Audibles at the Line
Unfiltered in-game observations by Football Outsiders staff

Audibles at the Line: Week 17

Audibles at the Line: Week 17
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

compiled by Doug Farrar and Vince Verhei

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails to each other, both during and after the games. It lets us share ideas for columns and comments, and get an idea of how teams that we can't watch are playing. Be aware that the material in this roundtable might seem a bit disjointed and un-edited. It also might still show up later in the week in other columns, or in comments in PFP 2009. Games are chosen based on our own personal viewing preferences, and are going to reflect the teams we support and the cities where we live.

St. Louis Rams 27 at Atlanta Falcons 31

Bill Barnwell: So, then, Michael Turner finished with 376 carries. If you believe in the Curse of 370, you can scratch him off of your fantasy lists. The bigger concern for me is what it took to get Turner to 370 -- a really healthy offense (and defense) around him. Unless I'm missing someone (and I probably am), Sam Baker was the only Falcons projected starter to miss a single game all season. That's absolutely sick. That's going to regress next year, regardless of whether Turner's on that list or not.

Vince Verhei: Kroy Biermann made a great play on kickoff coverage for Atlanta, knocking his blocker to the ground and swooping in to tackle the returner. The weird thing is that Biermann wears No. 71. I figured this was the league's most athletic backup tackle, but Biermann is an undersized (242 pounds) defensive end.

Bill makes a good point about Atlanta's defense and how healthy they've been. They've got nine defenders with 14 or more starts. But today, Steven Jackson made them all look silly, running around them, through them, and in one case, literally over them, hurdling over the head of an incoming tackler.

I love, love, love Jerious Norwood. He made a ridiculous cut at full speed on a kick return and got the ball inside the Rams' 10-yard line. From there, the Falcons lined up Norwood and Matt Ryan side-by-side in the backfield, each calling for the ball from center. Norwood got the snap. Ryan took off to the right as a decoy, ready to take the pitch. Norwood was supposed to follow a pulling lineman to the right, but saw an opening on the left and slipped through for the touchdown. He added a 45-yard touchdown later when he slipped into the secondary and juked a safety down to the floor. He finished the year with 95 carries and a 5.1-yard average gain, both career LOWS. His career totals sound like one MVP season: 297 carries for 1,735 yards, a 5.8 average, plus 76 receptions for 717 yards -- and he has only two fumbles.

New England Patriots 13 at Buffalo Bills 0

Aaron Schatz: By the time Audibles runs tomorrow, everyone will have seen footage from this game, but man, this is nuts. They cannot keep the goal posts straight. The Patriots threw just three passes in the first quarter, and they haven't used shotgun at all; the first 15 games, they were using shotgun more than half the time. The Bills did not throw a single pass in the first quarter; they threw a pass with their first play of the second quarter, as soon as they got the wind to their backs. Rian Lindell tried a field goal, angled it left, and ended up missing wide right. The kick swooped all the way from one side of the goal posts to the other like an old Bob Gibson slider.

The Patriots can't tackle Fred Jackson. It's astonishing. He must be getting four or five yards after contact on every single run, sometimes more. The Patriots will have him dead to rights in the backfield, and he'll still get positive yardage by dragging a guy five yards. He just dragged literally a pile of 15 Patriots and Bills for an extra few yards on third-and-short.

Mike Tanier: I think they played this game on Thunder Island from the Mario Bros. series. The field goals were amazing. When the dude came out with a rickety ladder to fix the goalpost before Stephen Gostkowski missed one in the first half, I thought they were going to hang a small weight from one side to balance it out. Like the midget from The Wizard of Oz. Or Doug Flutie.

Will Carroll: There has not been one single highlight of that game here. Heading to halftime.

Aaron Schatz: I have no idea what the officials were thinking at the end of the first half of the Buffalo-New England game. Buffalo is out of timeouts with 22 seconds left. Fred Jackson takes the handoff, goes up the middle on third-and-5 but doesn't get the first down. Ball is at the 9. Hurry the field goal unit on, right? The only problem is that nobody is getting off the field, because a handful of Patriots and Bills are fighting each other near the goal line. You hear whistles -- but apparently they aren't coming from the officials, they must be coming from the stands or something, because nobody is stopping the fight. The Bills are trying to get the field goal unit on but tight end Derek Schouman and center Duke Preston are busy fighting the Patriots. The officials do nothing -- no spotting the ball, no calling offsetting penalties to stop the clock, nothing - clock hits double zeroes, and the ref waves the teams off the field. The Bills are stunned, standing around on the field, as the Patriots all file into the tunnel. Really, really weird.

Doug Farrar: Fred Jackson: Hero of Coe College, and the Sioux City Bandits of the National Indoor Football League!

I think we have a clear KCW winner in Preston, who got into it with a Patriots defender at the end of the half when the Bills were trying to run the ball once and set up for a field goal. Thanks to Duke, the clock ran down, and the half was over before the field-goal attempt would have been possible.

Mike Pereira's take per Dan Dierdorf was that since Preston was engaged with another player, the officials' first responsibility was to separate the players.

Mike Tanier: Watching that, I thought it was Bill Belichick shenanigans at first -- you know, "go grab a guy and start a fight to waste eight seconds" type trickery. But I think Preston started it. So I guess it's a no-harm situation: If you are dumb enough to start a fight with no timeouts and the field goal unit racing on the field, you deserve to have some time run off the clock.

Aaron Schatz: Dan Dierdorf: "The Bills have lost 15 fumbles this year, the most in the league. They've fumbled the ball 33 times. They're lucky they've recovered so many of them." No they aren't, Dan. They've recovered roughly half their fumbles. That's exactly what you would expect.

Doug Farrar: How. HOW. HOW?!?!? Was Wes Welker that wide-open on the short pass to the left on fourth-and-5 from the Buffalo 14 with five minutes left in the third quarter? Sweet play by the Patriots. They sent Randy Moss and Jabar Gaffney to the end zone out of a trips bunch left. Buffalo blitzed Kawika Mitchell from the right side, and Welker had a good 5-yard cushion underneath. I really have to question the wisdom behind blitzing a shotgun quarterback in a scoring situation when the Patriots have proven an ability to high-low defenses with their speed guys and their underneath guys.

Aaron Schatz: I believe that was the only pass thrown by either team into the wind through the first three quarters.

Mike Tanier: Best I could tell on the Welker play, the cornerback who would normally be covering that flat zone ran off with Moss and got too deep. He's supposed to drop with the outside receiver, then rush up into the flat, but he dropped too far and got tangled with Moss. It's a blown coverage, especially when you consider the situation, and any zone defender should be sitting on those flat routes, waiting for a wind-blown pass.

Doug Farrar: I love the New England call for Matt Cassel to quick-kick the ball on third-and-8 with five minutes left in the game and the ball at the New England 41. With the help of the wind, the ball rolls down to the Buffalo 2. There is no way in hell that a Bills team playing this badly is going 98 yards, and field goals are almost out of the question. Great call, optimal result.

Bill Barnwell: One of the things I always hype up as a good feature of Madden is that, when you play about 15 or so years in franchise mode, new, futuristic things you can buy for your stadium pop up. One of those items is the "Goalposts of Light," which are rays of light that come out of the ground when you're running a kicking play and then disappear after the play's over. Buffalo needed goalposts of light today.

The game was a bit of a coming-out party for Fred Jackson, who basically plays like he's a recessionary man's Larry Centers. I'm not sure if he qualifies for Top 25 Prospects (he spent two years out of college in indoor), but he's a great receiver out of the backfield, he broke plenty of tackles today. At the very worst, he makes a nice partner for Marshawn Lynch.

Aaron and I were discussing whether 11-5 and missing the playoffs on a tiebreaker qualifies as a successful season for the Patriots. I don't think it does. The standards are too high -- even before 16-0, the Patriots were one of the league's perennial playoff teams. I don't buy the "losing Brady makes it OK" argument -- it just means that the Patriots were a competent quarterback away from a division title, and in those first few weeks, Matt Cassel was totally incompetent.

Vince Verhei: When debating New England's success, or their merits as one of the best teams to miss the playoffs, remember that they played the NFC West. They're basically a 7-5 team that got four extra wins against Seattle, St. Louis, Arizona, and San Francisco.

Also, Belichick is totally winning the Colbert Award for that third-down punt. That's one of those strangely brilliant plays that only Bill Belichick would call, like that intentional safety when trailing in Denver a few years back.

Kansas City Chiefs 6 at Cincinnati Bengals 16

Bill Barnwell: I think we can safely say that the Tyler Thigpen bandwagon is interested in locking you up for 2009 season tickets at a discounted rate. Kansas City would seemingly have to be open to, at this point, at least the idea of drafting Sam Bradford or Matt Stafford.

There's going to be some back-and-forth on the value of Cedric Benson next year, thanks to the huge final two weeks he had. I'm going to be pretty high on him depending upon what the Bengals do with their line; the return of Carson Palmer will help his numbers a lot, and there's certainly upside there. Something like 1,200 yards, 10 touchdowns doesn't seem impossibly unreasonable, although I'm admittedly basing a whole season on two or three weeks worth of data.

Vince Verhei: Tyler Thigpen's passer rating (yes, I know) by quarter:

First quarter: 97.1
Second quarter: 79.3
Third quarter: 69.1
Fourth quarter: 62.6

I have no idea what's going on there. It could be meaningless sample noise. But it does show how he can look fantastic at some times and horrible at others.

Aaron Schatz: I don't know if it is sample noise either, but it is going to be something I look at this offseason. For those of you who prefer DVOA:

First quarter: 24.9%
Second quarter: -6.8%
Third quarter: -10.7%
Fourth quarter: -25.4%

Detroit Lions 21 at Green Bay Packers 31

Doug Farrar: Halfway through the third quarter, Calvin Johnson has two touchdown catches against the Packers. Tie ballgame, 14-14. I know Johnson's wonderful, but are the Packers using Charles Woodson at safety again or something? What's going on there?

Bill Barnwell: It's really sad to see how far Leigh Bodden has fallen. He may be the first player to really go from FO crush to FO bust, unless you're particularly sour on "the other" Adrian Peterson. He's getting lost in coverage, taking terrible angles ... just a total mess. The only two players on this defense who really have any business on a successful NFL team at their current salary are Clifford Avril and Ernie Sims.

Vince Verhei: On the last play of the first half, Mason Crosby attempted a 69-yard field goal after a fair catch. The official play-by-play merely notes the kick came up short, but that's not really fair. This kick was down the middle and only short by a foot or two. It would have been good from 68.

Late in the third quarter, Ryan Grant gained about 20 yards, ran through Leigh Bodden, then got to his feet and sprinted 80 yards for a touchdown. Not one Lions defender bothered to give chase -- they all pointed to the ground, insisting Grant was down. As it turns out, they were right, and the play was called back. But the image of Grant running down the field, with no whistle, and nobody in a silver helmet making any effort to catch him, was appalling. It was like a defense stocked with 11 Shaun Alexanders.

Tennessee Titans 0 at Indianapolis Colts 23

Ned Macey: I only watched parts of the first half, but the Colts made sure their big guys got their milestones (Manning his 4,000 yards and Marvin Harrison passed Cris Carter on receptions), and then they got them out of the game. Given Harrison's uncertain future with Indy, I was glad they fed him the seven catches so he could leave as the second all-time leading receiver.

Sure the Titans didn't take it seriously, but the win did give the Colts their sixth straight 12-win season. I know they only have the one Super Bowl, but this is an amazing run of consistency. Obviously, Manning's health helps, but the Pats (the dominant team of this era) only have four 12-win seasons since 2001, and the great Belichick only has four in 14 years coaching. I know it is a little random at some point, but it still seems extremely impressive. They are about to finish in the top 10 in DVOA for the sixth straight time. If they had two Super Bowls, they would have to be considered one of the great teams in history. Instead, they are sort of going to be an historical footnote.

New York Giants 19 at Minnesota Vikings 20

Bill Barnwell: I admittedly saw very little of the second half of this game, "very little" being one play. On that one play, David Carr was leveled by a rusher from the starboard side. You might note that David Carr is right-handed. That was enough for me.

Playing Justin Tuck seemed like a really bad idea. The announcers pitched the idea that Tuck would rather win the game than sit out, which is nice, but it's Tom Coughlin's job to not care and look towards the future. If the logic really was "We had a great Week 17 last year and it took us to the Super Bowl," that's applying a beater to correlation and causation.

Cleveland Browns 0 at Pittsburgh Steelers 31

Aaron Schatz: If you liked the storyline "after the Giants won the Super Bowl, no team with nothing left to play for will ever sit their starters in Week 17 again," you'll love the new storyline, "after Ben Roethlisberger got carted off the field, no team with nothing left to play for will ever play starters in Week 17 again."

Doug Farrar: Particularly if you're playing the Browns, who haven't scored a touchdown since mid-November.

Oakland Raiders 31 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24

Russell Levine: The Buccaneers are playing like the team waiting for the end of the season, while the Raiders look like they're fighting for a playoff spot.

Tampa Bay's defense just allowed the Raiders to drive for a go-ahead touchdown in the final 2 minutes on a drive featuring mass confusion in the secondary and zero pass rush. The Eagles may be playing for something at 4 p.m. after all.

Josh Bidwell is killing Tampa Bay. Line-drive, no-hang time punts that are being brought back 20 and 30 yards by Johnnie Lee Higgins. Shane Lechler and his 60-yard foot are going to be free agents this winter. With an offense like Jon Gruden's, he might be worth a handsome offer.

Stat of the century, courtesy of Kevin Harlan: "Third-and-10, the Raiders haven't converted a third-and-10 or longer since Week 3." Week 3!?!?!?!!?

Doug Farrar: Since it's the Raiders, the question might be, "They converted one in Week 3?!?!??!?"

Mike Tanier: The Raiders were 1-of-26 on third-and-more than 10 entering this game. I guess Tom Cable has nothing in the playbook for third-and-11.

Bill Barnwell: I still think my playbook would be strictly plays for third-and-15-plus.

Mike Tanier: The announcer in this game said at some point that the Raiders aren't letting Jeff Garcia set his feet. I have never, ever seen Garcia set his feet.

Russell Levine: You're right, Mike, and that's why Jon Gruden doesn't sleep at night.

Poetic justice in this game. Tampa Bay gets a third-down interception to stop a Raiders drive, but Oakland gets a first down on the touchiest facemask call you'll ever see. On first down, JaMarcus Russell throws a pick to Sabby Piscatelli, who weaves his way for about 200 yards down to the Oakland 11. Cadillac Williams, who looks to be getting his burst back, scores two plays later to give Tampa Bay a 10-point lead.

Sorry, Mike.

And Cadillac Williams just tore up his left knee at the end of a 27-yard run. This is heartbreaking. The guy just looked like he was regaining his burst and his moves after the torn patella tendon in his right knee and could be headed for another year-long rehab on the other leg.

Bill Barnwell: I wonder if there's something more than genetics when it comes to Williams' susceptibility to injury. By all accounts, Jon Gruden fell in love with Williams when he coached him at the Senior Bowl. That's great and all, but Williams missed chunks of his first two seasons with broken bones. I really doubt that Tampa Bay's medical staff didn't do their due diligence on Williams -- I would suspect that Gruden ignored them in promoting Williams as their pick. I don't remember Williams really getting talked about as a pick that high outside of Tampa Bay, although that could be selective memory and/or the fact that everyone knew Tampa Bay was picking him.

Will Carroll: Genetics.

Russell Levine: And Tampa Bay responds to the injury by turning the ball over on downs, then allowing Michael Bush to go 67 yards for the go-ahead touchdown, with Derrick Brooks limping badly behind the play.

First play on the next possession, Garcia throws a pick on a deep ball up the left sidelines.

The previous Oakland touchdown came after a 41-yard pass interference penalty on a halfback option pass by Bush that was 5 yards underthrown.

Good God, what an implosion.

Aaron Schatz: Are they handing out herpes with playoff spots this year? I don't think I've ever seen so many teams blow "win and your in" type scenarios against bad teams.

Doug Farrar: I'm not generally a believer in this kind of stuff, but there have been two very distinct Tampa Bay defenses this year -- the great one before Monte Kiffin announced that he was leaving for Tennessee, and the one since, which looks like a bunch of Seahawks backups in Buccaneers uniforms. That event seems to have led to this team's implosion.

Will Carroll: How many times have they called Jon Gruden "the Raiders' former coach?" OK, I get it. How many of the players, coaches, heck even front office guys (besides Al Davis) were there? Turnover is one of the things that I dont think most people understand in the NFL because the system encourages the elite players to stay in place.

Russell Levine: After that ending, they can have him back.

Bill Barnwell: Only three guys left from the Gruden team: Marques Tuiasosopo (who left and came back), Seabass, and Lechler. That would be the Raiders winning a 1 p.m. game on the East Coast without their best player. Right. Sorry, Russell.

I wonder what the name of the FOX piano-version-of-the-bumper-music-we-only-play-when-someone-gets-hurt is. Maybe it's "Weepy Robot." Is the robot supposed to be hungover?

What on earth happened to the Buccaneers defense the final four weeks of the season? Michael Bush was running in, around, and through them today -- Mike freaking Bush! With the Raiders offensive line! I just hope this puts the seed in Al Davis' brain that they can win without Nnamdi Asomugha and they let him move on so they can sign, I don't know, T.J. Housmandzadeh to a huge deal.

Is this Tampa Bay loss the worst performance in Week 17 history for a team who needed to win in? Is it worse than Buffalo against Pittsburgh in 2004?

Chicago Bears 24 at Houston Texans 31

Bill Barnwell: The overturning of Steve Slaton's fumble late in the game was absurd. Yes, there was some doubt that it was a fumble. When the call on the field is fumble, though, and there's no indisputable evidence that it's not a fumble (and there wasn't any), you can't change the call.

One of my roommates is a Bears fan and is always throwing out different offseason plans for them. I think they really have to go out and acquire a No. 1 receiver, but I can't see them giving up the first-rounder it would take to get Anquan Boldin. And if T.J. Houshmandzadeh hits the market, I get the vibe that Jerry Angelo is gunshy after the failure of Muhsin Muhammad.

Miami Dolphins 24 at New York Jets 17

Will Carroll: After throwing a pick, Brett Favre's running with his arm guarded before noting that he's probably on camera. I'm guessing that shoulder's much worse than anyone's letting on.

Aaron Schatz: No kidding. He can't hide it from the cameras. Every time they show him, he's holding his shoulder, or hand, or something. He just threw an interception to a defensive lineman, for crying out loud. The boy ain't right. How obvious does he have to make the injury before they put Kellen Clemens in? Or do they decide, you know what, we sink or swim with the guy we traded for?

Russell Levine: Of course Favre unleashed about four lasers on the field goal drive to end the half.

Doug Farrar: It's been very entertaining to watch Phil Simms' relationship with the Miami Dolphins' offense change through this game. First, he was "sick of hearing about the Wildcat." Then he talked about it nonstop for about half an hour. Then he seemed to get twitterpated by any manner of trickeration, to the point where he was calling a counter pitch "another one of those new wrinkles."

What the offense has been is very efficient late. Again, the reason their Wildcat stuff works is because it places an emphasis on blocking, and that blocking aids misdirection. They use their tight ends as well as any team in the league -- not that David Martin and Anthony Fasano are going to be DYAR heroes (though they're both top ten through Week 16), but they fit in this system so well. Watching Favre and Chad Pennington in the same game places more of an emphasis on the fact that Pennington doesn't waste a lot of throws. That running game does so many different things well. If you watch this team for a while, I think what you'll discover is that they take care of business. I mean, they're eighth in offensive DVOA through Week 16. Fifth in passing. That's about a lot more than a handful of plays you might see in one of the AFCA coaching books.

Oh, and in the early fourth quarter, Eric Mangini had to take a timeout so that the Jets wouldn't be flagged for illegal formation when Favre was split wide.

Mike Tanier: Twitterpated?

Aaron Schatz: There are three things I've learned in this long life of mine:

1) Never get involved in a land war in Asia.
2) Never challenge a Sicilian when death is on the line.
3) Never place your hope in the hands of Brett Favre when you are depending on another team's win to put you in the playoffs.

I want to point out that if Favre now retires, it will go in the books that the last pass of his entire career was illegal, and the pass before that was an interception. How fitting! (Note: This may be Pats fan bitterness.)

Bill Barnwell: During this game, I realized that the '08 Dolphins are the '06 Jets. The '05 Jets were one of the most injured teams in the history of our injury research. The '07 Dolphins were one of the most injured teams in the league last year. Both teams changed coaches. Both teams enjoyed fumble luck and rode a weak schedule to outperform Pythagoras ('06 Jets were +21, '08 Dolphins were +21 heading into Sunday and are now +28) thanks to one of the two healthy seasons Chad Pennington has had in his NFL career. The '06 Jets were the third-healthiest team in the league that year. The Dolphins are the second-healthiest team in the league this year.

I also wonder, though, if Eric Mangini's job status would be different if his team had simply seen their luck regress earlier that year. If the Jets go 8-8 (they had 7.7 expected wins thanks to DVOA) that year instead of 10-6, Mangini has gone 8-8, 4-12, and then 9-7 as Jets coach in three seasons, which seems much more promising than 10-6, 4-12, and 9-7. I think the exact thing that made Mangini look like such a brilliant young coach -- his fluky '06 playoff spot -- may end up being the exact thing that gets him fired.

Aaron Schatz: I should note that Pennington has had three healthy seasons, not two. The other one was 2002, and he led his team to the playoffs that year as well.

Bill Barnwell: Sorry. I should say full seasons . He only played 15 games (12 starts) in 2002.

Vince Verhei: Favre's pregame pep talk to his huddled teammates, as shown last night on NFL GameDay Final:

"Hey, if it works out, it works out. If it doesn't, it doesn't. All you can do is give your best, all right? Love you guys, let's go. Score on three."

And some are questioning his leadership? Poppycock.

Dallas Cowboys 6 at Philadelphia Eagles 44

Bill Barnwell: Donovan McNabb's stuff on second-and-goal from the Dallas 1 was the first time he's ever been stuffed from the 1-yard line.

Aaron Schatz: Anybody else think that Anthony Henry horse-collared Correll Buckhalter as he crossed the goal line on the touchdown that made it 17-3 Philadelphia? I realize he scored, you are talking about tacking a penalty onto the kickoff, but still ... if the point is to cut down on tackles that get players injured, I would think you throw the flag whether the guy scores or not. A horse collar is horse collar.

This Eagles game is crazy. It's as if all Philadelphia's bad luck from the whole season just reversed for one day.

Bill Barnwell: Tony Romo just sent the punt team off the field and converted a fourth-and-1. Then they ran the ugliest trick play ever for 30 yards.

Aaron Schatz: ... thus proving that Jason Witten can, in fact, do everything.

You know, McNabb was sacked once in the first half, and that play looked awful, but for the most part the Eagles have done a very good job of controlling the league's best pass rush, and giving the quarterback a nice pocket. That's a big part of this blowout. The other part is that the Dallas offense seems to be totally melting down, with guys arguing on the sidelines, and I'm not sure that Roy Williams even knows what routes to run half the time.

Mike Tanier: Two words: Eagles Porn.

More later.

Aaron Schatz: This game is 44-3 and Tony Romo is still running for his life on nearly every play. Did I say the Eagles were getting good pass-blocking? I'm sorry, I forgot to also mention the Cowboys are getting terrible pass-blocking.

Doug Farrar: Is it always terrible pass-blocking, or is he running into stuff as well?

Aaron Schatz: I think a combination of poor pass-blocking and good coverage. There were a lot of plays where he couldn't find anyone and eventually he had to scramble because there would be Eagles breathing down his neck.

Mike Tanier: I still am not done watching the Eagles replay, as I suddenly have some work to do on another project, but here are a few quick thoughts:

1) The Cowboys offensive line looked awful. The Eagles are getting more pressure now that Chris Clemons is healthy to provide a counterpoint to Trent Cole, but Clemons' presence wasn't enough to justify how weak the Cowboys line looked.

2) It's an oversimplification, but not much of one, to say that all the jerks and prima donnas on the Cowboys just went kaboom at once today. Pacman Jones didn't know where to line up on some plays. Roy Williams was terrible and looked unprepared. Romo continued what he's been doing the last month: just throwing the ball up for grabs and hoping Jason Witten is somewhere nearby. This is a team that looks like it has no idea how to focus or prepare. I think there are distractions and there are DISTRACTIONS, and when you have that many mercenaries, me-first guys, and idiots on one team, it just hits critical mass.

3) Eagles-Vikings? The Eagles should absolutely win that game. And they will probably be favored. In fact, all of the Wild Card teams could actually be favored, right?

Ned Macey: Let me know if I'm missing something, but why is Roy Williams a prima donna or a jerk? I know he has a propensity for unnecessary first down celebrations, but he always seemed liked a good guy to me when he was in Detroit. I see how he's part of the "accumulate talent no matter how the players fit in" strategy that backfired a bit, but I never thought of him as a bad guy.

Aaron Schatz: Roy Williams doesn't even have a propensity for unnecessary first-down celebrations, as far as I know -- that was Reggie Williams of Jacksonville I always used to poke fun at.

Mike Tanier: Prima donna. Me-first guy who talked too much. Never developed, part of which can be blamed on the Lions of course.

Aaron Schatz: Actually, I think he developed pretty well. For a while he was the only guy in Detroit who could catch the ball. Certainly was good when he was starting with Mike Furrey. Honestly, I have no idea if he's a prima donna. I just know he looked today like he never quite learned the Dallas playbook, and as we've written many times, that trade made no sense when made and even less sense now.

Bill Barnwell: How much of Williams' development is being in a Mike Martz offense? He's got two years in the Martz offense that were very good and then a bunch of other years that are alright. He also has had consistent injury issues.

Aaron Schatz: Well, his rookie year he was middle of the pack in DYAR with -9.0% DVOA, reasonable for a rookie. His second year, 2005, he's got a DVOA around average while the other two main Detroit receivers are two of the worst guys in the league. This is just his fifth season. Until this season I think he was having a nice little career, once you adjust for the awful surroundings.

Mike Tanier: I remember Roy Williams as a pass dropper. Also had to read a lot of Williams quotes when I wrote about the Lions and he came across as the kind of guy who gets the golf clubs out when things aren't going well. Just the impression I got, though again, it's hard to tell whose a malcontent in an asylum like Detroit.

By the way, there's no way that Witten pass was a designed trick play. He just ran out to save Romo, saw Owens, and said WTF. It's great to see the love triangle consummated in such a sweet way.

Bill Barnwell: I don't know. He looked up and threw that pass immediately. That screams designed play to me.

Mike Tanier: It was a heck of a design if it was. Early in the play, Witten is blocking on the left side. Romo is looking downfield. I don't think Witten runs to the far right until Romo is nearly clobbered by Trent Cole. Usually, the tight end would pass block for a 2-count, then leak out to the left side. Looking at some of the Cowboys plays a second time, it's actually hard to figure out what they were really trying to do on several other plays.

Bill Barnwell: Let's review an alternate scenario here. The Eagles play the Cowboys at 1 p.m. instead of 4 p.m. Every outcome is the exact same, except the Buccaneers beat the Raiders 31-24. The Eagles still destroy the Cowboys 44-6, doing so at the same time as the Bucs game, but because Tampa Bay wins, the Eagles don't make the playoffs.

The Eagles still have the best DVOA in the league on Monday morning; they're just not making the playoffs because something that was absolutely out of their control didn't get there. We look stupid, since the best team in the league didn't make the playoffs. The Philly media becries the fact that the Eagles' great game was too little, too late. Andy Reid likely gets fired, Donovan McNabb's out, and the Eagles probably start rebuilding.

If the Eagles make a huge playoff run, every columnist will be falling over themselves to make some sort of argument about how Week 17/the McNabb benching got their momentum going, but it's blindly groping for a narrative in a situation where there isn't one. The Eagles got astoundingly lucky on Sunday when the Buccaneers lost. It was one of the great upsets of the decade. What happens from here on out cannot be removed from that fact -- without that loss, the Eagles' regular season (as good as it was according to DVOA) would have been absolutely irrelevant and disappointing.

If this sounds reminiscent of my tone in the Giants chapter of PFP 2008, it's because it's the same sort of conflation of cause and effect that frustrates me as an analyst so much. The line between success and failure in the NFL is so impossibly thin as to be barely existent at points. The idea that a team is destined to win or a supreme conqueror of the other 31 teams as "the best" is flimsy at best. It's the same stupid logic I read all week about Lovie Smith going on a rant at halftime about the Bears refusing to go down like they were appearing to against Green Bay in Week 16. That was such a good motivator that the Bears needed a blocked field goal at the end of regulation to save themselves. (And for those of you [readers] who would say that it was Smith's words that caused the kick to be blocked, I wonder whether those same words inspired the other Adrian Peterson to commit that personal foul penalty on the kickoff.) Had the Bears not blocked that kick, would we have heard about Smith's words, or would they have rung hollow hours later? How many famous last words, to steal a phrase, do we get to hear? Were the Chargers really the BEST team in the AFC West? Probably shouldn't have had to rely upon an onside kick to give them a chance to prove it.

I think that the Eagles are a great team, one of the league's best this year, and that they'll show it in the playoffs. The fact that they'll get a chance to do so is in spite of their regular season performance, not because of it, but on the other hand, they would have been a great team regardless of whether the Buccaneers lost to the Raiders or not. The backwards definitions of their performance you're going to see because of what happened around them is exactly the reason Football Outsiders exists.

Team sources told ESPN's Ed Werder that there was commotion and concern in the Cowboys locker room after the game when Romo collapsed in the shower. Players called for medical staff, who brought in a stretcher, but Romo walked out on his own. Romo then did his news conference but had to be helped from the podium. Sources said Romo suffered a rib injury in the second half.

Denver Broncos 21 at San Diego Chargers 52

Aaron Schatz: It's nice to talk about how Tatum Bell went from managing a cell phone kiosk to scoring touchdowns for the Broncos, but I bet that cell phone kiosk would have done a lot more business if Ben Hamilton and Ryan Clady were working there.

Doug Farrar: Ryan Clady IS a cell phone kiosk.

Mike Tanier: See, now I have this image of some poor teenage girl trying to get a new phone and getting cut blocked. I see her lying in the middle of the floor, one hand clutching her knee, the other texting wildly. "OMG Tore my ACL."

Aaron Schatz: Golly, Champ Bailey was lagging behind on that long Vincent Jackson pass. He's clearly hurt. Without Bailey healthy, these are really two awful, awful secondaries.

Elias Holman: So the announcers can't stop talking about the Ed Hochuli call from the first go-round of Chargers-Broncos, and my wife didn't know what they were referring to, so I did a quick search to give her a link to the details. Instead, I get a hit on Ed Hochuli's Wikipedia page, and from there, a link to his fan site. I make the following observations:

1) It looks like it was built in 1996, or maybe like a page that is missing its stylesheet.
2) Here is what the site "boasts," unedited:

Check back over the coming weeks and months for updates. This season we hope to;

  • include updates of Ed's weekly schedule
  • include photos
  • outline the "Herculean" workout regimen
  • take a video tour with Ed of his "crib"

Bill Barnwell: Apparently, two deep ins for Jay Cutler make it through the San Diego defense. Three deep ins, not so much.

Aaron Schatz: Well, add Denver to the list of teams who apparently thought that a spot in the 2008 postseason came with a guarantee of virulent disease. Three straight losses to end the season, and tonight they completely look like ass. They've had tons of injuries at running back but honestly, that's not the problem. The linebacker injuries might be a part of the problem, but they've got D.J. Williams back, so that issue isn't as bad as it was a few weeks ago. Just sad.

Will Carroll: The consensus view in Indy is that they would have much rather faced Denver. Is it as clear as they're making it out to be?

Ned Macey: Yes. This game reminds me how terrified I am of the Colts playing in San Diego. The Colts played them when they were down and barely escaped with a win. They just do not match up well against the Chargers, and the team is clearly playing better. Impossible to tell if San Diego is really running better, since Denver's run defense is so bad, but if they are, then it looks like a shootout.

Bill Barnwell: If you lost your fantasy league because Brandon Manumaleuna stole that touchdown pass away from LaDainian Tomlinson, you have my apologies.


125 comments, Last at 31 Dec 2008, 1:48pm

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

I was actually actively rooting for the Eagles game to go the exact opposite way. I had my pitchfork and torch all ready to join the angry mob running Reid out of town. But I have to say, watching the Cowboys go down like that was sweet.

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

I hadn't gone that far, but I figured a win put them in the playoffs and a loss got Reid fired so the day wouldn't be all bad. But if a 38-point ass-whipping of the Cowboys is the price I have to pay for 3/1 pass/run ratios in November, then such is life.

"A little celery is always nice after a good pee."

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

I had little hope for an Eagles' playoff run...Tampa OR Chicago was bound to win. When I saw the outcome of those games, I was sure Philly would win. But in what fashion? An ugly, pound it out win? Or a gem that gets some momentum?

I think this was a gem. Few mistakes, solid play. How good is this Eagles team? All season I've felt they were a 12-4 team, possibly 13-3. Given the number of losses of less than 7 points, I'm close to correct. It's that little something extra that they've been lacking to take them to the next level. Hopefully, this win will convince the team they are capable of making a good run.

3 weeks ago, I wanted Reid gone. McNabb isn't the problem, it's play calls. Today, if Reid can make the Super Bowl, I'd have to say the current staff would stay - who wouldn't say that? But any loss prior to the Super Bowl, particularly in a close game with questionable play calls or bad clock management - and I would remain solidly behind the removal of Reid. He's a winner and a good coach. But the play calls and clock management are a massive flaw in the last 5 years of his tenure.

Certainly a coach who makes the playoffs won't be fired. I know that. But something - anything - has to be done to fix these problems. Get him a clock management coach, at least. Switch to a hurry up offense. Do something.

Go Eagles - I want to see them live up to their DVOA!

Oh yeah, I loved seeing Jerry Jones watch his team get dismantled. When they picked up TO, I kept reminding my Dallas friends that he's a problem. Sure, he's productive, but he's a problem. Finally, the 3 year experiment will probably end. Dallas has to go back to the drawing board. And Phillips remains what he's always been - mediocre.

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

So, if I read Bill Barnwell's rant correctly, the Eagles are a great team because DVOA says that they are and that their won-loss record is just a reflection of luck; irrelevant really.

Hell, why bother to keep track of wins and losses at all? All we need is DVOA (or maybe adjusted DVOA) to tell us who the best teams are. We don't need to bother with games at all.

Life is so frustrating; it just won't cooperate with our perfect statistical models.

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

No, I don't think that's what he's saying. I think he's saying that the Eagles' actual win-loss record (9-6-1) wouldn't have been good enough to get into the playoffs if either the Bears or Buccaneers won on Sunday. Since the Eagles had absolutely no role in the Bears or Buccaneers losing on Sunday, it's quite reasonable to say luck played a factor in the Eagles making the playoffs.

And luck certainly does play a factor.

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

No jackass, what Bill was trying to say is that if your so-called "analysis" of a team would be flipped 180o due to an event completely out of their control, than your analysis is shit.

40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

I agree here that is exactly what Bill is trying to say in his comment. However, they don't follow their own advice in the Patriots section.
"Aaron and I were discussing whether 11-5 and missing the playoffs on a tiebreaker qualifies as a successful season for the Patriots. I don't think it does. The standards are too high -- even before 16-0, the Patriots were one of the league's perennial playoff teams. I don't buy the "losing Brady makes it OK" argument -- it just means that the Patriots were a competent quarterback away from a division title, and in those first few weeks, Matt Cassel was totally incompetent."
However, in 2006 the Pats were 10-6 and went to the AFC championship. If that same Pats team plays this year they don't make the playoffs at all just like this team. Also the Pats team did more than Philly in real wins and losses (not DVOA) and they are considered unsucessful because the Jets couldn't win their game. Sounds like the exact same situation and Bill is saying in this case that the season is a disapointment in the same way that he mocks the Philly media for doing what they would have done. Sometimes luck just doesn't work out but sometimes it is hard to see when you are close to the situation. His write up on the Eagles is exactly spot on though!

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

A "successful season" and a "good team" are two different things. The Patriots were a very good team. They didn't have a successful season. A successful season is whether or not the fans feel good about what happened. Whether or not a team is good or not is what non-fans evaluating the team figure out.

It's also a good argument with the Patriots. It's the team's fault that Cassel, who clearly has the skills to be at least an average NFL QB, wasn't ready in week 2, and that mistake cost them the playoffs. The standard that the fans have for the Patriots is perfection, so they fell short of that.

But the fans would be ludicrous, of course, to run Belichick out of town (and obviously they wouldn't). They were still a good team, but missed the playoffs due to events outside of their control. But that's what people would be talking about in Philly, too. (And before people say 'but the Eagles could've won in Washington' - teams lose games. It happens. You can't overpunish the Eagles for losing in Washington without crediting them for killing Dallas.)

99 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

That 2006 Pats team had the 3rd-best DVOA in the AFC, and the best in the division. This 2008 Pats team had the 7th-best DVOA in the AFC. I call an apples to oranges foul.

45 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

This happens many many times. The best example I can think of is Eli Manning in the SB last year.

We know now, based on a lot of evidence, that Manning started as an OK QB and has been steadily improving every year, with the requisite ups and downs, to be the very very good QB he showed himself to be this year. After the SB last year, when he led the Giants on a last minute "clutch" drive to win the SB and topple the 18-0 Patriots, the NY press started annointing him.

However, look at how thin the razor edge of luck was. If David Tyree drops the "helmet catch" or if Eli's foot slips just a little as he's breaking Richard Seymour's tackle in the backfield and he goes down, the Giants probably lose and the NY media probably paints Eli as the QB that couldn't get it done (he had pretty poor numbers up to that point) on the day that the Giants D held the greatest offense of modern times in check. Worse, if Asante Samuel holds on to the (addmittedly difficult) interception a couple of plays earlier, then Eli is painted as the QB who once again lost the game by being sloppy and throwing the ball up for grabs at a critical moment. Events almost totally out of Eli's control and yet his reputation rode on them.

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

You're right, all we need to know to judge the strength of teams is the outcome of the games. Based on that, I can say with 100% confidence that the Browns are better than the Giants, Jacksonville is better than Tennessee, Tampa Bay is better than the Panthers, and Oakland is better than Tampa Bay.

5 Brad Childress - Mentally Challenged?

last 30 seconds in the Minnesota game described by Jim Souhan of Star Tribune:

"Childress seemed to freeze as special teams coach Paul Ferraro and running backs coach Eric Bienemy gestured angrily at one another, and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier put his hand on Childress' back, as if to urge him to action.

Jackson gazed at the sideline for the next play, and Childress finally called his last timeout with nine seconds remaining, erasing any realistic chance of running a productive play."

That in a nutshell how the Vikings look so often. Like a deer in the headlights. They completely screwed up the last 30 seconds of the 1st half as well causing a 6 point swing.

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

Take it from a guy who has way too much invested in his football team: Tanier's right about Roy Williams. He's been an absolute dog the entire time he's been here. I don't think I've seen one crisply run route out of him in the months he's been a Cowboy.

My take on the Cowboys season, and in their general: As long as Jerry Jones is the main guy in Dallas (ie, unless we get another Parcells-like coach who can stand up to the owner), we don't win.

This team is LOADED with talent. But the owner who "loves" exploiting media attention won't ever let that play out. This is probably the most depressed I've been watching this team play, and it's mostly because I've lost all faith in Jerry Jones being able to put a good football product on the field.

As for the Eagles, I've said all year that they're as good as DVOA says they are, and that there was no need for FO to continually apologize for them. I'm actually picking them to win the Super Bowl, though I'll probably puke if they actually do. Especially after the Phillies won the World Series, I don't think I could handle that much happiness coming out of Philadelphia.

21 Cowboys-How talented are they?

This team is LOADED with talent.
PK tees off on this in MMQB. It's something you hear a lot, and there are some obviously really gifted players (TO when not being a PITA, Witten, Barber, Ware, Ratliff), but I'm still really unsure just how true this is. Any Cowboy fans want to defend their team's talent level, or at least come up with the guys you could reasonably upgrade?

Hypothesis: the worst thing that could have happened to the long-term future of the Cowboys was the quick success of the Jimmy-Jerry era, including the Switzer Super Bowl after acquiring Deion. This made Jerry think he could be a competent NFL personnel man, in the mold of Al Davis back when he actually knew what he was doing. After the loss of those players who fueled the early success, though, 11-5 and a first-round playoff loss is the absolute ceiling for the team, and that generally only when Jerry gets fed up enough of mediocrity to give up some of his power.

42 Re: Cowboys-How talented are they?

And unfortunately, I think that last season's 13-3 season was like a miniature version of the Switzer Super Bowl. You could almost see the wheels spinning in Jones' head... "Hey, I can do this MY WAY. Parcells left and I hired my guy, and now look where we are!"

And my problem with Jones doesn't have much to do with the talent they've been drafting, which has actually been pretty good recently, but with the outrageous "I'm going to do this because I want to" trades and contracts. But even more than that is the culture of this team, which has taken less than 2 years to go to complete shit after Parcells fixed that portion.

As for the talent thing, I won't sit here and pretend that I'm some great judge of talent, but the thing that really infuriates is the occassional flashes of brilliance that so many players on this team show, then blow away. This IS a team that was tops in DVOA last season, and was top-10 for much of this season with Romo at the helm. Guys like Martellus Bennet, Marc Columbo, Flozell Adams, Chris Canty, Jay Ratliff, Anthony Spencer... these guys all seem to so obviously have talent, but they rarely if ever seem to be well coached and performing well together. It's extremely frustrating to watch.

(And that list doesn't include Felix Jones and Tashard Choice, since there's only so many balls to go around)

7 Re: Barnwell and Eagles "narratives"

One might add that any attempt to find an outside narrative to the Eagles' season will have to ignore their week 16 10-3 loss to Washington. Not that there aren't great narratives, of course, but those narratives won't (I think) explain why and when the wins and losses came.

Anyway, I'm terrified: the only hope I can give myself is that week 16 game and blind faith in Thunderdome (which has failed me often).

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

The schadenfreude was awesome yesterday afternoon. I kept the Eagles/Cowboys game on despite it being an utter blowout just because it was so incredibly fun to watch the Cowboys get beaten down.

65 Simple Explanation

I'm convinced Romo got confused by all the hype and thought this really was a playoff game.
armchair journeyman quarterback


I've never been more uninterested in a TEN game. Part of that is probably now having ST, so I see all 16 games instead of 6 in a good year, but the outcome was a foregone conclusion after Peyton's stat-padding first drive and little of interest happened. The Colts got their numbers (Clark and Harrison as well), as Ned noted, and the rest of the game was a snorefest. The biggest saving point was the second half was very quick-under an hour, I'm pretty sure. Other observations?

--LenDale White looked absolutely atrocious, every bit as bad as I've ever thought him to be. I don't even think he had his mandatory "1 run every 8 carries where he looks like an actual NFL RB".
--I was surprised Chris Henry didn't get more use. I don't think he was in on offense before the 4th quarter, as Ganther got most of the work. I guess that makes sense, as Ganther is much more likely to be active in the playoffs, but Henry will be active if White or CJ28 gets injured.
--VY had one good pass, a floater to Brandon Jones over the DB, but other than that was not very good-late (on a seam route to Scaife that let the S come in and break it up), inaccurate (behind Scaife on a short out), and scrambling stupidly (most of his 5 rushes).

15 Re: TEN-IND

In reply to by Tom Gower

Mister, you're a better man than I. Even as a Colts fan, I had no interest in watching this game (so I didn't). Thoroughly enjoyed watching all of the MIA-NYJ, DAL-PHI, and DEN-SD games, though. OK, not so much the last one, since it looks like San Diego is poised to knock out the Colts once again.

12 Barnwell's rant

Barnwell's - rant

I was right with you until you called Philly a great team. If they are great than so are about 5 other teams this year.

The term great should be reserved for teams that a clearly stronger than the rest of the competition and Philly no matter what system you rate them with are not that.

Truly great teams tend to exist when the system they play under is greatly slanted in their favour. The New York Yankees have more money and before the draft that meant they got their pick of the best players. The Montreal Canadiens got all the players from Quebec which amounted to about 35% of the total talent pool in the old original six league.

Great teams are a myth they are a product of great advantage.

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

I believe that I'm speaking for every Giants fan when I say: "Damn you, Tampa Bay!"

Against an NFC field of CAR, MIN, ARI, ATL, and TB, I would be quite confident in the Giants' chances. Philly, though, is the only team to beat the Giants in NJ this season, so their inclusion mucks up the works quite a bit. I had as much fun as the next guy seeing Dallas go down in flames (not literally, since my local DC-area broadcast choices were WAS-SF and BAL-JAX), but did the Eagles have to win so convincingly? Is a 12-6 final with every score coming on a return of an unforced fumble followed by a botched XP too much to ask?

64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

I don't want to overhype my Vikings, but...they had been running even with the Eli-led Giants before David 'Renaissance' Carr came in and led NYG to 10 unanswered points.

And they should have the other half of the 'Williams Wall' back for the playoffs.

I myself was disappointed with Chicago. I'd have rather faced them in the Wild Card week than either Philly or Dallas.

90 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

... and Coughlin did the Vikings a HUGE favor by not going for two after the TD that made it 15-10 Giants midway in the 3rd quarter. What difference would it make if, rather than kick the PAT, they went for the 2-pt conversion and it failed .... they'd be up 5 instead of 6. A TD would still beat them then.

But a successful 2-pt. conversion makes it 17-10 ... and more likely for a possibility of overtime, which I would have to assume Coughlin didn't want any part of.

So ... I think he voted to keep the difference in game score on an "odd" (no, not as in odd or even) number ... and ended up (inadvertently) helping the Vikings win the NFC "Norris Division"

102 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

I didn't think the Vikes looked particularly inspiring, either. However, it looked like the Giants had all starters except for Kevin Boss and Brandon Jacobs (both injured) playing until halftime.

As I've said before, though - if Childress would actually step out of his rigid West Coast mold and get some creativity (and a pair) involved in his offensive playcalling, the Vikings could make some noise. Honestly, I'm ready to turn 'handoff to Peterson on 1st-and-10' into a drinking game. I'll be passed out within two Vikings' drives.

And Pat Williams is saying he'll be back on Sunday.

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

Did the Eagles game remind anyone else of the Jets-Packers game in 2002? The Jets were playing in the late game and needed the Dolphins to lose in order to win the AFC East. The Dolphins lose the early game in overtime to the Pats and when they announce it at the Meadowlands the crowd goes berserk and the Jets absolutely paste the Packers. I couldn't stop thinking about that game yesterday.

18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

Nothing on Ravens vs. Jaquars. Come on guys, it determined a playoff spot.

38 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

Outside of the RAGE THESE COMMENTS FILL MY HEART WITH ON A WEEKLY BASIS, Baltimore-Jacksonville had one team with something to play for. Both Philadelphia-Dallas and Miami-New York had two teams with something to play for. That's why no one commented on Ravens-Jaguars.

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

I "watched", in a distracted and desultory manner, much of the second half, and it was not particularly interesting. Boring games + more important games going on at the same time + game not shown very many places = few if any Audibles comments. Should I also point out that SEA-ARI didn't comments, despite several FO staffers being Seahawks fans, it involving a division champ, and it being perhaps the final game in the coaching career of one of the premier coaches of the last decade and a half?

19 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

Bill, I thought I was the only one who played franchise mode 15+ years and kept making stadium improvements. I love that with the implied inflation a foam finger gets to about $50

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

tanier's on the money, as per usual, about roy williams - he was definately known as a guy who dogged it regularly in detroit, especially this year.


Did any catch (pun??) the fair catch by Will Blackmon that led to Crosby's 69-yard free kick attempt? It would have only been a 68-yard try had Blackmon not stumbled while signalling, landed flat on his BACK, and made the catch lying down.

Oh, and 16.

25 Pats' season a success?

I couldn't disagree with Barnwell's commentary about the Pats' season more. What the media and fans outside of New England have often overlooked this season is that it wasn't just Brady that went down. It was also the captain of the secondary, Rodney Harrison; arguably the Pats' best linebacker, Adalius Thomas; and our most explosive running back, Laurence Maroney. In addition, Ty Warren, James Sanders, Sammy Morris, and Lamont Jordan missed significant time as well. There is only one team in the NFL that could have overcome all of those injuries to go 11-5 and that team is New England. This season was a successful one for the Patriots and one of Belichick's greatest coaching jobs.

44 Re: Pats' season a success?

I agree with you completely. See my comments above. The pats proved how great they are and their system this year. they lost a lot and survived everything except for a jets team that couldnt come through for them. 99% of the time 11 wins is considered a success, this is only the second time it hasnt been. Then throw in all of the injuries and you have to be thrilled that you are going to be in good shape for awhile if you are a pats fan, even if brady doesnt come back healthy.

58 Re: Pats' season a success?

Really? You don't agree that 4 free wins against the NFC West were largely responsible for this team going 11-5 instead of, say, 8-8?

Despite the injuries, it's hard to consider a season where you miss the playoffs after going undefeated in the regular season the previous year a success. Here's a useful comparison: the Yankees won 89 games this year despite injuries at least as problematic as those the Patriots endured. They narrowly missed the playoffs--89 wins is enough most years and they played in the same division as the best two teams in baseball--and, furthermore, weren't coming off of a historically great year. Take a look at how the media--New York and national--has described their season (and Girardi's coaching, for that matter).

72 Re: Pats' season a success?

"There is only one team in the NFL that could have overcome all of those injuries to go 11-5 and that team is any reasonably talented team playing 14 games against the AFCE, AFCW, and NFCW."


79 Re: Pats' season a success?

What New England fans and people calling for Belichick as COY have often overlooked this season is that not all 11-5 records are created equal.

Vince touched on this in the Audibles, but he only mentioned the NFC West and didn't include the almost-as-miserable AFC West. The Pats went 7-1 against the AFC and NFC Wests, two divisions with only one winning team between them. And do you think the Cards get to 9-7 without feasting on the Rams, Niners and Seahawks twice each? Yes, that means the Pats were 4-4 and just .500 against the rest of the field. Against teams that made the playoffs in 2008, the Patriots went just 2-4, beating those artificially inflated Cardinals and splitting with AFC East champion Miami. As FO points out quite often, schedule matters, and with a schedule like that I think there are plenty of teams in the NFL that could have overcome the same injuries to finish 11-5, or better.

107 Re: Pats' season a success?

"There is only one team in the NFL that could have overcome all of those injuries to go 11-5 and that team is New England."

Yeah, because teams don't do things like, say, overcoming the loss of both their starting wide receivers and one starting and one backup defensive end for the first part of the season, plus the loss of their best lineman in week 2 for the season, followed by his back-up about 8 games later, plus seeing their star running back hobbled and/or out of action for half the games of the season, etc. like the Eagles did. Please, give it a rest. Good teams overcome a handful of injuries like this all the time. This is why teams have a 53 man roster and 8 on the practice squad, but only 45 active.

The Original Andrew

28 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

I really really really hope that next week's PHI-MIN game comes down to the last two minutes. Am I the only person imagining Reid and Childress trying to one-up each other with feats of playcalling/clock managing idiocy?

"I see your three consecutive incomplete passes from the oppoent's 35 with 1:30 left, and raise you a spread formation shotgun pass to my backup TE on 4th-and-1."

73 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

Oy vey. It's actually, depressingly easy to picture. And we'll probably get to witness it both prior to halftime and the final whistle.

Combine that with poor down-and-distance decisions by Reid, Childress' "1st-10 = 95% handoff to #28", and some generous fumbling, and it good be one for the ages.

'Vikings fumble at Eagles 20, Philly recovers, drives to MIN 3, stuffed, stuffed, stuffed, field goal PHI.'

Get used to reading that.

82 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

Speaking as a Vikings fan, are there two teams' fan bases more convinced that they'll suffer a heart-breaking loss at some point during these playoffs than these two? It's looking like the expectation is for this game to end in the third OT after a fumbled snap on a 2nd-and-1 fake spike play from the opponent's 10 gets returned the wrong way for a safety.

26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

The real strange part of the Bears game, other than their defense not making the trip, was a few plays before the Slaton fumble. On a third down play they threw a pass and the receiver slip for a few yards after the pass but was obviously down about 3 yards before the stick. The ref's marked it three inches before the first down marker. Lovie Smith tried to challenge the spot and the ref's said you can't challenge because it is still fourth down. Is this the actual rule? How stupid could it be, why would you have that in the rule book? Instead of holding them to a field goal they went and scored a touchdown.

33 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

I'm pretty sure it is. This is the aspect of replay I dislike the most. I don't know the exact wording, and I don't think it's in the Rulebook, but whether or not a challenge is won in that situation depends on whether or not the first down was made or not, not on whether or not the ball was moved. Since Lovie would have automatically lost the challenge, I'm not sure he withdrew the challenge or it's simply impossible to challenge in that situation. Based on your description, it sounds like it is impossible, which makes a certain amount of sense given the won/loss process.

I'm not sure exactly why the NFL has this rule regarding challenges-I think it's probably to deter coaches from challenging, particularly relatively small spot movements (a coach shouldn't really win a challenge on 4&1 when the runner made it by half a yard instead of a yard). I think there's a permissible middle ground here, maybe if the ball gets moved a minimum distance (2 yards?).

120 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

My understanding is that he could have challenged, the ball would be re-spotted, but he would "lose" the challenge (and the timeout) since the functional result of the play would not change.

So, essentially, he could have traded a timeout for a few yards... but presumably, decided not to.
armchair journeyman quarterback

27 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

Brees had the record. Some how the Panthers kick the ball out of bounds with only 1 second left. They then drop into a deep zone. There's the record open short. Drew throws a hail mary to no one, game over, record over. I wonder if he knew how close he was? The end of the Bills first half could really use a clarifying statement from the NFL. I guess the ref called the Bills for initiating the fight to stop the clock... but if the NFL makes no statement I see a lot of coaches talking up starting a fight to their defense in that situation.

75 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

That's my take as well. I was ticked at the announcers and the FOX crew slamming Brees for 'missing the open receiver to break Marino's record'. Terry Bradshaw, no less - as if he doesn't remember what it's like to play as part of a team, not as a free agent looking for personal stats.

111 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

I hate that a lot of the commentary I've seen seems to have gone like this: "Boy, I wonder what Dan Marino was thinking as Drew Brees tried to complete that meaningless pass to Lance Moore..."

I wasn't around then, but from what I understand, Marino was a bit of a stat-padder himself, at at any rate, Brees threw a pass to a reasonably open guy. Perhaps the play call should have been a designed hook-and-ladder, but Brees did a pretty decent job given the situation. Peter King had a tongue-in-cheek reference to this in his latest column. I hate that a lot of what I've seen suggests that Brees was going for the record at the expense of his team's success.

29 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

I was shocked during yesterday's TV coverage, and during this edition of Audibles, that so little attention has been paid to the Lions going 0-16.

20 years from now, no one will remember (or care) which teams made the playoffs in 2008. But people will still remember the 2008 Lions going 0-16. Yet the story seems to be getting treated like a footnote. It's quite a contrast with the hysteria that accompanied the Patriots' 16-0 last year.

BTW, it should be noted that I am NOT alleging any sort of bias on the part of FO or saying that you guys have any kind of "obligation" to cover every team equally. I just find it odd that such a huge story (from a historical perspective) is basically being ignored by almost everyone.

112 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

I think that's because it was a foregone conclusion. With the Patriots last year, they had a huge target on their back; everyone wanted to be the team that prevented them from going 16-0.

With the Lions, everyone knew they were terrible, but everyone also didn't want to be the team that lost to the 1-15 Lions. That's my "bullshit narrative" explanation, anyway. Plus, there's less interest in mediocrity than in excellence. The tangible difference between 0-16 and 1-15 was nil; they would still get the #1 draft pick, Rod Marinelli would still be fired, etc.

119 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

I agree with the "foregone conclusion" part, but I disagree that there's not a big difference between 0-16 vs. 1-15. If the Patriots had gone 15-1 last year, they still would have had the first round bye, HFA, #1 seed, etc. But the difference would be that they wouldn't have done anything unprecedented. As it stands, 20 years from now, people will still talk about how they went 16-0 and then "choked" in the Super Bowl, because it had never been done before, and may never be done again. Same thing with the Lions.

Upon further reflection since I made my original post, I think part of the reason the media tried to sweep this story under the rug was that they didn't want to be seen as "piling on" Rod Marinelli, who is generally seen as a nice, classy guy. Then again, Matt Millen always seemed like a pretty nice guy too, but that never stopped the media from tearing him a new one, so who knows?

Maybe everyone was just caught up in the excitement over which teams made the playoffs. This may end up being one of those stories that gets a lot more attention in the offseason than it did when it actually happened.

30 Roy Williams

I don't think too negatively of him in general, but this incident from 2006 may have contributed to a "prima donna" reputation.

"The Lions' Roy Williams apparently doesn't play to win the game. He'd rather strike a pose.

Williams' celebration after his first catch of Sunday's game against the Bears drew ire from the Chicago crowd and had Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom scratching his head.

When Albom asked Williams why he celebrated a reception with his team already trailing by two scores, Williams responded, "I celebrate first downs all the time. I'm not gonna stop that. I'm an exciting player. If I do something exciting, I'm gonna show my actions."

Albom responded, "But you were losing, 10-0."

"What does that mean? ... That means nothing to me. The score means nothing," Williams told Albom."

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

I know this'll sound like whining (it's not, because the Pats shot themselves in the foot in two eminently winnable games (IND and second NYJ) that would have put them in the playoffs if they'd hadn't made big mistakes) but I think I'd like to see the playoffs changed thusly:

1) In each conference rank the teams according to the current wildcard rules.
Then the top six teams make the playoffs.
2) However, whichever of those six teams are division winners will still be
seeded ahead of any non division winners in the top six (i.e. a division
winner will always host a non division winner regardless of record).

This way you'll always have the "best" teams from the conference in the playoffs, but you still have a meaningful reward for winning your division.

39 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

You're right; it does sound very much like whining. Taking the top 6 teams by record is also a bad idea, and here's why:

We have extraordinarily good information as to which teams are the best teams within a division-TEN and IND (to pick 2 teams within the same division somewhat at random) played 14 of their 16 games against each other or a common opponent. Because TEN finished with a better record than IND, we can be pretty confident that TEN is a "better" team than IND. Ah, but let's compare TEN to NE-they only have 5 games against common opponents (NYJ, KC, PIT, IND), which means 69% of the information you're using for determining playoff participants (11 of the 16 results) provides absolutely no basis for comparison between the two teams. Something as simple as playing a strong division in the other league instead of a very weak one could be enough to explain all of the difference between an 11-5 mark and an 8-8 one (NE and SD were both 7-5 in the AFC, but NE was 4-0 v NFCW while SD was 1-3 v NFCS).

So, in other words, I'm strongly in favor of every division champ making the playoffs given the current division and schedule structure. I'd be willing to consider alternative methods of determining wild cards (conference record ahead of overall record?), and open seeding, but every division should be guaranteed a playoff team.

50 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

Agree with NewsToTom on this. It's a good point about having a great deal of confidence which division team is the best, but it being more difficult to compare teams across divisions. And I agree that each division should get a playoff birth. And I would further state that the playoffs historically were not about picking the six best teams in each conference--they're about each division sending their best to a tournament to play against each other.

As a Pats fan, I have surprisingly little to whine about, mainly because of what PatsFan him/herself said. If the Pats wanted to control their destiny, they should have taken care of business against Indy or the Jets. They lost those two games because of screwups they made, or good plays by the opponents they allowed.

I can't even whine that much about the scheduling affecting the games on Sunday, they way I was ready to. The Jets weren't dogging it any more than they have been in their last two games, and even though the Jax game was a blowout and the Pats had already won, those two games were so fast that the scheduling didn't make that much of a difference. What it boils down to is that Brett Favre just sucks, and is probably the poorest Pro-bowl choice over guys like Phillip Rivers and Chad Pennington in recent memory.

About the only think I can think of to whine about is the arcane tiebreakers that gave Miami the division instead of the Patriots. As NewsToTom said, we have a great deal of information about relative strength within the division, and what that information says is that New England and Miami are almost exactly equally good this year. Miami gets the division title because, for historic reasons no longer relevant, beating San Diego and losing to Arizona is considered to be better than beating Arizona and losing to San Diego, which, I think most folks would agree, is pretty random. But again, I can't really whine. Thems the rules, and the Patriots and the Dolphins knew them going in ahead of time.

So now, since the 'Phins are pretty much the equal of the Patriots this year, I'll be rooting for them to go all the way!

88 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

The only change I'd like to see to the playoff system would be to have open seeding after the teams are chosen under the current rules. That way division winners are still rewarded with an automatic playoff birth, but if you win your division at 8-8 you'll be going on the road in the first round. All the current system does is punish teams who play in a division with another quality team and reward other teams for playing in a division of garbage (I'm looking at you Indy and Arizona).

89 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

Agree with this totally. But I would change the tiebreaker system to emphasize victory against a tougher schedule over victories against teams that happen to be in the same conference, or some of the other bizzare tiebreaker rules.

91 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

How about this for a tie-breaking system:

1) Head to head results
2) Team that lost most recently is out
3) All the other ones that now apply.

That way, with rule #2, we'd be more likely to get the hottest of the two (or three) teams in the playoffs, and that likely would make for the better team at that point getting into the playoffs, perhaps making for better playoff games.

92 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

I disagree-I think Conference Record is situated about right, at least within the division-behind H2H, Division, and Common Games, but ahead of Strength of Victory and Strength of Schedule. In the Wild Card tiebreaker rules, I'd probably move it behind Common Games, still ahead of SoV and SoS, but I'm in sympathy with the NFL's seeming point-that these are the Conference playoffs, and Conference Record should be fairly important. I'm not sure, though, I like putting SoV over SoS-SoV seems to reward upsets and losing to worse teams, while I'd prefer to reward more consistent performance.

I'm tentatively in favor of using Wild Card tiebreaker seeding for seeds 3-6, but I somewhat suspect that's a magical fairy princess idea. The change the NFL really should make though, is in 3+ tiebreakers, first apply the H2H tiebreaker to each dyadic pair. If one team loses or wins all of its dyadic pair matchups, that should be decisive. TEN could have made the playoffs this way over PIT and NYJ in 2006, and it's bothered me since then, even though it would have benefited my team then.

103 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

One idea that I've mentioned in the past is to get rid of SoS and SoV as they're currently calculated, and instead switch to a simple "strength of schedule"-based point system for tiebreakers.

For every team that you beat, you get one point for each of THEIR wins.

For every team that you lose to, you LOSE one point for each of their losses.

Ties give zero points.

So in a hypothetical seven game season, if you beat five 10-6 teams and lose to two 12-4 teams, you get 5x10 - 2x4 = 42 points. Losing to bad teams hurts worse than losing to good teams, and beating good teams is better than beating the Lions.

Team with the most points wins the tie.

It's kind of a strength of schedule tiebreaker, but it seems very fair to me, and eaiser for Joe Sixpack to understand than the current tiebreaking scheme. Plus it gives people a lot more stake in a lot more games at the end of the season, if their team is looking like it's likely to tie.

32 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

The only positive i can say about the Broncos disaster is, that the chargers just might keep Norv Turner!

Besides i hate rooting against Peyton Manning!

It's really sad to see all that offensive firepower wasted on a disaster of a defense.

You guys should figure out a replecement level for coaches. I mean, a level of performance that, at all times, can be demanded of a coordinator. Like a defense should at least rank 30 or something - where's that line?

53 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

Indeed... and sadly the Denver season played out how many of predicted in the preseason... Denver would be a very young, mediocre team that was just good enough to challenge for a wildcard spot, but not good enough to seriously contend with SD.

I also think SD could surprise folks in the playoffs... they seem to match up well versus Indy, and everyone admits they are very talented (with their superstars Gates and LT finally getting healthy now)... Was the early 4-8 record largely small sample-size theater and some bad injuries (Merriman, Gates, LT)?

As for getting rid of Slowik... I agree, he's marginal at best. But the musical D-coordinators we've had the past 3-4 years is what sank our defense in the first place... would consistency in scheme be a better option now than introducing more chaos in player evaluation and development? I really don't know...

If Denver can get its D to just average, it has the young firepower to be a perrenial contender... Can Slowik get them there? I have no illusions about Slowik ever getting us an elite Defense... but can we blow off the next few years to more complete awfulness and rebuilding (as a new D-coordinator could bring), when the offense is ready to win now?

Shanny may have "coach for life" job security... but his decision about what to do with his D-coordinator is a big one.

34 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

By the way, with no Monday nighter, no Saturday games, no Thursday nighter, all 32 teams played on Sunday this week. When was the last time that happened?

35 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

Aaron, the knock on Williams' celebrations in Detroit was that he would do the referees' first-down signal after a first-down catch, regardless of the score at the time. Then again, seeing how bad that franchise has become, I can maybe understand that a bit.

Anyway, on a normal team, that might fall into the category of "Things You Could Probably Wait To Do Until Your Team Is In The Game." (These are all things that you shouldn't be doing when your team is losing ... you need 4 points for the win. You have 30 seconds - go.)

Yes, Jero, I saw that catch ... pretty nice job considering he was lying down. Of course, Crosby could have kicked it 67 yards from that spot ... it would be nice to see someone convert a free kick, though.

My fantasy teams finished second and third, but the weekend's activities got two of my four fracas teams into the playoffs. Thank you, Dallas and Chicago. And yes, I'd take pretty much all four wild-card teams against their division-champion hosts. (Anyone want to explain schedule strength to TMQ before his next playoff rant?)

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

The Texans "fumble" was down. I was thinking (and hoping) it was doubtful, but there was one angle where it was very clear. Unfortunately, the broadcast showed that angle exactly once, while showing the useless ones 3-4 times each.

46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

Bill's Rant as it is being called, brings up an important point. There are a lot of people who will tell you the best team always wins the championship. If, and its a big if, the Eagles were to go on and win the Super Bowl, these same people would have to conclude that the Eagles are the best team in football. Well, what happens if we do flip the TB/OAK score. Tampa Bay holds on against Oakland and the Eagles never even have a chance to enter the postseason, you certainly can't call them the best team then could you?

Basically, I find the best team always wins arguement annoying and just plain wrong, and the "win and get help" playoff scenarios prove that, in addition to common sense and the Music city Miracle.

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

What team in the NFL wouldn't trade a 1st rounder for Anquan Boldin? Why would the Cards let him go for such a relative pittance? Is he not one of the best in the league?

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

"If you lost your fantasy league because Brandon Manumaleuna stole that touchdown pass away from LaDainian Tomlinson, you have my apologies."


Had LdT gotten that touchdown, and rushed for four more yards, I would have won my fantasy league.


On to other matters.

"I admittedly saw very little of the second half of this game, "very little" being one play. On that one play, David Carr was leveled by a rusher from the starboard side. You might note that David Carr is right-handed. That was enough for me."

Carr actually looked pretty damned good. He was throwing lasers, and he was effectively mobile, not panicked. If Eli goes down during the playoffs, it might not be a catastrophe for the Giants. I'd still prefer to not find out, though.

"If the logic really was "We had a great Week 17 last year and it took us to the Super Bowl," that's applying a beater to correlation and causation."

What if the logic was "we had a great Week 17 last year and we won the Super Bowl. We don't know to what extent the correlation implies causation-- could be not at all, or it could be-- but if it had anything at all to do with it, then why mess with the formula?"

Just because "correlation does not imply causation" does not mean that "correlation never can be because of any degree of causation."

Even if a study was done on the last week efforts of every single Super Bowl winning team that had a 'meaningless' week 17 game and it showed no correlation, it would not be definitive due to the sample size still being too small (compare some baseball teams' 50 game records with their 162 game records, for example).

Do I think that playing hard in week 17 caused the Giants run last year? No. Do I think it helped? Possibly. (But I will also add that, if we stipulate that it did help, that would not mean that playing hard in week 17 would always help; it might have just been those particular circumstances.)

I think Coughlin played it about right, balancing a bunch of disparate goals. He played most of his starters to keep them fresh and to give the team a chance to win. He did not play any that were deemed dinged up-- Boss, Ross, Jacobs, Cofield. Tuck had been sick the previous week, but not dinged up, and was apparently considered healthy. As the game when on (and if it was just a coincidence or not that it happened as the Bears fell apart, making this a truly meaningless game) he started giving all of the backups the playing time-- Carr, Bradshaw and Ware, Manningham, Thomas, Tollefson, Reugemar, etc.

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

You're absolutely right. I'm not saying that playing well in a Week 17 game doesn't lead to success, because as you correctly stated, I can't. We don't have enough data. One thing that I would imagine is much more obvious is that losing starters to injury in Week 17 would hurt a team's playoff hopes, and those guys can't get hurt on the sideline. Because that's such a telling piece of evidence (albeit anecdotal), that would be enough for me to imply that resting your starters in a meaningless game would, in the average situation, be a good idea. It's certainly possible that the Giants could be different.

61 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

I doubt we can make any sweeping generalizations about "The Giants". This year's team is not last year's team. What was 'right' for them may or may not be what is right for this year's team.

What we can tell is that Coughlin did not handle the squads the same. Last year, he had them play all-out, all game, despite it being meaningless. This year, he played everyone who was healthy, but not for the whole game, and didn't dress anyone who was dinged up.

That strongly suggests Coughlin either doesn't think the Wk 17 game versus the Pats contributed signficantly to their SB run, or he thinks this team is different enough that it would not have worked again, or he thought the boost the team could get by playing the 15-0 Pats tough was greater than could be had by beating this year's Vikings. Or maybe he just had a hunch. Who knows? What we do know is that the Giants have emerged from yesterday's game about as healthy as they could possibly have hoped.

121 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

probably the historic nature of the game had some effect as well.

additionally, the prospect of being the underdog and beating (or keeping pace with) a 15-0 squad offers much more of a confidence boost than being a #1 seed and beating a marginal vikings squad.
armchair journeyman quarterback

49 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

What, no love for Aaron referencing the funniest scene in movie history (the duel of wits to the death from The Princess Bride)?

Though as I recall it, that touchdown pass was actually thrown to Manumaleuma and L.T. nearly ran himself into the classic "play pass defense against your own team" scenario by thinking it was at him?

51 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

Looked fairly clear to me that the pass was intended for LT on a swing-type pattern coming out of the backfield, and Manumaleuna just happened to be in the area. I can't claim to have paid a great deal of attention to where Rivers was looking on the play, but that pass to the back slipping out of the backfield is fairly common and I want to say the pass was thrown with the kind of arc you'd expect on one intended to lead LdT into the end zone.

67 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

So says Rivers.

However, it is a better story if my fantasy team lost in part due to theft on the part of Manumaleuna, and it is a New York Irishman's creed to never let facts get in the way of a good tale.

55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

Not to pat myself on the back for my own prescience or anything, but here's a post that I made last week:

Imagine this scenario. The Jets, down by four, face 4th and 1 at the Miami 35 yard line, 2:40 minutes on the clock, the Jets hold 1 timeout. Now any coach worth his salt (and I reluctantly include Mangini in that category), goes for the 1st down there. Suppose NE or Bal has already lost. I'm certain the Jets go for it there.

But suppose NE and BAL have both already won. Maybe Mangini sends in the punting unit. He's not "throwing the game", he's "playing the percentages...pinning them deep, stopping the clock twice and getting the ball back with like a minute left".

I was a little off...the Jets were down by 4, facing 4th and 2 from the Miami 43 yard line, and there was something like 8 or so minutes on the clock, not 2 something, but the situation was identical otherwise. NE had already won and Baltimore was up by 20 with about three minutes to go and Jacksonville playing like they were looking forward to locker room showers. Mangini tries to punt, gets it blocked, and Gregg Easterbrook writes "game over" in his notebook.

I'm surprised no one has commented on the idiocy of this decision--when at the other team's 40 yard line, you always, always go for a 4th and short!

The only problem is that I was going to use this as evidence that Mangini was dogging it to screw the Pats...except that I can't. Upon closer inspection, I've concluded that the Jets lost because:

(1) the Jets weren't dogging it any more than they did in their last two games when they actually had something to play for--they just suck
(2) Mangini actually was playing for his job
(3) Mangini isn't a coach worth his salt, and, most importantly
(4) Brett Favre isn't just overrated, he is disgustingly overrated. And maybe playing injured, too. But still overrated.

Yes, I'm bitter.

54 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

In last 6 years, the Colts have won 75 games. The only other teams to have won 75 games or more in a six year period are:

1987-1992 49ers (75 games)
1989-1994 49ers (75 games)
2003-2008 Patriots (77 games)

57 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

Ned, you wrote,

If [the Colts] had two Super Bowls, they would have to be considered one of the great teams in history. Instead, they are sort of going to be an historical footnote.

I don't think you are trying to imply this, but you appear to be saying that the Colts aren't going to win another title in this era. That doesn't seem like a foregone conclusion. I'd say their odds this year are at least as good as they were in the year when they actually won.

I agree with your broader point about the astounding year-to-year consistency of Indianapolis.

Aaron, your herpes line was... amazing.

86 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

I, too, found it interesting that Ned seemed to put the threshold at two Super Bowl wins, especially in light of the fact that the Colts could very well win their second Super Bowl this year.

Are Super Bowl victories really what define "great" teams, though? Maybe my perspective is colored by being an Atlanta Braves fan, but over the years I've come to value postseason results less and less. Rarely does the one-and-done format tell us anything meaningful. When was the last time that the best team in the regular season won the championship at the end of the playoff system? Patriots were the best team during the 2007 season, the Chargers or Ravens (DVOA) were the best team in 2006, the Colts were the best team in 2005... you'd have to go back to 2004 to find the last year that the team with the best DVOA won the Super Bowl, and even then Pittsburgh was a close second in DVOA, had a better record, and actually finished first in non-adjusted VOA. I'd go back further if I was more inclined, but the Browns/Giants game from earlier this year is all the proof I really need to show that the best team doesn't always win in the NFL - and that's especially true for the playoffs, when one loss means you're out.

The New England Patriots lost just one game last year, but because of when that loss occurred, they don't get to call themselves NFL Champions. Does that mean we shouldn't consider the 2007 Pats to be a great team? Hell no! The early 90's Bills made it to four straight Super Bowls, but couldn't win any of the four. I would still call them a great team. No one would call them a "dynasty", and they wouldn't get any votes as the greatest team as all time, but you don't have to be considered number one to still make it on to the list. The Colts and Patriots have been the two great teams of the 2000's, with the Eagles a close third.

95 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

Are Super Bowl victories really what define "great" teams, though?
For better or for worse, normally yes. The Bills, I would argue, are somewhat of a special case, given their appearance four consecutive years. Better examples of playoff success, and in particular SB wins, as the prerequisite for greatness are the Vikings and Rams of the 1970's-some seasons of spectacular team success, but they kept losing in the playoffs. Compare them to the Steelers of the same era-judged solely on regular season success, the team of the 70's is a difficult question. As normally judged, though, PIT's in the discussion and the other two are not.*

*-MIA and DAL fans, I'm not really talking about who the best team of the 1970's was, just trying to highlight that MIN and LARM have been denigrated, fairly or unfairly, for their lack of postseason success.

93 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

I am a huge Colt fan, and I don't see them winning a second SB THIS year. They'll have to beat SD, Pitt, and Tenn/Balt on the road, and then a fairly good NFC team (I would guess NYG or Carolina -- I'm not buying the Eagles cool aid just yet). The Colts have won a bunch of games, but they've never looked very good. Their defense does a nice job of stiffening in the red zone, but they give up so much yardage and possession time. I will say this in general, though: I am much more afraid of an offensive team (SD) beating Indy than I am a defensive team (Balt., Pitt).

59 Literal vs Figurative

Thom Brennaman Sunday marveled at the Eagles blowout of the Cowboys: "and the Philadelphia Eagles, in literally a do-or-die game . . ."

That certainly explains a lot. Apparently the Eagles would have faced a firing squad had they lost. Quite a motivator.

78 Re: Literal vs Figurative

It was actually Gorilla Monsoon and Steve Tasker doing the game. I read somewhere on the internet that Gorilla and Thom Brennaman were half-brother fraternal twins, so their voices are virtually indistinguishable.

60 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

Despite the slew of RB injuries (and still having a great offense), I would Shanahan getting grilled much harder over his team's collapse. SD is a better balanced team and their demolishing of Denver last night was of no surprise to me. However, the one constant in Denver's streak of mediocrity since Elway retired has been Shanahan. Isn't it perhaps time a real GM was brought in to draft defensive players since Shanny is clueless? Or at least a capable defensive coordinator?

117 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

Shanny absolutely needs a good, strong D-coordinator and GM. I agree completely and whole-heartedly. The circus at D-coordinator the past few years has absolutely killed this team. Bowlen should really hammer him on this point.

That said, he went into this year with a really young team, which was then subsequently pummelled by injuries (7 RBs & the 2 best defensive players). Getting this team to 8-8 and challending for the AFCW crown this year was one hell of a coaching job in my opinion.

I guess with Shanny, you take the good with the bad... I don't see anyone out there much better (maybe Cowher?).

68 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

Aside from the blowout nature of yesterday, did anyone expect the Cowboys to finish 2-2 or 3-1 or 4-0 in this last December stretch? I did, but of course, I'm a homer. The point is this. Yes, they collapsed. But it wasn't as huge of a collapse as it is made out to be. When you play 4 playoff teams to close a season, you should go 2-2 or 1-3 if you're a decent, but not elite, team. So I understand the record. The real problem here was losing to the bad teams (Arizona, Washington, ST. LOUIS). You win those three and you finish 12-4.

That said, Wade needs to either grow some cajones or get out. This team needs a drill sargent at the helm. Get the divas out and let's make a great team here. Right now we're just slightly above-average.

114 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

Andrew Brandt says you guys are pretty screwed on "building" a winner:

Of course the CBA expires soon and all sorts of craziness could emerge from that.

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

Just read a curious tidbit in Tom Rock's blog.

Only two teams have made the playoffs each of the past four seasons.

Giants. Colts.

70 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

Pacifist - The Eagles certainly seem to be a stronger team than the Vikings but with the game in the Metrodome I think the difference is very small to none at all.

The Viking's yds/play differential on the season was approximately +.25. Philly's was approximately +1.0. But at home the Vikings are a better team +.8 and Philly is weaker on the road +.7.

I think at home this game is far closer to a toss up than people think.

Conventional wisdom has all the road teams winning. I highly doubt that will happen. I think SD, Arz and Minnesota all have a very good chance to win.

81 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

See Tarvaris Jackson, young QB. See Jackson swallowed up under exotic Eagles blitz package.

See Jackson survey defense like a deer in the headlights, then stare down receivers.

I'm not setting my hopes real high on this one, Jimm. If I had more faith that Childress would alter his highly predictable playcalling, maybe. But once again, we'll see most 1st-and-10 situations turn into 2nd-9 or worse as the Peterson handoff gets stuffed, Childress will keep Jackson in the entire time, rather than 'mix-and-matching' with Frerotte to change the nature of the offense (force the safeties back to respect the deep ball, that sort of thing).

If Chilly were smart, he'd really add some wrinkles to the offense - both #28 and #29 in the backfield, two tight ends (both Kleinsasser and Shiancoe can block), that sort of thing. But he's not that inventive, so he'll just provide the Eagles with exactly the same playcalling that they'll have 16 games' worth to review.

74 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

Is this Tampa Bay loss the worst performance in Week 17 history for a team who needed to win in? Is it worse than Buffalo against Pittsburgh in 2004?

What about Denver in 2006, losing to SF and letting the Chiefs sneak into the playoffs? Couple that w/Denver's fade at the end of this season and I'm convinced that any other franchise would fire the HC responsible. BTW, SD beat the Chiefs by two points total. That is not a good team. And another BTW, the Chiefs lost seven games by 7 points or less. Losing a lot of close games may just may mean you're a bad team - it may not mean you're a good but unlucky one.

My wife and I went to the Ravens game yesterday. We're Chiefs fans living in Washington area (Arlington) and bought BAL-JAX tix at a charity auction. I commend the Ravens organization for a good atmosphere at the stadium based on my limited sample. We had a good time - obviously that was made easier by rooting for the Ravens w/the playoffs on the line but no one hassled the Jags fans sitting behind us.

For those complaining about the lack of Aubibles coverage of the BAL-JAX game, here's my own audibles from the lower level far back corner end zone seats. Chime in.

Jags made a game of it early. But a couple of turnovers, a good running game and Flacco looking very sharp with his throws put the game away.

17-7 late in 2nd qtr, JAX is driving to get back in the game. Garrard scrambles 22 yards to the Raven 20. Ray Lewis looks slow trying to get to Garrard, allowing a potentially crucial gain. I was shocked Lewis didn't make the open field play.

However, on the next set of downs Ed Reed made a nice interception on 3rd down. He was quickly surrounded on the return. Going down he lateraled to Ngata who rumbled for several more yards. This was an incredibly bad play - probably typical of Ed Reed. He made a play that was a major turning point and then risked it all for the slim chance of a big return. It may be the same intensity that drives Reed to make great plays also clouds his judgment at times.

Cameron had the Ravens running a lot of no-huddle. They clearly liked some personnel packages vs. the Jags. Something to look for next week. But it speaks highly of what they think of Flacco.

Flacco had some great throws, but a 48 yard completion to Clayton on the first drive of the game was not one of them. Clayton had his man beat badly deep and was slanting towards the middle of the field. Flacco lofted a deep throw to the outside, causing Clayton to have to slow, weave back outside, and make a nice catch on a ball that appeared to come down directly over his head as he adjusted to it (remember, I was watching from a very bad angle and a high wind may have drifted the throw). The completion spoke more about the poor coverage than a great throw or play. Overall, I'd say the JAX secondary looked bad and the pass rush wasn't much to speak of either.

Ravens ran several Wildcat variants with Troy Smith taking the snap and Flacco spread wide. It seemd like when the Ravens went to this formation the Jags put everybody in the box and dared the Ravens to try to throw. My favorite play from this formation was in the 3rd qtr:

95:33) (No Huddle, Shotgun) T.Smith laterals right side to J.Flacco at 25 yard line. J.Flacco passes to T.Smith on left side of field. T.Smith to JAC 29 for 36 yards (51-C.Ingram).

Nice trickeration. As soon as the lateral went to Flacco, the Jags' rush went towards Flacco while the coverage began dropping desparately deep to find a receiver behind them. A couple of Raven o-linemen swung out to block for Smith and he had a wide open field plus a convoy. Play went for 36 yards and will complicate the Fins' prep for next week.

McGahee had one catch from being spread out as a wr. No idea how often Ravens do this, but Cameron was a steal for this team at OC based on what I saw yesterday.

4th qtr, Jags down by 20 with 8:26 to go. Little chance to win, and less when they stayed in a deliberate offense, huddling, with no attempt to hurry up. I don't think the Jags had a chance given the Ravens D and abiliity to run to kill the clock, but isn't there some type of code of honor that says you PLAY TO WIN THE GAME, especially when it has playoff implications? Very disappointed in Del Rio. We left to beat the traffic.

77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

At the end of the Jets Dolphins game yesterday, Simms started an on-air thought with this line: "There is a lot that hasn't been said about Brett Favre."

84 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

Most of this has been touched on already, but here's my two cents:


The Bears are who we thought they were. They should have been out of the playoff race weeks ago, but they got two gift wins in a row. Any argument that they were really a good team deep down goes out the window with that performance yesterday. Yes, they got screwed by a couple of weird calls (and the absolutely incomprehensible "can't challenge a spot if it doesn't affect the 1st-down outcome" rule), but the game never should have gotten to the point where those calls mattered. This was eerily similar to the game in Minnesota, in that they were in a position to put the game away in the 2nd quarter and went on a foot-shooting spree that resulted in them trailing at halftime, which apparently causes the defense to stop trying. In this game, it was possibly a more egregious failure, because they had two chances (both times, the offense got the ball on the 50 leading 10-0), and instead of facing a traditional rival for the division lead, they were up against a team out of the playoffs and begging to be sent golfing.

2) Roy Williams

I really wanted to like the Orch Dork, but he lost me in the first CHI/DET game this year. First he talks trash all week (no problem there), then he drops multiple passes from Kitna, then when Orlovsky comes in and skips the first ball he throws to RW off the turf, Williams kicks the ball back at Orlovsky, screaming at him to throw it better.

85 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

I'm pleasantly surprised at the remarkable lack of whining from Patriots fans, which I thought would be rampant, since that's what I've been conditioned to this decade. I'm not going to be too harsh on the Pats because, considering they lost Brady in the first game of the year, they had a good season. But for all the talking heads who say how "unbelievable" it is that the 11-5 Pats aren't in the playoffs, I say not to cry for them.

First of all, one year after going 16-0 in the regular season and barely losing the Super Bowl, the Patriots got handed one of the easiest schedules in NFL history, despite the fact that the NFL supposedly tries to give its best teams hard schedules and its worst teams easier schedules (in addition to better draft picks). And yes, I know that scheduling is mostly random. Against that schedule, 11-5 for the Patriots was about the absolute minimum, even without Tom Brady.

New England played two good teams all year, Indy and Pittsburgh, and lost both times. They split with the Dolphins and the Jets. And they lost to an 8-8 Chargers team. They got blasted against the Dolphins, Chargers and Steelers. And all five losses came in conference, which made it next to impossible to win any tiebreakers, especially since Indy and Pittsburgh beat them head-to-head and the Dolphins got a split.

The fact remains that the Patriots were 16-0 last year (against a very tough schedule), and the Dolphins were 1-15, and they both finished with the exact same record against virtually the same schedule (the Dolphins got Houston and Baltimore instead of Pittsburgh and Indy, but that's only slightly easier, and it should have been easier considering their 1-15 record last year).

Sorry, but I'm much more impressed with the way the Steelers managed to go 12-4 against one of the toughest schedules in the history of the league (and with a horrendous offensive line and weekly coaching screw-ups by Mike Tomlin and Bruce Arians in goal line situations) than the Patriots going 11-5 against one of the easiest schedules in league history.

98 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

"I'm pleasantly surprised at the remarkable lack of whining from Patriots fans"

I'm not at all shocked that people are once again whining about a lack of respect from the talking heads for non-Patriots.

"Sorry, but I'm much more impressed with the way the Steelers managed to go 12-4"

Any sane Pats is much more impressed with Steelers did too. It is funny that you think it necessary to apologize for holding an opinion that opposes that of the talking heads.

87 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

Tundrapaddy - Any solution that involves Frerotte instead of Jackson makes no sense. Jackson may well be swallowed by the Eagles D - but it won't be all because of Jackson. The Viking offence just isn't very good this year. But Jackson has performed way above the level of the rest of the offence.

Overall DVOA Offence - -7.3%
Jackson DVOA +9.9%
Frerotte DVOA -10.4%

Jackson has been far better than Frerotte this year. The team has averaged .5 yards/play more with him at QB. He's also thrown 2 ints in 149 attempts versus 15 in 301 attempts for Frerotte.

Put it this way - if the entire offence performed at a 9.9% level. The Vikings would rank 7th in DVOA not 14th.

94 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

As a Bears fan, if they're going to give up a first rounder for a player in a trade I'd rather it be (Free) Nnamdi Asomugha(!) after watching the Bears pass D get strafed by anyone competent this year. Of course, I doubt Oakland takes just a first rounder for him. Zombie Al Davis cannot be reasoned with.

But Boldin would be a big help given they don't have any real receivers. And he'll make all the meatballs here happy too -- playing a couple of weeks after he broke his face means he'll pass the BEAR FOOTBALL TOUGH GUY test of the goof fans.

96 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

Be careful about Favre. He is a master at manipulating the media. He knows the cameras are always on him. Barring his arm falling off I wouldn't read too much into any actions that suggest pain/discomfort.

None of his throws reflected impairment. And the stupid ones are now part and parcel of Favre. The last five years one could construct a ten minute montage of ugly interceptions in "big" games.

Correct. I am suggesting Favre WANTED viewers to think he was injured. So that the bad plays are excused and the good plays celebrated. Favre knows how it works. Heaven forbid anyone just state the facts. That after a long season his body isn't up to the rigors of playing at the high level demanded of the NFL.

I am done giving this cracker the benefit of the doubt.

100 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

Jim Johnson dreams of immobile quarterbacks with poor decision making skill, which describes Frerotte perfectly, as attested by his interceptionn rate. Stunting defensive coordinators love those scenarios because it makes their stunts so much more likely to succeed; there is no worry about a qb extending the play and thus a receiver coming open. It would be one thing if it were an immobile qb who nevertheless made good decisions, throwing to a dangerous reciever corps. That ain't the Vikings with Frerotte. jackson gives them a better chance to win.

If the description of the last minute of the game is correct, I will lament once again that Leslie Frazier isn't the head coach.

104 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

Regarding Jim Johnson's defense and Frerotte...touche. (And likewise to you, Jimm).

I'm still not convinced of Jackson's ability to stretch the field. He gives them mobility at the QB position, but the running game is more likely to face 8- or 9-man fronts with Jackson under center.

But if I got to change just one thing, it would be, first and foremost, Childress' predictable playcalling.

101 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

Also, as I said in the DVOA thread, if the reports of Pat Williams being back Sunday are true, the Vikings chances of winning are improved by a huge margin. Leslie Farzier will likely dial up a ton of nickle defenses, while Reid is forced into his pass-happy mode by the Williams wall.

105 Draft Order

Anyone notice the draft order for next year? The Pats pick after 4 teams that made the playoffs. Talk about the NFL being messed up. Either match the draft to the final playoff standings, or change the playoff seedings so that they match the draft. Sheesh.

116 Re: Draft Order

In reply to by Puzzled (not verified)

This bothers me only because the playoff seeding is according to one system and the draft seeding is according to another system; I could care less about the Patriots and the violin-playing of their fans.

I suppose the Chargers could go on a run and end up with the 26th draft pick or so, but are they or are they not the 16th best team in the NFL? They could jump 8 draft slots because of one single game. If you make the playoffs, you should be "stuck" with, at best, the 20th draft slot. You shouldn't be afforded the luxury of having either a 16th overall draft pick and all the trading options that offers or the chance at being 3 games away from the Lombardi Trophy. If we're going to assume they are one of the 12 best teams, they should get one of the 12 worst draft slots.

106 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

"Hey, if it works out, it works out. If it doesn't, it doesn't. All you can do is give your best, all right? Love you guys, let's go. Score on three."

Not that I feel like defending Favre about anything after the last five games, but I think what he was referring to in his pep talk was the fact that the Jets needed a Baltimore loss to get into the playoffs.

And I truly believe he was playing hurt down the stretch. I remember when Pennington finished the 2004 season playing with a torn rotator cuff. He would make some beautiful throws, and some really ugly ones. Same with Favre - some perfectly accurate lasers mixed in with some dogs. In the first eleven games, he had a 70% completion percentage. His accuracy was shot to hell after that.

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

That Manamaluena/LT play reminded me of a bygone play from one of the classics in NFL history--Miami 41 San Diego 38 in 2OT in 1981. The Chargers tied the game late in regulation when Fouts lobbed one to the back of the end zone, trying for Kellen Winslow. It was too tall for Winslow to stab it, but from nowhere James Brooks (just a newbie in '81) swooped in along the backline and grabbed it. Amazing play. Then the Chargers went on to win in double OT and lose to my Bengals in the Freezer Game. And Brooks was stolen from the Bolts for Pete "Two Tons of Fun" Johnson.
Bengals fans--grasping on to bygone memories since 1990...

122 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

Some quick Favre-hating.

ESPN is reporting that Favre's injury is his bicep? That's his excuse!?

John Elway had his detached, as I recall. And he won a Super Bowl shortly after it ruptured.

Suck on that, Cheeseheads....and Jet's fans. All of you, I say! Suck. On. That.

(No, I'm not at all bitter about 11-5 not making the playoffs (AFC), or mybelovedredskins (NFC). Not bitter at all. Nope.)

124 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 17

The notion that the Vikings have a bad defense against the pass is false, and has been since Jared Allen came to the Vikings.