Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Daniel Jones
Daniel Jones
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

compiled by Andrew Potter

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around emails 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 emails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.

While these emails 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 Seahawks 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 solely 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.

This week, we also say hello and welcome to Josh Mongillo, our new Injury Database Analyst. Be gentle with him; he's a Raiders fan.

Denver Broncos 16 at Green Bay Packers 27

Bryan Knowles: It's the 100th season -- why aren't more teams wearing their throwbacks? Green Bay's busting out the Lambeau-era blue-and-yellows, and they're looking good, marching right down the field for the opening score.

Some might suggest that has more to do with Denver's quality than the uniforms, but that's clearly crazy talk.

Miami Dolphins 6 at Dallas Cowboys 31

Vince Verhei: Josh Rosen connects with DeVante Parker for a deep completion down the right sideline into Dallas territory against Chidobe Awuzie. The drive stalls there, but Jason Sanders comes in to give Miami its first lead of 2019 ... but his 47-yard try goes wide right and there's still no score.

Jeff Heath breaks up a pass to Allen Hurns via a facemask-to-face mask hit that knocks Hurns out of the game. I have no idea how that wasn't a flag -- he led with his facemask and wasn't playing the ball at all.

Scott Spratt: The Dolphins tried and converted an onside, which is basically impossible without the running starts. I think it was nullified by an offsides? Does anyone know?

Bryan Knowles: Yeah, they said it was offsides. It's too bad; that's exactly the sort of thing Miami should be doing a lot. You're not going to win any games on talent; take some risks and see what happens.

Zach Binney: Late in the first we have some maddeningly inconsistent aggression from Brian Flores. First down inside the Dallas 10, run, run, run, field goal from the 3.

Then a surprise brilliant onside, recovered by the Dolphins! Undone by a *dubious* offside call. That was a weird and frustrating sequence for Miami fans.

Scott Spratt: Dak Prescott has at least eight seconds of pass protection before he promptly throws a pick. The Fins are looking frisky today.

Vince Verhei: Josh Rosen just managed to hurt himself on a slide. That's a new one. He was briefly in the concussion tent, but now he's just standing on the sideline looking perfectly fine watching Ryan FItzpatrick hand off.

On third down, Fitzpatrick scrambles and delivers a 50-50 ball to Preston Williams, who outjumps Awuzie for the first down. (Rough first half for Awuzie.) Fitzpatrick's reward is a return back to the sideline as Rosen re-enters the game. Next third down, Rosen finds Patrick Williams for what should be a game-tying touchdown, but Williams loses the ball as he's going to the ground. Dolphins get a field goal to make it 10-6 in a weird, weird game. It's not too early for the Cowboys to get nervous about this.

Zach Binney: That was a really confusing few minutes in Dallas in the second quarter. Rosen grabs his helmet after a slide. It looked like he may have gotten punched in the back of the head, but not that hard. But with the grab you have to put him in the concussion protocol.

So he goes in the tent. Then he comes out while Fitzpatrick continues to play. From what I know of the protocol, I thought he should either go back to the locker room or he's clear to go back in the game.

Now he's back in, but I have no idea what caused that delay. Did the UNC take a while to get over to the tent or something? Was it not a concussion? The announcers said he might have gotten some turf pellets in his eye. Just very strange.

Then more frustration for the Dolphins as Preston Williams catches a pass in the end zone, takes three steps, and drops it. Ruled incomplete. Dolphins don't even *challenge*. Like, why not? Was it a football move? No idea, but you could have at least *tried.* I totally get fielding a bad team to tank, but I draw the line at timid coaching decisions on top of that. Man.

Rivers McCown: As pointed out, the Dolphins have been pretty interesting early. Josh Rosen's early accuracy was poor, or it might be even closer. That's something that has dogged him early in his NFL career. The hard stuff looks easy and the easy stuff looks hard.

The Dolphins are driving near halftime. A slant bounces off a receiver's hands. A hold comes through, and Kenyan Drake fumbles inside the 10. So many botched red zone opportunities.

Vince Verhei: That Dolphins fumble was set up a big DPI on Awuzie. He's single-handedly keeping Miami in this game. The Dolphins have scored six points on three red zone drives and also missed a long field goal, yet the Cowboys only lead 10-6. Honestly, you could argue the Cowboys have been the worse team for 30 minutes, but it feels like all the breaks have gone their way.

Rob Weintraub: Prescott touchdown pass, which is a bummer because the Bengals are coming up strong on the outside for the first overall pick...

Vince Verhei: Cowboys looked they were all hungover in the first half, but the Bloody Marys appear to have kicked in in the third quarter. They take the opening drive 75 yards in five plays for a touchdown, Prescott to Amari Cooper for the score. The Dolphins quickly punt, and the Cowboys go 76 yards in nine plays for another touchdown, Prescott running this one in himself. It's 24-6 now and it feels like Miami missed its chances here.

New York Jets 14 at New England Patriots 31

Dave Bernreuther: A third-and-15 handoff to Le'Veon Bell to lose 8 yards is a very Jets play. Very David-y strategy when already down a touchdown in New England.

Aaron Schatz: The play lost 8 yards. More of a Larry David strategy.

Bryan Knowles: In knock-on effects I've entirely forgotten about, Drew Brees' injury means Tom Brady has re-tied him for second all-time in touchdown passes. They've been neck-and-neck there for years, but Brady now gets two months to pull ahead. Now 16 touchdowns behind Peyton Manning.

Dave Bernreuther: We're already at the point where the Pats look to be making it difficult on themselves for sport because the opposition can't. Nearing the end of the first, Brady fires low on second down to Julian Edelman -- and by "low" I mean at the bottom of the numbers, maybe 2 inches from perfect -- and Edelman flat drops it. On third down, as punishment, Josh McDaniels called a play that required Edelman to beat his man twice -- first on a clean outside release that could've been completed down the seam, then breaking inside over the middle of the field, allowing the defender to get back into the play again, apparently out of pity (?), before catching a dart from Brady to convert anyway. That'll show him.

Josh Gordon just dropped a touchdown, so I fear for the wrath he'll face. Edelman scores a play later and it's already 20-0. Pretty sure the Pats have more points than the Jets have yards. As I watch the quality of play elsewhere in the league I wonder if our Super Bowl odds for New England of over 25% right now are still way too low.

And this is a team that just cut an All-Pro receiver...

Aaron Schatz: Halftime in New England. Not sure what to say about this game that you don't know already. I picked this as my "Cover Watch" on ESPN+ because the Jets showed in the first two weeks they had a reasonable defense. But there's not much the defense can do if the offense is going to stall out on third-and-long over and over and punt the ball back to the Patriots at midfield. They did slow down the Pats' offense in the second quarter, so we're still at 20-0 at halftime. Patriots scored touchdowns on their first three drives (one missed extra point), then punted on their next three drives. But it won't matter -- the Jets can get nothing going offensively whatsoever.

Dave Bernreuther: So earlier I was joking about the Patriots making it harder on themselves for sport ... but wow. On second-and-12, Brady gets roughly an entire lunar cycle to throw before calmly chucking it into the back of his lineman when nobody is open. A while later, the refs decide to flag him for grounding (which made him freak out, but it was as plain as day) and put them in third-and-22. Next play, nobody covers Josh Gordon, who didn't even have to run all that precise a route -- although knowing them, the lazy look to it was by design -- and Brady fires to him for an absolutely RIDICULOUS catch to make it first-and-goal. In real time I didn't think there was even a 1% chance he got down in bounds, and I couldn't believe the official signaled a catch. It was, though, and wow. Just wow. That was Marvin Harrison level sideline control. And now the Pats are finally back in the end zone (it's been a while) and that's two straight emails from me marveling about how bendy and precise professional wide receivers can be.

Aaron Schatz: The Jets finally figured out how to score on the Patriots. Gunner Olszewski muffs a punt, it goes all the way back to the end zone, the Jets land on it, and all of a sudden it is 30-7. So much for the Patriots beating the modern record for fewest points allowed in the first three weeks of a season, which was seven by the 1962 Packers. They still could beat the post-merger record, which is 13 from the 2001 Packers and 2004 Seahawks.

Bryan Knowles: The Pats defense has to be annoyed that THAT was the first touchdown given up by New England since the AFC Championship Game. They did their part!

Dave Bernreuther: If you're a Pats D fantasy owner and didn't already hate Olszewski on principle because his name is Gunner, you probably do now after he dropped a punt and let the Jets get on the board, which ruins a perfectly interesting shutout streak for the Patriot defense.

Aaron Schatz: The Pats bring in Jarrett Stidham with 8:41 left. That's a lot earlier than they usually take Brady out. And he ... overthrows Branden Bolden, and Jamal Adams returns it 60 yards for a pick-six. So much for the Patriots setting the post-merger record for fewest points allowed in their first three games. And now the Jets may cover!

Baltimore Ravens 28 at Kansas City Chiefs 33

Bryan Knowles: "I would take the points here," Dan Fouts says, as the Ravens line up for fourth-and-2 inside the ten. "It would quiet the crowd down a bit." Lamar Jackson uses his legs to pick up a fairly easy 8 yards, keeping the drive alive, and then Mark Ingram runs the ball in on the very next snap. Looks like they took the points, and the crowd did quiet down...

Aaron Schatz: Ravens also did the smart thing and went for two after a Chris Jones penalty moved it to the 1. They didn't get it, but it was the smart move once the two-point conversion was a yard closer.

Rob Weintraub: So far Dan Fouts has called a Patrick Mahomes first-down scramble on the second play of the game "crucial" and advocated for a field goal -- in Kansas City! -- on fourth-and-2 inside the 10.

John Harbaugh doesn't listen, wisely, goes for it, converts, then the Ravens score on the next play.

Two-point conversion fails, 6-0 Ravens.

Vince Verhei: John Harbaugh gets aggressive early! Fourth-and-3 inside the KC 10, Lamar Jackson takes the shotgun snap, hesitates, and scrambles for a first down. In the process, he had a receiver in the end zone waving his arms to signal he was open, and Jackson, as he was running, waved back, like, "Too late dude, I'm running." Next play, Mark Ingram dives in for the touchdown. Then there's a penalty on the extra point. Harbaugh takes the point off the board to go for two from the 1-yard line, but the Chiefs snuff out Jackson's option play and stop him for no gain. Ravens up 6-0.

Bryan Knowles: The reason you don't kick field goals against the Chiefs is because they can march down the field with abandon -- it took them just five plays to get inside the 10-yard line. From there, the Ravens defense stiffened up, and forced a fourth down ... except they got called for a horse-collar tackle on Mahomes (during an incomplete pass, which I didn't think was possible), giving the Chiefs a new set of downs. If you give Mahomes a new set of downs, he's going to make you pay. Chiefs score the touchdown, take the 7-6 lead.

Dave Bernreuther: I didn't like that horsecollar call on Mahomes at all. Yeah, he had him there, but the tackle was made with the front arm and his bodyweight, and it appeared that the official didn't throw the flag until after he talked to Mahomes about it. I felt like they could've let that one go.

Your point about why you don't kick field goals against that team still stands, of course.

Carl Yedor: The Ravens are doing all they can to get the nerds on their side. Fourth-and-1 from Baltimore's own 34 and they go for it. They convert and their drive continues.

When teams are going up against high-powered offenses, broadcasters will often talk about the importance of keeping the opposing offense on the sidelines. Well, a great way to do that is to not give the ball back by choice. If Baltimore wins today, Harbaugh's proactively aggressive decisions should definitely be noted postgame. Frankly, maybe even if they lose.

Rob Weintraub: DeMarcus Robinson makes a spectacular grab for a touchdown to give KC a 14-6 lead. A star in the making?

Bryan Knowles: That fourth-down conversion leads to ANOTHER fourth-down attempt three plays later, and Baltimore's luck runs out. Kansas City stops them, and takes advantage of the short field to score said spectacular Robinson touchdown. I still think the Ravens' overall strategy of going for it on every fourth-and-close makes a lot of sense, but we just saw the risk part of the risk-versus-reward calculation.

Then again, the Chiefs can score from anywhere, so...

Yeah, remember when I said the Chiefs can score from anywhere on the field? Mecole Hardman just ran a go route past everyone and everybody (Earl Thomas was supposed to be in the middle of the field, and wasn't!), and it's an easy 83-yard touchdown. Whoof.

It feels like the only way to beat the Chiefs is to score on every possession. Credit to the Ravens for recognizing that, but they may just be a couple horses short of keeping up with Mahomes, at least on the road. Game's not over or anything, not by a long shot, but I think Baltimore needs to score again before halftime to keep things manageable.

20-6, Chiefs (they missed the extra point)

Rivers McCown: The Chiefs are doing a good job of pass defense in the first half. They've clearly got Jackson off rhythm. Only one catch by a wideout and they've silenced Hollywood Brown.

I hate the NFL's holding emphasis. Gus Edwards had a huge run that got called back because Willie Snead had his hands on a pad. It's basically making long runs extinct.

The Chiefs are carving up the middle of the field on the Ravens. Travis Kelce is having a game.

Bryan Knowles: Some questionable Andy Reid clock management (drink!) means the Chiefs settle for just a field goal rather than taking a shot at the end zone, taking a 23-6 lead going into the half. Baltimore's gotten nothing going after that first drive, and I'm very impressed with the Kansas City defense. Yeah, Baltimore's offense wasn't as good as 47 first-half points against Miami would suggest, but they looked sharp last week against Arizona, too. The Chiefs seem OK with Jackson scrambling or hitting his receivers, but they are determined to take away the big play to Hollywood Brown, and it's working. After the 2018 Chiefs looked, at times, like defense was a concept beyond their grasp, this is a promising development for Chiefs fans.

Full credit for Baltimore employing David strategies early, but they do appear to be somewhat outclassed here. It's a disappointing first half -- I was hoping for a barnburner, even with the weather -- but it is, at least, instructive. Baltimore has improved from last year (even if we just look at the Jackson games), but they do seem to be a rung below the Chiefs' level at this point.

Rivers McCown: I don't think Baltimore has been that outclassed, to be honest. Or at least not as badly as the score looks. Mahomes is just murdering them.

Bryan Knowles: They haven't looked rotten or anything -- the Chiefs are capable of putting up big numbers on everyone and everyone. But considering the pre-game talk about shutting down the Chiefs' big plays (nope) and the difficulties the Ravens are having getting the ball to their receivers -- or indeed, anything deep, with Jackson being 8-for-19 for just 75 yards -- I'm comfortable saying the Chiefs have been pretty clearly the better team to this point, and by a notable margin.

Dave Bernreuther: "Mahomes is just murdering them."

Yeah. 273 yards at half against a legitimate defense and it's still a ho-hum performance somehow.

I agree in general though. It's not as if Baltimore has done anything poorly. The worst play I've seen, really, was when Jackson threw a screen a bit low and had it batted at the line of scrimmage.

Before the drop in the end zone (on a play that was flagged anyway), I was actually pretty impressed by the Chiefs' calm approach to the end of the half with 37 seconds left while at midfield. While announcers and TV graphics talked of the field goal target, Kelce leisurely lumbered down the middle (-ish) of the field for an easy catch into "field goal range" before the scramble and end zone toss that wouldn't have counted anyway. I liked that even at 20-6 and in field goal range they weren't just playing for the field goal, even if that's ultimately all they got.

The more I watch the highlight of the Hardman touchdown the more impressed I am by his body control to keep running after he caught that. Not that it was a bad throw or anything, but that's a ball that most receivers, even the good ones, catch and fall down with, or catch and at least slow down and thus have to evade defenders. Hardman turned from a full sprint, jumped and reached with his body completely facing the line, caught it well over his head while still at speed, and turned back around and barely broke stride in continuing to the end zone untouched. Maybe it takes a movement/PT dork like me to appreciate how absurd that is, even for a pro athlete, but that was just nuts.

Bryan Knowles: One thing the Ravens ARE doing really well is running the ball -- they're up to 159 yards after their first drive, averaging 6.9 yards a rush. On their first drive out of the locker room, they seemed to accept the Chiefs taking away the deep pass, and opted to just smash the ball down their throats. Two 15-yard runs by Gus Edwards, a scramble by Jackson, and an Ingram 19-yard touchdown to cap it off. Just one pass attempt on the drive; incomplete. It's just a 10-point game, though that's only relevant if the defense can figure out a way to slow Mahomes down.

Scott Spratt: What an amazing effort by Lamar Jackson there on fourth-and-5 to avoid the sack and get the ball downfield. We'll see if the OPI challenge takes it away.

Rob Weintraub: Fourth down and desperation time, Ravens go on fourth-and-5. Big blitz has Jackson by the legs, but he hurls up a Mahomes-esque arm punt that is fair caught for first-and-goal.

But OPI challenge first!

If called, no drama left there.

No OPI, first-and-goal Baltimore.

Rivers McCown: The Chiefs have spent the second half big blitzing Lamar Jackson on every opportunity. Pretty clear what the belief is there. He has proven them right so far.

Rob Weintraub: Ravens punch it in, but oddly go for two down 11. Not sure about that. Don't get it anyway.

Bryan Knowles: Hope everyone started Mark Ingram in fantasy today -- that's his third touchdown, and the Ravens still have life!

They gotta get better at those two-point conversions, though; that's their second fail of the day. 30-19 Chiefs, so it's still an 11-point game. No field goals the rest of the way for Baltimore, one would assume.

Vince Verhei: Ingram gets a 1-yard touchdown to make it 30-19, and then the Ravens ... go for two? What? Even if they convert they still need two scores! And they don't get it, which means now they need two touchdowns, not a touchdown and a field goal. I don't get that one.

Aaron Schatz: The idea behind going for two down 11 is that ... let's say you decide that eventually you're going to go for two to try to win the game if you come back to make it 30-29. If that's the case, it's better to try for two *earlier* so that if you fail (which they did), you know it and you can adapt your strategy for the rest of the game. If you go for it down 30-29 at the end and you fail, there's no making up for it.

Bryan Knowles: The two-point conversion down 11 is probably the right call, actually, according to The Math (tm). I'd be interested to see what EdjSports' win probability says, but 538's study from two years ago says it's easily the right call.

Aaron Schatz: It's similar to the whole thing about going for two when down 14.

Rob Weintraub: Fits in with the overall aggressive game plan from the Ravens, too.

Dave Bernreuther: At first I was going to complain about the undisciplined heave down the middle of the field while pressured, but then I realized it was fourth-and-5, meaning that Lamar made a good play there. Like the rest of you, I have no idea why they'd go for two there unless Tucker was in the bathroom or something, though.

Maybe it won't matter. The Ravens are on the move again. In traffic, another Jackson throw to the sideline is caught in stride and the Birds are in striking distance.

Scott Spratt: Willie Snead with the catch of the day in that ridiculous prayer throw across Lamar's body.

Rob Weintraub: OK, this time Lamar does make a terrible decision, heaving one entirely across the field and his body -- yet gets bailed out from a certain pick when Willie Snead makes an incredible jump-ball grab.

Ravens threatening to make it a one-score game.

Vince Verhei: And indeed, the Ravens get a field goal, they are still in this thing down 30-22, and I understand that last two-point attempt now.

Scott Spratt: Lamar has plus-plus speed, stutter step, and spin move.

Vince Verhei: Ravens with the dropkick onside kick! It didn't work, but hat tip to the Ravens for breaking out all the tricks today.

Rob Weintraub: Sweet dropkick by Justin Tucker in lieu of a hopeless onside kick. Forces KC to run a play after it was wisely fair caught. Tucker tossed it out in front of him like an Aussie Rules player and got off a nice kick. Sydney Swans reportedly interested...

Bryan Knowles: Weird, weird onside kick. The Ravens run a dropkick onside kick. Mecole Hardman, with a heads-up play, calls a fair catch -- it never hit the ground, so he can do that. But it means no time went off the clock, giving the Ravens (essentially) an extra time-out with the clock stopped at 2:01. I don't know if it's a good idea or not -- it seemed to have no chance of being recovered, but it does help the defense ... I don't know. Weird weird play.

Kansas City converts the third-and-long screen, and the game is over. A much better second half than the first. Still think the Chiefs were clearly a rung up, talent wise, but Jackson can make some miracle things happen with his feet. And massive props to John Harbaugh for throwing out all the stops today.

Atlanta Falcons 24 at Indianapolis Colts 27

Dave Bernreuther: Jacoby Brissett is 9-for-9 with a score to Zach Pascal. The design of that play to get him wide open just makes me even more sad that Andrew Luck was wasted with Chuck Pagano and Pep, et al. Colts look very strong so far in their home opener, up two scores very quickly.

Scott Spratt: Matt Ryan throws a horrible red zone pick, and Drew Brees is shaving left-handed.

Can we get another 7-8-1 NFC South winner this year?

Dave Bernreuther: Jacoby Brissett missed Jack Doyle coming open over the middle on a third-and-goal and ended up rolling right and tossing it away. Ordinarily I'd scream to go for it anyway, especially up 10-0, but if Adam Vinatieri was truly starting to doubt himself, I'm good with giving him an easy one. Especially since Brissett is just shredding the Falcons, to the tune of 16-of-18 with two throwaways as his only incompletions.

Scott Spratt: The reason Julio Jones doesn't score touchdowns is because Matt Ryan throws the ball 12 yards through the left side of the end zone when Julio is uncovered on the right side of it. Does anyone else think something is wrong with Ryan this year?

Rob Weintraub: Not a penalty for recreating The Exorcist on Miles Sanders, but when Keanu Neal collapsed with (another bad-looking) injury and tossed his helmet in frustration, he got hit with a flag.

Vince Verhei: Watching Neal sobbing in the end zone after his injury was just heartbreaking. That looked like a guy who knew his season was over and his career was in jeopardy.

Rob Weintraub: Yeah the NFL sucks sometimes.

Vince Verhei: Marlon Mack gets a pair of stiff-arms on a 4-yard touchdown run that puts the Colts up 27-17. This comes after a Damontae Kazee holding penalty gives the Colts a first down on a third-and-10. Falcons have committed 12 penalties today, seven of which have given the Colts a new set of downs. That's appalling.

Rob Weintraub: There is a stiff competition going on for the Most Undisciplined Team Award...

Speaking of teams we were throwing dirt upon, Matt Ryan has had a tremendous second half. Just somehow fit one in to Julio in the corner of the end zone, Jones makes the expected tremendous grab, and it's a three-point game in Indy.

Cincinnati Bengals 17 at Buffalo Bills 21

Vince Verhei: Everyone's going for two today! Two straight personal fouls on the Bengals put the Bills at the goal line, and Josh Allen finds Dawson Knox for the easy score. Then the Bengals commit another penalty on the PAT. Bills go for it from the 1, and Allen finds Cole Beasley for the 8-0 lead.

At this rate, we're going to have to start including two-point tries in DVOA. They are getting less random every week.

Rob Weintraub: Phantom holding call eliminates what would have been a phenomenal kickoff return touchdown for Darius Philips. The stuff that happens when you're Cincinnati.

By the way, if someone hadn't mentioned it, we had the first kick return touchdown of the season earlier by Jamal Agnew of Detroit. Curious as to the longest a season has gone w/out a return touchdown?

Scott Spratt: Hahaha, Josh Allen collides with a running back on a play-action fake, falls to the ground and fumbles, picks the ball up, rolls right, and completes a 2-yard pass.

Rob Weintraub: Josh Allen trips, fumbles, recovers, gets up, and throws a complete pass. No Bengals near him, of course. Bills get a field goal on the drive, up 11-0. Given the fact Cincy has zero first downs, that lead seems safe.

Bryan Knowles: To answer your question, Rob, there have been 28 seasons where no one scored a kickoff return in the first four weeks of the season, most recently 2017 (and 2016, for that matter). A lot of that was Way Back In the Old Days, when there were, like, six teams and the forward pass was considered voodoo.

Since the merger, the longest waits have been 2017 and 2016 (both of which saw their first kickoff return in week 6) and ... 1979, oddly enough, which didn't have a kickoff return touchdown until the middle of Week 8.

Rob Weintraub: Andy Dalton completes his first pass of the game, which John Ross fumbles away. Playing Seattle close in Week 1 looks like it will be saying more about the Seahawks than the Bengals.

Vince Verhei: Bills lead 14-0 at half in a near-perfect defensive performance. They have only surrendered two first downs, and one of those was on a lateral play as the half expired. This is my first time watching the new-and-improved Josh Allen. He's still slow to react if his first read is covered, and he has badly airmailed some open guys, but there's definitely a poise and confidence to his game that was not there last year. Less panicky, less deer-in-the-headlights, more confidence that if he can get out of the pocket and keep the play alive, somebody will get open eventually. There's progress for sure.

Like Mr. Hyde, Bad Josh Allen resurfaces. He's got three Bengals dragging him to the ground, but rather than take the sack, he lobs a duck right to William Jackson III, who is standing in front of John Brown on a curl route. That's a throw that is intercepted 100 out of 100 times. Bengals take over just outside the red zone, and Andy Dalton soon scores a 1-yard touchdown on a read-option play. Bills still up 14-7 but there's a long way to go here.

Rob Weintraub: Hey, a real drive by the Bengals! Good mix of plays, tough running by Joe Mixon, and he is rewarded with a short touchdown pass to tie the game at 14. Surprising, to say the least.

Vince Verhei: We have a 14-14 tie as the Bengals march 82 yards on 11 plays and Dalton finds Joe Mixon for the 1-yard score. Bengals had actually fumbled the snap on first-and-goal from the 1 and the Bills recovered, but the play was wiped out by an offsides penalty.

Rob Weintraub: Off the deck after a dreadful first half, Cincy takes a 17-14 lead with a bit under five minutes to play. Defense has been stout in the second half, though longtime Bengals watchers know this is where they will fade. Sure enough, Allen shrugs off three defenders to make one big play, and has Buffalo on the doorstep where Gore punches it in with 1:50 left. 21-17 Bills, Stripes need a touchdown.

Vince Verhei: Bengals get two big completions, one downfield to Tyler Boyd, one on a screen to Mixon, to set up a 43-yard Bullock field goal, and the Bengals are now up 17-14. Bills have gone in a deep freeze -- their last four drives have been three punts and an interception.

But then Allen finds Knox wide open along the sideline, and Knox breaks tackles and rumbles for a 49-yard gain. Allen breaks a bunch of tackles in the backfield and scrambles for a first down. Frank Gore scores on a 1-yard dive on third-and-goal, and the Bills are up 21-17 with 1:50 to go. Bengals only have one timeout too.

Rob Weintraub: Double-tip interception for Tre White ends the game for Cincy. Never fails.

Bryan Knowles: I'm so sorry, Rob. Dalton throws a tip-drill ball, and Tre'Davious White intercepts the ball to end the game. He then runs into the (wrong) end zone celebrating, and the Bengals try to argue it was a safety, but no, he gave himself up on the ground despite not being touched. Game over.

Vince Verhei: Bengals had driven to the Bills' 28 before the interception. On third down Dalton had to force a ball to Brandon Tate, but Micah Hyde tipped it for the pick. Bills are a stunning 3-0.

Rob Weintraub: Believe me, I had the Jim Marshall reference all cued up but in fairness that wasn't a safety.

Now that I've picked up everything I hurled when the Bills got that pick, it should be noted that the big gainer on the winning touchdown drive for Buffalo featured tight end Dawson Knox A) grabbing a defender's face mask, and B) lowering his helmet to make contact with another defender's helmet. Two uncalled penalties by rule. Really it was a poorly officiated game all the way around. Terrible "holding" call wiped out a Cincy special teams touchdown, and the key call wound up being the one on the extra point that gave Buffalo the balls to go for two after the first score of the game. If the just kick the PAT the Bengals ... still probably throw the game-losing interception, but they would have been in game-tying field goal range, which might have changed matters.

Josh Allen -- takes a licking and keeps on ticking. He was on the receiving end of several big shots in this game and didn't fold. But there is definitely some long-term Cam/Luck vibe there. He may be a physical monster but after a while he's gonna get hurt.

Cincy now 0-3 and have multiple issues that merely getting A.J. Green back probably won't cure. But they played tough at least, didn't give in after the first-half doldrums, and could have/should have won. As Marvin Lewis always said, "Just keep playing." The defense that was shredded by misdirection and poor gap control last week improved quite a bit, holding Buffalo to field goals despite some short fields and took over the game before that last drive, which as I predicted resulted in the Bills scoring to win. Boy, do I hate being right all the time...

Oakland Raiders 14 at Minnesota Vikings 34

Scott Spratt: Derek Carr completes a flea flicker touchdown to J.J. Nelson, that was cool.

Detroit Lions 27 at Philadelphia Eagles 24

Scott Spratt: On a kick return, Lions player Miles Killebrew committed the worst facemask penalty I've ever seen. It ripped returner Miles Sanders' helmet completely off. No penalty called.

Bryan Knowles: My pre-game predictions are holding up in every game except the Eagles and Lions, where undefeated Detroit is holding on to a lead. But the Eagles aren't without life, even if they may be without any healthy receivers. Nelson Agholor has been forced into a significant role, and predictably had a horrible fumble earlier in the game to stub out another Eagles drive. Carson Wentz was actually tied for the team lead in tackles going into halftime, which no es Bueno. Second quarter featured drives killed by an Agholor drop, the Agholor fumble, and a Miles Sanders fumble, just for variety. But Agholor just redeemed himself somewhat with a nice little touchdown to make cut the lead to 20-17, Detroit. Probably the best game on at the moment.

Detroit responded to the Agholor touchdown with a 75-yard touchdown drive of their own, but Philadelphia just managed to score yet another one, keeping it a three-point game. It should probably be a touchdown deficit, but the Lions got called for roughing the passer on third-and-7 to give the Eagles a new set of downs. Dallas Goedert dropped a touchdown on that play, but the penalty bailed them out. All it really ended up costing the Eagles was two and a half minutes on the clock, which probably won't matter with seven minutes left ... one would assume. 27-24, Lions.

Needing a field goal, the Eagles, one of our favorites in the NFC ... go four-and-out, turning the ball over on downs deep in their own territory with 2:25 left in the game. If they can hold Detroit to a field goal, they're still in the game, but they really came up lame there. Eagles fans gotta be in full-on panic mode here.


Scott Spratt: Or the Eagles can block the Detroit field goal attempt!

Bryan Knowles: The field goal is blocked! Malcom Jenkins blocked it; Rasul Douglas picks it up and runs it inside the Lions' 30! Oh my, Lions! Still a three-point Lions lead, but now the Eagles are in control. Special teams!

Rob Weintraub: Oh baby, Malcolm Jenkins blocks a field goal with under two minutees left and returns it deep into Lions territory. Be a shame if Detroit throws this one away, they've outplayed Philly today.

Bryan Knowles: The Eagles, with the ball at midfield, the game on the line ... go -5 yards. No points. Wow. Lions are going to hold on to this.

Aaron Schatz: Great catch by Darren Sproles would have converted fourth-and-5, but Sproles was called for OPI on a push-off.

Houston Texans 27 at Los Angeles Chargers 20

Rivers McCown: Bill O'Brien has moved rookie guard Tytus Howard to right tackle and is starting rookie Max Scharping at guard. Third straight new offensive line combination to start the season. He also said all offseason that Howard would only work on the left side and Scharping only on the right side.

Scott Spratt: That Deshaun Watson fumble was so weird. Was it supposed to be a lateral? He just spiked it into the ground with the ball clearly going backward. Fumble recovered by the Chargers.

Rivers McCown: Really dumb half of football. The Texans gave the Chargers seven points on the Watson fumble when it appeared he wanted to throw it at the feet of a screener and instead forgot that it was a backwards pass.

The Chargers are having their way outside the numbers. Watson settles down and looked really good on his third drive, with a touchdown and a third-and-short downfield pass on a flea flicker.

Los Angeles drove down the length of the pitch during the last two minutes after a big Mike Williams catch on rookie Lonnie Johnson in man. Keenan Allen for six on the big blitz puts the Texans in a two-score deficit.

Not totally related to the play: I like the angles they pick with Adam Archuleta in the booth. Good passing-down stuff.

Will Fuller gets a splash play downfield when the Chargers, again, rush three. Texans within a field goal.

Deshaun Watson was almost sacked, then got out of it, stepped up and baited the linebackers, and hit Jordan Akins with so much space in front of him that he was able to rumble all the way to the score from about 40 yards out.

I'm starting to think Watson is pretty good at football.

Carolina Panthers 38 at Arizona Cardinals 20

Bryan Knowles: Kyler Murray had 28 rushing yards on the Cardinals' opening drive. He had just 17 rushing yards in his first two games combined. A change in emphasis by the Cardinals? Random variation? We'll see. Cardinals take a 7-0 lead over the Newton-less Panthers, who may no longer be so much of a force.

Scott Spratt: After carrying the ball just six times the first two weeks combined, Kyler Murray has already taken six carries in the first half against the Panthers. Looks like it may be a comfort level thing. Could make him an interesting fantasy option if he keeps it up.

Kyle Allen with a beautiful 50-yard completion to D.J. Moore to cap off a very quick two-minute drill. He's looking pretty sharp on his throws today.

Aaron Schatz: Kyler Murray is 18-for-22 at the half ... for only 95 yards. Larry Fitzgerald has three catches for 10 yards. That is a festival of short passing, kids.

Bryan Knowles: The best friend for a backup quarterback is the tight end with great hands. Greg Olsen leads all receivers with five catches for 77 yards and a wide-open touchdown. Not a bad game at all for Kyle Allen, who has three touchdowns on the day. Most of the deep shots have come on YAC, but the Panthers look better with Allen back there than they did with a banged-up Newton. It's 21-17 Carolina, midway through the third.

New Orleans Saints 33 at Seattle Seahawks 27

Bryan Knowles: Punting on fourth-and-4 from the Saints 39 is a tear-your-hair out decision. They force a three-and-out thanks to some Saints penalties, but still. Aaaargh.

Vince Verhei: Seattle's start today was a Schottenheimer-fueled Seahawks Twitter nightmare. Screens that went nowhere. Runs on second-and-long. Bad penalties. A short punt by the guy they traded up for returned for a touchdown. And as Bryan noted, a fraidy-cat punt rather than letting the franchise quarterback make a play on fourth-and-5. It's like they're afraid of being shown up by their own quarterback sometimes. Thankfully on the third drive they unleashed Russell Wilson, and against a three-man rush he found Tyler Lockett open on a deep crosser, then scrambled and found him again in the corner of the end zone to tie the game 7-7.

Mind you, New Orleans' offense has been no better. Their one drive included two penalties and a burned timeout but no first downs.

Chris Carson with his third fumble in two and a half games. Vonn Bell picks it up and returns it for a touchdown. Yes, this week New Orleans' defensive score counts. Saints offense has been horrendous, but they still lead 13-7 after missing the extra point. Even accounting for that, Saints special teams have been outstanding today. In addition to the punt return touchdown, they've downed two punts inside the 5. On one of those, Seattle burned a timeout to avoid what would have been a 1-yard penalty on first-and-10.

Seahawks have lost four fumbles this season, as many as they lost in all of 2018. They were due for some fumble luck regression, but this is ridiculous.

Seahawks get a third-and-1 at the New Orleans 40. Carson is stuffed for no gain. This time they do go for it on fourth down, and Carson is hit for a loss. He's having a miserable game. Wilson, by the way, has had three or four good scrambles already today, but they took the ball out of his hands on third and fourth down.

Bryan Knowles: Wait, wait, what, the Seahawks let the clock expire in field goal range while they were sitting on two time-outs? What the what?

Vince Verhei: Alvin Kamara takes a screen pass 29 yards for a touchdown. Seahawks have 41 seconds and two timeouts to answer. First down, short completion in bounds, no timeout. Second down, deep ball completion to D.K. Metcalf in field goal range, but the clock hits zeroes before he goes down and the half ends. Seahawks still have those two timeouts.

That was one of the worst halves Seattle has played in the Pete Carroll era. For sure the most frustrating. They're leading seven to five in first downs and have doubled up the Saints in total yardage, but they're behind 20-7 on the scoreboard, and the Saints get the ball to start the second half.

Seahawks won their first two games despite playing like hot rotten garbage for long stretches of both contests. It goes without saying they'll need to do it again this week to get win number three.

The Hot Rotten Garbage Seahawks are still here. They force a missed field goal on the Saints' first drive of the second half, but an illegal formation penalty on Al Woods for lining up over the center gives New Orleans a first down. On second-and-goal from the 1, Seahawks burn a timeout to avoid a penalty for 12 men on the field. That penalty would have been enforced for a foot and a half. Fourth-and-goal, Saints go for it and use a wide receiver screen for the score. It's 27-7 now and quite honestly these Seahawks deserve to lose.

Alvin Kamara now over 110 yards from scrimmage with a touchdown, by the way. He has been unreal.

Bryan Knowles: We got some pushback in this week's Scramble, calling Teddy Bridgewater the best backup quarterback in football. He has looked good today, though the correct answer may have been Kyle Allen.

Vince Verhei: Seahawks go three-and-out, but the Saints fumble the ball back to them on the return. Seahawks get the ball but there's a penalty on an "un-uniformed player," who may have actually been Pete Carroll, for coming onto the field to celebrate. They overcome that thanks to a Saints penalty. Third-and-6 in the red zone, they run Carson for 1 yard. Fourth-and-5, Wilson has Lockett open in the corner, but his throw is a foot too far and Lockett can't make the one-handed grab.

Bryan Knowles: It's time for a desperate fourth-quarter comeback, which means it's time for the Seahawks to let Russell Wilson do Russell Wilson things, and hey! It turns out, when you let your really good quarterback make plays, you look a lot better! Some good deep shots, some scrambling -- you know, the typical Wilson package -- and now it's 27-14, and the game is still at least in contention.

Vince Verhei: Seahawks have a fourth-and-1 at their own 28. They go shotgun and spread, and the Saints make like New England in the Super Bowl, crowding the line and forcing a pass. Wilson thinks he's got a penalty in the secondary and lobs it over his receiver's head, incomplete.

Seahawks are challenging claiming DPI. The problem is, there is a blatant hold on the play, but you can't challenge holding. You can only challenge DPI. They lose the challenge, they're now down to one timeout, and the Saints have the ball up 13 points with less than ten minutes to play.

Kamara draws a DPI to set up a first-and goal, then runs in the touchdown to make it 33-14 after a failed two-pointer. Seahawks just had no answer for Kamara — officially he's over 150 yards from scrimmage with two scores. Unofficially it feels like he has broken at least a dozen tackles, and I'm not exaggerating there.

I'm more lukewarm on Bridgewater's performance today. Take away Kamara and the Saints have done about nothing on offense. Teddy certainly hasn't killed them and has made more good plays than bad, but there's been nothing in these four quarters that would make me excited if he were my quarterback.

Wilson runs for a touchdown and the Seahawks kick the extra point that leaves them down 12. Um, what? You miss it, you need two touchdowns. You kicked it, you still need two touchdowns. You go for two and get it, you need a field goal and a touchdown with a two-pointer. This is basic addition, man.

Carl Yedor:

Pittsburgh Steelers 20 at San Francisco 49ers 24

Bryan Knowles: Bad luck bouncing all over the place in the early going for the 49ers. A screen play bounces off of Matt Breida's hands, intercepted by T.J. Watt. A pass bounces off of Dante Pettis' hands, and Minkah Fitzpatrick (welcome to Pittsburgh!) comes up with a pick. Add in a fumble on a pitch play, which "only" resulted in a double-digit loss, and it has been a frustrating first quarter for San Francisco.

Rob Weintraub: Speaking of debuts, Minkah Fitzpatrick of course gets an interception in his first game as a Steeler. They are going to try the old Steel Curtain method of winning on defense when Terry Bradshaw was hurt...

Bryan Knowles: ANOTHER fumble, ANOTHER first-half turnover. San Francisco is moving the ball well -- 84 yards to 17 for Pittsburgh -- but turnovers are killing them. It's still just 6-0 Pittsburgh as the Steelers' offense can't do anything, but yikes.

Four turnovers for the 49ers, who really need to opt not to have the buttered lobster as their pregame meal next time out.

Pittsburgh has just one first down, though, so those four turnovers led to just six points. One big Vance McDonald catch is pretty much the only offensive thing the Steelers have managed, so both defenses doing a good job keeping their teams in this one. The Steelers haven't really been forcing the turnovers, but they have been getting plenty of pressure on Jimmy Garoppolo, who wasn't really challenged in the first two weeks. It looks like the 49ers are using extra guys and misdirection to help keep Garoppolo clean on the left, with Joe Staley out. That means Mike McGlinchey's out on an island, and he's not having a good day.

The 49ers HAVE tacked on a field goal (inside the 10-yard line, c'mon guys), so it's 6-3 Steelers, despite San Francisco outgaining Pittsburgh 206-42.

Pittsburgh opens the second half by immediately throwing an interception to K'Waun Williams -- five interceptions on the year for the 49ers, up from two a year ago. After carefully examining the rulebook at halftime, the referees have determined that yes, you can in fact score touchdowns off of turnovers, so that's what the 49ers' do, helped by a 22-yard Kendrick Bourne catch-and-run. 10-6 49ers, and San Francisco fans can exhale, just a little bit.

The Steelers had 99 yards of offense all day, late in the third quarter. Then, Mason Rudolph hits JuJu Smith-Schuster for a 75-yard touchdown, with at least two 49ers defenders taking terrible angles to try to stop him. Steelers re-take the lead, 13-10.


Jerrick McKinnon? Meh. Tevin Coleman? Who needs 'im! Matt Breida, Kyle Juszczyk, Raheem Mostert? Nope. Jeff Wilson scores his fourth touchdown of the season to give the 49ers the lead. I am not going to pretend to understand the 49ers' running back room.

Aaron Schatz: Mason Rudolph finally discovered the deep pass after a whole game of short stuff. First he had James Washington wide open -- Jason Varrett had to basically tackle him for a 32-yard DPI to keep him from scoring a touchdown. Then Rudolph finds rookie Diontae Johnson streaking up the middle, hits him, 39-yard touchdown.

Bryan Knowles: The touchdown was also against Verrett, in for the injured Ahkello Witherspoon. It's his first action of the year; it kind of looks like he's toast.

The last time the 49ers won a game with five turnovers was 1998, the tail end of the 49ers' dynasty in a Ty Detmer fill-in game. Most of the turnovers in this one were execution-based rather than great defensive plays by Pittsburgh -- how do you snap the ball into the man in motion? Arglebargle! But a win is a win.

The offense owes the defense a bunch of sandwiches or something; I don't know the etiquette. 3-0, going into the early bye.

Rob Weintraub: On the kneeldown the San Francisco deep back did a standing backflip, which is also what I do every time the Steelers lose.

New York Giants 32 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31

Rob Weintraub: This is probably the loudest it has been in Tampa since the Gruden days. And it's all Giants fans loving them some Daniel Jones. He has looked athletic as promised, a little erratic, but the running element has been a factor early, including a read-option keeper for six.

Alas, their defense is a lost cause, and Jameis Winston has two touchdowns already. 12-10 Bucs.

Bryan Knowles: Mike Evans already has three touchdowns. The Giants' problems extended far beyond Eli Manning.

Buccaneers first-half drives: touchdown, touchdown, field goal, field goal, touchdown, field goal. Saquon Barkley is in the locker room with a bad ankle. Daniel Jones, I will say, isn't looking that bad, but the New York defense seems to only exist in a sort of theoretical capacity.

Saquon Barkley is on crutches and wearing a walking boot on the sideline. This is not ideal.

Aaron Schatz: Give Daniel Jones some credit. He looks very good today against a Tampa Bay defense that, while bad the last couple years, looked pretty good the first two weeks of this year. He just hit Sterling Shepard falling on the edge of the end zone with two defenders on him, a great throw. That makes it 28-25, Bucs.

Rob Weintraub: Shaq Barrett is handing Nate Solder his ass today. Just strip-sacked Jones to force a turnover in G-Men territory. That was Barrett's fourth sack today. The Giants don't break, however, force a field goal, now trail 31-25. Set up for Jones heroism!

Aaron Schatz: Bucs kick a field goal to go up six. Kicking a field goal to go up six is the worst. Just go for it. Fourth-and-2 on the Giants 5.

Rob Weintraub: Incredibly good tackle by Michael Thomas (Giants reserve safety, not Saints All-Pro wideout) to force a Bucs punt with a little over three minutes left. NOW it's all set up for some Jones heroism!

Sure enough, Sterling Shepard gets completely free to haul in a chunk play and set up the Giants in the red zone at the two-minute warning.

Bryan Knowles: Daniel Jones is determined to make people eat crow. On fourth-and-game, Jones charges up the middle and scores the go-ahead touchdown. His mobility gives him such a different dynamic compared to Eli Manning. Tremendous play, though there's still 1:16 left.

Rob Weintraub: The Red Sea parts on fourth-and-5 and Jones runs it in for the touchdown! Just as I predicted, though in fairness even Eli could have run that one in.

Aaron Schatz: Wonderful tight coverage by the Bucs on the goal line forces the Giants into fourth-and-5. The coverage was too good, in fact, because it was so good on fourth down that the entire middle of the field was open with no receivers or defenders and Daniel Jones just ran right through it for a 7-yard scramble touchdown. Giants go up 32-31. I hate kicking the field goal to go up six, have I mentioned that already?

Rob Weintraub: Oh Evans continues his dominant performance over Janoris Jenkins by catching a bomb deep in Giants territory. Tampa Bay can win with a chip-shot field goal.

And Matt Gay missed! Was 4-for-4 on the day. Unreal. Daniel Jones is magic!

Bryan Knowles: A chip shot it may be, but Gay missed, wide left! The Legend of Daniel Jones begins.

Rob Weintraub: The Bucs has a delay of game and a kneel that lost 2 or 3 yards right before that kick, by the way. Deserved to miss.

Bryan Knowles: Bruce Arians said he intentionally took the delay-of-game penalty, because he thought Gay would be more comfortable from a longer distance.

He, uh, wasn't.

Los Angeles Rams 20 at Cleveland Browns 13

Scott Spratt: Cris Collinsworth said something interesting: that Cooper Kupp recognized that Brandin Cooks was supposed to be lined up on the line of scrimmage on a play but was behind it, and so Kupp stepped up onto the line to avoid an illegal formation penalty. Whenever I think about the benefits of smart players, I go straight to play recognition and other reads. I wonder how many little things like this smart players can do for their teams that even in charting we really have no idea about.

Aaron Schatz: As Collinsworth has pointed out, as well as a number of analysts on Twitter, the Browns are controlling the Rams' running game by using a sort of "6-1" defense similar to what the Patriots did in the Super Bowl, with either two linebackers or a linebacker and a safety down at the line of scrimmage to make it six defenders across to prevent outside runs. Stopping the outside runs is also limiting the number of play-action passes based on those outside runs, although I wonder if that needs to be the case. Couldn't you still run a play-action outside zone into that 6-1 defense since you aren't actually handing the ball off and running outside?

Rivers McCown: Browns appear to have shifted coverage late on that Jared Goff fumble, confused him.

Bryan Knowles: 6-3 Cleveland at halftime, as Myles Garrett's forced fumble set up the Browns to get a field goal just before halftime. I believe this is the Rams' first deficit of the season. Just for the record, the Browns have not scored a touchdown on Sunday Night since 2005, in a 34-21 victory over the Steelers. Their 2008 appearance was a 10-6 loss, and they've yet to score a touchdown tonight. I think this is mostly good defense tonight, but neither offense has looked really comfortable yet at all.

Aaron Schatz: I was about to say that I'm not a big fan of the Browns rushing only three, and then they just got Goff to throw a pick to T.J. Carrie on a play where they rushed only three.

Tom Gower: Because you're booting the other way, the end man on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage has an easy run to the quarterback if he doesn't get completely sucked out of position. You have to mix it up more than that.

Rivers McCown: A draw on fourth-and-9? A draw!?? Christ, Browns.

Bryan Knowles: What on Earth are the Browns doing, running a draw on fourth-and-9? That's a give-up play on third-and-9!

Carl Yedor: Collinsworth correctly pointed out that Cleveland should have challenged for DPI there to preserve a down. Instead, a third-down screen goes nowhere, followed up by a draw on fourth-and-9 that gets snuffed out immediately. Bizarre sequence there from Cleveland.

Aaron Schatz: I'm fine with going for it on fourth-and-9 in No Man's Land -- too long for a field goal, too short for a punt -- but for crying out loud you have Odell Beckham, pass the ball.

Carl Yedor: Cleveland's corner was playing probably 10 yards off Cooks on that third-and-short. If Goff checks to like a screen or a quick out to that side, there's a decent chance that the Rams convert. Instead, Goff forces the ball into coverage looking for Woods and it gets tipped and picked instead, giving the Browns the ball with good field position.

Aaron Schatz: Someone please tell Baker Mayfield to stop running backwards and to the right if his first read isn't open within one second.

Andrew Potter: Couldn't sleep, so I put on the Browns game in time to see Baker Mayfield, trailing by seven deep in his own territory, take a scrambly, indecisive sack on first down. A draw gets most of that yardage back, so Mayfield does the exact same thing on third down. The Browns punt it away, Jared Goff throws an awful tipped interception. Mayfield immediately goes back to running around the backfield instead of making reads, and now I understand why it's only 20-13.

Bryan Knowles: On fourth-and-game, what does Mayfield do? Run backwards and to his right when his first read wasn't open within one second.

Aaron Schatz: Hell of a game from Aqib Talib, who was on Beckham most of the game. And on the goal line to tie the game at the end, the Browns threw four passes and none were to OBJ.


144 comments, Last at 25 Sep 2019, 12:54am

#1 by Mountain Time … // Sep 23, 2019 - 7:26am

All Daniel Jones does is win ballgames

Points: 0

#2 by facw // Sep 23, 2019 - 8:27am

"Lamar made a good play there"
"in that ridiculous prayer throw across Lamar's body"
"Lamar does make a terrible decision"
"Lamar has plus-plus speed, stutter step, and spin move"

I'd just like to say that it's weird that people refer to QBs by their first name. It's weird with Jackson, it's weird with Wilson. It's weird (though perhaps somehow less weird) with Newton. It's also a bit weird that this only seems to happen with black QBs (plus Eli, but obviously that's about differentiating with Peyton), though not all black QBs (I don't recall hearing this with Watson or Brissett).

Points: 0

#3 by Aaron Brooks G… // Sep 23, 2019 - 8:54am

In reply to by facw

I think this started with Ben.

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#4 by sbond101 // Sep 23, 2019 - 9:04am

And let's be honest - it's legit with Ben, who really knows how to pronounce "Roethlisberger". 

Edit: or more to the point, who wants to say a 4 syllable name on a broadcast.

Points: 0

#6 by Dave Bernreuther // Sep 23, 2019 - 9:24am

In reply to by sbond101

Yeah, watching Alabama play is terrible for that reason, but I also can't exactly blame them.

Points: 0

#15 by mehllageman56 // Sep 23, 2019 - 10:24am

Jackson and Wilson are such common names people worry the reader/listener won't be sure who you are writing/talking about.  With Rothlisberger they're just worried they will mess up his name.

Points: 0

#48 by facw // Sep 23, 2019 - 12:01pm

Not sure I buy that.

Jackson is the only Jackson on the Ravens, and only the third Jackson to play NFL QB (unless I missed someone), and one of those Jacksons had 114 career passing yards.

Wilson is the only Wilson on the Seahawks, and the only Wilson currently playing QB.

And of course I don't think anyone was confused when the Patriots had both Tom and Kyle Brady.

And while Rothlisberger is a long name, I don't recall ever hearing a play by play guy just say "Ben" and even in highlights they usually say Rothlisberger. Maybe in a written piece you switch it up for variety or to save typing, but I'm pretty confident the last name doesn't get avoided in the way it does with some other QBs. 


Points: 0

#99 by horn // Sep 23, 2019 - 4:32pm

Virtually all Philly fans and local broadcasters on TV and radio call Carson Wentz 'Carson,' and it's not like there's a plethora of Wentz' at QB on the team/NFL.

Points: 0

#139 by apk3000 // Sep 24, 2019 - 8:52am

I have no idea what announcers said back in his playing days, but I can't think of anyone local to the DC area who calls Sonny Jurgensen anything but Sonny.

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#118 by ssereb // Sep 23, 2019 - 6:22pm

Russell Wilson may be the only Wilson currently on the Seahawks, but until a couple years ago he semi-frequently threw passes to TE Luke Willson (sic).

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#5 by nlitwinetz // Sep 23, 2019 - 9:22am

In reply to by facw

It seems to be a factor of how common and hard to say the first/last names are. 

Jackson is a  common last name so they call him "Lamar".

Trubisky is a mouthful so they call him "Mitch".

Points: 0

#7 by Aaron Brooks G… // Sep 23, 2019 - 9:35am

There's also the corollary that the more your first name sounds like a last name, the more likely it is to be used.

You see this with Baker.


Points: 0

#50 by dmstorm22 // Sep 23, 2019 - 12:11pm

In reply to by facw

Personally I think you’re thinking too hard here. Plenty of white QBs have been often referred to by their first name during games - including Peyton who you mentioned.

Hasselbeck was often just called Matt or Matthew. People used to call Carson Palmer just Carson.

Points: 0

#80 by facw // Sep 23, 2019 - 1:57pm

Can you find me an example on youtube? Because I cannot remember any of them being referred to like that in game situations. Maybe sometimes in written discussions or other things like that, but I really don't recall them ever being referred to so casually in play-by-play or in-game look ins or whatever.

Points: 0

#126 by Hoodie_Sleeves // Sep 23, 2019 - 8:27pm

I'm sorry, but it's simply not believable that you never heard announcers call them Brett or Peyton. 


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#138 by facw // Sep 24, 2019 - 2:07am

I feel the same way when you say the opposite. Like that was just not a thing people did.

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#60 by justanothersteve // Sep 23, 2019 - 12:40pm

In reply to by facw

I don't think think it's a black/white thing. I and many of my Packers fans friends frequently refer to Rodgers as Aaron, much like we often referred to Favre as Brett. I also don't ever remember anyone calling Winston solely by his first name. It's probably more dependent on which is easier and quicker to say or write and still get one's point across than anything racial or cultural. 

Points: 0

#82 by facw // Sep 23, 2019 - 2:00pm

Are your friends involved in calling NFL games. Because I don't mean in casual discussion (obviously that's what's happening in the FO chat, but it's also happening in the actual play-by-play.) I can't say I've ever heard an announcer tell me about what Aaron and Brett are up to. I mean I'm old enough to remember people debating the merits of Heath vs. Gus in Washington (presumably because neither's last name was easy to spell), but no one called games like that. 

Points: 0

#83 by Chip // Sep 23, 2019 - 2:12pm

Yes, agreed.  You are over thinking it.  

Not everything has to be about identity politics.



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#84 by Shylo // Sep 23, 2019 - 2:16pm

In reply to by facw

To be fair there are a lot of Jacksons in the NFL, to say Lamar cuts it down considerably.

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#101 by Mountain Time … // Sep 23, 2019 - 4:35pm

In reply to by facw

Why do you have a problem with this mundane thing that probably isn't true anyway?

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#8 by oaktoon // Sep 23, 2019 - 9:51am

Leaves are turning, days growing shorter, kids back in school... and FO ignores the Packers. The rites of autumn! Well, I suppose I should be careful what I wish for on Thursday-- Eagles due to play a lot better. But seriously two weeks of no audibles whatsoever for GB... Would think a resurgent defense and a struggling offense under new leadership would be worthy of some attention-- but what do I know?

Points: 0

#13 by Will Allen // Sep 23, 2019 - 10:21am

The guys are writing the stuff for this column as local fans. That's what I like about it, even if none of them are NFC North fans, like I am. Rather than comment on what other people didn't watch yesterday, just give us your take on the Packers game; the more NFC North followers in this thread each week, the better!

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#19 by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Sep 23, 2019 - 10:41am

Agreed.  I love to see comments on what's going on in the other games, either here or on the Open discussion forum.  The more the merrier!

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#20 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Sep 23, 2019 - 10:43am

Agree with Will on posters giving their takes on games.  I really enjoy it when the fans here post their observations on games they watched closely.  I find it much more informative than highlight shows and boilerplate summaries on websites.

Points: 0

#87 by oaktoon // Sep 23, 2019 - 2:33pm

Forcing turnovers is a defensive skill, but can't be sustained at the Packers' current level. The Smith Bros pass rush is something real, however-- and the first real sustained QB pressure since Peppers' first season in GB before Matthews had lost his fastball. (Rams fans-- get ready for the letdown)  Packers rush defense is a cause for worry, as is some pretty horrid tackling week after week. But obviously the upshot is a much better D.

As for the other side of the ball, I have come to the conclusion that Rodgers' supporting cast in 2010-14 did not get enough credit. The run blocking is decent enough and Jones can be pretty good if he stays healthy. But other than Adams-- who will be increasingly double covered-- the rest of the skill position group is pretty lame. And I have yet to see any real evidence of Rodgers/LaFleur adopting a tempo system where guys can be thrown open. Rodgers is good or 2-3 missed passes every week these days, and a bunch of ground throwaways when nothing is available. I have serious doubts about whether this offense can/will ever be elite. To win the next two games against Philly and Dallas they will have to be a lot better.

Points: 0

#92 by Will Allen // Sep 23, 2019 - 3:03pm


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#24 by theslothook // Sep 23, 2019 - 10:56am

It would be different if any of the writers were Packers fans.


In any case, as the Packers continue to win, they will garner more attention from FO I haphazard to guess. 

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#29 by dank067 // Sep 23, 2019 - 11:08am

Next two Packers games are vs. the Eagles on the first FOX Thursday night game, and then at Dallas in the national 3:25 slot. Not only will everyone have a chance to see the Packers play in these games, we'll probably learn quite a bit more about them after they face teams whose quarterbacks aren't actively trying to give them the ball!

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#43 by jmaron // Sep 23, 2019 - 11:47am

The best thing about the NFL for me is so many games matter. As a Viking fan I will really enjoy watching those games. In baseball, basketball and hockey none of the games matter until the playoffs. 

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#59 by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Sep 23, 2019 - 12:40pm

It's part of the secret of the NFL's success, no doubt.  In a world of short attention spans and near infinite entertainment choices, the scarcity of games and relative importance of each one helps draw in the casual fan. 

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#129 by reddwarf // Sep 23, 2019 - 8:46pm

Be fair!  They're ignoring the Broncos too.

Deservedly so in that case.

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#9 by johonny // Sep 23, 2019 - 9:58am

The Jets currently hold the tie breaker over the Dolphins for the first pick. We don't get red hot Jets Dolphins action until November by which time the Jets should have a NFL caliber starting QB again to throw Gase's endless supply of tricky bubble screens.

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#10 by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Sep 23, 2019 - 10:09am

Is there anybody left on the Dolphins roster who remembers Gase well enough to play over their heads in a revenge game?

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#27 by Aaron Brooks G… // Sep 23, 2019 - 11:04am

They are Dolphins.


Over their heads is still underwater.

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#37 by dmb // Sep 23, 2019 - 11:32am

I have nothing to add but just want to show this comment the appreciation it deserves.

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#11 by sbond101 // Sep 23, 2019 - 10:11am

Having watched the Jets and Fins on back to back weeks I think the Jets should be clear favorites in the head to head. The Jets appear to have an NFL-level defense even though they definitely do not have an NFL level offense. I do think it will be a morbidly fascinating game though - to see how each coach gets there team up for the chance to be 1/2-14/15 each of the two meetings.

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#17 by mehllageman56 // Sep 23, 2019 - 10:33am

The absurd thing about the Jets is that the offense has more talent; Gase has to be responsible for well over 50 percent of the problem here.  Gregg Williams has had the defense playing competently while missing his middle linebacker, excuse me, all the starting linebackers, the number 1 draft pick, and having no starting level cornerbacks.  The offense is down to the third string quarterback, true, but Falk hasn't looked that bad and the offense looked horrendous even with Darnold playing.  The offensive line is abysmal and they are all healthy.  The roster has issues, but most of them are on the defensive side.  Gase needs to go.

I'm not sure how much you can blame Flores except for the fact he's on board with trading everyone. 


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#22 by sbond101 // Sep 23, 2019 - 10:54am

"The offensive line is abysmal and they are all healthy."

I saw this in both the Pats & Bills game and was really surprised. When watching induvidual plays (especially against the run), you can see that there are definately talented football players on that line, but it just doesn't come together. This week the Pats had 5 sacks (11 QB hits) and 7 TFL's in 42 offensive snaps (~28% of offensive plays were negative, 21% vs. the Bills in week 1). My intuitive view is this has a lot to do with not setting the protections properly especially against stunts, delays, etc... I think that reflects pretty negatively on coaching.

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#54 by johonny // Sep 23, 2019 - 12:20pm

He's onboard in the sense it's his first NFL coaching gig and I'm pretty sure he's not going to say, this is crazy. Obviously we're all expecting at some point a Grier versus Flores power struggle. Why? Because isn't that how these things always end up.

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#56 by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Sep 23, 2019 - 12:35pm

Can't believe he's onboard with an 0-for year, though.  I don't think any coach would want that on their record, let alone someone with his first Head Coach job.

"This is going to be a re-building year and we'll get your type of guys on the team and start to build your culture", that I believe Flores may have been sold.  May even have requested and/or been part of the architects in.  But I can't believe any new coach would purposefully set out to coach the worst team in NFL history.

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#12 by Will Allen // Sep 23, 2019 - 10:12am

My major rooting interest this season is for the health of Dalvin Cook, because it's fun to watch him make tacklers stumble around like drunks looking for car keys in a dark parking lot. Kinda' weird he lasted into the 2nd round, but I don't really keep up with the college prospects, so I don't know what negative stuff was being said about him.

It was obvious when Kubiak joined the staff, but Zimmer thinks he has a defense that can win 11 or 12 games if the offense isn't forced to throw it 40 times, which exposes their pass blockers, and, unfortunately, maybe the qb who takes up 15% of their cap. I didn't criticize going from Keenum or Bridgewater to Cousins, because Ol' Case was really lucky in 2017 that he didn't throw at least twice as many ints, and they just didn't know in the spring of 2018 what Bridgewater's health would be. I wasn't a big Cousins fan, but looking for efficiency when investing in qbs is like doing the same at the craps table. I really suspect, however, that they could get the qb play they need, with the kind of offense they are running, and the defense they think they have, for about 6-9 million less than they are paying Cousins. That may have been money well spent on the offensive line, or to really load up on defense.

NFC North might be the best division, top to bottom.

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#16 by jmaron // Sep 23, 2019 - 10:31am

At the time I was hoping for Bridgewater, then Keenum and last choice by far Cousins. I'm not sure there is a huge difference in ability between the three, but Cousins was way more expensive. Spielman has panicked when things went wrong at QB - reached for Ponder, traded 1st and 3rd for mediocre Bradford, and then paid huge for Cousins. He's done a decent job, but you simply can't overpay for mediocrity. 

Watching Bridgewater yesterday it reminded me of why I like him so much more than Cousins. He doesn't make big throws but he almost always does the right thing and he is so calm. Cousins makes big throws but you're always waiting for the next huge horrible play. 

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#28 by Will Allen // Sep 23, 2019 - 11:05am

I am nearly 100% certain that Ponder was not Spielman's idea, to take that high, because it was after that debacle that ownership straightened out lines of authority, and gave Spielman final say on the draft. Back then, the Wilf brothers were still trying to have draft day decisions driven by consensus, with as many as 5 or 6 people having their hands on the steering wheel. I suspect a consensus couldn't be obtained, and ownership voted to take a qb, in a really bad year to draft qbs.

I will continue to defend the Bradford trade. They, not unreasonably, thought they had a roster that could win playoff games, and then, out of the blue, Bridgewater's knee explodes, exposing what really was their roster weakness, a back-up qb who can't possibly make 16 starts. There aren't too many coaches and gms who will simply write off a season when an otherwise good roster loses one player. And Bradford played really well! It just was in the context of an injury tsunami on the offensive line that was nearly unprecedented in league history. Then Bradford plays great in the 2017 opener against the Saints, but the knee finally collapses for the final time. Then they are faced with Bridgewater's uncertain health status in the spring of 2018. Zimmer loved Bridgwater as his starter, because that calmness and sound decision making you rightly note is exactly what Zimmer wants, with how he wants to win games. 

Spielman and Zimmer have really not been blessed with good fortune in their tenures, especially with regard to the health of 1st and 2nd round picks.  Bridgewater, Sharif Floyd, Dalvin Cook, and Mike Hughes were all really promising rookies who suffered extreme injuries before their 3rd year. Hopefully Cook and Hughes are healthy going forward.

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#34 by jmaron // Sep 23, 2019 - 11:19am

I saw an article in Ponder's first of second year where Spielman talked glowingly about Ponder and how favorably he compared to Eli Manning at the same stage of his career. Maybe he was just spouting the party line, but he sure seemed enamored with him. 

NE lost Brady game 1 after their 16 and 0 year and rode out the season with Cassel. I'm not sure what their options were to acquire a better QB, but I really doubt in the same situations as the Vikings given up so much. But we will never know. Assessing QB play is a very difficult thing to do. 

I like watching this version of the Vikings. I do fear that Cousins will melt at a key time(s) and cost the team. 

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#35 by Will Allen // Sep 23, 2019 - 11:31am

There isn't a GM in the league not named Belichik who will fail to speak in glowing terms of a 1st round qb pick that his team made. Again, that Ponder draft was the last one for the Vikings that had the "triangle of authority" or "polygon of expertise" or whatever the hell the Wilfs called their organizational chart back in those days. After that, with everbody talking about what a reach Ponder was,  Spielman was promoted to GM, and was given contractual authority over drafting. I strongly suspect the two events were not unrelated, but of course, Spielman isn't ever going to say anything.

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#40 by Aaron Brooks G… // Sep 23, 2019 - 11:35am

That New England team had a great offensive line.

That Vikings team did not.

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#30 by theslothook // Sep 23, 2019 - 11:08am

Keenum is a bad quarterback who had one great year when figuratively everything around him was covered in gold. He showed his true talents last year with the Broncos(who should be having a new buyers remorse with Flacco as their qb. That's like trading in your previous lemon for a more expensive lemon).

Bridgewater was so badly injured, who knew what form he would return to. And Cousins...look, not everyone is an elite qb. I get it, he's paid like one, but that's a fact of the qb market. He's a good qb. He's had enough of a career track to this point to suggest at worst hes slightly above average. That's a qb most teams wish they could have. 

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#97 by Mountain Time … // Sep 23, 2019 - 4:13pm

> He showed his true talents last year with the Broncos


Hate, hate, hate this take. It's obviously not true. 

Broncos!Keenum was his floor, not his "true talent level." Look at how he's tearing it up in Washington. He's not as good as he looked for the Vikongs, but he's nowhere near as bad as the Broncos made him look.

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#108 by theslothook // Sep 23, 2019 - 5:07pm

That's fair. I guess I just see him as a competent backup/fringe starter in most circumstances. 

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#98 by Mountain Time … // Sep 23, 2019 - 4:20pm

I feel like you're overreacting to a couple of bad games by Cousins. I've been watching him since he was drafted, and I'm skeptical that he is suddenly worse than he's consistently been for years.

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#105 by Will Allen // Sep 23, 2019 - 4:57pm

Oh, I'm not in the anti-Cousins cabal, at least not yet. You can definitely win a championship with him, on the correct roster. I just kind of suspect that a guy like Keenum, on a team that has a lot of big plays in the running game, while playing excellent defense, like the Vikings may this year, could be nearly as effective as Cousins, while costing 10 million dollars a year less. Then that money could have created a better offensive line, or been invested on defense to create a real monster.One more excellent defensive lineman, added to the existing rotation, really would have made for 4 quarters of chaos for opposing offenses.

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#109 by theslothook // Sep 23, 2019 - 5:08pm

The problem is, there aren't a bunch of excellent defensivelinemen available in free agency every year. Free Agency is not like a grocery store with an endless array of products that if you only had the money, you could afford.


And I think Cousins is materially better than Keenum. Whether he's better given his contract figure vs Keenum and his contract figure is an interesting debate. 

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#113 by Will Allen // Sep 23, 2019 - 5:43pm

Oh, like a team with a good offensive line and receivers, but a mediocre to bad defense? Cousins would be a very, very, big improvement over Keenum. On a team like the Vikings, however, terrific defense, mediocre to bad pass blocking, you just don't get as much from Cousins' skill set, so the gap between he and Keenum narrows.

I agree that "use added cap space to obtain free agent talent" is a helluva lot easier said than done.

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#14 by jmaron // Sep 23, 2019 - 10:22am

NFC is 11-3 vs AFC.

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#49 by theTDC // Sep 23, 2019 - 12:07pm

Probably won't continue at that rate, but it really does feel like there's eight or nine talented teams in the NFC, and maybe five in the AFC.

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#21 by theslothook // Sep 23, 2019 - 10:53am

Rare occasion I chose not to watch the Colts and instead watched the Ravens Chiefs. Here were my thoughts:

The chiefs offense is so talented and smartly designed, its a tragedy all the credit is going to Mahomes. Yes Mahomes is a big part of it, his ability to hit the deep ball and do so from odd angles, but that sells short the playcalling and pass blocking. They were able to gash the Ravens with runs to the outside and attack the seams with Kelsie. A ton of misdirection stuff led to wide open coverage breakdowns repeatedly. You need a pretty disciplined defense and a smart coach to defang this offense. And we all know who that will be. Mahomes' next level jump will be having to adjust when those are taken away.

As for the Ravens: Their offense is similarly well designed and plays well to Lamar's strength. But Lamar still has spotty accuracy and doesn't see the field well. He's young, but will those things improve because he's still a big time scrambler and rarely do scramble heavy qbs learn field vision.

Overall, very fun to see two well designed offenses.

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#32 by Hoodie_Sleeves // Sep 23, 2019 - 11:11am

This is the same offense (kind of) that made Alex Smith look like a real QB. 


Scheme and system matter - maybe even more than QB talent - and Andy Reid is really good at this stuff. People seem to forget that when evaluating QBs. 


(And yes, Mahomes is clearly talented)@

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#41 by Aaron Brooks G… // Sep 23, 2019 - 11:39am

Smith really got straightened out under Harbaugh.

He's like Goff. He was great under Meyer. He was terrible under Nolan and Singletary. He was good under Harbaugh. He was really good under Reid. He was good under Gruden.

He's not capable of overcoming the system he's in. Which basically means his last name isn't Manning, Favre, or Tarkenton.

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#44 by dank067 // Sep 23, 2019 - 11:54am

Smith low key had pretty poor numbers for Washington last year, which was kind of masked by the fact that they were winning games before he got hurt. Smith had more-or-less been putting up better and better efficiency numbers each successive year in KC, which makes the drop-off that much more noticeable. I don't say this to pile on Smith, but more to point out that Andy Reid is a wizard.

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#95 by mrh // Sep 23, 2019 - 3:57pm

Of note is that the OC for Smith's 1st decent year was Greg Roman.  Roman also got decent production out of Kaep, Tyrod Taylor, and now seems to have a good design for Jackson. 

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#45 by JS // Sep 23, 2019 - 11:55am

It's like the Chiefs have this "get someone wide open deep" play, and they run it six or so times a game. And nobody else has that play. Reminds me of the Pats and their "get a guy wide the f*** open within five or six yard of the LOS crossing over the middle" play. Why is it so easy for them and nobody else?

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#69 by theslothook // Sep 23, 2019 - 1:08pm

Part of it is line quality. If your offensive line is weak, it significantly hampers your creativity. Reid and BB almost always emphasize coaching the offensive line and are effective at it. I remember Josh McDaniels running a super creative play as the Rams OC and it got his qb pancaked. He ran the same play with NE and it led to a td. 


Part of it is also that defenses are so much more resistant to innovation than offenses are. There was a lengthy article about how damn stubborn coordinators are to a scheme. The new defensive innovation, match coverage which is essentially blurring the lines of zone coverage and man coverage has not percolated to the NFL unless your name is Bill Belichick. This gets to my point above - its damn hard to teach your players to adapt to these fluid schemes so most coaches probably either don't try it or do try it, watch it fail, and hastily pull back on it. 


It reminds me a bit of the evolution of poker. Dan Negraneau mentioned that the game changed so much even within the last 5 years that if you don't adapt to what the new generation is doing, you fall apart. 

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#75 by t.d. // Sep 23, 2019 - 1:32pm

sure, but they were playing their backup left tackle yesterday, Hill (their best downfield threat) has played two quarters this season, and Mahomes has played Baltimore and Jacksonville, two likely elite defenses, and is probably at least a little hindered by the ankle sprain he suffered in week one.  Its getting to the "this is getting absurd" point (which is why I think all this "New England is overwhelming Super Bowl favorites" talk- winning the SB 30% of the time in their latest playoff odds- sounds ridiculous to me;  they're the same team as last year minus Gronk and they've played a bunch of division 1AA teams so far)- Mahomes is actually way ahead of last years pace for yards and touchdowns, crazy stuff

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#77 by theslothook // Sep 23, 2019 - 1:45pm

That may all be true, but they still had dudes wide open in the secondary and got massive gains on the ground. I do shudder to think what will happen when Hill returns

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#89 by cstoos // Sep 23, 2019 - 2:38pm

What makes Mahomes special is 1) he actually sees them and 2) he can make the throw from literally anywhere.


You ever watch the all-22 of a game and there are wide open guys streaking down the field all the time.  They just are normally missed.  Where Reid's scheme excels is in how consistently and quickly he gets guys open.

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#81 by t.d. // Sep 23, 2019 - 2:00pm

that's making a bunch of assumptions (I think New England's defense probably is top 5, but drawing conclusions on how good they are on either side of the ball when their opponents are a combined 0-9 is tough)

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#86 by sbond101 // Sep 23, 2019 - 2:29pm

The actual problem with the assessment is that NE isn't last years team minus Gronk on offense - Josh Gordon (who played a couple of games last year) is game changing if he can stay in the lineup. On the other side of the Ball its Flowers out, Bennet in, and add Collins who's playing like a monster this year. As you say it's hard to gage where NE really is this year and will be until about week 10 because of how unbalanced there schedule is, but there's a reason why Vegas has NE almost twice as likely to win the Superbowl as KC.

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#88 by t.d. // Sep 23, 2019 - 2:35pm

In reply to by sbond101

sure, they're THE public team.  Gordon started 11 games for the Pats last year, more than a couple

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#127 by RobotBoy // Sep 23, 2019 - 8:37pm

In reply to by sbond101

Indeed. Gronk wasn't even Gronk last year, although his presence alone was probably enough to trouble defenses. Gordon did play 11 games but came late to the team in the offseason and is better integrated now. Dorsett has looked like he's made a late leap, perhaps up to a #2 wideout.

Still, the Pats have added a great deal of talent, including high draft picks who were injured last year. The DB depth is probably best in the league. Collins has also been a revelation. Belichick seems to be putting him in position to make plays and he's wreaking havoc. They've played crap teams, yes, but this defense is a plus version of the one that suffocated the Rams in the SB. It's a legit top five unit, maybe better.

The real concerns are on the offensive side, especially the O-line. They lost their excellent FB for the season and are down two starting O-linemen, although Wynn will be back. You have to wonder how Grandpa Brady will be feeling come Week 14, especially if the run game continues to sputter. Buffalo will be a real test, at least on that side of the ball.


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#90 by cstoos // Sep 23, 2019 - 2:45pm

In the first 3 quarters of games KC is only giving up 4 points a quarter.  It isn't until they go to prevent D and a conservative offense with big leads that they are actually giving up scores.  I think it will be a different story in a close game.

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#96 by mrh // Sep 23, 2019 - 4:07pm

I think the KC D is better than last year when it was one stupid Dee Ford alignment away from winning the AFCCG.  I also think the KC offense may be better than last year (when Hill comes back) because Mahomes may be better, Watkins knows the offense better, Robinson is better than Conley as the 3rd wideout, and Hardman is another speed threat.  The loss of Hunt is a downgrade, but the Chiefs didn't have him in the playoffs anyhow.  The line will need Fisher back at full strength and avoid other injuries.

The Ravens are probably the non-Pats team best suited to beat the Chiefs - a physical team with excellent running game and a play-making QB who may himself be better by playoff time.  I'd hope the seeding puts the Ravens in the Pats' bracket - assuming all 3 teams stay healthy and make the playoffs.

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#112 by theslothook // Sep 23, 2019 - 5:32pm

I think its way too early to outline who exactly is the real threat to KC aside from NE. We don't know what unfortunate injuries will befall which teams nor which players will rise in the future. I usually wait till about week 10.

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#91 by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Sep 23, 2019 - 2:55pm

Right around 25% seems right to me.

This assumes:

a) they get to the conference championship, which is not 100%

b) it's a coin toss whether they beat the Chiefs, who also aren't 100% to be there; if it's someone else, I'd raise the Pats' chances, but only a little

c) it's a coin toss whether they beat the NFC champion.


To get above 25%, you have to assume the odds of b) or c) are better than 50%, and sufficiently greater than 50% to offset the chance that a) does not occur.

Sophisticated models may indeed say that the odds of b) and/or c) are greater than 50% and the odds of a) are insignificantly different from 100%, but three weeks into the season I wouldn't personally have any confidence in that.  Just putting the odds at 25% at this stage seems like hitting the reasonable ceiling for any team.

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#120 by BJR // Sep 23, 2019 - 7:23pm

"You need a pretty disciplined defense and a smart coach to defang this offense. And we all know who that will be." 

The Chiefs have put 31, 40, and 42 on the Patriots in their meetings over the past 2 seasons. If there is something schematic that can be done to stop these Chiefs, Belichick is yet to come up with it. Now what he does have is an offense capable of executing relentlessly in response.

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#121 by theslothook // Sep 23, 2019 - 7:48pm

I guess I'm basing it all on the playoff game where they held KC to well below their season long averages. 2 turnovers also helped KC's offense. This was also @ KC. 

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#125 by Hoodie_Sleeves // Sep 23, 2019 - 8:19pm

Go take a look at the Patriots defensive DVOA at the time of each of those games. 

Now take a look at the Patriots defensive DVOA right now. 

This defense is significantly better than it was when it shut down LA in February. Between Collins, Bentley, Bennett, and Jones being healthy again. This is the first legitimately good defense the Patriots have had since 2004. 

There's no guarantee they'll stay healthy, but comparing them to a terrible defense of a couple years ago is silly. 


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#128 by Aaron Brooks G… // Sep 23, 2019 - 8:45pm

Let’s wait until they play a team that’s paid to play football first.

DVOA adjusts for some things, but it doesn’t fully adjust for three consecutive dumpster fires.

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#133 by BJR // Sep 23, 2019 - 9:05pm

Sure, the Patriots defense may be better now. My comment was in response to the notion that Belichick was simply destined to come up with a way of stopping them. He certainly hasn't so far. 

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#23 by roguerouge // Sep 23, 2019 - 10:56am

I didn't watch the game, but I usually assume that QBs that have a great day after their team falls behind by multiple TDs are doing so because they're playing against a prevent or vanilla defense. For anyone who watched, was that the case?

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#25 by theslothook // Sep 23, 2019 - 10:57am

Or they are playing a bad bucs defense.

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#46 by mansteel // Sep 23, 2019 - 11:59am

No, this definitely wasn't a case of Bortlesesque garbage-time production. For one thing, even though the Giants were down 18 at halftime, they scored a TD/2-pt conversion 12 seconds into the 2nd half, so the game was within 10 pts from there on out and within one score the whole of the 4th quarter. For another, Jones was throwing the ball down the field regularly; he completed his fair share of short crossers, but this was not a dink-and-dunk performance by any means.

Having said that, it needs to be said that even though the Bucs didn't seem to change their defense in the 2nd half, they did get conservative on offense, running the ball pretty often. Even though they had some success with it, they were just torching the Giants' terrible pass defense the whole first half so it seems pretty dumb to take your foot off the gas in a game that was never close to being out of reach. I mean, Mike Evans had 150 yards and 3 TDs in the first half and didn't see a target until they were behind inside the last minute (whereupon he caught a 40-yard bomb easy as you please). But, you know, hindsight 50-50. 

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#58 by nlitwinetz // Sep 23, 2019 - 12:37pm

I was thinking the same thing. It seems like they were scared of Winston throwing the game away. Evans looked uncoverable, just keep chucking the ball his way and good things will happen.

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#93 by Dales // Sep 23, 2019 - 3:23pm

Even while falling behind by 18, he was throwing really well. Went 4/5 for 53 yards on the opening drive. 5/8 for 43 yards plus a 10 yard DPI with 2 scambles for 18 yards on the second drive. It was TB 12, Giants 10 at that point.

Next drive was nothing (0-2 plus a stuffed Saquon run). Fourth drive (18-10 at that point) started well with him 2/2 for 21 yards until the fumblesack.

So, not a perfect start, but he was throwing very well right from the outset, and adding in some good runs, while the score was close and while getting nothing at all from the run game.

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#26 by theslothook // Sep 23, 2019 - 11:00am

Has any team had an easier schedule than the Bills? I know they haven't yet faced the Dolphins, but they got the crappy Jets, zombie Eli led Giants and the terrible Bengals. 


Maybe its just too early to say this, but man does it feel like the bad teams in the league are truly abysmal. Sure, every season there is a tire fire somewhere, but Jets, Dolphins, and Bengals feel especially execrable( I would have added the Giants if they had stuck to their original plan to start Eli the entire season). I'm not going to predict 0-16 for all three squads(especially since the Jets and Dolphins will be playing each other), but I don't think its a stretch to predict all three will finish 3-13 or worse. 



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#31 by Aaron Brooks G… // Sep 23, 2019 - 11:08am

Buffalo's schedule has 1 more win than New England's schedule.

(Dallas' schedule has 1 fewer loss, so far)

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#39 by tjb // Sep 23, 2019 - 11:34am

The week 1 Jets hadn't yet been ravaged by injuries and teenage kissing diseases, so that was substantially better team than what took the field in week 3.  A similar argument could be made in Pittsburgh's favor as well.


But yes - Buffalo and NE have both had incredibly cupcake schedules thus far.

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#33 by Will Allen // Sep 23, 2019 - 11:12am

Unfortunately, given the Giants defense and offensive line, I think it likely that Eli will be forced to start more games this season. I'd put the over/under on number of Giants starting qbs this season at 4. It's gonna be a blood bath, I fear.

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#38 by mehllageman56 // Sep 23, 2019 - 11:33am

The Jets were healthy when they faced Buffalo.  Granted, Darnold probably already had mono, and Mosley got hurt during the game, but the Bills faced a more talented team than the Patriots just did.

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#70 by Raiderjoe // Sep 23, 2019 - 1:10pm

bengals not good. probably will be 4-12.

dolp[hins bad peronslle.  0-16 not out of question.

jets ton of injuries and suspensions. 6-10 or 7-9 is fair at this poinbt. 8-8 or better asking too much now. Gase has to be pretty craptastic for Jets to not win at least 6

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#73 by Cheesehead_Canuck // Sep 23, 2019 - 1:20pm

The Patriots have likely had an easier schedule than Buffalo. 0-3 Pittsburgh, future 0-16 Dolphins, and 0-3 3rd string QB Jets at home? Probably easier than 0-3 Jets with Darnold, 0-3 Giants, and a plucky 0-3 Bengals.

Now we know the Pats are for real and the jury is still out on Buffalo, but when opponent adjustments kick in, I have a hard time thinking NE maintains the DVOA numbers we're seeing. And their sched doesn't get much more challenging until November. Such is life in the AFC, I guess, and when you luck into getting your tougher matchups at home (it's a pre-determined schedule so it is luck).

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#76 by t.d. // Sep 23, 2019 - 1:43pm

sure, but then New England goes Baltimore-Philly-Dallas-Houston-KC all in a row;  not sure it's an advantage to have all the hardest games clustered like that

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#131 by BJR // Sep 23, 2019 - 8:48pm

The Bengals are just a run-of-the-mill poor team, not worthy of particular exclamation. They've played both the Seahawks and Bills very close, unless they are ruined by injuries I expect them to pull out some wins. 

The Giants will be feeling good this morning, but their pass defense remains truly abysmal, and it is not a long shot that Jones is injured at some stage forced to play catch-up playing behind that line. I still predict a very high draft pick. 

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#141 by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Sep 24, 2019 - 12:04pm

Bills are ranked 6th this week in Dan Hanhuz's Power Rankings on

I'll allow people to draw their own conclusions.


Points: 0

#36 by dank067 // Sep 23, 2019 - 11:31am

Watching Saints/Seahawks, I probably came down on the side of those who didn't think Bridgewater had a ton to offer - lot of short drives ending in punts - but they took full advantage of the D/ST touchdowns and the short field late, Kamara created some offense out of almost nothing, and they didn't make any mistakes themselves. Wins like that will be big as they wait for Brees to come back, especially with Atlanta losing again and everyone in the division at 1-2.

Don't have anything to say that others haven't about how depressingly mis-managed Seattle's offense is. I did think New Orleans' defense had a good game, as Seattle racked up a lot of yards and points very late in the game, but you can tell they have the potential to be so much better than they are.

Points: 0

#47 by mrt1212 // Sep 23, 2019 - 12:01pm

that RW is as good as he is. Like, is he always a 100% on and locked in? No. It is just frustrating as a Hawks fan (Hi!) to see the same problems over and over again season after season and feeling like we are so 'close' except that an ineffable and impervious dogma persists.

And then there's just the consistent lack of team discipline which isn't dogma, just coaching.

Points: 0

#51 by theslothook // Sep 23, 2019 - 12:13pm

No he is not always on and locked in. And to blame the entire woes on the Seahawks offensive coordinator is to absolve Wilson of any culpability. His teams are always in the bottom in RAP and that record is completely unmatched by any team. You would think they would luck into one year where they weren't a complete doormat, but they are and some(most?) has to fall on Wilson.


He's a tremendous qb, but people seem to think of him in the same light as Brady, Brees, Rodgers, etc etc. I certainly don't. 

Points: 0

#57 by dank067 // Sep 23, 2019 - 12:36pm

I'm not sure where I'd rank Wilson, but I think it's worth noting that still tends to do well in efficiency metrics that  account for sacks, like DVOA, NY/A and ANY/A. That would also be before factoring in his rushing production, a lot of which comes from scrambles. So even if the sacks are mostly his fault, his style of play has a good track record of producing.

Schottenheimer, on the other hand, has a very long track record of being a very bad NFL offensive coordinator. He also helped Mark Richt get fired from Georgia! Maybe that's giving him too much credit, because Richt was on the hot seat for awhile, but in his lone season as offensive coordinator there they fell from 6th to 67th in offensive FEI rating.

Points: 0

#62 by Mike B. In Va // Sep 23, 2019 - 12:43pm

He must interview fantastically. I cannot fathom how he keeps getting jobs.

Points: 0

#71 by theslothook // Sep 23, 2019 - 1:11pm

I'm more amazed that failure after failure has not altered is ridiculous offensive philosophy. He seems permanently stuck on the successes of 2009 and 2010, where he was playing 1970s football. 

Points: 0

#67 by mrt1212 // Sep 23, 2019 - 12:53pm

It's not even denying he's in the pantheon of great QBs, it's treating him like he's Trubisky despite being easily their most capable player and in fact most tenured...

Here's an example - During the game they dropped into a short passing regimen and RW was tearing it up. No amount of in game validation will ever lead them back to trying that as Plan A in subsequent games. 

Points: 0

#42 by dank067 // Sep 23, 2019 - 11:41am

Jaire Alexander is a blast to watch play. He can be beat in coverage, but makes some great plays on the ball, breaking up a lot of passes at the point of the catch. Tremendous play by him (5' 10", 196) to rip the ball clean away from Noah Fant (6' 4", 249), and he made some great open field tackles to kill a couple of drives as well.

Points: 0

#52 by Cythammer // Sep 23, 2019 - 12:14pm

"And Matt Gay missed! Was 4-for-4 on the day. Unreal." He'd already missed one XP and had another blocked. Another miss was far from unreal. Wild that Arians took the delay of game on purpose.

There are a lot of disappointing teams in the NFC. The Panthers are 1-2 and Cam Newton is injured. The Eagles are 1-2 with their only victory over the Redskins. Atlanta has two ugly losses and one narrow win. Who would've expected the Bills to have more wins than the Falcons and Eagles combined three weeks in? It's very early, but Buffalo is already two games up on any of the teams chasing them for the last wild card spot. Getting to play Miami twice more is a massive boon as well.

Points: 0

#55 by Aaron Brooks G… // Sep 23, 2019 - 12:20pm

Depends. Do the Eagles and Falcons get to play the Jest, Dolphins, and Bengals?

Points: 0

#53 by PTORaven // Sep 23, 2019 - 12:14pm

I'm glad y'all approve of Harbaugh's aggressive playcalling cause he's currently being drawn and quartered on the Baltimore FM sports radio station and message boards.

Points: 0

#64 by Mike B. In Va // Sep 23, 2019 - 12:45pm

No surprise. I stopped listening to sports talk radio for reasons like this.

Points: 0

#122 by ssereb // Sep 23, 2019 - 8:00pm

Well I for one find it incredible that 105.7 and Purple Flock aren't bastions of analytically-inclined thinking! Has Braedyn from Mt. Airy forgotten Chase Stuart's research on fourth-down probabilities?

Points: 0

#66 by Led // Sep 23, 2019 - 12:49pm

I hope the performance of Josh Allen and Danny Dimes and Lamar Jackson reminds everybody of the undeniable truth about drafting QBs (and basically everything else). In the words of immortal Hollywood screenwriter William Goldman: "Nobody knows anything." Everybody -- and especially the smart kids -- needs to bring a little more humility to the table.

Points: 0

#68 by Will Allen // Sep 23, 2019 - 1:04pm

The laziest NFL punditry entails a prediction that "(insert young qb's name here) isn't going to be a good NFL quarterback". Of course, it has a strong likelihood of being right, since hardly any young qbs ever end up being good, but that's why the prediction has so little value. Now, if there's somebody out there who identified, ahead of time, more than 80% of the guys who ended up being good, while not wrongly predicting that status for a bunch of guys who never get there, that's somebody worth paying attention to. Hell if I know who that is.

Points: 0

#72 by theslothook // Sep 23, 2019 - 1:13pm

He doesn't exist. If he did, he wouldn't be relegated to qb draft whisperer. He'd be emperor of the universe(a line I stole from Tanier)

Points: 0

#106 by Will Allen // Sep 23, 2019 - 5:04pm

It's hard to hard to maintain a good long term relationship with a savant with a penchant for sneaking vodka into his Gatorade bottle.

Points: 0

#142 by bravehoptoad // Sep 24, 2019 - 2:47pm

I know he has a great draft record, but on QBs?  He found Russel Wilson, true, his other big success is...Alex Smith? 

Points: 0

#85 by theTDC // Sep 23, 2019 - 2:26pm

The success of three first round picks proves that "nobody knows anything"? It's weird how in a season where Gardner Minshew and Kyle Allen are both looking very good, you choose to focus on 6th overall, 16th overall, and 32nd overall. 

Points: 0

#94 by Led // Sep 23, 2019 - 3:33pm

Good for those guys!  I think they're great stories.  Although not fortunate enough to be drafted in the first round they have enjoyed the relative benefit of not being shit on constantly by know-it-alls on the internet.  (I'm myself am guilty of poking fun at Allen and Jones.)  All I'm saying is that it would be nice if the know-it-alls (including me) took the time to recognize that they don't actually know it all.  

Points: 0

#103 by Steve in WI // Sep 23, 2019 - 4:42pm

True. As much as I have bemoaned the Bears trading up to pick Trubisky over Watson and Mahomes, basically no one had Mahomes pegged as the best QB from that class, and it was not absurd at the time to favor Trubisky over Watson.

Points: 0

#116 by Duke // Sep 23, 2019 - 6:08pm

...there's hitting on a longshot, and then there's overpaying for a longshot that pays off.

What was the highest anyone was talking about taking Jones, besides the Giants? I didn't hear that any other team had him as a first rounder.

Points: 0

#74 by Cheesehead_Canuck // Sep 23, 2019 - 1:28pm

Fun fact. The NFC is 11-3 against the AFC after three weeks.

Points: 0

#102 by Mountain Time … // Sep 23, 2019 - 4:39pm

I HATE the new comment section format.

* why split it into 50 comments/page? Now it's impossible to follow conversations, because if I'm on page 2, all the new comments on page 1 aren't yellow by the time I click there, so I miss them completely

* scrolling to the comment section is a minor PITA too

* editing a comment is a total fuckshow, because the editor loses all formatting I've done and I have to re-format the whole thing. Also, I literally cannot select text in the new editor. This sucks, sucks, sucks.

I try not to complain about new site formats before getting used to them, but this site is literally taking away basic functionality and giving nothing at all back in return.

Points: 0

#107 by Will Allen // Sep 23, 2019 - 5:07pm

To be polite, it is suboptimal...


Points: 0

#114 by Aaron Brooks G… // Sep 23, 2019 - 6:05pm

It stinks worse than the Jets.

Points: 0

#130 by Aaron Brooks G… // Sep 23, 2019 - 8:48pm


that would require throwing nothing but 404 errors

Points: 0

#111 by mrh // Sep 23, 2019 - 5:21pm

Agree on all 3 counts, but the loss of the yellow highlighting is far and away the #1 problem for me

Points: 0

#115 by Duke // Sep 23, 2019 - 6:07pm

I wasn't a huge fan of the old system, but the new one is not an improvement. Since the old one was so old, I assume it was a beast to maintain, so I don't mind moving to this system for the time being. But I hope this is not the final iteration.

Points: 0

#119 by PatsFan // Sep 23, 2019 - 6:47pm

Pending a rewrite, can you just change the "50" constant somewhere to "100" or "200"?  That will at least ameliorate the problem somewhat until a better commenting system can be put in place.

Points: 0

#123 by Grendel13G // Sep 23, 2019 - 8:08pm

I was also going to complain about the new comment formatting, except I figured my complaint would be buried on page 2-3 and not highlighted so no one would ever read it.

Points: 0

#124 by Raiderfan // Sep 23, 2019 - 8:18pm

and I think it may actually be costing you money. I know I don’t click on articles to read the new comments near as often as I used to, because it is so hard to find them.

Points: 0

#135 by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Sep 23, 2019 - 10:44pm

I don't normally like to pile on, but in this case, I do want to echo: (a) too few comments per page, (b) yellow highlighting not working properly seriously makes it frustrating to check back later and try to find new comment.

I'll also throw a new one into the ring: replies not always appearing below the comment they are in reply to sometimes makes it difficult to follow conversations.  

Points: 0

#136 by Yu Narukami // Sep 24, 2019 - 1:41am

+ 10000 too. 

Would be it impossible to integrate Disqus? I am not the biggest fan of it, but it seems quite used all around the internet and functional.

Points: 0

#132 by BJR // Sep 23, 2019 - 8:54pm

It's worrying that, amidst their high profile off-season acquisitions, the Browns did not choose to prioritise protecting Baker Mayfield. He has been under constant pressure so far this season, and the results have not been pretty.

Points: 0

#137 by justanothersteve // Sep 24, 2019 - 1:43am

The Ted Thompson way (look at the Browns front office and OL coach if you don't get it) was to use mid-and-low-round athletic LTs and coach them up to play along the OL. Josh Sitton. TJ Lang, and JC Tretter were all converted LTs. I'm expecting the next few years' drafts to see several mid-round OT picks. It's a culture perspective that also explains Seattle's OL problems. 

Points: 0

#134 by Dan_L // Sep 23, 2019 - 10:30pm

I wonder if someone will try a Break-but-don't-bend strategy against Mahomes and the Chiefs. Commentators often talk about Bend-don't-break to give the best offenses plenty of first downs while trying to stop the big play, but why not tailor a defense that says "Sure, Mahomes may rip us for 4 x 50 yard passes, but he does that to everyone, and we're going to cover to take away open short-mid range options, and take risks to create turnovers"? Seems worth exploring at least.

Points: 0

#144 by theTDC // Sep 25, 2019 - 12:54am

I think going for a strategy of guessing early and often is probably warranted against the Chiefs, but I'm not sure that playing Cover 0 all game long is a great idea. Mahomes can turn the ball over, so I might even go the other way, rush 3 often, try to disguise coverages, and just get more plays for mistakes to be made. 

But hey, if you think they're dialing up a short pass, calling some exotic plays with no deep help might not be the worst idea in the world. As you said, they're probably going to torch you deep anyway, might as well try to get some Polamalu-esque interceptions lurking down low.

Points: 0

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