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08 Sep 2017

Audibles: 2017 Opening Night Special

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 tune 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.

As is now tradition, we have a special Opening Night Audibles covering the regular-season opener. This year, it's a potential AFC playoff preview between the Chiefs and Patriots.

Kansas City Chiefs 42 at New England Patriots 27

Aaron Schatz: Woo! Actual football! I come to you from high above Gillette Stadium. It will be interesting to see how much the broadcast is willing to show all the fans here who are wearing those "Roger Goodell clown" shirts.

Bryan Knowles: Going to go well out on a limb here and bet tonight's game won't be as good as the last actual football game we saw, but boy oh boy is it good to have some actual, factual football back in our lives.

Malcolm Mitchell is headed to injured reserve for the Pats about two hours before game time, so that's another receiver down for New England before their first snap. This is why people need to pump the brakes on all that "19-0" talk -- no, Mitchell is not going to be the difference between a great season and a terrible one for the Patriots, but it's a long season, and plenty can happen. But every receiver that goes down makes the Brandin Cooks acquisition make more and more sense, proving once again that Bill Belichick is psychic.

Dave Bernreuther: This was the matchup I was hoping to see as a rematch in the playoffs last year, as I thought that KC's defense was the only shot the AFC had at keeping the Patriots out of the Super Bowl. Once Derek Carr got hurt in week 16 and flip-flopped the standings, though, that idea went out the window.

Somehow week 1 just doesn't have quite the same appeal. It should be a good game, but unfortunately I may end up skipping it in favor of hurricane shutter installation. Which is how you all should wish you were spending your opening nights.

Vince Verhei: Wait. Did the Flo Rida concert not make TV? I'm actually bummed. The Patriots throw the best Super Bowl parties.

Bryan Knowles: Well, they've got experience at it by now. You'd hope they'd be good at it!

Aaron Schatz: I love it. We start the season with a wide-open man. Completely wide open, Dwayne Allen, some kind of blown coverage... and Brady overthrows him. I guess he's not perfect after all!

Well, that play was the aberration it looked like it would be. The entire first drive is completely clinical, hurry-up offense marching down the field easily, throwing to whoever is not being covered by Marcus Peters. Some sizeable running holes on handoffs as well.

Bryan Knowles: Kareem Hunt at Toledo: 782 carries, zero fumbles. Kareem Hunt at Kansas City: one carry, one fumble.

Aaron Schatz: The Chiefs are really blanketing Rob Gronkowski. Really physical coverage. Sometimes Ron Parker, sometimes Eric Berry. He keeps looking for flags. A couple didn't get thrown because passes looked uncatchable. He just dove for a touchdown in the end zone, looked like his first catch of the year, but got overturned as a trap ball. Of course, the Patriots get five yards anyway because the Chiefs jumped offside. Pretty one-sided so far, ain't it?

Bryan Knowles: The Chiefs get their first actual play of the season, stuffing Mike Gillislee on 4th-and-1 from the 10. Prepare for the incoming stream of "momentum!" tweets, I'm sure, but it was the right call to go for it; just some nice penetration up the middle by the Chiefs D.

Aaron Schatz: It looked like the Chiefs were waiting for the Tom Brady sneak. Two defensive tackles were lined up right over each of the center's shoulders.

Bryan Knowles: Brady didn't actually have any fourth down sneaks a year ago, though he had a few on second and third downs. I wouldn't be at all surprised if he doesn't have another sneak in an expected situation again, considering he's 40 years old at this point.

Scott Kacsmar: Huge stop. When it looked like the Patriots would go up 10-0 or 14-0, the Chiefs tackle well.

Reminder: Patriots are 104-1 at home since 2001 when leading by 8-plus points at any time.

Aaron Schatz: Well, the Chiefs tie it up after stopping the fourth down. A Chiefs special drive, all short stuff mixed with good runs. They ran a Travis Kelce option. They ran a triple option with a shovel pass on second-and-1. Touchdown to Demetrius Harris when Devin McCourty got kind of turned around.

Tom Gower: We lost. It's fourth-and-inches at the 7-yard-line in a 7-7 game, early in the second quarter. Bill Belichick, who has the best job security of anybody on earth not self-employed, and a coach with a demonstrated history of unconventional aggressiveness, kicks the field goal in a game where he has the better team and an offense that has been largely successful.

Aaron Schatz: As I pointed out in an ESPN Insider piece this week... Belichick has been surprisingly conservative on fourth down over the last few seasons. Much closer to league average than to Sean Payton territory.

Scott Kacsmar: Seems like I always say this because coaches mix it up, but stick to one strategy. Either you go for both fourth-and-1 situations, or you kick the field goal both times.

Aaron Schatz: 13 yards, 4 yards, no yards. I think the Chris Hogan end around has diminishing returns, kids.

Bryan Knowles: Brady's getting all year to throw back there, and Kansas City keeps rushing just three. Playing coverage and hoping Brady makes a mistake does not seem like a strategy likely to be successful.

Aaron Schatz: People who know more about the rules than me: Is it legal for Tyreek Hill to make the fair catch signal but then have De'Anthony Thomas catch the punt and return it? Or is that illegal and the refs just missed it (although they did throw a flag for holding)?

Tom Gower: If a player on the receiving team calls fair catch, the ball is dead when caught by a player on the receiving team. Hill calls fair catch, Thomas's return doesn't count.

Bryan Knowles: I don't think it's a penalty, but the play is dead then. You can't have one guy call a fair catch and someone else run it back as a trick.

"If the ball is caught or recovered by a teammate who did not make a valid fair-catch signal, the ball is dead immediately, but it is not a fair catch. The ball will next be put in play by a snap by the receiving team at the dead- ball spot (or at the succeeding spot after enforcement of any applicable penalties)."

Vince Verhei: Yeah, I thought it was a penalty too, but apparently not.

Bryan Knowles: There's apparently a five-yard penalty for "undue advance" -- so, if they ignore the whistles and just keep going. Delay of Game, essentially.

Aaron Schatz: Yeah, so it is listed in the play-by-play as a dead ball.

4-6-NE 44 (2:55) R.Allen punts 39 yards to KC 17, Center-J.Cardona. D.Thomas, dead ball declared at KC 17 for no gain. PENALTY on KC-F.Zombo, Offensive Holding, 9 yards, enforced at KC 17.

Vince Verhei: This game is freakin' weird. It feels like the whole half has been Tom Brady sitting in the pocket forever and ripping the Chiefs apart, and the Chiefs have no sacks or hits. But he's only 9-of-17, barely completing half his passes. And I don't understand a lot of New England's play-calling. Chris Hogan has three carries. Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead have only one each.

Meanwhile, Alex Smith has only thrown three incompletions. Of course it's all short stuff, and he's gotten very lucky on some tipped passes and great catches by his receivers. But somehow, it's working more often than not.

Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce, arguably the best offensive players on either team, have one catch each. The more I think about it, the more the teams are playing like mirror images of each other tonight.

It's all just weird. I'm guessing the Pats will settle down a bit more in the second half and go to Mike Gillislee (who has looked good when given the ball) more, and eventually pull away. But at this point who really knows?

Bryan Knowles: The Patriots hadn't allowed a 90-yard drive at home since the Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bills put one together in November of 2012. They allowed two in the first half there -- what a strange game so far.

Tom Gower: Kansas City's dilemma is the one a lot of teams are going to face this season. They know they can't cover the Patriots man-to-man, especially with New England's versatility and that anybody can line up almost anywhere, so they've primarily rushed three players and used extra cover players. But Tom Brady's good enough and patient enough and aggressive enough to hold the ball forever, keep reading the field, and put the ball accurately into tight windows. New England has also rushed three a fair amount, and Alex Smith is less aggressive, less willing to take those tight window throws, and Kansas City's offensive line has done a nice job in the run game.

Overall, as Vince notes, it feels like New England has played much better in the first half. But the fourth down stop and the field goal have meant the scoreboard doesn't reflect how it feels like play-by-play has gone. Which makes it feel even more like an Andy Reid against a good team came, especially when added to the dressing up like the Travis Kelce direct snap play, the option, and the usual mix of "we can't beat you running a 'conventional' offense so we'll muck things up a bit."

Scott Kacsmar: Another thing I really like about the Chiefs in this matchup is they know they don't have much at outside receiver, so they don't have to challenge the strength of New England's defense (Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore). So they can throw to the three tight ends, a slot guy like Albert Wilson, the backs, and the versatile Hill.

Vince Verhei: Chiefs are finally starting to rush four in the third quarter and getting a little pressure, and forcing a punt.

Aaron Schatz: I'm not sure why the Patriots went away from the hurry-up offense that looked so good on the first drive.

Looks like a busted coverage on the Tyreek Hill 75-yard touchdown. Kelce and Hill come off a stacked release, and it looked like Gilmore was backpedalling slowly and looking into the backfield while McCourty took Kelce.

Vince Verhei: I think that was actually McCourty's mistake, not Gilmore's. Looked like Kansas City was playing Cover-2 and McCourty followed Kelce over the middle instead of sticking in the deep half.

Dave Bernreuther: Boy this latest drive has really slowed down... no, wait, that's the broadcast via the app on the AppleTV. When it's not looking worse than 480p, it's not working at all. Like right now.

Oh, good, I missed a Tyreek Hill long score.

Maybe cutting the cable wasn't such a good idea after all.

That looked like a blatant hold by Peters on that deep ball overthrown to Chris Hogan. Subtle, but that's all it takes.

Tom Gower: Long TD looked like a two-deep zone. The corners dropped a bit deeper than they would in normal Cover-2, but from the overhead shot neither seemed to be carrying the outside receiver (the guy on the other side was running a similar route as Hill). The deep safety to Hill's side, I think McCourty, carried the inside route boy Kelce, and Gilmore didn't carry Hill's route.

Aaron Schatz: Terrance Mitchell with a DPI on Brandin Cooks in the end zone. DPI so good it had two officials throwing flags, not just one. What is that, the third penalty on Mitchell tonight? He's entering the Brandon Browner Zone.

Mike Gillislee scores on the second try after he gets stopped by Roy Miller (with GREAT penetration) on the first try. 24-21 Patriots.

Dave Bernreuther: Brady gets a Joe Flacco Special DPI call on an underthrown deep ball to Cooks, and just as Collinsworth mentions that he's 11-24, he gets penalties on two bad throws sandwiching a great gain, and the Pats are set up for yet another Gillislee touchdown.

Pretty bad job by the defensive back but I have always hated seeing poor throws rewarded like that.

Bryan Knowles: Four first downs on penalties for New England so far. All of them on Terrance Mitchell. Not a good day at all.

Vince Verhei: Our old buddy Cian said the same thing on Twitter and... I don't know what you guys want instead. Mitchell ran over the receiver like a freight train and didn't give him a chance to make a play on a catchable ball. He wasn't looking back at the ball at all. It's terrible coverage. So if you're going to hate anyone, hate Mitchell.

Now, I have long advocated that no DPI should count for more than 15 yards. But that's a separate issue than whether or not there was interference on that play.

Dave Bernreuther: Well if Brady was mad at me for criticizing his deep ball, that 54-yarder to Cooks was an effective way to shut me up.

Aaron Schatz: Someone please tell De'Anthony Thomas to stop taking the kickoff out of the end zone.

Cassius Marsh is a defensive lineman. He is not a linebacker. He should not be in man coverage. And he just got completely burned on a ridiculous 78-yard touchdown pass to Kareem Hunt.

Bryan Knowles: What a throw there, from Smith to Kareem Hunt for the second long touchdown of the game. Cassius Marsh was just incinerated on that one.

Vince Verhei: That long touchdown pass to Kareem Hunt was my favorite Alex Smith play since his touchdown on a quarterback sweep against New Orleans in the playoffs in the 2013 season with San Francisco. Patient, waited, checked first read, checked second read, saw a guy over the middle and just made an A-plus throw. That was awesome.

Aaron Schatz: I would like to register my discontent with the decision to run up the gut again when the Patriots had fourth-and-1 at midfield, instead of trying a nice short passing play.

Tom Gower: Not just that they ran, but the between-the-tackles run, when the Chiefs were loading up between the tackles to prevent the obvious QB sneak. I didn't get it on the earlier fourth-and-1, and I really didn't get it on that fourth-and-1 after it failed on the earlier attempt.

Bryan Knowles: Patriots are now down to four healthy receivers with Danny Amendola in the concussion protocol, and one of them is Matthew Slater and his one career reception. That's not ideal.

Aaron Schatz: Actually, Slater is inactive tonight due to a hamstring issue. They are now down to three wide receivers.

Bryan Knowles: Well, that's just fantastic news for New England.

Rivers McCown: Phillip Dorsett's time to shine, baby!

Tom Gower: Remember my earlier email about how Brady was the one who stood in the pocket forever and put the ball in tight windows? Yeah, not so much tonight. He's not finding the right sustaining receiver on third downs to replace Edelman, and he's been a bit off on some throws, most recently a third down to Cooks that he failed to bring down in-bounds and would have been short of the sticks when an great throw of the sort you'd expect from Brady likely gets the conversion. A couple of long Kansas City touchdowns that won by scheme, and the Chiefs are up with just under 9 to play.

Rivers McCown: Without Julian Edelman the New England offense doesn't have a receiver that can win his routes quickly, and you can see the choke-hold that presents to Brady on some plays.

Aaron Schatz: Meanwhile, Alex Smith is having one of the best games of his life. He seemed lucky on some of those throws in the first half but he's been firing bullets in the second half and I can't believe I just wrote that about Alex Smith.

Rivers McCown: I have enjoyed Alex Smith's funeral and reappearance from the ashes on Twitter the six times it has happened in this game

Bryan Knowles: That's going to be ballgame, as Charcandrick West rumbles 21 yards into the end zone for another touchdown. Wow, wow, wow.

This is going to significantly impact New England's chances of going 19-0.

Aaron Schatz: Sweet blocks by Eric Fisher and Travis Kelce on that huge long Kareem Hunt run... then a 21-yard touchdown on the next play. I can't believe it but this game is probably over. The Jets are actually in first place.

Vince Verhei: Hunt runs around left end for 58, and Charcandrick West goes up the middle for a 21-yard touchdown, and that should be ballgame. I am floored.

Andrew Potter: This was finally the offense the Chiefs were crying out for last year. If they can sustain this offense, and put it together with last year’s defensive performance, this could very easily be the best team in the league. At the very least, they’ll be a ton of fun to watch.

Alas, word on the street (well, Twitter) is they just lost Eric Berry for the year with a torn Achilles, which would be a huge cost for what is effectively a bonus win. I dearly hope that doesn’t turn out to be the case.

Rivers McCown: The New England defense is going to need some shuffling, especially if Dont’a Hightower is out long-term. I mean, from the very first carry of the game, KC had their way with them in the run game. Hunt fumbled that ball, but it would've gone for like nine yards had it counted. I can excuse the Tyreek Hill touchdown as a blown coverage or whatever, that happens early. But to get whipped up front like that? Bet we're gonna see some bottom-of-the-roster shuffling at the very least.

Bryan Knowles: Before anyone jumps to conclusions, we all remember the last time the Patriots got blown out by Kansas City in prime time.

Still. New England better hope they get their receivers back quickly, because the normally dynamic passing game looked... ordinary with so many injuries out there. Their defense, too, seemed discombobulated at times. It's just one game against arguably the best team in the AFC West, so it's not time to panic in New England or anything crazy like that (though I'm sure talk radio will not take that to heart over the next week and a half), but that was...unexpected.

And wow, Kansas City looked great. Kudos to Andy Reid for not benching Kareem Hunt after that career-starting fumble; he paid off in a big way. If Smith can keep throwing those deep balls and exploiting the speed of Hill, then look out.

Anyway, that feeling of inevitability that had begun to settle over the 2017 NFL season? Punctured. Who's ready for the next 255 games?

Tom Gower: My big takeaway from tonight is that New England's vaunted receiving corps didn't win the way they needed to against Kansas City's coverage. I mean, they still scored 27 points and could have scored a few more with better success in short yardage situations, but we're still waiting for early 2007 New England's offense. And, yeah, early 2007 New England's defense doesn't seem to be walking through that door either.

Kansas City's success this game is as likely to sustain itself as their ability to get chunk plays on offense and big stops on defense. Which feels an awful lot like the Chiefs we've seen the past couple seasons, so I don't really know how much it moves the needle for me. Then again, I thought they were probably co-favorites with Oakland in what should be a very competitive AFC West.

Aside from the game taking forever and Eric Berry's injury, that was an enjoyable start to the regular season.

Aaron Schatz: The good news for Pats fans is this doesn't take away Super Bowl LI. The good news for everyone else is that 2017 looks a lot more interesting.

Posted by: Andrew Potter on 08 Sep 2017

83 comments, Last at 12 Sep 2017, 8:20pm by LionInAZ


by Fargo :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 2:16am

That was fun.

Seems unlikely that Smith has turned into a reliable deep passer at his age, but I suppose we'll see.

Brady looked old, but he'll probably throw 6 TDs to Gronk next week as a revenge on us for even getting our hopes up.

by dmstorm22 :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 9:53am

Smith always had a nice deep ball, he just never, ever throws it.

To me it's always been a mental/scheme thing with him. Maybe he was so harrassed by D-Lines early in his SF career he just subconciously stopped looking deep (similar to David Carr, who had a great arm but rarely ever threw deep).

Maybe this is the start of something, Smith turning a new leaf? Or maybe it was a busted coverage and Cassius Marsh being a terrible matchup for Kareem Hunt.

by mrt1212 :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 12:45pm

Even on that specific play where Marsh was trying to cover Hunt, Smith threw a great pass to where only Hunt had a shot at it and could lay on the YAC. It was a sweet sweet play taking advantage of the situation with near perfect execution.

by theslothook :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 2:31am

Too early to say they aren't better than 2007 Patriots?

More objectively - this game reminded me of the sb against Seattle. Mid game injuries at thin positions can be absolutely hamper you schematically. This was especially true given the opponent - who basically runs the same offense as NE.

Even if both miss significant time, its not prohibitive. You can scheme around injuries(to a point) and NE will adjust. Against a good opponent mid game though is a bit tough.

Reminder to all - do NOT jump to conclusions. Oh and something tells me thats the last time we'll be seeing Jets tied for first place in the division all season. Cover your eyes Jets fans, its going to be ugly.

by t.d. :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 2:46am

Yeah, the 'will they go undefeated?' talk was ridiculous, sight unseen (and their schedule is brutal if you ask me- nfc south is four challenging qbs, afc west is also tough top-to-bottom, and houston and pittsburgh aren't pushovers, either- sure, the division is easy). Still think they'll coast into the playoffs. Both recent SBs were largely affected by timely injuries- mack going out for the falcons was big, too. lately, that seems to be what decides the playoffs- more support for the "getting as many bites at the apple as possible is the key" school of thought. didn't think brady looked that bad til they fell behind and the injuries added up

by Yu Narukami :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 2:52am

As I wrote in the other thread, injury luck for Pats was and is heading towards 2013 and 2015 territory (McClellin to temporary IR went almost unnoticed, but it is significant). So, I expect a similar result to those seasons, even considering the possibility of a TB12 nosedive and taking account of the drop in defensive talent.

Speaking of that, here are the rounds 1-3 draft picks of last 5 years for Pats

2017: 3rd -> Rivers (IR), Garcia (IR)
2016: 1st -> forfeited; 2nd -> Cyrus Jones (IR, fumbling disaster in rookie season) 3rd-> Thuney (starter), Brissett (traded), Valentine (rotational, out with injury yesterday)
2015: 1st -> Brown (starter) 2nd -> Jordan Richards (16 snaps last year) 2rd -> Grissom (practice squad, bust)
2014: 1st -> Easley (injury plagued, locker conflicts, cut) 2nd -> JimmyG (handsome backup)
2013: 2nd -> Collins (traded), Dobson (bust) 3rd -> Ryan (starter, left in FA), Harmon (rotational)


So one starter for each side of the ball. Not good. Yeah, late-rounds gems and smart acquisitions can compensate to a certain extent.

by Will Allen :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 8:21am

It was easy to forget how easily the Falcons tore off huge chunks of yardage last February, and that if a Falcons rb executes a pretty simple blitz pickup even at mid major college conference level of competency, the Falcons would likely have torn off another huge chunk for a td, and the narrative this off season would have read differently.Still, the Pats were atop the projected DVOA standings, and two of the three division competitors are in tanking mode, with the third with Smokin'Jay at the helm, so a division title is nearly certain, and HFA a strong possibility.

On the other side, it would be awesome for a team with a coach who has won a mountain of games, and still gets ridiculously maligned, and a qb who yammering know-nothings confidently pronounce is incapable of winning a Super Bowl, would do just that. Berry ripping an achilles hurts that prospect, however. Ugh, injuries remain the really, really, awful aspect of the game.

by BJR :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 9:47am

Yeah, there's no coach I'd rather see win the big one than Reid. Last night the Chiefs started said much-maligned QB, a 3rd round rookie at RB, a track-star and a couple of nobodies at WR, ok, a pro-bowler at TE. Their O-line is above average for sure, but doesn't feature any known superstars. The Patriots' defence is not top-tier, but to go on the road and tear them to shreds like that; seriously impressive coaching effort.

by dmstorm22 :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 9:55am

Let's not forget the same coach nearly beat the 2007 Pats in New England starting AJ Feeley is a semi-shootout, losing 31-28.

Andy Reid's teams, apart from the 2003 loss, have always done fairly well against Belichick's defenses. Even in 2011 with Vince Young starting they put up decent numbers.

It's amazing how few coaches actually can play sensibly and not lose their bowels every time they see the sight of the Flying Elvis (Reid, Harbaugh, Kubiak, Coughlin).

by Raiderjoe :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 12:02pm

guess that is fair although though t Reid coahched poorly with clock issues few times vs b. belichick. also think r. ryan when had good jets temas and a ltitle with the bilsl would coach competently vs pates. mght go with Moutn rushmore of facing off vs Pates-version Belichick as being Coughlin, Ryan, Harbuagh and Kubiak. do see arguem,tn for reid though.

by dmstorm22 :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 12:04pm

Fair. Reid's crutch will always be clock management.

But I've long been a proponent that clock management is overrated as a HC skill. Game preparation and play-calling is far more important, areas that Reid's teams have always excelled in.

by BJR :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 12:39pm

But clock management does still matter, and it reflects poorly on Reid that he has seemingly failed to improve his over the years (or not just simply delegated).

Still, I agree with your hypothesis, and would add that developing young players is another area in which Reid has excelled over the years.

by dmstorm22 :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 12:45pm

Oh I agree, clock & game management is important, and the best coaches at it can elevate their teams (BB in his prime, the Harbaughs always stood out to me as well), but I think the general public (especially the Andy Reid pitchfork crowd) far overrates it.

It definitely is fair to ding Reid for never really improving, especially in something that can improve over time (Tony Dungy is a classic example).

by Led :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 12:53pm

KC also ran a very efficient and well-organized end of half offense. So kudos to Reid for good clock management last night. Time will tell if that continues.

by Pat :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 1:17pm

I'm not convinced that Reid's clock management is really that bad anyway. I think the basic way he thinks is that *actually scoring* is the most important thing when you're losing. And the problem is that people always just assume that the pace is independent of your scoring chance. If you scored, but did it slow, you could've done it faster anyway.

The problem is that if you see Reid's team score, but take a ton of time, you say "man, his clock management sucks." But when you see teams hurry up and fail to score *at all*, you don't judge those coaches harshly.

I mean, look at the game that *just happened*. Before the half, the Chiefs needed to go 92 yards, and they had 2:47 to do it. With 3 timeouts. Even after the 2 minute warning, they needed to go 80 yards in 2 minutes. And they did. They scored on 2nd down with 17 seconds and one timeout remaining. They left so little clock left that Belichick just kneeled and ended the half. That's not bad clock management at all.

So which is worse: hurrying a drive up and failing to score, or being patient and at least *scoring*, which at least gives *some* chance for something to happen?

by dmstorm22 :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 1:34pm

This is true. Reid has admitted as such, especially in regards to two high-profile instances, both the Super Bowl XXXIX drive, and then the drive against NE in the 2015 playoffs to cut it to 27-20. Both times they were successful at scoring the TD, but ate up a lot of clock.

Especially in the 2015 game, they could have gone faster. IIRC, they had 1st and goal around the 2:00 from deep inside the 10, and scored with about 60 seconds left.

by Pat :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 2:01pm

In 2015, they were down 14 points against a 13-3 team. That situation already sucks. They got down to the 1 yard line with 2:33 minutes left and 3 timeouts. They're still going to lose 98%+ of the time at this point, and the only way you have a chance in hell whatsoever is scoring *at all*, and getting an onside kick.

The team gets stuffed on a run, and loses 2 yards. Now you can criticize Reid for not having the next play ready, but again, making sure you have the *right* play here is way more important, since you *have to score* to even have a chance. It's not insane to just use the 2-minute warning to get a play ready, hoping you'll come in and hit it. Then you've got 2 minutes and 3 timeouts to score, hoping you get the onside kick (which is your only realistic prayer anyway).

Then Fisher false-starts, which just totally screws your options. They end up with a short gain, clock running. Again, this sucks. But *still*, your only option is to score. So you get the right plays in, and they end up scoring.

And not getting the onside kick. So it's game over. But realistically, getting the onside kick was the only way they were tying the game *period*, so the fact that they even got *there*, with all 3 timeouts remaining, is good management. Yes, it would've been better if they could've scored without that time and without the huddle, but there's no way of knowing if they would've.

It took 5 play calls to get into the end zone there. I don't think the problem was Reid's clock management. I think the problem was that the Patriots were just better.

by theslothook :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 2:32pm

I agree in a sense that there's a tradeoff here, but I don't think the Chiefs strategy is the right tradeoff. Yes, when you are down, it sucks - but implicit in you scoring is that you are also not conceding a single first down on defense. Is that reasonable?

Its going to be hard to tease out what strategy works best since the teams that comeback most are often teams that run hurry up - but they are usually helmed by good qbs.

I still think the best thing is to maximize the number of chances you have rather than truncate the game down to needing a score and needing 1 stop.

by Pat :: Sun, 09/10/2017 - 1:46pm

Of course it's not reasonable to believe it: again, in the situation the Chiefs were in, teams lose *98-99% of the time*. You're totally counting on rare things happening.

Again, I think the big problem is that people see Reid-coached teams go down and score, and say "man, if they had rushed there, they would've had plenty of time left!" And those situations happen a lot with Reid-coached teams *because they actually score in those situations*. Whereas with other coaches if they just hurry-up and score *less often* (also failing to win those games) you don't criticize those coaches for rushing and not planning better.

by theslothook :: Mon, 09/11/2017 - 2:00am

No I agree with your seen and unseen premise. I just think its still a worse strategy than being up tempo and aggressive. Also, teams practice two minute drills and hurry ups for that specific reason.

by Pat :: Mon, 09/11/2017 - 11:20am

I think it's better to explain it as "it's a worse strategy than not overthinking things when the clock's an issue." Or maybe "micro-optimizing all the time." A lot of times people look at what Reid does and they're like "what the heck are you doing, hurry up" - but really, the problem tends to be that he thinks things through really, really hard, and doesn't care about the amount of time it takes.

But it's really hard to figure out whether or not that's a *bad* strategy, since you don't know what the "quick decision" Reid actions would be.

A lot of the "time management" criticisms of Reid actually fall into that category. There's an article somewhere that listed Reid's "biggest clock management blunders" and one of them is from 2010, when they had the ball with 9 minutes, and drove down to the goal line with like 2 minutes left, and they end up with a delay-of-game penalty on 4th and 1 and not scoring. And people say "what the heck are you doing not seeing the play clock there."

But that's not what happened. Andy specifically said that the problem was that the playcall was an inches type play, and when he saw where the officials spotted it, it *wasn't* an inches situation, so he tried to change it, they ran out of time, ended up with the penalty and had to kick the field goal.

The problem with criticizing *that* action is that if Reid thinks that the play *wouldn't work*, then taking the delay of game penalty is the right choice - because it's 3 points instead of *zero*. If you're going to criticize anything, you criticize the fact that he specifically calls a play to just gain inches, but again, that's criticizing overthinking the situation, not time management.

by Eddo :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 5:44pm

"They got down to the 1 yard line with 2:33 minutes left and 3 timeouts. They're still going to lose 98%+ of the time at this point, and the only way you have a chance in hell whatsoever is scoring *at all*, and getting an onside kick."

With all three timeouts left, I don't think you *need* to recover an onside kick... if you score before the two-minute warning. While scoring a touchdown is indeed necessary, in order to elevate your chances above 1-2%, you need to score quickly.

You're painting "scoring" and "play at a fast pace" as a binary choice; it's not. If you're down two touchdowns in the last five minutes of the game, your order of preference is

1. score quickly;
2. score slowly;
3. fail quickly;
4. fail slowly.

Especially once you're at the one yard line - your odds of scoring a touchdown are so high (relative to anywhere else on the field), you should then prioritize pace over simply scoring.

by Pat :: Sun, 09/10/2017 - 1:41pm

You can't choose "score" or "fail." Those just happen, period. The choice they're making is "take your time and pick the best play" or "hurry up and just choose any play."

And if you consider the *opponent* in those cases, I think Reid actually had been making the right choice. It's damn hard to score on a Belichick defense period, so worrying about the clock versus worrying about scoring is probably the lesser of the two worries.

"your odds of scoring a touchdown are so high (relative to anywhere else on the field), you should then prioritize pace over simply scoring."

Again, it took 5 plays for them to actually score, so the argument that well, you're going to score anyway doesn't hold a ton of water.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 09/11/2017 - 1:28pm

The choice they're making is "take your time and pick the best play" or "hurry up and just choose any play."

Why isn't "be prepared to hurry up while still selecting good plays" an option? I'll concede that additional speed may impact play selection, but "any" stretches your point into a false dichotomy. Doing so avoids the entire point of the criticism; that requiring full use of time in situations that don't allow for it is a weakness of Reid's.

Even if we concede that Reid acts the way he does to preserve as much efficiency as possible, that still implies that other coaches don't forfeit as much efficiency for speed as Andy does. He's still a hell of a coach and one I'd like to see win it all someday, but there really is no way to gloss over this gap in his arsenal.

by Pat :: Mon, 09/11/2017 - 2:13pm

"I'll concede that additional speed may impact play selection, but "any" stretches your point into a false dichotomy."

I think that depends on the coach, which is the entire point. People tend to assume that Reid could just make the same decisions, faster, and get the same results in less time. It's completely reasonable to believe that the only reason Reid gets the results he *does* get is because he forces himself to go through the options. There are impulsive thinkers with great instincts, and then there are deliberate thinkers, and I'm pretty sure Reid's a much more deliberate thinker than the average coach.

"Even if we concede that Reid acts the way he does to preserve as much efficiency as possible, that still implies that other coaches don't forfeit as much efficiency for speed as Andy does."

I don't know if you can say that. Again, the problem is that in the situations where you criticize Reid's clock management, other coaches do make decisions quicker, but very frequently those decisions *fail*. And when those decisions *do* fail, you don't call it "bad clock management," you just call it "Super Bowl XLIX." If Reid was the coach for Seattle that day, had called that play in to Russell Wilson, but then second-guessed himself and ended up with a delay-of-game (in alternate-world, Andy would've already burned a timeout previously), we'd be saying "oh, there's Andy's bad clock management again." But even though he'd be at 2nd and 6 at that point, he'd have a *better chance of winning the game*, because he didn't make the game-ending bad decision.

The 2010 game versus the Redskins is a good example: the Eagles got called for delay of game while on the 1 yard line, at 4th and 1, and that forced them to kick a field goal. People criticize this because they say that Reid should've been able to get the play in and off in plenty of time. But Reid's explanation was that the initial play that was in was *bad*, because the ball spot wasn't where it initially was going to be, and that cost them the play.

So there, it looks like Reid mismanaged the clock - they only got 3 points, whereas if they had run the play, they might've gotten 7.

Except the reason *why* they got the delay of game is because Reid realized the *play wouldn't work*, and tried to change it, and that cost them the penalty.

An "alternate coach" which just hurries up and gets the play off wouldn't've gotten 7 there - the play would've failed.

Now, obviously, the *better* solution there would've been to not make the mistake in the first place, but, well, all coaches make mistakes. So it's possible that Andy's not quite as good a coach as the best coaches in the game, but his attention to detail makes up for it. If that's true, you can't separate those "mistakes" from the successes.

Am I stretching things, like you suggested? Yes, absolutely. Which is why I never said "Andy's fine with time management." I said I'm not convinced - because most of the examples people *give* are cases where they're criticizing successes that *weren't quite good enough*.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 09/11/2017 - 4:16pm

People tend to assume that Reid could just make the same decisions, faster, and get the same results in less time.

No, you have it backward; people assume that he can't, and that he is below average at this particular skill.

by Will Allen :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 8:28am

Hey, if the failure to set the edge when the Chiefs were running was not mostly the result of Patriots ineptitude, and more the result of superior execution by the Chiefs, then Alex Smith is going to have a lot of very easy deep pass opportunities this season.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 8:32am

"Tom Gower: We lost."

Who's "We"?

by Travis :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 8:40am

People/the stat community who think teams should go for it more often on 4th downs.

by Led :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 8:44am

I assume the "we" is analytics types who've been advocating for coaches to go for it on 4th down in such situations against the convention wisdom that says take the 3 points.

by ChrisS :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 11:44am

It is also annoying that Belichek made his decision just on the basis of one play, the failed prior 4th down attempt.

by Pat :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 12:03pm

I think that's a bit naive.

On the first 4th down attempt, the Patriots were leading 7-0, and had just recovered a fumble deep in their own territory on the Chiefs' first play. That entire series was a gift: if the Patriots scored nothing, the Chiefs would be back where they were before. And the Patriots had just marched down the field and scored a touchdown.

So from Belichick's point of view, he doesn't have any evidence that the Chiefs offense can go down the field on his defense, and the Chiefs defense had also been on the field continuously.

After that, the Chiefs themselves marched 90 yards and tied the game, and the Patriots get the ball back. So now Belichick has evidence that the Chiefs can march down the field, and the Chiefs defense did have a break, and the calculus goes from "go for the knockout" to "make sure to have any counterpunch at all."

Personally I think the second decision was right: I think he should've gone for the field goal the first time too. The main reason there is that early on in the game, and even early on in the season, you *don't know* how the teams match up yet. You don't know if you're the underdog or the favorite, so you don't know the risk/reward calculus. So it makes a ton more sense to just take the low-risk options until you know whether or not you have to take risks. Because taking risks, if you're the better team, just reduces your chances of winning.

by theslothook :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 2:34pm

Unless you are in end of game situations, I think going for it is nearly always the better play. Any argument you make about how good the opposing defense is or how bad the opposing offense is can be spun around in another perspective - if the defense is so good, how many scoring opportunities will you likely get? If the opposing offense is so bad, well then the risk of losing the 4th down isn't so great.

by Pat :: Sun, 09/10/2017 - 2:00pm

Going for it is a high-risk strategy. Playing with high-risk strategies increases the variance in the game: you might score 7, you might score 0. Even if it's 60% 7, and 40% 0, versus 100% 3, if you go for it 3 times in a game, the high-risk strategy scores 0 6% of the time. Whereas the low-risk strategy scores 9 all the time.

Yes, I know field goals aren't guaranteed - the point still stands. High-risk strategies, even if they pay off more, aren't always a good idea if the *low-risk* strategy would probably result in you winning anyway.

In other words, high-risk strategies aren't great ideas unless you 1) know you're going to get a lot of them (which, in a football game, you *don't*), or 2) the low-risk strategies aren't likely to lead to you winning.

The first point you make (unless you are in end of game situations) makes that point for me. The reason why you would kick it late in the game is because at that point, you *know* whether or not you need the extra 4 points. But earlier in the game, you'll start to get an idea as to whether or not you need those 4 points too.

And in my opinion, at the start of the game, when you have no idea whether or not you'll need the points, it makes more sense to take *any* points rather than risk for more.

by sbond101 :: Sun, 09/10/2017 - 6:26pm

This is a really important element of gaming theory that is generally overlooked with respect to football. It's why you should play substantially differently if you are an underdog vs. if you are the favorite (something BB has understood really well over the years, but very few coaches ever seem to). It's why if you go to a casino with $1,000,000.00 you might actually be better off putting it all down at once and then going home (depending on your definition of "better") rather than letting them bleed you dry all night.

What's too bad as an observer of the game is that we will probably never get to see the calculus behind the two decisions. From the outside it seems like a poor choice to employ a high varience strategy at that stage of a game you would expect to be a favorite in. My guess is that if you could get an honest answer from BB is that he would say 1) the game-situation gave no indication at that point that the chiefs could stop us 2) the win probability differential between the two strategies is pretty small 3) in the first game of the season, finding out how your team responds to those things is useful 4) It's a half a foot, screw the stats we can get that.

by theslothook :: Mon, 09/11/2017 - 2:04am

The problem I have with this is - football is a game of uncertainty in every decision. Advanced game theory uses a shadow price to discount uncertainty in any decision. The problem is, everything in football is high variance and uncertain. Even a great team like NE - we're not really sure how each unit will play this particular day, on this particular down, with these particular injuries, etc etc. Whenever uncertainty is so high, the best strategy you can employ individually is to maximize the expected value.

Unless its end of half situations, going for it on 4th down is the higher expected value play every single time.

by Pat :: Mon, 09/11/2017 - 8:39am

"The problem is, everything in football is high variance and uncertain."

Field goals are damn close to certain. 30-39 yard field goals are 90+%.

"Whenever uncertainty is so high, the best strategy you can employ individually is to maximize the expected value."

No, that's not true. At all. It only makes sense to do that if you expect there to be lots of those situations so that things average out. The difference in certainty between going for it on 4th down and kicking a 90%+ field goal is really pretty damn huge.

If your argument is "football's so uncertain that coaches can't possibly predict what the game's going to be like, so they should just go for it all the time early on," OK, I can buy that argument. I don't exactly agree with it - these guys are paid a ton of money for a reason - but it's a fair argument.

by sbond101 :: Mon, 09/11/2017 - 10:21am

In actually fact football is one of the most sophisticated applications of advanced game theory that could exist because you have partial control the variance of the play, partial control of the number of trials (through pacing), and partial information about success rates and expected value. From a Mathematical point of view it's nonsense to say that in the small number of trials in a typical football game, and the significant disparity in team quality in the NFL, maximizing the expected value of each trial is even usually the best strategy; The challenge with the game-theory line of think is that identifying your position in a particular game, especially early, is very difficult. In my mind this uncertainty about the relative quality of the two teams at kick-off is the best argument for high-variance play early in the game. This weekend we saw the Bears play pretty close to even-up with the Falcons where I doubt anyone figured that's the way the game would be played early on. A bears coach who was absurdly aggressive in the first half of that game would later find out that strategy was incorrect because his team was a lot better than expected, and he may have torpedoed the chance for his team to win a game where they played well. I have a feeling coaches sleep better at night assuming the game is going to play even and then blaming the players when its the wrong strategy then actually guessing and maximizing win probability.

by Pat :: Mon, 09/11/2017 - 10:58am

In my mind this uncertainty about the relative quality of the two teams at kick-off is the best argument for high-variance play early in the game.

Yeah, the math portion of my brain agrees with you. Be aggressive early, and once you have a better understanding of how the game's going, pick and choose your battles.

But I'm just really, really unsure about it. If you've got a really good team it's hard for me to say that it makes sense to *ever* add more variance in the game - it makes far more sense to play quickly, increase the number of plays in the game, and take points as quickly and easily as you can.

It's really tough to say. Football's a much, much more coupled game (plays aren't independent) than people tend to pretend it is, which makes the decisions extremely difficult. If you onside-kick every single kickoff, your success rate will plummet. It's tough to say the same thing wouldn't happen for 4th down attempts.

by theslothook :: Mon, 09/11/2017 - 6:50pm

I think my point was - standard game theory assumes you maximize your preference set given what you know the other players maximum play is. Football is not independent, but how far ahead can a team really predict/ Remember, a field goal is pretty certain - but then the next sequence is all but uncertain. Will the other team punt and I will have good field position? What if the team never punts and I am left with no time?

The vast space of possibilities between transition states makes assumptions about the rest of the game highly uncertain. My point was, when you can't really be sure what will happen next - the best play is to play to the numbers. I know, on average, going for it is a better play than kicking a field goal. It may not be the best play if I had the entire universe of possibilities written down, but since I dont, its the best play.

by Pat :: Tue, 09/12/2017 - 11:44am

"Football is not independent, but how far ahead can a team really predict?"

Depends on the coach. It's a game, after all. The really great coaches do a pretty damn good job predicting the way the opponent will behave.

If football was a deterministic, stateful game, like chess, your decisions would obviously be forward-looking as far as you could get. It's *not*, so your ability to predict what's going to happen is fuzzy.

But it's not totally random, either. If you beat a team once in a season, you're very likely to beat them again the next time. And the more you beat them by the first time, the more you're likely to beat them by the second time.

"My point was, when you can't really be sure what will happen next - the best play is to play to the numbers."

It can't be "play solely to the numbers." Again, it's just like surprise onsides kicks - the more you do it, the less successful it is. If you always go for it on fourth down, you're flat-out giving up some of your control of the game, and that's an advantage to your opponent. Without a doubt it shouldn't be an "every situation" thing if it's only *statistically* advantageous (and not 'necessary').

And then obviously since you're not going to do it every time, it's absolutely a "pick your battle" option. You take the risk when you think it'll have the most benefit and the least drawback.

by sbond101 :: Mon, 09/11/2017 - 6:54pm

I think there's a logical extension to the "early-aggression" argument - maximize expected value as though your playing on the level early in the season when you really don't know how good the opposition is; later in the year where you have more information you can make better judgments.

Your final point is a good one though. Football is a sport played by people, rather than a series of blind trials. It involves opponent anticipation, fatigue, moral & mental preparedness. It's compounded by injuries in a complicated way. If we take this game as an example, I really think BB got it backwards, the Pats were the better team at kickoff, and so should have taken the points; they were the worse team after DA and Hightower went out, and the officials decided that holding Gronk is an entirely legal activity. After that point (I think part way through Q2) they needed to play a combination of high variance football and reduce the number of remaining drives to maximize there chances of winning. This kind of thinking gets maligned in the stats community, but its really just a recognition of the fact that teams/circumstances materially change through the course of a game.

by theslothook :: Mon, 09/11/2017 - 7:20pm

I am curious - if they are the better team, why not go for it? Remember, the negative of not getting it gets balanced by the fact that Kansas City is in poor field position and your offense gets the ball back, often times with good field position.

Ok, i get that its a higher variance play and introducing variance is worse for a team with more likely to win. But then, how much do you discount the higher expected value by the variance? Should you even do so? We're talking about an inherently high variance game, even for a team like New England.

Bottom line - if you can't properly evaluate variance, how can you reasonably expect to discount anything when you don't know. The better play, it seems to me is to be risk neutral especially if the league as a whole is generally risk averse.

by Pat :: Tue, 09/12/2017 - 9:42am

"Ok, i get that its a higher variance play and introducing variance is worse for a team with more likely to win. But then, how much do you discount the higher expected value by the variance?"

Unless you're talking about situations that happen all the time - like, what to do on first down - you pretty much never get higher value *on average* with high-variance plays. Belichick had what, 3 4th-and-short situations? If you assume they're ~50/50 that you eventually score a TD, versus 100% field goal, even with 3 trials you'll still end up doing *worse* than kicking the 3 field goals *half the time*, and 1/8th of the time, you'll end up with nothing.

If you figure you're about ~7 points better or so, going for it all the time is insane: you'll end up losing 1/8th of the time, whereas if you kicked it all the time you'd win every game.

And yes, you could then say "but how do you figure you're about 7 points better?" Same way you figure that you've got a 50% chance to make the 4th down - instincts. That's why they get paid the money.

"Bottom line - if you can't properly evaluate variance, how can you reasonably expect to discount anything when you don't know. The better play, it seems to me is to be risk neutral especially if the league as a whole is generally risk averse."

I don't think *we* can *measure* variance, but I think the coaches are capable of evaluating it fine. That's the only way I can think to explain how certain coaches can play each other tighter than you'd expect, and how they change tactics based on the team they're playing.

It'd be interesting to see how a "robot coach," who always goes for it in these situations, would do, I agree, but it's really naive to believe that such a coach would *necessarily* do better.

by LionInAZ :: Tue, 09/12/2017 - 8:20pm

The NFL is only predictable because it's Patriot- and Packer-centric. In other words, I think the system is designed to get the Patriots and Packers in the Super Bowl every year. Any deviations from that are simply circumstances that the league office can't get around.

by t.d. :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 11:30pm

especially since they have the best qb sneaker in history on the roster

by Bryan Knowles :: Sat, 09/09/2017 - 1:49pm

While this may be true, they didn't run a single 4th down QB sneak with Brady in 2016. I'm not sure how much longer you want to slam a 40-year-old into a line on a play where they're expecting it.

by Dan :: Sat, 09/09/2017 - 8:08pm

He's good at choosing his spots. High success rate because he only runs the QB sneak when he can see that the defense is in a bad position for defending it.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 8:36am

If Brady actually has lost a bit on his arm strength and touch, then sitting back playing 7- or 8-man zones makes sense. It's much trickier to Pennington the ball into tight windows than to beam one in with a laser rocket arm.

Pennington, obviously, proved you could do it, but he had 35 years of experience with a noodly arm.

by Dales :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 1:34pm

I miss watching him play.

by Ryan D. :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 8:59am

New England is probably better off for having lost in week 1. Now, they can ignore all the chatter about going 19-0 that had already been going around in the media for the past 6 months. Who knows, maybe they make their fans feel good about going 18-1 this time?

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 09/11/2017 - 1:40pm

I, for one, would be perfectly comfortable with the 2017 version of 18-1. :)

by deus01 :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 9:55am

Regarding streaming not working, I was using Sling to watch last night and it worked perfectly. I tried using it last year and had some quality issues but they seem to have ironed all of that out. Sling has the local networks, ESPN, NFL Network and Redzone so you also get lots of coverage.

by Ryan D. :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 9:27pm

Sling doesn't have local television channels in most smaller markets. I had to watch NBC on a digital antenna in my area.

by Aaron Schatz :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 10:10am

I didn't notice before that this got left out by accident, so I'll add it here.

New England still made the playoffs in 79 percent of our preseason simulations in which they lost this game. That's how bad the AFC East is.

by dmstorm22 :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 10:21am

To me, that 21% is basically the chance Brady becomes 2015 Manning.

I don't think this defense is good enough to carry a bad-Brady NE team.

Then again, given how bad the rest of the division, it still may not matter.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 1:22pm

That 21% is the chance Brady becomes 2015 Archie Manning.

7 wins could win this division.

by dmstorm22 :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 1:32pm

I dunno. If Brady becomes 2015 Peyton (worst QB in the NFL), I don't think the rest of that team is good enough to win 7 games.

Of course, the chances of him doing so are probably far less than 21%.

by duh :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 2:08pm

If Brady turns into the 2015 Manning Garoppolo will play. Doesn't necessarily mean he'll be better, but BB will not hesitate to make the switch based on his past history.

by t.d. :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 11:02am

I actually think that underrates their chances, but it looks like a first round bye might be tough

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 09/11/2017 - 1:40pm

Frankly, I would have expected it to be higher than 79%. The AFCE is finally the crater that opposing fans have been claiming it was, 9 wins locks it up.

by johonny :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 10:39am

The Dolphins guaranteed 0 and 0 record after Sunday is looking good for 1st place in the AFC least. I believe it would be the latest into a season they've been alone in first place since 2008. The Bills or Jets could still upset someone on Sunday. Of course if they won the people most upset would be their own front office people who appear determined to tank it up in 2017. As for the Pats, they've looked "bad" in Sept before and they scored 27 so they didn't look that bad.

by BJR :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 10:42am

Hate to break it to you but the Bills face the Jets on Sunday; one of 'em has to win, right?

by James-London :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 10:46am

4-4 Tie.

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by johonny :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 3:26pm

Nooooooooooooooooo! Actually its funnier to see one of the two tankers end up in first place.

by bingo762 :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 11:02am

KC ain't making the playoffs

by MilkmanDanimal :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 12:13pm

I am currently very intrigued as to whether Kareem Hunt is going to be really good or New England's defense is really not good.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 12:43pm

Could be both, or neither.

I think its really hard to overestimate the impact of having a special-teamer who was signed less than a week ago playing MLB and having the helmet radio to relay plays to the rest of the defense.

They didn't look great early on (but they didn't look good to start last year either), but they looked like they straight up didn't even know what the call was after HT went down.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 1:24pm

Hunt was tearing the defense up even before he went out. He started 6-40. Even his fumble was after 9 yards on 1st-10.

by BJR :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 3:11pm

It seems fairly unlikely (and extremely un-Belichickian) to not have a plan in place to adequately communicate defensive play calls if one player goes down. If that really was the case I'd expect some Patriots coaching staff to be on notice right now.

Of course with Hightower on the sideline the quality of the defence suffers, but I think the second half collapse mostly suggests that a) the Patriots defense is not great right now (although it may well improve), and b) Andy Reid called a great game.

by Dales :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 1:37pm

He passed my eye-test. And the way they were using him on pass routes suggests that the Chiefs think he's a multi-dimensional weapon. No rush to judgment, but he sure looks promising.

by rashreflection@... :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 4:02pm

Hunt vs. Ware is an interesting test of a factor that FO never talks about but I've seen used in some recent prospect models: a RB's market share in college.

There's evidence suggesting that RBs who dominate their team's touches in college are better bets for NFL success than guys who split carries in college. RBs who don't catch passes in college also bust at a much higher rate than those who do - think Andre Williams.

The obvious criticism of this idea is that it rewards players carrying the load for smaller schools over those who share the workload in powerhouse programs. But is that actually wrong? That's exactly what we have here with Hunt (feature back at Toledo) and Ware (committee back with Jeremy Hill at LSU). Given that we now know Jeremy Hill isn't very good at the NFL level, it does not speak well of Ware that he couldn't take over that backfield. Meanwhile, Hunt had one of the highest overall market shares of any RB in this draft class - gobbled up carries and was frequently used in the passing game. It should be no surprise that the Chiefs used him like a true three-down back last night!

Hunt's overall performance this season will be a big data point in this argument, one way or the other. Ware didn't exactly light the world on fire last year, so I like his chances...

by PSLfunkdoc :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 4:07pm

Kareem Hunt vs. Spencer Ware is an interesting test of a factor that FO never talks about but I've seen used in some recent prospect models: a RB's market share in college.

There's evidence suggesting that RBs who dominate their team's touches in college are better bets for NFL success than guys who split carries in college. RBs who don't catch passes in college also bust at a much higher rate than those who do - think Andre Williams.

The obvious criticism of this idea is that it rewards players carrying the load for smaller schools over those who share the workload in powerhouse programs. But is that actually wrong to do? That's exactly what we have here with Hunt (feature back at Toledo) and Ware (committee back with Jeremy Hill at LSU). Given that we now know Jeremy Hill isn't very good at the NFL level, it does not speak well of Ware that he couldn't take over that backfield. Meanwhile, Hunt had one of the highest overall market shares of any RB in this draft class - gobbled up carries and was frequently used in the passing game. It should be no surprise that the Chiefs used him like a true three-down back last night!

Hunt's overall performance this season will be a big data point in this argument, one way or the other. Ware didn't exactly light the world on fire last year, so I like his chances...

by ChrisLong :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 4:28pm

From BACKCAST 2017:
"After we removed YOE/G and added adjusted yards per at- tempt, we were able to take a much closer look at the best way to measure the relationship between total rushing attempts and NFL success. The metric that ended up working best to predict NFL success together with adjusted yards per attempt is one we’re calling Attempts Over Expected Per Season (AOEPS). AOEPS gives the running back credit for soaking up a high volume of his team’s attempts early in his career. Typically, the most special prospects become signi cant factors in the running game early in their college careers and increasingly dominate as they gain more experience. An average drafted running back has 19.4 percent of his team’s carries as a fresh- man, 29.2 percent as a sophomore, 36.5 percent as a junior, and 42.4 percent as a senior. Thus, a running back who soaked up 29.4 percent, 39.2 percent, 46.5 percent, and 52.4 percent of his team’s rushing attempts during a four-year career would have an AOEPS of 10 percent, because he averaged 10 per- cent more of his team’s rushing attempts than would be expected for a drafted running back."

by PSLfunkdoc :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 4:59pm

Thank you for this! Haven't followed things as closely here recently, but I'm glad to see it showing up here now. This will be a nice addendum to a Twitter thread I did on this topic, as I gave much more credit to fantasy analysts for the idea.

by FizzDude :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 12:54pm

What a way to start National Jump to Conclusions week! I have no idea what this game means for the Patriots or the Chiefs moving forward, but it would be very surprising if many of the obvious conclusions from this game all prove to be true - *The Chiefs are a juggernaut!* *Brady is suddenly old!* *The Patriots defense is fluffier than Barbasol shaving cream!* etc...

The only thing I've learned to count on from week 1 results is that of all the data points in the NFL season, it is the least reliable.

by LionInAZ :: Sat, 09/09/2017 - 11:05pm

Agreed for the most part. But I think two reliable conclusions could be drawn from this game.

1. Robert Kraft does not rock black jeans.

2. Pats fans are as insufferable as ever.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 1:27pm

Interesting comment in another forum, about how the root of Brady's disquiet could be the absence of Edelman, who always served as an instant dump-off target whenever Brady wasn't feeling a play or a pocket. It was commented about that Brady seemed uncomfortable even with clean pockets. Is that because without being able to predetermined where he was going if things werent right, that uncertainty was nagging him even when he wasn't actually under pressure?

This is the first time in awhile when he doesn't have an obvious slot receiver/3rd-down-back to throw the ball to whenever he needs to get rid of it.

by Bryan Knowles :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 2:33pm

Even beyond the loss of Edelman, being down to three healthy receivers by the end of the night is going to play havoc on your passing game. Reinforcements may be required.

by johonny :: Fri, 09/08/2017 - 5:49pm

Is Victor Cruz still available...

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Sat, 09/09/2017 - 3:57am

Calling tactical experts ...

When KC scored to go 34-27 up with about 5-mins to go ... should they have gone for 2pts instead of kicking the extra point?

Did we have this same discussion last year in the Seattle game?

by Dan :: Sat, 09/09/2017 - 6:18am

Kicking is probably better.

1. By going up 8 you are forcing NE to go for 2 in order to try to tie it (assuming they get a TD). And, at least according to conventional wisdom, it's easier to stop a 2 point conversion than to score one. (That's why the default is to kick the xp.)

2. It works to NE's advantage for them to know whether they need one score or two. If they're down 9 they know they need two scores so they'll play hurry-up, take more risks on 4th downs, etc. If they're only need 7 they can afford to be more patient, maybe even trying to drain the whole 5 minutes so that KC can't answer back, and they can be more willing to punt & hope to score on the next possession. Down 8, they don't know if it's a one score game or a two score game, so they can't fit their strategy to the number of scores that they need. So it's better for KC to leave it at 8. (For the same reason, if you're down 15 in the 4th quarter and then you score a TD, you should go for 2.)

by Independent George :: Sat, 09/09/2017 - 9:43am

You know, all these years later I still can't f***ing remember to watch Thursday night games.

by Will Allen :: Sat, 09/09/2017 - 10:10am