one you did did not.
Mike: I'm pretty sure that my contract demands seppuku if I lose to you. So please don't.
Tom: Weekly reminder: All lines are courtesy of Bovada and were accurate as of time of writing, while all picks are made without reference to the FO Premium picks.
Mike: Ugh. I hate all of these lines.
Tom: Don't worry, they hate you too.
Mike: After the past few weeks, I believe it. Stupid books accurately weighing the relative strength of teams! Really, the best I can say is that Carolina looks a lot better right now than New Orleans, so +3.5 on the road is the best of some pretty bad options. I also like the extra .5, since game-winning field goals seem to keep biting me this year. Carolina Panthers +3.5 at New Orleans Saints.
Tom: That line stood out to me as maybe a point more favorable to the Saints than I expected, but that was too thin a gruel for me to hang my hat on. Two lines stand out, both involving the late Sunday games. The Cardinals are favored by six at home against the Rams. By our numbers, the two teams are very evenly matched, especially if you look at Weighted DVOA. Ultimately, though, picking the Rams means relying on Kellen Clemens to play well against one of the best defenses in the league. That's a bridge I can't cross.
Mike: And betting on something approaching consistency from the Rams, which should also be a bridge you cannot cross.
Tom: That too. What I find more palatable is the league's second-best offense against a defense that has looked very average this year. Yes, the Giants have played the second-hardest slate of opposing offenses and are better than the average-ish they've looked this season, but the game is in San Diego. And, frankly, the Giants look so dysfunctional on offense I can't take them two weeks in a row when they're traveling across the country. San Diego Chargers -3 vs. New York Giants.
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