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

Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Las Vegas Raiders QB Derek Carr
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 Lions 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.

Indianapolis Colts 26 at Houston Texans 20

Dave Bernreuther: Last week's loss to Derrick Henry and the Titans was easy to forgive, given the missing defensive starters, but it was still quite damaging, not just to the Colts' divisional hopes, but to their playoff hopes in general; it is not hard at all to craft scenarios in ESPN's Playoff Machine wherein a 10-6 Colts team misses the playoffs entirely. As it stands, they're 7-4 and in the seventh seed, a game up on the Raiders and Ravens (to whom they lost), with HOU-LV-HOU-PIT-JAX upcoming. Today's game, then, is a very big one for the Colts.

So it is not great news, then, to see confirmation that Philip Rivers needs surgery on his right foot and is playing through what is apparently bad turf toe. It's bit cliché to point to the past two Decembers and suggest that he struggles to drive the ball to the sidelines, and his accuracy has always outweighed what was never that strong an arm anyway, but as a veteran of many a foot fascia injury (including right now, even), man ... if I was Romeo Crennel I'd be cheating up on the running backs and short stuff A LOT. As a Colts fan, I'm going to be very afraid of a 2015 Manning type situation here.

Using the backs a lot is a good idea against the Texans anyway, of course, and Reich can do wonderful things with three tight ends on the field, so perhaps the game plan won't change much, but Anthony Castonzo being out again this week certainly levels the playing field a bit. The edge on the punt unit is also narrowed, if not eliminated, with the loss of Rigoberto Sanchez, and the Texans also have the luxury of a few extra days of preparation after playing on Thanksgiving.

All of which is to say ... nothing. The Texans have Deshaun Watson, who has shown himself to be incredible and capable of carrying the team no matter how many anchors the organization ties around his ankles. If he plays like he has been playing, none of the above even matters. Either the Colts stop or at least limit him, or the Texans can deal their playoff hopes a severe blow.

Bryan Knowles: Rivers' foot injury helps explain why the Colts have been using Jacoby Brissett as a situational player; Rivers isn't exactly mobile at the best of times, but working on a bum foot dampers the odds of making those sneaks and short-yardage pickups.

Of course, if Rivers can just stand in the pocket unpressured, he doesn't need a fully functional foot to work. Rivers was a perfect 4-for-4 on the Colts' opening drive, starting and ending the game with long gains to T.Y. Hilton, whom the Texans are trying to contain in man coverage. It, uh, isn't working so far. I know Hilton hasn't had a typically successful season, but the Texans may want to consider having some safety help on him,or this is going to be a long day.

Bryan Knowles: Of course, the Colts do not have the best quarterback in this matchup -- sorry, Rivers. The Colts have pressured Deshaun Watson on every drop back so far, but it's not enough to get pressure on him -- you have to actually get him down. Sometimes, that's working -- DeForest Buckner already has a big sack. Sometimes, it forces Watson to scramble; he's up to 18 rushing yards already. And sometimes, it just lets Watson hit the highlight reel, dodging and weaving through traffic until he finds a wide-open Keke Coutee 40 yards downfield to set up, what else, a Watson touchdown run the next play. 7-7 halfway through the first.

Dave Bernreuther: One thing I didn't mention earlier was T.Y. Hilton. His dominance of the Texans was put to bed last season and his numbers this year have been down, so the idea that he might suddenly pop up and dominate again was, well, more popular than it should have been given how little his actual game/skills have changed (many Colts writers have pointed out that he has still been getting open, drawing coverage, etc,, even as his targets and yards have dropped lately). I saw Hilton 100-yard game at +750 on some sportsbooks, and through one drive, anyone who got those odds is probably feeling good about it.

In other news, DeShaun Watson is good. After Buckner announced his return with a first-down sack, Watson ran for 7, escaped serious pressure for a 64-yard dart on the run, and ran it in from 11 yards. 82 yards, easy as pie.

Dave Bernreuther: One play after a near-pick in the end zone (correctly ruled incomplete), Watson almost threw another, through no fault of his own ... really athletic play showing a ton of range there by Anthony Walker over the middle. Reminds me of vintage Gary Brackett. I kind of just wanted an excuse to say I miss Gary Brackett, because he was awesome, but also, as I've said several times this year: these Colts linebackers are the best I've seen in pass coverage since the better days of the Tony Dungy tenure.

Bryan Knowles: Had a bit of a delay here, as the refs had to review whether or not Hilton came down in bounds on a leaping catch on third-and-9. It's Hilton against the Texans -- of course it was a catch. Hilton's up to 74 yards already; that's his second-biggest day of the year, and we're only at the end of the first quarter, with the Colts holding on to a 14-10 lead.

Bryan Knowles: I love that teams going for it on fourth down has become commonplace enough that we don't feel the need to talk about it all that often. Sure, some teams are smarter about it than others, but it's a pretty universal NFL trend, and that's exceptionally pleasing to me.

Frank Reich has always been pretty good about going for it on fourth, but even he probably gave a second thought to it this time. The Colts had third-and-1, but DeMichael Harris was stuffed for a 3-yard loss, putting Indy in no man's land. A 56-yard field goal attempt wasn't particularly appealing, so the Colts had to go for it on fourth-and-4, calling a pretty simple running back screen to Jonathan Taylor. It was a decent screen and probably would have picked up the first down no matter what, but the Texans made the bold choice of not covering Taylor in any way, shape or form. Taylor ends up taking the 2-yard pass and rumbling the remaining 37 yards to the end zone. An absolute defensive disaster for the Texans, and the Colts have a 21-10 lead.

Dave Bernreuther: My love for Frank Reich is real. My criticisms of the third-down play (jet sweep-ish play with horrible blocking) are out the window when the idea all along was to go for it on fourth, which it was. And then a beautiful call to a forgotten Jonathan Taylor coming out of the backfield for a catch-and-run touchdown on fourth-and-4 from the 39 -- a spot at which all previous Colts coaches would have punted, even when they had the best offense in the league, for what it's worth -- puts the Colts up two scores.

Third-and-8 on the next drive for the Texans, I'm not sure Watson was wise to pull the ball down and leave a clean pocket through a narrow gap, but damn ... shows what I know. It opened up space for a big play to continue the drive. He's good.

Bryan Knowles: Watson is almost as good as the Texans' defense is bad. Houston's defense isn't the worst I've seen by any stretch of the imagination, but they seem to have a couple of terrible mental errors per quarter -- guys being in the wrong position, not covering their guy, hitting the wrong gap -- just a total lack of discipline. That's almost more frustrating than just being talent-starved.

But, again, as frustrating as it is to watch the Houston defense, it's that fun to watch Watson working. I was going to type "the Texans offense," but I'm pretty sure Watson is a synonym for that at this point. The Colts keep putting him in pressure, he keeps slipping away, and he keeps making big plays. And maybe because the Colts are worried about stopping Watson's arm, the Texans RUN offense is making a rare appearance. They're at 6.3 yards per rush, and that isn't ... well, it isn't all Watson, David Johnson had a couple of big runs on the Texans' last drive, including the touchdown to cut the Colts lead to 21-17.

Fun game, this one.

Dave Bernreuther: Is it me or is Watson slipping pockets through the exact same spot every time (left guard)? I wonder if there's a way to adjust your defensive Line calls to account for and sort of trap that. At times he has seemed maybe a tad too willing to leave, but not in that same deer-in-headlights happy-feet way that some of his contemporaries do ... and anyway, it works for him, so I'm not going to call it a bad thing.

T.Y. Hilton made it to that 100-yard milestone in the first half, so last year really was just an anomaly, I guess. Man, his statline in this building is something else...

And speaking of that building, I've been on a few occasions, but the first of which was during Cookout for a BBQ competition back in its infancy. It is only fitting, then, that I smoked ribs today ... and they are FANTASTIC. I'm high-fiving myself for these ones. Maybe this is not for Audibles, but you guys are my sole football-watching company this year (and I like that!) and if I'm not able to share the ribs themselves at least I can share in my pride.

Dave Bernreuther: Castonzo's absence gets noticed bigly on a third-and-3 that ends in a bad beating and a sack to kill a drive near midfield. No matter, though, as the defenses have transformed in this second half. The Colts get the ball back quickly and move into the red zone despite four straight Rivers incompletions. Backed up to third-and-13, a quick screen to Michael Pittman -- well blocked, unlike seemingly every other screen I've seen in all games today -- gets them to within a yard of the first down. Reich decides to go for it, and the run is stuffed ... as I send a text saying "I'm curious what Aaron sees about the probabilities on that one." But I don't hate backing a sackable quarterback up against his goal line -- Justin Houston gets to Watson for a safety. So that worked out nicely, and in this scoreless half, it's fitting that the defense gets on the board first.

With a three-point lead I'd go for it every time, but up four ... I want to say that even I might have considered the field goal. Aaron, what say the numbers?

Dave Bernreuther: So after the fourth-down attempt and the safety, Nyheim Hines breaks a nifty long return on the free kick, only to have it come back on what I believe is Anthony Walker's third penalty of the day, Nursing the six-point lead, the Colts get a bit conservative and start milking the clock, which was going rather cromulently until yet another holding penalty, this one by Ryan Kelly. A third-down shrug of a screen sets them up for a punt from midfield ... and this is where Sanchez is missed, as Ryan Allen rolls it into the end zone. And now, after all that ... the Colts have the dreaded six-point lead against Deshaun Watson starting on the 20 with plenty of time. Ugh. A field goal would have iced the game, and they knew it. And they sort of played like it too.

And now the Texans are inside the 10 already in just the time it took to type that.

Dave Bernreuther: Oh, wow. Immediately after CBS left a graphic with IND 8-4 and HOU at 4-8 on screen for WAY too long while the Texans were lined up in second-and-goal, they snap the ball into Watson's freaking shin and the Colts recover.

What a stupid, stupid way to lose a game. But also what a perfect way to sum up the way that Watson's team has failed him. Sorry, Rivers.

Rivers McCown: Outside of blowing that fourth-down play, the Texans had I thought a very good defensive day for them. Chaz Green was touched on, but they also stuffed the run better than they have in a bit. Of course, that's a real "Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?" line. But, well, baby steps for them.

The Texans' interior line was crushed by DeForest Buckner all day and though Watson did a great job eating on zones, the lack of a real man-to-man winner on big third downs mattered. Here's the long form on it. Watson took this loss very personally.

New Orleans Saints 21 at Atlanta Falcons 16

Bryan Knowles: It seems very likely we will see our first team clinch the playoffs today, though which team will win the race to punch their ticket first is fairly interesting. Three teams can finalize their berths today -- the Saints, Steelers, and Chiefs. New Orleans can get their playoff berth finished here in the early window if they beat the Falcons and the Lions beat the Bears. Detroit over Chicago is a tough ask, however; the Saints may have to wait until next week to actually slip in. Pittsburgh gets in with a win, but their game has been moved back to Monday night; they have to count on an upset here in the early window -- Bengals over Dolphins, Texans over Colts, or Jets over Raiders -- to get in today. With all three of those results seeming unlikely, it may be the Chiefs, who get in with a win over the Broncos in the nightcap, who end up in the postseason first.

Of course, there is no actual benefit to making the playoffs first, but it's a fun thing to keep an eye on as the early games play out.

Aaron Schatz: Three straight three-and-outs, two for Atlanta and one for New Orleans. Atlanta's first drive was about the New Orleans pressure, the second drive was about the coverage. Matt Ryan actually had time on third-and-6 and there was nobody open with a double team on Julio Jones. Taysom Hill actually connected on his two passes but one was short and the other went right through Tre'Quan Smith's hands. Saints escape a fourth straight three-and-out when Grady Jarrett goes low on Hill on third-and-long for a roughing the passer. Kind of surprising how much Hill has dropped back to pass so far. Some not even with play-action, a lot of straight dropbacks. Partly due to down-and-distance, but he turned a second-and-20 into a new set of downs with two completions. Oh, and a 43-yard scramble where he stayed in bounds right down the sideline, and then a passing touchdown! To a wide-open Smith. Busted coverage. Looks like Darqueze Dennard was supposed to have him but gave him a lot of cushion ... which is strange because in the end zone, there's no need to give so much cushion, it's not like Smith can run any farther downfield. 7-0 Saints.

Aaron Schatz: Saints just missed a 40-yard field goal so it's still 7-3 but they are moving the ball and the Falcons are not. Taysom Hill somehow has 16 pass attempts and 0 designed runs so far in this game. (His runs are a scramble and a muffed handoff that gets charged as a run by him.)

Aaron Schatz: This is weird but Taysom Hill looks like a real boy today. I mean, a real NFL quarterback. Obviously, you don't make decisions based on one half, but Atlanta has been a good defense the last few weeks. Hill has converted a third-and-8, a third-and-13, and a third-and-17. He's 17-for-23 at halftime and didn't have a designed run play until 2:00 left in the second quarter. The Falcons were sending blitzes up the middle on him, but that 43-yard scramble sort of convinced them not to do that, so now there's very little pass pressure. The Saints would have more points except for a missed field goal, and then a decision to go for it on fourth-and-7 in no man's land where Jared Cook dropped a pass that would have converted. Meanwhile, Atlanta's offense is mostly living off a couple of big plays and continues to stall out in the red zone. 14-9 at halftime.

Vince Verhei: Aaron beat me to the punch, but it's striking how sharp Hill has been on third downs today. The Saints are 6-for-9 on third downs, and I think all six of those conversions are Hill completions -- and, as Aaron noted, many of those have been in long yardage.

Dave Bernreuther: Hill also threw a perfect pass on a fourth-and-7 (another of those downs that no longer make us raise an eyebrow) that hit Jared Cook in the hands and was dropped. The only thing I've seen him not do well was one early deep pass that looked wobbly and nowhere near anyone, but I think even that one was just a miscommunication where his receiver cut off the route.

Matt Ryan has been targeting Russell Gage almost every time I look up, which strikes me as a bad idea, as he has one catch for 3 yards on his five targets (but did draw a flag just before the halftime field goal). Doesn't matter who the offensive play caller is in Atlanta, it seems ... still a lot of dumb fades in the red zone, including one to Gage that had no prayer.

Aaron Schatz: OK, maybe some of what's going on with the Falcons offense is their route concepts. On third-and-8, they ran a bunch of short little things including a throw to Julio Jones 7 yards short of the sticks. Don't you maybe send Julio Jones past the sticks on third-and-8?

Aaron Schatz: Russell Gage finally comes alive. Earlier in the game he had drops and slips on the grass, but the Falcons just came back with a huge scoring drive after Taysom Hill fumbled in the red zone. Three big passes to Gage including one where he had to reach back for a tough ball but caught it anyway, and then the touchdown where they ended up with him one-on-one with linebacker Kwon Alexander. It's now 21-16 Saints.

Bryan Knowles: Well, well, this game isn't quite over yet after all. The Falcons have been stalling out all day, with just three field goals to their name, but the Saints haven't been able to put them away. A big drive from Russell Gage -- three receptions for 48 yards, including the touchdown -- has made this a one-score game with 7:43 left. Seahawks and Packers fans holding their breath; a Falcons upset here would be huge in the race for the NFC bye...

Bryan Knowles: And, to close off the note earlier -- the Saints' win, plus the Lions' comeback, means they're the first team to clinch a playoff berth this year. Congratulations!

Aaron Schatz: Saints' offense shut down in the fourth quarter, which along with some defensive lapses allowed the Falcons to come back into the game, but overall this was the best quarterback game for Taysom Hill. Yes there were a couple of balls that could have been picked off but I was surprised how good he looked, especially on some of those later third downs when the Falcons doubled Michael Thomas and Hill had to go somewhere else. Part of it was a real lack of pass pressure coming from the Falcons.

Marshon Lattimore had some troubles in coverage today, and Calvin Ridley had a huge 27-yard catch on him to continue the Falcons' last big drive, but after 65 yards the Falcons ran out of steam in the red zone yet again. The Falcons got to second-and-2 on the Saints 13 but then Gurley for no yards, Gurley caught going horizontal and was swallowed up for a loss of 7, and finally a pass a little bit over Julio Jones' head in the end zone. The Falcons did get the ball back one more time but that last drive had just 27 seconds to go 61 yards and ended in a Hail Mary attempt.

Cleveland Browns 41 at Tennessee Titans 35

Scott Spratt: On their opening drive, Baker Mayfield marched the Browns fairly easily down the field against the Titans' No. 27 DVOA pass defense. He connected with Rashard Higgins for 35 yards, then after a pump fake left him in an awkward throwing stance, Mayfield still hit rookie Donovan Peoples-Jones in the hands on what would have been a walk-in touchdown. However, People-Jones dropped the pass, and the Browns subsequently stalled and settled for a field goal to give them a 3-0 lead.

Carl Yedor: Cleveland took the ball and moved it quite effectively until they bogged down in the red zone. Their red zone struggles could largely be blamed on a first-down drop by Donovan Peoples-Jones, who dropped what would have likely been a touchdown straight down the middle of the field. Mayfield had to double clutch his throw to avoid getting it knocked away or picked off, so it's possible that the timing change messed with Peoples-Jones when he was expecting the ball. Regardless, Cleveland was stuck from there and had to settle for three after mixing Nick Chubb runs with some chunk throws.

Tennessee, unsurprisingly, featured a heavy dose of Derrick Henry and their usual play-action. After a third-down play-action pass out of a jumbo set that fell incomplete when intended for an eligible lineman, Henry tried to power forward to convert the fourth-and-1, but Cleveland's defense held firm and got the stop. It appeared that Henry converted the fourth down, but the replay view was not conclusive enough to overturn the spot.

Offensively, this looks about as expected, with both teams sticking to the formulae that have gotten them to identical 8-3 records thus far. The Titans' 8-3 is obviously substantially more impressive, but if Cleveland can lean on their rushing attack and shorten this game by reducing the number of possessions, they could pull the upset with superior execution.

Dave Bernreuther: Fat Guy Touchdown! Kendall Lamm uncovered for the 1-yard score. Mayfield is not missing the easy touchdowns this week so far.

The Browns, 22nd in DVOA and universally regarded as a terrible 8-3 team, are now up 17-0 at 8-3 Tennessee.

Just like we all predicted ... right?

Scott Spratt: Big man touchdown! Offensive tackle Kendall Lamm puts the Browns up 17-0.

I guess turnovers can always make a difference, but I didn't see this one coming. The Titans are 12th and the Browns are 22nd in DVOA this year.

Scott Spratt: And suddenly every game has significant injuries. As Ryan Tannehill connected with Corey Davis to cut the Titans' deficit to 17-7, A.J. Brown pulled up short and grabbed his knee without making contact with anyone.

Vince Verhei: Titans get back into this on back-to-back great catches, the first by A.J. Brown where he outjumped Terrance Mitchell for a 40-yard gain on a seam route to the left side. Next snap, Ryan Tannehill goes to his right, and there's Corey Davis high-pointing the ball for the score.

Cleveland still leads ... and Donovan Peoples-Jones just scorched some poor Titans cornerback on an out-and-up for a long touchdown and Cleveland goes up 24-7.

Dave Bernreuther: The Titans drove for a very quick answer after the Lamm score, but if you blinked you missed an even quicker response: Donovan Peoples-Jones got another one, on a sweet double move down the sideline, and the Browns have now put together four scoring drives in four attempts.

Carl Yedor: The first points on the board for Tennessee come at a cost. After the Derrick Henry fumble set up Cleveland's second touchdown of the afternoon, the Titans turned to the air to turn things around. Ryan Tannehill was 3-for-3 through the air, including a 40-yard dart to A.J. Brown and a touchdown pass to Corey Davis. Brown, however, went down with a non-contact injury on the touchdown play after catching both targets for a combined 52 yards in the drive. Hopefully he's alright -- he was able to get up and was helped off the field -- because Derrick Henry's six carries for 15 yards and a fumble won't get the Titans back into this game.

...and maybe nothing will. Browns answer with a 75-yard touchdown pass to Donovan Peoples-Jones. 24-7 Cleveland.

Vince Verhei: I think Breon Borders (39 for Tennessee) has to retire now. I don't make the rules.

Scott Spratt: A.J. Brown came back into this game, so at least one good thing happened for the Titans in this first half.

Dave Bernreuther: Another 90-yard drive, another touchdown pass for Baker Mayfield, who is a scant few yards from a perfect passer rating. The Browns are flat-out destroying the Titans.

Carl Yedor: So much for needing to shorten the game. This is a beatdown. Tennessee has no answer for Cleveland's offense, which is putting on a clinic. That's a fairly decent surprise, though Tennessee's defense has struggled a lot this year. The bigger surprise has been Cleveland shutting down the Tennessee offense, particularly the rushing attack. Derrick Henry has 15 yards and a fumble, which has helped lead to the Titans looking completely out of sorts. Tennessee has a chance to make things look more respectable, but it would take an epic collapse to turn this into a win.

Tom Gower: What to say about that game, since I didn't talk about it live? As noted, the Titans came in with the 28th-ranked defense. As I noted on Twitter earlier this week, the much-ballyhooed-around-Nashville defensive turnaround that seemed to coincide with Desmond King's arrival concealed a defense that maybe still wasn't so great. By DVOA, the Titans had actually been worse in the past four games than they were before that, even with the tremendous third-down improvement. There were reasons to think they might actually have improved some, since the early-season non-awfulness was built on an interception rate that you probably couldn't rely on going forward given your pass rush is Harold Landry and, uh, don't ask, with no real hope for personnel improvement given Ian Rapoport's report this morning that Jadeveon Clowney had season-ending knee surgery. The real question is as much as why Breon Borders, a scrap-heap player on his ... seventh NFL team? ... got beat a couple of times for long touchdowns as why he seemed to be a better option than the since-released Johnathan Joseph. This is probably just one game, like the "defense carries bad offense" game against Chicago or the "offense is great except can't turn that into points" against Cincinnati or "the defense's two quarters of control" last week against the Colts once Anthony Castonzo went out were all just one game (each). That it happened this week was a surprise and doesn't mean it's going to happen next week (if it does against the Jaguars and Mike Glennon...), but it's within the range of possibility pretty much every week.

The Titans defense looked better in the second half, because the Browns intentionally decided to "shorten" the game by running at literally almost every opportunity. They ran on first-and-10, first-and-20, and third-and-17 (plus a scramble on second-and-18!) one possession, while the extended fourth-quarter possession featured seven runs and two third-down screen passes. A commitment to not-that-effective early-down running was why I thought this game might sneakily be a bit low-scoring, but that ended up only being true of the Browns final 30 minutes.

Anyway, a very bad week for Tennessee and a very good week for Cleveland (until the final two minutes of the game made things a bit too interesting for their sake). But like I said, it's probably only one game, until it's more than that.

Cincinnati Bengals 7 at Miami Dolphins 19

Scott Spratt: Wow, Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard just made an acrobatic interception.

That gives him eight for the season, the most in the NFL. When he and Byron Jones both got healthy, the Dolphins started their ascent to their current position of 10th in DVOA pass defense.

Scott Spratt: That breakout pass defense I just mentioned very quickly lost starting safety Eric Rowe and starting linebacker Elandon Roberts to injuries today. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Brandon Allen just hit Tyler Boyd for a short completion that Boyd then turned into a 72-yard touchdown.

That's safety Bobby McCain that takes the terrible route for the tackle that allows Boyd to turn the corner and score. I'm guessing the Rowe and Roberts made a difference on the play.

Scott Spratt: Yikes, now left guard Ereck Flowers is down injured for the Dolphins. This first quarter has not been kind to the Dolphins' playoff chances, even apart from their 7-0 deficit to the Bengals.

Scott Spratt: Oh no! The Dolphins did their sweet fake field goal formation at the goal line, and normal punter Matt Haack ran in a touchdown. But an illegal formation penalty because of non-declared eligible linemen wiped it out and motivated the Dolphins to settle for a field goal.

Apparently both of the linemen who failed to declare themselves eligible are rookies. What a bummer.

Scott Spratt: Well, Tua Tagovailoa just had his highlight of the year erased by a terrible Jakeem Grant drop. I think that was going 90 yards for a touchdown.

Meanwhile, Tagovailoa was hit hard on a throw later in the drive. It looked like an incomplete pass to me, but the Bengals scooped and scored, and the play was ruled a fumble-return touchdown on the field (which I always like when the refs let the play continue if they are unsure). It's being reviewed as I type this.

Scott Spratt: The fumble-return touchdown was overruled on review and deemed an incomplete pass.

I chose to watch this game because I thought Tua might be the highlight of an otherwise underwhelming early slate of games. But do you know who isn't excited to see Tua play today? TV analyst James Lofton. On that 90-yard drop, Lofton intimated that Tua was responsible for the drop because his passes spin differently than a right-handed passer's would. And on the incompletion/fumble play, he called out Tua for failing to see a pass-rusher that he said Ryan Fitzpatrick would have seen.

Bryan Knowles: Woah, the arc of this one just changed. Both Xavien Howard and Tyler Boyd ejected on the same play, for ... slapping each other in the facemask? Maybe I missed a punch being thrown somewhere, but nothing on any of the replays I saw even justified a personal foul, much less an ejection, much less an ejection for both players. Zwuh?

Scott Spratt: I really don't see that at all, Bryan. Neither player punched the other. It was some simple shoving.

Rob Weintraub: Not only were both players ejected, which is ridiculous, but somehow the Bengals get penalized 15 yards while Miami's punch is deemed not penalty-worthy. Makes it a 53-yard field goal, which, in the most predictable portion of the season, Randy Bullock misses. Miami, now already practically in range for Jason sanders, is gifted three points to make it 7-6 at the half.

A sequence that nearly sums up the 2020 Bengals. At least a loss, now definite, actually helps the team in the big picture.

Scott Spratt: I guess it's not just James Lofton because the CBS halftime team just admonished the Dolphins for playing Tua as well. Is this a Ryan Fitzpatrick "respect among former players" thing? I thought Tua played fine in the first half beyond even the Jakeem Grant drop.

Scott Spratt: Tua led an effortless-seeming touchdown drive to start the second half going 5-of-6 for 76 yards. Maybe that will change some analyst opinions about him?

Scott Spratt: Tua is having some luck even out in the second half. Check out this sweet one-handed snag by tight end Mike Gesicki!

Scott Spratt: Emmanual Ogbah just took out the Dolphins' collective anger on quarterback Brandon Allen, stripping him on a sack and allowing teammate Christian Wilkins to scoop and score.

On review, the refs changed the ruling to an incomplete pass. But I wouldn't want to be Allen right now backed up against his own end zone.

Rob Weintraub: A bad hit by Michael Thomas as a gunner leads to Brian Flores leading two-thirds of his team across the field to engage in an all-out brawl. Three ejections result, including Davante Parker for slugging a Bengals coach. That's five dudes ejected today, or one more than Zac Taylor has wins in nearly two seasons. Somehow Flores wasn't penalized. Meanwhile Jonah Williams, who missed all of his rookie season to injury, gets rolled up on and gets carted off, to go with his rookie quarterback. What a year. What a team.

Scott Spratt: Ever since that Dolphins' defensive non-touchdown, the Dolphins defense has constantly been in the backfield hitting the Bengals quarterback. Brandon Allen was knocked out of the game with a chest injury, and so Ryan Finley is in now.

Rob Weintraub: Also, the Bengals dressed only three cornerbacks today and one, Mackensie Alexander, went out with a concussion. One of the healthy ones is LeShaun Sims, who is ... not good. So keep that in perspective when analyzing Tua.

Oh, and now Brandon Allen is hurt, and QB3, Ryan Finley, is in. What fun.

Jacksonville Jaguars 24 at Minnesota Vikings 27 (OT)

Scott Spratt: It's 1:25 p.m. ET, and the Jaguars and Jets are currently both up at least seven points. By my count, those teams have led on just 42 and 63 offensive plays all season. No other team has led on fewer than 100 offensive plays.

Scott Spratt: I just saw how the Jaguars took that lead:

Pretty amazing.

Bryan Knowles: This game was 9-6 Jaguars at the half -- clearly, a bad day for Minnesota, but you can go into the locker room, shake it off, and come back out strong. The Vikings are a significantly better team than Jacksonville, so a reset should favor them...

... but on the very first play of the second half, Kirk Cousins throws the ball straight to Joe Schobert, who takes it all the way back to the house. Oops.

To be fair, the Vikings moved the ball on their second drive, hitting Justin Jefferson for a big 40-yard gain -- and here's where we plug our ESPN article about the best rookie wide receiver seasons in history. That leads to a score, so it's still just a three-point Jaguars lead, 16-13. Still, Jacksonville playing like a team which doesn't care if they have a chance for the top pick or not.

Scott Spratt: Speaking of Justin Jefferson, he just scored a touchdown and went over 1,000 yards on the season in just 12 games.

The Vikings finally have their first lead at 19-16. I'm going to be disappointed when the Jags and Jets end up losing by 20 apiece after their hot starts today.

Bryan Knowles: Don't count the Jets out of the No. 1 pick just yet -- the Jaguars march down the field and score the touchdown AND the two-point conversion, and we have a tie at 24 with 1:08 left!

Las Vegas Raiders 31 at New York Jets 28

Dave Bernreuther: FanDuel Sportsbook posted earlier that someone made a $25 preseason bet on the Jets' first win being today. At +25000! It's 7-0 early, and I'd love to know who made that bet, and if this game stays close, I'll also love to know whether he has any fingernails left in about two hours.

Scott Spratt: Derek Carr tied the game up with a touchdown pass to Darren Waller about two seconds after you wrote that, Dave. Maybe the soothsayer won't have to bite his nails off after all.

Dave Bernreuther: Yeah, he'll come find me and peel mine off instead. My in-game jinxes this year are just brutal.

Vince Verhei: We're tied at 7-7 at the end of the first quarter. Raiders have moved the ball well on both of their drives, but the first ended in a tip-drill interception that bounced off of Henry Rugg's hands and into Arthur Maulet's. Second drive had a much better conclusion: a 9-yard touchdown to Darren Waller. Waller is already up to six catches for 79 yards and that score after 15 minutes.

What's going on with the Jets is more interesting. Jets got a touchdown on their first drive when Sam Darnold hit Jamison Crowder on third-and-goal from the 3. Announcers then started talking about how Darnold had a tendency to get off to slow starts. That didn't fit my impression, so I checked Darnold's DVOA numbers:

  • First quarter: -2.5%
  • Second quarter: -29.8%
  • Third quarter: -61.5%
  • Fourth/OT: -73.0%

Yeah, I don't think it's the slow starts that have been the problem.

One of the questions (the many, many questions) we have had about the Jets offense this year is why a team that is going absolutely nowhere has given a 200-year-old running back so much playing time. Well, that may not be an issue anymore -- Frank Gore has left the game, being evaluated with concussion symptoms. After he leaves, Josh Adams -- who has only 12 carries in the past two years coming into today -- gets a 25-yard run when the Raiders safeties take terrible angles and let him run up the middle. That sets up Crowder's second touchdown of the day when the Raiders lose track of him out of a bunch formation, and the Jets are up 13-7 now.

Scott Spratt: It is technically true that Sam Darnold has had slow starts, Vince. He just hasn't gotten better over the rest of the game.

Vince Verhei: You know what Scott, I hadn't thought of it that way, but I suppose you're right.

Bryan Knowles: Start biting those nails again, Unidentified Bettor, because the Jets just scored again to re-take the lead. The miss the extra point, so it's just 13-7, but still, it's the Jets. Apparently, the Raiders' sluggishness wasn't only a thing against the Falcons.

Dave, you said that someone bet money that this would be the Jets' first win before the season started? That would be some impressive precognition.

Vince Verhei: I have reassuring news, everyone: the Jets still suck after all. Sam "Slow Start" Donald has two sack-fumbles and an interception on back-to-back-to-back drives in the second quarter for New York. The first of those turnovers led to a Daniel Carlson field goal; the second led to Darren Waller's second touchdown of the day, which, well...

That's Bryce Hall (37) and then Marcus Maye (20) playing "defense" for the Jets on that non-tackle. Waller is now up to 8-123-2.

After that third Darnold turnover, the Jets came up with back-to-back sacks on the last two plays of the half to prevent a field goal, but the Raiders are still up 17-13 at halftime.

Vince Verhei: Raiders open the second half with a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. They had barely a dozen rushing yards in the first half; they had 39 on that drive, the last two coming on Derek Carr's scramble for a touchdown on second-and-goal. They also got two more first downs from Darren Waller, who is now up to 10 catches in 13 targets for 151 yards and two touchdowns. I just looked the best tight end DYAR game in our database: it was Travis Kelce against Houston in the playoffs last year. His statline that day: 10-12-134-3. The Jets have been a little below average against tight ends this year, so opponent adjustments won't do Waller any favors there.

Scott Spratt: Jets fans must hate to see Sam Darnold putting up this sort of effort to make it into the end zone.

He's really the only thing standing between those fans and Trevor Lawrence as their 2021 quarterback. Fortunately for them, the Jets still trail after the touchdown and two-point conversion 24-21.

Vince Verhei: This game isn't over yet. Jets just drove 96 yards in nine plays for a touchdown. The last 55 of those yards came on six straight runs (including two Darnold scrambles, one of which got into the end zone for the score). Ty Johnson has 88 yards on 14 carries; Josh Adams has 74 on eight. The Jets have run for 190 yards with more than 10 minutes to go; their season-high coming into the day was 129 against Denver in Week 4. Part of this is obviously the Las Vegas defense, 30th against run in DVOA coming into today. But you've got to think that part of it is also Adam Gase's stubborn refusal to give the youngsters a chance no matter how badly Gore struggled.

Anyway. Darnold completes a pass for a two-point conversion and the Raiders' lead is cut to 24-21.

Rob Weintraub: Mekhi Becton goes down a little banged up and slowly rises to his feet. Upon doing so he reveals his (rather immense) butt crack to a horrified nation of football fans.

Bryan Knowles: The treads are coming off the tank! After four straight punts took up the majority of the third quarter, the Jets put together a 96-yard drive to get the score within three. On the Raiders' ensuing drive, Henry Ruggs fumbles the ball right back to New York, Sam Darnold hits Ryan Griffin to get the ball inside the 5-yard line, and Ty Johnson gets in on his third crack. It's 28-24 Jets with 5:34 left, and upset alerts are flaring throughout the league.

I'd pay good money to know who Trevor Lawrence was rooting for.

Vince Verhei: Jets lead! Henry Ruggs fumbles the ball away just shy of midfield. Jets score six plays later -- one catch by Ryan Griffin for 18 yards, five runs by Johnson for 27 yards and a score. (They also got an unnecessary roughness foul on Clelin Ferrell, who has a pair of strip-sacks today but hurt the Raiders badly there.) Jets up 28-24 with 5:34 to go.

Vince Verhei: And we're down to the wire. Raiders have a second down in the red zone at the two-minute warning. Waller is the biggest reason they got there -- he had a 29-yard catch on third-and-10 and also drew a holding penalty on fourth-down. Two timeouts for each team, but it feels like this drive is going to decide the game.

Vince Verhei: Fourth-and-3, Carr hits Hunter Renfrow for a go-ahead touchdown -- but it's wiped out by offsetting penalties. So it's fourth-and-3 again, and Carr releases a floater while backpedaling. He underthrows Nelson Agholor on a flat route. Incompletion, Jets football.

Bryan Knowles: Oh, Jets.

Vince Verhei: OH MY GOD.

OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD.

Rob Weintraub: You can't convince me the Jets didn't throw that game...

Vince Verhei: OK.

So.

Jets go three-and-out on three straight runs. That includes a run on third-and-6 where they went out of bounds, but got a very generous call from the officials, who ruled forward progress had been stopped and the clock kept running.

Raiders get one more chance when Agholor gets three steps behind the defense on a post, but Carr totally overthrows him. Game over right?

Wrong.

Scott Spratt: Remember when Andy Dalton upset the Ravens in Week 17, 2017, and suddenly became a hero in Buffalo since that win put the Bills in the playoffs? I feel like Henry Ruggs may be New York's new favorite son -- a remarkable turnaround from 45 minutes ago when his fumble allowed the Jets to pull ahead in the fourth quarter.

Bryan Knowles: How do you leave an undrafted corner one-on-one with Ruggs in that situation? Gregg Williams, what on earth are you doing?

Rob Weintraub: The Raiders are going to slip into the playoffs based on the Jets playing -- literally -- Cover-0 with seconds to play, and everyone will conveniently forget how they got there.

Dave Bernreuther: Rob, it's because Jon Gruden is excellent and very much worthy of his contract.

This result is especially hilarious to me because for years, almost every comment by sharp viewers about Gregg Williams has been to mock him for leaving a safety so far down the field that it looks like he's defending a Hail Mary.

Aaron Schatz: I doubt seriously that Gregg Williams specifically called a Cover-0 defense on that last play so the Jets would lose on purpose. Losing doesn't help the current coaching staff, they won't be around next year to enjoy the draft picks. Gregg Williams called a Cover-0 because he's Gregg Williams and that's just how he rolls.

Bryan Knowles: Gregg Williams is just waiting to invent the Cover-Minus-1 defense.

Scott Spratt: Did anyone point out how much that Ruggs touchdown cost the mystery bettor?

Dave Bernreuther: $6,250 on a $25 bet, Scott.

Working in DFS, I've seen far worse beats, dollar-wise, but man ... to be that close to being emphatically proven right on a call that specific ... he must feel like he got stabbed in the gut.

(So, a familiar feeling for a Jets fan, then.)

They won't do it, but if FanDuel wanted some good PR they'd pay that out anyway on a bad-beat special (which I want to say they've done before).

Detroit Lions 34 at Chicago Bears 30

Bryan Knowles: We haven't talked about this one much in deference to the traditional Audibles intro because more interesting things have been happening elsewhere in the league. But the Bears are still on the edge of playoff contention, thanks entirely to their 5-1 start, so this is a relevant game.

What do the post-Matt Patricia Lions look like? Well, the defense hasn't exactly sprung to life with Patricia gone; the Bears are at 7 yards per play, with plenty of success on the ground. But on offense, interim coach Darrell Bevell has leaned into his historic tendencies and let Matthew Stafford go deep frequently; Stafford is 4-for-8 for 120 yards on passes traveling more than 15 yards through the air today. The offense feels more active, and I don't know how much of that is bias from looking for it and how much of it is Bevell able to call his game outside of Patricia's umbrella.

As a result of all this, the Bears are clinging to a 23-20 lead late in the third quarter. If the Bears do give up this lead, they will not be the first team to go from 5-1 to 5-7; the 1967 San Francisco 49ers managed to pull that feat off. But still, that would not be a good look!

Scott Spratt: Was Patricia meddling in the Lions' offensive play calling, Bryan? I always assumed he stayed away from that since he came up as a defensive coordinator.

Bryan Knowles: I don't think he was specifically making play calls or anything, per se, but the Lions have been less aggressive this season, and I do think, reading between the lines of some of the comments Patricia's players have made, that he put a bit of a conservative crimp on the offense. Bevell has denied this, but Taylor Decker came out this week and said "One thing that Bev has always preached to our offense -- and now as the head coach -- is pace in and out of the huddle. Running plays fast. Getting up to the line of scrimmage, line up, run the play, because pace, as an offense, is a weapon. And as a defense, if you can match the pace, then they can't use that as a weapon."

It will be interesting to see how that actually holds up in the stats. The Lions weren't exactly a slow offense leading up to today; they were 13th in our pace stats. And their 66 deep balls entering this week was mid-table; it's not like they're New England out there or anything. Patricia was 26th in EdjSports' CCI, grading offensive play calling in clutch situations. It will be interesting to see if any or all of those numbers improve with Bevell calling the shots. But it does sound like the players, at least, feel freer with Bevell in charge than Patricia.

Not that it matters if their defense can't stop anyone; in the time it took me to look all that up, the Bears put together a 12-play, 72-yard drive to extend the lead to 30-20 with 10 minutes left to go.

Bryan Knowles: Trubisky tries to lead a game-winning drive, but Allen Robinson goes out of bounds on third down a yard short of the marker -- he could have made it had he known where he was on the field. The Lions hold on fourth down, and they're going to win this football game!

Los Angeles Rams 38 at Arizona Cardinals 28

Dave Bernreuther: I'd love to see the dots on the opening score here ... Dan Arnold was "nobody else visible on the screen" wide-open for an easy touchdown before most people even joined the broadcast.

Also, this uniform combination (all-black with white helmet for a team named the Cardinals against bone) is awful.

Bryan Knowles: Since their opening touchdown drive, the Cardinals have 1 yard of tidal offense and a pair of punts. The Rams have also punted in that timeframe, but also have a turnover on downs and now, an 85-yard touchdown drive to tie things up at seven. On this last drive, Jared Goff did a good job standing up to pressure in his face -- no huge plays, barring maybe a 16-yard completion to Tyler Higbee, but no major mistakes and kept the team moving. It's kind of a bad sign for how his season is going that that's a good sign for him, but you take what you can get. All tied at seven early in the second quarter.

Dave Bernreuther: The Rams have called 21 passes and eight runs so far, 20 minutes into this game.

The Rams currently have the No. 1 run offense DVOA, by the way (and the Cardinals are very middle-of-the-pack in run defense), and Jared Goff is at 5 yards per attempt, even completing 70% of his passes.

I'm not one to argue with Sean McVay, but that is ... odd.

Dave Bernreuther: If I was feeling really mean I'd follow Vince's side-by-side box score photo from the Seahawks game with one of Kyler Murray and last week's Kendall Hinton. We're nearing halftime and Kyler is 1-for-8, with the one completion being one of the worst blown coverages of the year. Take that away and he's 0-for-7 with 4 yards rushing and -9 on two sacks. At least he hasn't turned the ball over ... but the Cardinals are about to close out the first half of a huge game for their playoff chances having run 16 plays for 62 yards, 59 of which came on the Arnold touchdown.

Kliff Kingsbury, meanwhile, is not using his three timeouts in an attempt to gain another drive this half. I suppose maybe the preceding paragraph could have something to do with that.

Dave Bernreuther: OK, two plays after he could/should have, Kingsbury stops the clock. It's also worth noting that they kick off to start the second half.

I know some people like him, but I remain unimpressed by his coaching acumen.

Bryan Knowles: The score is finally beginning to represent the actual results here, with the Rams up 224-61 in yards but only 14-7 in points. The Rams are 0-for-2 on fourth downs, which explains some of the gap there. It may not matter unless the Cardinals can find some gas for their offense in the second half; this is a pretty bad showing in the division.

Vince Verhei: After twice turning the ball over on downs inside Arizona territory, the Rams finally deliver in the red zone. Jared Goff hits Tyler Higbee for a 1-yard touchdown on third-and -- goal and the Rams are up 14-7.

Updating Dave's last Tweet: there have 22 completions in this game now. The Rams have 21 of them.

On the plus side, the Cardinals are averaging 59.0 yards per catch, which I assume would be a record.

Bryan Knowles: It would be, Vince, but not by as much as you'd think. Per PFR, the 1942 New York Giants had a game where they went one-for-one for 50 yards and a touchdown.

... that may be a lack of data in their database, but it also may just be World War II football being terrible.

Bryan Knowles: UPDATE: I have the New York Times boxscore from the year!

 

One yard rushing and one complete pass, and they win. Football sucked in the 1940s, I tell you what.

Bryan Knowles: Well, the Cardinals have woken up some here in the third quarter. Perhaps feeling the game getting away from them, the Cardinals attempted a fourth-and-12 from the Rams' 40-yard line, picking it up to keep their best drive of the day going. No highlight plays of note, really, and 75 yards in 15 plays isn't the most efficient way to play football, but death by a thousand papercuts is still death. It's now just a 17-14 Rams lead; we have a football game.

Bryan Knowles: While I was looking up stats, things went crazy in Arizona.

The Rams responded to the Cardinals' 75-yard touchdown drive with one of their own. Cam Akers is having a heck of a two weeks; he ran all over San Francisco last week and has been fairly effective today; his 22-yard reception was the big play there.

And then the Cardinals responded to that 75-yard touchdown drive with their own 75-yard touchdown drive, of sorts. They did have to punt, but the Rams muffed it, and the Cardinals got the ball back inside the red zone. So, after all that, it's 24-21 Rams as these two teams just march up and down the field against one another.

Bryan Knowles: "The Cardinals have the momentum!" the announcers proclaim, as the Rams line up for a third-and-11. And that momentum, apparently, allows them to simply not cover Gerald Everett, who picks up 22 yards and a new set of downs. A few plays later, Darrell Henderson rushes for 38 yards and a score, making it a 10-point Rams game once again. No word where the momentum is, but with 10:07 left, the Cardinals aren't out of this yet. They kind of have to score on this drive, but at least they're not out of it.

And, after three straight 75-yard touchdown drives, that last one was a welcome breath of fresh air: a 76-yard touchdown drive.

Dave Bernreuther: And there goes Henderson. Took a while, but now they look like a No. 1 rush offense. Goff, meanwhile, is well into respectable yards per attempt as well on 46 attempts.

Philadelphia Eagles 16 at Green Bay Packers 30

Scott Spratt: I like that CBS put up a graphic within the first five minutes of this game that showed how the Eagles have had bad continuity with their skill-position players in recent seasons and offensive line injuries this season. That's definitely the reason Carson Wentz has -822 passing DYAR this year, by far the worst among regular starters.

Eagles fans: Yeah, Wentz will be fine.

Scott Spratt: The Eagles managed just 90 yards of total offense in the first half and so naturally trail 14-3. I haven't been locked into this game, so I'm surprised to see in the boxscore that Jordan Howard has four carries versus just five for incumbent starter Miles Sanders. They just signed Howard last week after the Dolphins released him. Does anyone know what the deal is with that? Are the Eagles just grasping at straws since their season has gone so poorly?

Carl Yedor: As someone who had Sanders on his fantasy team last year, Philly loved using Howard over Sanders for reasons I never quite figured out when both were healthy, though it may have had something to do with Howard being more willing to decisively follow blocks instead of trying to hit home runs. Howard also had a massive game against the Packers last year, so I wouldn't be surprised if they still think he has some juice as a playmaker. I'm not saying it makes sense, but that might be the logic.

Scott Spratt: This not just in, Davante Adams is really good.

Bryan Knowles: In a week where many top teams have struggled -- see New Orleans and Seattle having trouble with clearly lesser opposition -- the Packers are staking their claim for top team in the NFC, at the very least. 20-3 after a 99-yard touchdown drive and you can pretty much put this one in the books already.

Dave Bernreuther: This time it was you scooping me by saying the exact same thing I was about to, Scott!

On their first touchdown drive, Adams' hands were just incredible on both the pass down to the 1 (blanketed, maintained possession going down) and on the touchdown itself. Earlier in this drive, on the deep pass, he caught it in tight coverage with what looked like only fingertips. And now for his second score, he looked to have no clear path (although it was more room than Jones had on the previous first-down run!) and managed to beat the defenders to the pylon anyway. He's having one heck of a game.

Aaron Schatz: Bryan, I think the Eagles also count as lesser opposition. : )

Bryan Knowles: Oh, most certainly. But at least the Eagles actually look like lesser competition today!

Aaron Schatz: The Eagles have done it. They put in Jalen Hurts. I believe he rolled left on his first three pass attempts, but one of them was a sweet 35-yard launch to fellow rookie Jalen Reagor.

Dave Bernreuther: First pass: a deep completion to Reagor. Very nice.

Next play: play-fake to nobody, rolls left for a loss. Not so much.

Bryan Knowles: Remember when I said the Packers were making a statement by handling their lesser competition? Uh, I take that back. Jalen Reagor just returned a punt 73 yards to the house, and it's 23-16 Packers with 6:30 left...

Bryan Knowles: It looks like the Packers will survive the late-game comeback from the Eagles, with Aaron Jones turning in a 77-yard touchdown run to give Green Bay a 30-17 lead with 2:36 left. That fourth quarter got more nail-bitey than anyone in Lambeau would have expected, and the Eagles should feel somewhat optimistic about what Jalen Hurts was able to do, but the result seems to be more or less out of question now.

New York Giants 17 at Seattle Seahawks 12

Vince Verhei: Seahawks lead 3-0 at the end of a quiet first quarter. They moved down the field with ease on their first drive but settled for a field goal. Second drive ended with a third-down sack when a stunt got a rusher unblocked right up the middle. Colt McCoy has had some surprising success thousand-cutting his way down the field, mostly with passes to former Seahawks star Golden Tate, but threw a tip-drill interception on a pass to Evan Engram near the edge of field goal range.

Tyler Lockett left the game with what looked like a neck injury when the top of his head collided with a defender's knee. They said he was evaluated for a concussion and cleared to return, but he's still on the sideline.

Most entertaining play design may be the Giants taking starting guard Shane Lemieux and sticking him at fullback on a second-and-1. He didn't really do anything on the play, but Elijhaa Penny did run for a first down.

Vince Verhei: Seahawks have a fourth-and-6 at the 37. Long field goal? Pass to DK Metcalf? Of course not! You intentionally take a delay of game and punt!

Michael Dickson's punt goes out of bounds at the 9. Including the delay of game, they gained 28 yards on the punt.

Scott Spratt: In related news, Vince, Pete Carroll landed at 29th in the critical call index in the 2020 debut of EdjSports' Coach Rankings last week.

Vince Verhei: Ahem.

Scott Spratt: The Seahawks may not need offense, Vince. Their special teams just blocked a punt, and while they couldn't fall on it in the end zone to score the touchdown, they still got the safety for batting it through the end zone. It's 5-0 Seahawks, and maybe that will be enough.

Carl Yedor: It appears that Jason Garrett may have taken his evil juju with him to New York. Some may have forgotten, but in the 2018 playoffs, Seattle lost to Dallas in the wild-card round while displaying an absolutely infuriating run-pass balance for most of the game. Seattle ran the ball over and over again despite 1) having next to no success with it and 2) shredding Dallas through the air almost every time they threw the ball. Prior to the game, general manager John Schneider made a comment (I think on radio maybe) to the effect of they were planning on having a good old-fashioned smashmouth game with the Cowboys that week. Now that Garrett has moved on from Dallas, Seattle had no qualms about throwing it all over the yard against the Cowboys this year, but they seem content to ugly it up with his new employer in the Giants. In keeping with that theme, it's 5-0 at halftime thanks to a last-second safety courtesy of a blocked punt.

Vince Verhei: Seahawks get a blocked punt for a safety late in the second quarter and lead 5-0 at halftime.

Russell Wilson is having a miserable game. He looks panicky and indecisive and hesitant, like he has never played in the NFL before. He's responding to pressure by completing passes for a loss or taking a needless intentional grounding foul. On his fumbled snap, he easily could have fallen on it behind the line of scrimmage, but tried to scoop it up instead and ended up kicking it forward for a New York recovery.

It doesn't help that James Bradberry has had a good game against DK Metcalf. Metcalf has three catches for 51 yards, which sounds OK for 30 minutes, but none of those catches have gotten any closer than the New York 36 -- he hasn't done anything to put points on the board.

Bryan Knowles: I know the Seahawks' offense is stuck in neutral today, but Pete Carroll is not helping. Facing fourth-and-2 from the 40, the Seahawks opt to punt. Two plays later, Wayne Gallman breaks free and runs 60 yards into the Seattle red zone, and two plays after that, Alfred Morris runs up the gut to get into the end zone. The two-point conversion is good, and you have your normal, everyday 8-5 score.

Vince Verhei: And the Giants take the lead on three straight runs: Wayne Gallman takes off down the left sideline for 60 yards, Alfred Morris goes left tackle for 13, and Morris finishes with the 4-yard touchdown. Giants get the two-pointer and lead 8-5.

Not that it ended up mattering, but it was Jamal Adams who chased Gallman down on the long run and allowed Jordyn Brooks to make the tackle. Brooks leads Seattle with eight tackles today; Adams is second with seven and also has another sack.

Dave Bernreuther: I was surprised to learn that 8-5 makes it >50% more likely (33.0% to 20.8%) that this game ends in a Scorigami. Because I'm a jerk, I'm rooting for the NFL's first 8-8 game. It would make the NFC East "race" even more interesting.

Vince Verhei: Fourth-and-1 at midfield. You're down by a field goal. Your running back has 56 yards on nine carries; your quarterback has 41 on five. Not even Pete Carroll could punt here, and he doesn't ... but it's a play-fake and a bootleg? The Giants are 100% not fooled, nobody is open, and Wilson's pass under pressure isn't close to complete.

And then Gallman runs for 13, and then 23, and then McCoy hits Morris for a 6-yard touchdown. Point after is no good, but the lead is up to 14-5 now.

The announcers, of course, credit McCoy for that touchdown drive instead of Gallman or Morris, but that is low on my list of concerns right now.

Bryan Knowles: Vince, it seems like the Seahawks' defensive line is on skates, as every time I flip over, someone's running backwards. Am I flipping back at bad times, or are the Giants really bullying them that much up front?

Carl Yedor: Seattle finally chooses to go for it on fourth down but come up short. The Giants take advantage of good field position and quickly take advantage with a touchdown drive that only requires McCoy to drop back once. McCoy hit Alfred Morris on a rollout to the flat for a walk-in touchdown. Graham Gano misses the extra point, so New York's lead is 14-5. Coincidentally, Seattle has lost a game 14-5 before; it happened in 2016 against the Buccaneers.

Dave Bernreuther: Damn it, Graham Gano. How do you doink what could've been a 15-5 lead?

Vince Verhei: Bryan, you are not wrong. Every run play for the Giants in the second half starts 4 yards downfield.

Russell Wilson continues to have a terrible day. So are the announcers.

Vince Verhei: Wilson's pass to Chris Carson is tipped to Darnay Holmes for the interception. That's Wilson's 11th interception of the year, tying his career high. That gives New York the ball inside the Seattle 40, but they go nowhere. On fourth-and-1, Graham Gano hits a 48-yard field goal to turn a two-possession score into a ... slightly different two-possession score, 17-5.

Dave Bernreuther: Fourth-and-1 at the 30, up by nine as a big underdog, and you ... kick a freaking field goal? Shame on you, Joe Judge. Takes that two-score lead to ... a two-score lead. WIth just enough time for Russ to get hot, too.

Vince Verhei: Seattle's top two right tackles, Brandon Shell and Cedric Ogbuehi, were both inactive today. Jamarco Jones started, but now he's out with a groin injury. So it's fourth-stringer Chad Wheeler in at right tackle, giving up a sack to Jabaal Sheard. But a holding penalty on New York gives Seattle new life after that, and Wilson rolls out to his left, away from Wheeler, and finds Carson on a corner route. Carson catches the ball at the 2 and steps across the goal line for a 28-yard touchdown. The lead is cut to 17-12 with just over six minutes to go.

Vince Verhei: McCoy throws for a pair of first downs. We're at the two-minute warning now. Giants have a third-and-5 at the Seattle 42. Seahawks do have two timeouts left, but one more first down should still just about finish this one off.

Vince Verhei: McCoy's third-down pass is incomplete. And then the Giants ... punt? From the 42?

The ball goes into the end zone for a touchback and a 22-yard net gain. Seahawks have 1:48 and two timeouts to go 80 yards and win.

Vince Verhei: The Seahawks cross midfield, but then on first down Wilson overthrows David Moore and Julian Love drops what should have been a game-sealing interception. Third down, the Giants use another one of the stunts that has given Seattle trouble all day for the sack and forcing Seattle to call their last timeout. Fourth-and-18, Wilson scrambles and throws a Hail Mary -- which I don't think was the plan -- but it's batted incomplete and the Giants win.

I mean, the Giants win. It wasn't a fluke, they outgained Seattle 5.3 yards per play to 4.7. They were +1 in turnovers, but gave that back on the blocked punt. They were the better team today. Colt McCoy's first win as a starter since 2014.

Unbelievable. One of the biggest upsets of the year and one of the worst Seattle losses of the Wilson era.

Bryan Knowles: Did the Seahawks close at -10 or -11 favorites? The Raiders were 11-point underdogs against the Chiefs in their win, which would be the only other game this season to really challenge this one.

Carl Yedor: On one hand, I was watching the game today and was thoroughly mystified by the fact that Seattle wasn't moving the ball at will. Maybe being down to your third-string and subsequently fourth-string right tackles played a role in that, but it didn't seem like they were getting consistently worked. Either no one was getting open or Wilson wasn't seeing guys down the field, but it seemed like there were a ton of plays where he was holding the ball forever without anyone coming open. On the other hand, it's hard to say that the Giants were lucky to win the game. Sure, the interception was a little fluky, but Seattle got a similar tipped pick early in the game. Seattle had five drives that were in New York territory at some point but did not result in any points, due to a mix of sacks, penalties, and timid coaching. Is Wilson so concerned about turning the ball over that he isn't seeing guys and attempting throws that he should be? It isn't 100% clear, but Seattle needs to get this fixed if they're serious about making a playoff run.

New England Patriots 45 at Los Angeles Chargers 0

Scott Spratt: The Chargers entered this week with by far the worst special teams at -12.7% DVOA. And that probably just got even worse as the team allowed Gunner Olszewski to return a punt for a 70-yard touchdown to put the Patriots up 14-0 early in the second quarter.

Scott Spratt: Wow, CBS just showed a graphic that the Patriots have won 94 straight games after leading by 14 or more points at the half. Unsurprisingly, that is an NFL record. The Pats are a minute and a half away from that halftime lead barring something crazy here. They are in the red zone poised to expand on their 14-0 lead.

Aaron Schatz: This game is like the platonic ideal of what the 2020 Patriots are supposed to be. The defense looks much better than usual. Stephon Gilmore is shutting down Keenan Allen. There's an actual pass rush getting to Justin Herbert. The offense is all rushing and short passes. They're winning 21-0 even though Cam Newton has a grand total of 42 passing yards. He has two rushing touchdowns. Add in the strong special teams play, and like I said, platonic ideal. One thing I've noticed: Newton is throwing quickly more often, and when the pocket breaks down, he's taking off and scrambling sooner than he did earlier in the year.

And just as I was about to send this, the Patriots block a field goal attempt and return it for a touchdown to take a 28-0 lead into halftime. Yikes.

Bryan Knowles: The Chargers' special teams nightmares continue. They move into field goal range at the end of the first half, but Michael Badgley has his field goal blocked, New England scoops it up, and scores a touchdown.

It's so rare for a team to be so bad at all aspects of special teams...

Dave Bernreuther: CBS also kindly told us, prior to Newton's second touchdown run, that the Chargers had allowed 15 straight touchdowns in red zone possessions. So now 16. That's not so good.

On the next possession, Herbert was mid-jump for a desperation pass when he realized he didn't have anyone open (smart), and thus tossed it to his lineman (less so). Two flags flew, but one was picked up, leaving only the Chargers with the illegal touch call. Not sure how they didn't get Chase Winovich for the defensive holding there, though, as he had his man by the jersey and shoulder pads before his illegal touch.

The Chargers then line up to kick ... and we get ANOTHER block and score. Patriots special eams now have two scores to match Newton's. It's looking an awful lot like 2019 all of a sudden (although that was more defense than special teams on the game-flipping scores)...

Scott Spratt:

The broadcast earlier mentioned that the Patriots are the least penalized team in football, Aaron. So add that to the list of what Belichick wanted this team to be.

Scott Spratt: Look how Chase Winovich bides his time to bait Justin Herbert into this interception and then makes the great hustle play.

He seems like he's going to be a quintessential Patriots defender. Also, he is clear evidence that Justin Herbert shouldn't have gotten a haircut.

Scott Spratt: I can't really blame announcers for trying to fill air time with the Patriots now up 35-0 here. But I feel like the "Bill Belichick is 20-5 against rookie quarterbacks" storyline misses the mark on the fact that the Patriots have been really good in general and have routinely beaten bad teams whoever their quarterbacks were.

Vince Verhei: A further note on the Chargers' special teams: Nora Princiotti from The Ringer points out the Chargers have punted three times today, and have had the wrong number of players on the field for two of them.

Dave Bernreuther: Speaking of things other writers have said about this game, Mike Reiss called Olszewski's punt return touchdown in an ESPN preview.

Meanwhile, in a 35-0 game, Kenneth Murray is celebrating a "tackle" when Cam Newton slid to give himself up behind the line of scrimmage on a designed run to nowhere.

Dave Bernreuther: Jarrett Stidham comes in and leads the Patriots straight downield for another score -- passing for nearly as many yards on three attempts as Newton did all game, by the way -- and this game is now 45-0, although the Chargers are driving to save a bit of face here in the endgame.

Denver Broncos 16 at Kansas City Chiefs 22

Scott Spratt: Oof. Drew Lock was actually moving the ball on the Broncos' opening drive, highlighted by a 37-yard completion to tight end Noah Fant. But it looked like he just threw that ball up for grabs in the red zone, and safety Tyrann Mathieu pulled it down for an interception.

It felt like the Broncos needed to play mistake-free football to remain competitive tonight. This is the sort of start you'd expect in a multi-score Chiefs win.

Scott Spratt: I don't think Vic Fangio has the disposition for it, but I would have loved to see the Broncos go for that fourth-and-2 from their own 40-yard line. As the inferior team, I think it helps your chances to take a few of those higher-variance chances.

Carl Yedor: I think Denver's earlier decision to kick the field goal on fourth-and-2 from the Kansas City 35 may have confirmed that Fangio doesn't have the disposition for it. Denver then gets bailed out when Kansas City neglects to challenge what might have been a touchdown to Tyreek Hill that was ruled incomplete. It sure looked like it was incomplete in real time, so I don't blame the ref, but after glancing at the review on the broadcast, it looked like the ball never actually hit the ground before landing in Hill's arms on a deep shot. Still 3-3 for now.

Scott Spratt: Woah, Tyreek Hill caught that ball. He seemed to drop a deep pass in the end zone, but it sort of pinned between him and his defender such that it never touched the ground.

The refs didn't realize it on the field, and then Andy Reid punted without a challenge. Huge break for the Broncos who improbably remain tied at 3-3.

Scott Spratt: And now Melvin Gordon just ran for 63 yards? This is a game of improbabilities! It makes me think maybe the Broncos really can win.

Bryan Knowles: I will note that the last two times the Chiefs wore red-over-red, they lost -- to the Colts in 2019, and to the Chargers in 2018.

This is definitely relevant.

Scott Spratt: What a rollercoaster for the Broncos to end the first half. First, Noah Fant tipped a screen pass to himself and caught it, setting up a play that looked likely to gain the Broncos a lot of yards and a new first down. But then Fant failed to follow his blocker and got taken down short by Tyrann Mathieu. Brandon McManus missed the subsequent 57-yard field goal attempt, which gave Patrick Mahomes 28 seconds to go down the field. He promptly did that with chunk completions to Mecole Hardman and Travis Kelce, the latter of which featured Kelce throwing defenders on the ground with stiffarms. But then defensive tackle Shelby Harris batted down Mahomes' pass headed toward the end zone with seven seconds left in the half. That prompted the Chiefs to settle for their third field goal, and the Broncos came out of all of that still up 10-9. Phew.

Aaron Schatz: The Chiefs just stalled out in the red zone again. Broncos had everyone covered and Jeremiah Attaochu beat Mike Remmers. Kansas City's inability to score touchdowns tonight (well, touchdowns that they realize they scored) is baffling.

Aaron Schatz: The Chiefs are doing it again. Yes, they finally got a touchdown by Travis Kelce, but they're letting yet another opponent hang around in the fourth quarter. We keep hearing about how dominating this team is supposed to be and they keep playing close games. Today the problem is some bad luck combined with the Broncos' defensive line getting pressure. They've dropped a couple of big passes. Tyreek Hill just had a big touchdown called back on holding. On one hand, if so many things go wrong for Kansas City and they're still winning, what happens when they stop having bad luck? But on the other hand, at some point won't some opponent be able to make up that last bit of difference in the fourth quarter?

Bryan Knowles: I generally agree with you, even though we saw the Chiefs pull out all those come-from-behind victories in the playoffs last year. I do wonder, however, if the Chiefs' ability to crank up extremely quick-paced offensive strikes gives them a cushion that, say, the Pittsburgh Steelers don't have at their disposal when they struggle with mediocre teams? I have no idea if that's at all backed up by anything statistical, just a passing thought.

But yeah. If the Chiefs are the best team in football, you'd expect them to have some bigger leads from time to time.

Aaron Schatz: Huge mistake by Denver to punt on fourth-and-3 at midfield. Chiefs back in four plays to where they would have been if the Broncos had gone for fourth down and failed.

Aaron Schatz: Chiefs kick the dreaded field goal that goes up six but I have my doubts that the Broncos can come back and score a touchdown in 1:04 without a timeout.

Carl Yedor: The Chiefs settled for their own passive play on fourth-and-3, but they opted for a field goal instead of trying to go for it to ice the game while Denver punted. Not sure what the win probability numbers are there, but if you're Denver, you have to be happy that you're at least getting the ball back with a chance to win the game. I don't have a lot of faith in Drew Lock with no timeouts and a minute left, though it would be a great time for him to have one of the first signature drives against a good team in his young career.

Carl Yedor: Never mind. Lock throws a pick on fourth down, and Kansas City escapes.

Comments

169 comments, Last at 08 Dec 2020, 10:56pm

1 Gregg Williams is simply…

Gregg Williams is simply extraordinary; fwiw, the Chiefs game was kept artificially close by an atrocious night for the refs (missed td, had the incorrectly flagged delay-of-game actually had an impact it would've been one of the most egregious officiating jobs I've ever seen)

51 Delay of Game

I was really hoping the delay of game "penalty" was going to play a big role in the outcome; it would have offset the one the referees missed in the Monday Night game a couple years ago when Mahomes got the snap a full second after the clock had expired and KC converted a crucial third down. 

139 Delay of Game

In reply to by BroncFan07

QBs get extra seconds at the end of the play clock all the time. The 49ers got one on 4th and 10 in the Super Bowl last year. I have never seen a premature one after having seen a couple hundred thousand snaps in my lifetime.

144 It sure seemed like a quick…

In reply to by kcmiz24

It sure seemed like a quick whistle, since I was watching on DVR I went frame by frame and the ball was through the centers legs with 1 on the play clock. It was definitely the first time I've seen it and the announcers sort of mentioned it but were not as shocked as I was. 

158 It happens and there's even…

It happens and there's even an explanation for it: the ref is looking at the clock and when it reaches zero he turns to look at the ball to see if it's been snapped, which gives the offense an extra fraction of a second.

2 It wasn't McCain taking a…

It wasn't McCain taking a bad angle on the Bengals' touchdown, it was #24, Byron Jones. And he probably would have had Boyd, had Brandon Allen on the outside not managed to push his receiver so far back that he got in the way. Byron Jones should probably have seen it and adjusted. 

Regarding the first set of ejections, Gene Steratore explained it well during the broadcast. New York did the ejecting, but only the officials can throw flags and they only threw one on Boyd. So when it went to New York to determine ejections, they could toss Howard from the game, but not add an offsetting penalty. 

About the huge brawl - it wasn't really a brawl and three ejected players was the absolute max you could have gotten unless you start ejecting players and coaches simply for coming off the bench, in which case I'm not sure ANYONE would have been left to play the game. Personally,  I would probably just have ejected Parker, but considering the refs/ New York had set a level of shove=ejection, that wasn't realistic.

Anyway, the Dolphins were extremely upset because Bengals' gunner Mike Thomas had just leveled Dolphins' returner Grant well before the ball got there. On the previous punt, Thomas launched himself crown first into Grant. Two dirty plays, both penalized, but when the injury risk is that great, players react. And when it happens twice in a row with the same "offender" and "victim"...

6 The fact that the same…

The fact that the same gunner did the same thing to Grant on consecutive returns is the root cause. When that happens it looks premeditated even if it's not. For the record, I don't think it was-if Grant doesn't muff the first punt, then it's probably not a foul.I thought Taylor was bold to have Thomas back as the gunner for the next punt-if anything had gone wrong, then it would probably have got very ugly. As it happens fair catch and no drama, but it was a risk.

Onto football, Miami need to stop throwing the EZ fade all the damn time, and their run game stinks. That line gets no movement at all. It's most noticable in short yardage/ RZ, which is why the fakes/ST crazy plays are defensible, but where it will hurt most is trying to kill clock against good teams.

I imagine the projections for 2021 are going to hate Miami-and probably fairly. Below average offense, good pass D that's inflated by takeaways and the best ST in the league screams regression, so the O needs to get better in a hurry. Tua isn't going to get away with 2 dropped INTS a game his whole career.

Finally, your HC probably shouldn't get involved when the bench clears, but you love to see it...

7 Apparently Taylor's trying…

Apparently Taylor's trying to change the narrative on himself from "incompetent" to "evil".  Thomas should have been benched after the first egregious penalty, certainly after the second one.  It was inexcusable to be sending him out there again on the next punt.  Not content with getting his own rookie QB injured by calling game plans that fail to recognize the inability of his O-line to pass block, now he's trying to ruin the careers of opposition players, too.

PS Flores was correct to call himself out after the game for losing his cool.  On the other hand, he was also correct to lose his cool.  His players already seemed to love him.  They all love him even more, now.  That guy has his locker room, and it should pay dividends for the Fins in the years to come.

9 The first call wasn't kick…

The first call wasn't kick catch interference, it was unnecessary roughness because he lead with the crown of his helmet. It was a textbook example of the way players are absolutely not allowed to tackle anymore. As long as the target is stationary, that will get called every single time.

As for the end zone fades, I've never liked them. Ever. And Tua doesn't seem like he's comfortable putting a lot of touch on the ball. He'll generally just rifle it.

No question the Dolphins are outperforming right now, but an improved offensive line could see them avoid too much regression overall. Note that the Dolphins were starting 3 rookies on the offensive line. I don't have the stats, but I would assume lines doing that 1) aren't generally going to be great and 2) are probably going to be better the next year.

23 All levels, and always has…

All levels, and always has been.

https://www.nata.org/sites/default/files/headdowncontactandspearingintacklefb.pdf
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1318352/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16558147/

This has been known since the early 90s at latest, and really since the mid-70s when Torg figured out why paralysis was happening (which was itself confirmed in the mid-90s).

It's telling, though, that the film analysis suggests offensive players do it at least as often as defenders and quite a bit more in some studies. They just do it in the trash instead of out in the open on a QB, and reffing it just so gosh darn hard that no one bothers them about it.

26 Hard to know

I think young teams like Miami tend to trend upward in their projections. I think Football outsiders QB growth has Tua making a step up next year to adequate. Their number 2, 3, 4 wide outs will be back in the projection and Hollins abd company won't be on the team. Wilson will be running those fly patterns and Grant will be back to doing what he does well, PR and short passes in space. They might also draft a WR and pick up someone in FA. Their young oline talent should also step up after a real off-season. The big question mark is running back. They projected them to stink and they've not failed to live up to expectations. They got to hit that position in the draft and FA again. Their defense is tougher because I'm not sure it's "young". Most of the improvement is coming from FA and older vets. Wilkins seems like just a guy to me, Davis has improved some as the year has progressed, and there is youth on the sidelines waiting to step in next year.  

As for the game, fans think Tua played better than I imagine the outsiders opponent adjustment will showed him to have played. They're passing to set up the run in the second half worked a lot better than their smash mouth to set up nothing in the first. But 4 field goals isn't exactly explosive. They are what they are, but there's a lot to be optimistic about here. Are they Super Bowl bound or 10-6 to 7-9 year after year bound. IDK.  

72 The Dolphins have 4 picks in…

In reply to by johonny

The Dolphins have 4 picks in the first two rounds of the 2021 draft; as long as the Texans keep losing, they may get a top five pick, certainly a top ten pick.  They also have some cap room and won't need to cut anyone.  As long as their management stays as smart as they have been they're a playoff contender next year.

131 Results so far suggest they…

Results so far suggest they have fewer holes than I suspected going into the year.  If they hit on half of next year's top draft choices and add a couple of veterans in free agency, they should have a pretty good team.

 

53 Yeah, I'm tired of those…

Yeah, I'm tired of those fades, too. It's almost as if Gailey doesn't trust Tua in the red zone. Or the running game, but that's obvious. I agree DVOA won't love the Dolphins next year, but it's still a good positioned team with lots of young talent, lots more draft picks, and a much-improved coaching staff from last year (Flores overhauled his staff over the offseason, which didn't generate a lot of confidence in him).

3 Pack Attack

After failing to draft a receiver or sign a big free agent wideout, I doubt anyone predicted that Green Bay would lead the league in scoring after 12 games. Adams is fantastic, Jones is a weapon. The rest of the WRs are walk ons and hanger ons. Rodgers could play five more years directing this offense. Add one more top flight WR and the offense could be lights out good.

38 Don't know what their snaps…

Don't know what their snaps counts were yesterday, but hoping that Lazard's targets will ramp up as he continues working his way back. Glad to see Rodgers trusting him along the sideline on a couple of plays.

It's kind of crazy given how efficient the GB passing offense is, but the receiving group is *still* clearly leaving yards and points on the field. MVS dropped another bomb that would have put the Packers in the red zone on a drive where they punted, and ESB dropped what would have been a nice 3rd down conversion around midfield. MVS has actually made enough plays this season that he probably adds up to be net-neutral or slight net-positive, but man, just imagine this offense with someone more reliable in that role.

49 My fear is they see all that

and pass on a WR for the 3rd straight year. Instead of being like the Chiefs and with Hill and Watkins (and Kelce) and still picking Hardman. Or even now the Bills who had Beasley and Brown and still traded for Diggs AND drafted Gabriel Davis. 

Crazy to think we could've been the clear cut favorite had we just not decided to go all out future in the draft/trade deadline. Crazy to think they thought it was about time to move on from Rodgers...absolutely insane to me.

61 The Chiefs receivers are…

The Chiefs receivers are pretty Reidian, and in retrospect are informative in how he handled the Eagles WR position -- only Watkins is a high draft pick, and he was a FA pickup. Hill was a 5th rounder. Kelce was 3rd. Hardman was 2nd (bottom of the 2nd, even). Pringle was undrafted.

He tends to draft athletic prospects and hope he can make a receiver out of them. This has worked really well for the Chiefs and worked less well for the Eagles, as he had no luck drafting WR for the Eagles for the longest time, but DeSean Jackson sort of set the mold for him.

78 Call me crazy, but I'm…

Call me crazy, but I'm beginning to think of WRs similarly to RBs in terms of their value, especially as draft picks. Is there any evidence that using a high pick, especially a first rounder, on a WR is worth it? I'm not saying they are as fungible as RBs, but I think there is a significant case to be made that the added value they contribute are as dependent on the QB situation as a RB's is on the OL.

In trying to find data to back this up, I found this which includes the following quote: "19 of the 77 wide receivers taken in the first round this century have or had fewer than 100 career receptions in the NFL." And only 21 of those 77 made the Pro Bowl, ever. 

Are there talent differences among WRs? Of course. The Packers were **roasted** for not drafting a WR, but maybe they were onto something. Or maybe they were scooped by the Vikings for Jefferson and all of this is fitting a story to the data.

81 As someone who has done…

As someone who has done draft analysis on this, I can tell you...the higher the pick, the higher the probability that the receiver becomes a success. Yes there are exceptions and we remember them, but they are still exceptions. 

The one position where this doesn't seem to be the case btw is tight end. 

84 Well sure but that’s true…

Well sure but that’s true with many positions, including RB. But is the added chance of a high pick WR succeeding more or less than that of other skill positions? In other words, is it worth spending a high pick on a WR, or will we come to see them as system dependent in a similar way we view RBs (but maybe not to the same degree)?

101 I think there is a clear…

I think there is a clear difference between the elite receivers and the non elite one's. You can craft a good passing game without having one, but it requires multiple competent players plus the QB.

 

But honestly, how do you think Rodgers would look right now if you gave him Julio Jones or DK Metcalf? We all wondered if Jordy Nelson's injury would hurt Rodgers a while back and it did. 

Receivers matter imo and are a far ways from running backs. 

113 Again, I'm just trying to…

Again, I'm just trying to say that yes there is a difference between elite and non-elite, but is it worth the price difference you would have to pay to acquire said elite player? No one is questioning that the Packers offense would be better with Julio Jones or DK Metcalf on board. But what's the opportunity cost there? Is valuable draft capital or cap space best allocated to an All-Pro-level receiver, or is a better investment in the OL? Is it context-dependent, and where money should be invested varies on a case by case basis?

All of this is intended to generate discussion.

They (Jones and Metcalf) have two very different costs that somewhat get back to what I was trying to get at to start with, which is that the Packers have been vilified for not spending a high draft pick in recent memory on a WR (including some comments in this sub-thread which is what spurred me to comment). But seemingly the offense is functioning at a very high level without doing so.

The Seahawks got Metcalf at the end of the second round, which is obviously fantastic value. The Falcons paid a heavy price for Julio in draft capital, and also in high dollar contracts. Both are playing very well this year. But Allen Lazard has a higher DVOA than both, and he was undrafted.

120 I would have been more ok…

I would have been more ok with the Packers' decision not to draft a WR if they had made decent investments with their 2nd and 3rd round picks, but they went RB in the 2nd round and TE/FB in the 3rd, two positions that are not at all hard to fill with late-round or undrafted talent. (Just see their current starters at those positions!)

124 Yeah, see this part I agree…

Yeah, see this part I agree with. Dillon was probably a reach, and Deguara definitely was. Slightly in their defense, all the good WRs were scooped before Dillon. But they probably could've traded up or otherwise made moves.

123 Ok, so let's put the…

Ok, so let's put the situation back to the draft. You have a chance to draft a first round receiver or pass and go for other positions of note. Which position would prioritize over receiver? I can get behind things like defensive end or perhaps a good corner prospect, but honestly, I don't think safety or linebacker or left tackle or guard is going to be any more valuable than a receiver would.

Sure the offense is doing just fine as is. That speaks to the fact they have a terrific receiver in Adams, a really rb in Jones, and Rodgers. So I suppose you could argue his value in that context is not going to add that much. However, I would take the pains to point out two things. First, we need to be thinking about multiple seasons, not just this one. Adams may decline or get too expensive or in the worst case, get injured and now suddenly there's a massive drop off. How much of a trickle down effect is there if Adams is out of the lineup. We also need to consider a day when Rodgers truly does suffer an age related decline. A better receiving core will help offset some of that.

But aside from the theoretical arguments, I think the reasons why people were clamoring for a receiver was because they perceived the decline in Rodgers resulting from a lack of receiving options. The thinking went...Rodgers has declined in play for two years now. He still looks like Rodgers physically, so it must be the receivers who are to blame. I certainly understood and probably agreed with this line of thinking. I still do btw. I think Rodgers is having a remarkable season that would look even better if he had a better receiving core. I think next year he's unlikely to be as good as he is this year(though probably still a lot better than what he was a year ago); but they will need receiving help imo if they want to remain an elite functioning pass offense. I still feel like this receiving core is too reliant on Adams and Rodgers for brilliance. 

125 Yeah thinking about multiple…

Yeah thinking about multiple seasons is the way to go, really in all cases. I think adding a WR could have boosted the offense/Rodgers down the line, maybe. The most important decision they made to boost Rodgers' value was to hire LaFleur; he has seemingly bumped Rodgers back up to MVP level and that is no small feat.

I'm not necessarily going to make this case, but there certainly is a case to be made that picking Jordan Love was the pick that made the most sense to add long-term value to the team. Especially if they thought Rodgers was going to stay at just a good to very good level of play over the next few years. Obviously Rodgers improved, which has made the decision to draft Love look bad in retrospect. But the reasoning is there and not crazy.

I think they messed up with Dillon and Deguara, but I think there's a decent chance they let both Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams walk this offseason. Cap is more restrictive, and they've got Dillon as a low-cost backup plan. So if that is true, or even if the presence of Dillon lets them keep Jones at a lower contract value than they might have otherwise (unlikely), that's decent value on the pick. Not great or good, but decent. Deguara is harder to justify, they seemingly thought he was a perfect fit but they absolutely could've gotten him a round or two later.

Moving forward, WR is still a priority but their number 1 priority should be adding a fast off-ball LB, imo. They don't grow on trees but it is so, so needed.

165 This all seems very hand…

This all seems very hand-wavey.  What's the career AV per draft slot for a WR vs other positions?  What does the career AV curve look like for WR as a function of draft slot?  If career AV isn't a measure you can get behind, then how would you quantify that draft value?  Something should be better than "my general impression is that DE and CB provide better value than WR, but not S or LT or G." 

138 Need to compare failures in draft at other positions

I would love to see a study of your viewpoint regarding the value of a WR.  Larry Fitzgerald, until falling off this year has had the widest range of QB's imaginable and has been excellent throughout his career.  Terry McLaurin on Washington is off to a great start regardless of which bad QB Washington has started.

I hope that your premise is correct, it is certainly extremely interesting, especially to a Ravens fan such as myself who view wide receivers as guys that:

A.  Block successfully on running plays

B.  Drop passes throw by the QB

C.  Have been on many winning teams over the past two decades despite their failures (supporting your argument)

D.  Win games for the opponent by make spectacular catches and runs after the catch, despite playing against a quality defense (support against your argument).

The Ravens have failed a number of times on WR 1st round picks (Mark Clayton 22nd pick, Travis Taylor 10th pick, Breshad Perriman (27th pick). 

I do wonder though as to the failure rate of draft picks at other positions on both offense and defense.  This would be another interesting study. 

First round picks at all positions are often failures.  You will never believe who the median QB pick is in the 1st or second round (Scroll down to see FO Brian Knowles comment #106 below).

143 I get the thought process,…

I get the thought process, you're basically asking about the Packers draft strategy, and I do wish they would change it, but I'm not sure it would be better if they did.

I do want to touch on something I haven't seen in any of this discussion is how many WR you can start. You already have the best WR in the game on your team. You spend your first round draft pick on a WR who turns out to be just as good as the current best WR in the game. How much did you lose there? How many other positions can you do this with and not run into diminishing returns really fast? If you put the 3 best WR in the game on the same team you would still likely get good to great production out of them all. What about 4? Even with only 1 being able to catch, the other 2, 3, or 4 affect the defense.

If you put 4 Julio Jones on the Eagles even PTSD Wentz is going to find one of them. Yes slot receivers do have a different skill set, but most of the outside guys can still do amazing things in the slot and if you have 3 or 4 players of that caliber?

Sure having 4 Darrelle Revis would be huge too, but a couple of them would be playing out of position (unless facing the 4 Julio Jones). Is a Revis at safety better than an Ed Reed or even an Adrian Amos? How fast does that value fall off? I think CB is the closest position to WR in how much value you can get out of the next best one on your team.

Offensive line? The 5 positions are different. It's not just a matter of your best player at LT, next at RT, etc. Of course the very best lineman could adapt, but again is a Joe Thomas at center that much better than a Corey Linsley? How much crap did Dallas get for drafting Travis Fredrick in the first round? Even with 5 starters, given career length, how many do you need?

Pass rushers? You can get multiples on the field together and having a good back-up matters more on the defensive front than most other positions because of rotations. Maybe 4 JJ Watts or Aaron Donalds would work, but I don't want 4 Zadarius Smiths on the field all the time. 

QB? The back-up should never see the field so while it may have future value, it has nearly zero current value. 

RB? Again you can have multiple on the field together, but they are going to affect the defense less than the WR will, and some of them are essentially going to end up being WR if you get more than say 3. 

Of course that's using outliers when thinking about performance. Even using your link how much did you give up if you only get 6.5 years, 62 starts, 309 rec, 4260 yards, and 26 TD out of the player (that is the average of the numbers given, not normalized at all so that penalizes recent picks). Two of the 77 didn't get at least 1 TD. I mean if your WR 2, 3, or 4 is getting 9 starts, 47 rec, 652 yards, 4 TD is that awful? You have an 11% chance of that player being an All Pro level player too based on that data.

Obviously the calculus of drafting has to include opportunity costs, but WR seems like the one position where if you already have the best getting the best again still provides a big return. 

 

Of course this is coming from the fan of a team that never tries to get the All Pro in the first round. The highest pick they have spent since drafting Rodgers was 2008-2nd-36th for Nelson in 2008. That was their first pick of the draft too, they traded out of the first round and took him at the top of the 2nd. Jennings was 2006-2nd-52nd (Favre still starter), Adams was 2014-2nd-53rd, Cobb was 2011-2nd-64th, Jones was 2007-3rd-78th. Those 5 are the only players to lead the team in receiving while he was a starter. Just to note on the rest of the current crop MVS 2018-5th-174th, ESB 2018-6th-207th, Lazard 2018-UDFA, Tonyan TE 2018-UDFA. So sure you can get Pro Bowl receivers without spending 1st round capital but I wish they would spend it. 

 

Watching a team with 4 pro bowl caliber receivers at the same time (Nelson, Jennings, Driver, Cobb) it sure was fun. One was a rookie and another at the end of his career but they had them and Finley at TE never made the Pro Bowl but probably should have. This year they only have 1 (Adams) and are doing similar things, but they also have a much better running game this year (Williams and Jones are way better than Grant and Starks). Replacing any of the 2011 WR with Adams, who might be All Pro level would have made that team better though.

The thing is in recent years the Packers may not have missed on getting a great WR in the first. That is the question you want answered too is GNB better when Rashan Gary and/or Darnell Savage than it would be with Marquis Brown and/or Deebo Samuel (2019 picks GNB had 2 first round picks and both those receivers were taken after). Or 2018 is Jaire Alexander vs D.J. Moore, or Calvin Ridley. The offense would clearly be better with any of those receivers all of them are better than what is behind Adams.

I'm not sure the team would be better but I think it would be. As bad as the defense is Alexander is a great player and I'm not sure they would be better off with a better WR and a lesser corner. However, while Gary and Savage are both starting to make splash plays I'm not sure they are that much better than players that could have been had later and they could still have had one of them and still had a better WR2. That could have been the difference in the Indy or Minn loss. It's hard to say.

 

Of course that plan of take a some WR in 2nd or 3rd round nearly every year and than take fliers on 4th-7th round guys was a Thompson style. Things have changed, they haven't picked a single WR since 2018. Take from that what you will. If you have a HoF QB you can get away with it, clearly. Though they haven't been to Super Bowl since the 2010 season either...

 

104 Never said where

Just draft vs undrafted. Trying to scrap the UDFA bin for the 2nd most valuable position probably isnt the way to go. Also the Bills have nothing to do with Reid. Should've mentioned the Steelers too. Johnson and Juju are a nice pair. Still went for Claypool and it's working out perfectly so far.

66 "Crazy to think they thought…

"Crazy to think they thought it was about time to move on from Rodgers...absolutely insane to me."

To be fair, Rodgers had been declining in his play for over three seasons and had an injury history. Its not that his play this season has surprised me, I knew that player still potentially existed, it was just that I would not have been surprised if he continued his shallow decline again. 

In any case, even the declining Rodgers was a net positive at QB and was uncuttable for at least 2 more seasons so drafting his replacement now was insane for that reason. 

108 They had just extended him in 2018

He had 4 years left. And they picked a guy that cant contribute in a way like Taysom or Hurts does (to enjoy his cheap(est) years to even a small degree). And even if he continued, like he said himself, his worst is others best. Akin to Steve Young/Jim Druckenmiller

136 Rodgers just came off of 13-3 with a NFCCG appearance

But Favre was waffling with retirement. That's a big catch. Rodgers also kept saying he wanted to play into his 40s and retire with the team. He also fell to them, no trade up. Love isnt near the prospect Rodgers was and it's time we stop comparing the situations as such. 

76 Lazard is a legit #3 and his…

Lazard is a legit #3 and his continued development could make him a legit #2. It isn't just playing in this offense allowing him to make plays. The flashes he had last year were signs of development. He had surgery on a "core muscle" and while football players are not like most humans, he can't be 100% yet. So I expect him to continue to get better as the season progresses. 

ESB is essentially in the second half of his rookie season, even though it's year 3. Just circumstances with injuries. I still don't know if he can be a legit #3 or not. Some of the mistakes he's made have felt like "rookie mistakes". His grace period is running out rapidly though. 

MVS is what he is. He can run fast, he can make a few great cuts, but he can't seem to run the whole route tree. His catch rate is less than 50% and Rodgers accuracy this year is as good as it's ever been. That says a lot. Rodgers is not an easy guy to work with if you get on his bad side. I don't think MVS will ever be anything more than what he is now in GB. He could be a player where a change of scenery really helps him though. I rip him a lot because I want him to be as good as he looks. I don't think that can happen in GB.

The big surprise for me though has been Tonyan. The dude is on pace for one of the best TE seasons in Packer history. I think DVOA might say that only Kelce is having a better season this year. The scheme certainly helps him. It's hard to say how much. I would say 80% of Marcedes Lewis's production this year is from scheme. I love the guy, but he's on the end of his career and doesn't have the ability to work himself open play after play. I'm not sure about Tonyan I don't think it's nearly as high. I know he rarely flubs an opportunity, I just can't tell how frequently he is making his own opportunities. 

Jones and Williams thrive in this scheme. Jones is skilled enough that he'd be good anywhere. He's a weapon in this scheme though. Williams isn't as dynamic of a runner, but he's still a better receiver than Jones. He has better route timing and hands. Dillion has flashed, but COVID has knocked him out for a month and a half.

Adams of course is possibly the best receiver Rodgers has played with. Talent wise he's better than Driver, Jennings, Cobb, and Jones. He can line up more dynamically than Nelson ever did. I don't know if I rate him better than Nelson or not. Nelson ran great routes and had amazing body and hand control too. I'm leaving Adams though.

I still want another weapon for him for sure. They definitely need to get another legit weapon if they part ways with Rodgers after another season or two (I can't remember when the contract makes it not so painful but it's one of those) to ease the transition. Not that I want to see the next transition that soon.

 

Another thing I haven't sussed out is the true cause of the dramatic drop in sacks and QB hits. The line has talent, but I'm not convinced it's that much better than other lines Rodgers has played behind. The running game and supporting play calling has cut down on the amount of blitzing by defenses. Rodgers is getting rid of the ball noticeably faster too. Is that all from fully embracing the scheme which does have more options for dumping the ball off the McCarthy had, is that because players are open more than used to be. Is it just a coach funding a way to tell him that he can throw it away or check down abd that getting through to him better? The game design is good about creating open receivers at all levels. Maybe it's just the Rodgers knows that if he sticks with it takes the shorter quicker plays, that he'll get those big shots down field later that he loves and he no longer has to try and make those happen on his own.

 

So all in all this isn't the worst talent Rodgers has worked with. It's not the best either. The scheme does seem to get the most from it. I love watching this offense. I've been very impressed by the design and the executive this year. I think it's a testament to coaching that players are being used for what they can do. It certainly helps to have a QB that can do anything. Well ok he can't really do designed runs, but this offense doesn't need that.

112 The NFL operates their rules…

The NFL operates their rules on two basic premises:

1. Help the offense.
2. Screw the defense.

https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/30003263/how-nfl-manipulating-scoring-2020-fewer-holding-calls-faster-games-way-more-offense

166 If they really wanted to…

If they really wanted to help the offense, they wouldn't need to fudge on the holding calls.  They'd just have to scrap the illegal procedure, illegal formation, and ineligible receiver penalties, and voila!  Offense like you've never seen it before. 

117 League-wide, sacks as a…

League-wide, sacks as a percentage of dropbacks are -0.8% compared to last season. 2018 was about the same as 2019.

Rodgers' sack % this season is -3.6% compared to his career average, and far and away the best of his career. I don't have time-to-throw numbers handy, but when it was a bigger talking point earlier this season, that had also come way down from the past couple of seasons. If we're just talking about the Packers, it's a major change of emphasis for Rodgers and the team this season.

126 Just anecdotally, it seems…

Just anecdotally, it seems like the only times I see LOS holding flags is on the edges.  If the statistics square with my eyeballs, that would seem to favor those QBs who operate mostly from the pocket and disfavor those QBs who like to pull the ball down and run outside.

140 2018 and 2019 Packers had 23…

2018 and 2019 Packers had 23 and 22 offensive holding calls. Currently at 16 so right on that pace. Eyeball test doesn't show any technique changes for the team. 

That doesn't explain Rodgers going from a career 6.6% sack rate to a 3.0% with a career best of 5.1% in his 2nd MVP season. This is not a small change in GB. This is not an officiating change. Even if I give you 2% for that, there is still a huge variation. Pressure rate has gone from ~23% the last few years to 12%. Pro football reference sack%+ is 126 vs career best of 110 (again in 2014) and that is league normalized. He's had 3 seasons in the 80's. Though last year he did go to 106, which was 2nd best. So system effects could have stayed creeping in there too.

He doesn't scramble as much either. All his other normalized stats AY/A+, ANY/A+, CMP%+, TD%+, INT%+,Y/A+, etc are good, but not career best

Like I said there could be a number of factors, but the change is striking and possibly the best thing about watching this season. It's the anti Philly effect.

4 The Gregg Williams…

The Gregg Williams proprietary Let-the-fastest-guy-in-the-NFL-get-behind-the-defense-in-the-closing-moments-of-a-soon-to-be-four-point-win defense is Exhibit A of why he needed to turn down four Head Coach offers a couple years back.  NFL owners and general managers are known to put a high price on creativity.

77 What's even better is that…

What's even better is that the Jets management (either MacCagnan, the former gm, or Chris Johnson, the acting owner) decided they needed to force Williams onto whoever ended up being the head coach.  That's why Matt Rhule is coaching Carolina right now and not the Jets for the last two years.

5 GB Special Teams

The special teams may have passed the defense in terms of Packer fans volume of griping.  The return teams are abysmal.  If Mason Crosby were not continuing his very solid play (missed XP notwithstanding) this special teams would easily be the worst in the NFL.  

 

Folks keep mocking Scott for his tackling mishaps, but if your punter is repeatedly being asked to make a TD saving tackle you have MAJOR problems.

10 Not so sure about the WORST…

Not so sure about the WORST special teams. I've seen the Titans play and that was atrocious and the Chargers are way worse going by DVOA, so I can't even begin to imagine how cringe-worthy those performances must have been.

40 Chargers' special teams…

Chargers' special teams yesterday:

missed 46 yard field goal

gave up a punt return for a TD

gave up a blocked field goal for a TD

fielded a punt with 10 men on the field

fielded a punt with 12 men on the field, giving NE a first down

 

Those were just the lowlights I can remember. 

150 Exercises in Atrocity

It was ten men on the field...twice. Then twelve. The punt after the second blunder, a player ran onto the field late, apparently the one who was supposed to have been there the previous times. Except the Chargers already had 11. After the penalty,  TV cameras caught him walking back to bench completely baffled and disgruntled.

That flag gave the Pats a first down near midfield. They went on to score.

Agreed about the idiocy of the Belichick Vs. Rookie QB mantra. Belichick's overall win percentage is .686 so the fact that he's .750 seems pretty much to be expected. In fact, you might expect it to be even higher because rookie QBs are usually on bad teams and bad teams lose a lot (I couldn't find Belichick's numbers against teams with losing records). Rookies who have done the job?

Roethlisberger (on a very good Steeler team)

Mark Sanchez (good Jets team)

Russell Wilson (great Seattle team)

Colt McCoy (Browns finished 8-8)

Geno Smith (Jets 8-8)

So you have two players Hall-of-Fame caliber players and two Rex Ryan coached Jets teams. McCoy and the Browns are the real outlier and I don't know the circumstances of the loss.

153 Belichick's 20-5 record…

Belichick's 20-5 record against rookie QBs prior to Sunday was a .800 win percentage, not .750.  Now he's 21-5, which is .808.  Versus non-rookie QBs in the regular season his career win percentage is .668.  The differential of .140 is the equivalent of winning 2.24 extra games every 16-game season.  

I don't know how his win differential compares to rookie QBs in general, i.e. whether his extra success is just the expected win percentage increase when playing a rookie QB, but the raw differential is large enough to be interesting and I understand it being raised.  Especially in a game where Herbert, who'd looked good all year, looked decidedly un-good.

167 Sorry

English major here.

I think it would be more useful to compare Belichick's record against teams with rookie QBs to that against other teams with similar records (losing records, I imagine). Dollars for donuts that the percent gap is a lot smaller.

8 Jones TD run

Given the situation should Jones have stopped short of the goal line?

 

Just wondering

41 Hmm, I think it's only worth…

In reply to by big10freak

Hmm, I think it's only worth stopping there if you can end the game or make it impossible for the Eagles to come back. I believe Philly still had two timeouts plus the two minute warning - the Packers could have forced them to burn their timeouts, but probably at a pretty decent expense to their odds of going up 14 rather than 10, and the time situation would be similar by the time the Eagles got the ball back. The Eagles most likely path to a comeback also probably involved another special teams disaster, so I don't know if the timeouts were a huge factor.

50 You're correct

2:36 left after the play that made it a 13 point game (eventually 14). No reason to overthink it. Score the guaranteed score that makes it a two score game. They also had 2 timeouts left if they someone let disaster strike fwiw

11 A bad hit by Michael Thomas…

A bad hit by Michael Thomas as a gunner leads to Brian Flores leading two-thirds of his team across the field to engage in an all-out brawl. 

Flores has to be suspended for that, right?

20 Flores went onto the field…

Flores went onto the field and yelled. Other than the distance, it's something that happens every week. Not sure I would want to start suspending people for that.

Reports from "sources in the know" (gah!) are that the league is looking at doling out some fines, but not suspending anyone.

146 Agreed

Wow.  How is that even possible?

What's the relatively new rule about two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties = ejection?  I think this would be a classic example in support of that... if they had called those hits as UC penalties.

151 Officials can eject players…

In reply to by Bobman

Officials can eject players from even a single leading with the helmet call, but there are no requirements to do so.

Leading with the helmet falls under "unnecessary roughness" and not "unsportsmanlike conduct", where the new rule of two-strikes equals automatic ejection applies.

"Kick catch interference" is a completely separate penalty. The result is that obstructing the kick catching player's path to the ball (even without contact) yields the exact same enforcement (15 yards) as laying the player out.

I realize the NFL doesn't like multi-tiered fouls like the old "incidental" and "real" face mask penalties, but it would seem that two very different acts (different in action and in danger to the players involved) result in the identical penalty.

159 I think it's less about…

I think it's less about avoiding multi-tiered fouls(*) and more about avoiding stacking multiple penalties on one play.  I think the only time they allow for it is if there's a personal foul that happens after the play is over.

I do think the NFL could move towards something more like soccer's card system.  I get not wanting to eject guys too quickly, especially when replay often shows a hit wasn't really helmet-to-helmet or that it was the playing being hit who moved in a way that brought his head into target, but giving more warnings could be helpful.  One dirty-looking hit could be bad circumstance, but multiple is less likely.

(*) If anything, you could argue unnecessary roughness is a multi-tiered foul, since the officials can add an ejection penalty to it.

12 I really, really want to…

I really, really want to know who's pushing Eagles snap counts. Is it really all Pederson? Whoever it is, they're crazy.

Howard getting snaps over Sanders is nutso. Bringing Howard back was already crazy enough. Jeffery keeps proving he's not an NFL receiver anymore: proving a big problem with rating WRs- when a guy gets over half the snaps and contributes *negative yardage* but only shows up on the stat sheet with 1 target, it's nowhere near the same as some backup only playing 10% of the snaps.

I mean, it started last year for me: literally tossing money in the trash for Jeffery, Jackson, and Agholor. Then this year chucking more money down the drain for Peters. We're talking like $40M wasted on players that anyone with a brain could see were done. (Oh, and not keeping Malcolm Jenkins because... heck if I know!)

Literally if they hadn't been chasing after shiny toys that actually turned out to be polished rust-buckets, they probably would've been able to deal with Wentz not panning out.

But continuing to play guys who *literally* haven't contributed anything positive for *two years* is just beyond the pale.

73 No, they signed Peters to…

No, they signed Peters to replace Brooks on the right side. That was a bad idea, for a ton of reasons. First, it was expensive-ish : I mean, in the long run, $3M is chump change. But because it's literally for less than a full season (no way Peters was going to stay healthy for a full season) with no long term benefit, it was really just chucking $3M into the trash. That's the second reason - it just delays finding more depth, which they needed. They would've been far better served churning through free agents, which would've been about as costly and could've yielded some long-term benefit.

In the end they would've been better off just starting Pryor beside Johnson, and pushing Mailata up when Dillard got hurt (and Driscoll when Johnson got hurt). This was already the long-term plan: Peters was not part of their plan at the start of the season. Tossing money at him to avoid a bit of short-term pain is exactly the kind of short-term thinking that kills you.

105 "Tossing money at him to…

"Tossing money at him to avoid a bit of short-term pain is exactly the kind of short-term thinking that kills you."

 

To play Devil's advocate. Peters was supposed to be a known quantity and offer up competency. If you feel the rest of the foundation is solid, then its better to avoid the downside risk of getting a turnstile at RG due to street free agents. It looks horrible now once you plop on all of the other disasters that have occurred as well, but I can understand the thinking at the time. 

121 Peters was 37 last year and…

Peters was 37 last year and didn't make it through the season. You weren't going to have him the full season anyway - at some point you would have to go with the "backup option" there. Plus, of course, believing a 38-year old is going to be the same "known quantity" as the 37-year old is impressively wishful thinking.

Of course this all echoes the basic problem that the Eagles for some insane reason thought they were OK at offensive line in the offseason (even before Brooks went down), and didn't bother addressing it in the draft until round 4. Which is a special kind of wacko, given that their starting OL would've consisted of 2 guys on the right side of 30 (of which only 1 is a high draft pick). And to be clear, this isn't me speaking in hindsight, I was violently against the "standard Eagles fan pick" of 1st round WR. I wanted round DB/OL/WR/DE, and I thought that might be high on WR.

80 Yeah, I agree, and my heart…

Yeah, I agree, and my heart breaks for the guy, just like for Peters. But that's the point - the Eagles had to be cold-blooded about this back before 2019. Instead, they somehow banked on him coming back from the injury and further indebted themselves to him by guaranteeing his 2020 contract.

I mean, to be fair to the Eagles a lot of this is just the bill coming due from a poor signing in 2017. He really wasn't worth what the Eagles paid for him.

But! I'm not even complaining Jeffery's on the team! That's banked stupidity at this point. I get his contract's a lead weight - but you don't have to keep giving the guy snaps!

127 Agholor's doing way better…

Agholor's doing way better this year (his yards/target are the highest of his career) but his usage is pretty low: he's only seeing 14% of his team's targets. Given that he's got the highest value/play of any receiver on the team (by a lot), that pretty clearly implies that he's taking heavy situational advantage of attention to other receivers (namely, Waller and Renfrow).

He's clearly worth the ~$1M/year he's being paid, but if this year kicks him to a $9-10M/year contract, he's most likely going to be overpaid by a lot. He's pretty clearly a very good 3rd option, but that's not a $10M/year WR.

13 One yard rushing and one…

One yard rushing and one complete pass, and they win. Football sucked in the 1940s, I tell you what.

When did they stop calling passes "forwards"?

169 Doubt it.  You can have an…

Doubt it.  You can have an unlimited number of backward passes (now often called "laterals") on any one play.  I'm sure modern rugby tracks these with the benefit of video and the ability to go back and track who passed to who accurately, but watching the game live I'd be surprised if anyone tried tracking these stats.  But I don't know for sure.

15 Eagles have had bad…

Eagles have had bad continuity with their skill-position players in recent seasons and offensive line injuries this season. That's definitely the reason Carson Wentz has -822 passing DYAR this year, by far the worst among regular starters.

How should I put it; it's not the reason he hasn't.

Wentz has played really poorly, but his ability to rubber band an offense together from an injury apocalypse broke last year. Hurts looks less rattled, but it's not like guys are any more open or the blocking any better for him.

79 At any rate, I don't watch a lot (any) of the Eagles

outside the GB games the last two years, but my armchair, watched what I could of the game on my phone while wrangling a toddler analysis is that the injuries have ruined Wentz.  Dude is statute back there, and he does not seem to have the base in his lower body to get sufficient power on some of his throws.

87 "Hurts looks less rattled,…

"Hurts looks less rattled, but it's not like guys are any more open or the blocking any better for him."

C'mon, Hurts was facing incredibly soft coverage. They were down 3 scores at the time. The Packers rushed 4 and dropped 6 in coverage, keeping 1 guy as a spy, and they completely lost Ward in coverage (and another Eagles receiver, too!).

Then the Reagor punt return TD happened, and suddenly it's like "oh, crap, we have to start playing again," and what happens? Incomplete, sack, incomplete, complete, sack, incomplete, interception due to pressure.

So after the Eagles magically get back in the game, Hurts then goes 1/5 for 17 yards, 1 pick, and 2 sacks.

There is no Wentz. There is no Hurts. There is only "Eagles QB."

96 Nonono, that's QB Eagles!…

Nonono, that's QB Eagles! Eagles QB and QB Eagles are two totally different guys.

I also thought straight about "jeez that sounds like Cunningham's Tecmo Bowl name" but I was trying to make an FO callback to "Bears QB" ~15 years ago, where someone commented something like "There is no Krenzel. There is no Quinn. There is no Hutchinson. There is only 'Bears QB.'"

Ah, the mid-2000s Bears. I'm kinda curious if 2004 Bears are still the only team in the DVOA tables with no quarterback in the main table (none of their QBs hit 200 passes that year). 

118 No qualifying QBs

Ah, the mid-2000s Bears. I'm kinda curious if 2004 Bears are still the only team in the DVOA tables with no quarterback in the main table (none of their QBs hit 200 passes that year). 

The other teams with no qualifying QB are the 2007 Panthers, 2005 49ers, 2001 Cowboys, 1988 Patriots, 1986 Bears, and 1986 Rams.

16 With respect to Russel…

With respect to Russel Wilson and open receivers - I think we need to dispense with the idea that the booth is watching anything other than their qb-zoom monitors, or that most of them have any idea what they're watching. 

 

If you've ever watched any all-22, it becomes very clear that statements they make about defensive backs and wide receivers are almost completely nonsense. 

91 So true

Seeing the whole field is what I miss most about going to the games. It definitely changes your perceptions when you can see what's going on downfield compared to the QB focus of the TV broadcast. 

98 There was an interesting…

In reply to by AnonyRuss

There was an interesting three quarters angle from the side in the Lions-Bears game. Don't know if it will stick, but it was nice to see they're experimenting with stuff.

25 Chargers special teams

It's so rare for a team to be so bad at all aspects of special teams...

I think if we look back over time, we will find that it is rare for a (non-Chargers) team to be so bad at all aspects of special teams.  This begs a deep dive into the Well of Shame

28 Oh wait...that's been done

https://twitter.com/RileyMcAtee/status/1335720639521406978?s=20

I stopped playing organized football in 6th grade, but I continued at math.  All that math tells me that something workmanlike was going on in 2012-13...maybe we go back to that?

30 We keep hearing about how…

We keep hearing about how dominating this team is supposed to be and they keep playing close games. Today the problem is some bad luck combined with the Broncos' defensive line getting pressure. 

Another problem is the insistence on handing the ball off to the ghost of Le'Veon Bell, or whoever else lines up behind Mahomes. The Chiefs are really not good at running the ball, when you consider the extent to which defenses are forced to play the pass. There's really no reason for them to ever run the ball on early downs, at least not until a big lead is established, or the defense is lined up in such a way that it really is free yards. Every time they do is a victory for the defense. 

There was some further infuriating 4th down strategy from the Broncos. Collinsworth did a good job at one point of showing how soft the Broncos corners were playing, allowing the Chiefs to march down the field, but then doing a good job of stiffening up in the red zone. That's a fair enough strategy to pursue against the Chiefs, but then why on Earth would you then repeatedly kick on 4th & short in the middle of the field? The punt on 4th & 3 from halfway on their penultimate drive was just ridiculous. Absolutely atrocious.  

32 Remember my post about…

Remember my post about playing possum? I think the Chiefs offense can be lulled into that depending on how threatened they feel. 

This game was further evidence, missed opportunities notwithstanding, that behavior augments depending on circumstances beyond your own offense's quality.

The chiefs have the weaponry to lay waste to any defense any time if they would only choose to. In fact I'm not really sure why Reid doesn't go this route considering that Mahomes does not throw ints so it's not as if this approach could lead to lots of turnovers. 

46 It's sounds flippant when…

It's sounds flippant when you say "oh just put it in Mahomes hands every play", but I honestly struggle to find any rationale not to do that whilst the game is close. On top of everything else, Mahomes is a really effective scrambler, and can punish a defense with his legs if nothing is open. 

58 In any individual game this…

In any individual game this makes sense, but over the course of a season where you expect to make the playoffs anyway you'll want to run some crappy handoffs to expose him to fewer chances to get hurt and ruin playoff chances.  Especially now that there's just one bye so it's much harder to assure yourself of benefiting a lot from a really good regular season record

62 I am not sure this is true…

I am not sure this is true. How much extra risk are you adding upping Mahomes' pass totals by say an addition 5 or so a game? That adds up to maybe an additional 40 pass plays which sounds like a lot but its a tiny fraction of his year end totals. And also, if it means accelerated blowouts in the first half, then he might get spared a lot of snaps later in the game if its truly out of hand. 

As has been shown so many times, the Chiefs can explode offensively in ridiculously short bursts. I think if they went guns every single game every single time, I just don't know under what circumstances it would hurt them. 

89 That has some merit. But the…

That has some merit. But the easiest way to give Mahomes plays 'off' would be to build up a big lead first. And you can avoid exposure to hits by scoring more quickly and running fewer plays period. Also, I'm not suggesting bombs away every play; just get rid of the 1st & 10 vanilla handoffs.

31 Drew Lock

I think if Lock had been a first rounder, the Broncos would almost assuredly give him another year to prove himself given his lack of games played plus his draft status.

Instead he's a 2nd rounder who's been "up and down" so it seems he will be on thin ice of he's the starter at all next year. 

Which begs the question...why draft a 2nd round qb ever.

33 Well that is a blessing for…

In reply to by theslothook

Well that is a blessing for the Broncos in all honesty. I'm not totally writing Lock off as a bust, but his performance this season has been bad enough to suggest a future as a franchise QB is unlikely. The Broncos have enough talent elsewhere on their roster, particularly at receiver, to reason that he is the main problem.

Unfortunately they are certain to be picking behind the Jets and Jags, so barring some sort of huge trade, they won't have access to the very best QBs in the draft. 

 

83 Zach Wilson looks pretty…

Zach Wilson looks pretty good right now, and he's a three year starter unlike Justin Fields.  Even the game the other day, which wasn't his best, he almost won it on the last play where his receiver got tackled at the one yard line.  Wilson gets projected to a top five pick, so the Broncos better keep losing.  There's also Kyle Trask from Florida and Mac Jones from Alabama.  Both of them are lighting up the SEC; Trask is a senior, while Jones is only a junior (and has only started a year and a half as well).  Makes the Packers' decision to draft Jordan Love look even worse.

82 Is it though? Should the…

Is it though? Should the Browns have rolled the dice again with Kizer? 

Remember, the downside is a lost season and a year delayed in finding your QB. And also probably your coach and GM getting fired, although Elway seems to have an unlimited tenure. 

88 Well the Browns are an…

Well the Browns are an extreme example, since they also rolled the dice the on Brady Quinn, Brandon Weedon, Johnny Numbskull, and probably others that I'm forgetting.

However, if you don't have a franchise QB, and you want one, your choices are to trade for one or to draft and develop one.  Since they generally aren't available in trade (or free agency), there's nothing wrong with using draft picks to try to find one.  Kizer was a decent pro prospect, and probably well worth the cost of a 2nd round pick

107 My point is, if he plays…

My point is, if he plays badly(which is likely given hes a rookie), you may end up in a situation where you have a chance to draft a first round prospect. How many teams are truly willing to stick with the 2nd rounder and pass on the first rounder? 

To me, the second rounder is not viewed as a significant enough investment so it becomes a kind of low odds play from the start. If a franchise first round prospect falls to the Broncos in the draft, I highly doubt they will pass and stick with Lock. 

110 Yeah, I agree with that. …

Yeah, I agree with that.  Hell, Josh Rosen was the #10 overall pick, and that didn't stop the cardinals from taking Murray #1.  Off the top of my head, the Panthers drafted Newton #1 the year after taking Clausen in the 2nd, and I think some of those Browns #1 picks were in consecutive years.

But assuming you'll get the opportunity to draft a top-rated rookie QB next year seems a bad reason not to invest a 2nd round pick in a QB you like.

109 See my post above. There are…

See my post above. There are three basic facts I am highlighting

1) Most QBs are unlikely to succeed anyways, but you have a better chance at it with a first rounder than a 2nd. That's just the facts from the numbers

2) A rookie QB is usually a bad player. Very rarely do you see good things from the get go

3) The 2nd rounder is not significant enough of an investment to buy patience and time for development. 

You combine all three and I think its a mistake to draft a 2nd round qb UNLESS you have buy in from everyone that you will be giving the QB multiple seasons to figure it out. Probably a minimum of three. 

111 ATL gave up on Favre after 1 year

And got a 1st back for him (GB must've seen something). Org just missed on how to use him/didnt know what they had.

Brees did make the PB in his 4th year with SD. Dont know if them moving on from him should discourage anyone drafting a QB in the 2nd though

132 Farve was partying so much…

Favre was partying so much in Atlanta they knew he was going to drink himself out of the league.  Jerry Glanville also hated him and wanted him out, while the front office wanted to keep Favre.  The other factor in the equation is Ron Wolf; Wolf wanted to draft him in New York for the Jets, but they didn't have a first round pick.  Wolf got hired in Green Bay and then got Favre via a trade.

154 Atlanta gets a lot of heat…

Atlanta gets a lot of heat for giving up on Favre, but that’s 20/20 hindsight.  At the time, Chris Miller was coming off a Pro Bowl season (back when making the Pro Bowl actually meant something) that included a road playoff win, and his concussion problems were in the future.  Favre, on the other hand, had accomplished little of note other than playing poorly in mop-up duty,  being late for team meetings, and lying to the coaches about why he was late.  Parting with that for a high draft pick is something any GM would do.

IIRC, Favre said that being traded was a wake-up call for him.  I also thing Holgmren’s coaching staff is what really turned his career around.  He probably would have been out of the league had he stayed in Atlanta.  Ron Wolf should still get credit for seeing something in him, though.

147 2nd Rd QBs

In reply to by theslothook

So you can trade/cut him and get less flack for it.  You could almost never do that for a 1st rounder (not named Josh Rosen)

It's the ultimate CYA strategy... this guy may be good, or he may be a bust, so round 2 for him. (as opposed to all those "can't miss" prospects who end up being ordinary, and the late rounders who are diamonds in the rough.)

Part of the HC/GM permanent employment strategy.

34 Baker Mayfield

Is he a honest to God good QB? After watching a lot of him a year ago, I only saw one game of his this year, when he face planted against the Steelers. At the time, I wondered if it was too harsh to judge him on that game and it appears to be so.

 

 

 

 

 

37 He appears to be limited. He…

In reply to by theslothook

He appears to be limited.

He's sort of Goffian, in that he can look really good in the right circumstances and predictably really bad in the wrong ones.

54 In this case the right…

In this case the right circumstances was the Titans defense, virtual worst in the league at generating pressure, and not much good at covering anybody either. 

I'm still a little befuddled by the Colts/Titans game last week, where the Colts marched down the field unopposed on their first two drives, then completely went into the tank for the rest of the game. 

142 I think he can be a good NFL quarterback

In reply to by theslothook

But I also think he regressed badly from his rookie year, and I've gotten the impression he may have not worked as hard as he should have, that he was enjoying himself a little too much. Part of this is from articles I have read (but I would have to try to remember what articles and when to link and that's not going to happen), and then there were things like his chug video, and to my eyes he looked to have put on some non-muscle weight.

35 Seahawks Offense

Apologies for all the questions, but the more interesting scores happened in games I didn't watch, like the Raiders Jets.

What has happened to the Seahawks offense all of a sudden??? Hard to believe this is the same offense that started out the year on fire.

44 Giants defense

In reply to by theslothook

Did a really good job of both staying in rush lanes while applying pressure.  And Russ missed some open guys   And think Seahawks could have run more  

 

More to it but this is the shorthand of what happened.  

36 yes, it was intentional

If this was a one off situation, i'd maybe believe Williams is just inept.  But this entire season since Sam's first injury has been geared around tanking.  Go look at the second half playcalling in the five game stretch before the bye.  The jets ran almost no vertical offense.  

Then go to the end of the Patriot game.  12 men on the field for a field goal.  the errant deep throw by flacco to set up the pats.  Williams playing soft coverage on the final play when everyone watching knew the Pats only chance was to throw 20 yards to set up a fg. Then yesterday, not one not two but three defensive holding calls on the Raiders last real drive.  Carr was just too inept to hit open receivers.  Heck as you point out he missed a wide open man the play before!  

Williams is 62, He knows hes not getting another job.  What we dont know is how much of Woody's cancer filled shampoo money he's being offered for this.  

45 I have a hard time deciding…

I have a hard time deciding whether its true or not. Look Williams just got fired. Up till now, most of the blame for the Jets nightmares have been squarely aimed at Adam Gase. Not even the GM has taken much heat from this. And yet, this one play may have permanently ruined his reputation forever as a defensive coordinator. You know its bad when Rex Ryan, a blitzing true believer, skewers you so badly. And as Aaron mentioned, none of the coaches have any incentives to tank. None of the players do either. 

But then...you look at the actual decision and the way the Jets played it and sure smells. The whole thing is a big puzzle. 

75 Maybe he was simply engulfed…

Maybe he was simply engulfed by the losing mentality permeating the Jets right now (same as the Dolphins last year). The reasoning goes like this: "We have a very favorable situation, but we are so bad I just know we're going to muck it up. We need to do something. Blitz!"

In other words, maybe he saw a winning situation as much less favorable than the rest of us because the Jets have been effing things up week after week.

Edit: I can confirm last year I felt the 3rd and 30 was far from a certain win for the defense at that point.

86 They probably fired Gase...

They probably fired Wllliams because Maye spoke up.  I have to believe they want Maye to stick around, even though he had a bad game before the last play.  Maye was probably also just sticking up for Lamar Jackson, the poor cornerback who got burned by Ruggs.

By the way, Woody and Chris Johnson have nothing to do with the cancer-filled shampoo.  Maybe they get money from that side of the family business, but they were the black sheep shunted away from Johnson & Johnson, because they couldn't be trusted.  I don't know, maybe it was because they have morals.

Sorry, this was an edit.  I must have included my real wish in claiming Gase got fired.

93 Someone at Gang Green Nation…

Someone at Gang Green Nation pointed out that Gase is the only one with authority to fire coaches, except the acting owner.  The Jets usually do not fire coaches during the year, so this was an execution by Gase.  Not sure how much Maye's comments would have played into it.

155 “Unless Gase or Douglas…

“Unless Gase or Douglas double-crossed him.”

Or maybe him getting fired was part of the plan, and there’s a bank account in the Caymans that just got a large deposit from the Johnson family.

I'm being sarcastic of, course.  I don't think there was any grand conspiracy.  The simplest explanation is usually the right now.  In this case, it's the fact that Gregg Wiliams is bad at his job.

39 Pats-Charges

Didn't get a chance to watch Pats-Chargers this weekend (I've been watching a lot less football this year due to family pressures). Am I right in the assessment from the PFR game-log that this was almost entirely a special-teams implosion? Two blocked FG's (one for a TD), two big punt returns (1 for a TD). It looks like the Pats offense sort of wore out the Chargers defense that kept being put in bad situations. Anyone who watched the game closely want to comment on the non-special teams portion of the game?

43 Herbert looked baffled most…

In reply to by sbond101

Herbert looked baffled most of the game.  Chargers couldn't get the run game going in H1 and after NE built the big lead their D kept Herbert under pressure in H2.  

NE's O looked like it has most of the year.  Heavy run-oriented, mostly successful, interspersed by the occasional surprise pass that was as likely to shock the NE receiver as it was the D.  Thought Newton made better decisions this game than he was making in his first few post-Covid games.  Still has nobody to throw the ball to, though.

Overall, no part of the Chargers' organization looked prepared for this game.  Only Chargers player I thought played well was their rookie LB, Murray Jr.  That's probably unfair to some pluggers who didn't get the same announcer-acclamation as the rookie, which would have biased my impression. 

94 This is a new way of being the Chargers

In reply to by sbond101

Here are my comments when you take out the special teams:

The Chargers lost 24-0 on a combination of complete Patriot domination on defense while putting together a few drives on offense.  Cam Newton, was Cam throwing for 69 yards, but added two rushing TD's.  Herbert was completely shut down averaging under 4 yards a pass, getting picked twice and sacked 3 times.  So it was not just special teams, it was an all three phases of the game thumping.

And now my ramblings:

Seven one score losses this year, including DVOA best NO and top teams TB and KC.  That is what we think of when we think of the Chargers.  Ray Rice converts 4th and 29 on a dump off pass, Phillip Rivers fumbles a snap while running out the clock.  Kickers miss clutch kicks, kickers miss not clutch kicks.  This is Charger football.

A whole new brand emerged yesterday.  Two special teams TD's equal 14 points (blocked FG and punt return).  A 61 yard punt return leads to 7 more.  An interception deep in their own territory, another 7.  That makes 28 points with about 50 yards of offense. NE drove the field on the opening kickoff, that is 35.  Stidham garbage time TD pass, 42.  

The Chargers played an entire game as if they were ahead by 4 points with under two minutes remaining.

Overall it was a 277 NE yards gained, 45 point effort.

The Chargers had 8 losses going into yesterday by 42 points total, yesterday they lost by 45.

Anthony Lynn did not make EDJ sports bottom 5 decisions as there were no coaching decisions that made any difference, except the decision to let his team take the field for this game.  I doubt he will be on the sidelines much longer for this team.

Look at Aaron's comments on Twitter, I believe that he will have more on the Chargers special teams in his DVOA column tomorrow.   

The Patriots punted 4 times yesterday.  According to a Gregg Rosenthal tweet, here is the number of men that the Chargers had on the field for each:

11  (!)

10

12

10

 

 

 

 

 

116 Agreed

Agreed - if there was such a thing as divine football justice the charges would deserve it for Schottenheimer. One of the great football-management travesties (along with the ongoing cash-for-stadium grift that goes on with the taxpayer all over the nation).