Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Audibles at the Line: Week 15
Audibles at the Line: Week 15
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

compiled by Rivers McCown and Andrew Potter

This year, we have a new format for our Monday morning feature Audibles at the Line, combining our Twitter feeds with our e-mail discussion. First, we're replacing our usual back-and-forth with some longer-form dissection of each game that at least one of us watches in depth. Second, every game that we find time for will also have a selection of tweets from us and a few reader tweets we found particularly insightful. To follow these tweets live on Sunday, or to contribute your own thoughts or a question for the FO staff, you can use hashtag #foaud. We discussed the new format in this post.

On Monday, we will compile a digest of tweets and e-mails to produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed, not entirely grammatically correct, and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.

Audibles is still being written from our point of view, meaning we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a 49ers or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching, just to ensure that Audibles covers every game. Audibles is often written from a fan perspective as much as an analyst perspective; in order to properly accuse FO writers of bias, please check our FAQ.

Seattle Seahawks 23 at New York Giants 0


Vince Verhei: Eli throws a jump ball, Maxwell just takes ball out if Cruz's hands for INT.
Mike Ridley: Cruz and Nicks did little to help out Manning on his two interceptions
Vince Verhei: Eli throws another jump ball to Nicks. Sherman looks like he's running the route, makes leaping grab for INT.
@Foosball_Wizard: Giants only had 4-5 guys on Marshawn Lynch on that TD. Evidently they need 6-7.
Vince Verhei: Eli Hail Mary is intercepted. Giants finish half with more INTs (3) than first downs (2).
@TickleMittens: Jersey A 7 1st half possessions. 3 3-and-outs. 3 picks. Manning the lesser 47 yds, 3.6 ypa #BetterDays
Vince Verhei: NYG first 2H drive: run for loss, run for loss, sack-fumble (kept). Michael Bennett caps it off with Rick Rude hip swivel.
Vince Verhei: SEA TD out of 8-OL set wiped out by penalty, they kick FG instead. 16-0.
@robbbbbb: Russell Wilson throws an INT on a deep throw. I don't know that I've seen him make that bad a decision in his career.
@robbbbbb: Next play, Byron Maxwell with a circus catch for back-to-back INTs.
Vince Verhei: Eli's 4th INT leads to ugliest 16-yard TD drive ever. Hawks up 23-0, game over.
Vince Verhei: 7:26 to play in the game. Giants just crossed midfield for the first time, on a personal foul.
@robbbbbb: Eli throws 5th INT. My wife: "Do they need to check Eli for colorblindness?"
Vince Verhei: Giants' first red zone drive ends with Eli's fifth INT of day.


Vince Verhei: Complete domination by Seattle's defense. The Giants didn't run a play in Seattle territory until they were down by 23 points with seven minutes and change left in the game. That drive ended in an interception, one of five for Eli Manning on the day (including one on a Hail Mary at the end of the first half). The Giants couldn't block anyone, they couldn't break any tackles, and when Manning took shots and gave his receivers chances to make plays downfield, the receivers were well-covered and unable to make the catches in traffic. Manning's first two picks were both jump balls where the defensive back outjumped the receiver.

Seattle's offense, though, had plenty of problems. They'd drive the field and kick field goals, over and over again, and as a result they only led for two scores most of the game. They finally got a clinching touchdown on a hideous 16-yard drive that included a Russell Wilson fumble where he wasn't even touched. That drive (which again, covered only 16 yards) needed a defensive penalty and two third-down conversions to score.

Philadelphia Eagles 30 at Minnesota Vikings 48


@Mercurius100: Okay Chip, in short yardage in the NFL, no QB draws with Foles, and no plays requiring Foles to block. Save those for college.
@OlDirtySaltz How many unnecessary roughness calls do you see on QBs? Foles badassery costs Eagles a TD
@OlDirtySaltz: Trent Cole gets to the QB before the ball is snapped
Vince Verhei: DeSean Jackson having meltdown on sideline. RILEY COOPER, voice of reason, tries to settle him down. #NotTheGuyIdPick
@Mercurius100: Maybe the Eagles D isn't improving that much.
Vince Verhei: MIN has ball up 11, inside 10, less than two minutes to go, PHI out of TOs. They should take knees and kick a field goal.
@stephenbawesome: Field position played a huge impact in PHI vs MIN game. Eagles offense wasn't bad, just stalled/flagged at the worst times.


Aaron Schatz: Man, I hate to have to ask... did any of you watch MIN-PHI? Can you explain what the f*** happened?
Tom Gower: Philly defense that was awful last year finally showed up, while their offense settled for field goals early. By that point, it was 27-9. They got it to 27-22 with an onside, but the Vikings scored again.
J.J. Cooper: I watched a little of it while doing some work and even from that I have no answer. Some big Utah RB had a couple of touchdowns, but I have no explanation.
Vince Verhei: I wasn't paying close attention to it, but basically it looked just like the box score. Matt Cassel had lots of time to throw, then he made accurate throws to wide-open guys downfield. It was like the 1999 Rams had worn the Vikings' uniforms for a day.
Scott Kacsmar: I saw Cassel deliver some great passes early. The running game definitely wasn't powering them today. The three touchdowns were all on short fields in the fourth quarter. The lack of offense from Philadelphia in the first half was as much of a story as the explosion from Minnesota. One of the more surprising outcomes of the season as the Eagles seemed to be finding their way on both sides of the ball

New England Patriots 20 at Miami Dolphins 24


@LancelotHogben: Miami 3rd & 2 vs. one of the worst run Ds in the league, so of course they pass. And fail.
Aaron Schatz: At this point, I don't know why any offense ever goes empty-back against the Patriots. Starting their sixth DT today, Sealver Siliga
Scott Kacsmar: Dolphins getting killed on field position. Second straight drive starting at own 6.
Aaron Schatz: The Dolphins' pass blocking is just horrifying. Chandler Jones just ate Bryant McKinnie alive.
Aaron Schatz: Feels like the Pats have gone away from the run here in the second half. Was working well in first quarter.
@nathancaswell: Brady doesn't seem to have the arm strength to drive throws outside the numbers.
Aaron Schatz: Not happy with Pats' decision to kick FG on fourth-and-2 near goal line. Would have liked to see a draw or something, go for it.
@pchicola: NE is blitzing the slot CB's almost once every drive. They've tried it with Talib, Dennard and Arrington so far.
Aaron Schatz: Pats have discovered the way to win despite injuries; wait for opponent to also lose players (MIA CB) to injury.
@blotzphoto: Julian Edelman has found the cheat codes to the Dolphins secondary.
Aaron Schatz: Charles Clay makes his first catch of day, makes great move to convert fourth-and-5.
Tom Gower: What an ugly mess of a 4th down play by Miami. What a beautiful result for Miami. What a results-based league.
Aaron Schatz: Rishard Mathews with yet another ridiculous sideline get-his-feet-inbounds catch. Has he always done this?
@Procrastinarian: What a drive by the #Dolphins. I don't like giving Brady 1:15 though. Would have liked a draw or two in the red zone.
@nath_on_fire: Is it just me, or are the Dolphins defensive backs giving way too much room to the Patriots receivers on this drive?
Aaron Schatz: So, will all the overreaction about Pats' close wins now be matched by overreaction about this close loss?


Scott Kacsmar: With the receivers New England had available, I expected this to look like the Week 1 offense in Buffalo when it was just Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola doing their best Wes Welker impersonations. Indeed that's what it was outside of that tight end making a one-handed touchdown catch, but I thought Miami did a very good job of covering Shane Vereen, who had 40 catches in five games this season. Still, it's amazing to see how the Patriots kept getting Edelman and Amendola open within 10 yards of the LOS. Miami never really had an answer for stopping that, but one great pass defensed in the end zone at the end was just enough. The same defensive back made the game-ending interception.

I've given Ryan Tannehill the "average" label and plenty of criticism for Mike Wallace's season, but Wallace did make a critical touchdown that showed the type of elite speed that led to the Dolphins signing him to a huge contract. That was so big before the half with the Patriots going up 10-0. From that point, Tannehill really settled in despite shaky pass protection and made some great throws over the middle. It would be easy to argue this was the finest game of his career given the importance and caliber of opponent. I liked the decision to go for it on fourth down at midfield as the Patriots were feasting underneath with Miami suffering some secondary injuries. I hated the play call by Miami, but I liked that Joe Philbin didn't call a timeout to set things up and Charles Clay just made another huge effort for the team with a move to pick up the first. It was the best game-winning drive I've seen Tannehill engineer.

The Patriots lost a lot with this game today, but that's what can happen when practically every game comes down to the final play. Seven of their last nine games have gone down to the wire and they have been fortunate to go 4-3.

Aaron Schatz: Well, I don't think the Patriots are fortunate to be 4-3 in seven close games. That's usually what a good team will do in seven close games. A good team will be 3-4 or, more likely, 4-3. A bad team will be 4-3 or, more likely, 3-4. "Fortunate" would be going 5-2. "Ridiculously lucky" would be going 6-1.

That being said, clutch performance is a cruel mistress, and there was no way the Patriots were going to be able to keep coming down to the wire and pulling out game after game. You really saw the effect of all the injuries in this game. The Pats started their sixth different defensive tackle of the season. Again, they gave up plenty of runs. On offense, not only did you see the loss of Gronkowski when the Pats got into the red zone, but you also had the injury to Nate Solder at mid-game. That forced Logan Mankins over to tackle and brought in Josh Kline, who isn't very good and has very little experience. (It was his confusion that allowed Koa Misi to smack down Brady on third-and-8 with a minute left, although the Pats converted the fourth down and kept the drive going.)

As far as the Dolphins go, I still feel the same way about them that I have for the last couple years. This team just seems really, really average. OK, maybe slightly above average. They feel slightly above average in pretty much every way, at every position, with every player, with a couple of exceptions. First, the offensive line is awful. Second, Cameron Wake is freakin' awesome. I was also really impressed today by some amazing catches by the unknown wide receivers, who did a great job of keeping their feet in bounds, but I have a feeling that was a bit fluky. Rishard Mathews may be better than anyone knows, but it isn't like Marlon Moore is making great catches on a weekly basis. I'm guessing he's barely making them on a yearly basis.

Anyway, the problem with a team that's slightly above average everywhere is that it can be difficult to figure out where you need to find those one or two pieces that will make you a serious playoff contender. (Serious playoff contender, as opposed to "contender for sixth seed in the 2013 AFC which is a terrible conference historically.") They thought Mike Wallace was that piece, and he's had some big games, but he hasn't made a huge difference. Obviously, offensive linemen would help, but a bunch of rookies aren't going to come in and dramatically improve the line right away, they would need to get used to playing in the NFL.

One other note. Maybe I'm missing it, but I just feel like whenever I watch Miami this year, Dion Jordan really isn't doing much. Of course you don't write off a player after one year, but he certainly doesn't seem like a game changer right now. Maybe they haven't figured out the right way to use him. Or perhaps Wake is so busy making game-changing plays that there's no room for anyone else on the Dolphins to make game-changing plays.

Note: "That tight end" who made the one-handed touchdown catch was Michael Hoomanawanui.

J.J. Cooper: I just wanted to add to the Mike Wallace comment. He has had a maddening season for the Dolphins, but plays like the touchdown he had today are what will keep tantalizing the Dolphins with the idea that he can be a game-changer. Very, very few receivers have the speed to turn that play into a touchdown, but every now and then he will make one of those look easy.

But in between, he's getting two catches for 19 yards, like he did last week. He's getting paid like a No. 1 receiver, but in reality, he's best as an very good No. 2.

Aaron Schatz: Wallace sure seemed like a pure No. 1 back in Pittsburgh -- first in DYAR in 2010, fifth in DYAR in 2011. But yeah, he's maddeningly inconsistent this year, not someone you can trust almost every single week like Calvin Johnson, Jordy Nelson, or apparently now Josh Gordon.

Still, Wallace fits as your deep guy. Maybe Wallace works best if you can team him with an elite-level possession receiver, like Anquan Boldin or Hines Ward in their primes. He started opposite Ward in 2010, although Ward wasn't really in his prime at that point.

J.J. Cooper: Yeah, that's a better way of putting it I guess. He's a deep guy, but you need the possession guy to go with him, as he's a 60-70 catch guy, not the one who gets a whole lot of first downs on third-and-8. That being said, it is puzzling to me to see his yards-per-catch take the dip it's taken in the last two years. Generally no one keeps up the 19-20 yards per catch he did in his first two seasons, but I didn't expect him to be putting up back-to-back 13 yards per catch seasons.

Cian Fahey: There's been a Randy Moss in Oakland element to Mike Wallace since Hines Ward left Pittsburgh. His problem isn't talent or anything with the way he plays. His problem is seemingly that he chooses to play sometimes and chooses to go through the motions on others.

Getting paid was probably the worst thing that ever happened to him, even if it was completely unavoidable.

I do believe he had a number of drops down the field during his last season with the Steelers and Roethlisberger's deep accuracy this year has been terrible so maybe that played into that season's production too. I haven't watched every game of the Dolphins, but their horrible pass protection has to have had an impact on Wallace's quantity of deep targets?

Buffalo Bills 27 at Jacksonville Jaguars 20


Cian Fahey: Jedd Fisch opened up the game with one of the nicest play-designs I've ever seen
Cian Fahey: It's that kind of throw from Manuel there that makes it easy to see why people are giving up on him already
Scott Kacsmar: Sounded like Rich Gannon bringing out the "This is why you're 4-9" as a nameless Jaguar receiver drops one on third down.
@GDFar: Ace Sanders has great vision with the ball. Knows where his blockers are and waits for them to set up.
@Mercurius100: Ladies and gentleman, your 2013 Jaguars!
Cian Fahey: Jordan Todman is proving that the Jaguars don't need to re-sign MJD...and MJD has been really, really good this year
Cian Fahey: Bills look like they are trying to lose this game based on their final drive in the fourth quarter


Cian Fahey: EJ Manuel's accuracy was as inconsistent as ever. He did show off some good touch passes and looked better throwing the ball down-field instead of throwing to intermediate routes.

Stevie Johnson, who was playing after his mother's death the previous night, suffered because of Manuel's struggles. His teammate Robert Woods excelled in spite of Manuel with a number of impressive plays.

On the defensive side for Buffalo, Kiko Alonso showed off his poor discipline/over-aggressive nature throughout the game. Alonso makes plays, but he also helps the offense by taking himself out of position too often. It's something that has plagued his rookie season and something that should really have improved as the season went on. It's a worrying sign.

The Bills defensive line dominated the Jaguars offensive line, as you'd expect, while Stephon Gilmore had an impressive day for the most part.

For the Jaguars offense, Chad Henne made a disastrous start. Jedd Fisch's creativity gave Marcedes Lewis on one of the nicest play designs you'll see, but Henne immediately threw a bad interception after it. Henne looked shell-shocked then. He used a timeout before the first play of the next drive, before taking two bad sacks that nearly resulted in a safety.

In the backfield with Henne, Jordan Todman showed off his talent. Todman had shined all season in a limited role complementing MJD, but now the Jaguars were relying on him and featured him almost exclusively. He ran well all day, but his production was limited by the offensive line. He had two big plays, one run and one reception, that really showed off his all-around talent.

Marcedes Lewis and Ace Sanders showed flashes, but Sanders again was primarily benefiting from scheme while Lewis didn't have enough targets to impact the game as well as he could have.

Houston Texans 3 at Indianapolis Colts 25


Tom Gower: Colts on that 3&1 handed off to T-Rich as the upback w/ Don Brown the deep back. Setting up 90 flip for later in game?
Scott Kacsmar: According to CBS, it took the Colts 38 1st-half possessions to score a TD (first since Denver game).
@MulEdgeGJJ: When you can't score a TD in the first hald, play the Texans and all your problems will be solved
@nath_on_fire: Colts hadn't scored a first-half TD since Oct. 20. Naturally, the Texans are the cure for that, to Griff Whalen to boot!
Tom Gower: Luck INT looked like Dino v Cov-3 to me, Joseph recognized route combo & undercut Da'Rick's post
Tom Gower: Called that Colts punt when they lined up w/ Richardson next to Luck on 3&2 from Texans 41. Sometimes, I hate being right
@nath_on_fire: Did the Colts just run a screen to a backup TE on 3rd and 8? I want to ask the coaches what they expected to happen there.
@snakerjaker: things you don't often see: Andre Johnson with two consecutive AWFUL drops.
Tom Gower: Just when Case Keenum was doing positive things, finding Ryan Griffin for a couple third-down conversions, he throws another bad INT
Tom Gower: Surprisingly, IND-HOU would not be the first 25-3 final in NFL history. DAL-NYG did it in 1969


Tom Gower: Andrew Luck played one of his better games of the season, I think, in the half I saw. He didn't take unnecessary sacks (J.J. Watt was a non-factor much of the half) and threw the ball well.

Really, though, this game was never in doubt, and I bailed at half, because of the Houston offense. They lack any sort of sustaining element in the ground game, which they had the past two seasons, and Case Keenum played poorly, with a couple bad interceptions in addition to the customary sack for loss of big yardage. You see the occasional flashes of competence, but you also see why Gary Kubiak could reasonably think it would not worth spending a couple weeks figuring out if Keenum could be an acceptable starter.

Rivers McCown: Keenum was set up to fail. Most coaches would take a mobile quarterback with a penchant for delivering downfield strikes and say "let's run play-action!" The Texans barely ran it at all, asked him to sit in the pocket and make short throws, and got what they deserved. Call it "seeing what he can do in our offense" all you want, but if your offense can't make the best use of your player's talents, maybe the player isn't the problem.

This is a bad football team. I've taken to spending my Sundays praying for Teddy Bridgewater to come out. That's what it has come to.

Chicago Bears 38 at Cleveland Browns 31


@TCBullfrog: Cutler-McCown watch--Cutler throws into coverage in the end zone, tipped and intercepted. Start the engines. Not only the INT, but the offense was slow getting plays off on the Bears first possession. Didn't stop them driving to the RZ tho
Scott Kacsmar: Cutler pick-six. Pass was tipped, but still too high. Yeah, that's more picks in 22 minutes than McCown's had this season.
@TCBullfrog: So the clear storyline here is that Cutler starts out rusty, then warms up and ends up with like 3TDs, 2INTs. QB Controversy remains. FWIW Cutler looked a lot more comfortable on the 2 minute drive than he has most of the day.
@MilkmanDanimal: The fact neither Josh Gordon nor Jordan Cameron have a catch in the 1st half is really pretty Weediculous.
@TCBullfrog: I stopped counting the pace of Bears DTDs for obvious reasons, but with 6, they're doing better than expected
@MilkmanDanimal: 3 reasons Brandon Weeden should be starting: Gordon/Cameron fantasy points, Browns' draft position, the humor value of the universe.

Washington Redskins 26 at Atlanta Falcons 27


Cian Fahey: That TD throw was really nice from Cousins
Scott Kacsmar: 2013 1st quarter TD passes: Robert Griffin (1), Kirk Cousins (1).
@Mercurius100: Washington and Atlanta both playing very hard for the #1 pick. Somebody should inform Washington of the details of the RG3 trade.
@Mercurius100: To all Washington and Atlanta fans, I'm really sorry. Do yourselves a favor and turn off the NFL until next season.
@MilkmanDanimal: Really looking forward to next week's "Is Kirk Cousins better than RGIII" narrative ignoring just how awful Atlanta's defense is.
@WhispersMoCo: Thinking in DC is that Shanahan specifically waited for this game to start Cousins.
Scott Kacsmar: Teams going for the win on late 2-point conversion are 3-5 now.
@wiesengrund: Of course WAS loses the game on a Shanahan call for a 2PC after a 80 yrd drive by Cousins to pull within 1. Trufant with the breakup. As advertised, the only team that won the Washington-Atlanta matchup was the Rams.


Cian Fahey: Kirk Cousins' ball placement was an issue at times, he should have been intercepted when he threw a slant pass behind Pierre Garcon's ear, but for the most part he showed off potential in his first start of 2013.

San Francisco 49ers 33 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14


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Tom Gower: Can't believe Da'Quan Bowers wasn't able to successfully spy Colin Kaepernick on that 3rd down, y'all.
Danny Tuccitto: SF looked totally out of sorts on their first drive (broken plays, wasted timeouts), but still drive length of field for TD. Scary.
@MilkmanDanimal: Adrian Clayborn blows full-speed past Joe Staley for a sack, the next play rookie William Gholston beats Staley again. Bad series.
Danny Tuccitto: It really is amazing how you get a wasted timeout and an Ahmad Brooks offside penalty in the first half of every game.
Danny Tuccitto: Greg Schiano looks like Bruno Sammartino, amirite?
@MilkmanDanimal: Mark Barron has been good this year, but he's not "cover Vernon Davis one-on-one on a post route" good.
@MilkmanDanimal: Mike Glennon is such a radically different QB when he has time vs. when he's rushed or pressured
Mike Ridley: Offsides negates the weirdest pick-six I can remember. Only in TB
Danny Tuccitto: Lavonte David out, and 49ers decide to pass on 2nd- and 3rd-&-4 (after 6-yard run on 1st), not even to Vernon Davis. Makes no sense.
Danny Tuccitto: Even Tom Olivadotti would find SF's prevent defense to be a failure today.
@MilkmanDanimal: Tampa hasn't made huge mistakes today, but their tackling has been utterly abysmal.
Danny Tuccitto: Draw to Boldin, who was lined up at shotgun RB. Burn that play.
@MilkmanDanimal: Tampa now has a competitor for Worst Play of the Year; Mike Glennon's drop of the ball vs. Carolina no longer stands alone.

Kansas City Chiefs 56 at Oakland Raiders 31


Andrew Potter OAK is playing defense like they've never seen KC's offense before. Smith two 39yd+ TD passes, both screens to Charles.
Vince Verhei: Oakland is so damn bad that I'm angry they won't get the first pick. Records be damned, this is the worst team right now.
@Mercurius100: Jamaal Charles is too small to be an NFL RB, he'll wear down late in the season.
Scott Kacsmar: So Alex Smith is going for the most misleading stat line of the season.
Scott Kacsmar: Turnovers and benched QB, but Raiders have 24 points on KC on long scoring drives (65, 82, 80, 74).
Vince Verhei: Early in third quarter, six different Raiders have 20-yard catches, including people named Chimdi Chekwa and Andre Holmes.
Scott Kacsmar: Correction: I said Raiders benched McGloin. That's not true. Chiefs are damn near pulling a 92 Oilers today.
Vince Verhei: Raiders score 21 straight points and make me look stupid, then give up another long TD to Charles and make me look smart.
Andrew Potter Somebody -really- needs to tell Oakland about Jamaal Charles. Honestly guys, he's good.
@MilkmanDanimal: Jamaal Charles has all 5 offensive TDs, and all but about 50 yards of KC's offense. How bad would they be without him?
Scott Kacsmar: Charles has 7/187/4. That's just receiving. For a RB.
Aaron Schatz: What's scary is that Jamaal Charles has like 9,000 yards and Oakland is somehow still in that game.
@pchicola: KC's defense just imploded over the past month. After the first DEN game, their performance has been lackluster at best.
@CyrisJonfs:Given how DYAR loves RB rec yds, I assume Charles broke Quick Reads.
@MichaelEdits: It's a lot easier for Jamaal Charles to break those long runs when the Raiders aren't pursuing him.

New York Jets 20 at Carolina Panthers 30


Vince Verhei: Yes! Panthers going with the way-cool all-black unis!
@nath_on_fire: I guess Riverboat Ron is continuing to take the month of December off.
Aaron Schatz: Thought: Ron Rivera's conservative playcalling today might be about respect for Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson.
@CyrisJonfs: Rivera regains his senses on 1st drive of 2nd half.
Vince Verhei: Sheldon Richardson BIG MAN TOUCHDOWN RUN.
@Mercurius100: Calling offensive plays for D players shows ingenuity, and that your regulars on offense aren't good enough.
@BeccaDannysWife: If all the Jets and all the Panthers are in the end zone, Michael Tolbert and the ball will be, right? Gotta be a pony in that pile!
@MulEdgeGJJ: Wait! which team's secondary is the weakness, Santonio?
VinceVerhei: None of this proves Santonio wrong. DBs are CAR's weak link. But NYJ O is even weaker.
Aaron Schatz: Man, what I wouldn't give for Carolina to draft a nickelback named David Tennille.

Green Bay Packers 37 at Dallas Cowboys 36


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@MilkmanDanimal: The Bears annihilated the Cowboys defense Monday night, the Packers currently have 3 points.
Aaron Schatz: As bad as the GB QBs are right now, even Rodgers might not be able to catch up with what this defense is giving up.
Vince Verhei: Announcers talking about GB's big win last week. You know, when they needed late TD to beat 3-win ATL team by 1 point at home.
@blotzphoto: If the cowboys manage to lose this game, they should award the NFC east to the Cardinals.
Vince Verhei: Flynn's third TD of day adds to his Pro Bowl resume. #Kidding #Kidding
Aaron Schatz: OK, GB-DAL is now officially one of those bizarre "tale of two halves" games.
@Mercurius100: Dallas gave them a run, but GB D taking a stranglehold on the worst D in this game contest.
Aaron Schatz: I know, I know, Romo throws a pick with 2:50 left, but that was a GREAT play by Sam Shields to leap for that. I mean, Romo shouldn't have thrown it given the duress, but I do think without a great defensive play it's just incomplete.
Tom Gower: Cowboys trying to win the Martz Award for inexplicably failing to run for the second week in a row
Mike Ridley: It will be interesting to see Jerry Jones' defense of this coaching job tomorrow
@Mercurius100: The Cowboys were up 26-3. Up 12 with 9 minutes left. But yeah, Tony Romo awful!!!
Vince Verhei: Looked like DAL let GB score on first down. Probably right decision.
Aaron Schatz: I know I did research that showed that Romo really doesn't play worse on national TV, but... AGAIN on national TV, dude. SERIOUSLY
@MilkmanDanimal: That's a pick and game over, but I'm staying on this channel just so I can see Jerry Jones' face when the ref confirms the call.
@blotzphoto: If I were Tony Romo I would take an unmarked exit. Then try and arrange a trade to someplace sane. Like Cleveland.
Mike Ridley: I'm a firm believer Dallas simply didn't want to have Week 17 decide their playoff fate again.


Aaron Schatz: One thing I'm realizing this year is that if you want to avoid the plain, common narratives, it's really difficult to analyze a game right afterwards without re-watching it closely -- which of course you can't do right afterwards. I always feel like I don't have the kind of incisive analysis I really want to have.

That's my thought about this game, which was another one of "tale of two halves" games where the Dallas defense looked much better than usual in the first half while the Packers looked like they couldn't stop a nosebleed, and then in the second half the Packers were suddenly on top of all the receivers, and the Cowboys were letting Matt Flynn throw the ball easily all over the field. (Although except for a couple of runs, the Cowboys did a much better job stopping Eddie Lacy than they did stopping Matt Forte last week, even in the second half.) I would like to have some idea of what Green Bay did with its schemes to improve so much in the second half on both sides of the ball, but watching from TV angles, while trying to pay attention a little bit to the other games going on, I honestly have very little idea.

I do know that I don't like the way the Dallas coaches threw Tony Romo under the bus after the game. Chris Brown suggested on Twitter that a number of those fourth-quarter plays were packaged plays where Romo had the option to run or pass. I don't know if this is one of those packaged plays, but Jason Garrett told reporters after the game that Romo specifically changed the play with the last interception from a run to a pass. Well, he probably has the option to do so. It's a packaged play, or else he has the option to audible, and you have to trust him to do so. The problem was the throw more than the change from run to pass. And hey, if you feel you want to run down the clock, you tell your quarterback not to audible, and I'm sure he would follow the instructions. Romo thought he had a better play, and then he made a bad throw. The throw is the problem more than the audible, right? We know that in hindsight, running the ball would have been better, but I want to know if the audible was justified given the defensive look.

Rivers McCown: ROMOCEMBER: THE RECKONING. Check First Take throughout the day for more.

Arizona Cardinals 37 at Tennessee Titans 34 OT


Tom Gower: Thank you, Titans, for not just rushing 3 but actually blitzing on the hail mary. Result = sack.
Tom Gower: Ryan Fitzpatrick Random Deep Ball Success isn't carrying over from last week, it seems.
@pchicola: TEN has joined the "Dakota" trend. Aligning TE as the X-iso on a 3x1 set. Matches him vs a CB without much help inside.
@MilkmanDanimal: Rashard Mendenhall is basically Trent Richardson with some crazy conspiracy theories thrown in. Why does he keep getting the ball?
Cian Fahey Daryl Washington is so good. Ryan Fitzpatrick is so bad. That's my professional analysis
Cian Fahey: Back during his Steelers days, I was one of Arians biggest critics. I was completely wrong about him
Tom Gower: Jackie Battle with the great breakup of the contested catch by Fitzgerald on the onside kick.
@StanSellsBoats: Strange to see Fitzpatrick NOT throw a game-losing interception down 7 with under two minutes to go.
Andrew Potter: He was lulling Arizona into a false sense of anxiety.
@MulEdgeGJJ: Ryan Fitzpatrick's mandatory game-losing INT
@Mercurius100: Taking the ball worked really well for Tennessee.


Tom Gower: I'm not sure what to say about this game, aside from that it included a lot more offensive proficiency than I was anticipating. For the first 50-odd minutes, it felt like a typical Titans game. In a close game, the Cardinals got a break for three points when the Titans muffed the second half kickoff, and then went up 2 scores late when the Titans couldn't stop a drive. Following a Ryan Fitzpatrick interception when Nate Washington was beat to the spot, it was 34-17 and looked over. Oh, of course Fitzpatrick would drive the field against the prevent defense -- he'd done that against the Colts and Jaguars down multiple scores, and even doing it twice this game wasn't much of a surprise. What was unusual was that the Titans managed to recover the expected onside kick, then drive for the touchdown. Naturally, the offensive coaches wanted to go for two, Mike Munchak kicked the extra point, and the Titans lost in overtime.

Broader thoughts? Carson Palmer is certainly a professional quarterback, and Arizona's offensive line is good enough to let him succeed. He still takes his chances, sometimes hitting tight windows for big plays and sometimes throwing near-interceptions (the Titans had a couple chances to get an interception today, but couldn't cash any of them in). The Cardinals seemed to split Andre Ellington out in the slot a fair amount, and he had a fair amount of success catching the ball, including a 38-yard score that set up a touchdown. It feels like the Titans are spitballing things a bit at linebacker, giving rookie Zaviar Gooden a lot of snaps for the second week in a row in the nickel after he first played on defense when he started last week against the Broncos.

On the other side of the ball, Patrick Peterson didn't seem to have a great game. They seemed to match him up with Kendall Wright, but only some of the time. I'll have to re-watch the all-22 to see exactly what they did with him and Wright in general, who had modest numbers until it was 34-17. The Tennessee run game was typically hit and miss.

I know Cian is frustrated by him, but at some point the Titans need to sit down and figure out why they want to be committed to Jake Locker when the Titans have scored more than 20 offensive points in regulation in 3 of the 16 games he's started and played most of, while Fitzpatrick has done it in 4 of the last 5 games.

Cian Fahey: Tom, that's Fitzpatrick's MO. He'll put up points and he'll make the plays that ultimately kill you. I haven't got around to the Titans game yet, but caught a few of the plays and noticed he had a pick-six dropped from Washington.

Personally, I believe the offense would be even better with Locker at the helm. He faced some tough defenses earlier in the year and the offense has seemingly grown as the year has gone on with so many new pieces (Warmack, Levitre, Schwenke, Walker, Hunter).

I don't think it's as black and white as we can do this with Fitzpatrick but not with Locker, so what is wrong with Locker? Not saying you were implying that, just think there's a lot to it.

Tom Gower: I need to sit down and really collect my thoughts on Locker, but I haven't seen enough quality out of him and no really good games. He did two things reasonably well this year, avoid interceptions (before he got hurt) and score touchdowns in the red zone. Those are valuable things, but there are also all those drives that don't end up in the red zone.

Cian Fahey: I'm by no means saying he's a superstar, but I was very impressed with him early on. I do note that I was very impressed with him as a fit in the offense rather than him carrying the offense.

Rivers McCown: My rough draft of Locker's player comment at this point would read something like "Can make all the throws -- often won't." I feel like Tennessee's offense is way too structured with him, to the point where it felt like 40-50 percent of his completions in good games were curl routes. I'm more in the pessimist's camp with him, I believe, because that lack of consistent underneath accuracy is something I consider a killer in quarterbacks now. Let Locker play streetball, run play-action, and hurry-up, and I think he'd be a real load to deal with. I don't think Tennessee is bold enough to do that.

New Orleans Saints 16 at St. Louis Rams 27


@RavenBerns: I know Graham is good, but Brees just threw it into triple coverage for that INT. not sure what he was thinking.
@GDFar: Saints so far: Force punt, pick, two hand touch gives up a TD, pick, 30 penalty yds next drive
@GDFar: I'll be shocked if the Saints don't spend 2 picks on OTs this draft.
@nath_pn_fire: Saints haven't used high picks on OL in Payton era. They like coaching up small-school guys & took Armstead 3rd round last yr. They definitely need to hope Armstead is ready & find another guy though, Strief has begun to slip & Brown was always shaky.
Vince Verhei: Rob Ryan tugging up his trousers while jogging off field pretty much summarizes New Orleans' game so far.
Andrew Potter: Quinn strip sack of Brees was awesome. Didn't knock the ball out so much as simply take it out of Brees' hand.
@RavenBerns: And with the 26th pick in the 2014 NFL draft, the New Orleans Saints select [best kicker available].

Cincinnati Bengals 20 at Pittsburgh Steelers 30


Scott Kacsmar: So the Steelers wait until they're 5-8 to have their best start to a game this season.
Aaron Schatz: Yes, it's a bummer that PIT is down to its third center, but do you know who else is down to their third center? Denver.
@nath_on_fire I don't understand NFL coaches. So 4th and 3 from opp. 37 is a punt but 4th and 4 from 34 is a go for it? Is the 35 a magical line?
Cian Fahey: Al Woods was a popular player for the Steelers during preseason and camp. Done little to this point, but showing up now
Andrew Potter: Kevin Huber questionable with a "dental" injury. That would be Belichickese for a broken jaw.
@nath_on_fire: That's gonna be overturned, but I was really hoping Marvin would go for it there. Would have been a perfect situation even in the early game: Down 21-0, near midfield, 1 yard to go, punter is dead. In fact, the more interesting question to me is how much merit there is to going for it even w/o the catch, even at 4th and 17.
@blotzphoto: This performance merely underscores how important home field is to the Bengals
Rob Weintraub: That glorious feeling of getting off a plane and discovering your team is down three tds in the 1st quarter to its hated rival.
Aaron Schatz: Do the Bengals realize they are losing by 3 TDs and have no punter?
@Mercurius100: Starting in 2014, once per game teams can poll the crowd on if a call should be reversed. $1.99 per text.
Cian Fahey: Cam Heyward is really showing up well this year. Jarvis Jones has also looked good during this game.
Cian Fahey: Tyler Eifert on Ryan Clark is a mismatch. Also, tight ends on Ryan Clark are mismatches...wide receivers, running backs too actually


Scott Kacsmar: Well that was unexpectedly uncompetitive. I thought the New England loss would give Cincinnati an extra boost, but the Bengals were flat and the Steelers took control early. It was definitely cold here in Pittsburgh tonight, but nothing that both teams shouldn't be used to. The Steelers just looked sharper and Ben Roethlisberger had a good game outside of that deep ball the wind had no problem turning into an interception. There was really nothing going on with either ground game, but special teams were a big factor. Bengals botched a punt to give the Steelers a 1-yard touchdown drive -- guess that was worse for them than giving up the safety and extra possession -- and of course Antonio Brown taking one back 67 yards for a touchdown was big.

After that point it just didn't feel like much of a game, but Bengals made some plays to get to 30-20. I don't know how Ike Taylor can get that fooled on fourth-and-5 and leave Marvin Jones that wide open for a touchdown, but that's the kind of season it's been for him. Fortunately Jarvis Jones knocked down that two-point attempt to keep it a two-score game and the Steelers had enough points on the board this time for the ending to be irrelevant.

I'm not sure anyone wants this AFC. The fact that scenarios exist where Cincinnati can miss the playoffs altogether is very interesting.

Tom Gower: The Bengals are also still alive for home field advantage throughout the postseason. What a mess the AFC is.

Rivers McCown: I think we're all excited for the second-seeded Indianapolis Colts, right? We would've been seven weeks ago! Why are you all turning your televisions off?


143 comments, Last at 18 Dec 2013, 2:00am

#1 by bucko (not verified) // Dec 16, 2013 - 9:11am

It helped that inside the 20 the Cowboys would repeatedly misfire leading to field goals instead of touchdowns. It helped that Bhaktari didn't have to deal with anyone bullrushing so keeping Ware away from Flynn was easier than what he experienced the last few games. It helped that Jordy Nelson is awesome. It helped that Flynn remembered Boykin is on the field. It helped that the pass rush showed up a few times in the second half. It helped that GB told Raji to take a seat more often and let Josh Boyd clog the middle. And it helped that Dallas made a string of really weird choices. But mostly it helped that Shields and Williams have great hands. That helped a LOT.

Points: 0

#2 by DA (not verified) // Dec 16, 2013 - 9:22am

-It is amazing how bad NO is on the road. Them being dominated was a little surprising but an STL win was definitely far from surprising.

-Minn has been playing decently lately. PHI is still pretty fraudulent, especially on D. I think if Rodgers was healthy vs them GB would have hung 40+

-Not sure what took me longer to read, the NE/MIA comments or the comments from all other games combined

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#56 by Mr. Obvious (not verified) // Dec 16, 2013 - 12:22pm's a Pats-pro site in full NFL fandom clothing...get with the program.

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#64 by The Ancient Mariner (not verified) // Dec 16, 2013 - 12:45pm

Funny then how most of the commentary was about the Dolphins . . .

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#78 by Hurt Bones // Dec 16, 2013 - 1:21pm

I know. It's not even worth responding. They're just trolls. They never understand. You can't explain that Aaron is (I think) the only guy who is really a Pats fan writing for FO, that he doesn't take fandom into consideration when he hires people. I'm guessing the Steelers have the most fans among current FO writers, but they are a pretty diverse group. You can't explain that the game was on TV in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Detroit, Green Bay, Tennessee, St. Louis, Baltimore, New Orleans, Dallas, Denver, Phoenix and Los Angeles besides New England and South Florida. So a lot of people saw it and therefore commented on it. Sigh.

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#3 by stephenbawesome // Dec 16, 2013 - 9:27am

Regarding the Eagles game...

The Eagles decided to play keep away from Cordarrelle Patterson on kick-offs, and either did squib or pop-up kick-offs the entire game. Minnesota was starting most drives around the 40 yard line.

And that doesn't count the failed fourth down attempt from the Eagles inside their own 30.

I wouldn't necessarily argue with the attempt from the Eagles, but I wasn't a fan of the specific play. It required McCoy to move more laterally with the hand-off than just exploding straight-forward for the foot-or-so they needed.

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#12 by jimm (not verified) // Dec 16, 2013 - 9:44am

going for it 4 and 1 at your own 25 and avoiding kicking deep the whole game don't seem to go together. One is something you associate with a forward thinking aggressive coach and the other with a conservative scared to take a chance coach.

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#4 by jimm (not verified) // Dec 16, 2013 - 9:33am

The Vikings had an actual NFL offence yesterday largely because they were down to their 3rd string RB and decided they needed to be a pass first offence. As well, they had a QB that can actual throw the ball inside of 4 seconds.

Cassel was very good. I saw some notes above about wide open receivers, which was true sometimes, but Cassel made some really excellent and accurate throws. The one on the first Jennings TD was truly excellent QB play.

I think watching several games of Cassel now I have come to realize just how horrible Christian Ponder is. Cassel is averaging almost a yard per attempt more than Ponder. Ponder has been sacked over 10% of the time vs 4.4% for Cassel. Cassel lacks the kind of accuracy you need to be a really good NFL QB but he's far better than Ponder.

As bad as the Viking defence has been, it seems to me that Ponder has cost the Vikings a competitive season. But beyond Ponder, I think the Vikings strategy of a run first offence dooms them any real success.

Points: 0

#7 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Dec 16, 2013 - 9:39am

The Vikings suddenly looking competent has me really worried. It looks like the Lions must win out now to secure the division, and of their three remaining games, week 17 at Minnesota seems the most difficult.

(Of course missing the playoffs and having the current coaching staff fired wouldn't be the worst thing in the world)

Points: 0

#17 by jimm (not verified) // Dec 16, 2013 - 9:54am

I only watch the Lions about 4-5 times a year, but my sense is that they are extremely talented but play stupid and have for some years now.

I would only worry about that last game if the Vikings stay with the pass first strategy they used yesterday. I think if Peterson or Gerhart are healthy and they go back to their pound in into the pile on first and second down game plan then the Lions should do fine.

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#33 by Will Allen // Dec 16, 2013 - 10:34am

After Cassell's first start, it was obvious to me that he was there best option; he at least throws the ball downfield with some authority. I wish I had taped conversations between Frazier, Musgrave, Spielman, and the owner, so I could have some sense of who holds the majority of the blame that Cassell didn't win the job in preseason, or, permanently, after the Steelers game.

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#114 by Crack (not verified) // Dec 16, 2013 - 4:14pm

This. What's the point of building for the future when AP is over? Why not play out this season with the best option?

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#5 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Dec 16, 2013 - 9:36am

Lesson of the day: Matt Flynn can take advantage of really bad defenses.

-New England in 2010 was 21st by DVOA
-Detroit in 2011 was top 10 by DVOA most of the year, but because of injuries were starting a secondary that even the 2012 Saints can laugh at.
-We all know about Dallas this year.

Points: 0

#8 by TomC // Dec 16, 2013 - 9:40am

Having just lived through this type of joy as a Bears fan, I am curious: Is there going to be a healthy, "hot-handed" Matt Flynn vs. maybe-still-gimpy, rusty Aaron Rodgers QB controversy in GB? I hope not, but you just never know.

Points: 0

#13 by bucko (not verified) // Dec 16, 2013 - 9:44am

Ted Thompson doesn't pay any attention to anyone's opinion save for his own. So, no.

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#14 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Dec 16, 2013 - 9:46am

I usually give Packers fans credit for being smarter than fans of larger media markets (higher population tends to dilute football intelligence), but nothing would surprise me these days.

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#24 by dank067 // Dec 16, 2013 - 10:19am

If not for Thanksgiving maybe there would be some grumbling here and there about how Flynn was "just getting it done," but regardless of how much of that game was his fault, it worked to magnify all of his flaws for everyone to see.

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#69 by Sakic (not verified) // Dec 16, 2013 - 1:00pm

I think what Flynn has shown with the Packers this year is that he is a slightly above average backup quarterback that can come in and keep your team in the game and pull out the occasional win. He's a guy who can read a defense and make the short to intermediate throws but lacks a strong enough arm to really be somebody you are scared of.

Prior to this year Rodgers was pretty durable so Flynn's best move would be to re-sign with the Packers for backup money and have a nice little career backing up Rodgers (ala Jim Sorgi backing up Peyton Manning in Indy all those years) because it's obvious he's played better in McCarthy's system then anywhere else.

Points: 0

#101 by dank067 // Dec 16, 2013 - 2:49pm

For sure. And, fingers crossed, McCarthy and Thompson have learned that backup quarterback is actually a position of some importance. Your starting QB doesn't even have to go down for 7-8 games like this year for it to blow up in your face. Just last year Graham Harrell had to come in for one play against New Orleans and tripped over an O-Lineman's foot and fumbled the ball away at the 5 yard line, which nearly cost them the game... ugh.

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#104 by Will Allen // Dec 16, 2013 - 3:01pm

Clearly, what the Packers should do going forward is get a backup who can ponder his role within the proper context. I think I have somebody in mind.........

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#107 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Dec 16, 2013 - 3:26pm

Nice try Will, trying to "McNabb" your former starter to a division rival. Unfortunately Mike Shanahan doesn't coach the Packers.

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#40 by justanothersteve // Dec 16, 2013 - 10:49am

There is no QB controversy in GB. I also don't think Rodgers will be rusty. He's already taken some snaps during practice the last couple weeks. When he returns, he probably will be healthier than he was pre-clavicle injury, just because the rest of the typical bruises and wear-and-tear will have also healed.

Even so, unless Detroit and Chicago both fall apart (still possible), I don't expect the Packers to play this post-season. They could be the only team that has a chance to win in Seattle though. (Caveat: I don't expect any team to beat Seattle in Seattle. Just saying I think a Rodgers-led Packers could keep the game close enough for a chance at an upset.)

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#57 by TomC // Dec 16, 2013 - 12:26pm

I am rooting strongly for the Bears & Packers to win next week and for Detroit to lose at least one game (sorry, JHP and other Lions fans), because Packers vs. Bears for the division crown in Soldier Field on 12/29, with Rodgers and Cutler and Briggs all back from injuries, would be a heck of a lot of fun.

As a pessimistic Bears fan, I think the least likely part of that scenario is Chicago winning in Philly next Sunday night, but I think the combined probability of CHI over PHI, GB over PIT, and DET losing to either BAL or NYG is at least 10%. And I suppose that DET doesn't actually have to lose for the GB/CHI game to be interesting, because the Lions will be playing the Vikings at the same time, so probability of the GB-CHI game being interesting for both teams is closer to 25%.

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#74 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Dec 16, 2013 - 1:09pm

Hey no need to apologize. I actually think a meaningful Packers-Bears game is good for football. And the only reason I'm rooting for the Lions to earn the honor of getting waxed by SF or CAR, is that history suggests there's at least a 50/50 chance the Ford family won't fire Schwartz and co. if they miss the playoffs. I would rather have a tiny sliver of hope for an extra week, and delay the crushing despair until later.

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#79 by Thomas_beardown // Dec 16, 2013 - 1:23pm

I think the Bears are a lot more likely to beat the Eagles than the Packers. What's the over/under on Bears-Eagles going to be 60? 70? 80?

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#110 by Roch Bear // Dec 16, 2013 - 3:50pm

Yeah, 70 sounds right. But if Briggs is back and Ratliff is the ol' Ratliff and Paea is healthy and Bostic moves on up the learning curve, ... maybe 65.

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#122 by BJR // Dec 16, 2013 - 5:43pm

If Dallas defeats Washington next Sunday afternoon the game becomes close to meaningless for the Eagles. They'll probably at least partially rest some of their starters, which would obviously be a huge break for the Bears.

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#126 by TomC // Dec 16, 2013 - 7:04pm

Very confused by this. Currently Philly is 8-6 and Dallas is 7-7, and they play each other week 17. If Dallas wins next week and Philly loses, they'll both be 8-7 going into a head-to-head week 17 matchup for the division. Even if you mis-typed, and you meant to say "if Washington defeats Dallas", the yahoo playoff scenario generator tells me that, even if Dallas loses next week they win the division with a week 17 win, if Philly loses to the Bears.

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#127 by Thomas_beardown // Dec 16, 2013 - 7:09pm

If Dallas wins, Philly has to beat Dallas to win the division. If Dallas loses, Philly can beat either Chicago or Dallas to win the division.

So if Dallas wins, the game becomes meaningless.

If I understood the logic correctly.

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#139 by BJR // Dec 17, 2013 - 11:47am

Right. If Dallas wins early next Sunday they are 8-7. It then makes no difference whether Philly are 8-7 or 9-6 after Sunday night: they still finish behind Dallas with a loss in week 17 because of tie-breakers.

Word is Kelly has said he won't rest any starters. It's a tough one for him, being a rookie head coach and it being a home game. I would imagine there will be many unhappy fans (and an unhappy network) if he trots out the second stringers. But he would surely be doing the teams chances of beating Dallas a favor by resting some key guys.

I'm pretty sure there was a similar scenario in the NFC East a couple of years ago when, I think, the Cowboys rested starters in a 'meaningless' week 16 game. Maybe somebody can help me out here?

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#140 by Andrew Potter // Dec 17, 2013 - 12:00pm

Philadelphia at Dallas. If the Giants won against the Jets, the result of the Eagles-Cowboys game didn't matter as Dallas would advance either way with a win in Week 17. The Giants game hadn't finished when the Cowboys game started, so the starters played half of the first quarter, but when the news of the Giants win came through the Cowboys withdrew their starters.

They went on to lose in New York in Week 17.

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#42 by Arkaein // Dec 16, 2013 - 10:59am

Doubtful. Rodgers has been able to practice some the past couple of weeks, and it was only the results of the scans of his collarbone that has prevented him from playing. Assuming he is healthy for next week, he'll have had a decent amount of practice before playing next weekend.

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#89 by Jay Z (not verified) // Dec 16, 2013 - 1:46pm

If you watched the first half, Flynn was terrible. He has tendencies to be slow to react and hold onto the ball even with the Packers.

When he is right (reacting faster) and the opposing defense isn't very good, he knows where to go with the ball. But not a lot of athletic ability, so any situation where he doesn't have an advantage from knowing the offense will make him look bad. Which is why he didn't stick anywhere else.

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#6 by TomC // Dec 16, 2013 - 9:38am

I get into pretty heated arguments with people I normally consider to be rational, decent humans over this issue, so maybe it's me. But I really hate plays like the Garvin hit on Huber. I think that if you catch an opponent with his head down or not looking where he should be looking, such that a simple shoulder to the chest would take him completely out of the play, and instead you attempt to terminate with extreme prejudice, you are a bad person. This is regardless of the legality of the hit, though in last night's case, I also can't understand why the hit was legal. (Are you really allowed to launch with the crown of your helmet towards your opponent's jaw, even when blocking?)

Also: when did Collinsworth turn into Don Cherry? His chuckling about the hit ("Huber needs to have his head on a swivel there") and commenting approvingly that the Steelers were "beating the Bengals up" made me ill.

Points: 0

#23 by DRohan // Dec 16, 2013 - 10:16am

I wouldn't call it dirty because it is legal. Just the same, I don't like it. I compare it to collisions at home plate in baseball. It's always been legal (until next year), but I can't understand why.

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#39 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Dec 16, 2013 - 10:46am

I don't think leading with the crown of your helmet with the intent of contacting the other player's head is legal. I know we can't know for certain whether he intended to do that or not, but it sure looked like it.

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#119 by DRohan // Dec 16, 2013 - 4:53pm

I think we're closer to agreement on this than disagreement, but I want to be a little more precise here. The crown of your head is the top, not your forehead or even the facemask, which I believe is more accurate in this case. Therefore, I don't think this was illegal, but I don't like it just the same. The helmet shouldn't be used as a weapon, crown or otherwise.

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#66 by The Ancient Mariner (not verified) // Dec 16, 2013 - 12:49pm

Actually, iirc, home plate collisions in baseball haven't been legal in decades -- maybe over a century; the interference rules don't exempt home plate. Umps just haven't been calling those rules at home plate for a long time.

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#91 by Eddo // Dec 16, 2013 - 1:59pm

You are actually incorrect; the league is currently attempting to push through a rule change making collisions illegal.

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#96 by bucko (not verified) // Dec 16, 2013 - 2:21pm

Both of you are correct. The original rule wording stated that catchers could not block the plate without the ball. Over time catchers planted themselves in front of the plate sans the baseball and then would fend runners off the plate until the ball arrived. This practice really gained traction in the late 70's and early 80's.

Baseball now is being explicit in banning home plate collisions which suggest it was the runner who was the genesis for the change which is not the case. The original sinner here were catchers. The current manager of the Angels was one of the most egregious offenders in his day.

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#118 by DRohan // Dec 16, 2013 - 4:48pm

Yeah, that's correct. It was not legal according to the rules, but legal in practice. That has bothered me for years.

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#136 by td (not verified) // Dec 17, 2013 - 5:40am

Bill James wrote about this in the Historical Baseball Abstract- rules that are on the books but not enforced, and this rule specifically. It was an interesting read

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#28 by Led // Dec 16, 2013 - 10:30am

I'll agree with this, but only because it was the punter. I'd also be ok with a general rule that you can't lead with your head or make contact with the head on an open field block -- similar rules as apply to DBs hitting receivers. But I can't agree in general that it's dirty to hit a guy when he's not looking because it would be much easier to cover kicks if you could run down with the field "with blinders on" (as my old HS coach used to say) instead of having to pay attention to what's going on.

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#51 by TomC // Dec 16, 2013 - 12:08pm

Led: Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying you shouldn't make that hit; I'm just saying you shouldn't go for a kill shot, even if that kill shot would be legal.

steve (comment #38 below this): Yes, that's definitely the #1 other one I had in mind. DL vs. OL on an interception seems to be a popular version of this, in part at least because D-linemen get cheap-shotted by O-linemen all the time and see that as their opportunity to get even. Jared Allen ended Lance Louis's season (and possibly his career) two years ago in a similar situation.

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#80 by Bobman // Dec 16, 2013 - 1:25pm

Years ago when Warren Sapp more or less legally ended Chad Clifton's season, no less an eminence than Dr. Z himself came out in SI to excoriate Sapp and the officials. Z said back in his day they called it "crippling the dummy." Ick.

On the flip-side, I saw this during film study for my 12 year-old's team last year and pointed it out to his coach--the other team was head-hunting our best player away from the play and crushing him because he had his eyes on the play 20 yards away. Just got flatted from the side by a guy running full-bore for just that purpose. (no injury) "Coach, that can't be legal, can it?" "Bob, it is and I was pissed at Stu for that. He has to be more aware in those situations." The coach played college ball at Oregon (so I'll assume he knows what he's doing) and he's taking about a 12 year-old. I suppose if it holds for kids, grown-ups need to be more aware as well.

The ferocity of the impact, and the gratuitous use of helmet are what I have problems with. Hell, he was a punter--a good fart should have taken him out.

Points: 0

#88 by Andrew Potter // Dec 16, 2013 - 1:45pm

That hit wasn't legal:

Punters and kickers at all times fall under the definition of defenseless players, meaning kill shots like that are not permitted against them.

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#116 by LordChozo (not verified) // Dec 16, 2013 - 4:38pm

Totally agree. I think we've seen an awful lot of bonus home field advantage from the officials this season across the board. I know home/road splits are more severe than usual, and I think at least some of that is attributable to home crowd bias from the officials. People like to talk conspiracies for or against certain teams, and the data never really bears that out, but I think it would bear out this.

Unfortunately, the Bengals (who were on the plus end of some terrible home crowd officiating last week with the BJGE score reversal) were the victims of what appeared to be a very pro-home game last night from the officials:

-Twice in the first few drives Bengals receivers were pretty clearly interfered with (Polamalu mauled a guy on the second play from scrimmage for the Bengals), and neither was called.
-The Garvin no-call was obviously the most egregious; not only was it the very common sense definition of unnecessary roughness, but calling it properly would have at the very least wiped out a Steelers score, and who knows what the Bengals do with that drive from then on?
-Antonio Brown jacking guys in the back on punts. Never called.
-The Cedric Peerman "I got this one, Brandon" fair catch. Not sure I've ever seen a single finger point called as a fair catch, and not sure I've ever seen someone signal fair catch at the 8 on a kickoff either.
-The Reggie Nelson taunting penalty that apparently consisted of some mutual jawing with an OL, with no contact and no "in your face" element.
-No call on the hit against Dalton during his slide (which I agreed with in principle, except that it's been called consistently in every other game I've seen this year).

With all the above, I'm surprised AJ Green even tried to argue pass interference on the 4th down heave, since that was the most "judgmenty" of them all for the evening.

Points: 0

#128 by young curmudgeon // Dec 16, 2013 - 7:16pm

The "dirty little secret" about football--it is a violent, brutal game, played by men of considerable size and agility at a high speed. Things that would horrify us if they took place in our front yards earn cheers when they occur on the football field. One of the things that originally helped the NFL become the preeminent sport in America was a TV documentary in 1960 called "The Violent World of Sam Huff," narrated by Walter Cronkite (!) "Big hits" are glorified; running backs are praised for being "punishing;" players are fondly nicknamed things like Beast, Nightmare, Hammer, Assassin.

I don't know if the block was legal, dirty, or borderline. But no one should be surprised when things like this happen.

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#132 by dbostedo // Dec 16, 2013 - 10:46pm

I think that the fair catch was a pretty clear call. I don't know what Peerman was actually trying to do, but what he did was make a quick wave of his hand above his head, then catch the ball. That's a fair catch, accidental or not.

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#138 by Anonymouse (not verified) // Dec 17, 2013 - 9:40am

I watched about four minutes of the game, and the part I did see was ther personal foul call on Nelson. Awful, awful call. Reminded me of the NBA when I used to watch it, when guys were getting technical fouls for looking askance at the refs.

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#129 by Juvenal (not verified) // Dec 16, 2013 - 7:31pm

I agree 100%. I never understood the "hurting people is cool" line of thought after I was about 17. I might expect the payers to occasionally fall prey to it, particularly the young ones, but the commentators and coaches? Then again most professional athletes/coaches I have known have a lot of psychological issues that shade into sociopathy at times, so maybe it isn't that surprising.

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#9 by td (not verified) // Dec 16, 2013 - 9:41am

not sure that Seattle's offense is better than avg away from the Clink, so I'm not sure I buy their 'prohibitive favorite' status

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#16 by CBPodge // Dec 16, 2013 - 9:50am

They're pretty much guaranteed to not have to play away from the Clink until the Super Bowl though. The NFC is theirs to lose at this point. The Super Bowl is another question entirely, but they've got to be seen as the favourite, simply because they are the only team in the league that you feel like you can probably start booking their hotels there now.

Obviously they'll fall apart somehow or other, because this is Seattle. They don't go in for winning things.

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#21 by The Ancient Mariner (not verified) // Dec 16, 2013 - 10:10am

Oops--your post wasn't on my screen when I started typing . . . sorry about the duplication.

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#48 by bravehoptoad // Dec 16, 2013 - 11:35am

It is weird how having such a big homefield advantage means such small things make a big difference. Last year the 49ers got the division, homefield, and a first-round bye by virtue of 1/2 a game. If they had to play in Seattle last year, the way Seattle was playing, there's no way they make the Superbowl. This year SF lost to NO and Carolina by a total of 4 points, and those are the difference in the season vs. Seattle, while Seattle has won two games in OT, and those slim margins are what's putting Seattle at home for the playoffs, and what's making them such a big favorite.

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#49 by Will Allen // Dec 16, 2013 - 11:53am

In 2009, the Vikings missed an extra point at the end of the 4th quarter of week 16, lost the game in overtime, and that may well have been the difference between getting HOA for the conference championship game. I think it is very doubtful that they would have lost the game in the Metrodome, since they lost in ot in the Superdome, after physically kicking the hell out of the Saints on the line of scrimmage.

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#55 by dmstorm22 // Dec 16, 2013 - 12:22pm

The miss was early in the 3rd quarter (cut the Bears lead to 16-6 instead of 16-7), also if they win that game and go 13-3, the Saints don't rest everyone Week 17 in Carolina. The Panthers played well late in that season so they may have upset the Saints, but it's not a definite that the XP cost the Vikings the #1 seed.

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#62 by Will Allen // Dec 16, 2013 - 12:43pm

Yeah, it was half way through the third, and there's a reason I didn't say it was definite.

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#65 by dmstorm22 // Dec 16, 2013 - 12:46pm

Yeah, you definitely couched what you wrote better than I thought at first. All I'm saying is that the difference between the #1 seed and the #2 seed for Minnesota wasn't just what followed the XP in their game, but the Saints having to lose to Carolina.

Also, if the Eagles beat Dallas in Week 17 that year, I believe they would have been the #2 seed. That was a crazy game for the Eagles, as a win gave them the #2 seed, but a loss gave them the #6 seed and another game against Dallas.

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#68 by The Ancient Mariner (not verified) // Dec 16, 2013 - 12:51pm

Assuming Seattle had home field advantage over Atlanta, anyway . . .

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#105 by mehllageman56 (not verified) // Dec 16, 2013 - 3:08pm

Considering that Paul Allen's other team, the Portland Trailblazers is leading the western conference in the ... I'll stop jinxing my teams now.

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#20 by The Ancient Mariner (not verified) // Dec 16, 2013 - 10:09am

Well, at this point, it looks like good odds that they won't have another game away from the CLink until potentially one in February, so your point really doesn't apply anymore.

Of course, if they manage to lose two straight home games, everything changes.

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#11 by bucko (not verified) // Dec 16, 2013 - 9:42am

The Browns had multiple chances to take that game yesterday but a combination of Campbell's bad passes at inopportune moments, bad drops by his receivers, no pass rush, and a curious refusal to run the ball helped Chicago immensely.

Is it my imagination or does Jeffery look about a foot taller than anyone on the field? It's like some weird optical illusion where you know he isn't but he sure SEEMS like he's 7'3" with the wingspan of 10'

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#15 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Dec 16, 2013 - 9:50am

That TD catch to tie the game was incredible. The Bears got more of steal with him than the Browns did with Gordon.

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#18 by TomC // Dec 16, 2013 - 10:04am

That play was amazing, but up to that point, Jeffery had done nothing positive and lots negative. In particular he committed two penalties that led to a potential 14-point swing (he false-started on 4th and inches at the Browns' 25---though Brian Billick thought it was a bad call---and the Bears ended up punting after another penalty on the FG attempt, then he wiped out a long run with an illegal shift, and on the next play Cleveland stripped M. Bennett and returned it for a TD). He had also lost yardage on the obligatory end-around, which hasn't fooled anyone for at least a month.

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#81 by Thomas_beardown // Dec 16, 2013 - 1:26pm

Was he doing nothing positive because he wasn't playing well or because Cutler couldn't look away from Marshal in the first half?

Also, the end-arounds might not have been fooling people, but they were still getting positive yards.

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#142 by Duke // Dec 18, 2013 - 1:53am

*EDIT* Hrm, shoulda read Tuluse's other reply first

I think the end-arounds help because they actually run that action on some of their regular runs too. I know I saw at least one Forte run later where the backside DE specifically didn't crash in pursuit because Jeffery was coming around on the fake end around.

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#95 by Steve in WI // Dec 16, 2013 - 2:16pm

I actually viewed the false start on the 4th down as a positive, since it led Trestman to try the field goal rather than run a failed 4th down play like he typically does on 4th and short. Too bad about the other penalty after that, of course, that wiped out 3 points.

I also don't blame the end-around failures on Jeffery since as pretty much everyone has said, that play doesn't fool anyone anymore and it's lucky if it gains a couple of yards. Trestman may be an offensive genius in terms of getting the most out of his players and installing an offense, but I have serious concerns about the way plays are called during the game (I don't know how much is Cromer and how much is Trestman, to be fair) and the end-arounds are an example of it.

Anyway, in general I'm ecstatic about how Jeffery has improved in his second year. If the Bears can keep both him and Marshall healthy and happy, it's going to be very fun to watch them for the next few years.

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#99 by Thomas_beardown // Dec 16, 2013 - 2:37pm

You guys are crazy. Jeffery currently has a 27.9% rushing DVOA.

Also, the used a fake-around toss later in the game where Forte converted a 3rd and 9.

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#102 by Jimmy // Dec 16, 2013 - 2:57pm

Agreed, it is part of the misdirection package, you can't just throw it out unless you want defenders to be able to key on the running back more. It isn't just other runs, they have thrown some nifty passes following Jeffery fakes.

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#19 by Jimmy // Dec 16, 2013 - 10:06am

He has some of the best hands I have ever seen on a WR to go with great body control and concentration. If he had stayed off the fast food his senior year (and had even semi-competent QB play) he would have been a top ten pick. Yay for cheeseburgers!

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#25 by Will Allen // Dec 16, 2013 - 10:22am

Nothing turns a qb into a Pro Bowler faster than a receiver who just goes up and catches the ball, no matter the coverage.

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#29 by TomC // Dec 16, 2013 - 10:30am

In one of Cutler's first games as a Bear, he threw a pick on a deep ball intended for Hester and, when asked about it, admitted he shouldn't have thrown it, at least in part because "Devin isn't a go-up-and-get-it guy." He got lambasted in the media for throwing his #1 receiver under the bus and not being a team player. Welcome to Prehistoric Football City, Jay!

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#22 by DEW (not verified) // Dec 16, 2013 - 10:12am

Redskins: Score touchdown on thrilling last-second drive. Eschew tying extra point to go for two and the win. Fail to convert and lose game.

Titans: Score touchdown on thrilling last-second drive. Kick XP to tie game. Lose in OT.

I think the lesson there is that in close game situations, the better team is more likely to win the game.

That said, I'm actually kind of with both coaches' decisions for their teams. I think the Redskins are more likely to have one successful play against the Atlanta defense then they are to not do something stupid or have a defense meltdown in OT, and I think the Titans offense is more likely to fail on a single short-yardage play against the Arizona defense. But I really don't understand why teams keep choosing to receive the initial kickoff in overtime, unless they're Dallas or Atlanta (in which preventing a game-winning initial TD drive is the less likely outcome) or they're playing the Saints in New Orleans or Denver anywhere. Or they have Washington's kickoff coverage team.

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#26 by DRohan // Dec 16, 2013 - 10:23am

I agree with Washington going for it there. But I don't know how these results "prove" anything. When something happens people often react as if it was an inevitable event. Especially when it comes to single plays, like with the 2-pt conversion attempt, it's about probability.

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#35 by Will Allen // Dec 16, 2013 - 10:36am

What happened in the Vikings game was that the Eagles aren't good on defense, along with the Vikings for the first time since Moss left, other than 2009, being competent at wide receiver, and Matt Cassell, unlike The Ponderous One, not looking like he is apologizing when he throws the ball downfield. I'll say it again; if the Vikings had started Cassell every game, they'd have a very good chance to be playing for the division title in their last game with the Lions. Yes, I know that says a lot, none of it good, about the division with Aaron Rodgers hurt.

I've defended Romo a lot over the past few years, but his issues yesterday went a lot deeper than the fourth quarter, no matter the numbers. His mechanics were awful, even when he was safe in the pocket, and it caused his deep passes in particular to be bad, resulting in misses that should have been completions, and long completions that should have been touchdowns. I think he needs to be coached harder, but it probably won't happen, even if Garrett is gone, given the idiot owner.

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#44 by Hurt Bones // Dec 16, 2013 - 11:11am

Kelly didn't help his team either with some very strange coaching decisions, including McCoy only getting 8 rushes when he had 261 rushing attempts going into the game.

The Eagles defense isn't that good, but we're not talking Dallas or Atlanta bad. The Vikings looked like a good NFL offense with a competent QB and some explosive WR talent. Will, I'm sorry for you that it took until Week 15 to occur.

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#54 by Kyle D. (not verified) // Dec 16, 2013 - 12:15pm

Kelly is still finding his way. Sometimes he almost seems to be contrarian just for the sake of being contrarian. He has shown some signs of being willing to adjust, so I think there's still a chance he'll turn out to be pretty good. (Early in the year he admitted they needed to learn to run some clock when ahead, for example.)

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#27 by spujr // Dec 16, 2013 - 10:26am

"A good team will be 3-4 or, more likely, 4-3. A bad team will be 4-3 or, more likely, 3-4. "Fortunate" would be going 5-2. "Ridiculously lucky" would be going 6-1."

A good team would not allow 7 close games in a row.

I think Week 15 should be categorized as an outlier and dropped from the general analysis. I mean really, San Diego defense? Just a weird week for all the AFC teams.

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#30 by AnonymousAtl (not verified) // Dec 16, 2013 - 10:31am

Their is no QB debate in Chicago anymore. Had the bears lost, yes, it would have been a big debate.
Cutler did what he has done all year--mr. 4th quarter.
People want to say their is a debate because they don't like cutler. But it's over. Deal with it.

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#31 by bernie (not verified) // Dec 16, 2013 - 10:31am

My favourite moment of commentary from the weekend - During the Colts - Texans game, Gosder Cherilus was flagged for unnecessary roughness, where in a pile around the ball carrier, he gave JJ Watt a couple of uppercuts to the stomach. Commentator Kevin Harlan suggested, maybe we should give him the benefit of the doubt, because "maybe He was just trying to punch the ball loose".
Yes, O-lineman was making a solid attempt TO FORCE A FUMBLE FROM HIS OWN RUNNER.
And he said it multiple times. How the hell do they find these guys?

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#72 by Sakic (not verified) // Dec 16, 2013 - 1:04pm

In Harlan's case, he was found in Green Bay as the son of long time Packer president Bob Harlan.

Kevin Harlan is usually a pretty solid play-by-play guy so that's kind of unusual for him.

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#75 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Dec 16, 2013 - 1:12pm

Call it the tallest midget syndrome if you want, but I always thought Harlan is one of the better play-by-play guys for Sunday games. I'm still hoping for Fox to come to its senses and let Gus Johnson call NFL games again.

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#84 by Bobman // Dec 16, 2013 - 1:38pm

He heard Watt coughing, assumed he was choking on his mouthpiece, and was attempting a pugilistic Heimlich?

Yikes, when I put it that way, knocking the ball loose sounds almost right.

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#32 by MilkmanDanimal // Dec 16, 2013 - 10:32am

For about the first half, I think SF's offensive line was asleep. Loads of pressure, multiple defenders running free at the QB, and Kaepernick would just sidestep and take off for a first down. It felt like SF converted about five 3rd and 10+ plays either through Kaepernick scrambles or just him using his legs to get enough time to get the ball down the field. Tampa's tackling was simply abysmal, and they simply couldn't drag down the ball carrier. Outside of that utterly hilarious fumble on the attempted reverse on the kickoff return near the end of the game when it was probably out of reach anyways there really weren't many mistakes, but wow, did the tackling suck.

Mike Glennon has clearly been better than pretty much everybody expected, but he has serious problems handling pressure. Still takes his long sacks, and his brain appears to lock up when he has little time to throw and his primary read is covered.

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#43 by bravehoptoad // Dec 16, 2013 - 11:10am

I was expecting to be way more impressed with Tampa Bay's defense, but not so much. It was also really weird how SF's secondary looked kind of like themselves most of the game, except for two drives where they suddenly looked liked the local high-school varsity.

I'm finding it highly irritating that the media is lavishing praise on Eric Reid for intercepting a ball late in the game and, instead of running it in for a TD, dropping to the ground. "What football IQ!" they're all raving.

If he'd been showing real football IQ, he would have remembered it was 4th down and batted the ball away instead of intercepting it.

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#113 by zenbitz // Dec 16, 2013 - 4:13pm

I hated that too. He even tipped it to himself - so plenty of time to consider his options -- I hope the niners' coaches chewed him out, at least.

On the flip side, it changed the Niners WPA from 0.99 to 0.99 so maybe he should just take the money (DBs get paid explicitly or implicitly for INTs).

My only conclusion from the Niners being unable to play against a no-huddle offense is that maybe Glennon is actually really, really good but hamstrung by his coaching. After the end of the 1st half, I was afraid TB was going to come out no-huddle for the entire 2nd half.

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#117 by MilkmanDanimal // Dec 16, 2013 - 4:39pm

Glennon has been consistently quite good when he's not being pressured, and, at the end of the half, San Francisco sat back and let him complete underneath stuff. He seems to have brain misfires when he has to make an instant decision and his hot read is covered, but, sit back, and he can do it all. The TD throw to Tim Wright was just a plain busted coverage; it's not like Wright is Antonio Gates or Tony Gonzalez, but nobody was vaguely near covering him.

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#45 by Zieg (not verified) // Dec 16, 2013 - 11:14am

There's no reason to throw the ball away or take a sack on 4th down down as far as they were. If you throw the ball downfield into triple coverage and its picked off its still *better* than turning it over on downs, and far and away better than a sack. But after that horrible reverse failure on the return I don't think they were any more in the game than the fans leaving the stadium were.

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#34 by The Hypno-Toad // Dec 16, 2013 - 10:36am

After watching most of the top of the afc take the week off, I've started thinking of the race for first round byes as "the battle of who could care less." ...because I'm only capable of processing complex information in terms of nearly 20 year old piano rock.

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#36 by johonny (not verified) // Dec 16, 2013 - 10:41am

Rishard Mathews had great game first coming in for Gibson a few games back. Then teams seemed to clue in on what he does. With Binns, Gibson, Wallace, Hartline, and Mathews it is possible Miami's receiving corp problems are gone next season. The second year TE made some catches today with Clay unable to shake open. Aaron is right Moore was a street pick up and not long for the roster. The Pats like the Steeler gave up on the run too early. Miami's run defense isn't there this year but it is a passing league now... Maimi's special teams are terrible. It is odd because their coach was talked about as in line to get offers for college jobs in the off season. They had been better in the recent past. The total meltdown is a mystery. Miami seems stacked at corner, they keep losing them and young guys keep stepping in and making key plays. I imagine the Pats attacked Miami's injured secondary. Does it last or will Miami's very injured secondary fall apart the next two week? Unlike Aaron I think Miami and Buffalo have talent. If they got consistent top 15 QBing week in and out they'd be a much more interesting competition for the Pats. Will their young QBs step up... none in the past decade have yet so it is hard to be optimistic :)One last thing the Pats look pained. Their senior roster members and coach had bitter beer faces the whole game.

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#50 by Noahrk // Dec 16, 2013 - 12:00pm

The secondary did fall apart. They miraculously held on that last drive, but that's it.

The man with no sig

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#37 by Aaron Schatz // Dec 16, 2013 - 10:41am

I've gone ahead and updated playoff odds through yesterday so people can enjoy seeing the roller-coaster ride of changes from last week, to Friday morning, to today.

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#52 by BigWoody (not verified) // Dec 16, 2013 - 12:10pm

Is this POR update using week 14 weighted DVOA and therefore it will change again on Tuesday? (also due to tonight's results)

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#59 by Perfundle // Dec 16, 2013 - 12:40pm

Looks like it's been updated with this week's result, because the weighted DVOA listed is different from week 14's DVOA.

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#103 by Perfundle // Dec 16, 2013 - 2:59pm

It wasn't a very good win. Their run defense got gashed by a bad running team, and their defense as a whole was uninspiring for most of the game, with only one forced turnover.

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#137 by panthersnbraves // Dec 17, 2013 - 9:03am

I would understand if it was their DVOA that went down. I was referring to the Playoff odds going down.

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#67 by Charles Jake (not verified) // Dec 16, 2013 - 12:49pm

Thanks, but as a Bears fan, I'll wait until after tonight's game.

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#41 by DenverCheeze (not verified) // Dec 16, 2013 - 10:51am

Looking forward to Aaron's analysis on the Green Bay Defensive schemes (offense too) in the second half. They had similar problems in the past where the defense looked horrible, then adjusted and halftime as was suddenly able to make a few plays. It Helped that Dallas didnt run anymore which was completely stupid...but sounds like something McCarthy would do. Packers have the potential on defense to stop teams, I just cont figure out why they are unable to do it regularly.

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#46 by Fish Fan (not verified) // Dec 16, 2013 - 11:21am

Writers, to say the Fins looked average everywhere and not even mention the play of Tannehill in the game is kind of funny. His December has been pretty above average and you give him zero credit (should have given him credit on the pass to Clay that he changed his arm angle on but you trashed that too). And yes Matthews has been making those catches all year since Gibson went down. Marlon Moore made one catch guys so that makes some sense.
And your focus on the Pats injuries as their excuse is again kind of funny when you don't even mention how many guys Miami has out. Let's see Paul Solia left in the first quarter, and two starting o linemen have been out for non injury related reasons since mid season, a starting wide receiver is out, a starting corner is on ir and his back up Stanford is on IR too, and then the two starters at cb now were out on the last 2 drives. And they still beat Tom Brady with a guy they picked up off the practice squad of the Niners.

So you wonder why Philbin doesn't get the accolades of love for putting together a roster with so much tumult. But you keep on preaching about the Pats and injuries and the averageness of the team. Wallace's numbers by the way are consistent with last years. You guys say they need a good possession receiver opposite and don't even mention the stellar play of Hartline. Check out his numbers and consistency. Boy it's frustrating to be a Fins fan and then get the dribble of respect and appreciation that they deserve. Already 2 games above your projections.

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#92 by Bjorn Nittmo // Dec 16, 2013 - 2:05pm

Saying "(Miami) seems really, really average. OK, maybe slightly above average. They feel slightly above average in pretty much every way, at every position, with every player, with a couple of exceptions" is incongruous. A team with above average players at almost every position I would think would translate to a championship-caliber team, unless their few links are truly killing them.

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#106 by mehllageman56 (not verified) // Dec 16, 2013 - 3:14pm

As a Jets fan, I came away with a lot of respect for Tannehill in that game. He kept drilling receivers on stride within tight windows. Not something I see a lot, since Brady doesn't have a cannon anymore, and I mostly watch the Jets. Ugh.

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#109 by theslothook // Dec 16, 2013 - 3:31pm

I agree. Watching that game, I was very impressed with Tannehill. I won't call him a superstar or anything, but I really feel like hes the most underrated player in the nfl right now. I think some people out there believe kirk cousins and josh Mccown are better quarterbacks.

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#47 by schmoker (not verified) // Dec 16, 2013 - 11:31am

I'd love to hear what you guys think about coaches quoting base stats in defense of their teams. Here in Cleveland, Ray Horton comes out every week and points out the Browns ranking in yards allowed, holding it up as the Holy Grail of proof of the Browns defensive greatness. As the Browns have collapsed week after week on defense, listening to it is making me hate Ray Horton. I wonder then, do you think Ray Horton is an idiot or a liar?

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#70 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Dec 16, 2013 - 1:03pm

I watched "Football Life: Houston '93" last week, and what you're saying about Horton reminds me of Kevin Gilbride that year. He was constantly defending his offense pointing out how they were near the top of the NFL in every statistical category (while conveniently ignoring the fact that the offense led the NFL in turnovers), quickly making Houston fans think Gilbride was an idiot.

If only Norv Turner had a more mercurial Buddy Ryan-type personality. I've always loved to speculate about the reaction "The Punch" would get in the Twitter era.

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#112 by EliManningInte… (not verified) // Dec 16, 2013 - 3:51pm

As a Giant fan, I can confirm Kevin "Shotgun Draw" Gilbride is an idiot.

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#123 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Dec 16, 2013 - 5:46pm

Careful...I think Scott Linehan has that nickname trademarked.

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#58 by CoachDave // Dec 16, 2013 - 12:34pm

Oh goody...I was afraid I wasn't going to get to read MORE about the Pats and their injury problems.

BTW, love how you can spend 100 words prattling on about the Pats injuries and how the Phins o-line sucks without acknowledging the fact that two of those Phins o-line starters are out because of easily THE BIGGEST NFL NEWS STORY OF THE ENTIRE SEASON...

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#60 by Perfundle // Dec 16, 2013 - 12:42pm

The results make it clear that those two starters were worse than their backups if you include their effect on team cohesion.

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#63 by Will Allen // Dec 16, 2013 - 12:45pm

I'll be interested to the read the investigation when it is finished, but it certainly seems plausible that removing those two guys has been a net benefit.

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#73 by Noahrk // Dec 16, 2013 - 1:05pm

Oh, but there's no question about it. The protection has been much improved, which has led to Tanny playing better, which has led to a 5-2 record in the last 5 games.

Not that they're stellar or anything now, but they were getting the QB murdered before.

The man with no sig

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#77 by Will Allen // Dec 16, 2013 - 1:18pm

It's amazing how lucky an organization can get. They install a world class meathead on their "leadership council" and he proceeds to set the ship on fire, but does it so blatantly, that they throw him overboard, and thus the fire is put out, and the ship continues on the voyage.

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#82 by Hurt Bones // Dec 16, 2013 - 1:33pm

I not willing to say the Dolphins are cancer free, but their fans can celebrate 7 weeks of remission.

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#86 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Dec 16, 2013 - 1:42pm

Kind of like how the U.S. Army screwed up by installing Lloyd Fredenhall as 2nd Corps commander in Tunisia in 1943. He made such a royal mess of things, that they immediately relieved him of command and replaced him with a fellow by the name of George Patton.

(not implying that there's a Pattonesque leader on the Dolphins, only that an initially bad decision lead to a good outcome in a roundabout way)

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#98 by Noahrk // Dec 16, 2013 - 2:33pm

Darned quantum mechanics, altering my words again when I'm not looking!

...or is it my thoughts? Can't tell, it's unknowable.

The man with no sig

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#115 by dbostedo // Dec 16, 2013 - 4:34pm

Actually, it's just that if you know it's your thoughts that are changed, you can't know whether your words have been changed. And vice-versa.

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#134 by Bobman // Dec 17, 2013 - 1:10am

I blame Keyser Soze. After all, the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist. I put your specific intentions in that post in the same category.

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#87 by James-London // Dec 16, 2013 - 1:42pm

I'll feel better when they show they can hold up against two pretty good defensive fronts these next two weeks.

It would be just like Miami to crap out spectacularly at this point...

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

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#90 by Lyford // Dec 16, 2013 - 1:49pm

"... two of those Phins o-line starters are out..."

Martin was not a starter. He'd already lost his job (which may have been the precipitating factor for the whole "BIGGEST NFL NEWS STORY OF THE ENTIRE SEASON" thing). It's true that Martin was a starter at the beginning of the season, but he was replaced for other-than-injury reasons - he wasn't the player they wanted him to be so they replaced him.

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#94 by Fish Fan (not verified) // Dec 16, 2013 - 2:15pm

No, Martin was still a starter Mr. Lyford. He was moved back to Right Tackle where he started last year. Clabo was demoted. Thus, two starters were and have been out. They are playing a practice squad player for Incognito and Clabo reclaimed the RT post.

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#83 by JMM* (not verified) // Dec 16, 2013 - 1:35pm

" I don't know how Ike Taylor can get that fooled on fourth-and-5 and leave Marvin Jones that wide open for a touchdown, but that's the kind of season it's been for him."

Ike wasn't fooled, he had short zone responsibility and left the receiver to the safety coming over from the center of the field. Good play design and execution by Cinci, poor defensive call (or design) by Pitt. That is how Ike's season has gone.

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#111 by BrianO (not verified) // Dec 16, 2013 - 3:51pm

Surprised to see that EJ's accuracy is described as being "inconsistent as ever". That was certainly the case for his first four throws of the game, but after that he went 17/20 with 9.65 YPA. Of course, it was against a questionable Jags secondary but I wouldn't say EJ struggled with accuracy during the day. In my opinion, the knock would be on recognition of the pass rush.

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#121 by justanothersteve // Dec 16, 2013 - 5:34pm

In reply to by BrianO (not verified)

I'd say going 17/20 is very much part of that inconsistency. He has six games where his completion percentage is no better than 56.4%. The other four games (including yesterday) have been at least 66.7%.

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#124 by BrianO (not verified) // Dec 16, 2013 - 6:02pm

I don't believe he was referring to his season long inconsistency. I would agree with that if that were the case. I think the author convinced himself of the inconsistency 10 minutes into the game and didn't bother to change his opinion after that.

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#125 by RickD // Dec 16, 2013 - 6:15pm

There's something odd about an argument where you have to partition the data to argue against inconsistency.

Points: 0

#130 by tunesmith // Dec 16, 2013 - 7:58pm

I'm not so sure Denver's center, Manny Ramirez can be thought of as third-string anymore. JD Walton is "probable" on the injury report but isn't playing, and I've heard conflicting things about how good Dan Koppen was looking before his injury.

Points: 0

#131 by Anonymousse (not verified) // Dec 16, 2013 - 10:04pm

"Aaron Schatz: Charles Clay makes his first catch of day, makes great move to convert fourth-and-5."

By great move, you mean "is benefactor of obvious hold by tight end" right?

Points: 0

#143 by Duke // Dec 18, 2013 - 2:00am

So I guess I'll toot my own horn here and note that my comment predicting Cutler finishes with 3TDs and 2 INTs was made at 1:21pm central. I think it would have been just after the first TD to Marshall, which would have given him 1TD and 2INTs to that point.

Not the most out there prediction at the time, but you gotta pump yourself when you get it right.

Points: 0

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