Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» Scramble for the Ball: Getting it Right?

Instant replay review is one of the cornerstones of the modern NFL. The process and its myriad special rules have been internalized and constantly debated. Mike Kurtz wonders: is it worth it?

25 Dec 2008

Walkthrough: Ghosts Of Week 17

by Bill Barnwell

Week 17 brings along plenty of ghosts for organizations and fans like. Ask your favorite Vikings fan about 2003. When you've recovered from the wounds, locate a Bills fan and ask them what ever happened to to the egg they laid against the Steelers in 2004. Find a fantasy owner in a 17 week-league who had to start Jim Sorgi at quarterback in their championship game.

On the other hand, Week 17 can be a time of joyous returns for Sorgi and his ilk. Backups buried behind stars on great teams and practice squad guys making their way through the minefield of a season's injuries get their return for five months of grueling, unsatisfying work, the flourish to a season of impersonating opposing players while living on the fringes of their dreams.

Sorgi's become a minor celebrity for his yearly status as the Colts' Week 17 quarterback -- 80 of his 126 career pass attempts have been in Week 17 games -- but he's certainly not the only one who made a name for himself with a big performance on Week 17.

There are plenty of guys whose only action on an NFL field came during a Week 17. Terry Richardson is one of them. Richardson spent 1994 and 1995 on the practice squad of the Bengals and Eagles, respectively, after rushing for 1,523 yards at Syracuse. In 1996, he started off on the Chiefs practice squad before being signed by the Steelers. With Pittsburgh 10-5 and the AFC Central clinched, Bill Cowher let many of his backups and special teamers get reps on offense. Returners Jahine Arnold and Fred McAfee lined up alongside Mike Tomczak. Richardson stood behind him, gaining 17 yards on seven carries. Richardson was cut by the Steelers on August 25, losing his job to fifth-round pick George Jones. He retired and started his coaching career the next year; now, he serves as the running backs coach for the high-powered rushing attack of UConn.

Since this is normally Mike's column, I'd be remiss if I also didn't mention Eric McCoo. McCoo was a stud running back (warning: Audio NSFW) at Red Bank Regional High School -- it's impossible to bring up Red Bank without things getting vulgar. McCoo went on to star at Penn State, although he lost his job as a senior to Larry Johnson. Perhaps because of that, McCoo went undrafted and was picked up on the Bears before making his way to the Eagles' practice squad. They allocated McCoo to Berlin of NFL Europe, where McCoo was named MVP of World Bowl XLII after running for 167 yards on 28 carries. He also led the league in rushing.

McCoo returned stateside in 2004, but couldn't find playing time behind the combination of Brian Westbrook and Dorsey Levens. When Reno Mahe went down with an ankle injury, McCoo was elevated to the role of third halfback, but because the Eagles were carrying two fullbacks (they were even real ones, too), McCoo remained on the practice squad until Week 17, where he made his NFL debut. McCoo ran for 54 yards on nine carries, putting up a DVOA of 51.8%. McCoo remained on the active roster for the remainder of the season, but never made it on an NFL field again. He was most recently seen taking Joe Paterno and very gently throwing him underneath a bus, saying in the Portland Tribune that he'd "…talked with a lot of players around the league, and they believe Coach Paterno's policies hurt them in the draft…At most places, there are a lot of times when scouts can watch you practice. And sometimes he can get in his bad moods and not let them in at all."

There are players more like Sorgi out there as well, guys who had short careers but did the bulk of their work in a Week 17 affair or two. Take tight end Jeremy Brigham, who backed up Mark Bruener, Ernie Conwell, and Cam Cleeland at the University of Washington. Despite never being a starter at the collegiate level, Brigham was selected in the fifth round by the Raiders in 1998. He struggled with myriad injuries as a professional, missing time thanks to his shoulder, hamstring, and foot. In 2000, though, he had a game I guarantee you he'll tell his grandchildren about. In a 52-9 thrashing of the Carolina Panthers in Week 17, Brigham caught two passes for six yards. Both were touchdowns, two of the only three scores he'd have in his career.

In 2002, Brigham tore his MCL and was released by the Raiders in training camp after accepting an injury settlement. He spent the entire season on the shelf until the Buccaneers and coach Jon Gruden -- who had Brigham in Oakland -- offered him a contract during the playoffs. Brigham declined, claiming that he'd had a dream that he'd play for the Super Bowl champions that year, and that those champions were the same Oakland Raiders he played on the year prior. The Raiders resigned him on January 23, 2003, and Brigham suited up three days later for his first game of the 2003 season and his final game as a professional football player, Super Bowl XXXVIII, where his Raiders lost, in fact, to those Buccaneers.

The game was made memorable by the bizarre disappearance of Raiders center Barret Robbins the week before the game and his subsequent excommunication from the team; a year later, an affected Brigham began holding yearly charity golf tournaments "…inspired by the wellness…" of his ex-teammate.

Perhaps the most unlikely Week 17 performance in recent memory, though, would be that of wide receiver Brett Bech, who toiled for the Saints in the late nineties. He was a standout in college at LSU, leading the Tigers in receiving in 1994 despite the presence of future NFL star Eddie Kennison across from him. Bech went unselected in the draft, and began the career of a football nomad.

He started on the Jacksonville practice squad in 1995, but didn't make it to preseason. He spent part of the winter playing for the San Antonio Texans of the CFL's ill-fated American incursion, making $33,000 for his troubles while catching passes from both CFL star David Archer and 45-year-old former Bills quarterback Joe Ferguson.

Bech made his return to the NFL during the 1996 season, when he was snatched up by the Saints and placed on their practice squad. He made his NFL debut the next year, playing mostly special teams but catching three passes for 50 yards. In 1998, Bech spent the entire season on the active roster, catching ten passes for 151 yards in the first 16 weeks of the season as the fifth wideout for the pre-Ricky Williams Ditka Saints.

In Week 17, though, Bech had the game of his life. He ripped apart the Bills despite only having four catches, accruing 113 yards and scoring twice, with the highlight being a 72-yard touchdown catch. The day marked 38 percent of the fantasy points Bech would accrue in his entire NFL career.

Despite his huge game, Bech was cut by the Saints in training camp the following season. He eventually found his way back into the team's lineup, playing in eight games and catching four passes before being released again, the last time he'd see an NFL paycheck. He was still named the team's special teams MVP that year.

Bech immediately found his way to the XFL, where he suited up for the Las Vegas Outlaws, famed for selling the most authentic jerseys of any team in the league thanks to the presence of Rod "He Hate Me" Smart. On a Outlaws team with a surprising level of wide receiver depth (they featured Mike Furrey at wide receiver alongside former NFL receiver Yo Murphy, and cut future NFL returner Reggie Swinton in training camp), Bech struggled to get playing time and ended up catching only three passes all season.

Upon the dissolution of the XFL, Bech moved to the next league he hadn't played in: The Arena League, where he'd suit up against (and try to cover) Furrey. Bech only played in three games for the Indiana Firebirds in 2002, but he caught 19 passes for 310 yards and five scores, earning him a nod on the league's All-Rookie Team at the ripe old age of 31. Bech spent two more years with the Firebirds before calling time on his professional career in 2004.

He had a cameo in the 2005 remake of "The Longest Yard", serving as a wide receiver on the team of guards across from former Colorado standout Darren Chiaverini, and in 2007, after eight years out of the NFL, Bech joined Eric Mangini's staff in New York, becoming the Jets' assistant strength and conditioning coach.

All four of these players have been forgotten by even the most hardcore of NFL fans -- if you remember them, you're a better football fan than I. Around this time of year, though, I guarantee that they get to thinking about their one glorious day in the sun. Here's to guys like Martin Nance and Cory Boyd getting that chance on Sunday.

Anatomy Of A Blitz

In charting the Week 15 game between the Giants and the Eagles, I came across a classic Steve Spagnuolo/Jim Johnson blitz that was so much fun that I immediately got out Microsoft Paint and started diagramming despite the fact that it didn't actually work. Early in the game, the Giants came with this blitz on a third-and-9 from the Cowboys 20-yard line. It's the perfect example of an overload blitz from an unexpected location, owing to the fact that the Giants' two best pass rushers actually drop back into pass coverage on the play. The most important part of the play is the timing -- because the Giants do such a good job of executing it, the Cowboys end up with their best lineman blocking nobody while a corner whizzes right by him for a free shot at Tony Romo.

Pre-snap

First off, anyone who criticizes the sub-Tanier level of the diagrams is subject to a beating; this is the best you're going to get for Microsoft Paint on Christmas morning. This pre-snap look exemplifies how hard it is for Tony Romo to actually identify which Giants will be coming and adjust his protection accordingly. In this standard 4-3 look, there are still nine Giants in or close enough to the box to blitz and make it to Romo in time. Romo only has six blockers on the play: His five offensive linemen and halfback Marion Barber (24).

The squiggly line on the Cowboys side is for Terrell Owens (81), who comes in motion before the ball is snapped. Owens is in motion on virtually every one of the Cowboys' passing plays, in an attempt to prevent cornerbacks from jamming him at the line. Here, the 6'3", 218-pound Owens essentially hides behind 6'0", 203-pound Patrick Crayton (84). Meanwhile, the arrow next to Giants defensive lineman Justin Tuck (91) indicates that he's standing up despite being on the line of scrimmage. Tuck is lined up directly across from Cowboys left guard Cory Proctor (71), responsible for a whiff the play before that resulted in Romo being knocked to the turf as he threw.

Post-snap

Obviously, the Cowboys' biggest concern is Tuck. He takes a step forward at the snap to lure Proctor and center Andre Gurode (65) into thinking he's going to rush the passer. After that step, Tuck drops back into a short zone, about seven yards behind the line of scrimmage. He's joined by defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka (97), lined up in the C-gap between tight end Jason Witten (82) and left tackle Flozell Adams (76). Kiwanuka also takes a step forward, but it's into Witten's path, bumping the receiver off his route. He then strides backward into a zone designed to cut off the curl/hook in route to Witten, which happens to be the exact pattern Witten is running. Kiwanuka, never the best in pass coverage, gets help over the top from safety Michael Johnson (20). Despite the fact that the Giants' two best pass rushers were lined up on the left side, they're not blitzing a single man from that side. You'll never guess what the other side is doing.

Nose tackle Jay Alford (93) gets the thankless task on this play, as nose tackles usually do. His job isn't to rush the passer, but instead to occupy the offensive linemen. He's first engaged by Gurode, but lets Gurode push him to the left side of the offensive line, where he's engaged by Proctor and then Adams, who end up double-teaming him. Meanwhile, middle linebacker Antonio Pierce (58) forms the first part of the Giants' blitz, coming at the snap directly towards right guard Leonard Davis (70). Because he knows that he has help behind him in Barber, the layout of the pass protection scheme here is to fan the blockers out to the left -- which is perfect for the Giants. Davis engages Pierce and then pushes him along to Gurode, who handles him, but by the time that's finished, Davis is standing around looking for someone to block. That's invariably the sign that something's gone wrong.

The reason why is because Terrell Thomas (24) is running by Davis as he looks around confused and worried. Safety James Butler (37) came on a blitz at the snap, arriving right behind Pierce on Davis' right hip. Because Davis was occupied with Pierce at the time, that meant that Barber needed to pick up Butler even though he saw Thomas blitzing as well. The first rule of pass protection for a running back is to always take the inside rusher, with the idea being that he'll get to the quarterback quicker than the outside guy.

As Barber engages Butler, Thomas arrives a half-second later, coming right through the gap where right tackle Marc Colombo (75) used to be. Colombo, set up one-on-one against reserve defensive end Dave Tollefson (71), is drawn outside by Tollefson's best Dwight Freeney impersonation. While Colombo is snickering about the possibility of the athletically challenged Tollefson beating him around the corner, Thomas runs right through his spot. Davis, the only unoccupied blocker, has no chance of getting to Thomas because of the cornerback's speed and the fact that he's essentially picked from Thomas's rush by Barber and Butler.

The result? Thomas has a free shot at Tony Romo with a full head of steam. Romo steps into the hit and releases a pass to Patrick Crayton, who makes a leaping catch just before Kenny Phillips (21) can get back to him. The result of the play was a first down, but as far as the Giants' defense goes, the logic behind the blitz worked to perfection.

Thanks

On behalf of Aaron and Mike as well as myself, I just wanted to thank the readers who came out for our series of Beer Feeds in Boston, Philly, and New York City despite inclement weather, a lack of signage that indicated that we were actually at the bar (thanks Sports Depot), or the fact that it would involve watching the Jaguars and the Colts in non-HD. It was great to put names to the faces of commenters like RowdyRoddyPiper, who's been posting on the site since pretty much day one.

As someone who was attending the first BP pizza feeds when I was in high school and who ran the gamut from fan of FO to now deriving my living from the site, it's incredibly rewarding to meet up with and thank the people who have helped make that happen, although it'll always feel weird to be the one signing a book and not the other way around. As a site, we're blessed to have readers who are as intelligent and well-informed as we hope to be.

We'll certainly try and have more Beer Feeds next year, depending upon interest and whether the locale is nearby an Outsider or two.

The Things That Matter

Dallas (9-6) at Philadelphia (8-6-1)

OK. As an entity, Football Outsiders has spent all year wringing the meaning out of the Eagles' perpetual spot at or towards the top of the DVOA charts. There's no point in rehashing those data points again. What we know for sure is that the Eagles are capable of being (or at least looking like) the best team in the league; we just don't know when they will be, or how long they can sustain that level of play. We can also say with some reliability that the Eagles are going to struggle in short-yardage situations and inside the red zone. We just try and say it quietly and hope that Mike doesn't notice when we do.

No matter what happens in this game, the post-game narrative is going to be agonizing. If the Cowboys lose, even if Tony Romo has a perfect quarterback rating, helps deliver a baby at halftime, and reveals that he's hand-crafted and wrapped hoagies underneath every seat in the stadium, it'll be because Romo can't win games in December. Ignore the fact, of course, that the Cowboys took December of 2007 off after the Packers game that Romo starred in. Irrelevant. Ignore the quality of the defenses he's faced in December (the average DVOA of the pass defenses Romo's faced in December is -1.1%; it's 1.5% in September, 4% in October, and a whopping 9.9% in November over his career); fool's errand, probably geeky. Romo just can't win the big one.

On the other hand, if the Eagles lose, it'll be because Donovan McNabb can't lead this team anywhere (even though his numbers are right in line with all his non-TO years this decade) because they don't run the ball enough (missing both your starting guards doesn't make that any easier), and the only time they corrected that mistake was when they ran the ball down the throats of the Cardinals and Giants in Weeks 13 and 14 (which had nothing to do with the 21-point lead they opened up on the Cardinals or the fact that the wind conditions in the Meadowlands forced Reid to run the ball).

Regardless of whether the Eagles do win or lose, their playoff odds are currently at a woeful 9.8 percent, and that's with the 28.2% Weighted DVOA backing them. The almost-certainty that they'll be at home in January will likely change the franchise dramatically. Andy Reid could very well be out of a job. McNabb could move on, with his value restored some from its nadir after the Ravens game. Both Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan are unrestricted free agents after the season, with no obvious replacement (Winston Justice, says this Giants fan) at either spot. Their cap space could very well be hamstrung by the likely releases of Reggie Brown and Darren Howard. On the other hand, if everything did go right and the Eagles did squeak into the playoffs, they could very well go on a Giants-esque run to the Super Bowl and make all the veterans stick around with Reid for another run.

Pick the Eagles when something important is on the line? Come on. Tanier's at least taught me some things by now. COWBOYS.

Denver (8-7) at San Diego (7-8)

Denver's not an average team that's benefited from an easy schedule -- in that case, there'd be a much wider gap between their DVOA (-6.0%) and their VOA (-5.6%). They're a below-average team that's benefited from an easy schedule and some amount of luck. They've had a DVOA above zero in five of 15 games this year. They've won five games by less than a touchdown and not had a single loss by less than seven points.

Meanwhile, San Diego's lost exactly one game by more than seven points. They've lost four games by a field goal or less. They've put up a positive DVOA in eight of their 15 games. Their defense had been much improved until last week's hiccup against Kansas City.

Denver's also on approximately their 17th starting running back of the year. While we're the first ones to talk up the relative fungibility of running backs, that's as runners -- we're getting to the point where the guys that Denver's putting in their backfield might not even know the playcalls or protections, and that's going to be a bigger nuisance for the Broncos than moving the ball on the ground. Denver still has the eighth-highest variance in the league, so they're capable of putting together a great game, but I don't expect them to on the road. CHARGERS.

Miami (10-5) at New York Jets (9-6)

The reason that the Dolphins aren't already the AFC East champions is a tipped Brett Favre lob that fell miraculously into the hands of Chansi Stuckey. Instead, the Dolphins are denied a chance at either of the top two seeds and would be knocked out altogether if they lost to the Jets and the Patriots won.

The Dolphins continue to impress despite the worldwide agreement that the NFL's defenses would have figured out the Wildcat by now and restored the Dolphins' offense to putridity. Instead, it's only put up two games with an offensive DVOA below 0% since the introduction of the scheme, even though it's been phased somewhat out of their offensive sets.

The biggest irony, of course, is that Chad Pennington will make his return to the Meadowlands with a stronger arm than the quarterback who replaced him. Brett Favre's now complaining of what appears to be a dead arm, which would probably be revenge from the dutch ovens Steve Mariucci swears Favre inflicted upon his children when Favre would come over and babysit. True story. Although I'm not sure how getting the NFL MVP to sit your kids is cost-effective. I dated many a nanny in college -- enough to establish nanny replacement-level -- and finding a nanny who would take a smaller wage than Favre without destroying the kids' blankets shouldn't have been too hard. We should also note that our good friend Jaws was talking about this six weeks ago on NFL Matchup, probably at 2:00 AM or 7:30 AM so that [the label that pays me] could air whatever it is NFL Countdown is after the bumper music and Nutrisystem ads.

Favre's injury may or may not be overreported, but with the temperature around 60 degrees for Sunday's game, the winds in the Meadowlands will have little swirl of consequence. With the ability to execute their passing game intact as a result, I like the DOLPHINS.

New York Giants (12-3) at Minnesota (9-6)

There are plenty of Giants who could use a rest, with the added benefit for Vikings fans that those players happen to also be really good. Justin Tuck has faded fast thanks to injuries and the flu -- he's got one half-sack in three weeks. Domenik Hixon is banged up with an ankle injury. Aaron Ross just suffered concussion (a concession to our English readers). Brandon Jacobs has struggled to even make the active roster the last few weeks and is almost guaranteed a spot on the bench. Kareem McKenzie's iffy. Fred Robbins could sit. The Giants have been able to get production out of virtually every person on their roster, but Kevin Boothe and the aforementioned Tollefson aren't players the Vikings need to concern themselves with.

The Vikings also match up well with the Giants. Their worst pass blocker is David Diehl, who'll face Jared Allen. The Giants' strength is their run blocking on the interior, something the Vikings (granted, without a Williams Wall member) are better than anyone in the league at handling. As far as potential opponents in the NFC playoffs, the Vikings constitute the worst matchup for the Giants when both teams are healthy. Considering that the factors most likely to affect this game won't be known until 12:50 or so on Sunday, the tentative pick here is VIKINGS.

Things That Matter To One Team

St. Louis (2-13) at Atlanta (10-5)

Technically, this does also matter to St. Louis. They're currently tied with Kansas City for the rights to the second overall pick in the draft. Kansas City gets to face Cincinnati this week, a team they could very possibly beat; if St. Louis tanks here, their draft options open up dramatically. There's no way Detroit has the balls to take another wide receiver, which means that the second overall pick has the option of either taking Michael Crabtree for themselves or trading the pick to someone who wants him (or whichever quarterback/left tackle Detroit doesn’t take first). If they draft third, they lose all that leverage and are put in a situation where the top player available (likely Sam Bradford or Matt Stafford) doesn't make sense for them. Drafting second overall is a huge tactical advantage for them, and the only way they can ensure they have a shot at doing so is to lose.

Fortunately, St. Louis shouldn’t have to try too hard, considering they gave up on this season nine weeks ago. Their excuse for not being the Fab Morvan to Detroit's Rob Pilatus basically revolves around a very questionable pass interference call and Dallas' utter ignorance of the possibility that Tony Romo might get hurt. FALCONS.

New England (10-5) at Buffalo (7-8)

Wes Welker's $10,000 fine for doing a snow angel was impenetrable. Lonie Paxton did a snow angel twice in 2001. He wasn't fined either time, as far as I know. You've probably seen clips of the first one, at the end of the Raiders game, but the second one is far better. After Adam Vinatieri hit the title-winning field goal against the Rams, Paxton proceeded to do a second snow angel, this time on dry turf. It screamed "I want your attention and the first endorsement deal ever given to a long snapper!", not "This is a spur of the moment celebration!" It made me feel far more uncomfortable inside than the Welker celebration, but then again, I'm inherently distrusting of long snappers since Trey Junkin entered my life in 2002.Was Welker using the snow as a prop? If so, how far does that extend? If Welker scored a touchdown this week and dug up too much of the grass without replacing the divot, would that also be a fine?

The NFL says that the fine is due to "unsportsmanlike conduct for participation in an illegal demonstration by going to the ground", unless that demonstration involves prayer. I will leave it to TMQ to belabor the line between prayer and the iconography of angels in various Western religions, but my question is this: Why would you want to pray after you scored a touchdown? You've already done the best thing you could do at that possible moment. Would you pray to score more touchdowns? That your kicker doesn't shank the extra point? That the defensive back across from you continues to fall for the same double move? If the NFL said that players could pray before the snap, that would make sense.

It's going to be hard to win a shootout when your quarterback fires the gun every which way but straight. PATRIOTS.

Chicago (9-6) at Houston (7-8)

It disappoints me that Football Commentary doesn't update on a weekly basis and that ESPN got rid of the Accuscore (whatever that is) win expectation stuff from their recaps. I really would like to know what the chances of Chicago's season ending were right before the Packers snapped the ball for that blocked field goal. A 38-yard field goal is good about 80 percent of the time. Maybe you subtract a percentage point or two for it being a cold night (anecdotal). Either way, even viewed very pessimistically, Green Bay's at least 75% to win the game on the field goal and then probably in the 45-47% range if they miss it, no? They're in the high-eighties, but because they're the 2008 Packers, they lost. Now, they're in the playoffs if the Vikings lose and they win.

There's not really any resemblance between this Bears team and the other teams that Lovie Smith has had in previous years. The defensive scheme is totally different because the defensive line is weak, so they push Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs into the A-gaps and play a lot of Cover-3. That's not really a great use of their players, although Briggs is having a very good season doing it. As a result, their tenth-ranked pass defense is a bit of a mirage -- they're not very good at stopping the pass -- I'd just be concerned about Houston being able to exploit it. I'll say CHICAGO, but I have no idea what I'd bet if the line was more than two points either way.

Carolina (11-4) at New Orleans (8-7)

If you look at the box score for the first game between these two teams, it notes that New Orleans' top performer was Mike Karney. Karney ran the ball once for a one-yard score and caught one pass for two yards.

Carolina is a bad matchup for New Orleans in that they have the corner depth to go against the Saints' 23 possession receivers and 11 deep threats, and they can get pressure on Drew Brees with four rushers. I've had to chart a lot of Panthers games this year, and I can say for a fact that Tyler Brayton is criminally underrated. Granted, he gets to play across from Julius Peppers, but he's been really impressive even though he only has 4.5 sacks. Carolina should be able to limit the Saints defensively and run the ball down their throats on offense. CAROLINA.

Oakland (4-11) at Tampa Bay (9-6)

When the Buccaneers signed away Jon Gruden from the Raiders, it cost them dearly. The Raiders received $8 million in cash (about six games of DeAngelo Hall), two first-round picks, and two-second round picks.

After all the maneuvering and trading, both on draft day and in subsequent seasons, there are two players from that bounty left on the Raiders roster: Kirk Morrison and Jake Grove.

Furthermore, if you happen to read about the Raiders' organization wanting revenge on Gruden for leaving and winning a title, don't bother caring. Al Davis isn't going to do much extraction from his wheelchair, and there are exactly three players from that Super Bowl team who are on the Raiders' roster: Marques Tuiasosopo, Shane Lechler, and Sebastian Janikowski. Unless Janikowski or Lechler plan on kicking so hard that they punch a hole in the pirate ship, the Buccaneers should be fine. TAMPA BAY.

Jacksonville (5-10) at Baltimore (10-5)

Thanks to FO reader Travis' Quirky Research site, I can tell you very quickly and painlessly that Baltimore's in if they win. If they lose, things get a little hairy, but nothing too crazy. The only way the Ravens miss out on the playoffs would be if they lose, the Jets beat the Dolphins, and the Patriots beat the Bills. That would give the Pats the division and the Jets the Wild Card. The odds of this happening are very slim, but to be honest, the odds of the Jaguars suddenly waking up and beating the Ravens in Baltimore are far slimmer. BALTIMORE.

Games With Less Relevance Than MK vs. DC

Kansas City (2-3) at Cincinnati (3-11-1)

If 300 Bengals fans rush the field in protest and all sack Ryan Fitzpatrick at the same time, do they each get 1/300th of an NFL sack? KANSAS CITY.

Detroit (0-15) at Green Bay (5-10)

No. Here's why. If this game were in Detroit, it would actually be relevant, because the distinct possibility exists that the fans actually would riot and tear the place up. In Green Bay, it'll just be the end to a disappointing season. I wonder if Rod Marinelli comes up with all his metaphors himself. GREEN BAY.

Tennessee (13-2) at Indianapolis (11-4)

In 2004, the Colts had a Week 17 game against the Broncos, knowing they'd have to play Denver the following week in the Wild Card round. Predictably, they played an absolutely vanilla game and lost 33-14. This was met with consternation in some quarters about "momentum" and what-not. The Colts proceeded to stomp the Broncos, 49-24, in the Wild Card round. Remember that when you read that your favorite team shouldn't bench this guy or that guy or play a dumbed-down scheme. I wouldn't bet on this game, though, with Calvin Ayre's money. INDIANAPOLIS.

Cleveland (4-11) at Pittsburgh (11-4)

Instead of actually playing the game, these two teams should have a debate about which team has less to play for. Whoever wins gets the W and 80 fantasy points to split amongst their players however they like. PITTSBURGH.

Seattle (4-11) at Arizona (8-7)

I am going to cut and paste three paragraphs from a Seattle Times article on the city's reaction to being covered with copious amounts of snow:

But it turns out "plowed streets" in Seattle actually means "snow-packed," as in there's snow and ice left on major arterials by design.

The icy streets are the result of Seattle's refusal to use salt, an effective ice-buster used by the state Department of Transportation and cities accustomed to dealing with heavy winter snows.

"If we were using salt, you'd see patches of bare road because salt is very effective," Wiggins said. "We decided not to utilize salt because it's not a healthy addition to Puget Sound."

ARIZONA.

Washington (8-7) at San Francisco (6-9)

Instead of actually playing this game, Mike Singletary and Greg Blache should just have a three-hour conversation over the PA about how to calculate a stat that can measure the intensity of a man's eyes. REDSKINS.

Happy holidays, everyone. The best gift I can give you is that Mike Tanier will be back next week.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 25 Dec 2008

25 comments, Last at 29 Dec 2008, 2:56am by Levari

Comments

1
by Danish Denver-Fan :: Thu, 12/25/2008 - 4:53pm

Great Diagramming.

Allthough the fact that the play diagrammed was very exciting probably helped it out a bit... Please don't hit me!

2
by greenisthenewred (not verified) :: Thu, 12/25/2008 - 5:12pm

Red is the new green...Go Cards!

3
by hector :: Thu, 12/25/2008 - 5:56pm

To me, the patron saint of Week 17 is Lee Suggs, 2003 edition.

Thanks for the push home, Lee - http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/200312280cin.htm

4
by Greg Trippiedi (not verified) :: Thu, 12/25/2008 - 6:08pm

Re: St. Louis, lest we forget about the only touchdown they scored that game: an O.J. Otogwe touchdown coming off a blown block by LEFT TACKLE Jason Fabini (the only snap at LT he took all season), and a consequent fumble by left guard PETE KENDALL.

Love the MS Paint job. Makes me feel far more professional.

5
by Chris (not verified) :: Thu, 12/25/2008 - 6:37pm

Is Dave Tollefson only unathletic because he is white?

6
by Bobman :: Thu, 12/25/2008 - 6:44pm

In my saltless Seattle suburb, there were ice-moguls almost two feet high in the shopping center's parking lot two days ago. Shhhh! Don't tell the salmon, but I used a little kosher salt on my back steps to keep them ice-free--about a teaspoon. My wife, who grew up across the street from where we now live, said she has never seen this much snow in our town.

Okay, back to football.

7
by Akachazz (not verified) :: Thu, 12/25/2008 - 8:02pm

The only way ravens miss out is: jags, jets, pats all win??

That doesn't make sense. If Miami wins, they're 11-5. Ravens out If they and bills also lose

8
by Jake (not verified) :: Thu, 12/25/2008 - 11:00pm

Yes you're right and Bill is incorrect.

Pats win coupled with a Baltimore loss and Miami win means Miami wins the division and Pats are 6 seed. Miami and NE both 11-5.

Pats win couples with a Baltimore loss and NYJ win means Pats win the division and NYJ is the 6th seed at 10-6 with a better conference record.

9
by Bill Barnwell :: Fri, 12/26/2008 - 12:51am

Oh, duh. You guys are right. My bad.

10
by Key19 :: Fri, 12/26/2008 - 1:43am

Thank you for the best description of Tony Romo's "big game" and "December" woes in any media outlet anywhere in the world. I feel like rationality just prevailed over ridiculous generalizations and bandwagon stories. Even if Tony were to throw 12 TDs on 13 drives, but had to settle for a Field Goal on the 13th drive, and then the Eagles somehow scored a 13th TD, to ESPN and some block-headed Cowboys fans, it would still be Romo's fault for the loss.

Once again, thank you for that little aside about Romo. It was like you wrote it just for me, and it was a great Christmas present!

Go Cowboys! PLEASE don't ---- this opportunity up!

18
by Gubdude :: Fri, 12/26/2008 - 1:37pm

Agree.

11
by mattman (not verified) :: Fri, 12/26/2008 - 5:33am

"Their cap space could very well be hamstrung by the likely releases of Reggie Brown and Darren Howard." Brown is a likely release, but certainly not Howard. He was a bust as a starter, and probably came close to being cut last year, but he's been a fine role player this season, thanks in part to the Justin Tuck-fueled fad of DE's playing DT on passing downs. (Although Howard was doing this for the Eagles in 2006, before Tuck emerged.) He's really played well. The Eagles, at the very least, wouldn't hurt their cap situation just to get rid of him.

24
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Sun, 12/28/2008 - 9:20pm

Plus Howard would actually be cheap to release. His cap number's $3.7M next year, and he'll only have $1.4M in signing bonus remaining. So he'd actually free up $2.3M if he was cut. Which he won't be.

Reggie Brown's a different story, but I'm not convinced he'll be cut due to the cap hit if he is. Even if he is, though, the Eagles have plenty of cap space for next year. The big question is how much it would cost to resign Runyan/Thomas to short contracts.

12
by Chris (not verified) :: Fri, 12/26/2008 - 11:34am

Why all the hate for Dave Tollefson? The guy is a good backup Defensive end who can play the run and rush the passer? Why did you talk about the pointspread in the Houston/Bears game, Houston is the favorite giving points not getting points, why would giving more points matter when you picked the Bears anyway? There is a lot of chalk on the board this week, and the Dogs will bark loud. Vegas has ripped the public a new one in the past 2 weeks.

13
by RoyFlip (not verified) :: Fri, 12/26/2008 - 11:34am

Thanks for the breakdown of the Giants blitz. I would just sit there and ask myself "What-the-hell-are-they-doing?" Now, I know. Until Spagnoula (sp?)changes it up...again.
Special thanks for working on a holiday.

14
by Fan in Exile :: Fri, 12/26/2008 - 11:55am

I just want to clarify something. The Broncos are not a below average team. They are an excellent passing offense, an injured running offense, a special teams that is in disarray because of injury. I would talk about their defense, if they had one.

Fire Bob Slowick.

23
by Dales :: Sun, 12/28/2008 - 9:17am

Hmm. If part of their offense is excellent but all of their defense is non-existent and the special teams are in disarray, that sounds a lot like a prototype for 'below average'. Not God-awful, mind you, but 'below average.'

15
by FullMoonOverTulsa (not verified) :: Fri, 12/26/2008 - 12:18pm

Anyone remember Scott Lockwood of the Patriots? He had a 100 yard game in 1992, was out of football shortly thereafter. USC grad.

16
by andrew :: Fri, 12/26/2008 - 12:39pm

Hey, that game is relevant! It is a metaphor... Its contrasts the counterpoint the surrealism of the underlying metaphor of the, humanity of the programmer's compassionate soul which contrived through the medium of the combat to sublimate this, transcend that and come to terms with the fundamental dichotomies of the other. And one is left with a profound and vivid insight into whatever it was the game is about.

17
by Displaced Cane (not verified) :: Fri, 12/26/2008 - 1:17pm

It took me 5 minutes of deep thought to figure out what "MK vs DC" is. Next time, could you make the esoteric references a little less esoteric?

Seriously, great column. Thanks for filling in on Xmas Day.

19
by chubbypuppy (not verified) :: Fri, 12/26/2008 - 5:44pm

Ahhhh, bob Slowik. The guy in charge of the GB defense that surrendered a first down on 4th and 26 with FredEx Freddie Mitchell catching a pass from McNabb as rookie linebacker Nick Barnett stayed with the TE at the line of scrimmage instead of dropping back to fill a lane. Ergo, McNabb is allowed to put it on a line to Mitchell instead of having to put some air under the pass which would have given someone like Darren Sharper time to break up the play.

When asked about it immediately after the game if he (Slowik) had reviewed assignments with players Slowik said, "Some things should be obvious".

Season on the line. Rookied middle linebacker. Everyone's excited.

And Bobby boy assumes.

Feel for ya' Denver......

20
by AndyE :: Sat, 12/27/2008 - 2:50pm

but my question is this: Why would you want to pray after you scored a touchdown? You've already done the best thing you could do at that possible moment.

Pediatric religion aside, many religious persons do not pray to receive; rather, prayer is a form of giving thanks.

21
by Martial (not verified) :: Sat, 12/27/2008 - 4:40pm

For play diagramming, PlayMaker Football is much better than Paint (though not free). It is also a fun game.

www.playmaker.com

(I am not affiliated with PlayMaker in any way - I just like the game. Over a dozen years playing it.)

22
by panthersnbraves :: Sun, 12/28/2008 - 2:21am

Some love for Brayton - awesome.

25
by Levari (not verified) :: Mon, 12/29/2008 - 2:56am

9.8 %

ha ha ha ha.

some numbers you can crunch, others you can't.

which team shows up in minnesota?

Reid knows Childress and Childress knows McNabb as well as anybody.

Eagles will play 8 in the box and challenge Tavaris to beat them while pounding the Hell out of untested Peterson.

The Eagles will continue to run the ball and throw and experience will beat home field.

Eagles win by 13 straight. You heard it here first.

Love the blitz diagram. Do more.