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.
02 Oct 2013
by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz
Tom: Well, Mike, most of the teams in the league have played four of their 16 regular season games. Every year, there are players who look like they could crack the elusive 1,000-yard barrier for the first time. Every year, there are players who have four good early games and swiftly fall off the map. Once again, your Scramble writers will attempt to divine which players who have accumulated at least 250 rushing or receiving yards thus far and have not yet had a 1,000-yard season will actually make it to 1,000 yards. Spoiler: We're not talking about Adrian Peterson. We will talk about Jordan Cameron.
Mike: Every year, Mike and Tom will be completely and totally wrong. Largely because we talk about Jordan Cameron instead of Adrian Peterson, which seems somewhat counterproductive! But much more amusing.
Tom: We actually have done okay with this column gimmick in the past.
Mike: That is surprising, because we are even less well-informed for this than our other terrible predictions.
Mike: If only we were predicting whether the players would be involved in a thousand plays this season. Predicting the Eagles would be easy! And probably all under 1,000 yards.
Tom: LeSean McCoy currently has 468 yards. He'll probably make it to 1,000. He's been there before, though. There are only two running backs on pace for 1,000 yards who've never made it there, fitting the new pass-centric NFL. DeMarco Murray is well ahead of the pace, with 356 yards, while Bilal Powell has 292. Murray came kind of close, with 897 yards as a rookie in 2011. Powell had 437 yards last year, with most of his work as the backup to Shonn Greene.
Mike: With marginal guys like this, it's always fun to look at most similar players. Powell's are ... Dee Brown, Keith Henderson, and DeShaun Foster. Murray's are Onterrio Smith, Gary Brown, and Joe Delaney. Note that, in this case, fun rarely means instructive.
Tom: Gary Brown had a couple 1,000-yard seasons, albeit one of them in the comparison years. Somewhat to my surprise, Foster never had a 1,000-yard season, with between 876 and 897 yards in his three high-volume carry seasons. Volume will of course be the biggest concern with both of these players. Murray hasn't made it to 16 games yet, while Powell is getting his first chance at lead back duties. The Jets also have Chris Ivory, whenever he's actually healthy.
Mike: Does anyone actually care about a healthy Chris Ivory anymore, though?
Tom: I think they would if it happened more often. He's pretty good.
Mike: But as you said, quite infrequent. It's interesting that a lot of Murray's success has been despite his line, which, thus far, has been in the middle of the pack in ALY and terrible in power situations.
Tom: Well, nearly half his yards come from the Rams game.
Mike: That is true. Still, slightly above-average, plus a nice boost off a bad team puts Murray solidly into over territory.
Tom: I just don't trust he'll stay healthy enough to get the 225 carries he'll probably need. Under.
As to Bilal Powell, I think he is okay as a runner, not a scrub.
Mike: High praise: "not a scrub."
Tom: The bad sign is him gaining 1,000 yards depends on Jets offensive proficiency. And like Murray, around half of his yards (149 of 292) came in a single game.
Mike: True. The passing attack seems like it will somehow be even worse than last year, and the line looks rather pedestrian this year.
Tom: He's close enough to not passing 1,000 yards by that much that I just look at those other three games, his team, and can't see it happening. Under.
Mike: I don't have any confidence in any facet of the Jets' offense, so I think the smart money is always going to be on the under.
Tom: And once again this year, there is a whole boatload of players on track for 1,000 yards receiving for the first time. To wit, Torrey Smith, Jordan Cameron, Jerome Simpson, Pierre Garcon, Cecil Shorts, Julian Edelman, Randall Cobb, DeAndre Hopkins, and Kenbrell Thompkins.
Mike: Edelman and Thompkins are just a mess, prediction-wise. Tom Brady famously taking whatever the defense is giving him, in our bizarre new post-Wes Welker world.
Tom: Thompkins barely qualifies with 257 yards. Edelman has 319. Sooner or later, I expect both Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski to come back. I think they'll be the only reliable targets in that offense.
Mike: Yes and no. I don't think Thompkins will continue to be a real target. Edelman will receive attention, however.
Tom: And even with Welker, the Patriots were as matchup-specific in terms of what they did on offense as any team in a given week, as any Patriots running back owner in those years well knew. Edelman will still get some work, sure, but I wouldn't be confident in anything consistent.
Mike: I think Edelman will get more than you think, especially since Gronkowski will probably be viewed as the team's primary threat and given more attention, particularly with Aaron Hernandez gone. I think Edelman hits the over but Thompkins is under.
Tom: Edelman is averaging 9.4 yards per reception. If he had Welker's deep speed, he could do it, because Amendola is made of glass. I don't think he does. Under on both him and Thompkins.
Mike: I am somewhat surprised that Smith hasn't had a 1,000-yard season yet, honestly.
Tom: He was 50-841 and 49-855 his first two seasons.
Mike: Ah. I agree, this is a pretty easy over.
Tom: The more interesting question is Jordan Cameron. He already has 360 yards receiving. On 43 targets and 12.0 yards per catch.
Mike: Cameron has already made me look stupid once this young season.
Tom: Jason Witten led all tight ends with 149 targets last year, followed by Jimmy Graham with 135 and Tony Gonzalez with 124. Cameron is on pace for 172. Unless I'm missing somebody or it happened in the pre-DVOA era, no tight end has ever had more than 155 targets in a year.
Mike: On one hand, that is an extraordinary workload for a tight end. On the other hand, what else are the Browns going to do?
Tom: Throw the ball less. Maybe throw it more to Davone Bess and Josh Gordon? Their 183 passing attempts is tied for the most in the league thus far. Is this just a matter of guessing his final passing volume?
Mike: Honestly, I think it is.
Tom: Right now he's averaging 12.0 yards per catch.
Mike: The AFC North is terrible.
Tom: And he has a 70 percent catch rate. If he manages to sustain those two, which does not seem particularly unreasonable, he'll need 120 targets. That's 77 over the final 12 games, or 6.4 per game. He's had 23 in the past two games, with Gordon in the lineup. Norv Turner loves throwing the ball to tight ends. Just like with Celek last year, I'm talking myself into thinking he'll make it.
Mike: All according to keikaku. Over.
Tom: I just can't do it. I can't get myself mentally comfortable with Jordan Cameron getting that many receptions. A horribly unsatisfying, not well-justified, excessively conservative under.
Mike: I ... what.
Tom: That was almost exactly my reaction. I can't decide what my favorite part of the commercial is: The change in the lyrics from "woman's man" to "woman," the zombies (because it's "Stayin' Alive", get it? get it? get it?), that I had no idea what it was for until we get the Jordache logo at the end, or the mention that Jordache is available at Wal-Mart.
Mike: I had to sit back and try to figure out what Jordache is. I'm still a bit confused.
Tom: Jordache is about as 1980's as the video for Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, which deserves an MPAA-like warning of excessive 80's-ness.
Mike: That makes sense, as I have spent most of my life trying to avoid things that are 1980s.
Tom: I think this is one of those situations where it really matters that I'm a couple years older than you are. I remember, for example, 1983.
Mike: For which I pity you. Really though, this commercial fails at every level save throwing an attractive woman at us. That is the bare minimum to get a commercial on the air, so kudos to Wal-Mart for expanding their general strategy to their marketing material!
Tom: I think it's Jordache's commercial, perhaps to celebrate convincing Wal-Mart to distribute their product. The problem is they had a competition to come up with which commercial they wanted to air, and decided to combine their five finalists into one commercial. I'd love to know what the full idea with the mime was, and if he started off in the same commercial as the guy wearing the horse's head. Perhaps I'm just completely missing a callback to an iconic Jordache commercial (or five of them) from their heyday. If I'm missing it, though, I bet at least 95 percent of their intended viewing audience is missing it as well. Well, maybe only 80 percent if they're targeting hipsters and people who watched more general television in the early 1980's than I did. I was not that old in 1983.
Mike: That is the 20 percent that terrifies me.
Tom: Readers, if we're missing some iconic Jordache callbacks, please let us know! Or display your good taste and don't!
Quarterback: Welcome back, Blaine Gabbert! We missed you and your regular appearances with scores like this week's 3 points.
Running Back: Rashard Mendenhall and Daryl Richardson: NFC West lead backs and scorers of 1 point this week.
Wide Receiver: Tavon Austin on a team head-coached by Jeff Fisher and coordinated offensively by Brian Schottenheimer is the ideal place to put up scores like 0 points. Rod Streater, Mohamed Sanu, and Golden Tate each had 1 point.
Kicker: On a dysfunctional Giants offense going against a Kansas City defense, a missed field goal put Josh Brown in negative territory with -1 points.
KEEP CHOPPING WOOD: Rookie quarterbacks sometimes make mistakes. Geno Smith's two interceptions, one on a late throw on a post route and the other when his receiver lost a jump ball, were understandable. Ball security on a scramble is a common issue. But what really got to one of your Scramble writers was his tendency when under pressure on a blown up screen to retreat 15 yards downfield. He was nearly safetied for his troubles on one such play and on another lost the ball trying to transfer the ball from one hand to another behind his back. While it lacked the dramatic and hilarious nature of the Buttfumble, Smith's play was even more ill-advised. The Titans recovered his backshuffle for a touchdown.
MIKE MARTZ AWARD: Whatever exactly is going on in Tampa on offense right now exists on a whole separate plane than this award. Thus, this week's Martz honoree is John Harbaugh, for his field goal on fourth-and-5 from the Bills 6 that cut Bufflao's lead from 23-17 to 23-20 with just over four minutes to play.
Tom: I apologize, Mike. I picked the Steelers to win and cover against the Vikings. They did neither. You refused to engage me on that subject. You were right. I was wrong. On the other hand, you were wrong too! The Browns not only covered, but they beat the Bengals straight-up. For more on how that happened, and Cleveland going forward, see yesterday's ESPN piece.
Mike: The AFC North. Is. Terrible.
Tom: Yup. For more on the Ravens, see yesterday's Any Given Sunday. Anyway, as per normal, lines are courtesy of Bovada, and all picks are made without reference to FO's Premium picks. And per Bovada, the Rams are 11.5-point favorites. The Rams!
Mike: And as sad as it is, neither of us will take it!
Tom: Sadly, yes. Jacksonville seems to actually be that bad.
Mike: I think this one should be easy. Seattle is currently second in both DVOA and DAVE, top-five in both offensive DVOA, and first defensive VOA. And while Indianapolis might be sitting at 5th in VOA (somehow), the defense is currently ranked 13th, and our buddy DAVE has them pegged at 15.
Tom: They've played two road games, beating the Panthers by five and Texans by three. In overtime.
Mike: In any case, one of the best teams in the league is playing an average-ish team at best, and the line has the game as a draw when adjusting for homefield. That is insane. Seattle Seahawks -3 at Indianapolis Colts.
Tom: Thanks for taking a game I would not have. I'm going to instead to do something crazy, and take a Ron Rivera team that's favored on the road. Carolina has an outstanding defensive front. Arizona has an awful offensive line once again. I do not think Carolina will have to score that many points to cover. Arizona's defense is respectable early, but I think Carolina will score enough. Carolina Panthers -2 at Arizona Cardinals.
47 comments, Last at 05 Oct 2013, 2:07pm by someguy