New York Jets RB Ty Johnson

Audibles at the Line: Week 15

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.


Saturday, December 19

Buffalo Bills 48 at Denver Broncos 19

Bryan Knowles: We get a little bit of the full Josh Allen experience on the Bills' first drive of the game. A fumble (recovered by Allen) and an interception (called back due to a Denver penalty) serve as a reminder that Allen was never good playing on Saturdays. But some exceptional improvisation saving broken plays, a few bullets from his cannon, and a heady play or two to turn a sniffed-out designed run into an incomplete pass rather than a loss serve as a better reminder of the player he has become. Having someone like Stefon Diggs to work with doesn't hurt either; the Broncos are without five cornerbacks and I'm not really sure how they're going to slow down the Bills' passing offense today. Just go four-wide and force a safety to play dime corner; Denver only has three cornerbacks active.

Bryan Knowles: Almost like clockwork, the Bills use plenty of empty and other wide formations to put extra pressure on the Broncos' depleted secondary, and they march right back down the field to take a 14-0 lead. Cole Beasley and Stefon Diggs found plenty of wide-open spaces to run through, and even when they were covered, Allen just tucks the ball and runs right up the middle 24 yards untouched into the end zone. I think tight end Reggie Gilliam took out two Broncos cornerbacks by himself blocking downfield, which helped, but right now, Denver just has no answers. Bradley Chubb and other defenders are all up in each other's face on the sidelines; I don't know how much yelling is going to make up for just being out of healthy bodies out there.

Scott Spratt: Seemingly the only way the Bills could lose this game is by making some unforced errors, Bryan. And they just made their first when All-Pro punt returner Andre Roberts muffed an attempted punt return. That turnover gives the Broncos their first red zone trip of the afternoon.

Aaron Schatz: I liked the Drew Lock third-down keeper that clearly confused the cameraman. Melvin Gordon then took it in for the touchdown, 14-7 Bills.

Bryan Knowles: It should be noted that running back is an area where the Broncos are surprisingly healthy -- both Gordon and Phillip Lindsay were questionable coming into today, but both are active and running the ball well. That's not something they can stick with if the Bills just jump out to a zillion-point lead, so that muffed punt was fairly big.

Bryan Knowles: I am annoyed that the Bills' Statue of Liberty touchdown was called back from a hold, because it was sweet as all hell.

Back-to-back-to-back Buffalo penalties set them up with a first-and-goal at the 30. There have been plenty of longer goal-to-go situations -- the Football Team had a second-and-goal from the 33 against Baltimore back in October -- but they're usually the result of a bad sack or a fumble or something going horribly wrong. It's tied for the second-longest first-and-goal in Stathead's database, behind the Vikings facing a first-and-goal from the Philadelphia 33 back in 2016 after Alex Boone got flagged for holding and unsportsmanlike conduct on the same play. But both those Vikings and these Bills shrugged off such downs-and-distances and found the end zone. It's just, the Jake Kumerow touchdown wasn't nearly as awesome as the Statue of Liberty play, so I remain disgruntled.

Scott Spratt: The Broncos could have made the AFC East a lot more interesting if they had played like this in Week 11 against the Dolphins and pulled the upset this week instead. As it stands, the Bills have a 21-7 lead in the final minute of the first half and seem poised to pick up their 11th win of the season. The Dolphins have to win their final three games (including in Week 17 in Buffalo) just to get to 11 wins.

Bryan, is there even a way for the Dolphins to win an 11-5 divisional tiebreaker? I think in that (unlikely) scenario, both teams would be 4-2 within the division and would have split their games against each other.

Bryan Knowles: Nope, Scott. If the Bills win today, that gives them the AFC East title. If the Bills' got to 11-5 by beating the Patriots, they'd win on the division tiebreaker (5-1 to 4-2). If they got there by beating the Broncos, the tied division record would go to common games. The Bills win that, 9-3 to 8-4. Buffalo has already beaten the Seahawks and are up on the Broncos; that's enough to make up for the Dolphins' victory over the Cardinals.

With the Bills up 21-13 at halftime, it looks like the Dolphins' chances of winning the division are fading fast, but I suppose it's not technically impossible.

Scott Spratt: If the Bills do win tonight and lock up the division, I wonder how they'll handle their final two games, especially if the Chiefs beat the Saints this weekend. It seems inconceivable the Chiefs would lose to both the Falcons and Chargers in Weeks 16 and 17, and that makes the one seed and the only AFC bye unattainable. Meanwhile, without a weak divisio- winner like there will be in the NFC East, I don't know if there is a clear matchup to "target," and the Bills probably couldn't successfully do so anyway since the Titans, Browns, Colts, Ravens, and Dolphins are all within a game of each other. So do you rest key starters? Or do you try to win your way to a home playoff game against the Steelers, Colts, and/or Titans?

Bryan Knowles: It'd be a bit ironic if the NFL's attempt to keep more games relevant in Week 17 by upping the number of playoff teams backfires, with Buffalo not caring about whether they get the bye-less second seed.

In a normal year, I do think the potential of playing the Steelers in Orchard Park is probably worth going all-out for against Miami, but with no fans allowed, is that even a major concern? Staying out of the fourth seed and avoiding the matchup with Kansas City for as long as possible does seem worth it to me, though -- let someone else try to pull off the surprise upset before you have to do it.

Bryan Knowles: Oh, and we can talk about these sorts of scenarios because this game is over. Second half opens with a great Roberts kick return to set the Bills up in Broncos territory, and they convert that into a touchdown on fourth down from the 1-yard line. And, just in case that wasn't the nail in the coffin, the first Broncos snap ends in a sack-fumble, and then the longest 25-yard fumble return you'll ever see, with Jerry Hughes finding the end zone after a good 10 seconds of weaving and dodging through traffic. 35-13, and this one's in the books.

Scott Spratt: With a breakaway 51-yard Devin Singletary touchdown run in the final two minutes, the Bills got to 48 points. Meanwhile, they had I believe three touchdowns nullified by penalties and turned the ball over on downs on a fourth-and-1 carry at the Broncos' 4-yard line that looked like a 50/50 call for the refs on the field. It could easily have been 60 points.

Carolina Panthers 16 at Green Bay Packers 24

Bryan Knowles: This is one of the tastier possible No. 1-versus-No. 16 seeds you can get in the NFL, but it's still the first-place Packers against the Panthers, dead-last in the NFC at the moment (if, shockingly, still technically alive for the postseason). The Panthers' run defense has certainly come in its usual form -- they allowed a 46-yard run to Aaron Jones on the third play from scrimmage, and the Packers would still be averaging 7.5 yards per carry even if you took that one out. So, you know, things are going well. Packers have a 7-0 lead very early.

Scott Spratt: For anyone that still has the historically bad 2019 Panthers run defense etched in their minds, you might be surprised to know this year's version is ranked 19th in run defense DVOA. That's not terrible! Unfortunately, the team's 27th-ranked pass defense is terrible, and that is not a weakness you want to have facing Aaron Rodgers.

Bryan Knowles: That's fair, Scott -- they still struggle to tackle when running backs get past the line (20th in second-level yards and 28th in open-field yards), but at least stopping them at the line does occasionally happen. Baby steps, especially for a defense which is loaded with rookies. The Panthers have nine active rookie defenders tonight compared to 14 veterans, and I'm including second-year players such as Brian Burns as veterans. It's going to take a little bit for all of these players to gel -- like, maybe an actual offseason where they can work on things.

Scott Spratt: My amateur scouting perspective is that the Panthers have some potential blue-chip defenders in Brian Burns, Derrick Brown, and Jeremy Chinn. But each of that trio is 22 years old, and the team has a handful of defensive starters that are below the replacement level, and it leads to a lot of big plays for opposing offenses.

Unrelated, the Packers just had a massive defensive play with Krys Barnes snatching the ball from Teddy Bridgewater as he reached for the goal line for a touchdown that could have cut the Panthers' deficit to 14-10. As it stands, the Packers are still up 14-3 with the ball at midfield, and it doesn't look likely they'll lose this one.

Bryan Knowles: I have never seen the Quarterback Leap fail in quite that way. Just a volleyball spike on the unprotected football; Barnes just went up and swatted the ball out of there. Bridgewater presumably picked up some of those goal-line tips from his time in New Orleans with Drew Brees; he may want to go back to the film room on that one. Oh, and it's 20-3 and this football game is over. Good Saturday of football, NFL.

Scott Spratt: Curtis Samuel just dropped his second pass of the night, this one on a wide receiver screen with no defender near him. Remember earlier this year when he caught (at least) 14 straight third-down targets and converted 11 of them into new first downs? Yeah, me neither.

Scott Spratt: It felt like the Packers were dominating this game because of that efficient opening drive that Bryan detailed and their first-half scoring of 21 points. But suddenly it's six minutes into the fourth quarter and the Packers are averaging just 3.0 yards per pass attempt, they have punted on every drive in the second half, and their lead has slipped to a single score at 21-13. And really, it could have been closer than that. Teddy Bridgewater had the goal-line stretch fumble in the first half, and he just fumbled again on the goal line. The Panthers recovered this one, but a penalty pushed them back to the 20-yard line and forced a field goal after their next play. But even with those mistakes, the Packers will need to execute on their next drive or else the Panthers will have an opportunity to tie in a two-minute drill.

Scott Spratt: Mason Crosby just bailed the Packers out with a 51-yard field goal, which is impressive at any time but seems especially so late in the fourth quarter in 31-degree temperatures in Green Bay. But it's interesting that he even had to take it since Aaron Rodgers had the Packers to the 30-yard line before he took his fourth sack of the day. Rodgers entered the week with just 13 sacks all season, and he had just two previous games with more than one: last week against the Eagles (9.0% adjusted sack rate, first) and in Week 6 against the Bucs (8.6%, third). The Panthers are 27th in adjusted sack rate (5.0%), and I'm not sure what has motivated their success tonight. That said, I have been impressed by the aggressiveness of the Panthers cornerbacks that have quickly closed on several of the quick passes to Davante Adams. That helped limit Adams to 42 yards on 10 targets in the first 57 minutes.

Scott Spratt: And there's an interesting game theory question. After a big YAC DJ Moore catch that advanced the Panthers to the Packers' 15-yard line, the Panthers immediately kicked a field goal on first-and-10 with 2:07 remaining in the fourth quarter. And then the Panthers kicked deep with their two timeouts plus the two-minute warning remaining. Any other writers still awake and watching this and have thoughts there?

Scott Spratt: I should add that the field goal cut the Panther' deficit to 24-16. Matt Rhule must have preferred his chances to force a three-and-out with the two-minute warning as his third timeout and then complete a touchdown drive versus finishing off the touchdown drive first and then probably needing an onside kick recovery since the two-minute warning would have been "wasted." Off the cuff, that seems pretty smart.

Aaron Schatz: I think it's one timeout. I'm very curious what the GWC model says about these decisions. In particular I'm guessing that kicking onside would have been the right decision given the quality of the Green Bay offense.

Bryan Knowles: Generally I would agree with you, Aaron, but the Green Bay offense hasn't really been clicking tonight. Their offensive line has been strangely porous, allowing four sacks -- I think there's an argument for trying to shut 'em down defensively.

Scott Spratt: Well part one accomplished. The Panthers just sacked Rodgers for the fifth time on third down, and now the Packers are punting with 1:07 left. Crazy.

Bryan Knowles: Make it five sacks, and the Panthers will get the ball back, as Brian Burns finds his way untouched to stop Rodgers in the backfield. I think taking the sack rather than throwing the ball away was a heady play by Rodgers; the 40 seconds are worth more than the 14 yards. Still, though...

Scott Spratt: That excitement lasted one play. Teddy Bridgewater was indecisive on first down and intentionally grounded the ball in an attempt to avoid the sack. That caused a 10-second runoff which left the Panthers with 37 seconds to go 90 yards.

Tom Gower: I'm curious as well if that was the right decision. I know I would have liked it a lot more down nine than down 11, where even after the made field goal you're looking at getting a two-point conversion just to get to overtime.

Scott Spratt: It was in no way the same as his early two drops, but Curtis Samuel got a hand on a deep Bridgewater pass that could have gotten the Panthers a last play or two on the Packers' side of the field. But Samuel couldn't haul that in, and in turn, the Panthers couldn't even get a new first down on their attempted game-winning drive. The Packers did not impress in the second half, but they moved one win closer to the No. 1 NFC seed.

Aaron Schatz: So EdjSports ran numbers on Rhule's decision to kick the field goal and it comes out as a massive error. The Panthers went from 3.3% GWC to 0.5% by kicking the field goal instead of continuing the drive and trying for a touchdown.

Andrew Potter: I'd guess that a significant part of the reason is it effectively eliminates the chances of winning in regulation, whereas by continuing the drive, you still have the chance to score two touchdowns and win. Most of these win probability models rate getting to overtime significantly lower than NFL coaches rate it.

Tom Gower: Well, by kicking the field goal, you're ensuring that your chance of winning the game is probably in the 20% to 25% range even conditional on scoring the touchdown. Assuming they get the score, they need a two-point conversion just to make it to overtime. And in overtime, teams that come into the game as significant underdogs such as Carolina tend to win less than 50% of the time. An example I have used before is, in a tightly-restricted, one-score-only scenario such as the one last night, it doesn't intuitively feel like your winning percentage down six is about four times as good as your winning percentage down eight.


Sunday, December 20

Jacksonville Jaguars 14 at Baltimore Ravens 40

Scott Spratt: I'm unduly excited to see normal kicker Aldrick Rosas punt for the Jaguars today with normal punter Logan Cooke sidelined with an illness. Perhaps the front offices of future tanking teams can learn from this. I don't think even Ryan Fitzpatrick could win five games if his punter was shanking 20-yard punts every Sunday.

Scott Spratt: Well, Rosas' first punt is going to be a free kick. After Lamar Jackson threw an ill-advised deep pass into double coverage that Josh Jones intercepted, Gardner Minshew took a sack for a safety in his end zone two plays later. The Ravens are now up 2-0 four minutes in.

Cale Clinton: I had this game as one of my four in my Sunday Ticket box, but subbed it out for Seattle-Washington following the Dez Bryant touchdown. Not much to say in this side outside of this reflection: imagine how much would change if Jacksonville hadn't upset Indianapolis in Week 1? The Jaguars would be knotted up with the winless Jets in The Race for Trevor Lawrence instead of playing from behind, while the Colts would be potentially looking at a battle for the two seed next week in Pittsburgh. This is why we play the games out.

Scott Spratt: This game is out of hand at 33-7, but somehow it still just delivered the play of the day.

That is 344-pound guard Tyre Phillips who just scooped the fumble and ran 22 yards for a first down. Outstanding.

San Francisco 49ers 33 at Dallas Cowboys 41

Bryan Knowles: A bit of surprising news -- Ezekiel Elliott was made inactive. It was thought he'd play through his nagging calf injury, but nope, it's Tony Pollard today. That'll mess up a few fantasy playoffs.

Neither team is moving the ball well here in the first quarter. The big play was a Cowboys punt after a three-and-out -- Richie James fumbled, setting up the Cowboys inside the red zone, and Pollard eventually bashed it in for the 7-0 lead. Add "return specialist" to the 49ers' Christmas wish list.

Bryan Knowles: I have been a broken record about this, but once again: Nick Mullens has zero pocket awareness. With Mullens standing like a statue in the pocket, DeMarcus Lawrence is able to swipe the ball out of his hands for a Cowboys turnover right outside of the red zone. Mullens had plenty of time and room to step up and avoid the sack, but he apparently had no idea that one of the league's best pass-rushers was bearing down on him. The Cowboys are able to turn the second 49ers' turnover into another touchdown, and it's 14-0 Cowboys, midway through the second quarter. Add "quarterback" to that 49ers wish list -- not necessarily a new starter (that's a whole kettle of fish), but at least a backup who knows what to do if a play takes longer than 2.5 seconds.

Bryan Knowles: The answer to Nick Mullens scuffling? Give the ball to Raheem Mostert. The 49ers' first follow-up drive after the sack-fumble didn't include any of Mostert's trademark massive-speed runs; he's nursing a bum ankle anyway. He did, however, rush five times for 41 yards, helped by some nice blocking from Brandon Aiyuk to seal the edge as he brought the ball down to the 1-yard line. That sets up the rare double play-action, with both Mostert and Aiyuk receiving fake handoffs, that leads to Mullens hitting an uncovered Jordan Reed. 14-7 Cowboys as the first quarter ends.

Bryan Knowles: "I'd rather take the field goal and make it a one-possession game." Can we stop announcers from saying this? Can we make it illegal? Especially in the first half, where there are dozens of possessions left in a game? No? OK.

The conversation came up with the 49ers facing fourth-and-goal from the 2. They had to waste two timeouts there because of communication issues. If you're going to use that many resources, you can't come away with just three points, especially not when you're losing. You have simply have to come away with the touchdown. And, after the Cowboys stuff Jeff Wilson, Kyle Juszczyk, and Mostert, the 49ers SHOVeLL the ball to Brandon Aiyuk on fourth down for the score. It's 17-14 Cowboys still, but at least the game has become competitive.

Bryan Knowles: Brandon Aiyuk would like to counter CeeDee Lamb's final submission for the all-rookie team with a highlight play of his own, turning what should have been a 5-yard loss into a significant gain; I'll be very interested to see how he ranks in the YAC+ ratings after the season, 'cause it's going to be high.

Aiyuk was joined by Kyle Juszczyk (25-yard reception, and the only fullback who deserves a Pro Bowl slot this year) and Jordan Reed (14-yard reception fighting through traffic to bring the ball to the one) to set up the 49ers tying touchdown, and we're back to a 24-24 game. This is almost an elimination game (Cowboys are out if they lose; 49ers are out if they lose and the Cardinals win) and the intensity is higher than you would expect from some four- and five-win teams.

Bryan Knowles: Nick Mullens throws his second interception of the day, Tony Pollard runs in a 40-yard score, and this game should be over. The curse of the Super Bowl loser adds another datapoint.

Scott Spratt: The Cowboys wrapped up a win over the 49ers with this nifty Tony Pollard run.

Pollard entered the week with a 19.1% rushing DVOA this season, dramatically better than Ezekiel Elliott's -1.9%. And then today Pollard produced 132 yards on just 18 touches. Elliott better be glad he already inked his extension because otherwise he might have lost his RB1 job.

Scott Spratt: Somewhat similar to the Panthers yesterday, the 49ers just kicked a field goal on second-and-7 from the Cowboys' 13-yard line down 34-24 with 43 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Off the cuff, this one seems stranger to me because there isn't the same benefit the Panthers saw with the "gaining" of the two-minute warning as a defensive timeout. Of course, Edj's GWC model showed me my intuition was wrong on that one, so I can't confidently say I'm right here.

Well, I guess it doesn't matter now since CeeDee Lamb just fielded the onside kick and returned it for a touchdown.

Aaron Schatz: According to the EdjSports model, that was also an error by the 49ers but a smaller one, although their GWC was also smaller. Kicking the field goal took their GWC from 1.3% to 0.9%.

Scott Spratt: Now I'm bummed that the 49ers failed to convert the onside kick because Kendrick Bourne just came down with this amazing Hail Mary catch and it didn't mean anything at all.

Vince Verhei: The 49ers just scored a Hail Mary touchdown on the last play of the game. They still lost by eight points. I think the Garbage-Time award for Scramble has been wrapped up.

New England Patriots 12 at Miami Dolphins 22

Aaron Schatz: Patriots offense looks ineffective after two drives. They have so little trust in their ability to get the ball more than a couple of yards downfield that they just punted on fourth-and-9 from the Miami 39. THIRTY-NINE!

Scott Spratt: It was a strange decision, Aaron, but it seems likely to pay off now that Matthew Slater made a great play to deflect the ball back into play as it was poised to bounce into the end zone.

It blows my mind, but the Patriots have finished in the upper half of teams in special teams DVOA every year in Bill Belichick's tenure. They're No. 1 this year.

Scott Spratt: Haha, just as I said, Aaron. Tua Tagovailoa drove the Dolphins 95 yards from their 2-yard line to the Pats' 3-yard line, but then he threw an interception to J.C. Jackson in the end zone as he was hit. If the Patriots hadn't pinned the Dolphins all the way back, then that was a touchdown drive. That's just science.

Aaron Schatz: Tua Tagovailoa mostly hitting open receivers for short gains and yards after the catch through the first quarter. Not bad considering that the top three Miami receivers -- DeVante Parker, Mike Gesicki, and Jakeem Grant -- are out today. But he just got whacked by Chase Winovich on the pass rush on the final play of the first quarter and that diverted the pass into an easy interception in the end zone for J.C. Jackson. Now, what do we need to do to teach these guys not to take interceptions out of the end zone when they're surrounded by opponents? Jackson got tackled at the 4.

Aaron Schatz: On replay, that was not just Tua getting hit. It was a bad, hurried decision to throw to a clearly covered Lynn Bowden.

Scott Spratt: Consecutive plays just illustrated the entire Cam Newton experience. First, Newton kept the ball, sidestepped a blitzer who went unblocked into the backfield, and pushed a pile of five defenders for a 2-yard gain on a play that looked destined to lose yards. But then Newton tried to loft a touch pass that didn't go high or far enough to get over linebacker Kyle Van Noy. That probably should have been intercepted.

Aaron Schatz: The Patriots' passing game is almost all short crosses and running back dumpoffs. The other passes are just not accurate. There was the ball that was too high for N'Keal Harry before, and now a ball bounced in front of Jakobi Meyers.

Aaron Schatz: Some insane fumble recovery luck for New England. Cam Newton fumbles trying to scramble for a first down and it looks like Xavien Howard has the scoop-and-score, but on replay it turns out the ball barely grazed the shoe of Christian Wilkins while Wilkins was touching out of bounds. So the whole thing comes back and New England gets the ball back and gets to kick a field goal. That's a 10-point swing on total, complete randomness. 6-0 Patriots.

Scott Spratt: This won't undo the earlier fumbling luck, Aaron, but Jakobi Meyers had this drop ruled a fumble when it easily could have been an incomplete pass.

That sets the Dolphins back up at midfield after just having their first touchdown of the day and taking a 7-6 lead.

Scott Spratt: Uh-oh, is there quarterback controversy again for Miami? Punter Matt Haack just converted a fourth-and-7 with a nice fake-punt pass for 14 yards. Too bad it was called back after a Dolphins player failed to report himself eligible.

Aaron Schatz: I criticized the Patriots for an offense that consisted of nothing but short crosses and running back dumpoffs but the Miami offense is almost as bad today. Partly because Parker is out, I'm sure, but Tagovailoa has not thrown a single deep pass (16-plus air yards) yet and we're through three quarters. Good thing the Miami running game is working well. The Miami touchdown drive at the start of the second half was eight runs out of nine plays and they just finished up the third quarter by converting third-and-8 with a handoff.

Cale Clinton: Throughout the Belichick era, one of the most consistently glaring issues this team has had is drafting wide receivers. Names such as Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce, Brandon Tate, and Chad Jackson are embedded in my brain for the hype I generated in my mind and the disappointment they showed in turn. After avoiding drafting the position altogether for a number of years, the Patriots went back to the well in 2019 and rostered two rookie wide receivers: N'Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers.

With nearly two years under each of their belts, it's fascinating to see how the two have panned out thus far. Entering today's game, 2019's 32nd overall pick N'Keal Harry (18 games) has 382 receiving yards on 41 targets with a 56.2% catch rate and four touchdowns. Meanwhile, the UDFA Meyers (26 games) has 864 yards on 68 receptions with a 68.7% catch rate and a passing touchdown as his lone scoring contribution. Harry, touted for his size and jump ball ability, has struggled to create separation from defensive backs throughout his short Patriots tenure. Meyers, on the other hand, has found ways to make contributions where he can and formed a solid rapport with Cam Newton this season. While many argue that it was shocking Meyers went completely undrafted in 2019, it's still surprising to see just how different the level of production is between these two.

This afternoon, Meyers is currently 6-for-9 with 85 yards receiving, while Harry has one catch for 12 yards on two targets.

Scott Spratt: My cell phone just autocorrected my text from "Salvon" to "Dalvin." Intriguing! Ahmed may have just scored his second touchdown of the day to seal this game, although his knee may have been down on the 1-inch line. It's under review.

Bryan Knowles: Ahmed's knee was, in fact down, but that may have been a blessing in disguise -- it allowed them to run off an extra 40 seconds before Tagovailoa sneaks the ball in for the score. That may be all she wrote for the Patriots' 2020 season, at least from a playoff potential standpoint.

Cale Clinton: There are three certainties in life: death, taxes, and Miami playing spoiler for New England late in the season.

Aaron Schatz: That's another almost-all-run play touchdown drive for Miami. Their offensive line is bullying the Patriots defense today. Eight runs on 11 plays in that drive, and the three passes only added up to 15 yards, mostly on a pass that went 2 yards to tight end Durham Smythe but he pushed forward for an extra 8 yards of YAC.

Aaron Schatz: Also, the Patriots were 6-7. Nobody was spoiling anything for the Patriots. They spoiled this season themselves.

Cale Clinton: Miami currently has 242 rushing yards on the afternoon. Per Ben Volin of the Boston Globe, that would be the fourth-most rushing yards allowed by a Patriots defense in the Belichick era.

Cale Clinton: Of course not, Aaron, I was just referring to the fact that the Patriots went from a longshot "in the hunt" playoff team to officially eliminated with this loss. Not quite the Miami Miracle or last year's Week 17 heroics by Fitzmagic, but still.

Cale Clinton: Silver lining in this game, if you can call it that: NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports that Stephon Gilmore's non-contact injury was not a knee injury. Claims that it may not have been as serious as it looked. He'll have tests done tomorrow to understand the full extent, but a sigh of relief that there seems to be no serious ligament damage.

Cale Clinton: A heartwarming result from this game that we can all feel happy about:

Seattle Seahawks 20 at Washington Football Team 15

Carl Yedor: The battle of the Washingtons has been a bit of an ugly one through the first quarter. Pretty much everything for Seattle through the air has been short, and Washington hasn't been able to get anything of note going, though it has had a bit more success on the ground than through the air, relatively speaking. Tyler Lockett's 15-yard catch to end the quarter was the longest play so far. Dwayne Haskins' ball placement on his passes has not been ideal, costing his receivers some YAC opportunities when they have actually completed balls. Seattle is approaching midfield up 3-0 to start the second quarter.

Vince Verhei: End of the first quarter, and Dwayne Haskins has completed five of eight passes for a total of ... 8 yards. And 9 of those yards came on one play, And even that one play still didn't pick up a first down. Oh, and Jamal Adams already has his weekly sack. And this was an impressive one -- he dropped back to cover the hook zone to the offense's right, then sprinted all the way across the field to track down a scrambling Haskins behind the line of scrimmage for a loss.

But Seattle only has three points because their own offense hasn't been much more productive. They have picked up first downs here and there, but they can't get any big plays, and they're stalling out once crossing midfield. Biggest play of the game so far was a holding penalty on Mike Iupati that wiped out what would have been a third-down conversion inside the red zone, setting up the field goal.

Scott Spratt: That puts Adams at 9.5 sacks on the season, right Vince? He legitimately could have led the league if he hadn't missed five games. Aaron Donald is the current leader at just 12.5.

Vince Verhei: Your Adams math is correct, Scott. And what's crazy is the sacks have not come in bunches -- he's seriously getting one almost every week.

Haskins just threw one of the ugliest passses you'll ever see in the NFL. Rolled out to his right and threw on the run and the wobbliest thing ever came out of his hand. Shaquill Griffin got the tip-drill interception to kill what had been Washington's best drive of the day.

Carl Yedor: Seattle takes advantage of that Haskins interception and marches down the field for a touchdown with 1:45 left in the half. The biggest plays on the drive were a huge Russell Wilson scramble and a long pass interference on a ball intended for DK Metcalf that set Seattle up in the red zone. On third-and-seven from the 10, Wilson fired one into a tight window to Jacob Hollister, who was able to haul it in. Washington will get one final drive this half down 13-0.

Bryan Knowles: This is the second game I'm focusing on in the early window, but there hasn't been much to say, as Vince has noted. It just feels like Dwayne Haskins is taking a second too long to process everything; he has not yet acclimated to the speed of the NFL game. I know his processing speed was the one major hangup scouts had coming into the league, but it just hasn't seemed to improve at all yet. It's still too early to write him off entirely, but he can at least see "bust" from here.

Vince Verhei: Seahawks finally get a touchdown as Wilson hits Jacob Hollister for the score on third down in the red zone. Biggest play on the drive was Wilson's 38-yard gain on a scramble -- Chase Young and company lost contain and let Wilson slip out to his right, and then Washington's cornerback came up to try a tackle but hilariously slipped and fell on his ass, Keystone Kops-style. Seattle up 13-0.

Carl Yedor: Logan Thomas has been the majority of Washington's offense to this point, most of which has been short dump-offs and rub routes that get Thomas open in space. Washington had put together an OK two-minute drive, but Shaquill Griffin had to limp to the sideline, leading to Haskins attacking his vacated side of the field. The drive stalls in field goal range, but Dustin Hopkins is able to hit the 48-yarder to make it 13-3 heading into the half. Seattle gets the ball first on the other side of halftime.

As a side note, people have been mentioning this on social media, but Fox's production team has really been going above and beyond with the cinematography on the touchdown celebrations today. The picture quality has been eerily excellent, and the shots following players off the field has a very different feel than normal. Wonder if this is partially a function of production staff being bored and wanting to experiment given that there aren't the typical fan shots that you can grab post-score, but I'm a fan of the changeup.

Bryan Knowles: Wasn't there some talk about Rashaad Penny being brought back to the active roster for this one? We haven't seen hide nor hair of him, it has been Chris Carson pretty much all day. And now Carson is getting spelled, so Seattle will just run a handoff to Carlos Hyde instead as a breather...

And Hyde takes it 50 yards to the house to give the Seahawks a 20-3 lead. This one seems basically over now, and it has done wonders for the odds of an NFC East champ with a losing record.

Carl Yedor: This one ended up getting tight, as all Seahawks games against teams other than the Jets eventually do. Seattle was up 20-3, but Washington has scored touchdowns on back-to-back possessions now. Their second touchdown was aided by a short field courtesy of a tipped pass that turned into a pick around midfield. Now, Washington has the ball back again with five minutes left and a chance to take the lead. It's 20-15 because Washington missed an extra point and then failed on the two-pointer after the second touchdown, but this one is very much still in doubt. Haskins has had wide-open receivers in the second half and some timely scrambles as well.

Carl Yedor: Outside of a little elevated blood pressure, Seattle is able to finish this one out. Washington gets to the Seattle 23, but Haskins misses an end zone shot to Logan Thomas on first down, gets sacked on second and third down, and then is forced to throw up a jump ball on fourth down that falls incomplete (and would not have counted anyway because of an offensive holding penalty). Seattle escapes 20-15 after being up by 17 at the start of the fourth quarter.

Vince Verhei: I was on the road for the second half so I can't tell you a ton about how or why things happened, but here are some notable things in the boxscore of this game.

  • As noted, Washington's last drive got as far as a first-and-10 at the Seattle 23. If they had hit their extra points earlier, they could have tied the game with the field goal there, and may have played conservatively and accepted overtime. As it was, Seattle got a pair of sacks to set up fourth-and-forever, and then an incompletion.
  • That does not mean Seattle's defense played well at the end. Washington's last three drives: 39 plays, 209 yards, two touchdowns, one turnover on downs.
  • Meanwhile, Seattle's last four drives: three three-and-outs and one interception.
  • Logan Thomas (13 catches, 101 yards) almost had better receiving numbers than the entire Seahawks team (18 catches, 121 yards).
  • Rashaad Penny did in fact play for Seattle, rushing twice for 6 yards in his first game since tearing up his knee last December.
  • It's a good thing Seattle won, because if they had dropped games to Haskins and Colt McCoy in the span of three weeks, I might have demanded the franchise be shut down.

Aaron Schatz: Here are some specifics on that camera angle everyone liked in Seattle-Washington today.

Detroit Lions 25 at Tennessee Titans 46

Cale Clinton: The Titans have really had their way with Detroit early in this game. RBSDM's live box score has them managing a balmy 80% success rate on all plays thus far. Tennessee has only been forced into two third-down situations through their first three drives. This game felt somewhat competitive early, with Detroit answering Tennessee's opening touchdown and evening the score at 7-7. However, the play-action on 21 personnel to set up Corey Davis' 75-yard touchdown immediately made this game feel out of reach despite how early it was.

This is probably the best microcosm for the Tennessee-Detroit matchup:

No matter how hard you try, this just feels like a mismatch.

Cale Clinton: Funny how a game can completely change in just a few plays. Third-and-goal from the 1-yard line, D'Andre Swift coughs up the ball, giving Tennessee possession at their own 1. A Derrick Henry run only gives them 2 yards of breathing room, but Ryan Tannehill is sacked by Romeo Okwara for the safety. The Titans punt, and Detroit takes over at their own 45-yard line. Four plays later -- capped off by a big 39-yard pass to Marvin Jones -- Detroit finds themselves once again first-and-goal inside the 5. This time, Swift redeems himself, staying patient and waiting for his hole to walk into the end zone. The game went from out-of-hand to a one-possession ballgame in eight plays.

Cale Clinton: Final score: 46-25. That's a Scorigami!

Tom Gower: The Titans offense is now about at the point where, when they play a bad defense and don't start shooting themselves in the foot with self-inflicted errors, the game becomes all about how the opposing offense does against Tennessee's beatable but not always beaten defense. Thus my focus in Audibles last week on Jacksonville's offense and their ineptitude that made that game a blowout. Likewise, this week was about whether Matthew Stafford and company would be effective in between Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry moving the ball on the Lions defense.

The short version of this is that Detroit's Pittsburgh-lite impression of many short passes mixed in with runs didn't always make for the most elegant look, but it worked well enough when they held on to the ball. That's an important caveat, though, as this ended up a 46-25 game. D'Andre Swift fumbled at the goal line down 21-7, T.J. Hockenson fumbled at the sticks on a third-down carry (yes, a tight end jet sweep) down 24-15 early in the third quarter, and while Stafford recovered the bad shotgun snap from replacement center Joe Dahl (with regular starter Frank Ragnow out after fracturing his throat last week), it put them in third-and-15 down 32-18 early in the fourth quarter, and that possession would end two plays later on a failed fake punt.

Maybe that's a bit of a strained reading, but this was a game that didn't feature much in the manner of defenses disrupting the opposing offense. The Titans' last sack was in November, when they brought down Jacoby Brissett at the end of their big win in Indianapolis in Week 12. The Lions had one sack today, albeit a pretty significant one as Romeo Okwara got Tannehill for a safety after Swift's goal-line fumble. But overall, things were too easy for both offenses. I could highlight individual players, but why would you expect the Lions secondary to stand out in coverage or, frankly, either team's linebackers to respond well to run-pass conflict? Thus, why I feel like the focus on Detroit's fumbles is in some sense the "correct" interpretation of this game given as a baseline Tennessee's good offense, Detroit's bad defense, and Tennessee's bad defense.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31 at Atlanta Falcons 27

Cale Clinton: Atlanta is playing like a team that's trying to play spoiler. Matt Ryan is playing one of his best games of the 2020 campaign, 15-for-20 for 163 yards and two touchdowns so far in this one. Atlanta's offense is averaging 6.68 yards per play on their first four drives of the afternoon. Our DVOA trends have highlighted the difference in this one. Tampa Bay's defense ranked fourth in DVOA through the first nine weeks of this season, but has fallen to 16th when measuring from Week 10 onward.

On the other side of the ball, Tom Brady has posted a respectable 10-for-16 for 70 yards, but the miscues have been meaningful. Brady has taken two straight third-down sacks to force long fourth downs. Tampa Bay has called five first-down pass plays, and Brady has completed just one of them. The failure to get things moving offensively has created a 14-0 deficit for Tampa Bay to dig themselves out of.

Bryan Knowles: Uh, the Buccaneers are down 17-0 at halftime. Tom Brady is 10-for-16 for 70 yards, which would have to be his worst game of the season. The Buccaneers have gained 60 net yards on the day. I haven't been watching -- what on Earth is happening in Florida? All three Floridian teams have been held scoreless in the first halves of their respective games.

Aaron Schatz: It looks like none of us are watching Falcons-Buccaneers, but it also looks like Rivers is going to get to watch it very closely tomorrow.

Cale Clinton: Bucs were outgained 261-60 in the first half. Yikes.

Scott Spratt: The Bucs have followed their poor first-half performance with 75- and 80-yard touchdown drives to start their second half. Now they just need to figure out how to stop the Falcons.

Scott Spratt: Make that three touchdowns in as many second-half drives for the Bucs. They have cut their deficit from 17-0 to 24-21 in the third quarter, and it has basically all been through the air since Leonard Fournette and Ke'Shawn Vaughn have just 23 yards on 10 carries between them against the No. 4 DVOA run defense.

Scott Spratt: The update here is that the Bucs have tied it at 24-24 early in the fourth quarter and FOX is showing a montage of all of the Falcons' blown leads this season.

Aaron Schatz: Bucs took a 31-27 lead on Atlanta on a 46-yard touchdown to Antonio Brown. The Falcons' ability to blow leads is astonishing.

Scott Spratt: It was a pretty deep pass, too, Aaron.

Aaron Schatz: Rivers, it turns out, will not be spending Monday watching this game, because Tampa Bay is going to win.

Cale Clinton: Obviously another disappointing late result for Atlanta, but Calvin Ridley had a day against a Tampa Bay defense that ranks fifth in weighted passing DVOA. Ridley posted a career-high 163 yards and a touchdown on a career-high 10 receptions, accounting for 45.8% of Ryan's 356 passing yards.

New York Jets 23 at Los Angeles Rams 20

Bryan Knowles: Frank Gore is playing in his 240th career game, which is the record for running backs. I look forward to him breaking Emmitt Smith's yardage record in 2025.

Cale Clinton: The Jets open up with potentially some of the best football we have seen from them this season. New York's defense forces back-to-back three-and-outs, while Sam Darnold kicked things off going 6-for-7 for 54 yards and a touchdown -- plus a 9-yard rush for a first down -- on their first offensive drive. The Jets return to form their next offensive drive, however, going three-and-out with a deep sack on third down.

The more important conversation: I don't know if we have seen this specific uniform combination from the Rams this season, but I love it. Yellow pants are a bold rarity, but the blue stripe compliments the blue text of the jersey nicely. The new Rams uniforms have really grown on me over the season, and I think this is the best permutation of their potential kit combinations.

Cale Clinton: The Jets make a crucial mistake on fourth-and-1, with John Franklin-Meyers jumping offsides to reset downs for the Rams. Commentators chided the defensive lineman for smiling after the mental error, pointing to how costly that would be for their team. Maybe he knew something we didn't, because the very next play, Jared Goff was picked off by Bryce Hall, who returned it all the way to the Rams 22-yard line. The Rams manage to hold them out of the end zone, and the Jets elect to kick a field goal from Los Angeles' 7-yard line to go up 13-0

Vince Verhei: The Rams close the first half with a 45-yard field goal from Matt Gay. (That in itself is news -- the Rams were just 8-of-12 on field goals of 40-plus yards coming into the day.) That cuts the lead to 13-3, and we're on the verge of a result that could have massive effects on the league.

Aaron Schatz: I will note that the Jaguars move to 72% to get the first overall pick in last week's FO simulations where the Jets beat the Rams today. Before today they were at 23%.

Cale Clinton: An extremely Jekyll-and-Hyde performance on all fronts through this first half. The Los Angeles Rams, whose offense came into this game ranking third in weighted rushing DVOA, have rushed just eight times this half and averaged 3.25 yards per carry while doing so. Jared Goff, averaging 141.6 yards in the first half this season, goes into the locker room 11-for-20 for 86 yards with an interception and two sacks. This Jets defense has looked borderline dominant at points, getting consistent pressure from the defensive line against an offensive line that ranks ninth on ESPN's Team Pass Block Win Rate list. Darnold's first drive of the game flashed some of the best football I have seen from him this season, resulting in the lone touchdown of the half.

That being said, there have certainly been moments where these two teams have shown their true colors. The Jets continue to insist on giving Frank Gore the ball, despite the fact he has averaged 2.2 yards on 10 attempts today. Darnold has come back down to earth after his opening drive. Two Jets penalties on the defensive side of the ball kept drives alive for the Rams offense, and would have been much more costly had it not been for continued mistakes from L.A. The Jets' final offensive drive of the half was a mismanagement of clock, leaving enough time for the Rams to drive downfield and kick a field goal. The Rams' drive that closed the half featured Goff starting off 4-for-4 for 34 yards before missing three straight passes and setting up the field goal.

The Rams are undoubtedly better than the Jets. That's a certainty. But this is as good a performance as we have seen out of the Jets all season. One thing remains to be seen: will the Jets find a way to Jets themselves out of a win, or will they Jets themselves out of a shot at Trevor Lawrence?

Vince Verhei: Jets open the second half with an 11-play, 72-yard touchdown drive and take a 20-3 lead. Biggest plays were completions of 21 yards to Breshad Perriman and 22 yards to Chris Herndon. They get to fourth-and-goal at the 1. Jets call timeout, then the Rams call timeout, and then Frank Gore plunges in for the score.

Bryan Knowles: Frank Gore punches in a touchdown from the 1-yard line, and the Jets are up to a 20-3 lead in what would be the shocker of the year.

The Sam Darnold situation becomes a lot stickier if the Jets are looking at Justin Fields and not Trevor Lawrence, doesn't it?

Vince Verhei: Not in my eyes, Bryan. Darnold was 30th in DVOA as a rookie in 2018, 31st in 2019, and coming into today he was dead-last out of 34 qualifiers (yes, even worse than Carson Wentz). He has been consistently terrible and getting worse each season before this, which I assume would be the best game of his career. I'd be stunned at this point if he ever developed into a good starter. But if that does happen somehow, it would have to be after a fresh start somewhere else.

Cale Clinton: Mekhi Becton has been one of the biggest bright spots for an otherwise dismal Jets season. On the Frank Gore touchdown run, he takes on Aaron Donald solo and prevents him from getting any meaningful penetration. Gore runs right off of Becton's left hip and punches it in to put New York up 20-3 after the extra point.

Cale Clinton: Signs of life from the Rams offense! Frankie Luvu had Tyler Higbee dead to rights, but elected to attempt a one-armed spinning takedown, which Higbee escaped to set up a 44-yard gain. Goff was 3-for-3 on the drive for 74 yards, capped off with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Robert Woods.

Also, a note on the Frank Gore touchdown: that's his 100th career touchdown. It's his second rushing touchdown in five games; he had zero in his previous 22 (!!!) games.

Carl Yedor: There's more than enough time for the Jets to, you know, Jets this, but this has been bizarre. They're up 23-10 with about 90 seconds left in the third quarter, and they have been able to sustain drives surprisingly well. The good news for the Rams is that the Jets' relative weakness on defense is their pass defense, so coming back is well within the range of outcomes. It's only two scores, and there is plenty of time. Today has been incredibly ugly, but the Rams carved up the Jets on their previous touchdown drive.

Vince Verhei: Jets quickly get into the red zone again (Jamison Crowder with catches of 16 and 24 yards on back-to-back snaps) but get to fourth-and-goal from the 3. Even though they had gone for it from the 1 on their last drive, Adam Gase settles for the field goal here, and the Jets extend the lead to 23-10. No, the 3-yard line is not the 1-yard line, but I think that would have been a great spot to get aggressive.

Cale Clinton: Just a reminder as we head into the fourth quarter: due to Jacksonville having a weaker strength of schedule, the Jaguars hold the tiebreaker if both they and the Jets finish the season 1-15.

Vince Verhei: The Rams can't run through the Jets' defensive front -- the trio of Cam Akers, Darrell Henderson, and Malcolm Brown have only 33 yards on 10 carries -- so they go around them instead. Robert Woods takes a jet sweep for a 40-yard gain to get L.A. nearly into the red zone on the last play of the third quarter.

Bryan Knowles: I wish we had a Jets fan on staff at the moment, just to hash out their feelings as the Jets' lead trickles away. The Rams convert that Woods end around into a Tyler Higbee touchdown, and it's a 23-17 Jets lead...

Cale Clinton: Penalties may be the difference between Trevor Lawrence and, well, not Trevor Lawrence. On the Rams' second touchdown drive, Bless Austin was flagged for defensive pass interference on a ball that sailed 10 feet over Cam Akers' head. This changed a third-and-6 to a first-and-goal from the 6-yard line, eventually setting up the Tyler Higbee touchdown. On the ensuing Jets offensive drive, Trevon Wesco draws an unnecessary roughness penalty away from the ball to push the Jets back to second-and-23, eventually punting on the series.

And as I write this, the Jets pick up ANOTHER flag, this time for a neutral zone infraction that allows the Rams to continue driving. New York has drawn six flags for 61 total penalty yards. The Jets' lack of discipline may simultaneously be their short-term undoing and long-term saving grace.

Cale Clinton: Tangent from the action: as Adam Gase challenges the ruling of incomplete pass on the field despite Jared Goff's knee being down, FOX heads into the commercial break playing "No One Knows" by Queens of the Stone Age. Not sure what the impetus behind it would be, but it feels like there has been a concerted effort by all broadcasting networks to get creative with the music heading into halftime. I think NBC specifically tailors their music to bands/artists from the home team's city, but I'm not sure how consistent that is.

Vince Verhei: Jets go three-and-out, and Nsimba Webster returns the punt 34 yards into Jets territory. Rams have a first down with about 5:30 to go, now down 23-20.

Vince Verhei: Oh, goodness. The Rams drive goes nowhere after Tyler Higbee is called for a block above the waist. Third-and-4, Jared Goff throws an incompletion to Akers on a wheel route to the left. Fourth-and-4 brings up a very difficult decision. As bad as the Rams have been on long kicks this year, do they try a 50-yard field goal to tie the game? They do not. Goff stays on the field and tries a deep pass to Gerald Everett, but Marcus Maye breaks it up. Jets still lead 23-20, less than four minutes to go.

Cale Clinton: Like I said, penalties are going to be the difference between whether or not the Jets get Trevor Lawrence. This time, however, they come against the Rams. Right after I made that last comment, Los Angeles had a Cam Akers touchdown taken off the board because of an offensive holding penalty. Goff was sacked, completed a pass short of the first-down marker, and the Rams elect to kick a field goal. The next drive, Cam Akers broke off a 22-yard run that was again wiped off the board after Tyler Higbee drew a flag for a block in the back. First-and-10 from the Jets 17-yard line becomes second-and-10 from the Jets 43-yard line. Rams rush for 6 yards, then miss two straight shots for the end zone, turning the ball over on downs.

The Jets are officially in victory formation, and the Rams have no timeouts.

Vince Verhei: Third-and-6 at the Rams' 48, Darnold hits a simple short curl route to Gore, who catches the ball and scoots *backwards* over the line just far enough to get a conversion. That's a first down in L.A. territory at the two-minute warning, the Rams are out of timeouts, and this is done now.

The good news for L.A. is that this won't matter too much for their playoff seeding. They weren't likely to get the first-round bye anyway, and next week's game against Seattle will still largely decide the NFC West.

The bad news for L.A. is that THEY LOST TO THE JETS.

Cale Clinton: I didn't think they'd do it, but they have actually done it. The New York Jets have won a football game. At this moment, the Jacksonville Jaguars are officially in possession of the No. 1 overall pick.

Carl Yedor: I think this just further underscores how difficult it is to go winless in the NFL. Not only do you have to be terrible, you can't afford to have any games where you catch enough breaks to turn a loss into a win. After the performance art that was their blown lead against the Raiders, I thought the Jets might have what it takes to join that hallowed group of legendary losers. But it was not to be. Frank Gore and the rest of Gang Green just wouldn't let it happen.

Bryan Knowles: The Jets closed as 17-point underdogs. That means they are tied for the fourth-biggest upset in Stathead's database. Last year's Dolphins-over-Patriots game was at 17.5, as was a 1978 Baltimore Colts-over-Patriots upset. The all-time leader remains the Jets winning as 18-point underdogs in Super Bowl III.

Cale Clinton: I'll joke about the Jets blowing their chances at a shot at Trevor Lawrence, but this cannot be forgotten: that was a terrible, costly, and inexplicable loss by the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams played sloppy football, plain and simple. There were moments where Sam Darnold picked apart this defense and moved the Jets offense downfield at will. The Rams failed to get success out of their running backs early, but as Cam Akers began consistently picking up big chunks of yardage, they turn to Jared Goff and take shots at the end zone. Yeah, Akers' runs of 16 and 22 yards were taken off the board by penalties, but that doesn't mean that he didn't gash the Jets defense for 16 and 22 yards! Starting your last offensive drive at the Jets 43-yard line and only moving 16 yards seems pretty inexcusable. Third-and-4 from the Jets 37, with four minutes left, and you elect to take two shots at the end zone.

Per Next Gen Stats' QB Grids, Jared Goff entered this game with a 32.9 passer rating when targeting the right side of the field 20-plus yards downfield. That's his lowest-rated area of the field, and that's where he targeted on fourth-and-4. If you're not going to run it with Cam Akers, whose last several runs had gashed the Jets defense for big gains, at least call up a play where your quarterback is set up for success. There's so much time, why take the home run shot?

Cale Clinton: I know someone mentioned that they wished we had a Jets fan on Audibles who could give us some personally invested insight into this rollercoaster of a game. Well, just take a look at the replies to the Jets announcing this win on Twitter:

You can tell that even the Jets social team didn't want to tweet this one out. Just "W." That little period speaks volumes.

Kansas City Chiefs 32 at New Orleans Saints 29

Aaron Schatz: Saints coverage is swarming the Chiefs early. A little too close, since they got an illegal contact penalty on what would have been an interception. Malcolm Jenkins leveled Tyreek Hill for a 5-yard loss on one catch, and then the Chiefs went deep to Mecole Hardman but Chauncey Gardner-Johnson was there and was able to slap out what should have been a big catch.

Aaron Schatz: Drew Brees with a terrible, wobbly pass gets intercepted by La'Jarius Sneed, who has had an underrated strong rookie year for the Chiefs. Saints defense is paying two-high and basically asking the Chiefs to run on them but the Chiefs are passing anyway. Patrick Mahomes just scrambled 13 yards because the Saints had man coverage under that two-high shell. Then the coverage finally had a lapse when nobody covered Tyreek Hill coming in from underneath -- he motioned back and forth behind the offensive line and then snuck out to catch the touchdown. 7-0 Chiefs.

Aaron Schatz: Brees just overthrew Emmanuel Sanders on third-and-4 and is now 0-for-5 to start a game for the first time in his career.

Vince Verhei: And that set up a New Orleans punt, where Taysom Hill is still playing upback. Jameis Winston's on the COVID list, so if Brees -- who is playing injured today -- gets sidelined, it'll be Hill taking snaps for New Orleans all the way. It's insane to me that they still have him on special teams, but then everything they have done with Hill this season has been insane to me, so why stop now?

Bryan Knowles: I would have expected this game to be higher scoring than 14-0 to start the second quarter. Is it possible the Saints rushed Brees back too early? Or is this finally the dominating performance we have been waiting on from Kansas City?

Aaron Schatz: The scary thing is that the Saints are getting pressure with just four pass-rushers and they're covering closely for at least the first couple of seconds of every down and the Chiefs are still up 14-0 because Mahomes keeps getting away from the pressure and making plays once guys finally get open.

Bryan Knowles: Well, a 51-yard pass, most of it through the air, might wake Drew Brees up. I'll need to dig up the air yards on that; Brees doesn't have many of those any more. Taysom Hill punches it in, and the game has been joined. Phew!

Scott Spratt: According to the broadcast, the Saints were poised to take Patrick Mahomes at the 11th pick of the 2017 draft when the Chiefs jumped them and took him 10th. Is anyone as smart as the team that picked after a superstar after they have had four years to decide whether or not to let us know about it?

Aaron Schatz: That's 38 air yards on the big deep Brees pass to Emmanuel Sanders. He has also had a couple of shorter passes such as a good screen to Alvin Kamara on the final Saints drive of the half, but still, he looks awful. He's going into halftime 5-for-16.

Chiefs also get a big break on the Saints' final punt. Demarcus Robinson gets the ball knocked out of his hands and it bounces into the end zone and Alex Anzalone pounces on it but it squirts out of his arms and out the back of the end zone. That means a safety for the Saints and not a touchdown, so it costs them five points. And they don't even get the benefit of the ball after the safety because the half is over. The free kick was the final play of the half.

I can't imagine the Saints defense playing better than they have so far and they're still losing 14-9 at halftime. Can they keep up this pass rush in the second half? It helps that the Chiefs are down to their third-string right tackle. But on offense, the Saints are also out their starting guards -- Nick Easton was inactive and Andrus Peat went out in this game.

Aaron Schatz: Well, shocker of shockers, the Saints have taken the lead. They were helped by a couple of big penalties on the Chiefs: a roughing the passer after Brees shot a 25-yard dart to Tre'Quan Smith, his second-best pass of the day, and then a DPI on Sneed that was iffy because the ball was behind Taysom Hill and Hill really would not have been able to get back to it. Drive ended with Brees flipping it to Latavius Murray who had been blocking -- everyone was covered and the pressure was about to get to Brees but Murray snuck out and then got down the left sideline for the score. Saints go for two and fail, so it is now 15-14 Saints. Let's see what Mahomes can do in response -- and just as important, let's see what the Chiefs offensive line can do against the New Orleans pass pressure.

Bryan Knowles: I mean, this just isn't fair. I thought for sure Patrick Mahomes was throwing this away...

Aaron Schatz: That Chiefs touchdown drive was all short passes with a lot of YAC, as the Saints defensive backs were giving cushion due to the speed of the Chiefs receivers. And I, too, thought Mahomes was throwing the ball away and it was also a great catch by Mecole Hardman down low. Chiefs surprisingly kick an extra point to go up six instead of trying a two-pointer to go up seven so it is 21-15 Chiefs.

Carl Yedor: That touchdown to Hardman in the corner of the end zone looked a lot like a Russell Wilson-Tyler Lockett connection from last year. Both were incredibly high on the degree-of-difficulty scale. I wonder which technically comes out "more impressive" on the catch probability scale.

Tom Gower: I had this thought while watching Aaron Rodgers and the Packers last night, but Mahomes this afternoon is just reinforcing the idea that quarterbacks who can throw accurately off platform and adjust to the correct velocity of the throw are a total cheat code. Pretty good grab by Hardman on that touchdown, too.

One of the things Aaron has talked about (on the podcast and I think elsewhere as well) is that the Packers have passed the Chiefs for the best offensive DVOA because while they're both fantastic passing offenses, the Packers are a much better running team. I think you see that somewhat when the Chiefs "struggle." New Orleans is playing more deep safety to take away the deep ball and as Tony Romo noted earlier, they have good team speed on defense, letting them come up and tackle. That means Kansas City adjusts by doing more short passes and runs, and they're just not a great running team. The phenomenon reminds me a bit of how a similar dynamic played out with the Peyton Manning-era Colts.

Bryan Knowles: Oh, Cameron Jordan threw a punch and got tossed from the game. Oofdah. The Chiefs immediately run the option to his side and score, so it's 29-15 Chiefs with 13:44 left. Game isn't over, but you'd think the Saints would need a score on this ensuing drive in order to stay in range here.

Aaron Schatz: Chiefs marched up the field with a lot of passes to Travis Kelce and runs on second-and-short. The Saints are going to really have a problem continuing to bring enough pass rush with just four guys now that Jordan is out of the game.

Vince Verhei: Stunningly, this has been the least exciting game of the afternoon. But Kansas City's latest touchdown -- an incredibly late downfield pitch on a speed-option play -- is changing that.

The two-point conversion -- a shovel pass to Kelce that was similar to Kelce's earlier touchdown catch -- puts the Chiefs up 29-15.

Bryan Knowles: The Saints did not score on their next drive. They DID, however, force a fumble after going three-and-out, and turned THAT into points a few plays later. Not how I saw that going in my mind there, but we still have a football game in the Superdome...

Aaron Schatz: Saints finally brought a blitz on a third-and-long and they got to Mahomes -- Trey Hendrickson was able to bat the ball out of his hands and the Saints recovered to give themselves a short field. But the question by this point is, can Brees possibly find receivers and hit them? When they're open, he misses them. When he hits them, or at least comes close, they're covered. Turns out it doesn't matter because the drive is three plays: fullback dumpoff, Kamara for 2 yards, and then Kamara pass behind the line of scrimmage taken 14 yards into the end zone. 29-22 Chiefs.

Aaron Schatz: Let the record also state that Sean Payton made a mistake by kicking the extra point. He should have gone for two after the touchdown. It was a classic "two-point conversion after scoring down 14" situation.

Bryan Knowles: Yet another team drives late, down a touchdown and a field goal, and has to make the decision to push for a score or kick early and try to get the ball back. It helps when you have one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time under center -- the Saints push it 75 yards in 2:12, converting on fourth down AND scoring just before the two-minute warning. Chiefs are clinging to a three-point lead with 2:06 left.

As a note: the Chiefs were 3.5 point favorites coming into this one. They have failed to cover in their last five games.

Aaron Schatz: The line was 3 in a lot of places, so a push is still in the cards for a lot of people. That would still be failing to cover though. I'm surprised the Saints kicked it deep after the touchdown. You really trust your defense to stop Mahomes when all he needs is one first down?

Scott Spratt: Are you suggesting the Chiefs are point-shaving, Bryan? Because I am ready for a good conspiracy.

Bryan Knowles: Far from it, Scott.

But the NFL record (since 1978) for wins without covering belongs to the 1986 Bears at eight. This would be the seventh such game for the Chiefs if the score stays as it is.

Scott Spratt: You're not saying, you're just saying.

Carl Yedor: Additionally, Kansas City didn't take advantage of it, but there was so little time left before the two-minute warning that they conceivably could have passed on first down there without having to worry about clock stoppages. I have seen some teams do this in the past, but I think it's a somewhat overlooked scenario. When you only have a couple of seconds that you would need to burn to avoid having the clock stop prior to the two-minute warning, it would probably be advantageous to throw in those situations, especially against a defense all geared up to stop the run.

After a 2-yard gain on first down, what do the Chiefs do next? They throw. Of course. Off a little play-action, Mahomes hits Kelce for a first down and forces the Saints to burn their second timeout with 1:52 to play. Maybe defenses would be more ready to stop the pass right before the two-minute warning? I'm not sure.

Aaron Schatz: Good win for the Chiefs, but I still don't get the way everyone in the football world talks about this as an all-time great, dominant, unbeatable team. They just won another game by one score. And if that ball at the end of the first half is a touchdown instead of a safety, the game is probably 35-31 Saints and we're watching the Chiefs try to come back with a touchdown drive to win. Which maybe they do -- after all, it's Patrick Mahomes. But maybe they don't. The Chiefs are probably the best team of 2020. They are not unbeatable.

Scott Spratt: Aaron, I think the distinction may be that you tend to look at teams one year at a time while the fanfare for the Chiefs is for this era of the Chiefs franchise with Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Andy Reid, and company. I'm not an NBA guy, so no guarantees this metaphor works perfectly. But I think the Steph Curry-era Warriors were beatable or even beaten in individual seasons by teams such as the Cavaliers and Rockets. But the totality of their five-year run was overwhelmingly better than the field. That's how the Chiefs feel. They lost that AFC title game to the Patriots when Dee Ford lined up offsides on what would have been a game-winning interception. Maybe they'll lose in this postseason or one of the next few. But it's hard to see any team being their match from a broad view of the last few seasons and the next few seasons barring injuries to their core pieces.

Aaron Schatz: Yeah, Scott, I disagree. I think people are saying this team is all-time great and unbeatable *this year specifically.* Ben Baldwin said on Twitter that "I just don't see how any team except for maybe -- MAYBE -- the Packers can beat this Chiefs team" and that's just not how analytics people have talked about teams like this in the past. They're the favorites, but they aren't invincible. I would compare them to the 2011 Packers, for example, who had Aaron Rodgers and went 15-1 with a bunch of close games where their defense let teams get back into it, and then lost their first playoff game.

Scott Spratt: It seems silly to declare any team unbeatable in football. The Jets just upset the Rams. Bad teams beat good teams semi-regularly, and the NFL playoffs are single elimination.

Philadelphia Eagles 26 at Arizona Cardinals 33

Scott Spratt: The Eagles' aspirations of riding the switch from Carson Wentz to Jalen Hurts to another late-charging NFC East title have taken a major hit early today. The Cardinals have forced a safety and blocked a punt, and they are already up 16-0 still in the first quarter.

Vince Verhei: Adding a little more detail to the end-of-quarter report here, the first 15 minutes have seen:

  • DeAndre Hopkins fumble the ball away to the Eagles at the 5-yard line.
  • The Eagles responding with a safety when Jalen Hurts was called for intentional grounding in the end zone on third down.
  • A 42-yard pass from Kyler Murray to Maxx Williams set up Murray's 8-yard touchdown run.
  • The Cardinals didn't just block a punt -- it bounced backward so violently that the play lost 36 yards even though the ball went out of bounds without being recovered.
  • That set up Murray's touchdown pass to Chase Edmonds.

I think this game is already more eventful than the entirety of Seattle-Washington.

And now the Eagles have gotten on the board early in the second quarter -- on third-and-20, Quez Watkins takes a wide receiver screen, slips a pair of tackles and zips into the end zone for a 32-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 16-7. The Hurts playbook still largely consists of screen plays -- that's at least three already.

Scott Spratt: Jalen Hurts underthrew an uncovered Jalen Reagor in the end zone on a second-and-20, and that allowed cornerback Patrick Peterson to recover and break up the pass. That seemed like a drive-ender, but then on a third-and-20, his wide receiver screen to Quez Watkins fared a bit better than they likely expected.

Scott Spratt: I don't know what Kyler Murray was thinking leaving the ball extended as defenders reached him in the backfield. Nickell Robey-Coleman took the ball as if it was on a plate.

The Eagles quickly capitalized on that turnover with a touchdown on a fourth down. Suddenly, this game looks competitive again at 19-14.

Vince Verhei: This game continues to be newsworthy. First, here's the video of the Arizona punt block. The Cardinals obviously wanted to scoop this and get an easy score -- you'll never see a special teams unit so frustrated after blocking a punt.

In the second quarter, the Cardinals added a field goal after DeAndre Hopkins made this ridiculous catch:

(Sorry, Rivers.)

Next Arizona possession, Murray is trying to do too much. He hangs in the pocket forever, letting a late blitzer get to him. Then, instead of going down and taking the sack, he tries to fight out of it. That gives a second defender a chance to swat the ball away, and the Eagles recover deep in Arizona territory.

Then, down 19-7, the Eagles opt to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 3. Hurts slips out to his left and finds Greg Ward for the touchdown. That cuts the lead to 19-14.

No worries for Arizona, however. They quickly drive into the red zone, recovering Murray's fumble this time, then getting a touchdown pass from Murray to Larry Fitzgerald to extend their lead to 26-14.

Vince Verhei: Just updating the halftime info here: despite another Ward touchdown late in the second quarter, the Cards still lead 26-20. Arizona only punted once -- they got three touchdowns, two lost fumbles, a field goal, and a seventh drive that ended with a first down in Eagles territory, but they had no timeouts.

Meanwhile, Philly's offense is all deep balls and screens -- they have four guys averaging more than 20 yards per catch and three guys averaging less than 10.

Vince Verhei: The Eagles give up a sack and get a bad punt, so the Cardinals start a drive in Philadelphia territory. They waste that opportunity, however, because Murray is intercepted on second-and-goal. Teams don't win many games with multiple red zone turnovers, but Arizona is still ahead today.

Aqib Talib is on commentary here and is getting decidedly mixed reviews on social media. I haven't been paying close enough attention to have a particularly strong opinion either way, but I do like the way he pronounces "Kyler Murray" as "calamari."

Bryan Knowles: Philadelphia scores a touchdown to tie it at 26, pending the extra point. But the holder is out, being evaluated for a concussion, and Zach Ertz is the emergency holder. The snap isn't great, and Ertz can't corrall it, so it's still a 26-26 tie as we approach the end of the third quarter. Weird, weird football game.

Vince Verhei: Eagles punter Cameron Johnston has left the game with a head injury. Placekicker Jake Elliott has punted once, but on their last fourth-down, Doug Pederson opted to leave the offense on the field. Jalen Hurts made it pay off, scrambling for 17 yards and a first down. (It was only fourth-and-6 because Hurts had hit Jalen Raegor for 23 on third-and-29.) That sets up Hurts rushing touchdown to tie the game; he's up to 55 yards on eight carries now. But then Johnston is also the regular holder on placekicks, and emergency holder Zach Ertz bobbles the snap on the PAT, so the score is still tied.

Vince Verhei: In case this game wasn't exciting enough, check out this beautiful pass for a big gain by Andy Lee on a fake punt:

Scott Spratt: This is how the Cardinals regained their lead:

Aqib Talib: "I don't understand why Bill O'Brien traded this guy."

Sorry, Rivers.

Vince Verhei: This game is amazing. DeAndre Hopkins with the "Sorry, Rivers," to end all "Sorry, Rivers" puts Calamari over 400 yards passing and the Cardinals back on top.

Scott Spratt: Dallas Goedert got hands on both a third-and-21 and a fourth-and-21 pass in or around the end zone. But he couldn't secure the first one while falling to the ground, and a defender dislodged his catch on the second. That turns the ball over on downs, but the Eagles at least do have their three timeouts to try to get one more chance with 1:50 left in the fourth quarter.

Vince Verhei: Down by seven, the Eagles get a first-and-10 at the Arizona 11, but then give up sacks on first and second down. Dallas Goedert nearly scores on third-and-21, but can't reel in the pass as he falls to the ground. So the Eagles go for it on FOURTH-AND-21. The pass is incomplete. I don't know if that's because the holder is hurt -- they have three timeouts, so they could have kicked a field goal and still gotten the ball back, even inside the two-minute warning.

Indeed, the Eagles force a three-and-out. Murray's third-down run is stopped a yard short, Lee's punt is fair caught at the 22, and Hurts needs 78 yards in 1:28 with no timeouts to tie the game (or win with a two-pointer).

Vince Verhei: Well that game was tremendous. Just tremendous. The Eagles got as close as the Arizona 31-yard line, but Hurts' two Hail Marys both fell incomplete. Before that, we had two memorable moments: Hurts running for a short game in bounds on third-and-long, scrambling to get the offense ready for a fourth-down play, and maybe getting a benefit from Kliff Kiingsbury calling timeout right before he snapped the ball, before converting with a pass to Travis Fulgham for the conversion; and the next play, when Hurts had the ball swatted out of his hands, only to recover it and hit Goedert for a first down out of bounds.

Cards win, and it didn't even occur to me were watching a shootout between ex-Oklahoma quarterbacks until they posed together for pictures after the game.

Also, no offense should have guys named Hurts, Ertz, and Goedert on the field at the same time. Leads to some very confusing play-by-play.

Scott Spratt: Why does Doug Pederson keep pretending like there is a quarterback controversy in Philadelphia?

Houston Texans 20 at Indianapolis Colts 27

Rivers McCown: I guess my CliffsNotes of a game I'm solo covering (miss you Dave!) are as follows:

  • The Colts ran all over the Texans. The only reason this game was as close as it was at the end was because they out of nowhere decided to pass the ball three straight times on their first drive out of the half, leading to a field goal.
  • Deshaun Watson is really, like, ridiculously good. He has now taken 27 quarterback hits in three games because the Texans offensive line has never met a stunt they couldn't flub a pick-up on.
  • I feel bad for Keke Coutee for fumbling on the goal line there, that's a terrible way to end a game. His teammates were mostly with him. Houston's fanbase seems like they're done with him. I am kind of all over the place on how I feel about him going forward. He's a confounding player with clear strengths and weaknesses.
  • I don't think Philip Rivers had a bad game so much as he just had too slow of a process on some key downs that hurt the Colts in an inoordinate way.
  • David Johnson had his biggest game of the season volume-wise because the Colts played deeper zones and forced checkdowns. A vast majority of his yardage came on two busted plays where he got open out of the structure of the play. Don't look at the numbers and think he's back or anything.
  • If I never have to watch this Texans defense again, I'm good with that.

The brief in full, here.

Cleveland Browns 20 at New York Giants 6

Scott Spratt: That was really cool, and cool of Cris Collinsworth to notice and call it out. Giants center Nick Gates just saw the Browns jump offsides, and so he snapped the ball on his own ahead of schedule so Colt McCoy could throw on a free play.

Vince Verhei: Ahem:

Bryan Knowles: Both of the first two drives in this game ended with failed fourth-down conversions, which no doubt pleased the non-analytics crowd around the Twitterverse. At least the Giants failed with a weird fake special teams play; the Browns just failed to hit Austin Hooper on a pass play. Apparently, that success emboldened the Giants ... to completely forget to cover Hooper on the Browns' next drive. He had both the longest catch (17 yards) and the touchdown, entirely uncovered, to give the Browns the 7-3 lead.

Aaron Schatz: Giants with another fourth down, fourth-and-2, and they go for it again. But Wayne Gallman gets stuffed by Sheldon Richardson. Joe Judge is one of the most conservative coaches in the league this year, so it's good to see him being aggressive and unfortunate to see the Giants failing in those situations.

Scott Spratt: Cody Parkey continues to be a doink savant. He just caught the right upright on an extra point attempt that was pushed back 15 yards because of an unsportsmanlike penalty on Jarvis Landry.

Bryan Knowles: The Browns score a touchdown to go up 13-3, though it was sort of an odd play. David Njoku was wide open, but Mayfield chose to throw the ball over his head to Jarvis Landry, tightly covered along the end line. It worked, so no harm no foul, but a bit of unnecessary degree of difficulty there.

Scott Spratt:

I love Mike Tirico's "Oh no."

Bryan Knowles: If the Giants had converted either of the fourth downs inside the red zone, maybe we'd have a different ballgame at the moment. In the world in which we actually live, the Browns are up 20-3, and don't seem like they're in any danger of losing.

This means the only way we'll avoid having a team without a losing record win the NFC East is if Washington can beat both the Panthers and Eagles in the last two weeks of the season. Certainly doable, but eef.

Comments

87 comments, Last at 23 Dec 2020, 9:34pm

1 Chiefs/Saints

Kind of a disappointing game. Very messy from a penalty and reffing standpoint. There were a couple unusual plays that understandably took a little while to decipher (4th down reception by an ineligible O-lineman, the safety), but generally the refs were painfully slow delivering their decisions. The first half alone lasted almost two hours; much too long for optimal enjoyment.

In essence, both defenses played well, and took care of the areas where it looked like they might get overwhelmed. The Chiefs managed to bottle up the strong Saints run game, and the Saints kept a lid on Mahomes. Of course in today’s NFL that still means 60 points, and the superior passing offence ultimately wins. 

However, I agree with the comments above about the rhetoric surrounding the Chiefs supposed invincibility this season. They don’t look as dominant as last year’s Ravens did at this stage, for example. And the AFC field appears stronger and deeper this year. Tennessee or Buffalo look like they could hang 40 on anyone, in which case it only takes a couple of unlucky bounces. Baltimore are still strong all round. Pittsburgh/Indy lack the firepower, but could conceivably disrupt with their defences. I couldn’t have the Chiefs much more than 75% to beat any of those teams. 

26 The Chiefs Are Coasting

In reply to by BJR

Part of the reason the Chiefs aren't beating the spread is because their O-line is atrocious right now. Another reason is bc they aren't really trying that hard. 

In the early part of the season, the single best part of watching the Chiefs was the redzone play calling. They had so many wild crazy ideas, and for the most part they worked. Their redzone success rate was very, very high.

Then about the time they wrapped up the division, someone turned off the faucet. They stopped trying new stuff, and their redzone rate plummeted. The play that sticks out was the one where Kelce tried to throw a TD pass to Mahomes. We know now that Mahomes drew that play up himself.

An offense that is letting its young QB design trick plays for his friends is coasting. The game plans they are rolling out every week are nothing like the ones they had for, say, Baltimore. Reid and Bienemy have clearly decided to save all their trickeration for the playoffs. I really don't think there'll be any way to know how good this team is before then.

54 That sounds a little like…

That sounds a little like conjecture to me. Given the importance of no1 seeding in the new playoff system, there is surely no way the Chiefs would risk 'coasting' through these regular season games. Perhaps Reid is saving his best stuff for the most critical moments, but that must apply to any coach.

Look, they are clearly the best team, and if their offence fires on all cylinders nobody can live with them. The only dispute is whether they are some sort of historic powerhouse who will steamroll their way through the playoffs. If that were the case you would surely expect them to be stomping more of their mediocre opponents during the regular season. DVOA also backs this up.

60 I mean, sure, they don't…

In reply to by BJR

I mean, sure, they don't look dominant. Other than the fact that they have only lost 1 game in the last, what? 13 months?

They beat Tampa, New Orleans, Miami, Baltimore, and Buffalo all on the road. I don't know that I remember a team with that many quality road wins in a season.

I think we are a bit too worried about how it looks instead of the actual results. The results speak for themselves.

67 Nobody is denying they aren…

Nobody is denying they aren't the best team. The point is: they aren't so far clear of the field that the others might as well pack up and go home, as much of the coverage suggests.

This is an analytics site, where studies have been done showing close wins are much less predictive of future success than 'stomps'. "The results speak for themselves" is not a good argument.

2 NFC East

Kind of crazy that, with only 2 games left, all four teams still have a real shot at the division. Dallas/Philly appear to have at least raised their offences to a ‘functional’ level, so that is a more appealing prospect for playoff viewing than the Dwayne Haskins/Alex Smith or Daniel Jones/Colt McCoy show.

3 Squirrels

In reply to by BJR

Yes, but if alex snith and a. Gibson cone back by werk 18, thrn team wull have real chance to winn playoff gane. Washington drgrmde is very good

5 drgrmde?

In reply to by Raiderjoe

Would you like to buy a vowel, RJ?

47 ring!

In reply to by mathesond

"danger mode"?

BUZZZZ!

"no!"

55 Smith is a nice story, but…

In reply to by Raiderjoe

Smith is a nice story, but he has actually been terrible this season. Perhaps he can be relied on not to make a crippling error in a close game, but I don't expect any consistent good play out of him. 

But sure, they could conceivably win a low-scoring home playoff game against, say, the Rams.

4 Bears/Vikings

was a very entertaining game.  Both defenses had lapses but were hitting and hustling all game.  Cook and Montgomery had a fun tit for tat running the ball though Montgomery was getting much help from his line.  If the Vikes line were a bit better Cousins could have had a bigger day as there were guys open. But he repeatedly had to hold the ball or start and then pull it down and the rush would get there or force a scramble.  

 

Trubisky continues to look competent against subpar defenses which is at least something

48 Yes, it really was…

In reply to by big10freak

Yes, it really was entertaining, almost shockingly so. Until Trubisky threw that awful, inexcusable pick there had been almost no bad plays or unforced errors, just one team being a little bit better than the other on a given play. (Even the officiating was decent and unobtrusive until that crap DPI call that extended the Vikings' last TD drive.)

As a Bears fan, I really worry that ownership are going to see this mini-run and decide that everything is actually OK at GM, coach, QB, and OL. Especially because the Vikings used to have a good defense, and it's not obvious from season-long statistics how bad they are right now. On the other hand, of course, I'm rooting like hell for them to get into the playoffs.

50 Speaking of that OL

What was Mustipher doing on the practice squad all year? The interior line has actually been able to run block since he started playing.

58 Well, they ran it really…

Well, they ran it really well the first two weeks with the original starting five. At least part of it is strength of the opposing defense. The strongest argument for Mustipher is that they ran it surprisingly well against New Orleans (#1 run D by DVOA) and then were awful the next two weeks without him, but that's still pretty small-number statistics (because they were also without Montgomery for part of the Titans game and all of the first Vikings game).

81 It sure complicates things…

It sure complicates things. When the Bears were 5-7, I thought the path forward was clear: fire Pace, give the new GM the decision over Nagy, and move on from Trubisky.

I still think firing Pace is clearly warranted. Being so wrong on Trubisky should have sealed his fate, and I've ranted plenty here about the rest of what I dislike about his tenure. It's difficult to see anything short of winning the Super Bowl this year that would change my mind. If the most likely outcome of 8-8 and missing the playoffs happens, the Bears will have failed to make the playoffs 5 out of his 6 years and failed to win a single playoff game. He's got to go.

Trubisky's little run of success makes me think less of Nagy, because now I question what this season could have been if Nagy wasn't so quick to go to Foles and so slow to go back to Trubisky. That's not an argument for Trubisky as a good QB, just as a better option in 2020 than Foles. Who they never should have traded for in the first place. I still favor letting the new GM decide whether to keep Nagy, because he's not actively toxic and because I believe the window for this defense is closing even if the team won't admit it.

Trubisky worries me the least because I don't think any outcome short of a SB will get the Bears to make an expensive/long-term mistake with him. Given their cap situation, my belief that they should not draft a QB with their 1st round pick this year, and my feeling that Nagy is around through 2021 at the longest, I'd be fine with them bringing him back if it's a really cheap 1-year deal. Like $3M or something like that. They don't have the cap room to try to get another veteran, not that that usually works anyway, and since I want them using their 1st round pick elsewhere, any QB they'd get later than that is far from someone you can count on to start.

6 I know the game got boring…

I know the game got boring to non-Bills fans, but I can't believe none of you noticed that a Bills offensive lineman got called for a pick on the Lee Smith touchdown that got called back. That's like 600 lbs. of receivers!

7 Jets fan here.  Seriously…

Jets fan here.  Seriously disappointed in the win, but I'm glad the players are still playing hard.  You can't expect guys playing for their careers to tank on purpose.  It amazes me sometimes how self-involved fans are, although I suppose it's in the amazing but not surprising category.  I'm moderately optimistic about the team.  Gase will be gone.  The GM seems reasonably competent.  They have tremendous building blocks in the trenches in Becton and Q. Williams and some other promising young talent.  Turn arounds can happen quickly if you get the right coach/QB combo.  Having the #1 pick would sure make it easier to get a great coach, but things are not without hope.  Nevertheless, Go Jaguars! 

12 Another Jet fan here, I'm…

Another Jet fan here, I'm also glad they're playing hard and aren't going winless.  I have a different perspective that I shared on the game discussion page; I have my doubts about Lawrence.  I've watched youtube video of him against Ohio State (2019), North Carolina (2019), the last two championship games, and I don't think he's a can't miss prospect.  His ball placement was off against LSU last year and North Carolina.   I also am not impressed with Fields at all.  In fact, I wasn't impressed with him before he played Indiana; I don't think his arm is as strong as people think, but perhaps it's strong enough. I watched youtube video of him against Penn State and Nebraska this year, as well as against Clemson last year, but the really bad game was against Indiana.  I could be too harsh on him.  I actually like Zach Wilson a lot; I watched youtube video of him against Coastal Carolina (not as bad as I thought it would be), Boise State, Houston, all from this year.  I also watched video of him against Washington last year, which was a rough game for him, but he didn't look as bad as his stats- his receivers dropped a bunch of passes, and one interception happened because his receiver fell, although he also had a fluke touchdown that should have been a red zone pick.  He definitely has some flaws (decent arm but not amazing, tendency to throw into danger too much).  I haven't watched Trask much, I should because he may go in the first round as well.  Main thing is, they need to get the coach right.  I don't think jettisoning Darnold immediately is necessary; the main mistake the Jets keep making is starting the new guy right away.  They didn't do that with Pennington or Ken O'Brien, and they ended up a lot better than Sanchez, Geno or Sam.

16 Agree with that.  However,…

Agree with that.  However, the Browns are going to make the playoffs this year, 3 years after 0-16.  They even won 7 games the next year, almost reaching .500.  That would great if the Jets could be on that schedule.

33 That's totally the wrong way…

That's totally the wrong way to look at the Browns. From 2017-2019 the Browns had five first round picks. Two #1 overall, in fact. They got those because they had high draft picks for like, a decade.

All of them are still starting in the NFL, 4/5 of them for the Browns, and the last one (Peppers) they traded to the Giants as part of the OBJ package. To be clear, that's one underrated thing the Browns under Dorsey did extremely well: they recouped value from even their disappointing draft picks with very high success. I mean, dear God, they got some value back for DeShone Kizer. Which is just wacko.

The Browns are making the playoffs because they stockpiled draft picks and then nailed them. That's not something where you can just go 0-16 and 3 years later you're back in the playoffs.

38 They nailed them in part…

They nailed them in part because they were higher draft picks. Sure that's not a guarantee, but it is a factor.

The thing about tanking is in cold math terms it works but since it isn't going to guarantee success, it's probably not worth embarking upon. Throwing away three years to secure some X percent higher probability of success to me isn't worth it unless you have a Trevor Lawrence like prospect available.

71 They had three top of the…

They had three top of the draft picks in 2 years. Obviously that comes from more than 1 year of tanking, which is my point. (Plus their down-draft picks were strong too).

Tanking only makes sense if the front office is good at drafting, and if you're in a position to tank... they probably aren't.

76 I never said that...?The…

I never said that...?

The original post was just that the Browns are in the playoffs 3 years after going 0-16, and so the hope was that the Jets could be on the same schedule. The problem with this is that the 0-16 year for the Browns was part of the process. The Browns had been stockpiling picks prior to that year: they had three first round picks in 2017, and two the next year. The Ringer has an article on this as well. The Browns torched their roster, traded high draft picks away (which is tanking), and then in 2017 (before going 0-16) they started cashing those resources in, culminating in a fantastic 2017+2018 draft. Combine that with a competent head coach, and the Browns now look like a long-term viable team again.

This... isn't something the Jets can hope for after this season. This was a 5+ year rebuild process for the Browns, not 3, and it was keyed by 1) stockpiling draft picks, 2) tanking,  and 3) bringing in someone who drafts well. If you don't have someone who drafts well, it doesn't matter where you draft.

The Jets do have a fair number of draft picks next year, sure, but not nearly what Cleveland had. If the Jets were trying to do what Cleveland did, they'd trade out as much as they could to build up more draft resources, acknowledge they're going to suck next year, and toss their front office for someone who doesn't suck. (Note that in Cleveland's case I didn't agree with firing Sashi Brown - I thought he did a good job - but bringing in Dorsey to actually draft was a great idea.)

The only problem I was trying to highlight with "tanking" is that unless you've taken actions to fix what got you to that high draft spot (or it was some external factor, like a cap situation)... losing doesn't help, because, well... bad front offices can still convince themselves they really need to draft Johnny Manziel.

79 The Jets can look to the…

The Jets can look to the Dolphins though. Last year's dolphins appeared to be completely bereft of talent except for Xavian Howard who was having a miserable year(or more likely was put into a suicide mission).

The Jets can draft a qb, replace their embattled head coach with someone more competent and add a bunch of players through the draft and free agency. I dont think it will translate to a 10 win season, but going from unwatchable to competent is not an unachievable one year goal. 

86 Not really. Dolphins…

Not really. Dolphins basically followed what the Browns did. Just took less time because they were a better team to begin with - the Dolphins were only 3 games under 0.500 from 2013-2018.

But same basic structure: identify the problem (garbage head coach/limited QB), clean house to stock resources (open up massive cap space, 5 first round picks in 2020+2021), and accept a terrible year when you do that (2019).

That's why I doubt it's a one-year thing: they've still got coaching issues (as evidenced by firing a DC mid-season), and while they do have multiple 1st round picks in 2021, it's not quite the haul that the Dolphins/Browns had (this is why you trade players mid-season, Jets, so you know where their draft picks will fall). They definitely have the cap space, though.

I mean, I guess I'm arguing against myself in that it could be a 2-3 year rebuild if the Jets coaching staff is fixed soon. The Jets drafting has actually been pretty good, they've got plenty of cap space, and they've got a fairly decent amount of draft resources. So maybe all of my doubt is just coming from a front office that keeps Adam Gase around.

78 I think there's an important…

I think there's an important distinction to be made between a multiyear tank/tearing down a mediocre team to try to get worse for a better draft pick, which IMHO rarely if ever happens in the NFL, and trying not to win meaningless games in a season that is already lost.

It's difficult to argue that the Jets, once they were 0-13, would really be in any different position except for draft order if they finished 0-16, 1-15, 2-14, or even 3-13. Those are all embarrassingly bad records for the front office, coach, and to a lesser extent the players. (I will grant that there's a little difference between 0-16 and 1-15 in terms of how a team is viewed historically, although now that 2 previous teams have gone 0-16 it would seem to sting less than being the first team to do it).

But losing out on the 1st pick and Trevor Lawrence makes a material difference. (And let's say, hypothetically, that the Jets decision-makers are contrarians and disagree with just about every other team, and prefer a different QB to Lawrence. They're still much better off with the 1st pick, because they can trade down even if it's just to #2 and pick up assets while still getting their guy).

80 I will agree...that was a…

I will agree...that was a super costly win and like you said, being 0-16 only screws over the coaching staff. The GM is going to survive this (probably). 

If Lawrence becomes the next Peyton Manning, this will haunt the Jets for a while. Then again, that's a long shot even for a highly touted prospect like Lawrence. But the point remains, what exactly was gained winning this game beyond some backslapping and optics?

82 Ehhh... the Browns pretty…

Ehhh... the Browns pretty clearly did a multiyear tank, in that they pretty explicitly didn't give a damn about trying to win in the 2016-2017 timeframe. They left $50M unspent in 2016, and traded down twice in the first round. They left money unspent in 2017 too (although not quite as much), and they still are reaping benefits from that (they're one of very few teams that'll be able to absorb 2021 in a blink).

Obviously you can say the Browns weren't a "mediocre team" before, sure. But they very clearly sent out a signal "look, we're gonna suck for two years, and then storm back with a vengeance."

But losing out on the 1st pick and Trevor Lawrence makes a material difference. 

I mean... kindof? Do you really believe the Jets ended up 1-15 as a fluke? They're a bad team, with a bad coach and pretty clearly a bad front office. Even if you believe Trevor Lawrence is this magical franchise QB savior (I don't), it's not going to fix the overall fundamental problem.

To be clear, if you floor Lawrence at, say, "viable NFL QB", the Jets fire their whole staff and go get him, they're likely to be a better team. But I still wouldn't say it "fixes" them or anything, and I wouldn't see them as a playoff team until well after 2023 unless they get really lucky.

84 The Browns would be the most…

The Browns would be the most obvious exception to the rule, for sure.

I didn't mean I think that it's a fluke that the Jets are this bad. Clearly it's a failure of the front office and coaching. But they can't go back in time and avoid being in this position. From where they sit today, based on what we can reasonably predict (ie, if Lawrence or whoever gets picked first turns out to be plagued by injuries or abducted by aliens or something, it doesn't mean "see, it was better NOT to have the #1 pick!"), they are better off if they secure the #1 pick than if they pick #2 or later.

To put it another way, I would not look at the Jets or any other team and say "you should try to be bad enough 3 seasons from now to secure the #1 pick in that draft." But once they find themselves bad enough to be in the conversation for the first pick, it's definitely better to keep losing and get it than win a meaningless game and slip to #2.

85 Yeah, but you could also say…

Yeah, but you could also say "if the Jets missing the #1 pick is what causes the FO and coaching staff to be torched and they start over" then hey, missing out on the #1 pick is totally worth that.

Obviously the #1 pick is what you'd want, but it's not that big of a loss. We've had people making up nicknames for tanking for the #1 QB for over a decade, and it's actually never worked that way. You could say the Colts "Sucked for Luck" and even that didn't turn out to be franchise-altering. And that's like, the best example!

But once they find themselves bad enough to be in the conversation for the first pick, it's definitely better to keep losing and get it than win a meaningless game and slip to #2.

So while obviously I agree with the idea that winning meaningless games has no obvious benefit, the point that I'm trying to make is that when you're a broken team and you didn't expect it, your highest priority is to figure out what you have that isn't broken. If that wins you a game and your draft spot drops, it's totally worth it. Broken teams don't become fixed by having high picks in the draft.

To be clear, in this game, this doesn't really apply. To me, the Jets shouldn't've won that game - I mean, obviously, the game difference was essentially gifted to the Jets via the blocked punt, and as you can see in Any Given Sunday's chart, the Rams were favored to win the game after that 34-yard punt return (and earlier, when they broke into the red zone), only basically to be killed by penalty.

8 Always wondered why the pro…

Always wondered why the pro sports leagues don't do something around giving the high draft slots to your median not playoffs team. Even in the NBA where they have a lottery it doesn't stop everyone from tanking when success in basketball is so based around the 1 player and they guarantee the lowest teams the highest odds, therefore completely killing the reason to have a lottery. My point of having say the #23 team get the #1 pick is you have to actually be better than other teams, it'd keep everyone playing, and it's more likely to help short-term the #23 team instead of the #32 team to get the 1st pick since they are closer to the playoffs. And if teams try to game getting #1 pick, you're in the lower middle of the field, it's significantly harder to game that when you have 5 or so teams above and below and their tiebreakers. You could have an order something like:

1. #23

2. #24

3. #22

4. #25

5. #21

6. #26

7. #20

8. #27

and then do 32, 31, 30, 29, 28, 19, 18, 17, 16, 15.

9 There's also the issue now…

There's also the issue now of with how sports gambling is legal countrywide, all it's going to take is one player or assistant coach going public that's told not to try and win and he told gamblers/bookies, and you have a game-throwing scandal. This has to happen in either the NBA or NFL at least once in the next 5 years you think?

10 Miami game

The Miami-New England game was basically a photonegative of the first game where New England ran all over Miami and the QB scored a few times. Both teams need help at WR in the offseason. I have no idea if Cam is coming back to the Pats. He sure opens up the run game. Since they've shunned their young QB I'm guessing they're still on the market for one. There's expensive retreads in Chicago and Philly or they trade up in the draft for one. Even with their covid opt outs back, not sure where they're heading with Tua, Allen and (high draft pick QB) in same division. Miami looks in better shape with Houston's picks. The Bills are champs, though. If Miami doesn't make the playoffs (which seems likely unless someone really really upsets the Ravens or the Bills rest everyone in that last game), I'll be rooting for them. After so long without a division title. I got no problems pulling for a rival. Jets do the most Jets like thing they could do and blow the number one pick for Gase's replaceent. If he gets replaced. It is the Jets.

11 Becton

As a Jets fan, losing Lawrence feels like a tremendous blow. However, the one positive is that, barring injury, the Jets have a superstar at Left Tackle for a while. Becton is absurdly good for a rookie Left Tackle, with limited talent on the OL. 

 

13 The hilarious thing is that…

In reply to by Biebs

The hilarious thing is that they could take the Oregon left tackle, who's supposed to be amazing (what video I've seen, he looks really good), and they could move Becton to right and run behind him every play like they should have this year.  They won't, but Penei Sewell could be the best player in the draft.  At least they have Seattle's first rounder this year, so they could take the LSU wide receiver and then move up to get a quarterback.

14 Fox End Zone Camera

I'm not an expert in these things, but the big difference in the Fox end zone camera for the Seahawks-Football Team game was the focus. In general, football games are shot with the whole field of vision in focus, for obvious reasons, which makes the whole game look flat. In the end zone, with just one or two players to worry about, they kept a tight focus on the player who had just scored, such that the background went entirely out of focus. That meant the players in the foreground were extremely sharp and detailed, and the out-of-focus background lent a lot of depth to the entire picture.  Just gorgeous. I hope they keep doing that.

17 Jags and Jets both look…

Jags and Jets both look likely to finish the season with just one lone win - and each win looks likely to have come against a playoff team.

18 The Seahawks 3rd-Down…

The Seahawks 3rd-Down defense was atrocious, especially in the second half, and it's the only reason this game was close.  (I don't know if that's unsustainably bad variance or a real weakness of Seattle's.)

With that said, Football Team got tons of little breaks in their second-half comeback.  Carroll punted on 4th-and-1 from the 50 (hate, hate, hate that call, even when you're up 17).  Wilson's INT was an unlucky bounce, when he had the team on the move for a likely game-sealing score.  Carlos Hyde flat-out dropped a key third-down conversion on next drive.  Haskins recovered a strip sack that likely would've iced the game, and then converted a first down when a receiver turtled up and moved his head directly into KJ Wright's path.  Football Team's JD McKissic got two question spots (ref's put the ball at the 1, when he clearly stepped out at like the 4; later gave him an iffy first down).

This wasn't a game like the Giants when the Seahawks were objectively, unquestionably outplayed in the second half.  If they get a few of those breaks mentioned above, this one is a comfortable win. 

32 a mild defense of carroll's punting from midfield:

(and I don't necessarily buy it -- but:)

Dickson is a great punter, and he's in the midst of probably his best season.  All four punts backed up Washington inside the twenty.  He's a great piece of Seattle's field-position game.

Dickson and Myers (the kicker) are underrated as a piece of Seattle overall game, really.  

 

34 Are poor coaching calls,…

Are poor coaching calls, roughing penalties and dropped passes really "bad breaks"?  I only saw the highlights of this one, but there's so many of these types of plays in every game, and you only focused on the Seahawks side. 

Wasn't there "bad luck" on the Haskins side as well with the tipped ball red zone INT to end a nice drive?

Was it luck or skill that the Seahawks got half of their rushing yards on two broken plays because of missed tackles?

It looks like the Seahawks muffed a punt and recovered - was that good luck or good play (I truly didn't see this play)?

How about the "unlucky" missed extra point for Washington and being short on the 2 pt conversion by a few feet?  Convert either of those and it's likely going into overtime.

Seattle is the better team - primarily because of the huge talent gap between Wilson and Haskins - but I'm not sure this was a comfortable win plus a few bad breaks for Seattle.  It will be interesting to see what DVOA says.

43 It's a philosophical…

It's a philosophical question as to exactly what constitutes "luck."

You might not consider a dropped ball to be bad luck, because the guy dropped it, luck had nothing to do with it; then again, you might consider it to be bad luck, because it's an event of low likelihood that happened but probably won't happen again.  (Unless the guy has stone hands, in which it's definitely not bad luck.) 

"Luck" is often shorthand for "unsustainable/unlikely random variance." 

My point with this Seahawks game is that it seems to me as if the WFT's run was more a cause of unlikely random variance than of the Seahawks suddenly playing poorly.  As a fan, it wasn't as disconcerting to watch as, say, the Giants loss, in which they legitimately got stomped, or even Cowboys or Patriots near comebacks earlier in the year.

19 I don't quite know what this…

I don't quite know what this game told me about Brees. He was coming off an injury and his receivers stink at the moment.

But I thought his arm looked cooked and he could have easily had three to four interceptions this game. Crazy as it sounds, I think Taysom Hill might be the better option at QB.

Also Marshawn Lattimore must be the most inconsistent great corner in the leqgue. Even within games he's highly inconsistent.

 

20 Salvon Ahemd's grandma's…

Salvon Ahemd's grandma's name is Dee Brown?  Why are there so many Dee Browns?  In the last 20 years, there have been two professional NBA players named Dee Brown, a baseball player named Dee Brown, and a football player named Dee Brown.  It's like if your first name is Dee there's a 50% chance your last name is Brown.

(Not to be flip about a woman in the hospital -- very nice, heartwarming story!)

65 I suggest that you look up…

I suggest that you look up the names of Kareem Abdul Jabbar's grandma or Muhammad Ali's grandma, if you can find them. Not that I know what they are. But for many African-Americans their names weren't a natural acquisition, even decades after the Civil War.

21 A couple of points on Chiefs…

A couple of points on Chiefs-Saints:

1) Injuries.  Without Michael Thomas, the Saints receivers faced a higher-tier of defensive coverage.  Normally Thomas would draw either the #1 DB or extra help, with Smith/Sanders getting the #2/#3 DBs and little or no help.  Instead, they faced the #1/#2 DB and additional coverage from the safeties.  They could not consistently win those matchups.  Combined with Brees seeming to not be 100% from his injury, the Saints passing game was not the threat it would normally be - this also allowed the Chiefs to defend the run better, normally their biggest weakness.  The Saints had only 60 yards rushing, their worst total of the year - not all of that was due to game script. 

On the other side, saying the Chiefs were playing their 3rd-string RT doesn't begin to cover their o-line injuries.  Fisher was clearly less than 100%.  LG was a 7th round pick playing because the Chiefs best run-blocker (Osemele) is done for the year.  The RG, Wisniewski, was also a backup with Wylie moved to RT and Wisniewski was a free agent just a few weeks ago after the Steelers cut him.  The patchwork line gave up a lot of pressure against the #2 DVOA defense but held up enough to get 32 points and 179 yards rushing.  Yeah 6-man boxes and all that but that's normal for this offense and it was still the 2nd-best rushing total of the year for KC vs. the #1 rushing D by DVOA.  Just like the Chiefs pass D was helped by Brees/Thomas being hurt, the Saints run D should have been helped by the KC o-line injuries, and it really wasn't.

2) Saints run defense.  It's two worst games by yards allowed have come the last two weeks.  Some of that is mobile QBs but that doesn't bode well if the Saints end up facing the Cards in the wildcard round or the Seahawks in that round or the next. 

62 Nice snark.  Probably mostly…

In reply to by TomC

Nice snark.  Probably mostly due to the coincidence of Fisher's missed games with Mahomes' but the Chiefs were 11-0 in games Fisher played last year, counting the playoffs.  That makes them 24-1 in Fisher's starts over the last two years.  Fisher isn't an elite LT but he's been average or above average for quite a long time.

22 Math

I'd rather take the field goal and make it a one-possession game." Can we stop announcers from saying this? Can we make it illegal? Especially in the first half, where there are dozens of possessions left in a game? No? OK.
Well, it there are going to be “dozens” of possessions left, they are going to be three and outs, since there are normally at most only two dozen possessions in the entire game, so FGs would be valuable.

23 I am genuinely curious if…

I am genuinely curious if this is it for Cam Newton. Is he effectively the new Joe Flacco now? 

Its kind of shocking considering I had expectations of him to have two career outlooks this season. He plays like he always has or he gets hurt. Instead neither happened and he just became a completely terrible quarterback. I get that his receivers stink but that was true a year ago and Brady, for all of his faults last year, did not look this bad until I guess at the very end of the year. Cam has been terrible the entire year save for one outing against the Seahawks. Its truly weird

24 Re: Matt Rhule's decision to…

Re: Matt Rhule's decision to kick.

One thing I wonder if the models take into consideration is the human aspect of time-management.  Anecdotally, it seems to me, teams that need two scores often take way too much time trying to get the first one and don't save themselves enough time for the second one.

There situations in which you basically should be throwing everything into the end zone -- even Hail Marys -- for your first score because that's the only way you can realistically have enough time for the second score, but team's seemingly never do that.  They only do this for the second score, when the clock is about to run to 0:00.

By kicking the field goal early, you alleviate this problem, and you know, should you get the ball back, that you will have a "deadline" for scoring again.  Probably, what teams should do, is, as soon as they get the ball into reasonable field goal range, they throw it into the end zone three times, and if none of them work, then you kick the field goal.  Such passes often get intercepted (which is probably a big reason why teams don't do this), but at that point you need high-risk-high-reward chances.

30 I thought it was the right…

I thought it was the right call, and I thought Belichick made a mistake not doing the same thing in the MIA game in the same situation.  The big factor being that both teams had only 2 time outs left.

The key thing for me is that it allows you to kick off deep, get a stop, and have a realistic chance of a TD drive / Hail Mary.  Without 3 time outs, the 2-minute warning is needed to get the ball back with time on the clock.  Waste the 2-minute warning trying to get a TD now, and you drive yourself out of time for anything other than an onside kick for a second possession.

I suppose the other approach would be to throw for the end zone instead of kicking the FG, and try to get the TD right now before hitting the 2-minute mark.

52 I imagine

It had to do with them not being able to stop Miami's run game so they'd need to get the onside kick to have a chance. And the methodical nature of the Pats offense right now makes it fell like they'd need a lot of time to march toward a final TD. Since they were close and done a lot of marching already, he tried to get the TD now thinking there wasn't enough time to dink and dunk down the field again. But who knows, even Bill makes some mistakes and I think we all agree he has little confidence in his offense right now. 

61 Yeah, I guess that makes…

In reply to by johonny

Yeah, I guess that makes sense.  Also, I see from the Risky Business article that the chance of recovering an onside kick since the rule change is 1-in-9, which is about 3 times as likely as I would have guessed/

28 Haskins

"It just feels like Dwayne Haskins is taking a second too long to process everything; he has not yet acclimated to the speed of the NFL game. I know his processing speed was the one major hangup scouts had coming into the league . . . "

I've been hearing that all year, but IIRC, in the book one of you guys said basically the opposite in Haskins' comment - that he was known to get through his progressions or some such. Which is it? I get that the game is faster at the NFL level, but seems like a disconnect.

If a guy is accurate and mobile, you want to give him time to adapt to the speed of the game, because if he does, that's a very valuable guy. Better if he hits the ground running, but some guys take time . . . and sure, some never get there. 

70 There's definitely something…

In reply to by JS

There's definitely something weird about Haskins' decision process. He quickly decides guys aren't open, so goes through the progressions really fast, but when guys are "NFL open" he does hesitate to throw it right away. So he ends up throwing into coverage. I think he can fix both, but it really seems to be a struggle.

29 NE ST

Not surprising that NE has always had good ST. I imagine ST is something of an afterthought with a lof of clubs - the personnel is cobbled together from guys who maybe aren't very good at it, but they have to throw someone out on the field, and the coach isn't held to such a high standard. Whereas Belichick thinks, yeah, of course it's important, and pays more attention to guys who can also be good at ST, and prioritizes it more. 

31 Trevor Lawrence

Can we talk about Trevor? I've never been impressed, in fact I've been shocked at how his arm looks precisely like the kind that won't make the jump to the NFL. He has a natural loft on the ball that isn't gonna work against fast-closing NFL DBs, and a slow-ish throwing motion. Everyone talked about him as THE guy, until the matchup with Burrow in the Championship game last year, when everyone turned on a dime and acted like Burrow was clearly the better prospect. Then Burrow played great, Lawrence stunk, and after Burrow went to the NFL everyone immediately forgot about that and talked up Lawrence again. It seems like everyone is afraid to go out on a limb and say that maybe Lawrence isn't all that, because the chorus is so loud. Kind of an Emperor-has-no-clothes thing.

I haven't seen him this year, and maybe he can get a mechanics guru like Palmer, but he looks to me like a big strong tall guy on a great team that everyone is being willfully blind about. Am I missing something?

35 Fans of backmarker teams…

Fans of backmarker teams need something to cling to, and the league and its journalists give it to them. Then one day they suddenly forget what huge fans of JaMarcus Russell they were.

41 Burrow had a spectacular…

In reply to by JS

Burrow had a spectacular game and capped perhaps the best QB season in NCAA history.

But it's not like Lawrence stunk the joint up. Even his "bad" games aren't really bad, and his games against elite competition look like the box scores for his games against regular teams.

68 He was a highly regarded…

He was a highly regarded recruit (#1 prospect of the 2018 class, with some sources talking about him as an even rarer talent than that indicates) who was good enough to take the starting job as a true freshman and lead the team to a national title. He's done everything you'd want from a production, performance, and competition standpoint; he's got ideal size and good athleticism; and he hasn't done anything to suggest he isn't deserving of the regard he's held in. I think, ultimately, any attempt to dissect his faults will amount to nitpicking. Prospects with the pedigree and who have displayed the talent level of Lawrence don't come along often.

72 There's got to be more to a…

There's got to be more to a QB prospect than just production and how good he was coming out of high school. That's why some Heisman winners don't make good NFL prospects. I'd like to hear more about Lawrence's game, his strengths and weaknesses, because as I mentioned above, the film from the game I saw (maybe it was that Bowl, I don't remember) was seriously underwhelming. As in, completing passes that he sure as hell won't in the NFL and locking on his WRs.

83 I'm waiting for Matt Waldman…

I'm waiting for Matt Waldman to chime in on Lawrence.  I keep watching video of the top three guys (Lawrence, Fields, Wilson) and going back and forth on them.  Well, with Lawrence I started as a believer, and slowly stopped believing.  Fields, I doubted him from the beginning, and I still have a lot of doubts, but his game against Nebraska was really good.  The two interceptions in the championship game weren't really his fault (one was a miraculous play by the cornerback, the other was a bad route by the receiver).  I only saw highlights from that game though.  With Wilson, I like most of his game tape, even the games where BYU got killed (he wasn't as bad against Washington last year as you would think).

87 "There's got to be more to a…

"There's got to be more to a QB prospect than just production and how good he was coming out of high school. "

Honestly, not as much as you'd think. Of course, everything is relative and not all production is the same, but relatively few Heisman winners have the kind of pedigree Lawrence does, certainly not elevating a national championship team as a true freshman. Having one big year is not the same as being persistently excellent. And age does matter; it sounds simple, but people overlook it: A guy who plays at a high level in college as an 18-year-old is, on balance, going to have a higher ceiling than a guy who didn't play at a high level until he was 20 or 21, or didn't even start until he was 22 (hello, Mitch Trubisky).

The flipside of the anti-hype arguments is: I remember people talking about how Deshaun Watson would fail because of his mechanics and because his arm velocity wasn't good enough. Sometimes, the results on the field, when they're at such a high level and so consistent, do speak more than the nitpicks and mechanical evaluations.

40 Ravens Big Man Run

Thanks so much for that clip. I hadn't seen it and damn, it really made my Monday!

Hey, here's an angry, motivated 340-lb chap running full-bore at me.  It may be his first carry since peewee football, so 15 years of pent-up Dickerson is bubbling to the surface .  Methinks I'll tackle his shoulders.  Oops.

42 behind the Vikings facing a…

behind the Vikings facing a first-and-goal from their own 33 back in 2016

Sure it was from their opponent's 33, because 47 yards is one hell of a personal foul. That's like when the refs get really angry with you can and call a DPI on the offense.

44 Harry, touted for his size…

Harry, touted for his size and jump ball ability, has struggled to create separation from defensive backs throughout his short Patriots tenure.

That would suggest they aren't using him correctly. He wasn't drafted for his route-running skills.

53 yup

This is an ongoing source of frustration.  Harry has shown that he can "get the ball in traffic", but either McDaniels is not calling plays for him or there is so little trust in Cam's accuracy that he's not throwing the ball Harry's way.  No matter how it's sliced, it does seem like there isn't a coherent vision for the Pats' offense.  Belichick drafted somebody that McDaniels doesn't know how to use?  Perhaps.

This has been a bad year for the Pats' offense and McDaniels has not shown that he's up to the challenge of coaching an offense not run by Tom Brady.  McDaniels has shrunk the play book so much opponents are finding the Pats to be predictable.  I'm not buying into the line of argument that puts all the responsibility on Cam Newton.  It's true that Cam isn't performing particularly well, but it's also clear that he has the arm to throw further downfield than he's being asked to.  

But if it's a bad season for the offensive coaches, it's been a dreadful year for what's left of the defensive staff (after Brian Flores took several of his co-workers to Miami, much to Belichick's chagrin).  The defense is awful.  Some of that is due to the loss of personnel, but  some of it is due to bad coaching.  The Rams game showed a good number of times when defenders were simply missing assignments and looking clueless.  Opponents are getting 6-7 yards per rush.  Can't win in the NFL that way.  I'm concerned for two reasons.  One is that Belichick has his son as outside LB coach and playcaller.  What if nepotism is a bad idea here?  Will Belichick strip his own son of his duties?  That raises my second concern: a certain former DC just lost his job in Detroit.  Will Belichick bring back Matt Patricia?

These don't feel like good options. I would feel more confident about the Patriots' future if I feel good about the coaching staff.  But it's been gutted in the past two years with Flores and Joe Judge leaving and taking people with them. 

57 Is guys leaving a taking…

In reply to by RickD

Is guys leaving and taking people new?

I don’t recall prior coordinators seeded on other teams to ruin them having done that.

73 The funny thing is Flores…

The funny thing is Flores then overhauled his staff after year one. Not sure how many of those coaches were ex-Pats, but OC Chad whatever his name was, was one of them for sure.

And yeah, I'm sure Bellichik's had to deal with that kind of exodus numerous times.

59 It is both true that Cam…

In reply to by RickD

It is both true that Cam Newton is a very bad quarterback that is significantly limiting their options, and that Josh McDaniels is not a very good game-day offensive coordinator who has been blessed by having a QB who had a preternatural ability to read defenses and move in the pocket his entire career. 

I mean Christ - I don't understand why people are surprised by this. We've been complaining for years about McDaniels nonsense - from the all-too-frequent drive-killing shots down the field when the running game and short passing game were working and teams had the wrong personnel in - to the predictable 3rd quarter 1st down run into the line, 2nd down shot down the field, 3rd down too short pass on 3rd and 8. 

I miss the handful of years where Belichick was running the offense and he had absolutely no qualms about throwing the ball to Wes Welker over and over until the other team called time out so they could get the linebacker he was abusing off the field. 

Belichick's son has been very successful up until this point - but yeah - its possible he's in over his head at this point. I think a major part of the defensive issues though are simply the fact that the offense is abysmal, and is both completely incapable of putting a game out of reach, or coming back in a game - which leads to the defense absolutely never having the leeway to rest.

 

It worked when they were managing 40 minutes TOP in the first couple games - and teams kept trotting out nickel in maybe-pass sort of situations - but every team in the league has realized at this point that they're not going to threaten you in the air, and are crowding the line, and it hasn't been working for a while.  

 

 

 

Completely agree on direction though - they don't look like they have any sort of plan. I just don't see any reason Newton is still starting - unless Stidham is just so bad that he'll stunt the development of the receivers/line/etc - in which case - he shouldn't be on the roster. Newton's effect on the running game is awesome - but he's just so damn limiting. 

46 Good win for the Chiefs, but…

Good win for the Chiefs, but I still don't get the way everyone in the football world talks about this as an all-time great, dominant, unbeatable team.

You guys were touting the 2019 Pats defense as better than the 1985 Bears about this time a year ago, so perhaps you should let the mote in someone else's eye pass.

What makes the Chiefs scary is that they seem to trot out a stretch every game where they just blitz the other team and put up three quick, effortless scores, and then coast the way home. Also in the back of a lot of minds is how they pulled that trick throughout the playoffs last year, and kept turning huge deficits into laugher wins. There's a Milton Berle aspect to the Chiefs that makes people suspect they are lot better than their MoV suggests.

That confidence can get teams into trouble, but the NFL is a one-position league and the Chiefs have the best guy at that position. And no matter how good the rest of the team is, they can't survive an injury to that position, so why worry about it?

66 I think it's actually much…

I think it's actually much simpler than this. The current Chiefs team doesn't have to be an all-time great to be unbeatable this year. They just have to win out against an NFL where everyone else looks more flawed.  Are there other teams that look better?

75 I would say GB, NO (with…

I would say GB, NO (with health) and BUF and maybe BAL would have a realistic shot at beating them as the teams are playing now. I never thought PIT could beat them, and last night just underlined that.

49 Jets fan here..

Finally...    whew!

(Not too concerned about Trevor Lawrence since I remember hearing about how great Marcus Mariota was going to be) .....

63 Yeah, I remember when Jets…

In reply to by Jerry Garcia

Yeah, I remember when Jets fans got mad that Geno and Rex beat the Titans, ensuring that they wouldn't get the 2nd pick.  And now Smith, Mariota and Winston are all back-ups.

56 Wild Card Team could host Divisional Game

Maybe this has already been discussed but it just occurred to me there's a possibility, however unlikely, that a Wild Card team could end up hosting a Divisional Round game in the new one-bye format.

If the 5, 6 and 7 seeds all win in the Wild Card Round, then the #5 is the highest remaining seed and would host #6. A long shot to be sure, but not impossible if, for example, the first round matchups are:

7 Indy vs 2 Pittsburgh
6 Cleveland vs 3 Buffalo
5 Baltimore vs 4 Tennessee

This scenario is what happens if Pittsburgh and Baltimore win out, Indy and Cleveland lose to Pittsburgh and win vs Jax and Jets, respectively, and Miami loses to Buffalo, and Tennessee beats Houston.

69 Saints-Chiefs

Brees looked pretty bad for a long time Sunday, especially in the first half, but one thing worth noting is just how bare the team's WR group was. After Tre'Quan Smith went out with an injury, only one of the five WRs normally on the 53-man roster was available, Emmanuel Sanders. Michael Thomas, Deonte Harris, and Marquez Callaway were all on IR. Brees threw a TD pass to Lil'Jordan Humphrey, who isn't even usually part of the first round of practice squad callups. (It's usually Tommylee Lewis when Deonte Harris is hurt, and Juwan Johnson or sometimes Austin Carr if one other guys is hurt.)

That said, kudos to the defense for holding up so well, especially in a game where Kansas City ran 98 plays to New Orleans' 55. If the offense can get healthy, I still think they're contenders. Brees doesn't have much left, but every once in a while he shows the old stuff, and if the defense keeps playing like it has, he just has to be consistent moving the ball and avoid big negative plays.