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

Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Kyler Murray under pressure
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.

New York Jets 6 at Philadelphia Eagles 31

Bryan Knowles: If I were the head coach of a football team facing a must-win game, I might give my starting quarterback a few reps in practice. Then again, I guess that's why I'm not noted quarterback whisperer Adam Gase -- Luke Falk had no reps with the starters this week, with Sam Darnold taking the snaps. Darnold is not playing today, so Falk gets sent to the wolves.

I'm not going to blame Falk's terrible interception on his lack of first-team reps, as opposed to just, you know, his general talent, but he just hit Nate Gerry in stride for an Eagles touchdown. 14-0, and the Jets are going to have to struggle not to get embarrassed today.

Jacksonville Jaguars 27 at Carolina Panthers 34

Scott Spratt: Kyle Allen just had his sixth fumble of the season, but he caught his own bounce pass. His lack of recognition of the proximity of pass-rushers is a real weakness.

But otherwise, the Panthers have little trouble marching downfield on their opening drive for a touchdown. Christian McCaffrey got the score going head over heels, reminiscent of a similar flipping touchdown from Cam Newton.

Meanwhile, it took Gardner Minshew and the Jaguars even less time to go the length of the field to score. With notable defensive absences for both teams -- including Jalen Ramsey, Donte Jackson, and Kawann Short -- this may be much more of an offensive game than one would otherwise expect.

That was weird. Gardner Minshew was either trying to hand off to his fullback, who wasn't expecting the ball, or he just didn't get the ball tight enough to his body to get around the fullback. Either way, it's a fumble recovered by the Panthers.

Gardner Minshew stripped on third down. Former Panthers offensive lineman Andrew Norwell was the victim there. Rookie pass-rusher Brian Burns was more right-place, right-time, but he scored a defensive touchdown on the return.

Andrew Potter: Fun to see Mario Addison credited with a strip-sack on that one. Addison didn't touch Minshew at all, but drove Norwell straight back into Minshew's arm to force the fumble.

Scott Spratt: Down 14 points is right where Gardner Minshew wants to be. On a drive that would have been stopped had Burns not extended it with a roughing the pass penalty, Minshew drives the field and hits DJ Chark for each player's second touchdown of the day. 21-14 Panthers, still 6:07 left in the second quarter.

The 5-foot-11 D.J. Moore goes vertical over A.J. Bouye for 53 yards. Reminiscent of Steve Smith.

Kyle Allen subsequently fumbled again. Panthers retain possession but are penalized.

Calais Campbell blocked an attempted field goal, which will give the Jags a short field to try to tie this game before half time.

This game is a Christian McCaffrey avoided-tackle fest. It's the best I've ever seen him play in a game.

Bryan Knowles: We haven't been talking too much about Christian McCaffrey, who is having another spectacular game, even by his standards. He has 176 yards rushing, 61 yards receiving, and three touchdowns -- I hope you started him in every fantasy format available.

McCaffrey has gone over 175 yards from scrimmage in four of Carolina's first five games this season. The record for most 175-yard games from scrimmage in a season is seven, by Jim Brown in 1963. McCaffrey gets his yards slightly differently than Brown did, I think it's fair to say.

Scott Spratt: I cursed him with praise because Christian McCaffrey left injured, but I guess that's OK since Reggie Bonnafon ran in a long touchdown. But then Joey Slye missed the extra point, keeping it a seven-point game with plenty of time for Minshew.

On third-and-12 in field goal range with less than two minutes remaining, the Panthers naturally throw a deep fade. Kyle Allen was picked, but it may have hit the ground. It's being reviewed.

Bryan Knowles: I'm not sure I've ever seen a team attempt four consecutive Hail Marys, but an illegal use of hands and an offsides penalty gave Jacksonville four shots at the end zone, the last one on an untimed down from the 26-yard line. All four failed, however, and Carolina holds on in one of the more bizarre endings to a football game you'll see this year.

Rob Weintraub: Panthers open door for Minshew Magic by dropping two picks, wiping out a third via penalty, and jumping offsides on last Hail Mary, allowing an untimed down. Luke Kuechly ends the nonsense by knocking down the last pass, Panthers win 34-27.

Aaron Schatz: The first of those four Hail Marys could have very easily been DPI on Ross Cockrell.

Baltimore Ravens 26 at Pittsburgh Steelers 23 (OT)

Scott Spratt: Mason Rudolph just overthrew his running back by 5 yards for a turnover inside his own 20. The Ravens may not be as good as we thought after two weeks, but they look much more capable than the Steelers early in this one.

Bryan Knowles: That was Jaylen Samuels, not Mason Rudolph -- explains why the throw was quite so bad. Burn that play, Pittsburgh.

Scott Spratt: Oh great call, Bryan. Maybe the Wildcat isn't the answer against a disciplined defense.

Bryan Knowles: And, of course, the Ravens waste no time in capitalizing, scoring five plays later to take a 10-0 lead.

Lamar Jackson has only thrown two passes to this point. He has run for 34 yards, so I guess we're getting a little bit of the 2018 Ravens offense today.

It turns out, when the Steelers keeps their quarterback under center, they can throw the ball. Astounding. Rudolph is 5-for-5 for 65 yards, with the majority of that coming on a 35-yard touchdown pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster. JuJu had to fight off a couple defenders to get into the end zone to make it a touchdown, but it was still a nice throw that would have picked up quite a bit even if Smith-Schuster had fallen down immediately. It looks like either Rudolph is getting a little more comfortable throwing downfield, or the Steelers are getting a little more comfortable letting him throw downfield. We'll see if that keeps up over the course of this one; dink-and-dunk Rudolph was no good to watch.

10-7 Ravens.

When you think Baltimore-Pittsburgh, you think defensive slugfests. Welcome to the new NFL, I suppose, as we've now had touchdowns on three consecutive drives, with Lamar Jackson finding Hollywood Brown in the end zone for his first touchdown since Week 1. 17-7 Ravens.

(Actually, looking back, we had three touchdowns in a row in their December 2017 matchup, but I'm still going to call this playing against type, because I am old.)

Stop the Steelers before they Wildcat again! A direct snap to Jaylen Samuels turns a second-and-1 from the 7 into a third-and-6, which then becomes a Mason Rudolph sack and limits them to a field goal try. So Samuels has an interception and a huge loss on his two direct snaps. Stop it! Stop it now! (17-10 Ravens.)

I'm getting shades of déjà vu from this one. Lamar Jackson has thrown two interceptions, giving the Steelers great field position twice -- and they manage just a field goal each time. Two weeks ago, the 49ers turned the ball over to Pittsburgh five times, and the Steelers managed just two field goals. Last week, against Cincinnati, the Bengals turned it over two times and Pittsburgh managed just two field goals. Pittsburgh just cannot capitalize on their opponents' mistakes, and so they're trailing at halftime 17-13. The Steelers' defense showed up in the second quarter -- the Raven's last three drives of the half gained -1, -9, and 8 yards, leading to two interceptions and a punt. They're doing everything they can to give the Steelers this game, and the offense is politely declining.

Scott Spratt: Amazing rookie receiver Marquise Brown is limping toward to the locker room. Anyone see what happened to him?

The Ravens line up to go for it from the 49-yard line on a fourth-and-6, but they draw the Steelers offsides. Leads to a much easier fourth-and-1 which Lamar converts with a sneak.

Woah, Devin Bush just takes away a long would-be completion to Nick Boyle. He just took it straight out of Boyle's hands. This is the second Lamar Jackson interception that bounced off one of his tight ends today. Let's go ahead and separate interceptions from deflected interceptions, please.

Bryan Knowles: Oh, geez. Mason Rudolph just got sandwiched between two defenders, and he is out on the field. Earl Thomas got him helmet to helmet (not targeting, just hit high), and Rudolph went to the ground without protecting himself. Classic fencing response. Scary sight.

Vince Verhei: On replay, it was very clear Rudolph was out on his feet. He's glassy-eyed before he even starts to go down. Thank goodness he was able to walk off.

Well, that may be why they had him walking off: the cart broke down and had to be wheeled off by the crew.

DEVLIN HODGES, a rookie from Samford, is in at quarterback for Pittsburgh.

Scott Spratt: I've literally never heard of Devlin Hodges, and I'm a football writer.

Rivers McCown: If you asked me randomly who Devlin Hodges was before today, I would have guessed indie folk singer.

Scott Spratt: That Hodges throw to Diontae Johnson was a bullet.

Andrew Potter: Tyson Alualu fullback sighting! I may be the only one of us excited by that, but the Steelers take the lead on a touchdown with Alualu in at fullback. The Jaguars formerly used Alualu in that same role, with considerably less success.

Bryan Knowles: Naturally, Devlin Hodges comes in and leads the Steelers to a touchdown to take the lead -- the first touchdown Pittsburgh had scored off a turnover since the Seahawks game. The Hodges-to-Johnson pass was a dime, and he hit Vance McDonald to set up the James Conner touchdown plunge. 20-17 Steelers.

Vince Verhei: Steelers take the lead on a James Conner goal-line plunge. Biggest play of the drive came when Devlin Hodges, who sounds like an English Lit professor at the community college down the street, hit Diontae Johnson for a third-down conversion, but Johnson fumbled the ball out of bounds. Refs ruled it a catch despite the butterfingers. Baltimore challenged the play but the call stood, and I have to admit I have no idea how. Didn't look like he ever had possession to me. Regardless, the XP is good, and Pittsburgh leads 17-13 late in the third.

I also want to mention Pittsburgh's reverse off a SHOVeLL pass completion Wasn't necessarily a huge play, but sure was creative.

Devlin Hodges, who sounds like he should be working the closing shift at Barnes & Noble, is intercepted by Earl Thomas, but the play is wiped out by a holding penalty on Tony Jefferson. Worse for the Ravens, Jefferson was holding because his knee gave out as he was running, and he tackled the receiver as he was going down. He's then carted off the field.

Devlin Hodges may sound like the guy who wants to tell you that he's really good at Magic: The Gathering, but he has made some plays today, the latest a 21-yard scramble to set up a go-ahead field goal. The Ravens answered late to force overtime, but on third down Jackson had Seth Roberts open for what should have been a winning touchdown, but threw way too high. I've had some fun with him, but if I'm being honest Hodges, the undrafted rookie, has outplayed Jackson, the former first-round draft pick.

And then we get coin-flip confusion! The Steelers win the coin flip ... and choose which way they want to go! Nobody knows for sure what's going on, but when the smoke clears, overtime begins with Ravens taking the ball first.

Aaron Schatz: Choosing to kick ended up being the right move for the Steelers, they stopped the Ravens three-and-out on their first drive.

Marlon Humphrey knocks it out of JuJu Smith-Schuster's hands after a catch, and the ball bounces and it looks like it's going to bounce out of bounds ... then suddenly it bounces straight up instead of going out and the Ravens recover. That's some big-time fumble recovery luck right there, but the play by Humphrey was all skill.

Vince Verhei: Hodges makes another play, hitting Smith-Schuster for a first down near midfield, but Marlon Humphrey makes a textbook defensive play, punching the ball free and sending it bouncing backwards. It looks like it's going out of bounds, but at the last bounce goes back to the middle of the field. Josh Byrnes very nearly touches the ball while out of bounds, which would have ended the play, but somehow missed it, and Humphrey actually chases the ball down for the recovery in Pittsburgh territory.

Ravens go three-and-out again, the third-down failure a miscommunication in the backfield where Jackson turned one way and the back went the other. But Justin Tucker bails them out with a 46-yarder that was just as back-and-forth as the rest of this game. The snap was high and the kick veered left, but just barely looped back inside the upright for the Baltimore win.

Chicago Bears 21 'at' Oakland Raiders 24 (London)

Bryan Knowles: Here's one for Andrew -- in the first game at Tottenham Hotspur's stadium, the Raiders have striker and Spurs-and-England captain Harry Kane as honorary captain. He is roundly booed by a pro-Bears crowd. That will probably be the only time that happens in that stadium, uh, ever.

As for the game, the third, and best-behaved, in Oakland's offseason trifecta of miscontent signings has popped up, with Richie Incognito firing a late hit to move the Raiders out of field goal range.

The Khalil Mack revenge game ... isn't. The Raiders are stomping a mudhole in that Bears defense, with 198 yards in the first half (and still two minutes left to go). The Bears? Just 47. This is a nightmare for Chase Daniel -- not only did he have to get off the bench and do work, but those passes have shown that, uh, he's not the answer. To anything, really.

At half, the Raiders are outgaining the Bears 208-44. The last time the Raiders gained 200-plus yards in the first half while keeping their opponents under 50 was 2000 -- it has been a hot minute. The Bears have run 16 plays. Three sacks. Three punts. Two first downs, and an interception. Do we see Tyler Bray in the second half? He can't be worse than Daniel's been.

Vince Verhei: Derek Carr doesn't turn the ball over very often, but when he does, it's always hilarious.

David Montgomery gets a 1-yard touchdown off that to cut the lead to 17-7.

The English are getting a good game today after all. Bears force a punt, and then go on an 89-yard, 12-play drive, with Daniel doing most of the work and hitting Allen Robinson for a 4-yard score. Raiders still lead, 17-14.

Bryan Knowles: Chicago was apparently just held up in customs, and only arrived at the stadium in the second half. 21 unanswered points, sparked by a Raiders fumble and a 71-yard Tarik Cohen punt return, and they've taken the lead. Blimey, and other bad British colloquialisms from the broadcast crew.

Vince Verhei: Trevor Davis giveth, but Trevor Davis also giveth away. Or something. He gets a big kickoff return to set the Raiders up in Bears territory. But on first-and-goal, just when it looks like Oakland's going back on top, Carr completes it to Davis, who has the ball punched out by Sherrick McManis, and Prince Amukamara recovers.

Bryan Knowles: The Raiders have possibly their best drive of the season -- a 97-yard drive, sparked by a fake punt, to take the lead with less than two minutes to go. That was an impressive drive, but the fake wouldn't have happened had the Bears not been flagged for a rouging the kicker penalty back at the very beginning of the drive. Chase Daniel's turn to respond.

Vince Verhei: Let's not overlook that Erik Harris appeared to fumble the ball away to Oakland on the fake punt, but the fumble was overruled on replay review, allowing Chicago to keep the ball.

And there's Daniel badly overthrowing Anthony Miller, and Gareon Conley gets the interception, and that should pretty much put a cap on this one.

New England Patriots 33 at Washington Redskins 7

Scott Spratt: I wonder what the first team to score a touchdown odds were for the Redskins.

Aaron Schatz: Yes, Washington scored the first touchdown of the game on a 65-yard end around by Steven Sims. The Patriots missed a couple of tackles, and a couple of other tacklers pulled up, almost like they expected someone else to do the tackling but then nobody did the tackling. Not the kind of defensive play you tend to see from the Patriots, even in past years when their defense wasn't as good as it has been this year.

The Patriots went all pass on their first drive. The Redskins did a lot of rushing three and then were getting good coverage and then pressure late in the down as the offensive blocking broke down. Blocking was much better on the second drive, and the Patriots rediscovered the tight end, with an actual two-tight end set and completions to both Ryan Izzo and Matt LaCosse. Ended the drive with a simple slant to Julian Edelman over the middle against a zone, touchdown. But new kicker Mike Nugent shanked the XP to the right, so it's now 7-6 Washington.

Andrew Potter: Tom Brady just had his second horrible red zone interception in as many weeks, a wounded duck in the direction of James White while falling backwards away from pressure. No reason to even attempt that throw in easy field goal range (yes, even for Mike Nugent).

Bryan Knowles: That Brady pick was against Cover-0. Brady hadn't faced any Cover-0 all season leading up to this game. Interesting to see if anyone else dares to try that going forward.

Aaron Schatz: Ryan Kerrigan came untouched on the interception, it was a Cover-0 blitz. They sent two guys and Marshall Newhouse could only block one of them.

We go to the half at 12-7 thanks to a field goal after a Jason McCourty interception on a miscommunication by the Washington offense. The Patriots defense has been stellar again today, except for that one blown play with the 65-yard rushing touchdown by Sims. Other than that, 2.5 yards allowed per play with two turnovers. Washington is not throwing downfield at all. But the Patriots offense looks discombobulated. Phillip Dorsett is out and Brady and Josh Gordon do not look like they're on the same page at all. The offensive line is getting more and more overwhelmed as the game goes on. In the first quarter it was more about coverage, and the pressure came late in the down. Now the pressure is coming early in the down. Ted Karras gave up a sack and had a holding, Marcus Cannon gave up a sack and has given up a lot of pressure for a pretty bad day, Marshall Newhouse gave up a sack. The running game isn't gaining a lot of yardage, but they're not even running much, they're mostly passing today. It's just not working.

OK, the Patriots offense has awoken in the second half. The first drive, Tom Brady was still getting pressured but did a good job of getting out of the pocket to make time to get the ball downfield. The second drive, the Patriots rediscovered their running game, with some big holes and some poor pursuit by the Redskins leading to Sony Michel runs of 25 yards and 14 yards (a touchdown). Now 26-7 New England.

Bryan Knowles: We may have the burn of the year, courtesy of Adrian Peterson.

A winning strategy there from New England.

Arizona Cardinals 26 at Cincinnati Bengals 23

Scott Spratt: Kliff Kingsbury decided to go for it on fourth-and-2 from the Bengals' 6 yard-line. The Game-Winning Chance (GWC) model saw that as a +3.7% boost (according to Ian O'Connor), and of course the Cardinals scored a touchdown. Way to go Kliff!

Aaron Schatz: Arizona went for it on fourth-and-2 from the Cincinnati 6! They didn't kick a short field goal! And it was a 6-yard Kyler Murray rushing touchdown, too.

Bryan Knowles: He learns! That already boosts Kliff above 30% of active NFL coaches.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24 at New Orleans Saints 31

Vince Verhei: Saints having troubles holding onto the ball. Deonte Harris seems to lose the ball on a punt return, but is called down. Bruce Arians challenges, but it's ruled that Harris did fumble, but there was no clear recovery, so New Orleans keeps the ball. Arians, as you can imagine, is salty. No matter though -- three plays later, Teddy Bridgewater's pass is behind Alvin Kamara, and it's bobbled until Sean Murphy-Bunting reels in the interception. Shortly thereafter, Jameis Winston hits Chris Godwin for a 26-yard score and a 7-3 lead.

Bridgewater responds to his interception with a pair of 75-yard touchdown drives, topping them off with scoring strikes to Michael Thomas and Jared Cook, and the Saints are up 17-10 at halftime. It doesn't feel that close -- take away their short-field touchdown and Tampa Bay's offense hasn't done very much at all, while the Saints have moved the ball most of the day even when they haven't scored. Bridgewater can be frustrating -- he seems reluctant to test a defense downfield unless a guy is wide open -- but he's very smart with the ball and takes the opportunities that are there. Basically prime backup material, though it would be interesting to see him paired with a good defense ... which, actually, I guess he is when the Saints defense shows up.

Aside from the Godwin touchdown, the most exciting play for Tampa Bay was defensive back Carlton Davis getting ejected for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Cook. As blatant and violent as a helmet-to-helmet hit could be. He might end up missing more time than the second half for that one.

Remember when I said Bridgewater was reluctant to go deep if a guy wasn't wide open? Well barely a minute into the second half, Ted Ginn got wide open deep on a seam route when two Bucs jumped the outside receiver running an out, and Bridgewater hit him for a 33-yard touchdown and a 24-10 lead.

Desperate measures pay off for Tampa Bay, as they get two fourth-down conversions on a touchdown drive to pull within one score.

As if Bridgewater, Drew Brees, and Taysom Hill weren't enough options for one team at quarterback, Alvin Kamara has taken some snaps today too, and he just threw for a completion. Bridgewater completes a red zone pass to Michael Thomas, who breaks some tackles and goes into the end zone to put New Orleans back up 31-17.

Buffalo Bills 14 at Tennessee Titans 7

Tom Gower: Bills lead this game 7-0 at the half, and the seven total points accurately reflects the degree to which these offenses are having success against these defenses. Josh Allen has looked reasonably competent, actually hitting some of those zone void throws he has been getting, and it has worked well enough for one score, finished off on a throw to mini-tackle Lee Smith. Tennessee's offensive line has been a particular problem, including both rookie guard Nate Davis, making his first career start after splitting time last week, and high-priced import Rodger Saffold. Kicker Cairo Santos has missed two field goals, one from 50 that would have been good from 7 yards closer had Marcus Mariota not taken a sack the previous play, and the other from 36.

I'm still waiting for the big turnover or special teams play I thought might decide this game.

Bryan Knowles: Tennessee has missed four field goals. At least two of them have been very, very bad.

And that last one was a 53-yard attempt, down seven, with just over six minutes left in the game. At some point, you gotta stop trusting the "safe" field goal attempt, right?

Andrew Potter: Why is Mike Vrabel trying a 53-yarder on fourth-and-4, down by seven in the middle of the fourth? Never mind with a kicker who's already 0-for-3 on the day. Make that a very predictable 0-for-4.

Tom Gower: Bills win 14-7, as Titans kicker Cairo Santos misses all four field goal attempts. As previously noted, one of those was a crazy decision by Mike Vrabel, a 53-yarder after already missing three (one short after a deflection) on fourth-and-4 down seven in the fourth quarter. Vrabel's decision last week to go for it on fourth down in the fourth quarter up 14 wasn't one I agreed with, but at least that time it was fourth-and-1. Making that field goal still leaves you down a touchdown.

Following their first-half offensive struggles where Derrick Henry had a 24-yard run and not much on four other carries, the Titans made a concerted effort to get him involved. On I believe their first 14 first and second downs of the second half, he was involved in the play, whether taking the handoff, being shown a play fake, or likely the primary target on the pass play. He was productive, but more importantly the Titans started making more plays in the pass game. Their first third-down conversion came in the third quarter on a short field after a bad Allen interception late in the down gave them the ball at the 38, and Henry got their second third-down conversion to finish off the drive for a 7-7 game.

In a 14-7 contest like this, there are many ways that could be said to have "decided the game." The simplest one for today is what the two teams did after their one big pass play of the day (the only gain of more than 25 yards not counting penalty yards for either offense). Tennessee's 57-yard tight end screen to Jonnu Smith saw Henry's second trip into the end zone negated by a holding call; a false start on Taylor Lewan in his first game back from injury pushed them back on third-and-goal; Marcus Mariota's ensuing touchdown pass beyond the line of scrimmage was, well, illegal; and Santos' field goal was blocked. The Bills' 46-yard gain on a jet sweep pass (Stitt happens) to Isaiah McKenzie set them up in the red zone, and Allen finished it on third down when Duke Williams went inside on Adoree Jackson and the play-fake sucked up the inside defenders to create a passing lane for what proved to be the winning score.

Atlanta Falcons 32 at Houston Texans 53

Rivers McCown: Don't watch this game if you like defense. Both offenses moving the ball at will. Deshaun Watson has taken one quarterback hit at halftime. 17-16 Falcons because the Texans missed an extra point.

Will Fuller is aiming for some Quick Reads time this week with an 8-of-9 for 101 yards and two scores statline. His second score came when the entire Atlanta secondary decided to cover DeAndre Hopkins on a play-action pass, asides from the deep safety to Fuller's side of the field.

Wow, this took me back to 2017. Deshaun Watson and Will Fuller just torched this secondary. The Falcons moved the ball, but were stymied by J.J. Watt and some other miscues. It was a one-score game with eight minutes left, but the Texans get a late pick-six to make the score lopsided.

Green Bay Packers 34 at Dallas Cowboys 24

Bryan Knowles: The Cowboys' first drive ends with Amari Cooper dropping a Dak Prescott pass; it probably should have been a touchdown. Instead, he deflects it right into the arms of Jaire Alexander and the Packers march right down the field to take the lead on a fantastic Aaron Jones 18-yard cutback run. Packers 7, Cowboys 0.

Make it 14-0, Packers, as they're running all over Dallas. Dallas had moved the ball into field goal range, but a Za'Darius Smith sack knocked them back out. Absolutely terrible pocket awareness from Dak; you cannot take a sack there. Smith had had a bit of an argument with Ray Lewis on the Twitters this week, with Lewis suggesting that the Packers had no leaders in the front seven. So Smith, of course, does the Ray Lewis sack dance after knocking Dak down. Touché.

Dallas is struggling to guard Packers tight ends; all three of them have a reception already. Aaron Jones capped it off with his second touchdown of the day, and Dallas is looking a little shook.

Aaron Schatz: Packers up 17-0 at halftime. Their offense is slicing and dicing the Cowboys' defense pretty good, despite not having Davante Adams. Aaron Jones has been particularly good, going 9-66-2 on the ground plus he leads the team in receiving yards, four catches for 48 yards. When the Cowboys are on offense, they're moving the ball fairly well considering the amount of pressure Dak Prescott is under. The Cowboys really miss Tyron Smith at left tackle, which is part of the pressure problem. Despite this, 6.7 yards per play is actually more than the Packers, who are at 6.4. The problem is two interceptions and a missed field goal.

Bryan Knowles: No idea why the Cowboys are calling time-outs to run draws, but you do you, Jason Garrett. It's 17-0 at the half, and man, Dallas is discombobulated. Not BAD on offense, per se -- they've gotten past the 50 on every drive -- but interceptions and a missed field goal (when they should have just gone for it) keep them scoreless. It feels like Green Bay is running all over Dallas, but they actually have fewer rushing yards (80 to 94). Still, it has been quite some time since the Packers had this kind of game on the ground. Aaron Jones is the first Green Bay back with 100-plus yards and two touchdowns in a half since Ahman Green in 2003; Leighton Vander Esch is having all kinds of trouble with him, both as a receiver and as a runner.

Bryan Knowles: Was Dallas a mirage to start the season? After flopping against the Saints last week, the Cowboys are being shut out, 24-0, midway through the third quarter against the Packers. Aaron Jones just had his third touchdown of the day; that's a loss for our Start and Sits, which had him as having one of the league's worst matchups this week.

Some very good running backs have played against Dallas over the years. Terrell Davis and Jim Taylor both once had three rushing touchdowns in a game against them, as did Larry Johnson, Steven Jackson, and five other players. Aaron Jones just one-upped them all, becoming the first player to ever have four rushing touchdowns against them. That's impressive as heck.

So, with both late games winding down to a not-particularly-close finish, I think it's fair to grumble at the NFL for scheduling just two games in the late window this week. It would have killed them to move, say, PIT/BAL into the late window and give us a trifecta? There is one more week this year with only two late games scheduled, but that's Week 10, where six teams are on bye -- it is, at least, somewhat understandable. But putting ten games in the early window and just two late is scheduling malpractice.

Tom Gower: Cowboys-Packers guarantees them a huge base viewing audience, but I don't understand not putting one of the less exciting matchups involving a western team, like Arizona-Cincinnati, as an alternative. One problem this week is the number of West Coast teams, the natural alternative, playing in other time slots. San Francisco is on Monday Night Football, Broncos-Chargers is the other game, Seahawks-Rams played Thursday, Oakland played in London, and the other NFC/AFC West team is Kansas City, playing on Sunday Night Football. Arizona was the only other natural option.

Carl Yedor: Amari Cooper hauls in a deep ball with a toe drag, but the call on the field is incomplete. Jason Garrett, who's likely still frustrated about an earlier PI challenge that didn't go his way, slams down the challenge flag right in front of the ref who ruled Cooper out of bounds. This draws an unsportsmanlike conduct flag ... and then Dallas wins the challenge! So Garrett costs his team 15 yards but at least the completion counts. Dallas makes up the ground quickly, but I don't think I've ever seen a sequence like that.

Cowboys manage to punch it in on the goal line after turning it over on back-to-back plays, both of which were negated by penalties (one a Dallas false start that killed the play from the beginning, the other on Green Bay). 31-17 here and Dallas is showing signs of life.

Tom Gower: The Cowboys continued to show signs of life until late in the game before falling 34-24.

I don't know what to take away from that game. The Packers were in huge control for a while, but the final margin felt somewhat more reflective of the overall level of play by both teams. Jaire Alexander seemed to be getting a lot of the coverage on Amari Cooper, and Cooper had a terrific day. His ability to separate in tight quarters is incredible, and some of his work after catch, like that long touchdown, was also really good. The Cowboys made it across midfield on nine of their 13 possessions.

Green Bay, the dominant story is Aaron Jones and how they were able to neutralize Dallas' young linebackers who shut down Alvin Kamara last week, and how they managed to score 34 points while getting practically nothing from their wide receivers. That's the opposite of how I thought the game might go, so kudos to them.

Denver Broncos 20 at Los Angeles Chargers 13

Vince Verhei: The early games we were watching ran late, so I missed the first quarter and can't tell you first-hand how Denver built their lead. What I can tell you is that at halftime, Courtland Sutton has two catches for 82 yards and a touchdown, while the Chargers as a team have 18 catches for all of 118 yards and no scores. It's just dumpoff after dumpoff after dumpoff for L.A. This was most clear at the end of the half, when Philip Rivers completed passes on second-, third-, and fourth-and-goal, all from within the 10-yard line, and they still couldn't score. Two of those completions went to Austin Ekeler, and on fourth down he fumbled the ball through the end zone for a touchback. That will hurt his DYAR (though it was the last play of the half and he was stopped either way), but he's still going to be a PPR monster even with Melvin Gordon back on the field. He had nine catches in the first half -- for a total of 41 yards.

Bryan Knowles: The Chargers get their best chance yet to get back into things, intercepting a tipped Joe Flacco pass and getting the ball first-and-goal from the 7.

5-yard Gordon rush, weird read-option with Tyrod Taylor coming in and Rivers playing wideout, interception in the middle of the end zone. The Chargers actually gain about 20 yards of field position from their interception. It really looks like Vic Fangio will finally pick up his first win, as all the flashes of competence Denver has had at various points throughout September are all happening today.

Vince Verhei: Still trailing 17-0 late in the third quarter and getting smothered on offense, the Chargers are going to need all sorts of help to score again. And Joe Flacco is in the giving mood -- his pass to Jeff Heuerman on a short curl is tipped at the line by Justin Jones and intercepted by Kyzir White. Chargers start their drive at the 7-yard line -- surely they will score here, won't they?

No! Of course they won't! Gordon gains 5 yards on first down. On second down, they actually take Rivers off the field to bring in Tyrod Taylor for a read option play, and Gordon is stuffed for no gain. On third down, Rivers shows why the Chargers pulled him -- his pass is lobbed late into double-coverage and intercepted by Alexander Johnson. The Broncos actually gained 15 yards in the exchange of interceptions.

Rivers is struggling. Brees and Roethlisberger are injured. Eli is benched. Brady is winning ugly. It hasn't been a good year for the old-timers at quarterback.

Aaron Schatz: Well, Rivers wasn't particularly struggling before this week. He was seventh in DYAR coming into today. He's struggling today but his best game of the year was just a week ago. And Brady was third in DYAR coming into today and was fine in the second half of the game. He'll probably still be in the DYAR top five even after this week although I'm guessing Russell Wilson will pass him.

Vince Verhei: Good points, Aaron. I overreacted to Rivers' game today and the six bad quarters Brady had against Buffalo last week and Washington today.

Bryan Knowles: The Chargers found a better way to get back into things: just bypass the offense entirely. Denver goes three-and-out after the interception and is forced to punt. Desmond King takes it back 68 yards for a touchdown, and we have a ten-point game. Hmmm.

Vince Verhei: After the Broncos miss a field goal, the Chargers get their best play of the day: a 31-yard DPI foul on Davontae Harris. In field goal range, Rivers delivers with three completions in a row ... for a net LOSS of 2 yards. The Chargers offense is literally better when they don't catch the ball than when they do. It's so bad that the Broncos declined a holding penalty to accept a completion for loss of 4 instead. But Chase McLaughlin (signed off Minnesota's practice squad this week) connects from 45 to make it 17-10. And then the Chargers defense forces a three-and-out, and L.A. is somehow going to get this ball back with a chance to tie if they can just put one good drive together.

Derrik Klassen: It's weekly "Philip Rivers down seven late in the fourth quarter" time. One of these days I need to edit Rivers' face over Bill Murray in Groundhog Day.

Aaron Schatz: Vince, I see Keenan Allen has only four catches for 18 yards. Is that Chris Harris' doing?

Vince Verhei: Some of it has been Harris. Some of it has been a rare case of the dropsies. But the biggest issue is the Denver pass rush -- and L.A.'s game plan against that pass rush -- that virtually eliminated any throws with any kind of depth downfield. Austin Ekeler finished with 15 catches. Most of those short passes were thrown quickly, either by design or by pressure. It's not like Rivers has been hanging in the pocket going through his reads.

I should add that the Broncos lost De'Vante Bausby with a scary neck injury in the first half -- he was strapped to the backboard and carted off, and I hope he's OK -- and Rivers and the Chargers still couldn't get anything going against the Denver secondary.

Just to put a cap on this game, the Chargers went three-and-out on that last drive when Rivers overthrew a wide-open receiver on yet another screen pass. The Broncos ran a bunch, then kicked a field goal on fourth-and-1 from the 28 -- conservative, especially with how they had pushed L.A. around on that drive, but the kick was good for a 10-point lead that realistically ended the game. The Chargers did add a desperation field goal, but failed to recover the onside kick, and that was that.

Good news on De'Vante Bausby.

Indianapolis Colts 19 at Kansas City Chiefs 13

Carl Yedor: Not sure who else is watching the night game, but Patrick Mahomes just made another absolutely unbelievable throw for a touchdown on third-and-18. What else is left to say about him at this point? Spins around in circles to avoid a sack, sprints towards the sideline, and then uncorks one into the end zone to Byron Pringle, who has been playing more tonight at wide receiver because Sammy Watkins is banged up.

Aaron Schatz: There's nobody like Mahomes right now. The Indianapolis offense is also playing very well though. Their offensive line is really dominating the line of scrimmage as usual. So it's tied 10-10 early.

Josh Mongillo: With 7:15 left in the second quarter, the Chiefs come up with a big interception from Tyrann Mathieu, his first of the season. It looked like the Colts were about to come away with points to take the lead but now the Chiefs have taken over at their own 37.

Aaron Schatz: The Colts are getting good pass rush tonight. The Chiefs have problems with center Andrew Wylie and replacement left tackle Cam Erving (Eric Fisher is out injured).

Frank Clark was supposed to be a big addition for the Chiefs, right? He hasn't done much tonight and honestly he hasn't done much this whole season ... only two hurries by SIS charting in the first four weeks, and only one sack.

Start of the fourth quarter, Colts convert a third-and-2 but they call OPI on T.Y. Hilton. It looks like Hilton just picked a guy within 1 yard of the line of scrimmage, and he may not have picked a guy at all. EVERYONE thinks this should be overturned. Everyone on the broadcast, everyone on Twitter. Is it overturned? No. They just aren't going to overturn a lot of pass interference calls, or lack thereof, despite changing the rules this year.

Colts convert anyway by getting 11 yards on third-and-12 and then going for it on fourth-and-1. They're really pushing around the bad Kansas City run defense, even worse now that Chris Jones is out with an injury.

Obviously, I would love to see EdjSports numbers here, but still, having this graphic on a national broadcast is stunning.

Tom Gower: Patrick Mahomes in the first quarter of this game completed 12 of 15 passes. He has completed six of 18 passes since then. Bill Barnwell noted Mahomes was 2-of-9 since re-aggravating his ankle injury, but the by-quarter stats show his struggles extending a bit beyond that. Indianapolis has done a nice job of not giving him easy plays, something probably made easier by the Chiefs' injury situation after Sammy Watkins went out early in the game, but this has been not the K.C. performance I expected to see.

Aaron Schatz: I said on Twitter that the Colts absolutely couldn't do the thing where they kick a field goal to go up six. And then they lost EIGHT yards on pitch play where Anthony Castonzo couldn't get all the way outside to block Tyrann Mathieu. and that brought them back to fourth-and-10 and I guess the field goal is more acceptable with 10 yards to go. But still, I hate the field goal that goes up six. Will this come back to bite the Colts?

The Chiefs almost convert third-and-28 as Mahomes gets outside the pocket despite the gimpy ankle and finds Byron Pringle. Except, Pringle for some reason goes horizontal instead of downfield and is tackled a yard short. So the Chiefs go for it on fourth-and-1, and run from a heavy formation and fail. Colts get the ball back already in field goal range.

Rivers McCown: As bad as the stats were for half the game, hard not to be impressed with Mahomes limping his way downfield trying to lead a comeback.


150 comments, Last at 09 Oct 2019, 8:37am

2 Raiders showed K. Mack who's…

Raiders showed K. Mack who's the boss. Raiders probably 3rd best aFC team at momrnt
Wpudl rank Pates 1st, Cheufs 2nd. Raiders 3rd. Seocnd Chiefs vs Raiders meetinf should decide division.

3 I thought they’d cover the…

I thought they’d cover the spread, but winning outright, no. Good game plan by Reich to use his O’s strength (running game) to bludgeon KC’s “run D”. He’s a monster of a head coach.

However, the key to the game to me was Mahomes’ ankle injury. That offensive line is BAD and without Mahomes’ mobility affected and unable to make magic plays out of thin air, the offense started to look less potent. Also, losing Sammy Watkins seemed to be a big injury as well, although that seemed to settle the score a little more fairly, considering how many injuries the Colts has on D

4 I've been surprised by the…

I've been surprised by the number of people reacting to the Mahomes TD pass as though there is no other person on Earth that could do that. Have we not seen Russell Wilson do this routinely over his career? Did we not just witness Wilson make an incredible TD pass Thursday night after scrambling to avoid the pass rush (as we've seen from him countless times behind the Seattle OL)? Mahomes is great, but why is everyone so quick to block out evidence that there are other QBs that have been able to pull off similar feats?

10 classic Wilson play

Positively bizarre how much Collinsworth was raving over Mahomes there.  Yes, that was a great pass, but Mahomes isn't  unique.  I've seen Wilson make that pass countless times.  Rodgers, too. 

OK, that's the complete list of other current QBs who would make that pass, but in the past I've seen QBs like Elway, Young, and Vick make it too.  (Though I would rely on Vick a little bit less than the others mentioned.) 

19 Collinsworth's chronic…

Collinsworth's chronic superlativitis is why I've really gone cold on him. I know the networks and league firmly believe that the best way to attract the marginal football fan, which is what they, quite rationally, see as their primary broadcasting task, is to describe nearly everything during a game as the best ever, but it sure as hell prompts me to turn the volume on the flat screen down.

22 Hear, hear.  I actually find…

Hear, hear.  I actually find Collingsworth above-average in terms of at least occasionally offering insights into what's going on in the game (unlike, say Aikman).  But he throws in way too much of that Gruden-esque "whatever player I'm talking about is the best guy ever".

It doesn't help Collingsworth that Al Michaels retired years ago but keeps showing up to collect his paycheque.  Someone who would ask Collingsworth intelligent football questions, instead of asking where he had dinner last night, could draw out some better discussion.


99 "The Colts jad the best…

"The Colts had the best defensive performance I've ever seen in the history of the NFL" -Collinsworth

My eyes literally rolled out of my head after that line. I am blind now.

108 Never liked Collinsworth,…

Never liked Collinsworth, truly, and glad to see him slammed here. He will ball-wash anybody who is having a good game, despite a good insight once or twice a night.  But please, put your eyeballs back. He's not worth it. 

And totally agree with the sentiment that Al Michaels has already retired.  I'll add one more note to that:  dude should shave his head.  That weird shadow hovering above his scalp it just the memory of his hair, like lenticular clouds clinging to the summit of Mount Rainier.  Painful to see.

136 Worse than Bad

Stupid announcers are just that - stupid. Collinsworth is worse because his fatuous condescension to the audience is so obviously a put on. I see him showing up at the network on Monday mornings and picking up a sheet of the players and themes he's to pitch for the week - 'Push the Rams pass rush. Spotlight Brissette as a star-in-the-making.' And Collinsworth dutifully generates enough data and details to lend his spiel the adumbration of authority. Yet despite his venal insincerity, he was a big fish in that teaspoonful of fluid that is NFL broadcast. Then Romo came along and demonstrated what football knowledge sounded like married to real enthusiasm and blew everyone else out of pond. 

5 For the first time since the…

For the first time since the Trent Richardson trade, I'm ready to put aside my extreme distaste for all things Irsay, and root for the Colts. Probably should have done it sooner. If you don't like watching that offensive line, you just don't like football.

I also like Jacoby Brissett with an 8 million dollar cap number this year, and 20 next year. Based on his work with Romo, and recommending Brissett to Belichick, a team could do worse than toss Parcells a million year to scout unheralded college qbs.

36 I may be the only one not…

I may be the only one not impressed with the Colts and Frank Reich. They only put 19 points up against a mediocre KC defense. They were saved more by Mahomes gimpy ankle rather than anything they did. 

38  Full disclosure: Colts fan…

 Full disclosure: Colts fan here. It depends on what you mean by impressed. Are they a Super Bowl contender? Absolutely not. Did they win on the road missing 4 defensive starters against a team that has a high-powered offense? Yes, they did. I am impressed by the win, but I have no illusions that they are going far this season.  Many people like Brissett, and I certainly think he’s better than a gaggle of other quarterbacks – think of the AFC East other than Tom Brady! That said, he doesn’t have the ability to do something special, and I think in today’s NFL, a team without a quarterback who can do special things is going to lose too many of the big games. 

42 In the last 4 years, we've…

In the last 4 years, we've seen a corpse and Nick Foles end up on the right side of the biggest games. Without getting into a debate about how special Nick Foles is, you can win a championship with Brissett. The important thing is to get him at the right price.

The centrality of qb play to winning championships is overstated, even while acknowledging that it obviously is the most important position.

45 Will, where you and I…

Will, where you and I disagree is this - the surest way to achieve long term success is to have a great qb. Yes, talent overall is more important to winning a title, but its hard as heck to keep that talent together and thriving for any long a period. QB play enables you to have multiple bites at the apple . 

66 No, the surest way to have…

No, the surest way to have 22 All Pros, at all offensive and defensive positions, and then have them marry people who have net worths greater than 50 million dollars, so all are willing to play with below market contracts.

"That's impossible!" is the response, of course. Yes, but "Go get a great qb" very often is impossible as well. The point is to give yourself the best chance to win, and since "get a great qb" is a crap shoot, while "get a good football player, and then coach him well" is much, much, less of a crap shoot, the latter approach is more advisable, it seems to me. Especially since the latter approach does not remotely preclude the former outcome.

72 Given every year does not…

Given every year does not have easy to identify great qbs coming out of college and even "easy to identify" is not a guarantee, yeah it's pretty much a crap shoot. One year, Christian Ponder is actually one of the best prospects, and another he wouldn't crack the top 10.

61  In general, I agree with…

 In general, I agree with you. Teams can certainly win without a star quarterback. However, they have to make sure they’re not paying their mediocre quarterback star quarterback money, and on that front, I think the Colts are fine paying their QB 30 million over two years for their starting quarterback. He’s roughly worth that, and it still gives them money to get other players.  The long term question for the Colts will be what do they do after these two years? Can they re-sign him at roughly $15M a year? Or do they have to go some other route?

77 Given the way the cap is…

Given the way the cap is going up, I'd give Brissett 20 million per in 2021 & 2022, especially given the number of rookie contracts they'll have on the oline through those years. Maybe 2023 as well. Would Brissett take 60 million through 2023 right now? He might, especially if you promised to not franchise him after 2023. The next 4 years with a good offensive coach, behind a good offensive line, and becoming a free agent at age 30, after having earned 80 million from 2020 through 2023, ain't all bad.

100 Now if only the networks…

Now if only the networks would use the Madden camera angle so we could actually watch the lines play! You can't see any line play from the ridiculous sideline cam we've accepted as "normal"

130 I've never played Madden,…

I've never played Madden, but having watched that camera angle on tv a few times, I cannot understand why the networks don't switch to it as the default angle.  Especially with the coloured-lines showing the line of scrimmage and first down on the field, which corrects for the main weakness of that angle.

41 Tough crowd. They lose their…

Tough crowd. They lose their starting QB, four defensive starters, and are still a .500 team who can go to the toughest place to play on the road and win. Seems like a pretty good coaching effort to me.

53 If we're acknowledging…

If we're acknowledging injuries, we should acknowledge that the Chiefs were missing their best lineman, their top two receivers, had a gimpy RB, Mahomes got hurt, and Okafor didn't play.

Their leading receiver was something called a Byron Pringle. He had as many targets in this game as he'd had snaps in his career prior to last night.

43 It wasn't just a gimpy ankle…

It wasn't just a gimpy ankle. That sells their defense way short. They went on the road as big underdogs and shut down a chiefs offense that was one of the best in the league. And as mentioned above, they did it without a bunch of their starters. 


Look, they went full ball control on offense which is going to tamper down the scoring because there are fewer possessions. 


Indy isn't a sb contender, we all know that. But they got a collective kick in the gonads when Andrew Luck abruptly retired. Past colts teams as recently as 2011 would have caved in and died at this point, but the Colts are sitting here at 3-2 having faced their hardest road test. I for one am thoroughly impressed with the coaches. 

56 It seemed to me like Reich…

It seemed to me like Reich adjusted strategy in game.  Once his D got a couple of stops, he seemed to shift philosophy from worrying about scoring every possession to keep up with KC.  They went very conservative, grind out the clock, don't make mistakes. 

I don't think that was the game plan going in.  Based on Q1, I think they planned to gamble more to try and stay in a high scoring affair.  When they got the opportunity to change the nature of the game, though, they took it.

111 Will,That abomination was…


That Trent Richardson abomination was caused by Grigson at GM and Pagano as HC (calling Richardson a rolling ball of butcher knives?  Sounds great, but completely laughable. Somehow he said it repeatedly with a straight face. The man is shameless. How is he not in politics? But I digress....)

Irsay has a lot of flaws and demons as a person, but as an owner I and most other Colts fans think he's pretty darn good.

122 I will admit that my…

I will admit that my negative stance towards Jim is in part due to the fact that he inherited the team from Robert, a Hall of Fame A-hole who bought the team with money stolen from the taxpayers of Cook County, Illinois. I will also stipulate that Jim is described as a nice guy by many, but when you inherit a billion dollars, that's a pretty low bar to clear. It really annoys me, however, that a guy who was born about 6 inches away from crossing home plate saw fit to end up driving around intoxicated with a brief case filled with cash and illegally obtained scrips, and then benefitted from a sweetheart deal from the prosecutor and judge.

You're right, however; by the standards of the typical stadium welfare seeking NFL owner, he's far from the worst. Now that Grigson is gone, I can root for his team again.

6 Pass Rush Diversity

Comment began from watching the Pats generate 17 QB hits from 13 different players @ Redskins (and wondering about PFR's sack methodology as currently there are 9 sacks or partly credited to 10 different NE defenders when Colt McCoy was only sacked 6 times - I assume it has to do with the holding penalties that occurred as a result of the NE pass rush).

I think it's time the assumption that it's worth paying an elite pass rusher be re-evaluate be re-evaluated; Rather than allocating the cap room to larger number of good pass rushers. I had a look this morning at the PFR list of the top teams in terms of QB hits, by no means a perfect stat but certainly indicative. The top 5 teams (NE, PIT, NO, PHI, CAR) all unquestionable generate pressure primarily through scheme and a diversity of sub-elite personal, on the other hand according to PFF the top 5 pass rushers from 2018 play for SFO (Ford), HUS (Watt), BUF (Hughes), LAR (Donald), ATL (Jarrett) (29, 6, 17, 26, & 24) - certainly a below average sampling. I realize this is a relatively small sample size (and imperfect methodology as PFF rankings and QB hits are not perfect measures), but I think it's enough to open the debate about the wisdom of throwing cap space and top 3 draft picks at pass rushers believing that a top player rather than depth is the correct approach to building a pass rush for success.

8 NE has played Pittsburgh,…

NE has played Pittsburgh, and the 1, 2, 7, and 9th-worst teams in terms of QB hits taken.

The Eagles have played some crap offenses, too.

This isn't a normal season. There are 4-5 teams who are literally trying to lose, and they all appear on the Pats schedule this year.

9 It's clear that Belichick…

It's clear that Belichick thinks elite pass rushers are overpaid.  The disparity between edge rusher salaries and LB salaries is ridiculous.  Belichick saves money on the edge and spends it on other positions.  

Having said that, the Skins-Patriots game was not a good game to measure the effectiveness of pass rushes.  Both sides have o-lines decimated by injuries (and, in the case of Washington, having their best lineman simply refuse to show up).  

Yes, depth is important.  The Pats keep a fresh pass rush all game long by rotating linemen in and out.  This season they've been using Michael Bennett a lot as a reserve pass rusher - we'll see how that evolves over the season.

Finally - Chase Winovich is very good.  Definitely the gem of this year's draft for the Pats. (And it's a bit scary how  much he looks like a "Gemini Man" version of Tom Brady.") 


21 "The top 5 teams (NE, PIT,…

"The top 5 teams (NE, PIT, NO, PHI, CAR) all unquestionable generate pressure primarily through scheme and a diversity of sub-elite personal,"

Definitely not true for Philly. They don't generate pressure primarily through scheme, and Cox and Graham are a huge portion of their success.

31 What of the top 3 pick?

 I agree with almost everything you said, and I wanted to ask a question that your comment raised: what should teams do with a top three pick? (If not get a great pass rusher) If they have a good quarterback, what are the positions should they seek there? Or should they always trade down?  If they don’t trade down, what positions would you suggest spending a top three pick up on? 

50 Top 3 Pick

The cop out but correct answer is it depends; There are many roads to 2-14 records, and what your teams weaknesses are should guide the use of the pick. My general view is that the substantial majority of the time a team with a top 3 pick should trade out of that position in favour of more picks, probably over the course of a couple years because 1) most teams that are 2-14 have terrible rosters and a ton of holes and should want to get lots of new, good, cost-controlled players 2) few teams can give you value in this years draft for a top-3, so you'll have to spread the return out 3) good/elite QB's are great uses of a top-3, but your scouting is no guarantee and even if it was you don't want a Luck situation so you should try to get into a situation where you have an at least average set of offensive personal to introduce a rookie QB to 4) if you trade away a top-3 to a QB-hungry team there's is a good chance you'll end up with a top-3 back in the future drafts. Broadly bad teams should try to draft 10+ players each year for a 3+ year period as high as they can and seek to position themselves to be Denver pre-Manning, a good roster lacking a QB with cap space and picks - if that team did a good job trading they very well may be able to get that elite QB at that point in the draft, but at the very least they should be able to get themselves into a position of having a decent non-QB roster, cap space, and some extra high draft picks going forward. The flaw in this theory is most 2-14 teams have a garbage front-office as well, but there's no way to fix that besides just praying your owner/GM can find good scouts etc...

54 Trading down only makes…

In reply to by sbond101

Trading down only makes sense depending on what value you receive back. If its like an extra 3rd rounder to go down from 3 to 12, that doesn't seem like a great move. And also one must reconcile with the fact that draft value declines rapidly as you traverse down the first round. I'm more of the view, draft the player that you think has the highest chance of being great. 


As you said, some teams who end up 2-14 are bad because of terrible front offices and some just naturally age their way into the situation. The bengals are living that nightmare right now. Obviously, you'd love to find your elite qb later in the draft, but sometimes the situation does not allow for it. Take the qb and hope your FA and lower drafts paper over the holes. Contrary to the nba, rebuilding doesn't need to take 4 years in the NFL. 


And btw, just because Belichick devalues pass rushers and gets away with it does not mean other teams should as well. I am going to bang this drum repeatedly, the value of elite players isn't in one years production, but over the long term. Khalil Mack delivers great production every year. By himself he's not going to make your pass rush elite, but he does give you a kind of floor. That has tremendous value. 

58  Oh, I agree with you. As a…

In reply to by sbond101

 Oh, I agree with you. As a Colts fan, I love that they traded their number 3 pick to the Giants and got a gaggle of pics plus Quinton Nelson at number 6. My question is slightly different: if a team cannot trade down because no one will trade with you, what positions are worthy of a top three pick besides quarterback? 

62 I know you are asking a…

I know you are asking a different person, but I would guess that it depends on your situation. Assuming all of the potential positions have the same valued player - ie they are all special talents, Qb is the obvious choice.


After QB, i think it largely depends on your building philosophy, but I lean towards pass rusher and wide receiver, even though NE seemingly devalues both. 

81 Replacement Concept

With respect to this thread as a whole obviously a top pass rusher on a cost-controlled contract has value above replacement; I just don't think the incremental value is as great as is supposed. E.g. If you do find an elite edge rusher with a #2 draft pick you could think of his value in roster quality as $14 mil cap space - Rookie wage = $10 mill cap space above replacement. The question is what is the cap number at which an edge rusher's effect on a roster over time is about replacement. I'd argue that number is somewhere near $14 million in cap hit, and that the number is similar for any elite player in the front-7 and only moderately less ~$11 million for elite defenders in the secondary; but that's not the end of the story. Drafting a player, particularly at a lower-salaried position (e.g. SS) puts you in a privileged position for resigning the player, and you get more incremental value out of the second contract at position groups that have less leverage against the franchise tag etc...

With respect to the question of who you draft if you can't get good value for trading away the pick - the answer is the elite player at the position group where the difference between rookie wage and replacement elite cap space + second contract value over replacement cap space is greatest (where replacement cap space is defined by a perfect market rather than the actual NFL market). My view at the moment is that in practicality that means you typically should draft the best player at a front-7 position, but that the difference in positional value between those players and other non-QB's is small enough that if the best WR, TE, T, or FS/SS is truly exceptional (or the best front-7 player is less exceptional then often e.g. Clowny) you draft a player at one of those other positions.

N.B. Generally secondary's are defined by their worst starters rather than their best, with the exception being generational Safeties, so I would broadly view them as less desirable then similar outliers at WR or TE.

83 So what do you do with a…

So what do you do with a player like Khalil Mack or Aaron Donald? Do you let them walk if they don't fit the value curve?


Also let's revisit the Chandler Jones trade. Even if it's mostly correct to say belichick. Chandler Jones wouldn't be worth a dollar figure he would get, it's not like he used those savings to paper over the rest of the roster. He could have afforded him even at his elevated price.

92 Elite Rushers

With respect to Donald & Mack; Donald is unquestionably is & has been a top-5 defensive player in the league. In 2020 & 2021 he'll have a cap hit of $25 & $27.9 million respectively. Mack is in a similar position though I would mark him a small ways below Donald in player quality (cap hits of $26.6 & 26.6 in 202 & 2021 respectively). I think at that cap number he does more damage to the roster as a whole then he produces benefit in play quality, and that's all assuming he continues to perform at his current level. These contracts also have a large percentage guaranteed. I think that contract is a poor allocation of resources of the sort that makes your team come apart and become the Bengals. For clarity these are both players that were tremendous net positives for their teams on their previous contracts.

Regarding the Chandler Jones trade I disagree with your premise. The Patriots are right at the cap now so if they had signed him they certainly couldn't have made all the same other transactions. I think it's fair to say that the Cards have realized a more-or-less goldilocks scenario in that Jones has played every game since he signed and has played every bit as well as he did for the Pats (both are unusual positives in the NFL). They definitely realized positive incremental value in 2017 & 2018 at cap hits of $10 & $15 million respectively, my guess is they will realize large negative incremental value during 2019-2021 with cap hits between $18.5-$19.5 million (assuming he doesn't get restructured/cut. The Jones deal is much better as it doesn't involve nearly as much guaranteed money so the team isn't taking risk a huge risk for performance comparable to what you would expect for the cap hit. As far as the trade to send him to ARI goes the second round pick looks like fair value to me, the Cards got 2 cap advantaged seasons out of it which is more than a (bottom) 2nd is worth I think, but the situation with Jones also worked out in a best-case scenario sort of way so they should win the trade if it was fair value at the time.


97 I guess I have to think very…

In reply to by sbond101

I guess I have to think very hard about what the right contract to play is. Its also not clear to me a team is better off slightly overpaying a bunch of average free agents vs overpaying big for a dynamo player. 

102 Overpay

"Its also not clear to me a team is better off slightly overpaying a bunch of average free agents vs overpaying big for a dynamo player." - the common element is over-pay. I would take a position that overpayign a free agent (Great player or average) always sets your team back, what seperates the men from the boys is figuring out when it's actually an overpay. I'm on record (here and in other threads) saying that several big-time free agents contracts are over-pays that set the team who wrote them back, but definitionally many free-agent contracts are underpays.

118 Corners above wideouts

This is a reply to Will Allen's WRs and CB's on the same level comment.

In any given year, I'd probably put the top 1-2-3 CBs above the top 1-2-3 WRs. NOt always and not every one, but in general.

A) There are more WRs

B) A good O scheme, QB, and complimentary receivers can raise the level of a merely "good" WR (picked in 2nd-4th rounds, for example)  

C) Pretty sure the league is littered with later-round WRs who were really stars for a couple seasons, if not longer.  Will a top-3 pick at WR produce better and longer?  Yes, but if you can replace 90% of his production with a series of solid college WRs picked in the 2nd and 3rd rounds, maybe he's not worth that top-3 pick.

D)  I think the CB talent pool is thinner and therefore the guys at the top more highly prized.  Replacing 90% of their production means potentially 10% more first downs, deep passes for TDs, etc.  

D-1) You can also say a great pass rush makes the D backfield more effective, and while that's true, maybe that suggests you go for the elite pass rushers first.  Not sure w great DT or a great LB corps make the CBs look better.  Whereas, a Tony Gonzalez or Jason Witten (or Adrian Peterson) can really make a WR's job a lot easier in terms of reducing double teams, or bringing safeties closer tot he LOS, etc. The WR stlil has to produce, but his burden is lightened considerably.

E) Really, just a gut reaction--no scientific study here. Also, we both remember Mat Millen's Lions draft picks.

90 I'd say offensive tackle

There seems to be a lack of NFL useful offensive linemen (especially tackles) coming out of college these days and, if anything, they are harder to evaluate than QBs.  And most NFL fans, rightly, moan about the quality of their teams o-line.

The Colts were right to take Quinton Nelson at 6 and should have at 3 if they had to.

Also, elite tackles, like elite QBs, can provide value for 14-16 years making that rare high draft pick payoff long term.

121 The Colts had a few great…

The Colts had a few great choices at #3 and later at #6 that year--lucky for them other teams prioritized other spots, or I am sure they WOULD have taken QN at #3.  They had a pretty good idea that Barkley would go to NYG and they were content with Mack (and knew they had to protect the QB better) and though I wanted them to take Bradley Chubb (I admit I was wrong to), they maintained that QN was their guy all along.  Braden Smith in the 2nd round was also a great pick, and he's moved from OG to OT smoothly.

I suppose a major and unheralded draft skill for GMs is evaluating the other guys' needs/desires, and knowing where and when to make your move with a trade up or sown.  I'm sure everybody had QN high on their list (top-10 pick), but who else would actually take him that high?  Being able to get your guy as low as possible, but be 99% sure you get him, is rocket science in my book.

Having said that, I was surprised at the quality of the 2nd rounders (WRs and CBs mainly, plus some pass rushers) in the 2019 draft.  A few of those guys I was sure would have been off the board by the time picks 35-50 came around.  So maybe sometimes it's just abundance, or luck that lets a guy fall to a waiting GM.

80 I'm off the belief teams…

In reply to by sbond101

I'm of the belief teams should look for best available player, considering position value and to a much lesser extent need.  
I look at 2011, and knowing how it turned out, think broncos taking Miller was probably a comparative mistake.  And that scenario is about as good as you could ask for as far as a pass rusher working out.

If I were to rank that draft, I'd probably put Julio, aj, Harris, Sherman, and Peterson as my top give, with watt and Miller 6-7.  You could disagree, but especially in the current NFL, i don't think there is too much depth at corner or wr

88 You Would all of those…

All of those players over jj watt??? A player who is one of the best players of all time and is as close to player independent as you will find in the NFL.  From a value perspective, watt is clear cut for me. Julio vs Miller is toss up and seems like a matter of taste

105 Taking Von Miller at #2 was…

Taking Von Miller at #2 was a mistake? That's the kind of hot taek I expect to read on Deadspin… 

In 2015 Miller was the best pass rusher I've ever seen. He could single-handedly take over a football game, and did all throughout the playoffs that year. The Broncos probably don't beat the Pates to even make the super bowl without him. Julio Jones has never done that, and probably never will.

The list of non-QB players who can single-handedly take over a game is pretty short. On offense I can think of Adrian Peterson, Steve Smith, Randy Moss, and who else? On defense I can only think of Von Miller, JJ Watt, and Sean Taylor. 

106 I agree...i don't know how a…

I agree...i don't know how a bronco fan look at Von Miller with any kind of buyer's remorse. I guess you could have expected that maybe he'd throw in some snaps as a tight end?

However, I think others have posted - Von isn't the most consistent pass rusher week to week and at this point, I might say Khalil Mack is the better overall player even comparing both in their primes.  


If his career ended today, here are the following linemen I would take ahead of him for certain : JJ Watt and Aaron Donald.


After that, I think it becomes a discussion with a few names; D Ware, Jared Allen, Khalil Mack, Julius Peppers, etc etc. 



116 > Von isn't the most…

> Von isn't the most consistent pass rusher week to week and at this point

This is true, but I think it's more complicated. I focus on Von for a lot of the Broncos defensive snaps, and for some reason he just isn't rushing very often this year. Fangio apparently has him staying back trying to get in passing lanes (I guess?) or dropping into shallow coverage. I don't really like or understand it. Maybe he's hurt? Maybe this is part of a long-term plan? FWIW he doesn't seem to be beating the tackle very often even when he does rush.

107 As a separate post - there…

As a separate post - there are only a few non qb offensive players who can make an impact on an offense just by themselves. I do not think Julio is one of those players despite regarding him as an all time great receiver.


Randy could do it because of his gravity. Steve Smith could do it because Steve Smith ran every single route well and had legendary toughness so that he could be molded into any game plan. 


Prime AP might be the least blocking dependent runner I've ever seen. And Marshall Faulk I would add to that list as well because of his duality as a receiver and runner. That's it. 

115 I gotta go back and see some…

I gotta go back and see some of Peterson's 2012 games. That team started Charlie Screendoor Johnson at guard for 16 games!   The Ponderous One at QB! They hired some Uber drivers each week to play receiver! They used Lyft for the defensive backs! They won 10 games, and Peterson averaged 5.5 yards and went for over 2000! How the hell did that happen!

59 I think there's a big…

I think there's a big difference between landing a top pass rusher with a high draft pick and landing a top pass rusher in free agency.  Absolutely you get a quality guy in that position on a rookie contract if you can.  But if you're in a free agent bidding war with everyone else who values that position, it's a lot harder to underpay someone.

11 The best team NE plays for…

The best team NE plays for the first half of the season is the damn Bills and the difference in that game was one special teams play. Opponent adjustments kick in a little more each week, right? I have hard time buying their historically dominant numbers based (so far) on the 5-18 opponent records and the three worst DAVE rankings.

Is there an all-time weakest schedule in DVOA history?

13 This is a similar problem to…

This is a similar problem to what I see in the NCAA strength projections. The systems just poorly handle scheduling Little Sisters of Mercy.

NE's schedule this year would embarrass an SEC team, or the University of Washington.

18 Right, exactly. It's not…

Right, exactly. It's not even the fault of whatever system you use, either. It's just not possible to correct for schedule differences like you see in college or what we've seen with New England so far. You're just simply not getting as much data.

12 Minnesota Vikings 28, at New York Giants 10

(figure since not all games get covered (not a complaint, we understand) in audibles we can do our own audibles here)

Cousins seems very much like a frontrunner quarterback. In his games this year the team that scores first has gone up by double digits and gone on to win each game. On the first drive after getting into FG range they clearly didn't trust him on 3rd and long and called a give up draw and took the points. Then as the lead grew they trusted him more and more throughout the game. Lots of rollouts to the right in particular got him lots of times. The first one he found no one and ran for 4, then got some short yards but eventually got some open receivers.

Jones missed a couple throws and got some pressure sacks but his touchdown pass was a thing of beauty, absolutely perfectly placed throw when Slayton had beaten Rhodes. Not a good game for Rhodes, he also had a horsecollar tackle. Between Hughes, Waynes and Alexander, I expect Rhodes to be a cap casualty next year, he just isn't worth his contract right now ( I say that without looking at his cap numbers for next year).

That aside I can't help but be impressed by Jones. He did miss a couple throws, in particular to Sheppard, that could have made a difference, but otherwise he stood his ground, made reads, throws and looked every bit the advertised future of the franchise quarterback. Not expecting any miracles vs New England, but its clear Eli's done as a starter in New York (barring injury).

The defensive standouts for the Vikings were Barr, Griffen and Hunter. All of them made huge plays at one point or another and were keys to smothering

Dalvin Cook got stuffed on a few runs early but once he got going about the only blemish was a fumble at the NY 1... and failing to score from the 2 later. DVOA will probably ding him a bit for those.

Giants losing Gallman, with Barkley also out really hurt. After recovering the fumble at the 1 Hillman got a call for a run up the middle and it seemed like Barr was waiting for him a yard deep in the end zone before he got the ball. He knifed past Remmers who he probably worked against a lot when he was in Minnesota. The safety was not really Hillman's fault, not much he could do.

on the #fo discord chat the Giants fans were dismayed by the linebackers the giants were playing, particularly Mayo, who they said constantly took himself out of the play. It seemed Cook...was able to get past the first level repeatedly, but not just him, Mattison and even Amir Abdullah had some good runs as well. The Vikings averaged over 6 yards a carry, and that was without a breakaway long touchdown.

17 Zimmer, who I think has done…

Zimmer, who I think has done a good job of hiring offensive staff, through constant flux, was really smart to bring in Kubiak and his zone blocking rush scheme this year. He knows his o-line personnel is not wonderful, and you can get a zone blocking scheme to function with less than wondetful  talent, and hide deficient pass blocking at least a little, especially with somebody like Cook. They likely will never look good against a good defensive front, especially on the road, but they can score points against teams without a great defensive front. I think they have accepted what Cousins is at this point, with 21 games left on his contract, and ought to just tell him that getting sacked is a lot better than fumbling or forcing an int, and that he's unlikely to get many games this year where he doesn't get at least some significant pressure. That also means the defense can't wait until the 2nd quarter to get after it.

They still have a decent chance of a good year, despite a very tough schedule, and a very good division.



15 NE's schedule this year…

NE's schedule this year would embarrass an SEC team, or the University of Washington.

As a Patriots fan, I've got to say ... yeah, the competition's been horrible thus far. I expected the defense to be really good, I think the defense has been and will continue to be really good, but it's extremely hard to evaluate how good, given what they've played against in the first five weeks...

20 DVOA and other stats say…

DVOA and other stats say really good, based on them more completely dominating weaker teams than those teams' other opposition, and of course handing the Bills their only loss.  You can argue that games against weaker teams aren't predictive of how well they'll play against better teams, but the point of DVOA (and other advanced stats) is to generate predictive value out of those games.  In fact, you could argue that this type of schedule is exactly what DVOA is designed to do: cut through the "yeah, but their opposition was really good/weak" disclaimers to compare teams that haven't played each other or common opponents.


24 DVOA & Adjustments

"Right, exactly. It's not even the fault of whatever system you use, either. It's just not possible to correct for schedule differences like you see in college or what we've seen with New England so far. You're just simply not getting as much data." - quoted from Pat earlier in the comments

I think the above summarizes the objection to this perspective pretty well; the arguement is that this year there are a number of teams that are so bad that typical opponent adjustments can't adequately compensate. Looking at the Pats schedule this year I think that argument is plausable for MIA, but the Jets, Skins, & Steelers look like pretty typical bad NFL teams to me (the Steelers inc. Rothesburger probably make the grade for average). Based on that perspective I think the Pats DVOA is a reasonable indication of where they are as a team.

Crowning the NE defense with all-time accolades in my view is no more stupid than any of the other early-season corranations that happen from time to time - if they can stay healthy we'll see what happens as they go through the meat of the schedule, but for the moment it's been outright domination.

26 The Jets defense has scored…

In reply to by sbond101

The Jets defense has scored more points than the Jets offense.

That would be a legendarily bad offense if they weren't paired in the same year and the same division as the Lolphins.

30 Not to pile on, but the Jets…

Not to pile on, but the Jets were/are starting Luke faulk and the skins were starting Colt McCoy. And despite Buffalo being 3 and 1, there Offense has looked horrendous. This slate of opponents has been comical

48 Interestingly, since Aaron…

Interestingly, since Aaron has posted the updated top defenses by DVOA through 5 weeks on Twitter, it appears that 5 weeks is enough for some of the best of the best to emerge. The teams immediately below the #1 Patriots in that table are the '91 Eagles, '86 Bears, and '02 Bucs. Other excellent defenses on the list: '91 Saints, '96 Packers, '91 Redskins, '12 Bears, and '15 Broncos.

But this year... even if none of the Patriots opponents outside of Miami might be historically bad, four of their five opponents so far are #28, #29, #30, and #32 in offense. They are all also particularly bad passing offenses (28/29/31/32). I don't think opponent adjustments can truly handle this crazy of a split in a 5 game sample.

64 I think the easiest way to…

I think the easiest way to think about the problem with the Patriots is that they haven't actually faced a quarterback capable of challenging a defense as a whole, so at this point you have little to no information about a good portion of their defense. There's not really anything you can do statistically when the dataset is effectively so limited.

The insane thing is that in the end, I think the Patriots are only ever going to end up facing maybe 6 teams the *entire season* that can do that.

73 Yup. Many have argued if the…

Yup. Many have argued if the AFC East has been a tough or easy division for NE relative to what other great teams over the years have had to face. Few could argue against the suggestion that the last few years have seen any quality QBs in that division not named Tom Brady. This year NEs out of divisIon QB opponents are particularly weak overall. 

91 Yes, the AFCE was…

Yes, the AFCE was surprisingly competitive from 2001-2010 despite the trope of it being a perpetual series of doormats.  Since 2011, it's been closer to the rhetoric.

But the one place where detractors have a firm leg to stand on is the non-NE QBs.  It's hard to imagine a worse 20 year run given the repeated attempts made by three separate franchises.

89 Wow, 1991 was some year for…

Wow, 1991 was some year for defenses!  All I really remember from that season was Dick MacPherson galloping up and down the sidelines.  It always made me sad even though I was a little too young to understand at the time.

101 "there are a number of teams…

"there are a number of teams that are so bad that typical opponent adjustments can't adequately compensate."

It's not the teams themselves, it's the *combination* of them. Normally after 5 weeks, you could imagine that the typical team's seen an average offense maybe at most, +/-10% DVOA. Philly, for instance, is at -9.54% average using last week's numbers, and I would totally agree Philly's not even seen a good offense yet. New England's at -22%. The problem is that the opponent adjustments are a *huge* portion of their defensive rating. By Aaron on Twitter it's around 12% (without opponent adjustments they'd be at -58%!)), and they're half-strength. So you could guess that with full-strength corrections they'd be at -34% DVOA or so. But keep in mind, those corrections are essentially extrapolations. For most teams, it's a minor extrapolation back to "vs an average offense" but for the Patriots it's *huge*.

103 Next week is not going to…

Next week is not going to change anything either...

Examining NE's schedule - the AFC east features 2 blackhole teams. The NFC East has 2 blackhole teams and the AFC North has one black hole team and no really great teams.

I don't even think Buffalo is that good either - they are basically a sequel of themselves from a year ago. The difference is now schedule is much easier and they are winning these 50 50 games that they lost a year ago.

 I get that the Eagles, Texans, Chiefs, and Cowboys are coming. The ravens and Browns are still uncertain but feel clearly inferior. That's 4-6 semi hard to hard games and 10 of absolute comedy. 

112 The Giants aren't exactly a…

The Giants aren't exactly a black hole team, just garden variety "meh" - but from the perspective of "learning about New England's defense" it's the same problem. You're handing a rookie QB to a Belichick coached defense. The only thing you're going to learn is "Belichick is smarter than a rookie QB."

114 They are a bad defense…

They are a bad defense paired with a rookie qb. In some ways, they are like the jets - except they're tilting more to side of defensive ineptitude for more offensive competence. To me, garden variety meh is like a 5-11 team. If they didn't get to play the afc east and the redskins, I'd put them as a 3-13 quality team

119 An average opposing offense…

An average opposing offense of -22% means your schedule has consisted of, on average, the worst offense every year this decade.

It's like championing the 1985 Bears, because they got to play Tampa Bay 16 times.

25 The deal with Buffalo is…

The deal with Buffalo is that while they are a good overall team, they express it as a stellar defense paired with an offense that isn't a complete disaster.

They are the anti-KC, basically. Or any vintage Bears, Jaguars, or Bucs team.

Long story short, the only offense you could kinda/sorta squint at and see as a good O is Pittsburgh's. And they turned 7 TOs into 15 points or something obnoxious and Jetsian like that.

28 "In fact, you could argue…

"In fact, you could argue that this type of schedule is exactly what DVOA is designed to do: cut through the "yeah, but their opposition was really good/weak" disclaimers to compare teams that haven't played each other or common opponents."

It doesn't matter how clever you are in how you build up a statistic - there's less signal and more noise when you play bad offenses. And yes, just bad offenses, not bad defenses. Think about it - if you watch an offense go through a walkthrough with *no defense whatsoever*, you can still watch how often they don't complete passes, how often they don't run the right routes, how often they false start. If you watch a defense without an offense, there's just a couple of guys standing around. You can't evaluate that.

63 Still pretty sure this is…

Still pretty sure this is what DVOA is intended to do.  All of these terrible offenses have played 3 to 4 other teams besides NE.  If they're all gaining more yards and scoring more points on other teams than NE, maybe there's a signal there.

I do get there's a question about how much the signal tells you about the magnitude of the outperformance, especially right now where only 20% of the normal opponent adjustment is in DVOA.  I'm concerned that MIA in particular may be so far below the pale that opponent adjustments are going to take quite a while to catch up to the correct degree of adjustment.


74 " If they're all gaining…

" If they're all gaining more yards and scoring more points on other teams than NE, maybe there's a signal there."

The Patriots/Jets/Eagles comparison really drives home the point here. The Eagles are *not* a good defense. Their secondary is really marginal, which is why the broadcasters were constantly saying "they need to attempt more throws down the field to really test this Eagles secondary." Except they *couldn't*, because their offensive line was so bad they couldn't stop the Eagles pass rush. And so in the end the Eagles stat line ends up looking nearly exactly like the Patriots stat line, even though I'm sure the Eagles would *kill* to have the Patriots secondary.

It's not that there's no signal in those games. It's just incomplete. I know, for instance, that the Eagles secondary can't hold up for very long if the pass rush doesn't get there, and so teams that can complete deep passes can hurt them. We *don't know that* about the Patriots because they literally haven't faced a team that's *capable* of doing that.

23 That win-probability graphic…

That win-probability graphic was pretty cool, and even better Troy Aikman explained why kicking the field goal in that situation hurts the Colts' chances -- you give "the hammer" back to Mahomes.

That's the thing about "analytics" in sports. The analytical choice is often the most intuitive if you can turn off preconceived biases for a moment. Of course, giving a good offensive team the ball up six isn't a super-terrific position, because touchdowns are (usually) worth seven points. Like, if you explained that to a non-football fan they'd get it instantly. It's common sense.

But because football fans have been conditioned by years of watching coaches "play it by the book" or "take the points on the road" or some other dumb axiom, it's still unorthodox to play the actual percentages. (Although that is changing fast, Pete Carroll notwithstanding.)

With that said, I think the decision to kick on 4th-and-10 was the correct one. It was now a chip shot, 10 yards is a lot, and with 7:44 left, it's unlikely the Chiefs will kill the entire clock on their next drive, so there is a decent chance Colts will be in position to drive for a game-winning field goal, even if Chiefs take the lead.

27 Part of it is inertia…

Part of it is inertia.

Constantly tweaks to the rules have resulted in it being much easier to score TDs than was traditionally true.
(Although kickers have gotten better, too)


33 If they had showed the…

If they had showed the graphic at that point I would guess the numbers would have been a fair bit different. Would have been interesting to see. The likelihood of converting 4th and 10 in the red zone is quite low, plus the time run off is going to change the numbers as well.

32 I know it feels like all 32…

I know it feels like all 32 teams have a right to gripe about the p i challenge system, but as a colts fan, I was beyond livid when they did not overturn that offensive pi penalty.

This whole review pi thing is worse than a farce, because it leads to wasted challenges and timeouts. seriously, get rid of it or enforce it.

34 The problem is that you…

The problem is that you really don't want to enforce PI by the book; the game is more entertaining with some subjectivity used to enforce PI. Video review just adds another layer of subjectivity. Was the call wrong enough to reverse? I prefer randomness that doesn't require a game stoppage of 2-3:minutes.

35 The call was wrong and Terry…

The call was wrong and Terry McCauley said as much on the broadcast. 


Look I was one of those people who was in favor of it but I wasn't going to be up in arms if they didn't. To me they're doing the worst of both worlds, allowing the review but not really allowing the review giving us this wishy-washy fake system. I'd rather they be explicit about it

60 Your point doesn't entirely…

Your point doesn't entirely invalidate mine. I agree, on some level, its subjective, but there is still a allow this much contact but no more. Even if its unstated, the nfl needs to enforce that same standard across all pi penalties. A review does not change that. And since reviews are capped at 2(3) per coach, we're taking 6 reviews at most during a game. I guess Im ok with that since Pi penalties are enormous game changing penalties. 

126 I was cheering for the Colts…

I was cheering for the Colts and I considered not watching after that. At this point, they need to explicitly explain what will and won't be overturned. They said before the year that the fairly subtle DPI no-call against Cooks in the Superbowl would be overturned, which we can all see was just garbage. The phrase "nobody knows what a catch is anymore" was irritating but with a gem of truth, the phrase "nobody knows what will or won't be overturned in terms of DPI or OPI" is absolutely spot on.

37 This was one of the most…

This was one of the most satisfying wins as a fan and one I can say I've never seen in my entire tenure watching the colts. I've seen plenty of reverse games where both lines got dominated up front, but never one where the colts were on the positive side. It was a great defensive performance. 


To address a comment above about Jacoby brissett and his value given the cap number, at this point I feel very comfortable saying he's a competent starter with a very hard ceiling. The team is good enough to avoid the toilet and given how free agency is likely to lead to quarterbacks who are slightly better but will be overpaid, I have a hard time envisioning the colts landing a better player at quarterback, which means this team's potential is capped. Have to hope they find a Russell Wilson in the draft at this point.


110 What does "hard ceiling"…

What does "hard ceiling" mean? Every player has a hard ceiling... It's kind of a tautological statement with no real meaning. 

Maybe what you mean is Brissett has already reached his ceiling? I haven't watched him much at all, but I've seen too many players at all positions continue to improve into their 30s, so I don't know why you would think Brissett has already gotten there, if that's what you mean.

133 I take hard ceiling to mean…

I take hard ceiling to mean we are certain of his upper limit. For some athletes, we may not know the ceiling. For Brissett, we’ve seen enough to know his ceiling, and he’s not going to ever change that ceiling. He is now as good as he will get. 

142 Not Sure I Agree about Ceiling

Brissette was extremely raw when he came into the league and most of his starts were on a terrible Colts team with a turnstile o-line that had him running for his life on almost every down (52 sacks!). His ceiling isn't Luck and probably isn't Winston but he could conceivably come close to the latter, with fewer interceptions. From what I've read, his work ethic is impressive and his progression is notable compared to two years ago. 

44 Packers@Cowboys will…

Packers@Cowboys will probably be closer with DVOA than it was on the scoreboard. Cowboys were badly hurt by turnovers, losing three interceptions. The first was because Cooper wasn't watching the ball, not Prescott. The second was just a great play by someone I didn't even know was on the roster. Only the Kevin King INT was Prescott's fault and by then the Cowboys had to take chances (though that INT was still bad). Take away those INTs and I'm not sure who wins.

I was incredibly impressed with the Packers going primarily inside zone runs to counter the Cowboys speed on defense. The offense looked a lot more 90's Broncos than McCarthy the entire game for the first time this year. I'm sure defenses will adjust, especially until Adams comes back. But I like this version of the offense. If Rodgers can accept a slightly reduced role, much like Favre did later in his career with Ahman Green at RB, this could be a great team.

51 Ints really knock down a…

Ints really knock down a team's  VOA, so the spread may be at least as wide as the points scored.

When the Cowboys don't block, they are a very mediocre team. Take Tyron Smith off the field, and the chances of the Cowboys not blocking really jumps.

71 The Packer defense has been…

The Packer defense has been boom-and-bust, which is worrying - the turnovers and sacks have been great, but they didn't just let Dallas back in the game after going up 31-3, they did so while allowing TD drives of 6 plays/75 yards/1:30, 5 plays/82 yards/1:27, and 2 plays/60 yards/0:21. Lots of guys are banged up, but they're going to have a hard time winning too many games where they give up 32 first downs and 8+ yards/play.

The running game was great yesterday. It also seems they're adjusting to do a better job matching up their personnel and formations to put themselves in more advantageous positions - they had been banging their head into the wall at times going under center with 2 TEs and asking them to make tough blocks against loaded boxes. The willingness and ability to run out of shotgun with more balanced personnel looked like it really helped.

Also, not the best day for the passing game, but still good to see them generate some nice plays using crossing routes and screen passes built off misdirection. Having Jones available for checkdowns in more dangerous positions in the flat and earlier in the progression rather than just turned around toward Rodgers in the middle of the line of scrimmage was also helpful in getting a few extra yards and first downs - it's a small thing, but it helped extend several scoring drives.

78 NFC North

GB played Badger football which is run between the tackles, throw to the tight ends and take a shot once in a while within the framework of the game but avoid taking risks until absolutely necessary.  Yesterday taking risks wasn't necessary. The rookie Jenkins at guard is a revelation after several years of seeing repeated inside pass rush pressure. Kudos to Lucas Patrick for stepping in at center and not being terrible. 


GB was convinced that Alexander could handle Cooper one on one and unexplained reasons really would not waver from that approach the bulk of the game. Randall Cobb was about what I expected which is a nothingburger. Kevin King gutted out a tender groin to play some really good football. 


My gosh did Scott play a role in forcing Dallas to drive long fields. Whatever he changed from last season has been the adjustment of the decade for Packers special teams players.


I feel bad for the Bears defense stuck with the rest of that team. Then again the defense did have a chance to snuff out the Raiders comeback and didn't make it happen. I continue to look askance at the Vikings believing that all the talent can compensate for Cousins who is a turnover machine and will gut their chances when the time comes to make that one play they need from the qb. 

82 You are right on the boom-or…

You are right on the boom-or-bust aspect of the defense, which reminds me way too much of Capers. I was thrilled to finally see not only a good opening script but with adjustments based on what worked. I think continuing in-game adjustments was LaFleur's biggest problem the first four games. I'm hoping to see that continue. 

96 Not very well, apparently:…

Not very well, apparently:

I'd be curious if anyone out there has compared travel schedules and seen if those have any impact on results. Apparently Oakland spent the entire week in London, while the Bears just arrived on Friday. The logistics of practicing abroad are probably a pain, but Olympic athletes take travel across multiple time zones and its impact on performance extremely seriously.

104 Gosh, I wasn't paying…

Gosh, I wasn't paying attention to that game, but that is just a gimme to those that were. When it gets to the point that Mark Davis makes you look like a idiotically short sighted cheapskate, well, the McKaskey's ought to be ashamed of themselves.

I really can't believe this. The Bears are a good team playing in a tough division with hopes of getting a playoff bye, and they decide to take a chance of tossing a regular season game away against an inferior opponent, by not getting to London until Friday? Egads.

127 I am pretty confident the…

I am pretty confident the Bears coaching staff didn't think they were taking a chance of losing the game by arriving on Friday; on the contrary, I think they thought they were being extremely clever. They appear to have been disastrously wrong, but that's different from saying "Yeah, we know we're going to come out flat if we don't get here 'til Friday, but who cares, it's just the Raiders."

129 Unlike altitude adjustment,…

Unlike altitude adjustment, there isn't a shred of evidence which suggests that flying across that many time zones is handled better with an arrival 1 or 2 days prior to competition, and there is a mountain of evidence which suggests getting there as early as possible gives the athlete the best chance at optimal performance. I simply cannot believe that an NFL coaching staff is unaware of this. Which means my best guess is that Bears ownership didn't want to pay for 6 days preparation in London. They should have had the charter leave ORD Sunday night after the Vikings game, for a Monday morning arrival in London. Good grief.

131 Agreed.  That's a baffling…

Agreed.  That's a baffling decision by the Bears.  They had all preseason to make the logistical arrangements.  The players would have known it was coming, and had time to make family arrangements to accommodate a week overseas.  

The Raiders are poor (in NFL terms) and coached by a man who gives few indications of keeping up on cutting-edge developments, yet they still took a more modern approach than Chicago.

135 The alternative is that Nagy…

The alternative is that Nagy is just abjectly ignorant about the research pertaining to time zone changes' effect on athletic performance, or he is knowledgeable on the subject and simply decided it doesn't apply to the athletes he coaches. Do you really think those alternatives are more likely than the McCaskey family is ridiculously cheap?

141 Agree

I actually heard some data that west coast teams underperformed in the London games which makes sense by this logic, and really but just logic in general. I remember when the Niners under Harbaugh would stay east for consecutive road games to avoid this body clock issue, and kick ass. At this level the differences in talent are so marginal (even between run-of-the-mill good and bad teams as opposed to say Dolphins and Patriots), that it makes no sense to throw away any edge.

143 If nobody in that…

In reply to by beargoggles

If nobody in that organization understands that arriving in London, from Chicago, on Friday, for a game on Sunday, nearly guarantees a subpar performance, that's just ridiculous. If they thought it wouldn't matter, because they were playing the Raiders, that's even worse.

150 Well there are benefits to…

Well there are benefits to staying at home the extra time, such as practicing at your own facilities, sleeping in your own bed, etc. You would suspect the team weighed those against the effects of lack of body-clock adjustment time and came to their decision. As a Brit who has flown home from vacation in the States several times before having to return to (non-physical) work, I agree with you that the decision they arrived at was the wrong one. 

145 *Unlike* altitude adjustment?

I lived at 8400 feet for five years; I never heard anyone suggest that the adjustment could be made in a day or two, and I never saw anyone adapt anything like that quickly.  I'd be interested to see the evidence you're referencing.

146 If I have time to dig it up…

If I have time to dig it up I will. To be more clear, there is evidence which suggests that if the athlete can't get to altitude 5 to 7 days prior to competition, the next best alternative is to arrive within 24 hours. Given the NFL rules for visiting teams , it isn't possible, but this theory perhaps explains why the Denver and Utah NBA teams home court advantage isn't quite as pronounced as one might expect.

147 I think I've heard this too…

I think I've heard this too. The body takes weeks to actually adjust to altitude, not days. However, you don't see as much of an effect if you fly in the day of the event. I believe the speculation was that your body hasn't quite realized something is wrong and you can basically run on reserves for a few hours. Get there a few days early and your body is trying to adjust and shuts down quicker.

69 Ay the end of the half…

Ay the end of the half Tomlin again failed to call time out. Costing the team valuable seconds and more chances to score. The moron never learns.

84 I just want to say that the…

I just want to say that the refs get a lot of grief for PI. I don't think it's their fault. PI has always been more of a subjective feel than a rule because that's what the NFL wants.

I also was really impressed by the refs this week. Watching den vs lac, I saw three calls I thought were wrong in real time (goal line fumbe, Sanders sideline catch, and no flag for block in back on the king touchdown). Replay clearly showed the first two were called Right, and the third was probably Right. All were insanely difficult things to watch in real time.

Refs get nebulous with holding and pi, because there is no standard, but they call good games

95 Viewpoint of someone who has officiated

I was an umpire at various levels for several decades. I cannot prove that this applies across all sports, but I will share it is FAR more difficult to officiate a game involving one or both teams being below average to bad than between two quality teams. I am sure folks can come up with their own explanations, but I am just sharing a perspective from years of experience. And this applied to all levels in the case of baseball from Little League to 13-15 years to 18 years old to semi-pro league.


Has anyone studied the number of penalties called between good teams say come November onward? I would bet that the penalty both in gross number and yardage is less than the standard

120 Shaun Hochuli's crew did an…

Shaun Hochuli's crew did an excellent job for Den-LA. Their biggest problem was the announcements, which Shaun botched on the regular--he called the wrong player's number pretty consistently, called a punt return an interception return, etc…--so that was some good comedy. But for the actual calls they did a fantastic job.

85 Harbaugh owes Justin Tucker his career

I generally like Harbaugh and appreciate how he's placed himself in the vanguard of letting analytics shape coaching decisions. But one place where the Ravens have defied the stats is in Justin Tucker's kicking. All too often Harbaugh's strategy is to put the team in place for Tucker to keep a 45-yard-plus FG at a pivotal moment. From the Double OT in Denver during the 2012 Super Bowl run, to yesterday's OT winner at Pittsburgh, it is unbelievable how Tucker comes through seemingly every time, even when statistics suggest - particularly at Heinz Field - that he's got to miss at some point.

98 I'm disappointed that no one…

I'm disappointed that no one on the FO team has yet used all the advanced analytics tools at their disposal to predict whether or not the Bills winning a game in Tennessee over the Titans in which the Titans lost a TD to an illegal forward pass means the Bills will now make the playoffs 17 straight years.

Get to work, guys.

125 Lamar Jackson gets the Tom Brady treatment from the ref already

Welcome to the Protected QB List, young man.

The Ravens were down 3 facing 3rd and 8 from their own 27. Instead they had a first down and went to kick the game tying FG.

Somehow that's the same thing as Earl Thomas trying to maim Rudolph by launching his helmet into Rudolph's chin. Wait, that's just a "high hit".

134 Time to change that lead paragraph!

"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.)"

I realize that yesterday's defensive slugfest wasn't for everyone. I also realize that Buffalo's offense isn't firing on a lot of cylinders yet. But the Bills are too good to be slighted like this, full stop. And since picking on the Dolphins is too easy, I nominate the J-E-T-S, JETS, JETS, JETS!

140 Can we get a bunch more…

Can we get a bunch more Devlin Hodges name jokes, please?

I'll start... Devlin Hodges, sounds like a guy that REALLY wants to casually mention that he's on the crew team at his prep school.