Audibles at the Line: Week 16

Audibles at the Line: Week 16
Audibles at the Line: Week 16
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

compiled by Andrew Potter

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to turn into (if they can).

On Monday, we compile a digest of those e-mails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.

While these e-mails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means 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 Steelers 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.

Philadelphia Eagles 24 at Washington Redskins 27

Andrew Healy: Disappointed Chip Kelly kicked a field goal late third quarter on fourth-and-1 from the Washington 30-yard line with the Eagles trailing by 3. In the most similar situation a few weeks ago against Houston, Kelly went for the first down. Then lame coaching karma really bites the Eagles. Cody Parkey misses the 47-yard field goal, and then Bradley Fletcher looks like a high school corner as DeSean Jackson gets about three strides behind him for a very easy 55-yard throw. Touchdown a couple of plays later. Washington up 24-14.

Tom Gower: On the other hand, Fletcher would seem to fit fairly well on Jim Haslett's defense. With better quarterback play, the Eagles would be up instead of down 24-21 (with 10:27 to play as I write this).

Scott Kacsmar: If Chip Kelly had an "Analytics" badge, then this game would strip him of it. Bad decision on the fourth-and-1 field goal earlier and you really have to let them score at the end here to give yourself a real chance. Of course if you're Washington, be smart and don't score.

Aaron Schatz: Heck, I'm not sure why Washington even handed off. I would have just kneeled once the field goal was less than 30.

Tom Gower: NFL teams frustrate me sometimes. The Titans, yes, I expect that from them; they're very bad this season. But it aggravates a lot me more when teams like Philadelphia that can win games by doing good things do things that we can reasonably believe actively hurt their chances of doing that.

Courtesy of great Eagles beat writer Sheil Kapadia, here's what Eagles DC Billy Davis said about letting Washington score: "None. Never, ever, ever will there be a discussion about letting them score. Never, ever. We'll get the ball back. That's the only thing we talk about. Rip the ball, tackle the ball, get the ball out. We won't let anybody score."

San Diego Chargers 38 at San Francisco 49ers 35

Scott Kacsmar: Philip Rivers has pretty much looked woeful tonight, so here's a Frank Gore tangent:

In each of his first nine seasons Gore averaged at least 4.0 YPC on 100-plus attempts. Only Barry Sanders (10) and Jim Brown (nine) have tied or exceeded that feat in NFL history. Coming into tonight Gore was averaging a career-low 3.94 YPC. On the second play of the game Gore had a fantastic 52-yard touchdown run. Heading into halftime he has 129 yards on 14 carries. His YPC is now up to 4.28 for the season. This won't change what has been the most disappointing season of Gore's career, but it's a reminder of how one game can really move those averages, and how a few tenths in yardage aren't all that significant for one player.

The 49ers have 182 rushing yards at halftime and lead 28-7. San Diego had a solid run defense too. Its season high in rushing yards allowed was 154 against Kansas City.

Andrew Healy: Wow, an incredible two-play swing late in the third quarter. First, the 49ers have a long touchdown to long-lost Vernon Davis on what would have been his first target of the night. The very nice throw and run gets wiped out by a chop block. Then on third-and-20, Colin Kaepernick shows some terrible ball security under pressure and the second defender knocks the ball loose as his arm flails. The Chargers recover and pull to within seven, when it looked like they would trail 35-14.

A pretty apt two-play summary of the mistakes and unlucky bounces for the 49ers this year.

Aaron Schatz: I was convinced the flag on the 90-yard Kaepernick run was going to be holding or something. Hell of a run. Just seemed like it couldn't be real.

Then another Rivers overthrow and pick on the next drive. Rivers has done some amazing things in his career with backup receivers, but the Chargers' depth is really stretched past the breaking point here, and Rivers doesn't seem to be on the same page with these guys.

All these depth receivers... is Lardarius Green healthy? If so, where is he? When is the breakout coming already? With all these receiver injuries this would be a nice time for a big dual-tight-end breakout.

Tom Gower: Concur on not expecting the Kaepernick run to stand and the Chargers offensive line injuries becoming too much.

Green was questionable heading into the game, but he's active tonight. Unless he really is banged up that badly, I don't understand it either.

Aaron Schatz: Wide receiver injuries too. He needs Keenan Allen badly.

Tom Gower: Yup, no sustaining run game without Ryan Mathews and not the same sustaining pass game without Allen.

Andrew Healy: After Aldon Smith leaves with an injury on the Chargers' drive at the end of the fourth quarter, I think the 49ers have one defensive player on the field who had more than eight starts last year (Justin Smith) and just two with three or more starts. Amazing this defense has held together as well as it has.

The Chargers get back-to-back fourth-down conversions to get inside the 49ers' 10-yard-line with 0:42 left. Loved the first play. A great blitz pickup by the Chargers and then a perfect throw just beyond Antoine Bethea's fingertips into the arms of a diving Eddie Royal.

And they get a touchdown to Malcom Floyd to tie it 35-35 with 0:29 left. Another very nice throw for Rivers that drive on an often difficult night.

Aaron Schatz: I know the Chargers came back with some sweet fourth-down conversions. But again I'm just flabbergasted at offenses coming out in empty formations in short-yardage situations. San Diego did this on third-and-2 and Rivers got sacked. Why would you provide yourself with no run option other than a quarterback draw in short yardage?

Andrew Healy: I agree and I didn't have high hopes for them dealing with the blitz on fourth down after that third-and-2. Arizona completely killed them with big blitz after big blitz late in Week 1 and the Chargers did not adjust to deal with it. So it was good to see them able to pick up the late-game big blitz in this spot, at least.

And the Chargers complete the comeback with a field goal to win after the 49ers commit the game's sixth turnover on the first drive of overtime.

Baltimore Ravens 13 at Houston Texans 25

Cian Fahey: Pretty sure Joe Flacco won't be correcting the President on anything this week.

J.J. Cooper: This Joe Flacco game is pretty much inexplicable unless there is a hidden injury. Anyone who had Case Keenum outperforming Flacco in this game, raise your hand.

Kansas City Chiefs 12 at Pittsburgh Steelers 20

Scott Kacsmar: Andy Reid's game management continues to be a problem. Ben Roethlisberger was sacked on third down and it certainly looked like an empty-hand play, but Reid didn't even challenge. Chiefs could have taken over around the red zone if rewarded the fumble.

J.J. Cooper: Steelers get a couple of breaks at the end of the first half. First the Chiefs get a generous spot on a third-down reception to get a first down. It's the kind of call that looks like a poor spot, but it's hard to challenge because spot challenges often feel like a roll of the dice. But because it's inside the final two minutes the replay booth calls the challenge and the spot gets overturned. Then the Chiefs go for it on fourth-and-1 and the Steelers stuff the run on fourth down. So Pittsburgh heads to the half up 10-6.

Cian Fahey: If you were to rank offenses in terms of who was most likely to overcome an 11-point deficit in one half, would the Chiefs be in the bottom five?

Andrew Healy: Maybe the Chiefs are close, but this top six is pretty hard to crack:

Tennessee, Jacksonville, Oakland, Buffalo, Cleveland, Tampa Bay.

If Johnny Manziel was still playing, the top one would have been extremely hard to crack.

Scott Kacsmar: This game only had 13 possessions with six for Pittsburgh, seven for Kansas City. The only other game I have seen that happen in was 2006 Colts at Texans. A final score of 20-12 tells you there was bad red-zone play and it mostly came from Kansas City. The fake field goal was nice, but they failed to turn that into a touchdown. The streak of not throwing a touchdown to a wide receiver continues, though Dwayne Bowe dropped one. The wide receivers played pretty well against a struggling secondary, yet Smith had his usual game of checking down and not testing things vertically. That was most problematic on the final drive when Smith repeatedly checked down to Jamaal Charles, down 20-9, without even really looking for the touchdown. That put everything on an onside kick and the Chiefs kicked it right to fullback Will Johnson to end the game. The referees were awful in this game, as was CBS' Mike Carey, who I think managed to take the wrong viewpoint on every appearance he made. One of the worst taunting penalties you'll ever see was called on William Gay, who directed all of his action in approval of his teammate and did nothing to the opponent. That helped the Chiefs convert a third-and-17 too, making it even worse.

Ben Roethlisberger and the offense played well, scoring 20 points on the six drives. It was a scary moment when Vance Walker took a major cheapshot and tried to trip Roethlisberger with a leg whip. Roethlisberger left the field, but returned and didn't miss any plays. However, he returned to the game in 2011 against Cleveland after suffering a high ankle sprain. He finished that one well, but the injury worsened afterwards and he was very ineffective the rest of the season. The Steelers better hope this isn't another one of those, or else this will be another short-lived postseason, not to mention a huge game against the Bengals next week for the division.

Detroit Lions 20 at Chicago Bears 14

Tom Gower: Good pass pressure from the Bears at times has gotten Matthew Stafford off balance. The Lions moved the ball pretty consistently in the first half, but it's only 7-7 thanks to two bad red-zone interceptions. The first came while Stafford was rolling to his left and went to an area with three defenders and two receivers. The second was an easy read for Ryan Mundy, coming up from his deep safety spot in zone coverage.

Jimmy Clausen was better than I thought he'd be in the first half. That he's under 5 yards per attempt should give you an idea of where my expectations were, though. The offensive game plan seems to have concentrated on getting the ball out quickly a lot, with many throws coming off a three-step drop. His numbers have been depressed by a couple drops by both Alshon Jeffery and Marquess Wilson, who has played a prominent role. He only led one real drive, though, getting down to the 2-yard line before failing on a throw to sixth-lineman Eben Britton. The touchdown came at the very end of the first half, when Jeremy Ross muffed a punt at the 10 -- nice touch by Clausen on the scoring toss to Forte against a big blitz.

Rob Weintraub: The Bears just got bailed out by a game-changing roughing the punter call, a total flop by the punter on fourth-and-23 when even running into the punter would have been a stretch. But an automatic first down was utterly egregious. Sure enough the Bears scored a couple of plays later to take a 14-10 lead.

Ben Muth: Dominic Raiola is an absolute clown. The stomp on the Bears defensive lineman is just another example. His dirty play might be somewhat tolerable if he was even a league average starter, but he's not. NFL has to suspend him and the fine should be at least an additional $25,000.

Rob Weintraub: OK, the Packers have done their part, with difficulty, beating Tampa. Your turn Detroit -- keep the Bengals-Steelers game off of prime time!!!

Tom Gower: I figured out what Clausen reminded me of -- Oakland switching to Matt McGloin last season. Like Clausen, McGloin did a great job of getting the ball out quickly instead of extending the play, and it worked well at first at times, especially when the receivers were making plays one-on-one, as Bears receivers started to do more in the second half. It's such a limited game plan, though, and eventually the defense will adjust, choke down, and challenge the three-step game, and the quarterback either throws incomplete repeatedly or starts holding the ball and looks lost. It happened to McGloin last year, and it happened to Clausen at the end of this game. Detroit's offense didn't do what I thought they would do, but they did enough for the win.

Minnesota Vikings 35 at Miami Dolphins 37

Cian Fahey: With every passing game, Teddy Bridgewater is building a lead as the best rookie quarterback in the NFL. Once again today, he has kept the Vikings offense on track with smart, accurate throws while connecting with different receivers down the field. He was unfortunate not to finish the first half with a touchdown pass when his tight end just stepped out of bounds, but another impressive stretch for the former Louisville prospect.

Some of the things that Bridgewater is doing as a rookie are simply phenomenal. In the fourth quarter, down by eight, Bridgewater drops back in the pocket, adjusts to avoid pressure while reading the defense from the left sideline all the way back to the right. He locates an open receiver with an underneath throw, but his work before letting the ball go dragged the coverage to the other side of the field. That left the receiver in space for a huge gain into the red zone.

On the following play, Cameron Wake obliterates the blocker in front of him when Bridgewater drops back into the pocket. This forces the rookie quarterback to rush his work from the pocket, but he delivers a perfect pass by throwing with anticipation down the seam for a touchdown. The touchdown is being reviewed as I type, but the play from the quarterback was exceptional regardless of the review.

Rob Weintraub: This game was decided by a blocked punt for a safety in the final minute of a 35-35 game. A bad snap snafu-ed the play from the beginning, and Miami's Terrence Fede reached out and swatted it out of the end zone. So the Vikings had to onside the free kick, which comes from a punt stance, not with a tee. Not a bad effort actually, but it fell out of bounds, and the Fish win it 37-35. Unfortunately for them, they were already eliminated from the postseason with the Pittsburgh win.

Tom Gower: I didn't see much of this game until the final five minutes, but that was a nice drive by Miami to tie it, then the Dolphins defensive line against the Vikings offensive line as they tried to break the 35-35 tie with a minute-plus to go was just better players feasting on inferior ones, particularly Vernon against Matt Kalil and Wake against Mike Harris on the outsides.

Atlanta Falcons 30 at New Orleans Saints 14

Rob Weintraub: The Saints' playoff hopes are going to come down to an incredibly close replay. Jimmy Graham catches a pass at the stripe of the end zone, he appears to just barely break the plane, but the Falcons hold him out and strip it free. Called a fumble and Atlanta ball on the field. May come down to that, as it is very very close.

The call stands! Not sure about that one, but Jimmy Graham has to put that one away.

OK, Jimmy Graham hangs on to a touchdown pass this time. 20-14 Atlanta, 5 minutes and change left. And with Cleveland somehow taking the lead on the Punchless Panthers, the Falcons could wrap up the division within the hour.

Atlanta punts to the Saints, Drew Brees needs to go 90 yards to save the season. And the Panthers went back in front, so the Peachtree City is atwitter!

Robert McLain jumps under an out route, and intercepts Brees to most likely put this one away.

For about the first time all season, Atlanta got consistent pressure on the quarterback. Bryce Harris was turnstiled on Brees' blind side all day, and Atlanta has played well enough in the secondary as a result.

Cian Fahey: It's fitting that the New Orleans Saints' season comes to an end with a Drew Brees' interception on an underthrown sideline pass. Brees' decline has been sharp and his arm simply isn't where it needs to be. Tough decisions to be made in New Orleans moving forward.

Rob Weintraub: Appropriately, the Falcons strip-sack Brees on the last play, and Osi Umenyiora turns in his lone big play in his Falcons career by taking it the distance, even though the game was already iced. And with Carolina about to win as well, all-the-marbles game here in Atlanta next Sunday.

Cian Fahey: Furthermore, Brees' cap hit is $26.4 million next year and $27.4 million the following year (via Spotrac). Those are exceptionally large numbers for any quarterback, but they're especially egregious with Brees at this stage of his career.

Aaron Schatz: OK, I'm going to fight you on this because I'm fighting people online about this. Drew Brees' decline has been "sharp?" How bad do you think he is?

I think this afternoon we finally reached the nadir of the "all quarterbacks are either elite Hall of Famers or suck-ass losers" theory with this Saints loss. Immediately, people were on Twitter attacking Brees for his "awful" season. I've been arguing now with Mike Freeman from Bleacher Report, who referred to "Brees apologists." Apologizing for what, the fact that he's an aging Hall of Fame quarterback who isn't quite as good as he used to be because of course, duh, that's how age works? Someone else got angry at me because I am excusing Brees for a "subpar" season. Prior to this game, Brees was third in passing DYAR and seventh in passing DVOA. He's clearly still one of the top dozen quarterbacks in the league, probably one of the top ten, maybe one of the top eight. Since when is that "subpar?"

This isn't an argument about the cap space. Yeah, he's not good enough for those salary costs at this point. But the idea that he is "sharply in decline" or "subpar" or "awful" is RIDICULOUS.

Cian Fahey: He has regularly missed open receivers downfield because of a lack of arm strength and he has repeatedly made simply dumb decisions from the pocket that have contributed a lot to losses. It's getting to the point that sideline passes are receiver-dependant because he can't fit the ball into spots like he used to.

Sure, he's still productive in specific ways, but he's not getting anywhere near as much out of his supporting cast within that offense as he should.

A sharp decline from being a consensus top-four quarterback can land you in the average range. Doesn't necessarily mean that he is awful.

Aaron Schatz: But he's not IN the average range. He's above the average range! Is the rest of the Saints offense that talented that an average-level quarterback could be third in the league in passing DYAR? I mean, it's a team game, we're measuring more than Brees with that number, but are the rest of the Saints actually lifting his performance up? Not based on what I've seen. The interior line certainly isn't what it used to be for the Saints, and neither are the wide receivers. Can you seriously name 12 quarterbacks you would rather have right now if age and future performance didn't matter?

Plus, this isn't anything about you, Cian, but the people I'm having arguments with on the Twitter aren't saying Brees has sharply declined to average. They're calling him "awful" and "subpar." And these people aren't just random fans. Mike Freeman is one of Bleacher Report's top three NFL columnists, and lest anyone respond, "yeah, well, Bleacher Report," remember that one of the other two men at that level for Bleacher Report is Mike Tanier.

By the way, has Brees' drop in arm strength as he gets older been any different than Brady's drop in arm strength or Manning's drop in arm strength? Haven't these guys all had the same issues with the deep ball this year?

Scott Kacsmar: Brees has played very well most of this year, but it's a great example of having bad plays at the worst possible moments. He has had way too many turnovers that have swung games to the opponent: a pick-six in Cleveland, a pick deep in his own territory that led to Detroit's game-winning touchdown, a sack-fumble in overtime against San Francisco that basically ended the game, a pick-six against Baltimore. Today, he was very poor, and this was another home loss to a division rival after that horrific performance against Carolina two weeks ago. They also only scored 10 points on Cincinnati. He has had some garbage-time numbers for which we would criticize Jay Cutler, but there's a lot of hollowness to Brees' 2014 numbers. You can probably add some of his best seasons together and not have this many crucial mistakes that lost games for the Saints.

[ad placeholder 3]

Andrew Healy: OK, I was in the middle of a message on Brees, too, so this may echo other points. I criticized Brees after the loss to the 49ers for throwing too many picks, but that is a problem that predates this year. He has thrown too many picks over the last five years altogether.

Still, he came into today's game with a 70 percent completion percentage and his DVOA was seventh. For 2010-2013, his DVOA rankings were: 10, 2, 5, and 5. He'll drop a little with today's game, but man I still think he's a top-10 quarterback. Those are huge cap numbers, but the Saints are generally in cap hell (as Bill Barnwell wrote about) and I think Brees still merits big quarterback money.

Brees probably got overrated a bit when he was put in the Manning-Rodgers class. But he's in the next group even if he throws too many head-scratching picks. And he has been a cut below for a while now rather than declining dramatically this year.

Know we have had a long exchange already, but one more thought on Brees: I feel like his bad picks this season are more about poor decision making than poor arm strength. He had plenty of zip on the out that led to the second pick. He just shouldn't have gone there with the pass and got no help at all from his receiver. I feel like Brady's downfield problems, too, are less about arm strength and more about downfield accuracy. Manning seems the one where the decline in arm strength is most pronounced, although others will know this better than I do.

One final thing: Brees's first interception kind of shouldn't count. It came on fourth-and-7 in the first quarter. Smart play by him to force it in that spot.

I don't want to defend Brees too much. He has made some awful decisions. And the Saints' last two offensive home games have been terrible. But he is in danger of going from a little overrated to underrated, I think.

Rob Weintraub: OK, last thing on Brees -- no, I lied, it's about Matt Ryan. Whenever a team loses it's the reflex action, especially in TwitterWorld, to make it all about the failings of the losing team, in particular the quarterback. But Matty Ice won this game more than Brees lost it.

Remember this about the Falcons: even though everyone has written them off as losers, with the coach and possibly GM all but fired, with awful line play on both sides and a crappy secondary, they are 4-4 over the last eight games, including losses to the Lions and Browns that were essentially unloseable until Smith got his mitts on those games. And they lost a shootout in Lambeau by six and to Pittsburgh by seven without Julio Jones. Beating Carolina at home on Sunday sets up a likely home playoff game with the Cards, who they smoked already at home when Drew Stanton was in there. With an upset elsewhere, they might then rematch with the Pack or Lions, games they would surely would feel they can win, given the first time around. Suddenly, it's Atlanta at Seattle in the NFC title game!

And Mike Smith still would get fired...

New England Patriots 17 at New York Jets 16

Aaron Schatz: Hey, remember early in the season when the Patriots' offensive line was a mess? Have you wondered what it would be like if the Pats went back to that? Well, here's your answer. The Patriots have Dan Connolly out today and apparently that's enough to throw things into disarray. OK, that's not true. Rex Ryan's overload schemes are also throwing things into disarray. The Pats just did a terrible job of picking those up in the first half and Brady took four sacks. The running game also had seven carries for 8 yards in the first half. Josh Kline was playing in Connolly's place at left guard. Even worse were the six-lineman sets when the Pats brought Marcus Cannon in at left tackle and moved Nate Solder over to the right side as tight end. Solder was letting guys through, Cannon looked bad, and the tight end and back were having troubles too.

In the second half, things got a bit better; the Pats brought Cameron Fleming in at right guard and moved Ryan Wendell to left guard. (Aside: I wonder what it is about their individual skills that cause the Pats to do that rather than leaving Solder where he usually is and putting Cannon in the tight end spot.) (Second aside: I wonder why they were playing Cannon and not Fleming if Fleming was healthy; Fleming is the guy who played sixth lineman so much in that Colts game where the line was dominant.)

You can tell from Brady's passes that he's feeling the pressure, even when he doesn't take a sack. He's bouncing balls, and inaccurate in ways that seem to be less about inaccuracy and more about hurrying a pass and trying to put it where a defender can't pick it off (which of course also means the offensive player has a hard time getting it.)

Props to Jets rookie cornerback Marcus Williams who has looked very good today, even covering Rob Gronkowski one-on-one.

Jets offense looked horrendous in the first quarter. Absolutely miserable. Got better in the second quarter, finding nice big holes for running room and of course passes to Jeremy Kerley, who seems to always kill the Pats for some reason. Unfortunately for the Jets, I don't think we're going to be seeing a lot of Jets offense in the second half. Nick Mangold is out with an ankle injury, and Percy Harvin is hurt as well.

It was 10-7 Jets at halftime. They made it 13-7 when the Pats went three-and-out on their first drive, but the Pats then had a nice field-goal drive, Geno Smith threw a pick, and then the Pats went down for a touchdown. So now we're at 17-13 Pats.

One other note: anyone who watches this game has to realize that Rex Ryan would still make a kickass defensive coordinator, despite the fact that he could never properly build an offense as a head coach. The fact that he can do what he is doing against this offense with pretty much no secondary whatsoever... he's a great defensive scheme builder.

Rob Weintraub: When Rex is inevitably fired he should just go the full ronin and hire himself out to whomever is playing the Pats that week. Make Brady face the mad science every Sunday!

Andrew Healy: Fleming being good against the Colts was a pretty big surprise given his performance earlier in the year. The Pats' offense has been better in the third quarter, but Fleming hasn't done well on at least a few plays. On one in particular early in the quarter, he got completely trucked by, I think, Muhammad Wilkerson. It looks like they've been trying to help him on some plays and he stood around blocking nobody without offering help on another pass play earlier. Brady has still been under a lot of pressure even if no more sacks, and Fleming has been a big part of the problem. So there were problems with Kline and Cannon, but also problems with Fleming.

On Rex Ryan, I'd want him as a head coach still. Mark Sanchez's struggles in Philly support the idea that Ryan has had quarterbacks that maybe nobody could turn into good players. I'd like to see him get a chance with even a league-average quarterback.

The Patriots really miss Julian Edelman. After a first down where Danny Amendola gets little separation and then fails to make a difficult catch, Brady throws a pick targeting Brandon LaFell when Jason Babin hits him hard. The Jets brought overload pressure on the offensive left and Cameron Fleming stood around again at right guard offering not a whisper of help.

Have to give Amendola some credit. He actually created some separation on a good-Welker kind of option route, getting a big first down as the game winds towards the two-minute warning with the Patriots up one.

Undoubtedly important for FO's predictive model: the Patriots have never failed to win the Super Bowl when they beat the Jets 17-16 on the road.

New York Giants 37 at St. Louis Rams 27

Tom Gower: Inspired by Andre Williams (15 catches on 33 targets, 45 percent catch rate), running backs with a sub-50 percent catch rate and enough attempts to be ranked in DVOA table, 1994-2013 (unless I missed any):

2012: Bilal Powell (NYJ), 47%
2007: Kris Wilson (KC TE/FB), 48%
2004: Fred Beasley (SF), 40%
1999: Aaron Craver (NO), 45%
1997: Harvey Williams (OAK), 42%
1996: Clifton Groce (IND), 41%
1995: Errict Rhett (TB), 48%
1994: Bobby Mitchell (WAS), 49%

Indianapolis Colts 7 at Dallas Cowboys 42

Rob Weintraub: Even though the hole in the roof is closed, the good lord is smiling down on Dallas so far. A bad taunting penalty kept alive the Boys' opening touchdown drive. Then Indy fakes a punt, and Dewey McDonald is wide open to convert fourth-and-11. He drops it. Romo-Dez on the next play, 14-0 Cowboys.

Scott Kacsmar: This one's hard to believe: in first halves at Denver, Pittsburgh and Dallas this year, the Colts have allowed 80 points on 13 drives (6.15 Pts/Dr). That's 11 touchdowns, one field goal and a stupid decision to let Ben Roethlisberger punt inside the 40. Talk about not even showing up on defense.

Buffalo Bills 24 at Oakland Raiders 26

Andrew Healy: Derek Carr is unsurprisingly 6-of-16 against the league's best pass defense. And the Raiders are averaging 4.3 yards per offensive play. Still, they lead 10-7 and are driving late in the first half. The Bills' defense deserves a better offense. Kyle Orton has a 42-yard touchdown to Sammy Watkins on a post. Altogether, though, his stat line is in rich-man's Manziel territory against the 27th-ranked pass defense: 10-of-18 for 92 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT (Manziel was 10-of-18 for 80 yards, 0/2).

[ad placeholder 4]

On his pick, Charles Woodson made a great play, but Orton also threw to his well-covered first read, when Greg Hogan came wide-open on an out not too far away. A small step forward and he had the time to get to beyond his first read.

Marcell Dareus went out with an injury early in the second quarter. At that point, Oakland had seven carries for 9 yards. Since the Dareus injury, the Raiders have 16 carries for 100 yards. The Raiders lead 16-10 with 5:00 left in the third quarter and they're driving.

Seattle Seahawks 35 at Arizona Cardinals 6

Aaron Schatz: Watching a game like this, I just keep asking myself, how on earth is Arizona not No. 1 in defensive DVOA? Then I went to look and there's an element of improvement during the season here. DVOA suggests the Cardinals looked better than they were in October. -1.7% defensive DVOA in Weeks 1 to 8. They were close to 0 most of those weeks except for being good in Week 1 (San Diego) and not so great in Week 3 (San Francisco). Then -23.0% defensive DVOA for Weeks 9 to 15.

I always talk about how defensive penalties aren't really an indicator of a team playing badly, and how they have no real correlation with losing, but egads, Seahawks, get it together already. Seahawks led NFL in penalties last year and do again this year (not including declined/offsetting), and have nine so far today (with 2:00 left in the first half). We're not talking all stuff that's about playing close, good defense, we're also talking silly stuff like Michael Bennett lining up 6 inches too far on two straight snaps. It's keeping Arizona in the game in the second quarter.

Vince Verhei: Well, that first half went pretty much according to plan. Arizona's defense is really good and gave Seattle (which is missing it's two best linemen again) all kinds of problems, but Russell Wilson made enough big plays with his feet and arm alike to put points on the board. Think all three big plays (the two runs and the touchdown to Willson) were all ad-libs.

And on the other side, Ryan Lindley is a third-stringer who is playing like a third-stringer against a great pass defense, and can't do a damn thing outside the occasional screen pass. If he can lead a second-half comeback against this crew, DVOA will break.

Tom Gower: Writing this week's Sunday Night Football column, I was very concerned that I would come across too mean, because it's hard to look at what Ryan Lindley has done in the NFL and find anything too positive to say. Terrelle Pryor's currently out of the NFL for good reasons, but this is the sort of situation that makes me say, "Well, if your quarterback can't throw, why not get a quarterback who can't throw but who can run around a little bit?" And Bruce Arians just threw on third-and-1, because that's what Bruce Arians does even if most of football media is wondering about his quarterback, and said quarterback is currently 6-of-18.

Scott Kacsmar: This table of the worst DVOA without pressure (2010-2013) sums it all up for Lindley for me.

If you want to pick out the very worst quarterbacks to get significant playing time, DVOA without pressure does the trick.

Vince Verhei: Luke Willson with two big catches on that last drive, both matched up against Larry Foote in man coverage, the latter a touchdown to put Seattle up 21-6. It looks like Russell Wilson has figured out the timing of Arizona's blitzes and knows where to throw the ball before the ball is snapped. And of course he's athletic and poised enough to make accurate deep throws with men in his face. In short: He real good.

Aaron Schatz: As this game went further and further along, the Cardinals got further behind, Ryan Lindley had to try to do more, and it became clearer how overmatched he is tonight.

Scott Kacsmar: Lindley was horrible, but I actually expected worse. We knew Seattle's defense had a huge advantage. I'm amazed at how dominant the offense has been tonight on the road against one of the best defenses in the league. This has to be one of the best offensive performances of the year. If Seattle can get it going like this with Wilson's dual-threat attack and Lynch doing his usual things, then the repeat is coming.

Vince Verhei: Very, very hard not to go into total Seahawks fanboy mode right now. That second half was pretty ridiculous, with all the biggest Seattle stars making all the biggest plays. Marshawn Lynch, in particular, may have out-Beastquaked the original Beastquake run. Like, he showed everything a running back can show on that play: patience, vision, agility, burst, power and speed. So I'm just going to say two things:

  • Russell Wilson is ours and you can't have him.
  • I hope Marshawn Lynch never starts talking to reporters, and never stops grabbing his junk when he scores.

OK, one more thing: the Seahawks have now given up 33 points, total, in five games since Bobby Wagner and Kam Chancellor returned from injury.


225 comments, Last at 24 Dec 2014, 5:22pm

#1 by jonnyblazin // Dec 22, 2014 - 10:33am

"This Joe Flacco game is pretty much inexplicable unless there is a hidden injury."

To me it looked like Flacco got rocked several times early on in the game, and his mechanics subsequently fell apart. He was constantly backpedalling and failing to step in to throws. The Texans kept on bringing tons of pressure, and the Ravens poor skill position players couldn't get open in the short amount of time Flacco had.

Flacco (I had to change the autocorrect from "Flake", lol) also started feeling pressure when there was none, aka the David Carr syndrome.

Points: 0

#10 by SFC B // Dec 22, 2014 - 10:51am

Trying to block JJ Watt one on one with a rookie free agent tackle is the sort of decision that led to Kubiak being let go from Houston. Since Kubiak's offense is very "simple" (I'm sure it's actually quite complex, but I'm not that football-smart and even I was able to figure out what the Texans were going to do under him, and the Ravens played the same way) it requires them to execute well. That the Texans were blowing up the Ravens line prevented that from happening. The only thing that kept the Ravens in this game was the Texans' offense being run by a QB who wasn't on the roster a until that week. Average QB play and the Texans win by 30.

Points: 0

#2 by Ryan // Dec 22, 2014 - 10:35am

Pretty sure Cian Fahey is on a quest to prove that no one in the NFL is actually any good.

Points: 0

#138 by Malene_copenhagen // Dec 22, 2014 - 4:25pm

Don't forget, Chris Harris is decent, so not everyone is awful.

Seriously, it's getting to the point where it hurts FO's credibility. If one of your major writers is that sharply at odds with your proprietary stats, doesn't it require some sort of explanation???? What it is about your stats that doesn't reflect what Cian sees on film?

Brees is "in sharp decline" and his arm "not where it needs to be" and Brady can "no longer be considered one of the best in the NFL".

Meanwhile, Brees rank 3, 2, 7 and 1 in DYAR, YAR, DVOA and EYARDS, while Brady ranks 5, 5, 6 and 4.
What gives?

Points: 0

#159 by TecmoBoso // Dec 22, 2014 - 5:02pm

Personally, I think a lot of the narrative (nationally, not here as much) around Brees has to do with fantasy football where he's been a disappointment.

Points: 0

#3 by dmstorm22 // Dec 22, 2014 - 10:40am

Thoughts on Brees, he's still good, but he makes more awful decisions than any top QB.

There's been a growing trend to take sacks over forcing bad throws and getting picks. You see it with Rodgers, who basically will take a sack over throwing a pick all the time. You see it with Peyton more or less. Drew Brees does not have this, and it has become more pronounced this year.

It is worrisome he's had two bad picks on out routes (Baltimore pick-6, this game), but to me more distressing were his interceptions against Tampa Bay (the first two especially, throwing when falling down), or Detroit. He's also made some bad decisions against SF.

Overall, his stats are good because they'll always be. They'll feast on some awful defenses, and Brees will have a few gigantic games. But they've lost a lot of their big play element. The WRs aren't that great. Jimmy Graham has had an off year. Add that all together and Brees has struggled.

It may be interesting to study if the bad plays are overriding overall very good play as the DYAR/DVOA would suggest, but I think so much of that comes to Brees just throwing all the time.

As for next Week's NFC South winner-take-all, I would favor Atlanta because it is in Atlanta, but quietly Carolina's defense has played rather well the 2nd half of the season. They were awful against Philadelphia, but had a negative DVOA in every other game since Week 8. They weren't smoked at all against Atlanta the first time, and I expect this to be a close game. What's shocking is the Cardinals will be the #5 seed assuming they don't win the division. The winner of this Panthers/Falcons game might even be favorites in Round 1.

Points: 0

#5 by Ryan // Dec 22, 2014 - 10:42am

"Thoughts on Brees, he's still good, but he makes more awful decisions than any top QB."

I have Andrew Luck on line 2.

Points: 0

#7 by dmstorm22 // Dec 22, 2014 - 10:44am

I think Luck is more about general inaccuracy on his throws. He has to improve that.

His fumbling is a different issue, but in terms of throwing picks, I put it more to missing throws. For Brees, he's thrown a handful on plays that he should have just eaten but flung one stupidly up in the air.

Points: 0

#8 by Ryan // Dec 22, 2014 - 10:46am

I wish I had at the ready a roll of every stupid throwaway Luck has had this year in attempts to avoid a sack. 16 picks is low for him honestly. There are also like 9,000 fumbles.

Points: 0

#188 by Ranccor // Dec 22, 2014 - 11:32pm

Let's not forget that Luck is still only a 3rd-year QB and nobody is pretending he is part of the elite club just yet. He is firmly in the "most promising of the young guys" and sometimes the "best of the send tier" camp. I believe (although I would have to look it up to be sure) that even Manning led the league in INTs twice in his first 4 years. INTs happen when you make a TON of attempts and your defense can't be consistently relied upon.

Luck has a lot of work to do with his decision making, his accuracy, his reading of defenses, and especially his fumbles, but he is doing quite well for a 3rd-year QB overall.

Points: 0

#189 by Ranccor // Dec 22, 2014 - 11:32pm

Let's not forget that Luck is still only a 3rd-year QB and nobody is pretending he is part of the elite club just yet. He is firmly in the "most promising of the young guys" and sometimes the "best of the send tier" camp. I believe (although I would have to look it up to be sure) that even Manning led the league in INTs twice in his first 4 years. INTs happen when you make a TON of attempts and your defense can't be consistently relied upon.

Luck has a lot of work to do with his decision making, his accuracy, his reading of defenses, and especially his fumbles, but he is doing quite well for a 3rd-year QB overall.

Points: 0

#22 by gomer_rs // Dec 22, 2014 - 11:37am

Brees is pushing it in age. He always had to use his arm to make up for his lack of sight lines. Is an aging arm catching up to him? And faster than other 'great' QBs his age? Also, Brees has always been more turnover prone because of his dependence on sight-lines, throwing lanes, and timing.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

Points: 0

#47 by PaddyPat // Dec 22, 2014 - 12:46pm

That seems like a plausible explanation. Brees has always been more of a volume quarterback than guys like Brady or Rodgers. He throws the most passes with high annual touchdown numbers and always high pick numbers (higher at least, the lowest I can recall is 11, and he's hit 17 and 22, etc.) The numbers look a bit like the Greatest Show on Turf--tons of passing volume with risky and foolish passes sprinkled in liberally with the great ones. Numerically at least there doesn't appear to be much dropoff this year or even in the past several.

Is it conceivable that Brees has frequently made similar mistakes in past seasons and we've been inclined to overlook them because the rest of the team bailed him out? Alternatively, is he forcing things a little more this season in crucial moments because he has no faith in the supporting cast? That can definitely be a problem.

Points: 0

#89 by dbostedo // Dec 22, 2014 - 2:23pm

Just to put some comparative date behind the "high touchdown/high pick" part, here are a few QBs TD% and INT% over their careers :

QB - TD% - INT%
Brees - 5.3% - 2.6%
P. Manning - 5.9% - 2.6%
Brady - 5.5% - 2.0%
Rodgers - 6.5% - 1.7%
Romo - 5.7% - 2.6%
Roethlisberger - 5.1% - 2.6%
Rivers - 5.4% - 2.6%
E. Manning - 4.6% - 3.3%

It's funny how many of these QBs have 2.6% INT rates for their careers... Brees TDs and INTs also seem to be inline with other top QBs, so it's not JUST volume giving him big numbers. Maybe a little down on the TD end in terms of ratio.

Points: 0

#93 by theslothook // Dec 22, 2014 - 2:31pm

I'm gonna second Aaron's point...people need to stop with the hyperbole about qbs. I've seen brees manning and Brady all noticeably decline, but that still makes them really good as opposed to awesome. That's aging.

Points: 0

#4 by SFC B // Dec 22, 2014 - 10:40am

Every time I see Bridgewater succeed I really, really hate the Texans for not trading up one spot in the draft.

Points: 0

#13 by nath // Dec 22, 2014 - 11:04am

They didn't want him. If Rivers McCown is to be believed, they didn't have him ranked any higher than Tom Savage.

Points: 0

#18 by SFC B // Dec 22, 2014 - 11:24am

I remember that report from Rivers. I can believe the Texans didn't see Bridgewater as being worth the first pick of the draft, but to have the 2nd round coming up, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Case Keenum as your QBs, and Bridgewater available and not think "WOOO!" just shocks me.

Points: 0

#33 by nath // Dec 22, 2014 - 12:02pm

It's the cost of being too enamored with physical attributes at a position that requires so much technique, precision, and mental tenacity. Bridgewater could play, but he's not 6'4" and doesn't throw a gorgeous downfield spiral with velocity, so he's not worth drafting until day 3.

Points: 0

#80 by Pottsville Mar… // Dec 22, 2014 - 2:07pm

Is there some disconnect between Bill O'Brien and the Texans' scouting department, then? O'Brien had great success with Matt McGloin at Penn State, who's basically a college version of what Bridgewater is in the NFL, and O'Brien's offense seems to be built around smart reads and accurate short-to-medium throws.

Points: 0

#198 by nath // Dec 23, 2014 - 10:10am

I suspect there might be; at the very least, the last two years of Texans drafting have me convinced that a lot is wrong with their scouting department.

Points: 0

#9 by TomC // Dec 22, 2014 - 10:48am

Seahawks led NFL in penalties last year and do again this year (not including declined/offsetting), and have nine so far today (with 2:00 left in the first half). We're not talking all stuff that's about playing close, good defense, we're also talking silly stuff like Michael Bennett lining up 6 inches too far on two straight snaps.

I strongly suspect the Seahawks take little advantages like this (and contact with receivers) on every single play, under the assumption that it will only be flagged a small percentage of the time. There's an optimization calculation involved, and if you're the SB champ, that means you've probably done that calculation pretty well.

Points: 0

#32 by Perfundle // Dec 22, 2014 - 12:01pm

You're saying that the Seahawks intentionally line offsides and hope the ref misses it? This is not subjective stuff like holding.

Points: 0

#36 by gomer_rs // Dec 22, 2014 - 12:16pm

Well that's a silly contention. I think they get penalties because:

1) their o-line is bad, worse than advertised and makes a lot of mistakes.
2) in defensive technique, jumping the snap, defensive contact, etc. they have made a decision as an organization to play as close to the rules as possible, and accept going beyond and getting flagged from time to time
3) they have a reputation for penalties so the refs look for more flags on the Seahawks, what I'd call the Rasheed Wallace corollary.

(I was a Portland Trailblazers fan when they had Rasheed Wallace who always led the league in technical fouls and for good reason. He once got a technical foul with his back to the ref, walking off the court, and the ref ran from across court to t him up. So, basically once he started getting technical fouls he also started getting unearned technical fouls because the refs were looking to T him up.)

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

Points: 0

#40 by TomC // Dec 22, 2014 - 12:34pm

Perfundle: You're saying that the Seahawks intentionally line offsides and hope the ref misses it?

Why not? No line judge is infinitely precise, so for any crew, there is some amount by which you can be lined up in the neutral zone and not get flagged. It could be that Bennett just found that particular LJ's threshold. And then did it again, just to make sure the first time wasn't a fluke.

gomer_rs: Well that's a silly contention. I think they get penalties because:
2) in defensive technique, jumping the snap, defensive contact, etc. they have made a decision as an organization to play as close to the rules as possible, and accept going beyond and getting flagged from time to time

Hmm, which contention are you calling "silly"? (Because your point #2 sounds like you agree with me.)

Points: 0

#44 by Perfundle // Dec 22, 2014 - 12:45pm

If you really think Seattle is intentionally committing entirely avoidable penalties in a vital game I don't know what to tell you. I mean, "make sure the first time wasn't a fluke"? Why hasn't that happened in other games? Don't you think the simpler answer is that Bennett is just very undisciplined considering he's been flagged an inordinate number of times this year?

Points: 0

#66 by TomC // Dec 22, 2014 - 1:43pm

I mean, "make sure the first time wasn't a fluke"?

Perhaps you underestimate Michael Bennett's commitment to the scientific method:

Points: 0

#75 by gomer_rs // Dec 22, 2014 - 1:59pm

That is the greatest cartoon ever. My wife and her doctor friends have that level of scientific dedication.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

Points: 0

#165 by dbostedo // Dec 22, 2014 - 5:35pm

And for anyone new to XKCD, make sure you hover your mouse-over the comic for the secondary joke.

Points: 0

#173 by TomC // Dec 22, 2014 - 6:50pm

And, as we all know (the denizens of this site more than anyone):

Points: 0

#49 by gomer_rs // Dec 22, 2014 - 12:48pm

I agree with the spirit of the argument but I think the idea that Bennett was lining up offside on purpose to be a little silly. Even when you're pushing the limits and accepting a greater error rate most penalties are simple mistakes. I'm rather confidant, having watched every Seattle game this year, except SD, that most of their penalties are on the offensive line. Which is the position group where they aren't pushing boundaries but are just bad.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

Points: 0

#178 by mrt1212 // Dec 22, 2014 - 7:24pm

Almost half of the 128 are pre snap penalties by this account. If delay of game, false starts, illegal procedures, encroachment, neutral zone infractions, among all the other presnap penalties are in the pursuit of gaming the system to get a small advantage, that'd be surprising.

Points: 0

#179 by chemical burn // Dec 22, 2014 - 7:27pm

Wow - those are also all penalties that really aren't judgment calls. It's not just, like, borderline defensive holding calls going against - that's just sloppy and not really open to a ref's interpretation. It seems like so much of the conversation is about the Seahawks aggressive defense, but it's really just simple avoidable sloppiness that's the culprit...

Points: 0

#206 by willyeye // Dec 23, 2014 - 12:24pm

When I watched the game a second time, I noticed that when the Cards center bends down to get ready to snap the ball, the ball is on the super-imposed blue line, and when the center gets ready to snap it, he moves the ball forward about 12". This is what put Bennett in an offside position for at least one of those flags, maybe even both.

Points: 0

#217 by Perfundle // Dec 23, 2014 - 5:44pm

That might have happened, but the line of scrimmage is determined by where the ball is first marked; moving the ball afterwards doesn't change it. And you can see that Bennett is offsides with respect to the initial line.

Points: 0

#38 by RoninX // Dec 22, 2014 - 12:19pm

The "foul 'em every time because they won't call it" is a little tired, there is basically no evidence to support this concept other than we fans (and the media) seeing little tugs on replay (which occurs for every team in the league) and creating narrative based conspiracy theories. Seattle has only had 6 DPIs call on them which is basically average for the league and 11 defensive holding call which puts them in the top 5. And frankly, a sizable number of those have been suspect.

More directly, lining up the neutral zone is the easiest call in the game to make and is called and called correctly a huge percentage of the time. That is certainly not the area to try this hypothetical call shaving scheme with.

If Seattle is committing all this huge quantity of penalties in an effort to get away with a slightly higher percentage of them than they need to reevaluate their strategy.

Points: 0

#45 by Led // Dec 22, 2014 - 12:45pm

The gross number of penalties in the secondary needs to be considered in context. Seattle, like every good defense, presumably has has had fewer defensive snaps than the average team. (Actually just checked and Seattle has had 847 defensive snaps through week 15; for comparison, the Bears have had 907 through week 15. Too much work to figure out the average!) I'll leave it to others to figure out if the number of Seattle penalties in the secondary is significantly above average on a per play basis.

Points: 0

#51 by Thomas_beardown // Dec 22, 2014 - 12:52pm

Click on Ply to sort by number of plays. The Bears have faced a lower than average number of plays probably because they give up nice big chunks of yardage and the offense is actually ok keeping them off the field. The Seahawks have faced the fewest defensive plays in the NFL. Almost 200 less than the Browns who faced 1053.

Points: 0

#42 by EricL // Dec 22, 2014 - 12:43pm

I don't have a problem with the penalties being called on the Seahawks. I've got more of a problem with penalties not being called on their opponents. Their opponents are averaging something like 2.5 fewer penalties than normal when playing the Seahawks. It's a number that's WAY out of line with the rest of the league. (I think the next biggest number is around 1.2, and that's Denver.)

What would be interesting to know is if this is something common to defending champions, or if there's some outlier like this every year, of this really is strange. Fieldgulls did a look into this here:

Yes, I know. Homerism. However, I really am curious about how common something like this might be.

Points: 0

#52 by ZDNeal // Dec 22, 2014 - 12:52pm

But in what way are the calls against their opponents differing from the opponents' average. If one of their opponents is flagged 10 times every single game this season then the Seahawks getting flagged 25 times that game doesn't imply the opponent was flagged an incorrect number of times.

Points: 0

#55 by gomer_rs // Dec 22, 2014 - 12:59pm

The Seahawks are 32 of 32 in terms of penalties called against opponents. The least penalized team in the league has been penalized more than the combined penalties attributed to all Seattle opponents. That's the complaint. That every team is getting free-bees against Seattle.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

Points: 0

#64 by EricL // Dec 22, 2014 - 1:42pm

The way the calls are differing from average is when teams play against the Seahawks, they commit, on average, 2.4 less penalties than they do in their other games. This number is more than double the number for any other team (in either direction). In other words, this isn't due to their opponents being teams that tend to commit less penalties.

San Diego and Dallas committed an approximately average amount. Green Bay and San Francisco (game 2) committed more. The other 11 opponents committed at least 1.5 penalties less than their average in other games, including a string of eight consecutive games (from weeks 7 through 14) below average.

Given we're comparing teams to their average, you'd expect the odds of this happening to be rather high.

(Edit: my data was a couple weeks old. The 2.4 number is now 2.6. The average Seahawk opponent has committed 99 penalties this season. The total number of penalties by Seahawk opponents in Seahawk games is 64. This number should be somewhere around 99.)

Points: 0

#127 by Blykmyk44 // Dec 22, 2014 - 4:04pm

During the drive where Bennett got called for offsides twice Larry Fitzgerald lined up a half a yard offsides and did not get called. This is what is happening, the refs do not call the same penalties on the other team. It is amazing that Seattle is able to overcome.

Points: 0

#184 by Pen // Dec 22, 2014 - 9:40pm

Last season, the Ravens were the defending champs and their opponents were called for more penalties against them than any other team. Their opponents would see as much as twice their average penalties called against them when playing the Ravens.

So the exact opposite of what we're seeing happening to the Seahawks opponents, who seem to escape every game with one, two, maybe three penalties.

Points: 0

#201 by ZDNeal // Dec 23, 2014 - 11:27am

But, as referenced in post 178, nearly half of the Seahawks penalties are for dead ball pre-snap type infractions (False Start, encroachment, offside, illegal motion/formation, 12 men in the D huddle...)

60 of Seattle's 128 penalties have been for one of those.

Denver, with 119 penalties, has been called for 35 pre-snap type penalties.

So, only 68 judgment call course of play penalties on Seattle but 84 for Denver. I just picked Denver because they lost the SB. I have done no further analysis, but feel free.

Points: 0

#202 by Pen // Dec 23, 2014 - 11:36am

You're confused about the subject of my post. I wasn't talking about the amount of penalties being called on Seattle. We were discussing the complete lack of penalties being called on Seattle's opponents.

Points: 0

#205 by SandyRiver // Dec 23, 2014 - 12:20pm

Seattle penalties:
Pre-snap: 60
"Judgement calls": 68

Opponents' penalties:
Pre-snap: ??
"Judgement calls": ??

If the differences are proportional, then there may be an issue with the officiating. If the difference mostly/all lies in the pre-snaps, there's definitely an issue with Seattle's pre-snap play.

Points: 0

#212 by EricL // Dec 23, 2014 - 2:12pm

Per, I count 15 pre-snap penalties for Seahawk opponents this year.

So, Seattle:
Pre-snap: 61
Judgement: 67

Pre-snap: 15
Judgement: 49

That breakdown does make the effect less pronounced. ~1.5 fewer in-play penalty calls per game.

The opponent's pre-snap number, however, is also extremely low. The NFL team that has committed the fewest pre-snap penalties this season is Jacksonville, and they've committed 21. Eight other teams have committed between 25 and 29, and every other team has committed at least 30.

Yet, the Seahawks' opponents have committed only 15. 30% fewer than the least-penalized team in the league.

This is why I wanted to see this information broken down. On first blush, the data looks really bad. Looking deeper unveils much more nuanced information.

What it amounts to is this: The Seahawks commit four times as many pre-snap penalties, and 1.5 more post-snap penalties per game than their opponents.

Their opponents, on the other hand, commit half as many pre-snap penalties when playing Seattle (opponents average: 32.8), and one fewer post-snap penalties per game (post-snap opponent average: 66.1).

I think this is going to end up coming to nothing, but it's an odd trend that has been rather consistent all year. (Only two opponents have committed more than their average number of penalties when playing Seattle.)

Points: 0

#214 by Aaron Brooks G… // Dec 23, 2014 - 3:13pm

Seattle has 61 accepted pre-snap penalties. That's 16 more than #2 Buffalo. The difference between Seattle (#1) and Buffalo (#2) is as large as the difference between Buffalo and New England (#24).

It's pretty evenly split between offense (64) and defense (51), but even their special teams (13) get penalized a ton. All these numbers are roughly double their opponents, in basically the same breakdown. Not quite the disaster NE's ST are though (20 penalties).

I haven't seen a per-play breakdown for this yet, though.

Points: 0

#11 by nath // Dec 22, 2014 - 10:58am

Good discussion on the Saints. I think Brees is in decline-- although I am with the guys who think it's not as steep as Cian does-- but what's worse is the way the talent around him has drained. His interior line isn't holding up like it used to (I don't know if that's more on being unable to replace Brian DLP or if Grubbs and Evans have declined). Colston went overnight from being reliable to being a serious risk for drops. Graham is so contact-averse that he can't make tough catches. Cooks was OK, but sometimes struggled to get separation, and it's tough to consider his season not disappointing given the way other first-round receivers have lit it up this year (remember, the Saints could have stayed put and drafted Kelvin Benjamin). Kenny Stills is the only reliable receiver on the team right now, and he's not physically dominant, so he's best suited to being a second or third option.

Speaking of draft trades, the other problem is that the Saints have lost so many picks, either trading up or because of Goodellgate, that they just aren't replenishing their talent pool. (And it doesn't help when they miss on picks-- seriously, their record on trading up is pretty bad, and then you have things like SJB over Phillip Gaines, when the latter has outplayed the former in defensive snaps something like 500 to 8.) The overall talent has been steadily eroding, and Brees was so good for so long he could cover for it. Now he isn't quite good enough to.

Points: 0

#14 by big10freak // Dec 22, 2014 - 11:08am

The interior line play is critical for a guy like Brees who needs his line to create throwing lanes.

Colston reminds me of Antonio Freeman. One season Freeman had that half step edge that allowed him to create separation and then it was gone. So his other assets of quick cuts and strength were less valuable since linebackers could keep pace much less defensive backs

Points: 0

#69 by Bright Blue Shorts // Dec 22, 2014 - 1:50pm

I'd suggest that if Tom Brady were playing on a team not coached by Bill Belichick, we'd been talking about his "steep" decline. Think back to week 4 and the beating by the Chiefs and everybody was ready to see Brady replaced by Garropolo.

Unfortunately as you say, Brees is suffering from loss of surrounding cast. Quite possibly it would be the same story for Manning if Denver didn't have Fox coaching and that defense.

Points: 0

#162 by Dave Bernreuther // Dec 22, 2014 - 5:10pm

That comment almost sounds complimentary to the conservative Mr. Fox...

Points: 0

#191 by Alternator // Dec 22, 2014 - 11:55pm

Since coming to Denver, Fox has shown a willingness to adapt his strategy to the players available - heavy running and trickery when stuck with Tebow, then airing it out with Manning, and now that Manning seems to be hitting a wall, Fox is channeling his boss and leaning on the running game.

It's good coaching - don't ask your players to do what they are simply not capable of doing, when there's something else that might work they CAN do.

Points: 0

#221 by arias // Dec 24, 2014 - 1:59am

Peyton has looked like he's been in steep decline over the past month and people are talking about it.

Points: 0

#15 by Biebs // Dec 22, 2014 - 11:09am

If Rex Ryan wants, he'll be a DC or a Head Coach next season. There are too many teams with good offenses and bad defenses that they wouldn't hire a guy like Rex. I think the only question is if he gets another Head Coaching job right away.

The Jets haven't developed a single good offensive skill player in six seasons. That's partially on the GM, but that falls on Rex, too. He just strikes me as an old style coach that should not be involved in player personnel decisions. I don't think he's that kind of coach. I think he could really stand to be a Defensive Coordinator again, and spend a little time observing a head coach and understanding more about the offensive side of the ball.

Rex is the kind of coach that will get a 2nd chance and it wouldn't surprise me at all if he won a Super Bowl with his 2nd team. To take Mark Sanchez to 2 AFC Championship games is a pretty incredible accomplishment. He will either need to be a Head Coach with a better offensive mind running the Offense, or a DC where he gets total control of the defense. Either way, unless he decides he wants to do TV, he'll be a head coach again.

Points: 0

#19 by James-London // Dec 22, 2014 - 11:25am

I'd welcome him coaching Miami's D. If nothing else he gives the Patriots' offense fits

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

Points: 0

#169 by Athelas // Dec 22, 2014 - 6:17pm

As a Patriots fan, I would HATE to see Rex in Miami. I hope he goes to the NFC.

Points: 0

#20 by Peregrine // Dec 22, 2014 - 11:26am

If Mike Smith is fired by the Falcons, I think Rex would be a good fit in Atlanta. I'd much prefer him to Peyton Manning's "offensive coordinator."

Points: 0

#193 by greybeard // Dec 23, 2014 - 1:38am

That makes great sense. They have good QB and receivers. Get a good OC and have Rex fix the defense.

Points: 0

#82 by Pottsville Mar… // Dec 22, 2014 - 2:15pm

In addition to being a good defensive strategist, Rex's players seem to love him and usually give good effort (even this year, when they have had every reason to half-ass it for the last 10 games or so). I wonder if a team could hire him as HC with the understanding that Rex would motivate the troops and coach the defense, then hire a competent GM and a self-sufficient offensive coordinator. That would seem to be a great recipe for success.

Then again, the Ryan family has a history with attempting to influence the decisions of offensive coordinators...

Points: 0

#115 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Dec 22, 2014 - 3:16pm

Rex Ryan may be bombastic, larger than life personality, but I never got the sense that he was a macho, alpha-male jerk like his dad.

Points: 0

#156 by Bright Blue Shorts // Dec 22, 2014 - 4:52pm

I always got the sense that while he obviously loves football and wants to see his team win, he doesn't take it so seriously that he loses all perspective.

Points: 0

#16 by big10freak // Dec 22, 2014 - 11:12am

The Packers cut back on Peppers snaps even further this weekend and he looked to have snap back in his legs when he was on the field.

The bull rush/forced fumble (TB recovered) was great.

The special teams penalties have GOT to end. GB twice (maybe three times?) committed a penalty while the ball was being fair caught!

Points: 0

#17 by Rocco // Dec 22, 2014 - 11:13am

The Steelers/Chiefs game also saw the worst taunting call ever- William Gay got flagged after a 3rd down stop for taunting because he was celebrating with a teammate with no Chiefs in the vicinity. Somehow the refs miss Lynch grabbing his crotch on a TD run but you enjoy a good play your teammate makes with an opponent within 50 yards and the flag flies.

The Steelers exceeded my expectations this year. They're going to die a fiery death against either the Broncos or Pats in round 2 but I'm just glad they're back in the playoffs. Now they can't be forced to do Hard Knocks until 2017 at the earliest.

Points: 0

#175 by DRohan // Dec 22, 2014 - 6:51pm

On a Steeler site, someone wrote that the league was going to fine James Harrison $25K for Gay taunting Timmons.

Points: 0

#21 by Julio // Dec 22, 2014 - 11:29am

Rex didn't have Sanchez thrust upon 'im. He loved Sanchez, had him tattooed
on his arm. He can't judge QB's.

Points: 0

#26 by gomer_rs // Dec 22, 2014 - 11:52am

If I were to hire Rex I would have Rex hire a co-HC OC. That OC would have total control on offense and have the final word on players, play calling, play style, etc. on offense.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

Points: 0

#28 by Thomas_beardown // Dec 22, 2014 - 11:56am

They weren't co-head coaches, but the Bears did something similar to this when Jerry Angelo hired Ron Turner and told Lovie this is your OC now.

I get the impression that Rex would benefit from a strong GM who is a little more hands on with running the team.

Points: 0

#30 by gomer_rs // Dec 22, 2014 - 11:59am

Lovie too, can't forget Lovie. Though, in Lovie's defense he had one year where Cutler, Forte, and I think Forte's backup all got hurt. He basically had an Arizona Cardinals year, when it comes to injury luck.

I couldn't believe how stupid it was of them to fire Lovie.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

Points: 0

#96 by Duke // Dec 22, 2014 - 2:40pm

I don't think there's any evidence to suggest that that was the wrong move...certainly not what's happened in Tampa this year. I still think it was the right move. Both Lovie and the team needed a change.

Points: 0

#113 by Thomas_beardown // Dec 22, 2014 - 3:14pm

Lovie's worst 2 year stretch was 16 wins. Trestman's 2 year stretch will now be 13-14 wins. Trestman got a team coming of a 10-6 season. Lovie got a team coming off a 4-12 season.

Points: 0

#151 by Brian // Dec 22, 2014 - 4:44pm

Nitpicking here:

The 2003 Bears (Dick Jauron's final year) went 7-9. Bears fans will fondly remember this as the Kordell Stewart year.

You're probably thinking of the 2002 Bears, who indeed went 4-12. That was the year they played all their home games in Champaign. It was also a huge letdown season after the miracle 2001 season where the Bears inexplicably went 13-3.

None of this takes away from your larger point, which is that Trestman inherited a pretty good, if flawed, football team, and didn't do much with it. I mean the offense, if we're going by DVOA, is still better this year than it was in any of the Lovie years (excepting perhaps 2006, but even then I still believe this year's offense ranks higher). So the offense has improved. But the defense of course fell off a cliff. Maybe that would have happened anyway even if Lovie remained the head coach. We'll never know.

Points: 0

#158 by Brian // Dec 22, 2014 - 4:55pm

Ah, I see what you mean now. Sorry!

It was a good opportunity to mention the Kordell Stewart year.

Points: 0

#109 by gomer_rs // Dec 22, 2014 - 3:09pm

Maybe I'm just speaking as the fan of a team that had one playoff appearance between 1989 and 2002 (led by Jon Kitna no less), that you don't toss coaches who 1) take you to the Super Bowl and 2) whose performance floor seems to be in the 9-10 win category barring seriously bad injury luck.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

Points: 0

#152 by TecmoBoso // Dec 22, 2014 - 4:46pm

While I agree Lovie shouldn't have been fired by the Bears, it was becoming an issue getting anyone to take the OC position. Since Lovie had been living on the hot seat for a number of years, the Bears couldn't really find anyone to take over as offensive coordinator that was any good and in the end, it seems like management decided to start over rather than fully commit to Lovie. In retrospect, this was the wrong move as the Bears are a total mess and seemingly stuck in no mans land even if the coaching staff and GM is fired.

Points: 0

#160 by Brian // Dec 22, 2014 - 5:03pm

I won't argue with that. I will say that I believe the organization had run out of patience with Jerry Angelo's/Lovie Smith's inability to fix the offense. They ran through a bunch of offensive coordinators, and a bunch of offensive linemen, with very little to show for it.

Points: 0

#183 by osoviejo // Dec 22, 2014 - 9:35pm

Every time I see an organization fire a winning coach, I think about George Karl. In six seasons, averaged 60 wins. In the ten years following, the best they managed was one season with 52 wins. Annoys me to this day.

Points: 0

#207 by Steve in WI // Dec 23, 2014 - 12:36pm

I agree. The real failure was hiring Marc Trestman (and drafting poorly under Emery). Lovie Smith was by all accounts smart and well-respected in the locker room, but he was abysmal at evaluating offensive talent and offensive coaches, and arguably the NFL is evolving past his defensive schemes.

It's incredibly misleading to point to the 10-6 record in 2012 as evidence that Lovie would have been meaningfully better than Trestman had he stayed. No defensive coach would have been able to prevent Briggs, Tillman, etc, from getting older and getting injured. And you can't possibly tell me that the Bears would have been playoff contenders in 2013 and 2014 if the offense was much like it was in 2009-2012 and the defense was roughly the same as it turned out to be. I have no doubt that Smith could have gotten more out of what is there than Trestman/Tucker (could anyone get less?), but that still doesn't equal a good defense.

Long story short, it was time for a change, the Bears just completely missed on hiring the next coach. Imagine if they'd gotten Bruce Arians (who apparently was interested in the job before Emery was an idiot during the interview process).

Points: 0

#208 by Thomas_beardown // Dec 23, 2014 - 12:57pm

"No defensive coach would have been able to prevent Briggs, Tillman, etc, from getting older and getting injured."

Said coach might have found and/or coached up effective replacements.

Points: 0

#210 by Steve in WI // Dec 23, 2014 - 1:29pm

I agree that Lovie would most likely have gotten more out of what he was given, but I don't think he had enough personnel control to mitigate the roster that Emery assembled. Hell, if he was the coach in 2014, he still probably would have been required to start Shea McClellin at linebacker.

To oversimplify things, Lovie Smith had numerous chances to put together a championship team based on great defense, great special teams, and a bad to barely mediocre offense. I think the decision to go in another direction (especially considering the aging and decline of some really special players like Briggs, Tillman, Hester, and Urlacher - guys that I don't think you can argue were great only because they were coached by Lovie) was warranted, and I was hopeful to see the Bears win a championship with a good-to-great offense and decent defense/special teams. Instead, what we've been given is a mediocre offense, a terrible defense and special teams, and a coach who inspires zero confidence in anything at all.

Points: 0

#213 by Thomas_beardown // Dec 23, 2014 - 2:36pm

I don't think letting Lovie leave was the worst decision in the world. However, what has happened is exactly what I expecting. The Bears let an above average coach leave and ending up with a below average coach*. This happens just about any time an above average coach is let go.

"guys that I don't think you can argue were great only because they were coached by Lovie"

Nothing in football is only because of one thing. That said I believe Lovie was heavily involved in the Briggs pick since he was basically a Derrick Brooks clone**. Guys like Major Wright and Chris Conte declined heavily and immediately upon Lovie and his staff leaving. Lovie would have had input on drafting defensive players at a minimum (unless Emery is some kind of AJ Smith ego maniac). A player like Fuller might have been even better than his reasonably impressive rookie year than he was with better coaching.

*Trestman may yet prove to be an average or better coach. Like I said, the way this year ended shows a poorly run organization, and I hate it, but coaches can improve with 2nd chances.

**Don't mean to imply he is as good as Brooks, just in the same Tampa 2 will backer mold.

Points: 0

#23 by johonny // Dec 22, 2014 - 11:37am

Minn/Mia- The Dolphins edged the Vikings in a game that saw a huge amount of points in the 4th quarter. Both teams had little to play for but the game was entertaining right up to the end. Tannehill was the first Miami QB since Marino to throw 4 TDs in a game. He pretty much is the Miami QB for the next 5-10 years and the fan base is going to have to just get over that fact. The Vikings young QB did all right as well. Joe Philbin is returning. I thought the new GM did a decent job this season. Rex Ryan, should he be let go, is likely to be heavily sought by Miami as assistant head coach-defense. Miami won't be in the play offs because 1) The LT went down to injury on a thin oline 2) Joe Philbin hasn't figured out how to manage the last 2 mins of the half and game 3) Their special teams were generally terrible in kick coverage, kick offs, and field goals 4) The defensive backfield looked old in the second half of the season. Miami fans have to wonder what if Smith and Davis had been back there instead of Grimes and whoever was healthy this week, but they can't erase the terrible moves of Jeff Ireland. Another offseason would go a long way to purging the last reminiscence of Jeff Ireland's stink from the roster. I expect a lot of new faces at LB, CB and safety. Is this team building, peaked or stuck at 7-9 wins? You ask that same question of much of the AFC where it feels like the Steelers,Ravens, Patriots, Colts, and Broncos make the play offs 8/10 years while the other franchises sputter in place.

Points: 0

#31 by James-London // Dec 22, 2014 - 12:00pm

Didn't see last night's game, but I'm encouraged by the season as a whole.
Miami finally has a QB, and the draft this year looks good-arguably Ju'wan James is the best Rookie OT, and Landry's had a strong year, and Miami's free agents worked out ok. I'm fine with Philbin coming back, but he needs someone with a cattle prod stood next to him as remider that goofy time-outs are not OK, and I'd be really excited if he hired Rex Ryan as D co-ordinator.
This being Miami, Grimes & Wake are aging, and it would be typical for the defense to implode just as the Offense comes together.

O-line (esp interior), Linebackers and DB depth should be high on the list for the off-season

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

Points: 0

#54 by Tim F. // Dec 22, 2014 - 12:57pm

Finnegan and Delmas were already stopgaps; unfortunately Will Davis was injured all year and Jamar Taylor suffered that dislocated shoulder a few weeks back. Despite that injury, I think it could be argued that Jamar Taylor has been our best CB the last few weeks. (Grimes can look like one of the best when he's at his best, but needing to overcome his size and speed disadvantage with an insane knack for the ball and insane athleticism in that final moment to overcome his limitations means he can easily be beat through schemes or himself — how many times does he end up on the ground on routes trying to cut or jump a pass?) So the team will need some fresh faces in the secondary but I think with Jamar Taylor, possibly Will Davis (he hasn't shown he can stay healthy nor much on the field as yet), Reshad Jones, Jimmy Wilson, Walt Aiken, Michael Thomas, possibly RJ Stanford and the possibility of keeping the old guys (Delmas, Finnegan, Grimes) I'm not too conserved about roster depth/talent in the secondary. Every team needs to replenish their secondary every year.

Likewise, I'm not too concerned about the pass rushers. Cam can disappear for games or stretches but that has always been true while he remains relatively tread-free and a physical specimen. OV, Shelby, and Dion Jordan (yes, seriously — he's been playing hybrid role despite not being trained as a LBer and in limited down situations) are no slouches. Fede has shown his potential, making big plays on limited snaps on special teams. With some more experience and a bit more strength training, he could be a big asset.

What I'm most concerned with is the interior of the offensive line (still) and the defensive line. Up until yesterday, it seemed like Randy Starks had finally run out of gas. Likewise, Odrick and Mitchell seemed gassed and incapable of stopping the run the last 6 weeks. If Coyle sticks around, this defense can't operate and be successful late in the season without a strong DL capable of containing, if not stopping, the run.

(I won't mention the LBers because I presume we finally free ourselves of Wheeler in the offseason. While what remains is inexperienced and somewhat limited, basically everyone else is a bit beat-up and worn-down now, making the picture very unclear. What I think they need most in the LB corp isn't a better talent, but a true team leader... something Misi, Jenkins, and Freeny are unlikely ever to be. If Randy Starks is done, there is no beast on the team to lead the D, set a great example — just skill, finesse, quiet, workman types.

Points: 0

#24 by CincySaint // Dec 22, 2014 - 11:47am

Aaron -- thanks for providing a voice of reason in the Brees debate. I'm a huge Saints fan and I've seen every game they've played for the last 17 years (thank you Sunday Ticket). While Brees may have declined a little, his supporting cast has not lived up to the hype.

Let's start with the offense. Brees has never had elite receivers. Cooks has potential but he's a rookie and now out for the year. Teams are doubling Graham and playing him with DBs so he has not been as open. And the offensive line has not been very good at pass blocking -- particularly up the middle where Brees likes to step up into the pocket.

Using FO's drive stats, you can see that the Saints offense is still potent. First in yards per drive, fifth in points per drive, first in plays per drive, and first in drive success rate. Yes, only a pedestrian 16th in INT per drive but those numbers sound elite to me.

And regarding the comment about Brees not begin able to throw down field. I don't have access to the exact numbers but I did see them a week or two ago. Brees is first or second in completion % on balls thrown 20 yards or more down the field. But he has FAR few attempts at such passes than in years past. Why? No time to throw.

So why the debate on Brees aging? Because team success hasn't met unrealistic expectations and the defense is horrible.

How does the defense impact Brees? The Saints offense is 30th in starting drive position. So they are constantly in the whole, trying to move the length of the field. That makes turnovers potentially more costly. Second, the defense has given up a bunch of games were Brees and the offense set up a victory -- see ATL game 1, Cleveland, and the 49ers. Finally, because the defense is so bad the Saints have been behind in a lot of their games in 2014. In years past, they got out ahead and that made the offense more dangerous. Plus when sometimes when you are behind you have to make risks and thus INTs occur. Brees has always been a bit of risk taker and his INT % has historically been higher than Brady or Manning.

So to you Brees bashers, I ask two questions:
1) If the Saints defense held up its end and the Saints won just those three games I mentioned (so Saints would be 9-6 and NFCS winner) would anyone be criticizing Brees?
2) What other QB could do as much as Brees with so little? Maybe Brady but not Manning and probably not Rodgers.

Sorry but I'm not ready to ride Brees out to pasture. And to suggest that Brees' career is not in the same category as Brady and Manning is ridiculous.

Points: 0

#27 by dmstorm22 // Dec 22, 2014 - 11:55am

Manning did more than Brees with less in 2008, 2009 and 2010 (espeically those book-end years).

Peyton did not have good blocking late in his Colts tenure. Did not have any running game, and had receivers that constantly got hurt apart from Reggie Wayne. His teams suceeded.

Drew Brees's efficiency to me has been tied to the success of his run game more than any QB. Peyton and Rodgers have suceeded without real running games. Brady has as well the few years he hasn't had one (2005 being the best example). Brees has played well, but there is a real trend that his overall numbers and efficiency drops when his run game struggles at a larger rate than most top QBs.

By the way, Brees's career is not in the same category as Manning. You can make a stats argument vs. Brady, but even then is an extreme reach.

Points: 0

#29 by Thomas_beardown // Dec 22, 2014 - 11:59am

I would agree with this. Jim Kelly is not in the same category as Steve Young or Brett Favre. He was still a hall of fame QB. That's where Brees is. There's no shame in being the Jim Kelly of an era.

Points: 0

#154 by TecmoBoso // Dec 22, 2014 - 4:49pm

But he's got a ring (thanks Peyton!). McNabb strikes me more of the Jim Kelly of this era (00s/early 10s).

Points: 0

#181 by Kurt // Dec 22, 2014 - 8:07pm

Kelly is somewhere between the two, once you adjust for era. Brees is top 2 in the league regularly in yards and touchdowns. Kelly was consistently top 5 or so. McNabb was 7th or 8th in the league a couple of times. When Kelly threw 18 touchdowns in 1993, that was good for sixth in the league; it might not crack the top 20 this year depending on next week.

IMO the closest current player to Kelly is Rivers.

Points: 0

#182 by Thomas_beardown // Dec 22, 2014 - 8:36pm

It's not a direct comparison. He's just clearly in the 2nd class of HoF behind Brady, Manning, and Rodgers.

McNabb was very good, but not HoF in my opinion. Like Mark Brunell or Drew Bledsoe.

Points: 0

#222 by arias // Dec 24, 2014 - 3:06am

Strongly disagree with this. Only twice in Peyton's 13 year tenure with the Colts did his offensive line finish the season not ranked 1st or 2nd in the league in pass blocking via Football Outsiders rankings. Those years were 2007 when they finished fifth and 2001 when they were 7th.

In the years you mentioned Manning still had Reggie Wayne in his prime to lean on. What hall of fame receiver does Brees comparably have that he can depend on? Colston? Don't make me laugh. Peyton also had Marvin Harrison two of those years in spite of being past his prime, that's another hall of fame talent he had catching his passes as well as an above average Dallas Clark.

Brees has done more with less. He's made Kenny Stills into a serviceable option and Graham this year is about on par with what Peyton had in Dallas Clark. But I'm sorry Harrison + Wayne are the far superior receiving duo to Colston + Stills. There's really no comparison.

Points: 0

#34 by Perfundle // Dec 22, 2014 - 12:05pm

1) If the Saints defense held up its end and the Saints won just those three games I mentioned (so Saints would be 9-6 and NFCS winner) would anyone be criticizing Brees?

Considering that people are talking about Peyton's retirement because of the recent lack of pass attempts on a 11-3 team, yes they would.

Points: 0

#77 by Alexander // Dec 22, 2014 - 2:06pm

I disagree that Aaron is the voice of reason. Particularly because the line he is attacking with, "I think this afternoon we finally reached the nadir of the "all quarterbacks are either elite Hall of Famers or suck-ass losers" theory with this Saints loss." is actually half true.

Because QBs are all generally paid 20+ million once at least 1 GM in the game thinks they are good, QBs are either "Great HOF level" or "Crap". They aren't crap because they shouldn't be in the NFL, but they are CRAP because you can't assemble a good enough team around them to cover up for their deficiencies when you pay them $20 million.

Flacco can win a title on his rookie deal, its hard to win a title with Flacco on is current deal. He is now a bad player because you have to take into account the $15 million in players they could add if they just had Kyle Orton instead.

Points: 0

#106 by dank067 // Dec 22, 2014 - 3:01pm

Kyle Orton has been really bad for Buffalo as the year has carried on, though. Buffalo's defense+special teams is quite a bit better than Baltimore's (Buffalo's combined D+ST DVOA is 2.5x as high) and yet they're probably going to finish the season two games worse than Baltimore. You're not going to save that $15 mil/year against the cap and still get competent QB play unless you draft a guy and he's able to start right away and play through his rookie contract ala Luck, Wilson and Newton in recent years. If you're looking at the opportunity cost of Flacco's contract, I would compare it to more what the Dalton, Smith, Kaepernick and Cutlers of the world are getting.

(Of course, Flacco has a particularly bad contract, as does Brees and Romo, but that's because those teams were in bad cap shape when they went in for those extensions.)

Points: 0

#120 by mrt1212 // Dec 22, 2014 - 3:36pm

If you factor in salary based value comparisons, you'll need to do an entire redo of the site and the analytics they track.

Points: 0

#25 by Thomas_beardown // Dec 22, 2014 - 11:49am

The arguments about Brees seem awfully similar to arguments about Cutler. "Mistakes are the worst possible times" I now read as code for either 1) bad luck or 2) a quarterback not getting enough help from his defense and keeping a game close until the end when he makes a single mistake.

Actually after writing that, it sounds like Brees is getting some Romo treatment.

Points: 0

#35 by nath // Dec 22, 2014 - 12:09pm

New Orleans has had an absurd amount of huge, game-swinging plays this year: Pick-sixes, failures at the goal line (I count at least three), sack-fumbles or interceptions in critical situations (like the Detroit game). Hard to say with some of those how much is bad luck (both the result of the close play and the fact that it comes at the worst possible time) and how much is the result of bad decision-making or performance.

Points: 0

#62 by Dan // Dec 22, 2014 - 1:33pm

I read "Mistakes at the worst possible times" as a claim that his WPA is worse than his EPA. Which is true - Brees is 6th in EPA and 13th in WPA. His EPA is actually close to what it was in 2012-13.

Points: 0

#65 by Thomas_beardown // Dec 22, 2014 - 1:42pm

I'm saying players don't pick when they're going to make a mistake. If it's at the "worst possible times" it's because of one of the two reasons listed above. Things a player can't control and thus shouldn't be judged on.

Points: 0

#37 by Tim F. // Dec 22, 2014 - 12:17pm

The Mia-Min game almost took the award for worst taunting. I don't know if the flag was thrown and picked up or someone was asking for it, but on Mike Wallace's sick tipped catch for a touchdown — as the team ran over to congratulate him, he joking ran away from them, streaked across the end zone to the Miami sideline, and simply, quietly took his place on the bench — the officials actually announced that there was no taunting on the play... No kidding, in what universe could running away from a celebration or simply returning to your side of the field be deemed taunting.

However, the game certainly had the worst personal foul. I tend to give the officials a lot of leeway in protecting players and in judgment calls, but late in the game, Bridgewater throws up a bad pass on 3rd down, a Miami defender gets his hands on the ball first in front of two Minnesota receivers, Jimmy Wilson gives a clean hit on the 2nd receiver in the back (no leading with helmet or elbow, no leaving his feet or spearing, clearly in the mid-back region)... The refs take a minute to discuss, presumably to note whether or not the legal hit was after the ball was tipped... Somehow call a PF and actually claim it was an elbow to the head away/after the play (can't recall exactly how they phrased it, but it seemed like they were calling it as some sort of modified defenseless receiver-type hit by the way they worded it).

Points: 0

#48 by jmaron // Dec 22, 2014 - 12:47pm

I agree with you about how bad that pf call was, no elbow, no blow to the head. Horrible call. You aren't correct about the pass though - the Minnesota player (Thielan) dropped a very catch able high ball and then the Miami defender hit the Jarius Wright. Nothing illegal about it.

Being a Viking fan I'm biased but the call on the no TD at the end of the 1st half and the PI on the Viking db in the end zone with a minute to go were killers. In general, I thought there were a lot of bad calls in the game.

Points: 0

#58 by Tim F. // Dec 22, 2014 - 1:07pm

I've seen a lot of bitching about the out of bounds call from Vikings fans, and I don't get it. You had 4 downs with a yard and a half to go to get a touchdown instead of the FG, whereas if they had been granted the TD, there was still more than 30 minutes to determine how Miami may or may not have overcome that touchdown — and as you agree, the Vikes definitely benefited and got the later touchdown off of the bad PF (Miami was definitely thrown off by that call, the next play was the big 40+ yard reception to get into the red zone, when the drive should have been over.) Meanwhile, Minnesota allowed Miami to score TDs on five straight possessions to end the game — but the game was lost on an out of bounds call a yard and a half away from the end zone? I don't think so.

The PI was definitely a good call. Yes, he did turn to look for the ball, but he was literally holding both of Mike Wallace's arms down at the upper shoulder, preventing him from making a play.

I also couldn't believe the Vikes didn't have an ejection (I forget who it was). That first jawing exchange that led to a clear punch in front of the officials... Even the player himself thought he was ejected, presumably he heard that from one of the officials... and then they let him stay around.

Yes, there were plenty of bad calls, but I thought they were either a wash and/or favored the Vikings.

Points: 0

#60 by Tim F. // Dec 22, 2014 - 1:24pm

One of the other bad calls, I thought, against Miami was the false start against Darren Colledge late in the game. The O-line was set, he made one last hand motion to the line calling out the Viking's defense scheme but his feet were set... Then a moment later 2 Dlineman on Minnesota jumped the snap, they may not have gotten far into the neutral zone, more like twitched, but College extended his arm to make contact to trigger the offsides call... They call a false start on him. It ended up not mattering, but that's a call that goes to the offense 99.999% of the time.

Points: 0

#220 by jmaron // Dec 23, 2014 - 11:33pm

I actually rewatched the game - the ref called a forearm to the back - it was Seragusa and the other colour guy that said it wasn't to the head. The ref never said anything but a forearm to the back - which is exactly what he did. Didn't know that was a foul.That was a 2nd down play by the way - arguing Miami was shaken up is kind of silly. They gave up another 50 yards or so for the TD.

If you want to argue that front - 3 or 5 Miami drives involved 15+ yard penalties against Minnesota.

As for the punch in front of the official - I watched the replay - it never shows up on the film - just the reaction of the players and the coach on the sidelines and the broadcasters saying the guy was ejected. The guy was flagged, but you can't have two 15 yard penalties on the same play.

Arguing which team benefited most from the calls is silly - it's always fan based. Neither team is going to the playoffs so it doesn't matter much, does it?

Points: 0

#224 by Tim F. // Dec 24, 2014 - 10:38am

I don't get most of your comments:

Okay, if the refs said elbow to the back... that makes it an even worse call. I don't see any reason why it's silly to say that penalty put Miami out of sorts... yes, they gave up 40+ yards on the next play, I said that. Jimmy Wilson was literally risking another penalty demonstrating what he did ON A REF 3 minutes later... Thanks for correcting me on the down; still would have been 3rd and long rather than a 15 yard gain and first down.

I don't know what your line about Miami having drives with Minnesota penalties means. No shit. Most of them weren't horrendous, most of them were a result of a very touchy Minnesota team getting very chippy and "extracurricular" or standard procedural calls. Nothing to bewilder and enrage the team.

Unclear why a punch needs to show on camera, when it's clear to everyone on the field, including the officiating crew. Yes, he was flagged. Ejecting him doesn't mean you'd be throwing two flags.

My initial point was that Minnesota wasn't robbed of the game. That there were bad calls but with a small net benefit to the Vikings or a wash (again, as I said) but it didn't matter to the results. And, yes, I agree, neither team is going to the playoffs. No, I don't see why that means I'm not allowed to talk about it (but you are?). The game still happened even if you think it's meaningless.

Points: 0

#161 by johonny // Dec 22, 2014 - 5:09pm

You can argue the Vikings "won" the game because by winning the game Miami might move up into 2nd place in the AFCeast and would thus face a tougher 2015 schedule and a lower draft pick. By losing the Vikings won in the draft and Miami lost:)

Points: 0

#39 by commissionerleaf // Dec 22, 2014 - 12:24pm

Drew Brees is the new Tony Romo.

The narrative about him is defined by negative television highlights created by his offensive line AND (especially) the Saints defense, while the body of his work is still very good.

That said, he has always been a compiler who depended a lot on screens and the like for his yardage totals. He wasn't as good in 2009 as people said, and he isn't as bad now as people say either.

He's Tony Romo, only older and less injury prone.

Points: 0

#223 by arias // Dec 24, 2014 - 3:19am

Terrible comp. Romo has made a career out of being himself. Romo also doesn't have a ring and is not, at this time at least, Canton bound like Brees.

Points: 0

#41 by Will Allen // Dec 22, 2014 - 12:41pm

The child beating running back has masked the inadequately physical Vikings offensive line since 2008; once Birk moved to Baltimore they began to slide, and it accelerated with Hutchinson's and Mckinnine's decline, and the installation of some pretty soft o -lineman would have a been a lot more obvious absent a HOF performance against loaded boxes for the past 5 years.

I think Bridgewater will be fine, if they obtain some nasty fellows to block for him. That's far from a given, unfortunately. I would be interested in seeing some numbers regarding pass rushers from northern teams who do not travel to Florida every November and December; it seems like the Vikings pass rushers really wilted in the 2nd half.

Points: 0

#43 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Dec 22, 2014 - 12:44pm

"if they obtain some nasty fellows to block for him"

Would you be willing to take Dominic Raiola off our hands then? Oh, that's not the kind of "nasty" you were talking about? Well, nevermind then.

Seriously, most Lions fans (even the knucklehead ones) would wholeheartedly agree with Ben Muth's assessment about Raiola. I actually hope he gets suspended for the Green Bay game, not only because he deserves it, but also because Travis Swanson may actually be a step up in performance.

Points: 0

#50 by Will Allen // Dec 22, 2014 - 12:48pm

Yes, I should have said "talented, smart, and nasty". Dumb, nasty, and slow doesn't do too much.

Points: 0

#67 by TomC // Dec 22, 2014 - 1:46pm

Yeah, Muth's comment ("His dirty play might be somewhat tolerable if he was even a league average starter, but he's not.") is morally reprehensible but 100% accurate.

Points: 0

#99 by Duke // Dec 22, 2014 - 2:43pm

This was essentially the Incognito Effect up until last year. I never figured out why that guy kept getting chances, either.

Points: 0

#85 by Pottsville Mar… // Dec 22, 2014 - 2:19pm

I think that Swanson was drafted with an eye toward redshirting him, then having him step in for Raiola next year. That's an upgrade they probably should have done 3-4 years ago. So what's a one-game difference? He should be ready by now.

Points: 0

#76 by jmaron // Dec 22, 2014 - 2:02pm

I'm very impressed by Bridgewater - he had a stretch of inaccuracy early on but over the last 4 games or so he's been very accurate. I read he's the first rookie ever to complete at least 70% of his passes in 4 consecutive starts (apparently guys like Rodgers, Roethlisberger and Luck have never done this either).

And, it's not like he's checking down more often, he's getting the ball down field more often than he was early on.

The Vikings have lost their last five by a combined 16 points. In their last nine only one game was outside of a td. The offence has improved as the year has gone on, but the defence slipped quite a bit since their bye week. But I think they have a really good young core on defence - so I am optimistic about this team for the first time in many years.

Points: 0

#81 by Will Allen // Dec 22, 2014 - 2:13pm

If Peterson hadn't been criminal in his parenting, I think they'd be contending for a wild card spot this Sunday, which is remarkable, since I had them pegged for 6 wins with Peterson in the lineup. Hell, if Goodell had simply made good on the statement that Peterson would be on the exempt list until his case was adjudicated, I think the Vikings might easily be sitting on 9 wins right now.

From a purely wins and loss point of view, I think it is doubtful that there will be free agents available to the Vikings this off season which would give them a better place to spend 15 million cap space, compared to Peterson. I don't know how poisonous the relationship is at this point, obviously, but I think it is wrong to assume that Vikings can't or shouldn't honor the contract one more year, even at is price, given they aren't spending much money on a starting qb.

Points: 0

#83 by jmaron // Dec 22, 2014 - 2:17pm

re: Peterson - I think he'll be back with the Vikings. Just makes too much sense to keep him. You have a very low cost QB so you can spend big money on a star RB for a couple more years. Turner loves the star RB to support his offence.

The RB crop is very deep in this draft so you use your 1st and 2nd rounders to plug other needs (OL,LB,CB maybe WR) and take a RB in the 3rd or 4th round that competes with McKinnon as the 2nd back and eventual replacement for Peterson in 2016 or 2017.

If you trade him you'll never get the value he has to the Vikings - maybe a 3rd rounder? So why trade him? Releasing Greenway and Robison would probably save a similar amount of money to releasing Peterson anyway, and those two probably have earned their release on performance. No way they contribute what Peterson can in 2015.

Points: 0

#86 by Pottsville Mar… // Dec 22, 2014 - 2:21pm

What about the PR hit, though? The Vikings probably won't be Super Bowl contenders while Peterson is still in his prime, so even if they might lose a little value by releasing Peterson, the ownership might decide that the public appearance of forgiveness for a child abuser isn't worth the extra X wins per year for the next 2-3 years if X isn't enough to put them over the top.

Points: 0

#97 by Will Allen // Dec 22, 2014 - 2:41pm

The worst PR is winning 6 games. You don't need to win a Super Bowl. You do need to be playing meaningful games in December.

Points: 0

#88 by chemical burn // Dec 22, 2014 - 2:22pm

I just don't see how they can keep him - fair or not, he's become the symbol of some really ugly shit and I can't imagine any sponsor will want him in front of their logos, smiling after a win. It's even worse if he's his usual self and playing at an MVP level - he won't be able to fade into the background like Ray Rice might be able to somewhere. I've gotten the sense a lot of Vikings fans want their best player back, but I can't imagine the team is willing to take the PR/marketing/sponsorship hit, especially considering the tsuris they've already endured. His "redemption" will almost certainly have to take place in another city, right?

Points: 0

#98 by Will Allen // Dec 22, 2014 - 2:43pm

If that was the case, they could have saved a lot of money by cutting him, because his trade value is very small.

Points: 0

#133 by chemical burn // Dec 22, 2014 - 4:11pm

Don't you think they were waiting to see how everything plays out before they make any rash decisions with their most valuable asset? Dumping him when his value was lowest was definitely possible, but again this isn't Rays Rice or MacDonald we're talking about. I think they were going to let things get clarified before they did anything. Things still aren't clear.

Points: 0

#135 by Will Allen // Dec 22, 2014 - 4:19pm

When they decided to pay him for the balance of the year, after Goodell made it clear that he wasn't going to allow him back, I think they made a decision to bring him back next year.

Points: 0

#142 by chemical burn // Dec 22, 2014 - 4:34pm

Interesting. That seems like a dangerous idea. He is the best RB in the league, so it's tough to argue with taking the risk of "will this be a disaster" vs. "will this blow over?" That Peterson doesn't seem at all contrite I think is big wildcard. All it takes is one press conference where he gets indignant over a question committing sickening, violent child abuse and it will all blow up. Personally, as a fan, I would never be able to root for him.

Points: 0

#157 by Will Allen // Dec 22, 2014 - 4:53pm

Eh, NFL teams have employed people after they killed citizens with felonious behavior. Nobody cared, in terms of being willing to watch games.

Points: 0

#168 by chemical burn // Dec 22, 2014 - 6:14pm

Oh absolutely, so betting it might blow over isn't entire;ly unreasonable. Two things though: this is child abuse. I, for one, can get over drunk driving arrests and bar fights, but beating the shit out of a child is beyond the pale for a lot of people. Secondly, the media atmosphere is very different in this case than just about anything I can think of - imagine if Michael Vick had come back as a starter (not as a back-up) somewhere closer to the prime of his career. Throw in the context of the NFL trying to repair its image and he's going to be under much scrutiny than Leonard Little or someone like that. That he seems unrepentant is the big wildcard - is he going to be able to suppress his feelings that he's right to do what he did? He hasn't displayed an ounce of self-awareness thus far. He won't have the option of being hidden behind lawyers during weekly press conferences.

Points: 0

#170 by Raiderfan // Dec 22, 2014 - 6:30pm

Then, you have probably not lost a family member to a drunk driveras I have, and approximately 10,000 other people a year do, according to the NHTSA.

Points: 0

#172 by chemical burn // Dec 22, 2014 - 6:45pm

That's absolutely true and I don't at all in any way mean to diminish it. Absolutely not.

I am very sorry for your loss and I truly apologize if I seemed glib about the problem of drunk driving. That's extremely shitty of me...

Points: 0

#91 by Will Allen // Dec 22, 2014 - 2:28pm

People have bought way too much into the "all running backs are fungible" proposition. When you get a guy who forces d-coordinators to account for the possibility of a td run on every snap, while running between the tackles, that guy ain't fungible. The reason I was so irritated (I have no position on the NFL's pr stance, nor do I see it as a useful moral instructor) that Goodell kept Peterson on the exempt list after he pled to the misdemeanor, was that I thought we were going to get a near-perfect examination of what the true value of a running back talent like Peterson still is in today's passing environment, in the span of about a half-season.

Points: 0

#46 by Will Allen // Dec 22, 2014 - 12:46pm

I really do want to see the Dallas offense go against the Seattle defense again; it just is a fascinating matchup.

Points: 0

#56 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Dec 22, 2014 - 1:03pm

Dallas totally outplayed Seattle in that last game (outgained them almost 2-1, and only a blocked punt TD kept the score closer than it had any right to be).

Now that Seattle is playing much better, the rematch looks to be a heck of a game.

Of course, if the Cowboys keep doing dumb things like keeping Tony Romo in the game or giving an already-injured Demarco Murray carries when they're up by 5 scores in the 2nd half, then the rematch might lose some of it's luster.

Points: 0

#61 by Will Allen // Dec 22, 2014 - 1:32pm

Seattle, to Carroll's credit, has constructed their defense with the modern offense's passing emphasis in mind. The Cowboys offense is a throwback to the 80s and 90s. I suspect that Seattle will be better prepared for the slugging match than they were last time, when the Cowboys just curbstomped them on their last td drive, but I want to see these two rosters have it out again.

I've loved the Cowboys roster all year, but the gross mismanagement of the Redskins game in Dallas really put me off. Maybe the players can overcome (excepting Marinelli, who is great) their management. The fact that Jerrel wanted to drafted Johnny Hype should keep any chance of Jerrel's reputation getting a boost, with anyone not named Jerrel, to a minimum, so I could find it palatable to see the Cowboys go on a run.

Points: 0

#90 by Pottsville Mar… // Dec 22, 2014 - 2:26pm

I was just looking at the Cowboys' season stats on P-F-R, and they look exactly like a 90s team (more so than I've seen from any team in the past decade). Murray has 373 carries, and the next-highest RB has 47. Bryant has 84 catches for an average of 14.5 per catch, the starting TE has 60, and the only other WRs with double-digit catches have 34 and 31. Romo has only thrown 401 passes, and the team has run the ball just over 50% of the time.

Replace the names Romo, Murray, Bryant and Witten with Aikman, Smith, Irvin and Novacek, and nobody would think anything was out of the ordinary.

Points: 0

#95 by Will Allen // Dec 22, 2014 - 2:37pm

It is amazing that the dummy in the owner's box could not recognize his own roster, and wanted to waste a number one pick on Johnny Freakin' Manziel. In the words of Bugs Bunny, what a maroon.

Points: 0

#94 by Will Allen // Dec 22, 2014 - 2:37pm

Substitute Art Monk for a tight end, and they kind of remind me of a good Joe Gibbs offense as well. What is unique about them in this day and age is that they don't get scared out of running the ball, if the defense gets unbalanced trying to stop the run, despite being quite capable (unlike almost all Adrian Peterson/Viking offenses) of passing competently. They don't care what you do; they think they have the personnel to knock the snot out of you, and will pass on their own terms.

Points: 0

#192 by David C // Dec 23, 2014 - 12:14am

That's probably because they have the personnel to knock the snot out of you.

Points: 0

#87 by Pottsville Mar… // Dec 22, 2014 - 2:22pm

Dallas matches up better with Seattle than just about any other team. Dallas' excellent offensive line neutralizes Seattle's usual advantage in the front seven, and while Dallas has a porous defense, the Seahawks don't have the weapons to take advantage.

Points: 0

Save 10%
& Support Andrew
Support Football Outsiders' independent media and . Use promo code POTTER to save 10% on any FO+ membership and give half the cost of your membership to tip Andrew.